Recent tests show that there's already mutation in the Covid-19 strain identified as E484K, which was first detected in South Africa. The mutation may lessen the efficacy of current vaccines, but experts say that they would still work.
Based on a BBC report, in the United Kingdom, "there have been 11 cases in Bristol," and in Liverpool, a cluster of 32 cases had been detected.
In line with this, immediate testing for the variant in South Africa already started in all parts of England and could be rolled out in other sites seeing variants that have the same E484 mutation.
Scientists who work with Public Health England discovered a small number of occurrences of the "UK 'Kent' variant" that has the E484K mutation.
Worrying UK 'Kent' Variant
It was detected in 11 out of more than 214,000 samples tested, and they are mainly from the South West of England.
Possibly, there may be more occurrences that have not yet been discovered. The report added that the Liverpool area had identified about 32 cases of original coronavirus that also have a similar E484K mutation.
It's no longer unexpected that the COVID-19 strains are taking place, or they will continue changing. All kinds of viruses mutate as they replicate themselves to transmit and flourish.
Describing the finding, virus expert Dr. Julian Tang, from the University of Leicester said, "it is a worrying development," although not totally unexpected.
He added that it was essential people "follow the lockdown rule" and get COVID-19 cases down to avoid "opportunities for the virus to mutate further."
Otherwise, the expert explained, not only the virus can carry on to spread, it can evolve, as well.
Dr. Tang also said, enabling spread of the virus could also enable a "melting pot" for various different variants that emerge.
Existing COVID-19 Vaccines
Scientists have already been inspecting what the new mutations might mean for existing COVID-19 vaccines designed around earlier versions of the coronavirus that started this global health crisis.
Some studies appear to present E484K might even help avoid parts of the immune system also known as antibodies. However, Moderna's early results propose its vaccine is still efficient against variants that have this same mutation. Although, the immune response of the body may not be as strong or prolonged.
Two new COVID-19 vaccines that could be authorized for use include one from Novavax and one more from Janssen. These could also appear to provide good cover against strains, shielding from severe illness.
Working to Block Off Mutating Variants
According to experts, even the worst-case scenario, vaccines can be reformed and tweaked "to better match in a matter of weeks or months," if needed.
A silver lining, they added, may be that the strains are mutating in the same way instead of diverging form each other.
The University of Cambridge's Professor Ravi Gupta explained, this gives "us a sign that it has certain favored routes," and they could work to block such variants off using a vaccine.
Jeremy Hunt, former UK health secretary said, the race was on to have as many people as vaccinated as quickly as possible so they can keep a step ahead of the COVID-19 virus.
Protocols like hand-washing, social and physical distancing and wearing a face mask will still help in avoiding infections.
Check out more news and information on COVID-19 on Science Times.