New study shows Covid variant first discovered in SA protects against other variants

New study shows Covid variant first discovered in SA protects against other variants

South African scientists have made a breakthrough in the fight against Covid-19. 

Zweli Mkhize

On Wednesday, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize led a media briefing to give an update on the latest scientific developments on the Covid front. 

Nzimande told journalists that the 501Y.V2 variant, which was first discovered in South Africa, can provide protection against infection by other circulating variants. 

Since the start of the pandemic, the virus has mutated and developed into other variants. 

The 501Y.V2 found in 48 countries, including South Africa, has become one of the most dominant variants, driving the country’s second wave of infections.  

“We have convened this to announce that we have launched another important scientific discovery which, in short, is that the research done by the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform, working together with the National Health Laboratory Services, African Health Research Institute and Caprisa as well as the National Institute for Communicable Diseases have come out with the findings which have demonstrated that those who were infected in the second wave have protection from current and previous circulating variants,” said Nzimande.  

“The 501Y.V2 variant is able to generate immune responses we have now found out, through our scientists, that neutralise itself and other SARS-CoV-2 leniencies.” 

Nzimande added these findings can be used to develop more suitable vaccines. 

“What this means, amongst other things, is that vaccines now that are likely to generate neutralising agents against the current variant can actually be developed, given these findings.” 

Mkhize agreed that these developments would go a long way in dealing with the pandemic. 

“The latest trials that had to do with Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca was actually benefitting from this kind of knowledge, which for us has been very helpful. 

“This opens up a basis for a conversation which we have now already started having with the manufacturers of the various vaccines because in those engagements we are now actually saying that the vaccines need to target the bigger problem which is 501Y.V2,” he added. 

Earlier this year, the South African government purchased 1 million AstraZeneca vaccines from the Serum Institute of India, but a small local trial showed the vaccine’s efficacy against the 501Y.V2 variant was too low. 

Since then, government has rolled out the Johnson and Johnson inoculations to more than 100 000 healthcare workers across the country.  

“All eyes are going to be on South Africa in terms of the level of success recorded,” said Mkhize. 


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