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Watching the Changes

The UK COVID genomics consortium (COG-UK) is keeping a watchful eye on mutations that are arising within circulating SARS-CoV-2 strains for any that could, down the line, affect how well antibody-based treatments or vaccines may work, the Guardian reports

In a recent report, COG-UK notes that a viral lineage with a mutation that likely affects the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein receptor binding motif is currently circulating in Europe. The viral spike protein is targeted by most candidate vaccines under development.

While COG-UK adds that there is no evidence that this variant will affect how effective vaccines under development may be, it says the variant "highlight[s] the need to establish a systematic approach for monitoring" viral alterations that crop up, "in particular when selective pressure from mass vaccination programs begins." COG-UK adds that it is establishing a new working group to monitor mutations and prioritize them for more in-depth analysis.

"Anything that affects the spike protein can potentially change how either natural immunity or vaccine-induced immunity responds to the virus," Jeffrey Barrett from the Sanger Institute tells the Guardian.