The new P.1 coronavirus variant that’s currently wreaking havoc in Brazil has researchers concerned that it may become resistant to vaccines.
According to research conducted by Brazil’s leading public health body, Fiocruz, the mutating virus currently affects how it attaches itself to a healthy cell, called the spike protein. If this is the case, it means that vaccines that target this protein would become less effective.
“We believe it’s another escape mechanism the virus is creating to evade the response of antibodies,” stated Felipe Naveca, a researcher at Fiocruz.
For researchers, this is “particularly worrying” as the virus shows no signs of slowing down when it comes to its “evolution.” According to Naveca, the changes seem to be comparable to that of the mutations seen in the aggressive South African variant, called B.1.351.
However, the P1 variant appears to be 2.5 times more contagious than the original coronavirus, with it being able to reinfect individuals who have already contracted COVID-19, as suggested by a new study.
This new variant appears to be a large contributor to the massive second wave that Brazil is currently experiencing, taking the country’s death toll to over 350 000, which is the second-highest in the world after the United States.