A coronavirus strain isolated in India carried a mutation that could upend vaccine development around the globe, according to researchers from Australia and Taiwan.

The non-peer reviewed study said the change had occurred in part of the spike protein that allows the virus to bind with certain human cells.

This structure targets cells containing ACE2, an enzyme found in the lungs which also allowed the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) virus to infect people.

Scientists know more about this receptor than any other so had been working on antibodies that target it, but an unexpected structural change could render them useless.

The researchers – led by Wei-Lung Wang, from the National Changhua University of Education in Taiwan, and collaborators from Murdoch University in Australia – said this was the first report of a significant mutation that could threaten development of a vaccine for the virus that causes Covid-19.

“The observation of this study raised the alarm that Sars-CoV-2 mutation with varied epitope [something an antibody attaches itself to] profile could arise at any time,” they wrote in a paper released on preprint review site biorxiv.org on Saturday.

Image Credit:  AP

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