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As part of the research, the University of Surrey created antigenic map of “variants of concern”. This map then allowed the team to identify and measure how each variant impacted the immune system. While the study’s results suggested that immunity decreases 20 weeks after vaccination, a third booster – of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine – helped the immune system to identify and neutralise the 20 different variants.
Dr Daniel Horton, co-author of the study and reader in veterinary virology at the university, explained more.
He said: “The emergence of this disease and its disruptive and deadly impact on our day-to-day lives demonstrates how crucial it is for the scientific community to work together to identify and characterise infectious diseases quickly.
“The University of Surrey’s contribution to this study through the mapping of the various variants is itself part of a landmark €90million [around £76million] collaborative effort to tackle zoonotic diseases in Europe, reflecting our focus on understanding the inextricable links between the health of animals, humans and, indeed, the planet we all share.”
The study was carried out in a collaboration between the Pirbright Institute, the University of Surrey, the Imperial College in London and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to understand the immune response of individuals aged 70-89 who had received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
This vaccine works by triggering the immune system to create Y-shaped proteins, known as antibodies, that can stick to the spike proteins which are found on the surface of the coronavirus.
If a person is infected with coronavirus (also known as SARS-CoV-2), the antibodies binding to the spike protein prevents the virus from attaching to and entering the human cell, therefore helping to protect from severe disease.
Antibodies also act as a “beacon” to alert the immune system to help fight the infection.
Head of the viral glycoproteins group at Pirbright, Dr Dalan Bailey, added: “Understanding how the levels of neutralising antibodies relate to a well-defined immune response will be an important step in understanding how the immune system responds to SARS-CoV-2 and could also help in the management of COVID-19.
“This information could help us to understand whether the risk of breakthrough infections, hospitalisation and death is increased by waning immunity or new variants.”
As of July 13 this year, a total of 53.6 million people across the UK have had at least one Covid vaccine.
While 50.3 million have had two and 40.1 million have had a third.
Between July 9 and 15 there were 150,591 new cases of Covid recorded in England (weekly data for other countries was not available).
This was a 14 percent drop compared to infections in the previous week.
It is thought the most recent Covid infections are due to the new Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants.
As reported, Omicron BA.5 has become the dominant coronavirus variant in the UK.
An estimated 78.7 percent of confirmed cases in England are BA.5.
Common symptoms of BA.4 and BA.5 are:
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