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Coronavirus strain detected in Malaysia '10 times more infectious', potential vaccines may prove to be inadequate: Report

The mutation of the novel coronavirus could mean that existing research and development of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 could prove to be inadequate or ineffective.

August 17, 2020 / 10:52 AM IST

The new strain of the novel coronavirus detected in Malaysia, is being considered 10 times more infectious, news reports suggest.

According to Malaysia’s Director-General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah, the mutation called D614G, was first discovered in at least three of the 45 COVID-19 cases in a cluster which started after a restaurant owner returned from India and breached his 14-day home quarantine. The person has been penalised and sentenced to five months in prison.

The new strain was also found in another cluster that included people returning from the Philippines.

Reuters had earlier reported that the mutation increased the number of "spikes" on the coronavirus -- which is the part that gives it its distinctive shape. Those spikes are what allow the virus to bind and infect cells.

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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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Bloomberg quoted Abdullah, as saying that the strain could mean that existing research on potential vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 may either prove to be inadequate or ineffective against the mutation.

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The Straits Times quoted another expert as saying that the strain was found in preliminary tests and that follow-up tests would be conducted on other COVID-19 patients.

Moneycontrol could not independently verify the news reports.

So far, Malaysia has reported 9,200 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic. Of these, 8,859 patients have recovered.

As many as 125 people have died in the Southeast Asian due to the infectious disease.

Click here for Moneycontrol’s full coverage of the novel coronavirus pandemic
Moneycontrol News
first published: Aug 17, 2020 09:09 am

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