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12th April 2021  Content supplied by: Rapidvirology staff writer

Three Major SARS-CoV-2 Variants

Although 2020 has already passed, the horror brought by it seems to linger for a while in 2021. Many countries have already launched the vaccination plan; however, the SARS-CoV-2, like a cunning fox, plays the long-term game with us.

So far, there have been many variants of SARS-CoV-2 identified, with three major variants confirmed to be more transmissible and have sparked concerns that vaccines may be less effective against them.

B.1.1.248 (Lineage P.1)

Where and when was it discovered? This variant of SARS-CoV-2 was first detected by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID), Japan, on 6 January 2021, in four people who had arrived in Tokyo having visited Amazonas, Brazil, four days earlier.4

Where is it now? It has been confirmed in Brazil, Peru, Germany, South Korea, and Japan, among other places. On Jan. 25, Minnesota health officials confirmed the first U.S. case of the Brazil variant in a resident with recent travel history to Brazil.

What makes it different? The new variant isolate (GISAID ID: EPI_ISL_792680 to 792683) belongs to B.1.1.248 lineage and has 12 mutations in the spike protein, including N501Y and E484K.

The E484K was reported to be an escape mutation from a monoclonal antibody that neutralizes SARS-CoV-2. The E484K has been observed in variant isolates escaping from convalescent plasma and with a 10-fold decrease in neutralization capability by convalescent plasma (both in preprint articles), suggesting a possible change in antigenicity.5,6

Will vaccines work? There’s no strong evidence right now that suggests that vaccines won’t work against the Brazil variant. However, scientists have raised the possibility that this variant can evade antibodies, which would impact the current vaccines’ effectiveness.


Where and when was it discovered? This variant was first found in the United Kingdom, specifically in London and the nearby county of Kent, in September 2020. It is sometimes referred to as the “Kent” variant. It has been spreading rapidly in Britain, Denmark, and Ireland since December.

Where is it now? Dozens of countries, including the United States, have identified instances of the mutation. The CDC predicts that this variant will soon become the dominant strain in the United States.

What makes it different? The U.K. variant appears more transmissible than the more common strain. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also suggested for the first time in January that this strain may be more lethal than previous mutations.3

Will vaccines work? The scientific consensus is that the vaccines will remain effective against this mutation because those inoculations provoke an array of neutralizing antibodies and other immune-system responses. Biotechnology companies Pfizer and Moderna have said their vaccines appear to work against this variant.


Where and when was it discovered? This mutation was found in South Africa in early October and announced in December when the country’s health minister said the strain seemed to affect young people more than previous strains. This variant may have contributed to a surge of infections and hospitalizations across South Africa.

Where is it now? This mutation has been identified in more than two dozen countries, including Canada, Australia, and Israel, but not in the United States.

What makes it different? This mutation shares some similarities to the U.K. variant and, like that strain, appears to be more transmissible. There is no evidence that it is more lethal. Scott Gottlieb, former director of the Food and Drug Administration, has suggested that this variant might be more resistant to antibody therapies.

Will vaccines work? "The vaccines may have a diminished impact against this variant, but they probably will still be effective," Fauci said in January. Moderna has said its vaccine protects against the South Africa variant, with an important caveat: The vaccine-elicited antibodies were also less effective at neutralizing this mutation in a laboratory dish.


As uncertainties mount, the Bioperfectus molecular diagnostics method, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), remains to be the gold standard for detecting RNA viruses like SARS-CoV-2. Bioperfectus antigen-based tests, i.e., Lateral Flow Method, showed no drop in sensitivity when compared with the wild-type with respect to the VOC1 Kent, UK, B.1.1.7 and VOC2 South Africa, B.1.351.

Click here to enlarge image (pdf)1


Click here to enlarge image (pdf)2


As formerly announced, Bioperfectus COVID-19 Coronavirus Real-Time PCR Kit  and COVID-19 Coronavirus and Influenza A/B Virus Real-Time PCR Kit  can maintain their effectiveness and accuracy in the face of the above variants.  We will remain concerned about the further performance of the viral mutations and explore more and more effective and accurate methods for detecting the mutations.


1. Variants of SARS-CoV-2 

2. The Impact of Novel Variants of SARS-CoV-2 on Diagnostic Testing 

3. What you need to know about the coronavirus variants 

4.Brief report: New Variant Strain of SARS-CoV-2 Identified in Travelers from Brazil 

5.Escape from neutralizing antibodies by SARS-CoV-2 spike protein variants 

6.Evolution of antibody immunity to SARS-CoV-2 



Date Published: 12th April 2021

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