By Daniel R. Lucey MD, MPH, FIDSA
The SARS-CoV-2 variants first described in Manaus, Brazil “P.1.” and in South Africa “B.1.351” share at least five mutations including the antibody-evading changes at amino acids 484 and 417 in the spike protein. Potential cross-protection against the P.1 variant by the new Moderna-NIH B1.351 variant vaccine has been postulated here Sunday (Feb. 28) and Tuesday (March 2). A more immediately testable question is whether neutralizing antibodies in the blood of survivors of the P.1 variant will neutralize the B.1.351 variant virus, and vice versa?
If there were such cross-protective antibodies against both the P.1 variant and the B.1.351 variant in the blood of survivors of infection with either variant, then there could be hope of a vaccine against either variant inducing neutralizing antibodies against both variants.
In addition, at least one of the variants reported last week in the U.S., called “B.1.526” originally found primarily in New York also shares the antibody-evading E484K mutation with both the P.1 and B.1.351 variants. Thus, it would be of value to test for partial cross-neutralization against this U.S. variant B.1.526 by antibodies in the blood of survivors of infection with either P.1. or B.1.351 variants, and vice versa.
Likewise, it could be informative to test for neutralizing antibodies against the U.S. B.1.526 in persons who will receive the novel Moderna B.1.351 variant-specific vaccine starting later this month at National Institutes of Health-affiliated study sites in Atlanta, Seattle, Cincinnati, and Nashville.
On Tuesday (March 2) the WHO posted its weekly epidemiologic update that provides world maps with nations reporting P.1. (see below), B.1.351, and B.1.1.7. These variants are in multiple U.S. states.
Countries, territories and areas reporting P.1, as of March 2, 2021:
Daniel Lucey, M.D. MPH, FIDSA, FACP, is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine, Infectious Disease adjunct Professor at Georgetown Medical Center, senior scholar at Georgetown Law, Anthropology Research Associate at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and a member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America Global Health Committee. He served as a volunteer to outbreaks overseas including hands-on Ebola patient care in Sierra Leone and Liberia (Doctors without Borders) 2014, MERS 2013, SARS 2003, as well as HIV, H5N1, Zika, yellow Fever, and pneumonic plague 2017 (with WHO/USAID/CDC). Since Jan. 6, 2020 he has contributed over 75 posts to Science Speaks on COVID-19 and traveled to China in February 2020. He initially proposed, then fundraised and helped design the content for 2018-2022 Smithsonian Exhibition on Epidemics due to zoonotic viruses. From 1982-1988 he trained at University of California San Francisco and Harvard and was an attending physician at the NIH (NIAID) in the 1990s while in the US Public Health Service.