Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Malevolent Designer News - Designing SARS-CoV-2 to Win the Arms Race

SARS-CoV-2 Virus particles (colour-enhanced)
Credit: NIH

New Study of Coronavirus Variants Predicts Virus Evolving to Escape Current Vaccines, Treatments | Columbia University Irving Medical Center

News today that should thrill any dedicated intelligent [sic] design creationist who worships the magic deity he/she believes creates all living things and designs them for a specific purpose and in full knowledge of what they will do.

Scientists at Columbia University Irving Medical School, New York, USA and the National Institute of Health (NIH), Bethesda, Maryland, USA have discovered that the SARS-CoV-2 virus will evolve to 'escape' the antibodies produced by the vaccines human medical science has developed to protect ourselves from it with. They are forecasting a continuing arms race with medical science continually playing catch-up to keep up with the virus as it evolves under the selection pressure of the presence of these antibodies in its environment.

Intelligent [sic] design Creationists of course reject that scientific explanation which acknowledges the role of evolution by natural selection, because the dogma of ID Creationism requires them to believe that no such thing is possible, so all change is the deliberate work of their putative magic designer who designed the virus for the specific purpose of killing people and making very many of us sick. Under this interpretation, the virus is constantly being redesigned to ensure it continues to do what it was designed to do. This arms race is not the result of a natural, mindless, amoral process but a deliberate campaign by this putative magic creator to outwit human medical science.

According to the Columbia University press release:
Our study and the new clinical trial data show that the virus is traveling in a direction that is causing it to escape from our current vaccines and therapies that are directed against the viral spike.

If the rampant spread of the virus continues and more critical mutations accumulate, then we may be condemned to chasing after the evolving SARS-CoV-2 continually, as we have long done for influenza virus. Such considerations require that we stop virus transmission as quickly as is feasible, by redoubling our mitigation measures and by expediting vaccine rollout...

The approximately 2-fold loss of neutralizing activity against the U.K. variant is unlikely to have an adverse impact due to the large 'cushion' of residual neutralizing antibody activity, and we see that reflected in the Novavax results where the vaccine was 85.6% effective against the U.K. variant.

The drop in neutralizing activity against the South Africa variant is appreciable, and we’re now seeing, based on the Novavax results, that this is causing a reduction in protective efficacy.

We have to stop the virus from replicating and that means rolling out vaccine faster and sticking to our mitigation measures like masking and physical distancing. Stopping the spread of the virus will stop the development of further mutations.

Professor David Ho, Lead author
Director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center
Clyde’56 and Helen Wu Professor of Medicine
Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.
A new study of the U.K. and South Africa variants of SARS-CoV-2 predicts that current vaccines and certain monoclonal antibodies may be less effective at neutralizing these variants and that the new variants raise the specter that reinfections could be more likely.

The study was published in Nature on March 8, 2021. A preprint of the study was first posted to BioRxiv on January 26, 2021. [Although the Nature publication is behind a paywall, the BioRxiv version is open access.]

The study’s predictions are now being borne out with the first reported results of the Novavax vaccine, says the study's lead author David Ho, MD. The company reported on Jan. 28 that the vaccine was nearly 90% effective in the company’s U.K. trial, but only 49.4% effective in its South Africa trial, where most cases of COVID-19 are caused by the B.1.351 variant.

[...]

After vaccination, the immune system responds and makes antibodies that can neutralize the virus.

Ho and his team found that antibodies in blood samples taken from people inoculated with the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine were less effective at neutralizing the two variants, B.1.1.7, which emerged last September in England, and B.1.351, which emerged from South Africa in late 2020. Against the U.K. variant, neutralization dropped by roughly 2-fold, but against the South Africa variant, neutralization dropped by 6.5- to 8.5-fold.

“The approximately 2-fold loss of neutralizing activity against the U.K. variant is unlikely to have an adverse impact due to the large 'cushion' of residual neutralizing antibody activity,” Ho says, “and we see that reflected in the Novavax results where the vaccine was 85.6% effective against the U.K. variant.”

Data from Ho’s study about the loss in neutralizing activity against the South Africa variant are more worrisome.

“The drop in neutralizing activity against the South Africa variant is appreciable, and we’re now seeing, based on the Novavax results, that this is causing a reduction in protective efficacy,” Ho says. The new study did not examine the more recent variant found in Brazil (B.1.1.28) but given the similar spike mutations between the Brazil and South Africa variants, Ho says the Brazil variant should behave similarly to the South Africa variant.

[...]

Decisions of the use of these treatments will depend heavily on the local prevalence of the South Africa and Brazil variants, highlighting the importance of viral genomic surveillance and proactive development of next-generation antibody therapeutics.

The concern here is that reinfection might be more likely if one is confronted with these variants, particularly the South Africa one.

Professor David Ho
The study also found that certain monoclonal antibodies used now to treat COVID patients may not work against the South Africa variant. And based on results with plasma from COVID patients who were infected earlier in the pandemic, the B.1.351 variant from South Africa has the potential to cause reinfection.

New study contains comprehensive analysis of variants


The new study conducted an extensive analysis of mutations in the two SARS-CoV-2 variants compared to other recent studies, which have reported similar findings.

The new study examined all mutations in the spike protein of the two variants. (Vaccines and monoclonal antibody treatments work by recognizing the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.)

Abstract

The Covid-19 pandemic has ravaged the globe, and its causative agent, SARS-CoV-2, continues to rage. Prospects of ending this pandemic rest on the development of effective interventions. Single and combination monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapeutics have received emergency use authorization1,2, with more in the pipeline36. Furthermore, multiple vaccine constructs have shown promise7, including two with ~95% protective efficacy against Covid-198,9. However, these interventions were directed toward the initial SARS-CoV-2 that emerged in 2019. Considerable viral evolution has occurred since, including variants with a D614G mutation10 that have become dominant. Viruses with this mutation alone do not appear to be antigenically distinct, however11. Recent emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants B.1.1.7 in the UK12 and B.1.351 in South Africa13 is of concern because of their purported ease of transmission and extensive mutations in the spike protein. We now report that B.1.1.7 is refractory to neutralization by most mAbs to the N-terminal domain (NTD) of spike and relatively resistant to a number of mAbs to the receptor-binding domain (RBD). It is modestly more resistant to convalescent plasma (~3 fold) and vaccinee sera (~2 fold). Findings on B.1.351 are more worrisome in that this variant is not only refractory to neutralization by most NTD mAbs but also by multiple individual mAbs to the receptor-binding motif on RBD, largely due to an E484K mutation, although some mAb combinations retain activity. Moreover, B.1.351 is markedly more resistant to neutralization by convalescent plasma (~11-33 fold) and vaccinee sera (~6.5-8.6 fold). B.1.351 and emergent variants14,15 with similar spike mutations present new challenges for mAb therapy and threaten the protective efficacy of current vaccines.

The researchers created SARS-CoV-2 pseudoviruses (viruses that produce the coronavirus spike protein but cannot cause infection) with the eight mutations found in the U.K. variant and the nine mutations found in the South African variant.

They then measured the sensitivity of these pseudoviruses to monoclonal antibodies developed to treat COVID patients, convalescent serum from patients who were infected earlier in the pandemic, and serum from patients who have been vaccinated with the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.

Implications for monoclonal antibody treatments


The study measured the neutralizing activity of 18 different monoclonal antibodies—including the antibodies in two products authorized for use in the United States.

Against the U.K. variant, most antibodies were still potent, although the neutralizing activity of two antibodies in development was modestly impaired.

Against the South Africa variant, however, the neutralizing activity of four antibodies was completely or markedly abolished. Those antibodies include bamlanivimab (LY-CoV555, approved for use in the United States) that was completely inactive against the South Africa variant, and casirivimab, one of the two antibodies in an approved antibody cocktail (REGN-COV) that was 58-fold less effective at neutralizing the South Africa variant compared to the original virus. The second antibody in the cocktail, imdevimab, retained its neutralizing ability, as did the complete cocktail.

“Decisions of the use of these treatments will depend heavily on the local prevalence of the South Africa and Brazil variants,” Ho says, “highlighting the importance of viral genomic surveillance and proactive development of next-generation antibody therapeutics.”

Reinfection implications


Serum from most patients who had recovered from COVID earlier in the pandemic had 11-fold less neutralizing activity against the South Africa variant and 4-fold less neutralizing activity against the U.K. variant.
Naturally, if any intelligent [sic] design advocates who have got this far through this article would like to explain that this arms race between the virus and medical science is all due to a natural, amoral, directionless, utilitarian process and not due to their putative designer who, not being the malevolent, pestilential, misanthropic sadist their Creationist leaders are making it appear, would never dream of doing something so hateful, then they could always have the honour of being the first to do so. At the moment though, it looks like they worship a despicable monster who, if it were real, should be kept under lock and key and probably required to wear an iron face mask in the presence of other life forms.








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