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Still Seems to Work

A preliminary study finds that the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech is effective against a viral variant recently identified among strains in the UK and South Africa, the Associated Press reports.

The study in particular focused on one mutation found in the strains, N501Y, that is suspected to make it easier for them to spread. According to the AP, researchers from Pfizer and the University of Texas Medical Branch exposed blood samples from 20 people who had received the vaccine to the mutation to gauge whether it elicited an antibody response. As they report in a preprint posted to bioRxiv, the researchers found it led to neutralizing antibody activity. 

"This is good news, mainly because it is not bad news," the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine's Stephen Evans tells the Guardian. Philip Dormitzer, Pfizer's chief scientific officer, likewise tells the AP that "it was a very reassuring finding that at least this mutation, which was one of the ones people are most concerned about, does not seem to be a problem."

The Guardian notes, though, that the study examined that mutation in isolation and that the UK and South African strains harbor a number of other changes to the spike protein as well.

The Scan

ChatGPT Does As Well As Humans Answering Genetics Questions, Study Finds

Researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics had ChatGPT answer genetics-related questions, finding it was about 68 percent accurate, but sometimes gave different answers to the same question.

Sequencing Analysis Examines Gene Regulatory Networks of Honeybee Soldier, Forager Brains

Researchers in Nature Ecology & Evolution find gene regulatory network differences between soldiers and foragers, suggesting bees can take on either role.

Analysis of Ashkenazi Jewish Cohort Uncovers New Genetic Loci Linked to Alzheimer's Disease

The study in Alzheimer's & Dementia highlighted known genes, but also novel ones with biological ties to Alzheimer's disease.

Tara Pacific Expedition Project Team Finds High Diversity Within Coral Reef Microbiome

In papers appearing in Nature Communications and elsewhere, the team reports on findings from the two-year excursion examining coral reefs.