What do SARS-CoV-2 mutations mean for vaccines & immunity?

Jesse Bloom

Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center

Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Twitter: @jbloom_lab


These slides are available at https://slides.com/jbloom/challenge-seattle-2021​

Some viruses evolve to escape immunity, others do not

  • Measles virus: Does not evolve to escape immunity. People are infected at most once in their lives. A vaccine developed in the 1960s still works today.


  • Influenza virus: Evolves to escape immunity. People are infected about every 5 years. The vaccine needs to be updated annually (and is still only moderately effective).

Human common-cold coronaviruses evolve to escape immunity 

Ability of human serum collected in 1985 to neutralize isolates of CoV-229E from subsequent years. See this Twitter thread for details.

We mapped how mutations to SARS-CoV-2 affect recognition by antibody immunity to better monitor viral evolution

Mutations that affect recognition by human sera. Tall letters mean mutation reduces binding by serum antibodies. See this Twitter thread for details.

The most concerning current mutation is E484K

Mutations at site 484 are present in isolates from various countries, and have arisen multiple times. See this Twitter thread.

There are no hard data on how much the reduction of lab-measured neutralization from E484K affects immune protection of humans

For my personal guess, see here.


By Jesse Bloom


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