Covid: Oxford scientists ‘working on new jab’ to combat Delta variant

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Scientists are reportedly working on a vaccine to combat the Delta variant (PA)
Scientists are reportedly working on a vaccine to combat the Delta variant (PA)

Scientists at Oxford University are working on a modified version of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine to target the Delta variant, according to reports.

Members of Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert’s team - who were behind the original AstraZenenca vaccine - are said to be been working on an update to the jab.

The jab is being designed with the aim of “having something on the shelf ready to scale up – if it’s needed”, The Independent reported.

It comes as the government is keeping a “close eye” on a descendant of the coronavirus Delta variant which is being seen in a growing number of cases.

The Delta variant remains the dominant strain in the UK.

Current vaccines being rolled out across the world target forms of the virus that were circulating early in the pandemic.

However, scientists have stressed vaccines specifically targeting different variants could be key to suppressing the virus.

Professor Eleanor Riley, an immunologist at Edinburgh University, questioned why Delta-specific vaccines were not included in the government’s booster campaign this Autumn.

She told The Independent: “They are likely to be significantly better at suppressing infections in the community and may well bring widespread transmission in the UK to an end.”

Last month, researchers at the University of Manchester and Manchester University NHS foundation trust announced the first trials of a booster jab offering protection against a wide range of variants.

Prof Andrew Ustianowski, a consultant in infectious diseases at North Manchester General hospital and chief investigator for the study, told The Guardian the vaccine targets “not just the spike protein but also the nucleocapsid protein”.

As a result, it is hoped the jab will offer protection against a wide range of variants.

It comes as a surge in Covid cases in the UK has sparked alarm among health officials. The UK recorded 49,156 cases on Friday - the highest toll in three months.

Meanwhile, the UK Health Security Agency said it is tracking a new variant called AY.4.2 or Delta Plus.

A University of Oxford spokesperson said: “Oxford has a broad programme of research on vaccines for coronaviruses and is monitoring emerging variants closely.

“We are working with our partners AstraZeneca on testing a Beta variant vaccine in human volunteers at the moment, and on the developing systems for evaluation and licensure of new variant vaccine, should it be needed.”

The Evening Standard has contacted Oxford University for further comment.

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