Wednesday, April 14

Virus mutation: Drosten: “Unfortunately that doesn’t look good”

Dhe chief virologist at the Berlin Charité, Christian Drosten, is concerned about the mutation of the coronavirus reported in Great Britain. “Unfortunately that doesn’t look good,” he wrote with a view to the publication of UK government data on Tuesday night on twitter. The documents from the British health authority underlined the assumption that the virus mutation is significantly more contagious than previously occurring variants.

On Monday, Drosten saw little cause for alarm in view of the mutation: “I’m not that worried about that at the moment. However, I am – just like everyone else – in a somewhat unclear information situation, ”he said on Deutschlandfunk. The virologist assumed that the mutated virus could already be found in Germany. “It’s already in Italy, in Holland, in Belgium, in Denmark, even in Australia, why shouldn’t it be in Germany,” said the Berlin researcher.

Travel restrictions until January 6th

Because of the new variant of the pathogen, the federal government is further restricting travel from Great Britain and South Africa. The transport of passengers from there by plane, ship, train or bus to Germany is largely forbidden from this Tuesday to transport companies, as a regulation of the Ministry of Health published on Monday in the Federal Gazette determines. It is valid until January 6th. Head of department Jens Spahn (CDU) said in the evening on Twitter that this was being done “as a precautionary measure” until we knew more about the reported coronavirus mutations in both countries.

As a first protective measure, the Ministry of Transport had already banned almost all flights from Great Britain to Germany from Monday until December 31st. The federal government announced further restrictions on entry from South Africa at the weekend.

Meanwhile, Biontech boss Ugur Sahin was confident that his company’s corona vaccine would also work against the new mutation of the virus. From a scientific point of view, the probability is high, he told the German press agency. “We have already tested the vaccine against around 20 other virus variants with other mutations. The immune response produced by our vaccine has always inactivated all forms of the virus. “

The virus has now mutated a little more, said Sahin. “We now have to test it experimentally. This will take about two weeks. However, we are confident that this will not significantly affect the mechanism of action. “

The antigen that the Mainz-based company and its American partner Pfizer use for the vaccine consists of over 1270 amino acids, according to Sahin. Nine of them have now mutated, so not even one percent. “Our vaccine sees the whole protein and causes multiple immune responses. As a result, we have so many docking sites that it is difficult for the virus to escape. But that does not mean that the new variant is harmless. ”The Biontech vaccine based on the messenger molecule mRNA can in principle be quickly adapted to new variants.

According to Sahin, the comparatively long duration in the EU approval process had no impact on the amount of vaccination doses that the Mainz-based company produced. “We had already planned a division of the vaccine doses in advance, and we adhere to that. What has changed is of course the number we can deliver this year. But overall, the number of cans that we promised the EU will not change. “

He called the EU approval for the Biontech vaccine, which took place on Monday, “historically by far the fastest drug approval”. Biontech not only had to answer the questions of the EU authorities, but also many questions from individual countries. “This made the process more strenuous, but it was just part of taking care of the procedures in the EU correctly step by step.”

According to him, neither he nor his wife, Biontech co-founder and medical director Özlem Türeci, have so far been vaccinated with the active ingredient of their company. “But we want that as soon as we have a suitable basis for it,” he said. “It is important for us that we provide our employees in production with the appropriate vaccine doses.” The aim is to guarantee the uninterrupted manufacture of vaccines in Biontech’s production network over the next twelve months. “We are therefore considering using a small batch that is independent of the EU quota for this purpose.”

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