JOHANNESBURG - A new study has shown that people previously infected by the COVID-19 variant identified in South Africa have better immunity against other coronavirus mutations, experts said Wednesday.
The findings, from preliminary research by the team of South African scientists who identified the variant dubbed 501Y.V2, raise hopes that vaccines modeled on the strain could protect against future mutations.
Identified late last year, the variant fueled South Africa's second wave of infection and delayed the start of vaccinations in February.
Scientists said Wednesday that plasma collected from people infected with the variant had "good neutralizing activity", including against "first wave" viruses and potentially other variants of concern.
After the antibodies were tested against the original strain and another identified in Brazil, "results are showing a clear sense of direction", virologist Tulio de Oliveira said in a video conference.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told the same meeting that the discovery was "good news for all" as it presented a huge boost to the control of the pandemic.
Coronavirus mutations -- some more contagious -- had put a damper on global vaccination programs after existing shots were found to offer less protection against them.
Manufacturers have in recent weeks raced to tweak their formulas in response to the spread of newer variants.