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A front-line worker passes oxygen ciylinders at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital’s outside parking area in Pretoria, South Africa, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021.
A front-line worker passes oxygen ciylinders at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital’s outside parking area in Pretoria, South Africa, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. | Denis Farrell, Associated Press

Scientists said they are worried about an ‘escape mutant’ of COVID-19 originally found in South Africa.

Scientists have expressed worry over an “escape mutant” of the novel coronavirus that may not be defeated by the COVID-19 vaccine, according to CNN.

What’s going on?

  • Scientists discovered the new mutant — named E484K — two months ago in South Africa.
  • The variant has reportedly traveled to 12 different countries.
  • E484K has been deemed an “escape mutant” because it can evade antibodies produced by the COVID-19 vaccine.

Reaction:

Penny Moore, associate professor at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa, told CNN the mutation is “alarming.”

  • “We fear this mutation might have an impact, and what we don’t know is the extent of the impact,” she said.

Alex Sigal, a virologist at the Africa Health Research Institute, said: “I’m worried.”

Worries about antibody drugs

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNBC he’s worried the more infectious coronavirus strain could threaten antibody drugs. He said the mutation has the chance to defeat antibody treatments.

  • “It could be having some impact on protection for the monoclonal antibodies and perhaps even for the vaccine. We don’t know that,” said Fauci.
  • “People ask me, ‘Are you worried about it?’ These are not the kind of things I worry about, but it’s the kind of thing that I take very seriously,” Fauci said.