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Bharat Biotech's Covaxin found to work against UK variant of SARS-CoV-2: Study

Earlier ICMR's National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune isolated and cultured the UK variant of SARS-CoV-2 called as B.1.1.7.

January 27, 2021 / 04:45 PM IST
Bharat Biotech's Covaxin was granted restricted emegency use approval in 'clinical trial mode' on January 2.

Bharat Biotech's Covaxin was granted restricted emegency use approval in 'clinical trial mode' on January 2.


Vaccine maker Bharat Biotech and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) have announced that Covaxin has been found to work against the UK-variant of SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The joint study conducted by Bharat Biotech and ICMR, published in bioRxiv, an open access preprint journal biological sciences, found that the Sera collected from Covaxin receipients neutralised UK-variants.

Earlier ICMR's National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune isolated and cultured the UK variant of SARS-CoV-2 called as B.1.1.7. The ICMR-NIV strain was used for testing.

The B.1.1.7, a mutant variant from UK is known to have 50 percent higher transmissibility than the SARS-CoV-2  virus, making it huge cause of concern globally.  Earlier, Pfizer and Moderna have announced that their COVID-19 vaccines have produced neutralising antibodies against UK variant. Moderna said its vaccine was found to protect against B.1.351 variant which was detected in South Africa and is also highly transmissible.

Both UK and South Africa SARS-CoV-2 versions have multiple mutations on the spike protein, which the virus uses to enter cells.

ICMR said that Covaxin has been not just effective against UK variant, but has been found to produce immuno response against the predominantly circulating strains in India.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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"We performed the plaque reduction neutralization test (PRNT50) using sera collected from the 26 recipients of BBV152/COVAXIN against hCoV-19/India/20203522 (UK-variant) and hCoV27 19/India/2020Q111 (heterologous strain). A comparable neutralization activity of sera of the vaccinated individuals showed against UK-variant and the heterologous strain with similar efficiency, dispel the uncertainty of possible neutralization escape," the study said.

Covaxin was granted restricted emergency use approval under clinical trial mode, by India drug regulator Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) without phase-3 efficacy data. The approval was based on the hypothesis that the vaccine works on the mutant strains including UK variant.

Bharat Biotech developed Covaxin based on the SARS-CoV-2 it received from ICMR- NIV, Pune.
Viswanath Pilla is a business journalist with 14 years of reporting experience. Based in Mumbai, Pilla covers pharma, healthcare and infrastructure sectors for Moneycontrol.
first published: Jan 27, 2021 04:45 pm

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