Kent Covid-19 variant mutation is 'par for the course', professor tells LBC

2 February 2021, 15:59

By Sam Sholli

The mutation of the Kent Covid-19 variant is "par for the course" and won't be "that big a deal" once most vulnerable people have been vaccinated, a professor has told James O'Brien.

The mutation in the Kent Covid-19 variant, which is known as E484K, is also already present in both South African and Brazilian coronavirus variants.

Laboratory studies have shown that antibodies are less able to bind to a part of the spike protein, in order to stop it from unlocking human cells to gain entry.

Professor Paul Hunter, an expert in medicine from the University of East Anglia, told James: "The thing is we do know that coronaviruses generally gradually mutate, not as much as the influenza viruses do but certainly enough to throw up these mutations.

Read more: Covid cases with 'mutation of concern' identified in Liverpool and Bristol

The professor also said the E484K mutation "reduces the effectiveness of vaccines, albeit not enough to make the vaccines ineffective".

Read more: Kent coronavirus mutation: What is the E484K strain and will it impact vaccine efficiency?

Read more: South Africa variant: How door-to-door testing works and which areas will be tested

Professor Hunter was then asked by James if he was professionally surprised by the quantity and quality of mutations emerging in the UK at the moment.

He replied: "It's par for the course. There have literally been tens of thousands of mutations in coronaviruses since a year ago. The vast majority of them don't do anything and we don't get to hear about them.

Read more: Mutation of Kent Covid-19 variant 'could impact effectiveness of some vaccines'

"Occasionally they have some advantage for the virus, either by making it more infectious or by making it more resistant to people's immunity...and that has certainly been what's happening here."

He added: "It is a concern, particularly until we have managed to vaccinate more of our population.

"But ultimately we're going to be living with this sort of thing for many years to come and it isn't going to be that big a deal once we've managed to vaccinate most of the vulnerable people."