The South African strain of coronavirus infection is more dangerous than the British strain because it acquires mutations to re-infect people.
“The South African one, unlike the British one, acquired several more mutations that helped it evade monoclonal antibodies,” he noted. The specialist explained that monoclonal antibodies are protective factors isolated from humans, which scientists now often use in research. They are sold for use in laboratories for scientific activities. These are neutralizing antibodies that prevent SARS-CoV-2 from entering the cell.
According to Volchkov, these antibodies do not work on the South African strain. “That is, the virus mutating in this direction begins to overcome adaptive immunity. And these changes will give an opportunity to infect those who have already been infected because they have antibodies in their bodies to the previous, not yet mutated, strain,” he said.
The expert said scientists in Johannesburg said the virus began behaving this way because of one of the treatments for COVID-19 – transfusions of donor plasma from over-infected people. “People haven’t developed their own antibodies yet, but they’re already being injected with others. When T-cell immunity has not yet developed, T cells and NK cells have not yet come into play,” Volchkov emphasized. He added that this allows the virus to easily evade the immune response.
Earlier, Rospotrebnadzor reported that most test systems used in Russia are capable of detecting the South African strain of the coronavirus. At present, according to the agency, there is no scientific evidence that the South African strain is less sensitive to neutralizing antibodies. There is also no evidence that it can be reinfected.
A new mutation of the virus was found in South Africa in mid-December 2020. This variation has been named 501.V2. South Africa’s health minister stressed that the second wave of coronavirus in the country is likely due to this particular mutation of the disease. Such a strain is different from the coronavirus mutation found in the UK and subsequently in other countries.