New research led by the Africa Health Research Institute’s Dr Alex Sigal and Sandile Cele, a PhD student in Sigal’s lab, shows that antibodies produced from exposure to the 501Y.V2 Covid-19 variant could protect against infection from previously circulating Covid-19 variants.

This has important implications for future vaccine design.

The results from the laboratory studies were presented during a live webinar co-hosted by the South African Department of Health and Department of Science and Innovation. The results are currently published as a pre-print on medRxiv.

Previous work from the same research team has demonstrated that 501Y.V2 can escape antibodies generated from infection with previous variants. Results from vaccine trials have backed these findings, showing that some vaccines have reduced efficacy against 501Y.V2. This led to government putting the roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine on hold in South Africa.

Sigal’s new work is the first to suggest that a vaccine strategy designed for 501Y.V2 could protect against other circulating Covid-19 variants.

“This is an important finding and is something that we, as South African researchers, can contribute to the general understanding of how to beat this virus with a vaccine,” said Sigal.

Watch a clip from the press briefing below.

Video courtesy SABC news.

Top image: Neutralization of first infection wave and 501Y.V2 variants by convalescent plasma from South African first and second wave infections. From Cele et al.