Further mutations have been detected in the spike proteins of the Brazilian variant of the COVID-19 virus, according to a study published by the Fiocruz Institute in Brazil. The finding has now raised fears that the existing vaccines may have reduced efficiency against the disease.
Researchers also caution that changes in the spike proteins on the outside of virus cells may enable it to enter human cells more easily as well as enabling it to evade antibodies. The Brazilian and South African variants of the COVID-19 virus have already demonstrated greater contagiousness and the Brazilian P1 virus is also deadlier although the reason is not evident.
"We believe it's another escape mechanism the virus is creating to evade the response of antibodies," said Felipe Naveca, one of the authors of the study and part of Fiocruz in the Amazon city of Manaus, where the P1 variant is believed to have originated.
More and more young people under 40 are succumbing to the virus in Brazil, where the death toll has crossed 350,000 and is the second-highest in the world. The deployment of Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines have proven effective against the pandemic in the country although delayed vaccine acquisition and lack of preventive measures have accelerated the spread of the virus.