An old COVID-19 variant called A.30—which is exceedingly rare—“efficiently evades” antibodies induced by the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines, according to a team of scientists in Germany.
Only five cases of the A.30 variant have been reported so far worldwide, according to the COVID-19 variant tracking network GISAID. Three of these were in Angola, and one case was detected in both the United Kingdom and Sweden.
It hasn’t been listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a variant of interest or concern, likely due to its low prevalence.
Researchers from Göttingen, Germany, analyzed the variant that was first detected in several patients in Angola and Sweden in the spring, which “likely originated in Tanzania.” They compared it to the Beta and Eta COVID-19 variants.
“A.30 exhibits a cell line preference not observed for other viral variants and efficiently evades neutralization by antibodies elicited by” the two COVID-19 vaccines, the researchers said in their study, which was published on Oct. 25 in the peer-reviewed journal Cellular & Molecular Immunology.
The A.30 variant “enters certain cell lines with increased efficiency and evades antibody-mediated neutralization,” the team found.
“Collectively, our results suggest that the SARS-CoV-2 variant A.30 can evade control by vaccine-induced antibodies and might show an increased capacity to enter cells in a cathepsin L-dependent manner, which might particularly aid in the extrapulmonary spread,” the scientists wrote in their study.
Brian Hjelle, a professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of New Mexico said on Twitter that the A.30 variant “has impressive array of mutations and is approaching true immune escape.”
“Needs watching,” he added.
Other experts however have pointed out the A.30 variant’s low prevalence, coupled with the fact that the last recorded cases of the rare variant were between May and June this year.
“A.30 is in all likelihood extinct now,” Professor Francois Balloux, a scientist at University College London’s Department of Genetics, wrote on Twitter, referring to the GSIAD data.
“It’s probably already extinct,” added Jeremy Kamil, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Louisiana State University Health Shreveport, on Twitter.
The researchers however note that a potential spread of the A.30 variant in the future “warrants close monitoring and rapid installment of countermeasures.”
The Epoch Times has reached out to the lead author of the study, Markus Hoffmann, for additional comment.