How the Institut Pasteur improves understanding of the English variant


REPORT – Scientists are trying to better understand the mechanisms of mutation of Sars-CoV-2.

At the Institut Pasteur, on the fourth floor of the André-Lwoff building, the Pr Olivier Schwartz heads the virus and immunity unit, which is twenty people strong. He reoriented his activity towards Sars-CoV-2, after having worked for a long time on the AIDS virus, including an old model, painted in purple, sits in his office.

Currently, his team is trying to better understand the so-called English variant, or B.1.1.7., Now predominant in France. “We know that the British variant is more transmissible from an epidemiological point of view, but there is not a lot of information on the molecular and cellular mechanisms which explain this behavior”, specifies the Pr Schwartz.

Lift a corner of the veil

Like other international teams, those of Pasteur are exploring different hypotheses of its greater transmissibility: it probably takes less virus to infect a person. A mutation carried by the spicule (the small “peaks” that bristle the coronavirus) increases its affinity for the receptor, ACE-2

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