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Defective viral RNA sensing gene OAS1 linked to severe COVID-19

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

Source: https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abm3921

Defective viral RNA sensing linked to severe COVID-19

JOHN SCHOGGINS SCIENCE•28 Oct 2021•Vol 374, Issue 6567•pp. 535-536•DOI: 10.1126/science.abm39214,824

Why do some people with COVID-19 get sicker than others? Maybe exposure to a particularly high dose of the causative virus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), accounts for the difference. Perhaps deficiencies in diet, exercise, or sleep contribute to worse illness. Although many factors govern how sick people become, a key driver of the severity of COVID-19 appears to be genetic, which is common for other human viruses and infectious agents (1). On page 579 of this issue, Wickenhagen et al. (2) show that susceptibility to severe COVID-19 is associated with a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the human gene 2′-5′-oligoadenylate synthetase 1 (OAS1).The authors reasoned that SARS-CoV-2 should be inhibited by interferon-mediated antiviral responses, which are among the first cellular defense mechanisms produced in response to a viral infection. Interferons are a group of cytokines that induce the transcription of a large cadre of genes, many of which encode proteins with the potential to directly inhibit the invading virus. Wickenhagen et al. interrogated many hundreds of these putative antiviral proteins for their ability to suppress SARS-CoV-2 in cultured cells and found that OAS1 was particularly potent against SARS-CoV-2.OAS1 is an enzyme that is activated in the presence of double-stranded RNA, which is scattered along an otherwise singlestranded SARS-CoV-2 genome because of an assortment of RNA hairpins and other secondary structures. Once activated, OAS1 catalyzes the polymerization of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) into a second messenger, 2′-5′-oligoadenylate. This then triggers the conversion of ribonuclease L (RNaseL) into its active form so that it can cleave viral RNA, effectively blunting viral replication (3). Wickenhagen et al. found that OAS1 is expressed in respiratory tissues of healthy donors and COVID-19 patients and that it interacts with a region of the SARS-CoV-2 genome that contains double-stranded RNA secondary structures (see the figure).OAS1 exists predominantly as two isoforms in humans—a longer isoform (p46) and a shorter version (p42). Genetic variation dictates which isoform will be expressed. In humans, p46 is expressed in people who have a SNP that causes alternative splicing of the OAS1 messenger RNA (mRNA). This results in the utilization of a terminal exon that is not used to translate p42. Thus, the carboxyl terminus of the p46 OAS1 protein contains a distinct four–amino acid motif that forms a prenylation site. Prenylation is a posttranslational modification that targets proteins to membranes. In cell culture experiments, Wickenhagen et al. showed that only OAS1 p46, but not p42, could inhibit SARS-CoV-2. However, when the prenylation site of p46 was engineered into p42, this chimeric p42 protein was able to inhibit SARS-CoV-2, which strongly implicates a role for OAS1 specifically at membranes.Why are membranes important? SARS-CoV-2, like all coronaviruses, co-opts cellular membranes at the endoplasmic reticulum to form double-membrane vesicles, in which the virus replicates its genome. Thus, membrane-bound OAS1 p46 may be specifically activated by RNA viruses that form membrane-bound vesicles for replication. Indeed, the unrelated cardiovirus A, which also forms vesicular membranous structures, was inhibited by OAS1. Conversely, other respiratory RNA viruses, such as human parainfluenza virus type 3 and human respiratory syncytial virus, which do not use membrane-tethered vesicles for replication, were not inhibited by p46.Wickenhagen et al. examined a cohort of 499 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the UK. Whereas all patients expressed OAS1, 42.5% of them did not express the antiviral p46 isoform. These patients were statistically more likely to have severe COVID-19 (be admitted to the intensive care unit). This suggests that OAS1 is an important antiviral factor in the control of SARS-CoV-2 infection and that its inability to activate RNaseL results in prolonged infections and severe disease, although other factors likely contribute. The authors also examined animals known to harbor different coronaviruses. They found evidence for prenylated OAS1 proteins in mice, cows, and camels. Notably, horseshoe bats, which are considered a possible reservoir for SARS-related coronaviruses (4), lack a prenylation motif in their OAS1 because of genomic changes that eliminated the critical four-amino acid motif. A horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) OAS1 was unable to inhibit SARS-CoV-2 infection in cell culture. Conversely, the black flying fox (Pteropus alecto)—a pteropid bat that is a reservoir for the Nipah and Hendra viruses, which can also infect humans—possesses a prenylated OAS1 that can inhibit SARS-CoV-2. These findings indicate that horseshoe bats may be genetically and evolutionarily primed to be optimal reservoir hosts for certain coronaviruses, like SARS-CoV-2.Other studies have now shown that the p46 OAS1 variant, which resides in a genomic locus inherited from Neanderthals (57), correlates with protection from COVID-19 severity in various populations (89). These findings mirror previous studies indicating that outcomes with West Nile virus (10) and hepatitis C virus (11) infection, both of which also use membrane vesicles for replication, are also associated with genetic variation at the human OAS1 locus. Another elegant functional study complements the findings of Wickenhagen et al. by also demonstrating that prenylated OAS1 inhibits multiple viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, and is associated with protection from severe COVID-19 in patients (12).There is a growing body of evidence that provides critical understanding of how human genetic variation shapes the outcome of infectious diseases like COVID-19. In addition to OAS1, genetic variation in another viral RNA sensor, Toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7), is associated with severe COVID-19 (1315). The effects appear to be exclusive to males, because TLR7 is on the X chromosome, so inherited deleterious mutations in TLR7 therefore result in immune cells that fail to produce normal amounts of interferon, which correlates with more severe COVID-19. Our knowledge of the host cellular factors that control SARS-CoV-2 is rapidly increasing. These findings will undoubtedly open new avenues into SARS-CoV-2 antiviral immunity and may also be beneficial for the development of strategies to treat or prevent severe COVID-19.

References and Notes

1J. L. Casanova, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.112, E7118 (2015).GO TO REFERENCECROSSREFPUBMEDGOOGLE SCHOLAR2A. Wickenhagen et al., Science374, eabj3624 (2021).GO TO REFERENCECROSSREFPUBMEDGOOGLE SCHOLAR3H. Kristiansen, H. H. Gad, S. Eskildsen-Larsen, P. Despres, R. Hartmann, J. Interferon Cytokine Res.31, 41 (2011).GO TO REFERENCECROSSREFPUBMEDGOOGLE SCHOLAR4S. Lytras, W. Xia, J. Hughes, X. Jiang, D. L. Robertson, Science373, 968 (2021).GO TO REFERENCECROSSREFPUBMEDGOOGLE SCHOLAR5S. Zhou et al., Nat. Med.27, 659 (2021).GO TO REFERENCECROSSREFPUBMEDGOOGLE SCHOLAR6H. Zeberg, S. Pääbo, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.118, e2026309118 (2021).CROSSREFPUBMEDGOOGLE SCHOLAR7F. L. Mendez, J. C. Watkins, M. F. Hammer, Mol. Biol. Evol.30, 798 (2013).GO TO REFERENCECROSSREFPUBMEDGOOGLE SCHOLAR8A. R. Banday et al., medRxiv2021).GO TO REFERENCECROSSREFGOOGLE SCHOLAR9E. Pairo-Castineira et al., Nature591, 92 (2021).GO TO REFERENCECROSSREFPUBMEDGOOGLE SCHOLAR10J. K. Lim et al., PLOS Pathog.5, e1000321 (2009).GO TO REFERENCECROSSREFPUBMEDGOOGLE SCHOLAR11M. K. El Awady et al., J. Gastroenterol. Hepatol.26, 843 (2011).GO TO REFERENCECROSSREFPUBMEDGOOGLE SCHOLAR12F. W. Soveg et al., eLife10, e71047 (2021).GO TO REFERENCECROSSREFPUBMEDGOOGLE SCHOLAR13T. Asano et al., Sci. Immunol.6, eabl4348 (2021).GO TO REFERENCECROSSREFPUBMEDGOOGLE SCHOLAR14C. Fallerini et al., eLife10, e67569 (2021).CROSSREFPUBMEDGOOGLE SCHOLAR15C. I. van der Made et al., JAMA324, 663 (2020).GO TO REFERENCECROSSREFPUBMEDGOOGLE SCHOLAR

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Moderna Vaccine Patent Application needs to include Names of Three NIH Scientists that Shared the Genome Sequence of SAR-Cov-2 with Moderna Early on

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

UPDATED on 11/12/2021

Within the filing, Moderna said it had “reached the good-faith determination” that three NIH scientists — John Mascola, Barney Graham and Kizzmekia Corbett — “did not co-invent” the sequence that prompts the body’s immune response to the coronavirus spike protein. The NIH, meanwhile, says the trio worked with Moderna at the outset of the pandemic to design the component in question.

In response to an Endpoints News request for comment, a Moderna spokesperson said the company has “all along” recognized the role the NIH played in developing the Covid-19 shot. But the spokesperson insisted only Moderna scientists invented mRNA-1273 — the codename for the company’s vaccine.

In the new book A Shot to Save the World out last month detailing the inventions of the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines, Wall Street Journal reporter Gregory Zuckerman wrote the three NIH scientists in question designed a sequence for a vaccine and sent it to Moderna. The biotech then used it to confirm their own designs and produce that vaccine.

Zuckerman wrote:

On Thursday, January 23, Wang packed his material in a container, trying hard to ensure it didn’t leak, and shipped it all to Kizzmekia Corbett, the government scientist who was doing similar work with other’s in Graham’s lab. Corbett, Graham and John Mascola chose an ideal spike-protein design and sent it to Moderna. The company’s scientists, relying on McLellan and Wang’s earlier work, had built their own spike-protein design. It matched the one from the government scientists, confirming they made the right choice. Moderna took their chosen sequence, employed some sophisticated computer software, and built an mRNA molecule capable of producing the stabilized spike protein. This would become Moderna’s vaccine antigen.

SOURCE

What Moderna says: The company argues that the NIH scientists — John Mascola, Barney Graham and Kizzmekia Corbett — were not part of selecting the messenger RNA sequence that became the Covid-19 shot authorized today. That sequence patent is essentially the heart of the product.

Moderna “has recognized the substantial role that the NIAID has played” in the vaccine development by including those scientists on other patents but “just because someone is an inventor on one patent application relating to our COVID-19 vaccine does not mean they are an inventor on every patent application relating to the vaccine,” it tweeted.

“Moderna remains the only company to have pledged not to enforce its COVID-19 intellectual property during the pandemic,” the company added.

It’s far from over: Moderna, which never brought a product to market before its effective Covid-19 shot, has received nearly $10 billion in government funding for the vaccine — a figure that advocates return to repeatedly when pressing for global access to patents and production.

SOURCE

From: POLITICO Pulse <pulse@email.politico.com>
Reply-To: “POLITICO, LLC” <reply-fe8c1d737662017574-630320_HTML-638333449-1376319-0@politicoemail.com>
Date: Friday, November 12, 2021 at 10:02 AM
To: Aviva Lev-Ari <Avivalev-ari@alum.Berkeley.edu>
Subject: Moderna vs. The Government

11/9/2021 and 11/11/2021

The NIH told the New York Times earlier this week that three of its scientists — John Mascola, Barney Graham, who recently retired, and Kizzmekia Corbett, who has since moved over to Harvard — worked with Moderna to design the genetic sequence that prompts the vaccine to produce an immune response.

“I think Moderna has made a serious mistake here in not providing the kind of co-inventorship credit to the people who played a major role in the development of the vaccine that they are now making a fair amount of money on. We did our best to try to resolve this and ultimately failed but we are not done,” NIH Director Francis Collins told Reuters in an interview yesterday.

Dr. Barney Graham, left, and his colleague at the time, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, right, explaining the role of spike proteins to President Biden at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., in February 2021

The vaccine grew out of a four-year collaboration between Moderna and the N.I.H., the government’s biomedical research agency — a partnership that was widely hailed when the shot was found to be highly effective. A year ago this month, the government called it the “N.I.H.-Moderna Covid-19 vaccine.”

The agency says three scientists at its Vaccine Research Center — Dr. John R. Mascola, the center’s director; Dr. Barney S. Graham, who recently retired; and Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, who is now at Harvard — worked with Moderna scientists to design the genetic sequence that prompts the vaccine to produce an immune response, and should be named on the “principal patent application.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/09/us/moderna-vaccine-patent.html?referringSource=articleShare

If the three agency scientists are named on the patent along with the Moderna employees, the federal government could have more of a say in which companies manufacture the vaccine, which in turn could influence which countries get access. It would also secure a nearly unfettered right to license the technology, which could bring millions into the federal treasury.

“Omitting N.I.H. inventors from the principal patent application deprives N.I.H. of a co-ownership interest in that application and the patent that will eventually issue from it.”

According to the NYT article,

But experts said the disputed patent was the most important one in Moderna’s growing intellectual property portfolio. It seeks to patent the genetic sequence that instructs the body’s cells to make a harmless version of the spike proteins that stud the surface of the coronavirus, which triggers an immune response.

While it has not publicly acknowledged the rift until now, the Biden administration has expressed frustration that Moderna has not done more to provide its vaccine to poorer nations even as it racks up huge profits.

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Epidemiological measurement on COVID-19 pandemic may have statistical biases which might affect next variant responses

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams Ph.D.

Source: https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abi6602

From the jounal Science

Tackling the pandemic with (biased) data

CHRISTINA PAGEL AND CHRISTIAN A. YATESSCIENCE•22 Oct 2021•Vol 374, Issue 6566•pp. 403-404•DOI: 10.1126/science.abi66027,757

Accurate and near real-time data about the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic have been crucial in informing mitigation policies. Because choosing the right mitigation policies relies on an accurate assessment of the current state of the local epidemic, the potential ramifications of misinterpreting data are serious. Each data source has inherent biases and pitfalls in interpretation. The more data sources that are interpreted in combination, the easier it is to detect genuine changes in an epidemic. Recently, in many countries, this has involved disentangling the varying impact of rising but heterogeneous vaccination rates, relaxation of mitigations, and the emergence of new variants such as Delta.The exact data collected and their accuracy will vary by country. Typical data common to many countries are numbers of tests, confirmed cases, hospital and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and occupancy, deaths, and vaccinations (1). Many countries additionally sequence a proportion of new positive tests to identify and track emerging variants. Some countries also now collect and publish data on infections, hospitalizations, and deaths by vaccination status (e.g., Israel and the UK). Stratifying all available data by different demographic factors (e.g., age, location, measures of deprivation, and ethnicity) is crucial for understanding patterns of spread, potential impact of policies, and efficacy of vaccines (age, timing of breakthrough infections, and prevalent variants).It is also necessary to be aware of what data are not being collected. For example, persistent symptoms of COVID-19 (Long Covid) were recognized as a long-term adverse outcome by the autumn of 2020. However, no simple diagnostic test has been associated with the up to 200 different reported symptoms (2). Counting Long Covid relies on a clinical diagnosis, based on a history of having had COVID-19 and a failure to fully recover, with development of some characteristic symptoms and with no obvious alternative cause (3). These features make it very difficult to measure routinely, and so it rarely is. As a result, Long Covid is often neglected in decision-making. Failure to account for the disease load associated with Long Covid may lead to an unnecessary long-term societal health burden.The feedback between different types of outcomes, different severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variants, different mitigation policies (including vaccination), and individual risks (a combination of exposure and clinical risk) is complex and must be factored into both interpretation of data and the development of policy. Using all available data to quantify transmission is crucial to ensuring rapid and effective responses to early phases of renewed exponential growth and to evaluating mitigation measures. Relying too much on a single data source, or without disaggregating data, risks fundamentally misunderstanding the state of the epidemic.The inherent biases and lags in data are particularly important to understand from the point of view of policy-makers. Because of the natural time scales of COVID-19 disease progression (see the figure), policy changes can take several weeks to show up in the data. Purely reactive policy-making is likely to be ineffective. When cases are rising, increases in hospital admissions and deaths will follow. When a new variant is outcompeting existing strains, it is likely to become dominant without action to suppress. The precautionary principle suggests acting early and emphatically. Conversely, when releasing restrictions, governments must wait long enough to assess them before continuing with re-opening.The most up-to-date indicator of the state of the epidemic is typically the number of confirmed cases, as ascertained through testing of both symptomatic individuals and those tested frequently regardless of symptoms. Symptom-based testing is likely to pick up more adults and fewer younger individuals (4). Infections in children are harder to detect: children are more likely to be asymptomatic than adults, are harder to administer tests to (particularly young children), are often exposed to other viruses with similar symptoms, and can present with symptoms that are atypical in adults (e.g., abdominal pain or nausea). Children under 12 are not routinely offered the COVID-19 vaccination, and their mixing in schools provides ongoing opportunities for the virus to circulate, so it will be important for countries to track infections in children as accurately as possible. Other testing biases include accessibility, reporting lags, and the ability to act lawfully upon receiving a positive result. Substantial changes in the number of people seeking tests may further confound case figures (5). Case positivity rates may provide a more accurate reflection of the state of the epidemic (6) but are dependent on the mix of symptomatic and asymptomatic people being tested.SARS-CoV-2 variants have been an important driver of local epidemics in 2021. The four main SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, to date, are B.1.1.7 (Alpha), B.1.351 (Beta), P.1 (Gamma), and B.1.617.2 (Delta). Some have been more transmissible (Alpha), some have substantial resistance to previous infection or vaccines (Beta), and some have elements of both (Gamma and Delta) (7). Currently, the high transmissibility of Delta combined with some immune evasion has made it the world’s dominant variant. Determining which variants pose a substantial threat is difficult and takes time, particularly when many variants cocirculate. This is especially true for situations in which a dominant variant is declining, and a new one growing. While the declining variant remains dominant, its decrease masks increases in the new variant because case numbers remain unchanged or fall overall. Only when a new variant becomes dominant does its growth become apparent in aggregated case data, by which time it is, by definition, too late to contain its spread. This dynamic has been observed across the world with Delta over the latter half of 2021.With multiple variants circulating, there are, effectively, multiple epidemics occurring in parallel, and they must be tracked separately. This typically requires the availability of sequencing data, which is unfortunately limited in most countries. Sequencing takes time and so is typically a few weeks out of date. These lags, and the uncertainty in sampling, can lead to hesitancy in acting. The rapid path to dominance of the Delta variant in the UK highlights the need for action when a quickly growing variant represents a few percent (or less) of overall cases.Hospital admissions or occupancy data do not suffer the same biases associated with testing behaviors and provide unequivocal evidence of widespread transmission, its geography, and demographics. However, hospital admissions lag infections more than reported cases do, rendering these data less useful for proactive decision-making. Hospital data are also biased toward older people, who are more likely to suffer severe COVID-19, and now, unvaccinated populations. ICU occupancy data show a younger age profile than admissions because younger patients have a better chance of benefitting from the invasive treatment procedures (8).Deaths are the most lagged indicator, typically occurring 3 or more weeks after infection and with an additional lag in registration and reporting. Death data should never be used to inform real-time policy decisions. Instead, death figures can act as an eventual measure of the success of a country’s epidemic strategy and implementation. The age distribution of those who eventually die from COVID-19 is different from other metrics of the epidemic—skewed furthest toward older age groups (9). Those with clinical risk factors (such as immunodeficiency, obesity, or existing lung conditions), high exposure (health care workers and low-income workers), and the unvaccinated are overrepresented in COVID-19 deaths.In countries with high vaccination rates, vaccination has had a substantial impact—reducing COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. However, when looking at the raw numbers in highly vaccinated populations, it can be the case that more fully vaccinated people are dying of COVID-19 than unvaccinated. If these raw statistics are misinterpreted—or worse, deliberately misused—they can damage vaccine confidence. More vaccinated people may die than unvaccinated because such a high proportion of people are vaccinated (10). This does not mean vaccines are not effective at preventing death. Looking at the rates of death in vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals separately within age groups demonstrates that vaccines provide considerable protection against severe disease and death. This example illustrates how important it is to curate and manage the way in which data are presented.

COVID-19 progressionAn approximate timeline from infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) to various outcomes. When current infections show up in different data sources depends on this timeline. Collecting data for Long Covid, asymptomatic infection, and vaccine history will improve understanding of the pandemic.GRAPHIC: N. CARY/SCIENCE

Each country has established its own vaccination priority lists and dosing schedules to best achieve its goals (1112). Each of these strategies will manifest differently in the data. Additionally, many countries are using multiple vaccines in tandem and administer them differently for different demographics. Some countries are vaccinating adolescents, and others are not or not offering them the full approved dose. Most vaccines require two doses, spaced between 3 and 12 weeks apart, except for the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine. This matters, particularly as variants spread, because different vaccines have different effectiveness after one and two doses, different timelines to full effectiveness, and different effectiveness against variants (13).Data published on the vaccination delivery itself must thus go beyond the raw numbers of people vaccinated. Vaccine uptake must be reported by whether fully or partially (one-dose in a two-dose regimen) vaccinated and using the whole population as a denominator. It is vital to disaggregate vaccine data by age, gender, and ethnicity as well as location so that it is possible, for example, to understand the impact of deprivation on vaccine coverage or vaccine hesitancy in particular demographics. When interpreting vaccination data, it is important to remember that there is also a lag between delivery and the build-up of immunity.Data on reinfection and post-vaccination (breakthrough) infection are also important to determine the relative benefits of infection-mediated and vaccine-mediated immunity and the length of protection offered. Studies that show those who were immunized earlier were acquiring COVID-19 with higher rates than those vaccinated more recently may suggest waning vaccine protection (14). Such studies have already prompted vaccine booster programs in some countries. However, any study that suggests waning immunity must be extremely careful to ensure that the “early” and “recent” subgroups are properly controlled. Differences in prior exposure, affluence, education level, age, and other demographic factors between these cohorts may be enough to explain the disparities in SARS-CoV-2 infection rates, even in the absence of waning immunity. Waning immunity must also be reported separately for different outcomes; for example, there might be waning in terms of preventing symptomatic infection but far less or none in preventing death (15). Additionally, there are ethical concerns about mass booster programs in high-income countries while many lower-income countries have been unable to procure vaccines.Moving into the vaccination era, reported cases, hospitalizations, and deaths should also be disaggregated by vaccination status (and by which vaccine), which will be easier in countries where national linked datasets exist. Additionally, incorporating Long Covid into routine reporting and policy-making is crucial. Consistent diagnostic criteria and well-controlled studies will be vital to this effort. These elusive data will be of critical importance to navigate our way successfully out of the pandemic.

Acknowledgments

C.P. and C.A.Y. are both members of Independent SAGE: www.independentsage.org.

References and Notes

1M. Roser et al., Our World in Data (2021); https://bit.ly/3kepLgw.GO TO REFERENCEGOOGLE SCHOLAR2H. E. Davis et al., E. Clin. Med.38, 101019 (2021).GO TO REFERENCEGOOGLE SCHOLAR3M. Sivan, S. Taylor, BMJ371, m4938 (2020).GO TO REFERENCECROSSREFPUBMEDGOOGLE SCHOLAR4S. M. Moghadas et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.117, 17513 (2020).GO TO REFERENCECROSSREFPUBMEDGOOGLE SCHOLAR5J. Wise, BMJ370, m3678 (2020).GO TO REFERENCECROSSREFPUBMEDGOOGLE SCHOLAR6D. Dowdy, G. D’Souza, COVID-19 Testing: Understanding the “Percent Positive” (2020); https://bit.ly/3CeN8wl.GO TO REFERENCEGOOGLE SCHOLAR7C. E. Gómez et al., Vaccines (Basel)9, 243 (2021).CROSSREFPUBMEDGOOGLE SCHOLAR8A. B. Docherty et al., BMJ369, 1985 (2020).GO TO REFERENCECROSSREFPUBMEDGOOGLE SCHOLAR9Office for National Statistics, Deaths registered weekly in England and Wales by age and sex: covid-19 (2021); https://bit.ly/3Ci2obS.

For articles on Issues of Bias in Science on this Open Access Journal see

From @Harvardmed Center for Bioethics: The Medical Ethics of the Corona Virus Crisis

Live Notes from @HarvardMed Bioethics: Authors Jerome Groopman, MD & Pamela Hartzband, MD, discuss Your Medical Mind

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Comparative Study: Four SARS-CoV-2 vaccines induce quantitatively different antibody responses against SARS-CoV-2 variants

Reporter: Aviva Lev- Ari, PhD, RN

Marit J. van Gils, A. H. Ayesha Lavell, Karlijn van der Straten, Brent Appelman, Ilja Bontjer, Meliawati Poniman, Judith A. Burger, Melissa Oomen, Joey H. Bouhuijs, Lonneke A. van Vught, Marleen A. Slim, Michiel Schinkel, Elke Wynberg, Hugo D.G. van Willigen, Marloes Grobben, Khadija Tejjani, Jonne Snitselaar, Tom G. Caniels, Amsterdam UMC COVID-19 S3/HCW study group, Alexander P. J. Vlaar, Maria Prins, Menno D. de Jong, Godelieve J. de Bree, Jonne J. Sikkens, Marije K. Bomers, Rogier W. Sanders doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.09.27.21264163

Abstract

Emerging and future SARS-CoV-2 variants may jeopardize the effectiveness of vaccination campaigns. We performed a head-to-head comparison of the ability of sera from individuals vaccinated with either one of four vaccines (BNT162b2, mRNA-1273, AZD1222 or Ad26.COV2.S) to recognize and neutralize the four SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOCs; Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta). Four weeks after completing the vaccination series, SARS-CoV-2 wild-type neutralizing antibody titers were highest in recipients of BNT162b2 and mRNA-1273 (median titers of 1891 and 3061, respectively), and substantially lower in those vaccinated with the adenovirus vector-based vaccines AZD1222 and Ad26.COV2.S (median titers of 241 and 119, respectively). VOCs neutralization was reduced in all vaccine groups, with the largest (5.8-fold) reduction in neutralization being observed against the Beta variant. Overall, the mRNA vaccines appear superior to adenovirus vector-based vaccines in inducing neutralizing antibodies against VOCs four weeks after the final vaccination.

Figure 2:Binding and neutralization titers post-vaccination against VOCs.

(A) Median with interquartile range of binding titers to wild-type and VOCs S proteins represented as mean fluorescence intensity (MFI) of 1:100,000 diluted sera collected four-five weeks after full vaccination for the four vaccination groups. The lower cutoff for binding was set at an MFI of 10 (grey shading). Vaccine groups are indicated by colors with BNT162b2 in green, mRNA-1273 in purple, AZD1222 in orange and Ad26.COV2.S in blue. (B) Median with interquartile range of half-maximal neutralization (ID50) titers of D614G and VOCs pseudoviruses for sera collected after full vaccination for the four vaccination groups. The lower cutoff for neutralization was set at an ID50 of 100 (grey shading). Vaccine groups are indicated by colors with BNT162b2 in green, mRNA-1273 in purple, AZD1222 in orange and Ad26.COV2.S in blue. (C) Median ID50 neutralization of D614G and VOCs plotted against the reported vaccine efficacy against symptomatic infection25,1217. Vaccine groups are indicated by colors with BNT162b2 in green, mRNA-1273 in purple, AZD1222 in orange and Ad26.COV2.S in blue. Circles represent WT data, squares for Alpha, diamond for Beta, nabla triangle for Gamma and delta triangle for Delta. Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient with p value are indicated. The result of the AZD1222 phase 3 trial conducted in South Africa, demonstrating poor (10%) efficacy against Beta variant, is not shown.

SOURCE

 https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.09.27.21264163

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Will COVID become a disease of the young?

Reporter: Danielle Smolyar, Research Assistant 3 – Text Analysis for 2.0 LPBI Group’s TNS #1 – 2020/2021 Academic Internship in Medical Text Analysis (MTA)

An increase of infections among youth who are unvaccinated in countries with high vaccination rates is getting noticed in the role of young people in the pandemic.

On June 21 is Ross Ministry of health recommended that all individuals between the ages of 12 and 15 should be vaccinated. This makes the nation one of the few that have been approved vaccinations for younger kids. This decision came about in response too many other countries with high rates of vaccination are experiencing an increase in numbers of infections that are found to be in younger age groups.

Israel’s vaccination campaign which has reached to more than 85% of the adult population to be vaccinated noticed that case numbers are dropping around a dozen daily in the month of June. At the end of June, they have realized that the cases began to rise to more than 100 cases a day. These cases were found in kids under the age of 16 which is why the government decided to allow vaccinations.

Ran Balicer, and epidemiologists at Israel’s largest healthcare provider in Tel Aviv said that the younger profile is not surprising.

image source: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-01862-7

This trend that Israel started to notice is not just happening in Israel. The United States and the United Kingdom COVID-19, “become a disease of the unvaccinated, who are predominantly young”, says Joshua Goldstein, a demographer at the University of California, Berkeley. Stated in the article. 

This trend has been occurring in the countries where the older population were being vaccinated first. Follow the drop in age because they were vaccinating older people who are the most at risk for the disease.

This shift has shut attention to the studies of transmission in the younger age groups. Karin Magnusson immunologist said that it has come very important to understand the burden of the disease among the younger children. 

Magnusson on the impact of COVID-19 in children in Norway. On June 5 pre-print she reported that children see their doctor regularly up to six months after contracting Covid-19.

Balicer, is studying the virus spread in multi-generational households in Israel. Going beyond whether vaccinating children or not the patterns of COVID-19 infection have caused discussions about mask wearing to adolescence and kids in Israel. 

As stated in the article, “As the burden of cases shifts towards younger people, arguments for vaccinating adolescents will become slightly more compelling,” agrees Nick Bundle, an epidemiologist at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in Stockholm.” However, the risk of disease in children still is low and in other countries the total number of cases have declined.

Countries also need to consider the global contacts. As stated in the article, “Are we really better off giving the vaccine to kids in rich countries than to older people [in less wealthy countries] where it might have a much bigger impact on people’s lives?” says Jennie Lavine, who studies infectious-disease dynamics at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. “It seems hard for me to imagine a really good argument for that.”

Oh there is a downward shift and the average age of infected with COVID-19 in countries with high COVID-19 vaccination rates it may be short-lived. There could be a few scenarios where the shift could bounce back says Henrik Salje, who is an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Cambridge, UK. Many of the countries could start vaccinating the adolescence just like Israel and the United States are already doing so. 

Bundle says that COVID- 19 can still be present in younger kids. “But how big a problem that is, is not a simple thing to respond to.”

SOURCE: Mallapaty, S. (2021, July 8). Will COVID become a disease of the young? Nature News. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-01862-7

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Recent Grim COVID-19 Statistics in U.S. and Explanation from Dr. John Campbell: Why We Need to be More Proactive

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The race for a COVID-19 vaccine: What’s ahead ?

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COVID and the brain: researchers zero in on how damage occurs

Reporter: Danielle Smolyar

Research Assistant 3 – Text Analysis for 2.0 LPBI Group’s TNS #1 – 2020/2021 Academic Internship in Medical Text Analysis (MTA)

Recent evidence has indicated that coronavirus can cause brain fog and also lead to different neurological symptoms. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, researchers have been trying to understand how the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 affects the brain

Image Credit: Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS/Getty

image source:https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-01693-6?utm_source=Nature+Briefing

New evidence has shown how coronavirus has caused much damage to the brain. There is a new evidence that shows that COVID-19 assault on the brain I has the power to be multipronged. What this means is that it can attack on certain Brain cells such as reduce the amount of blood flow that the brain needs to the brain tissue.

Along with brain damage COVID-19 has also caused strokes and memory loss. A neurologist at yell University Serena Spudich says, “Can we intervene early to address these abnormalities so that people don’t have long-term problems?”

We’re on 80% of the people who have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 have showed brain symptoms which seem to be correlated to coronavirus.

At the start of the pandemic a group of researchers speculated that coronavirus they can damage the brain by infecting the neurons in the cells which are important in the process of transmitting information. After further studies they found out that coronavirus has a harder time getting past the brains defense system and the brain barrier and that it does not affect the neurons in anyway.

An expert in this study indicated that a way in which SARS-CoV-2 may be able to get to the brain is by going through the olfactory mucosa which is the lining of the nasal cavity. It is found that this virus can be found in the nasal cavity which is why we swab the nose one getting tested for COVID-19.

Spudich quotes, “there’s not a tonne of virus in the brain”.

Recent studies indicate that SARS-CoV-2 have ability to infect astrocytes which is a type of cell found in the brain. Astrocytes do quite a lot that supports normal brain function,” including providing nutrients to neurons to keep them working, says Arnold Kriegstein, a neurologist at the University of California, San Francisco.

Astrocytes are star-shaped cells in the central nervous system that perform many functions, including providing nutrients to neurons.

Image Credit: David Robertson, ICR/SPL

image source: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-01693-6?utm_source=Nature+Briefing

Kriegstein and his fellow colleagues have found that SARS-CoV-2 I mostly infects the astrocytes over any of the other brain cells present. In this research they expose brain organoids which is a miniature brain that are grown from stem cells into the virus.

As quoted in the article” a group including Daniel Martins-de-Souza, head of proteomics at the University of Campinas in Brazil, reported6 in a February preprint that it had analysed brain samples from 26 people who died with COVID-19. In the five whose brain cells showed evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection, 66% of the affected cells were astrocytes.”

The infected astrocytes could indicate the reasoning behind some of the neurological symptoms that come with COVID-19. Specifically, depression, brain fog and fatigue. Kreigstein quotes, “Those kinds of symptoms may not be reflective of neuronal damage but could be reflective of dysfunctions of some sort. That could be consistent with astrocyte vulnerability.”

A study that was published on June 21 they compared eight different brands of deceased people who did have COVID-19 along with 14 brains as the control. The results of this research were that they found that there was no trace of coronavirus Brain infected but they found that the gene expression was affected in some of the astrocytes.

As a result of doing all this research and the findings the researchers want to know more about this topic and how many brain cells need to be infected for there to be neurological symptoms says Ricardo Costa.

Further evidence has also been done on how SARS-CoV-2 can affect the brain by reducing its blood flow which impairs the neurons’ function which ends up killing them.

Pericytes can be found on the small blood vessels which are called capillaries and are found all throughout the body and in the brain. In a February pre-print there was a report about how SARS-CoV-2 can infect the pericyte in the brain organoids. 

David Atwell, a neuroscientist at the University College London, along with his other colleagues had published a pre-print which has evidence to show that SARS-CoV-2 odes In fact pericytes behavior. I researchers saw that in the different part of the hamsters brain SARS-CoV-2 blocks the function of receptors on the pericytes which ultimately causes the capillaries found inside the tissues to constrict.

As stated in the article, It’s a “really cool” study, says Spudich. “It could be something that is determining some of the permanent injury we see — some of these small- vessel strokes.”

Attwell brought to the attention that the drugs that are used to treat high blood pressure may in fact be used in some cases of COVID-19. Currently there are two clinical trials that are being done to further investigate this idea.

There is further evidence showing that the neurological symptoms and damage could in fact be happening because of the bodies on immune system reacting or misfiring after having COVID-19.

Over the past 15 years it has become evident that people’s immune system’s make auto antibodies which attack their own tissues says Harald Prüss in the article who has a Neuroimmunologist at the German Center for neurogenerative Diseases in Berlin. This may cause neuromyelitis optica which is when you can experience loss of vision or weakness in limbs. Harald Prüss summarized that the autoantibodies can pass through the blood brain barrier and ultimately impact neurological disorders such as psychosis.

Prüss and his colleagues published a study last year that focused on them isolating antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 from people. They found that one was able to protect hamsters from lung damage and other infections. The purpose of this was to come up with and create new treatments. During this research they found that some of the antibodies from people. They found that one was able to protect hamsters from lung damage and other infections. The purpose of this was to come up with and create new treatments. During this research they found that some of the antibodies can bind to the brain tissue which can ultimately damage it. Prüss states, “We’re currently trying to prove that clinically and experimentally,” says Prüss.

Was published online in December including Prüss sorry the blood and cerebrospinal fluid of 11 people who were extremely sick with COVID-19. These 11 people had neurological symptoms as well. All these people were able to produce auto antibodies which combined to neurons. There is evidence that when the patients were given intravenous immunoglobin which is a type of antibody it was successful.

Astrocytes, pericytes and autoantibodies we’re not the only  pathways. However it is likely that people with COVID-19 experience article symptoms for many reasons. As stated, In the article, Prüss says a key question is what proportion of cases is caused by each of the pathways. “That will determine treatment,” he says.

SOURCE: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-01693-6?utm_source=Nature+Briefing

Original article: 

Marshall, M. (2021, July 7). COVID and the brain: researchers zero in on how damage occurs. Nature News. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-01693-6

Other related articles published on this Open Access Online Scientific Journal include the following:

Covid-19 and its implications on pregnancy

Reporter and Curator: Mr. Srinjoy Chakraborty (Junior Research Felllow) and Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

Nir Hacohen and Marcia Goldberg, Researchers at MGH and the Broad Institute identify protein “signature” of severe COVID-19

Reporter and Curator:2012pharmaceutical

Identification of Novel genes in human that fight COVID-19 infection

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Comparing COVID-19 Vaccine Schedule Combinations, or “Com-COV” – First-of-its-Kind Study will explore the Impact of using eight different Combinations of Doses and Dosing Intervals for Different COVID-19 Vaccines

Reporter and Curator: 2012pharmaceutical

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Reporter and Curator: Irina Robu, PhD

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Ramatroban, a Thromboxane A2/TPr and PGD2/DPr2 receptor antagonist for Acute and Long haul COVID-19

Author: Ajay Gupta, MD

From: “Gupta, Ajay” <ajayg1@hs.uci.edu>
Date: Wednesday, July 7, 2021 at 1:10 PM
To: Aviva Lev-Ari <AvivaLev-Ari@alum.berkeley.edu>
Cc: “Dr. Saul Yedgar” <saulye@ekmd.huji.ac.il>
Subject: Ramatroban, a Thromboxane A2/TPr and PGD2/DPr2 receptor antagonist for Acute and Long haul COVID-19

While corticosteroids may have a role in about 5% of hospitalized patients who have the cytokine storm, currently there is no effective treatment for mild or moderate COVID and long haul COVID. Massive increase in respiratory and plasma thromboxane A2 (TxA2) plays a key role in thromboinflammation and microvascular thrombosis, while an increase in respiratory and plasma PGD2 potentially suppresses innate interferon response, and acquired Th1 anti-viral response, while promoting a maladaptive type 2, anti-helminthic like immune response. Ramatroban is a potent dual receptor antagonist of Thromboxane A2/TPr and PGD2/DPr2 that has been used in Japan for the treatment of allergic rhinitis for past 20 years (Baynas®, Bayer Japan). We first disclosed use of ramatroban for COVID in a provisional patent application filed on 31st March, 2020; followed by the publication Gupta et al, J Mol Genet Med, 2020

Several experts, as outlined below in yellow highlighted text, have supported the idea of using ramatroban as an anti-thrombotic and immunomodulator in COVID-19.

1.     Prof. Louis Flamand, Nicolas Flamand, Eric Boilard Laval Univ. Quebec, Canada: There is a lipid-mediator storm in COVID-19 characterized by massive increases in thromboxane A2 and PGD2 in the lungs and plasma.  “Blocking the deleterious effects of             PGD2 and TxA2 with the dual DPr2/TPr antagonist Ramatroban might be beneficial in COVID-19 Archambault et al, FASEB, June 2021, doi: https://doi.org/10.1096/fj.202100540R

2. Prof. Garret A FitzGerald, Univ. Of Pennsylvania, Member National Academy of Sciences.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garret_A._FitzGerald “In the current pandemic there may be utility in targeting eicosanoids with existing drugs.  These approaches would likely be most effective early in the disease before the development of ARDS, where cytokines and chemokines dominate. Dexamethasone limits COX-2 expression and might diminish COVID-19 severity and mortality at least in part, by diminishing COX metabolites… Dexamethasone might improve severe COVID-19 by diminishing the prostaglandins / thromboxane storm in the lungs”. “Treatment with a PGD2/DPr2 inhibitor decreased viral load and improved morbidity by upregulating IFN-lambda expression. …..  Antagonism of the thromboxane receptor (TPr) prevents ARDS…. Early administration of well-tolerated TPr antagonists may limit progress to severe COVID-19 (Theken and FitzGerald, Science, 2021)

4.     Prof. Simon Phipps, Univ. of Queensland, Brisbane Australia “It has been hypothesized that DP2 antagonists be repurposed as a novel immunotherapy for the treatment of COVID-19, and this may be appropriate in mild to moderate cases where Th1 immunity is impaired.” (Ullah et al, Mucosal Immunology, 2021)

5.     Prof. Bruce D. Hammock, Distinguished Professor, Univ of California DavisMember US National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Inventors; April 25, 2021. https://www.entsoc.org/fellows/hammock “I find your idea of blocking specific thromboxane receptors in preventing or reducing some of the devastating co-morbidity of COVID-19 very compelling. … A DPr2 receptor blocker is conceptually attractive in offering the potential of effective therapy and low risk due to a high therapeutic index.” E mail dated April 25, 2021.  (https://ajp.amjpathol.org/action/showPdf?pii=S0002-9440%2820%2930332-1    and http://ucanr.edu/sites/hammocklab/files/328012.pdf)

6. Ann E Eakin, PhD, Senior Scientific Officer, NIH-NIAID “very compelling data supporting potential benefits of ramatroban in both reducing viral load as well as modulating host responses” E Mail dated Nov 20, 2020

7. Prof. James Ritter, MA, DPhil, FRCP, FMedSci, Hon FBPhS https://www.trinhall.cam.ac.uk/contact-us/contact-directory/fellows-and-academics-directory/james-ritter/ “Very impressive, and fascinating” referring to ramatroban for COVID-19 in an e-mail dated Dec 21, 2020

Ramatroban is expected to reduce lung fibrosis in COVID-19 and therefore diminish clinical manifestations of Long haul COVID. Pang et al, 2021 “examined the effect of Ramatroban, a clinical antagonist of both PGD2 and TXA2 receptors, on treating silicosis using a mouse model. The results showed that Ramatroban significantly alleviated silica-induced pulmonary inflammation, fibrosis, and cardiopulmonary dysfunction compared with the control group.” https://www.thno.org/v11p2381.htm

Unfortunately, the animal models of COVID-19 are harsh, lack microvascular thrombosis and immune perturbations characteristic of human disease. These models may be good for testing antivirals but not for testing immunomodulators or anti-thrombotics. There is highly positive anecdotal experience with use of ramatroban in moderately severe COVID-19 (https://www.researchsquare.com/article/rs-474882/v1

Additionally, Ramatroban holds great promise in sickle cell disease, cardiovascular disease https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1527-3466.2004.tb00132.x, and community acquired pneumonia.

Best regards,

Ajay

Ajay Gupta, M.B.,B.S., M.D.

Clinical Professor,

Division of Nephrology, Hypertension and Kidney Transplantation

University of California Irvine  

President & CSO, KARE Biosciences (www.karebio.com)

E-mail:     ajayg1@hs.uci.edu

Cell:         1 (562) 412-6259

Office:     1 (562) 419-7029

Please see some of our recent publications in the COVID area.  

https://assets.researchsquare.com/files/rs-474882/v1/6d209040-e94b-4adf-80a9-3a9eddf93def.pdf?c=1619795476

https://www.uni-muenster.de/Ejournals/index.php/fnp/article/view/3395

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13543784.2021.1950687

https://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(20)30872-X/fulltext

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Covid-19 and its implications on pregnancy

Reporter and Curator: Mr. Srinjoy Chakraborty (Junior Research Felllow) and Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which is caused by the novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), has emerged as a serious global health issue with high transmission rates affecting millions of people worldwide. The SARS-CoV-2 is known to damage cells in the respiratory system, thus causing viral pneumonia. The novel SARS-CoV-2 is a close relative to the previously identified severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome-coronavirus (MERS-CoV) which affected several people in 2002 and 2012, respectively. Ever since the outbreak of covid-19, several reports have poured in about the impact of Covid-19 on pregnancy. A few studies have highlighted the impact of the viral infection in pregnant women and how they are more susceptible to the infection because of the various physiological changes of the cardiopulmonary and immune systems during pregnancy. It is known that SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV diseases have influenced the fatality rate among pregnant women. However, there are limited studies on the impact of the novel corona virus on the course and outcome of pregnancy.

Figure: commonly observed clinical symptoms of COVID-19 in the general population: Fever and cough, along with dyspnoea, diarrhoea, and malaise are the most commonly observed symptoms in pregnant women, which is similar to that observed in the normal population.

The WHO and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) have proposed detailed guidelines for treating pregnant women; these guidelines must be strictly followed by the pregnant individual and their families. According to the guidelines issued by the ICMR, the risk of pregnant women contracting the virus to that of the general population. However, the immune system and the body’s response to a viral infection is altered during pregnancy. This may result in the manifestation of more severe symptoms. The ICMR guidelines also state that the reported cases of COVID-19 pneumonia in pregnancy are milder and with good recovery. However, by observing the trends of the other coronavirus infection (SARS, MERS), the risks to the mother appear to increase in particular during the last trimester of pregnancy. Cases of preterm birth in women with COVID-19 have been mentioned in a few case report, but it is unclear whether the preterm birth was always iatrogenic, or whether some were spontaneous. Pregnant women with heart disease are at highest risk of acquiring the infection, which is similar to that observed in the normal population. Most importantly, the ICMR guidelines highlights the impact of the coronavirus epidemic on the mental health of pregnant women. It mentions that the since the pandemic has begun, there has been an increase in the risk of perinatal anxiety and depression, as well as domestic violence. It is critically important that support for women and families is strengthened as far as possible; that women are asked about mental health at every contact.

With the available literature available on the impact of SARS and MERS on reproductive outcome, it has been mentioned that SARS infection did increase the risk of miscarriage, preterm birth and, intrauterine foetal growth restriction. However, the same has not been demonstrated in early reports from COVID-19 infection in pregnancy. According to a study that included 8200 participants conducted by the centre for disease control and prevention, pregnant women may be at a higher risk of acquiring severe infection and need for ICU admissions as compared to their non-pregnant counterparts. However, a detailed and thorough study involving a larger proportion of the population is needed today.

References:

https://www.news-medical.net/news/20210614/COVID-19-in-pregnancy-could-be-less-severe-than-previously-thought-A-Danish-case-study.aspx

https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jog.14696

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41577-021-00525-y

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14767058.2020.1759541

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/special-populations/pregnancy-data-on-covid-19/what-cdc-is-doing.html

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/india/why-is-covid-19-killing-so-many-pregnant-women-in-india/articleshow/82902194.cms?from=mdr

https://content.iospress.com/download/international-journal-of-risk-and-safety-in-medicine/jrs200060?id=international-journal-of-risk-and-safety-in-medicine%2Fjrs200060

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Emergence of a new SARS-CoV-2 variant from GR clade with a novel S glycoprotein mutation V1230L in West Bengal, India

Authors: Rakesh Sarkar, Ritubrita Saha, Pratik Mallick, Ranjana Sharma, Amandeep Kaur, Shanta Dutta, Mamta Chawla-Sarkar

Reporter and Original Article Co-Author: Amandeep Kaur, B.Sc. , M.Sc.

Abstract
Since its inception in late 2019, SARS-CoV-2 has evolved resulting in emergence of various variants in different countries. These variants have spread worldwide resulting in devastating second wave of COVID-19 pandemic in many countries including India since the beginning of 2021. To control this pandemic continuous mutational surveillance and genomic epidemiology of circulating strains is very important. In this study, we performed mutational analysis of the protein coding genes of SARS-CoV-2 strains (n=2000) collected during January 2021 to March 2021. Our data revealed the emergence of a new variant in West Bengal, India, which is characterized by the presence of 11 co-existing mutations including D614G, P681H and V1230L in S-glycoprotein. This new variant was identified in 70 out of 412 sequences submitted from West Bengal. Interestingly, among these 70 sequences, 16 sequences also harbored E484K in the S glycoprotein. Phylogenetic analysis revealed strains of this new variant emerged from GR clade (B.1.1) and formed a new cluster. We propose to name this variant as GRL or lineage B.1.1/S:V1230L due to the presence of V1230L in S glycoprotein along with GR clade specific mutations. Co-occurrence of P681H, previously observed in UK variant, and E484K, previously observed in South African variant and California variant, demonstrates the convergent evolution of SARS-CoV-2 mutation. V1230L, present within the transmembrane domain of S2 subunit of S glycoprotein, has not yet been reported from any country. Substitution of valine with more hydrophobic amino acid leucine at position 1230 of the transmembrane domain, having role in S protein binding to the viral envelope, could strengthen the interaction of S protein with the viral envelope and also increase the deposition of S protein to the viral envelope, and thus positively regulate virus infection. P618H and E484K mutation have already been demonstrated in favor of increased infectivity and immune invasion respectively. Therefore, the new variant having G614G, P618H, P1230L and E484K is expected to have better infectivity, transmissibility and immune invasion characteristics, which may pose additional threat along with B.1.617 in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in India.

Reference: Sarkar, R. et al. (2021) Emergence of a new SARS-CoV-2 variant from GR clade with a novel S glycoprotein mutation V1230L in West Bengal, India. medRxiv. https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.05.24.21257705https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.05.24.21257705v1

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Fighting Chaos with Care, community trust, engagement must be cornerstones of pandemic response

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T cells recognize recent SARS-CoV-2 variants

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https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2021/04/19/identification-of-novel-genes-in-human-that-fight-covid-19-infection/

Mechanism of Thrombosis with AstraZeneca and J & J Vaccines: Expert Opinion by Kate Chander Chiang & Ajay Gupta, MD

Reporter & Curator: Dr. Ajay Gupta, MD

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2021/04/14/mechanism-of-thrombosis-with-astrazeneca-and-j-j-vaccines-expert-opinion-by-kate-chander-chiang-ajay-gupta-md/

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C.D.C. Reviewing Cases of Heart Problem in Youngsters After Getting Vaccinated and AHA Reassures that Benefits Overwhelm the Risks of Vaccination

Reporter: Amandeep Kaur, B.Sc. , M.Sc.

The latest article in New York times reported by Apoorva Mandavilli outlines the statement of officials that C.D.C. agency is investigating few cases of young adults and teenagers who might have developed myocarditis after getting vaccinated. It is not confirmed by the agency that whether this condition is caused by vaccine or not.

According to the vaccine safety group of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the reports of heart problems experienced by youngsters is relatively very small in number. The group stated that these cases could be unlinked to vaccination. The condition of inflammation of heart muscle which can occur due to certain infections is known as myocarditis.

Moreover, the agency still has to determine any evidence related to vaccines causing the heart issues. The C.D.C. has posted on its website the updated guidance for doctors and clinicians, urging them to be alert to uncommon symptoms related to heart cases among teenagers who are vaccine recipients.

In New York, Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist at Bellevue Hospital Center stated that “It may simply be a coincidence that some people are developing myocarditis after vaccination. It’s more likely for something like that to happen by chance, because so many people are getting vaccinated right now.”

The article reported that the cases appeared mainly in young adults after about four days of their second shot of mRNA vaccines, made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. Such cases are more prevalent in males as compared to females.

The vaccine safety group stated “Most cases appear to be mild, and follow-up of cases is ongoing.” It is strongly recommended by C.D.C. that American young adults from the age of 12 and above should get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’s Committee on Infectious Diseases stated “We look forward to seeing more data about these cases, so we can better understand if they are related to the vaccine or if they are coincidental. Meanwhile, it’s important for pediatricians and other clinicians to report any health concerns that arise after vaccination.”

Experts affirmed that the potentially uncommon side effects of myocarditis get insignificant compared to the potential risks of SARS-CoV-2 infection, including the continuous syndrome known as “long Covid.” It is reported in the article that acute Covid can lead to myocarditis.

According to the data collected by A.A.P, about 16 thousand children were hospitalized and more than 3.9 million children were infected by coronavirus till the second week of May. In the United States, about 300 children died of SARS-CoV-2 infection, which makes it among the top 10 death causes in children since the start of pandemic.

Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency medicine physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston stated that “And that’s in the context of all the mitigation measures taken.”

According to researchers, about 10 to 20 of every 1 lakh people each year develop myocarditis in the general population, facing symptoms from fatigue and chest pain to arrhythmias and cardiac arrest, whereas some have mild symptoms which remain undiagnosed.

Currently, the number of reports of myocarditis after vaccination is less than that reported normally in young adults, confirmed by C.D.C. The article reported that the members of vaccine safety group felt to communicate the information about upcoming cases of myocarditis to the providers.

The C.D.C. has not yet specified the ages of the patients involved in reporting. Since December 2020, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was authorized for young people of age 16 and above. The Food and Drug Administration extended the authorization to children of age 12 to 15 years, by the starting of this month.

On 14th May, the clinicians have been alerted by C.D.C. regarding the probable link between myocarditis and vaccination. Within three days, the team started reviewing data on myocarditis, reports filed with the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System and others from the Department of Defense.

A report on seven cases has been submitted to the journal Pediatrics for review and State health departments in Washington, Oregon and California have notified emergency providers and cardiologists about the potential problem.

In an interview, Dr. Liam Yore, past president of the Washington State chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians detailed a case of teenager with myocarditis after vaccination. The patient was provided treatment for mild inflammation of the inner lining of the heart and was discharged afterwards. Later, the young adult returned for care due to decrease in the heart’s output. Dr. Yore reported that still he had come across worse cases in youngsters with Covid, including in a 9-year-old child who arrived at the hospital after a cardiac arrest last winter.

He stated that “The relative risk is a lot in favor of getting the vaccine, especially considering how coronavirus vaccine have been administered.”

In the United States, more than 161 million people have received their first shot of vaccine in which about 4.5 million people were between the age 12 to 18 years.

Benefits Overwhelm Risks of COVID Vaccination, AHA Reassures

The latest statement of American Heart Association (AHA)/ American Stroke Association (ASA) on May 23rd states that the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination enormously outweigh the rare risk for myocarditis cases, which followed the C.D.C. report that the agency is tracking the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) and the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) for myocarditis cases linked with mRNA vaccines against coronavirus.

The myocarditis cases in young adults are more often observed after the second dose of vaccine rather than the first one, and have more cases of males than females. The CDC’s COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Technical Work Group (VaST) observed such heart complications after 4 days of vaccination.

CDC reported that “Within CDC safety monitoring systems, rates of myocarditis reports in the window following COVID-19 vaccination have not differed from expected baseline rates.”

The CDC team stated that “The evidence continues to indicate that the COVID-19 vaccines are nearly 100% effective at preventing death and hospitalization due to COVID-19 infection, and Strongly urged all young adults and children 12 years and above to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Even though the analysis of myocarditis reports related to coronavirus vaccine is in progress, the AHA/ASA stated that “myocarditis is typically the result of an actual viral infection, and it is yet to be determined if these cases have any correlation to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.”

Richard Besser, MD, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and former acting director of the CDC stated on ABC’s Good Morning America “We’ve lost hundreds of children and there have been thousands who have been hospitalized, thousands who developed an inflammatory syndrome, and one of the pieces of that can be myocarditis.” He added “still, from my perspective, the risk of COVID is so much greater than any theoretical risk from the vaccine.”

After COVID-19 vaccination the symptoms that occur include tiredness, muscle pain, headaches, chills, nausea and fever. The AHA/ASA stated that “typically appear within 24 to 48 hours and usually pass within 36-48 hours after receiving the vaccine.”

All healthcare providers are suggested to be aware of the rare adverse symptoms such as myocarditis, low platelets, blood clots, and severe inflammation. The agency stated that “Healthcare professionals should strongly consider inquiring about the timing of any recent COVID vaccination among patients presenting with these conditions, as needed, in order to provide appropriate treatment quickly.”

President Mitchell S.V. Elkind, M.D., M.S., FAHA, FAAN, Immediate Past President Robert A. Harrington, M.D., FAHA, President-Elect Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Sc.M., FAHA, Chief Science and Medical Officer Mariell Jessup, M.D., FAHA, and Chief Medical Officer for Prevention Eduardo Sanchez, M.D, M.P.H., FAAFP are science leaders of AHA/ASA and reflected their views in the following statements:

We strongly urge all adults and children ages 12 and older in the U.S. to receive a COVID vaccine as soon as they can receive it, as recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the CDC. The evidence continues to indicate that the COVID-19 vaccines are nearly 100% effective at preventing death and hospitalization due to COVID-19 infection. According to the CDC as of May 22, 2021, over 283 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the U.S. since December 14, 2020, and more than 129 million Americans are fully vaccinated (i.e., they have received either two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine).

We remain confident that the benefits of vaccination far exceed the very small, rare risks. The risks of vaccination are also far smaller than the risks of COVID-19 infection itself, including its potentially fatal consequences and the potential long-term health effects that are still revealing themselves, including myocarditis. The recommendation for vaccination specifically includes people with cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, obesity and type 2 diabetes, those with heart disease, and heart attack and stroke survivors, because they are at much greater risk of an adverse outcome from the COVID-19 virus than they are from the vaccine.

We commend the CDC’s continual monitoring for adverse events related to the COVID-19 vaccines through VAERS and VSD, and the consistent meetings of ACIP’s VaST Work Group, demonstrating transparent and robust attention to any and all health events possibly related to a COVID-19 vaccine. The few cases of myocarditis that have been reported after COVID-19 vaccination are being investigated. However, myocarditis is usually the result of a viral infection, and it is yet to be determined if these cases have any correlation to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, especially since the COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the U.S. do not contain any live virus.

We also encourage everyone to keep in touch with their primary care professionals and seek care immediately if they have any of these symptoms in the weeks after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine: chest pain including sudden, sharp, stabbing pains; difficulty breathing/shortness of breath; abnormal heartbeat; severe headache; blurry vision; fainting or loss of consciousness; weakness or sensory changes; confusion or trouble speaking; seizures; unexplained abdominal pain; or new leg pain or swelling.

We will stay up to date with the CDC’s recommendations regarding all potential complications related to COVID-19 vaccines, including myocarditis, pericarditis, central venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) and other blood clotting events, thrombosis thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), and vaccine-induced immune thrombosis thrombocytopenia (VITT).

The American Heart Associationrecommends all health care professionals be aware of these very rare adverse events that may be related to a COVID-19 vaccine, including myocarditis, blood clots, low platelets, or symptoms of severe inflammation. Health care professionals should strongly consider inquiring about the timing of any recent COVID vaccination among patients presenting with these conditions, as needed, in order to provide appropriate treatment quickly. As detailed in last month’s AHA/ASA statement, all suspected CVST or blood clots associated with the COVID-19 vaccine should be treated initially using non-heparin anticoagulants. Heparin products should not be administered in any dose if TTS/VITT is suspected, until appropriate testing can be done to exclude heparin-induced antibodies. In addition, health care professionals are required to report suspected vaccine-related adverse events to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, in accordance with federal regulations.

Individuals should refer to their local and state health departments for specific information about when and where they can get vaccinated. We implore everyone ages 12 and older to get vaccinated so we can return to being together, in person – enjoying life with little to no risk of severe COVID-19 infection, hospitalization or death.

We also support the CDC recommendations last week that loosen restrictions on mask wearing and social distancing for people who are fully vaccinated. For those who are unable to be vaccinated, we reiterate the importance of handwashing, social distancing and wearing masks, particularly for people at high risk of infection and/or severe COVID-19. These simple precautions remain crucial to protecting people who are not vaccinated from the virus that causes COVID-19.

Source:

Other related articles were published in this Open Access Online Scientific Journal, including the following:

Thriving Vaccines and Research: Weizmann Institute Coronavirus Research Development

Reporter: Amandeep Kaur, B.Sc., M.Sc.

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2021/05/04/thriving-vaccines-and-research-weizmann-coronavirus-research-development/

Identification of Novel genes in human that fight COVID-19 infection

Reporter: Amandeep Kaur, B.Sc., M.Sc.

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2021/04/19/identification-of-novel-genes-in-human-that-fight-covid-19-infection/

Fighting Chaos with Care, community trust, engagement must be cornerstones of pandemic response

Reporter: Amandeep Kaur, B.Sc., M.Sc. 

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2021/04/13/fighting-chaos-with-care/

T cells recognize recent SARS-CoV-2 variants

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2021/03/30/t-cells-recognize-recent-sars-cov-2-variants/

Need for Global Response to SARS-CoV-2 Viral Variants

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2021/02/12/need-for-global-response-to-sars-cov-2-viral-variants/

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