Researchers at a Canadian university have published the first molecular images of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 mutation, which was first detected in the UK in December 2020, and made the virus more infectious.
The images, taken at near-atomic resolution, show the N501Y mutation on the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. The images were captured using cryo-electron microscopes. In a statement, the University of British Columbia said the pictures provided insight into why the B.1.1.7 mutation is more infectious.
Dr Sriram Subramaniam, professor at UBC's medicine department of biochemistry and molecular biology, and his team conducted the research. Their research on B.1.1.7 has been published in PLOS Biology, a monthly peer-reviewed scientific journal.
"The images also add to the growing body of data indicating that existing vaccines are likely to remain effective in preventing mild and severe cases caused by B.1.1.7,"Subramaniam said. The statement said that available vaccines will work against the B.1.1.7 variant. The variant can still be neutralised by the antibodies that stop the entry of the unmutated version of SARS-CoV-2 into human cells.