Brazilian coronavirus variant likely to be more transmissible and able to evade immunity

Even though more and more vaccines against the coronavirus are being administered all over the world, many countries are still battling with outbreaks and face difficulties providing help to those in need.

One of those countries is Brazil. Here, they are facing a massive second wave outbreak, many daily deaths and instances of the health care systems collapsing. In the city of Manaus things have looked exceptionally bleak from December and through to the early spring.

The city was hit so hard by the first wave in 2020 that it was actually thought to be one of the few places in the world to have reached herd immunity. An estimated 75 percent of the population in the city had been infected. But then the second wave hit in November and December.

Now, a new study published in Science with collaborators from Brazil, the UK and University of Copenhagen has shed a light on why Manaus is facing these difficulties again.

"Our main explanation is that there is an aggressive variant of the coronavirus called P.1 which seems be the cause of their problems. Our epidemiological model indicates that P.1 is likely to be more transmissible than previous strains of coronavirus and likely to be able to evade immunity gained from infection with other strains," says corresponding author to the new study, Samir Bhatt, a researcher at the Department of Public Health at University of Copenhagen.

Emerged in November

The researchers used many forms of data from Manaus to characterize P.1 and its properties including 184 samples of genetic sequencing data. They find that genetically speaking P.1 is different from the previous strains of coronavirus. It has acquired 17 mutations including an important trio of mutations in the spike protein (K417T, E484K and N501Y).

"Our analysis shows that P.1 emerged in Manaus around November 2020. It went from not being detectable in our genetic samples to accounting for 87 percent of the positive samples in just seven weeks. It has since spread to several other states in Brazil as well as many other countries around the world," says Samir Bhatt.

Modelling using machine learning

The researchers then used an epidemiological model to estimate how transmissible P.1 seemed to be. As well as estimating signs of P.1 evading immunity gained from previous infection.

"Roughly speaking, our model incorporates many data sources such as mortality counts and genetic sequences and compares two different virus strains to see which one best explains the scenario that unfolded in Manaus. One was the 'normal coronavirus' and the other was dynamically adjusted using machine learning to best fit the actual events in Brazil," says Samir Bhatt.

This modeling allowed the researchers to conclude that P.1 is likely to be between 1.7 and 2.4 times more transmissible than non-P1-lineages of the coronavirus.

They also conclude that P.1 is likely to be able to evade between 10 and 46 percent of the immunity gained from infection with non-P.1 coronavirus.

"As researchers, we have to caution extrapolating these results to be applicable anywhere else in the world. However, our results do underline the fact that more surveillance of the infections and of the different strains of the virus is needed in many countries in order to get the pandemic fully under control," ends Samir Bhatt.

Faria NR, Mellan TA, Whittaker C, Claro IM, Candido DDS, Mishra S, Crispim MAE, Sales FCS, Hawryluk I, McCrone JT, Hulswit RJG, Franco LAM, Ramundo MS, de Jesus JG, Andrade PS, Coletti TM, Ferreira GM, Silva CAM, Manuli ER, Pereira RHM, Peixoto PS, Kraemer MUG, Gaburo N Jr, Camilo CDC, Hoeltgebaum H, Souza WM, Rocha EC, de Souza LM, de Pinho MC, Araujo LJT, Malta FSV, de Lima AB, Silva JDP, Zauli DAG, Ferreira ACS, Schnekenberg RP, Laydon DJ, Walker PGT, Schlüter HM, Dos Santos ALP, Vidal MS, Del Caro VS, Filho RMF, Dos Santos HM, Aguiar RS, Proença-Modena JL, Nelson B, Hay JA, Monod M, Miscouridou X, Coupland H, Sonabend R, Vollmer M, Gandy A, Prete CA Jr, Nascimento VH, Suchard MA, Bowden TA, Pond SLK, Wu CH, Ratmann O, Ferguson NM, Dye C, Loman NJ, Lemey P, Rambaut A, Fraiji NA, Carvalho MDPSS, Pybus OG, Flaxman S, Bhatt S, Sabino EC.
Genomics and epidemiology of the P.1 SARS-CoV-2 lineage in Manaus, Brazil.
Science. 2021. doi: 10.1126/science.abh2644

Most Popular Now

Moderna announces emergency use authorization for …

Moderna, Inc. (Nasdaq: MRNA), a biotechnology company pioneering messenger RNA (mRNA) therapeutics and vaccines, today announced that the government of India has issued a...

Sanofi launches dedicated vaccines mRNA Center of …

Sanofi will invest approximately €400 million annually in a first-of-its kind vaccines mRNA Center of Excellence. The Center will work to accelerate the development and d...

GSK and Alector announce global collaboration in i…

GlaxoSmithKline plc (LSE/NYSE: GSK) and Alector (Nasdaq: ALEC), today announced a strategic global collaboration for the development and commercialisation of two clinical...

Roche's Actemra/RoActemra receives U.S. FDA Emerge…

Roche (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX: RHHBY) announced today that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for intravenous Actemr...

Positive new data for Johnson & Johnson single…

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) (the Company) announced data that demonstrated its single-shot COVID-19 vaccine generated strong, persistent activity against the rapidly sp...

Tezepelumab granted Priority Review by U.S. FDA

Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accepted a Biologics License Application (BLA) and granted Priority Review for tezepelu...

Cancer cells eat themselves to survive

It is the membrane of cancer cells that is at the focus of the new research now showing a completely new way in which cancer cells can repair the damage that can otherwis...

mRNA vaccines slash risk of COVID-19 infection by …

People who receive mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are up to 91 percent less likely to develop the disease than those who are unvaccinated, according to a new nationwide study of ...

Anti-tumor agent from the intestine

It is believed to be involved in the development of chronic inflammatory intestinal diseases, to trigger diabetes, to be responsible for obesity, even neurological diseas...

Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines prime T cells…

Researchers at La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) have found that T cells from people who have recovered from COVID-19 or received the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vac...

Mefloquine: A promising drug 'soldier' in the batt…

Early 2020 saw the world break into what has been described as a "war-like situation": a pandemic, caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus 2 (...

Artificial intelligence could be new blueprint for…

Writing in the July 12, 2021 online issue of Nature Communications, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine describe a new approach that uses...