Scientists have found that the Kent variant of Covid-19, which has been spreading around the UK, appears to be undergoing some worrying new genetic changes. The tests on some samples showed a mutation, called E484K, which has already been found in the South Africa and Brazil variants.
According to the scientists, although this change may reduce vaccine effectiveness, the current ones in use should still work.
The UK has already stepped up measures to control the spread of new variants as urgent testing for the South Africa variant is starting in parts of the country and travel restrictions have been introduced to stop more cases entering from abroad, the BBC reported on Tuesday.
The experts found only 11 out of 214,159 samples with the E484K mutation.
It's not unexpected that variants are appearing or that they will continue to change -- all viruses mutate as they make new copies of themselves to spread and thrive, the report said.
Some research appears to show E484K may help the virus evade parts of the immune system called antibodies. But early results from Moderna suggest its vaccine is still effective against variants with this mutation -- although the body's immune response may not be as strong or prolonged.
Two new Covid-19 vaccines that could be approved soon -- one from Novavax and another from Janssen -- appear to offer some protection too, the report said.