There’s hope in India’s indigenous vaccine, which was found to neutralise a virulent Covid-19 variant circulating in 21 countries.
The latest nation to report the B.1.617 variant is the neighbouring Uganda, with Kenyans fearing that variant could get into the country.
However, Covaxin, which was approved for emergency use on January 3, while still under clinical trial, has been found to neutralise the B.1.617 variant of Covid-19.
The vaccine, which has an efficacy of 78 per cent, is also able to neutralise the UK variant B.1.1.7 that was also detected in Kenya.
A study published on the bioRxiv preprint server shows that Covaxin, which is manufactured by Bharat Biotech in partnership with National Institute of Virology and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), was effective against the variant; it’s able to prevent the virus from entering into the body, the research shows. The researchers from the National Institute of Virology found that the serum (blood fluid) obtained from individuals who had recovered from Covid-19, and Covaxin, were able to neutralise the B.1.617 variant.
“The assurance of neutralisation of [the] B.1.617 variant with sera of BBV152 (Covaxin) vaccine and recovered Covid-19 cases sera will provide the much-needed boost to the Covid-19 vaccination programme in India,” the researchers say.
The variant that has a mutation similar to the one found in the South African variant B.1.351 (501Y.V2) is believed to be driving the second wave in India.
Deaths in India have already passed the 200,000 mark with at least 300,000 cases being reported every day in the past week.
Just like the 501Y.V2, the B.1.617 variant, which was first identified in India last October 5, carries the E484Q mutation that is very similar to the E484K in the South African variant and the Brazilian variant (P.1 ).
The mutation, also known as the ‘escape mutation’, was found to help the virus escape a body’s immune defences as well as vaccines, thus affecting effectiveness on recipients.