SARS-CoV-2 Variants

SARS-CoV-2 Variants

Prof Ravindra Gupta; University of Cambridge

SARS-CoV-2 has continued to surprise the world in its ability to generate diversity and evade vaccine induced immune responses, specifically neutralising antibodies. Chronic infection with SARS-CoV-2 was recognised in 2020, with mutant viruses detected with multiple mutations in both spike and across the genome. In this talk I will outline how new variants have arisen and the key features of the variants of concern. The talk will highlight some of the mechanistic differences in their biology with reference to specific mutations, and what this means for transmission and vaccine efficacy.

Ravi Gupta is Professor of Clinical Microbiology at Cambridge University. Gupta has worked on evolution of HIV drug resistance population impacts, and his work led to change in WHO treatment guidelines for HIV.  He led the study demonstrating HIV eradication in the ‘London Patient’ – the world’s only living example of HIV cure, and the second recorded in history. During the COVID-19 pandemic Gupta has deployed his expertise in RNA virus genetics and biology to report that SARS-CoV-2 variants likely arise in immune compromised individuals who are also at greatest risk of severe disease. Gupta reported the first real world data on vaccine escape responses towards VOC, defined the replication advantage of the Delta variant, and the tropism shift of Omicron-explaining why this variant is less severe. In addition his group has defined mechanisms behind poorer vaccine responses in the elderly. Gupta has advised the UK government on COVID-19 through SAGE and NERVTAG. In 2020 he appeared in the list of 100 most influential people by TIME and in 2022 featured in the Clarivate list of the world’s most highly cited scientists.

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