A new study has revealed that people previously infected with the 501Y.V2 variant of COVID-19 that has been dominant in South Africa have developed antibodies that could prevent them from being infected with other variants.
“We have found out through our scientists that the new variant 501Y.V2 is able to generate its immune responses that neutralize itself and other SARS-CoV-2 lineages,” Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande said Wednesday during a joint webinar on the latest COVID-19 variant findings.
South Africa first reported the existence of the 501Y.V2 variant in mid-December during its second wave of the pandemic, leading to many infections and deaths.
Some countries even imposed travel bans on arrivals from South Africa, fearing they could bring the new variant to their shores.
Nzimande said the new scientific discovery means that vaccines likely to generate neutralizing agents against the current variant can be developed.
“This is a highly significant finding by our scientists,” he added.
The study which led to the discovery was conducted by a consortium of scientists from various institutions but led by the Kwazulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform.
Speaking at the same webinar, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize congratulated the scientists, saying South Africa has emerged as one of the global leaders in surveillance genomics.
He said the country has included several scientists on its COVID-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee which has guided the government’s decisions on how to respond to the fight against COVID-19 based on science.
South Africa has the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths on the continent with 1,514,815 confirmed infections, 50,271 deaths and 1,433,320 recoveries recorded. It is the 16th most-affected country worldwide.