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SARS-CoV-2 B.1.617.2 Delta variant replication, sensitivity to neutralising antibodies and vaccine breakthrough

Isabella Ferreira, Rawlings Datir, Guido Papa, Steven Kemp, Bo Meng, Partha Rakshit, Sujeet Singh, Rajesh Pandey, Kalaiarasan Ponnusamy, Venkatraman Srinivasan Radhakrishnan,
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Published: 9 May 2021
Abstract: The SARS-CoV-2 B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant was first identified in the state of Maharashtra in late 2020 and spread throughout India, outcompeting pre-existing lineages including B.1.617.1 (Kappa) and B.1.1.7 (Alpha). In vitro, B.1.617.2 is 6-fold less sensitive to serum neutralising antibodies from recovered individuals, and 8-fold less sensitive to vaccine-elicited antibodies as compared to wild type Wuhan-1 bearing D614G. Serum neutralising titres against B.1.617.2 were lower in ChAdOx-1 versus BNT162b2 vaccinees. B.1.617.2 spike pseudotyped viruses exhibited compromised sensitivity to monoclonal antibodies against the receptor binding domain (RBD) and N-terminal domain (NTD), in particular to the clinically approved bamlavinimab and imdevimab monoclonal antibodies. B.1.617.2 demonstrated higher replication efficiency in both airway organoid and human airway epithelial systems as compared to B.1.1.7, associated with B.1.617.2 spike being in a predominantly cleaved state compared to B.1.1.7. Additionally we observed that B.1.617.2 had higher replication and spike mediated entry as compared to B.1.617.1, potentially explaining B.1.617.2 dominance. In an analysis of over 130 SARS-CoV-2 infected healthcare workers across three centres in India during a period of mixed lineage circulation, we observed substantially reduced ChAdOx-1 vaccine efficacy against B.1.617.2 relative to non-B.1.617.2. Compromised vaccine efficacy against the highly fit and immune evasive B.1.617.2 Delta variant warrants continued infection control measures in the post-vaccination era.
Keywords: vaccine / antibodies / B.1.617.2 / India / SARS CoV / lineage / Delta variant / B.1.617.1

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