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Archive for the ‘Coronavirus Gene Expression’ Category

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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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

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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.

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

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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

Read Full Post »

The NIH-funded adjuvant improves the efficacy of India’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Curator and Reporter: Dr. Premalata Pati, Ph.D., Postdoc

Anthony S. Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Part of National Institute of Health (NIH) said,

Ending a global pandemic demands a global response. I am thrilled that a novel vaccine adjuvant developed in the United States with NIAID support is now included in an effective COVID-19 vaccine that is available to individuals in India.”

Adjuvants are components that are created as part of a vaccine to improve immune responses and increase the efficiency of the vaccine. COVAXIN was developed and is manufactured in India, which is currently experiencing a terrible health catastrophe as a result of COVID-19. An adjuvant designed with NIH funding has contributed to the success of the extremely effective COVAXIN-COVID-19 vaccine, which has been administered to about 25 million individuals in India and internationally.

Alhydroxiquim-II is the adjuvant utilized in COVAXIN, was discovered and validated in the laboratory by the biotech company ViroVax LLC of Lawrence, Kansas, with funding provided solely by the NIAID Adjuvant Development Program. The adjuvant is formed of a small molecule that is uniquely bonded to Alhydrogel, often known as alum and the most regularly used adjuvant in human vaccines. Alhydroxiquim-II enters lymph nodes, where it detaches from alum and triggers two cellular receptors. TLR7 and TLR8 receptors are essential in the immunological response to viruses. Alhydroxiquim-II is the first adjuvant to activate TLR7 and TLR8 in an approved vaccine against an infectious disease. Additionally, the alum in Alhydroxiquim-II activates the immune system to look for an infiltrating pathogen.

Although molecules that activate TLR receptors strongly stimulate the immune system, the adverse effects of Alhydroxiquim-II are modest. This is due to the fact that after COVAXIN is injected, the adjuvant travels directly to adjacent lymph nodes, which contain white blood cells that are crucial in recognizing pathogens and combating infections. As a result, just a minimal amount of Alhydroxiquim-II is required in each vaccination dosage, and the adjuvant does not circulate throughout the body, avoiding more widespread inflammation and unwanted side effects.

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (round gold particles) emerging from the surface of a cell cultured in the lab. SARS-CoV-2, also known as 2019-nCoV, is the virus that causes COVID-19. Image Source: NIAID

COVAXIN is made up of a crippled version of SARS-CoV-2 that cannot replicate but yet encourages the immune system to produce antibodies against the virus. The NIH stated that COVAXIN is “safe and well tolerated,” citing the results of a phase 2 clinical investigation. COVAXIN safety results from a Phase 3 trial with 25,800 participants in India will be released later this year. Meanwhile, unpublished interim data from the Phase 3 trial show that the vaccine is 78% effective against symptomatic sickness, 100% effective against severe COVID-19, including hospitalization, and 70% effective against asymptomatic infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Two tests of blood serum from persons who had received COVAXIN suggest that the vaccine creates antibodies that efficiently neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 (Alpha) and B.1.617 (Delta) variants (1) and (2), which were originally identified in the United Kingdom and India, respectively.

Since 2009, the NIAID Adjuvant Program has supported the research of ViroVax’s founder and CEO, Sunil David, M.D., Ph.D. His research has focused on the emergence of new compounds that activate innate immune receptors and their application as vaccination adjuvants.

Dr. David’s engagement with Bharat Biotech International Ltd. of Hyderabad, which manufactures COVAXIN, began during a 2019 meeting in India organized by the NIAID Office of Global Research under the auspices of the NIAID’s Indo-US Vaccine Action Program. Five NIAID-funded adjuvant investigators, including Dr. David, two representatives of the NIAID Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Transplantation, and the NIAID India representative, visited 4 top biotechnology companies to learn about their work and discuss future collaborations. The delegation also attended a consultation in New Delhi, which was co-organized by the NIAID and India’s Department of Biotechnology and hosted by the National Institute of Immunology.

Among the scientific collaborations spawned by these endeavors was a licensing deal between Bharat Biotech and Dr. David to use Alhydroxiquim-II in their candidate vaccines. During the COVID-19 outbreak, this license was expanded to cover COVAXIN, which has Emergency Use Authorization in India and more than a dozen additional countries. COVAXIN was developed by Bharat Biotech in partnership with the Indian Council of Medical Research’s National Institute of Virology. The company conducted thorough safety research on Alhydroxiquim-II and undertook the arduous process of scaling up production of the adjuvant in accordance with Good Manufacturing Practice standards. Bharat Biotech aims to generate 700 million doses of COVAXIN by the end of 2021.

NIAID conducts and supports research at the National Institutes of Health, across the United States, and across the world to better understand the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases and to develop better methods of preventing, detecting, and treating these illnesses. The NIAID website contains news releases, info sheets, and other NIAID-related materials.

Main Source:

https://www.miragenews.com/adjuvant-developed-with-nih-funding-enhances-587090/

References

  1. https://academic.oup.com/cid/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/cid/ciab411/6271524?redirectedFrom=fulltext
  2. https://academic.oup.com/jtm/article/28/4/taab051/6193609

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Cryo-EM disclosed how the D614G mutation changes SARS-CoV-2 spike protein structure

Reporter: Dr. Premalata Pati, Ph.D., Postdoc

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2021/04/10/cryo-em-disclosed-how-the-d614g-mutation-changes-sars-cov-2-spike-protein-structure/

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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

Read Full Post »

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

Curator and Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Longitudinal proteomic analysis of plasma from patients with severe COVID-19 reveal patient survival-associated signatures, tissue-specific cell death, and cell-cell interactions

Open AccessPublished:April 30, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.xcrm.2021.100287

Highlights

  • 16% of COVID-19 patients display an atypical low-inflammatory plasma proteome
  • Severe COVID-19 is associated with heterogeneous plasma proteomic responses
  • Death of virus-infected lung epithelial cells is a key feature of severe disease
  • Lung monocyte/macrophages drive T cell activation, together promoting epithelial damage

Summary

Mechanisms underlying severe COVID-19 disease remain poorly understood. We analyze several thousand plasma proteins longitudinally in 306 COVID-19 patients and 78 symptomatic controls, uncovering immune and non-immune proteins linked to COVID-19. Deconvolution of our plasma proteome data using published scRNAseq datasets reveals contributions from circulating immune and tissue cells. Sixteen percent of patients display reduced inflammation yet comparably poor outcomes. Comparison of patients who died to severely ill survivors identifies dynamic immune cell-derived and tissue-associated proteins associated with survival, including exocrine pancreatic proteases. Using derived tissue-specific and cell type-specific intracellular death signatures, cellular ACE2 expression, and our data, we infer whether organ damage resulted from direct or indirect effects of infection. We propose a model in which interactions among myeloid, epithelial, and T cells drive tissue damage. These datasets provide important insights and a rich resource for analysis of mechanisms of severe COVID-19 disease.

Graphical Abstract

Figure thumbnail fx1

Image Source: DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.xcrm.2021.100287

https://www.cell.com/cell-reports-medicine/fulltext/S2666-3791(21)00115-4

The quest to identify mechanisms that might be contributing to death in COVID-19: Why do some patients die from this disease, while others — who appear to be just as ill do not?

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard have identified the protein “signature” of severe COVID-19

Interest was to develop methods for studying human immune responses to infections, which they had applied to the condition known as bacterial sepsis. The three agreed to tackle this new problem with the goal of understanding how the human immune system responds to SARS-CoV-2, the novel pathogen that causes COVID-19.

How scientists launched a study in days to probe COVID-19’s unpredictability

Collecting these specimens required a large team of collaborators from many departments, which worked overtime for five weeks to amass blood samples from 306 patients who tested positive for COVID-19, as well as from 78 patients with similar symptoms who tested negative for the coronavirus.

Alexandra-Chloé Villani

Credit : Alexandra-Chloé VillaniResearch associates at Mass General who worked countless hours to process blood samples for the COVID Acute Cohort Study (from left to right: Anna Gonye, Irena Gushterova, and Tom Lasalle)By Leah Eisenstadt

https://www.broadinstitute.org/news/how-scientists-launched-study-days-probe-covid-19%E2%80%99s-unpredictability

As the COVID-19 surge began in March, Mass General and Broad researchers worked around the clock to begin learning why some patients fare worse with the disease than others

Protein signatures in the blood

https://www.broadinstitute.org/news/researchers-identify-protein-%E2%80%9Csignature%E2%80%9D-severe-covid-19

The study found that most patients with COVID-19 have a consistent protein signature, regardless of disease severity; as would be expected, their bodies mount an immune response by producing proteins that attack the virus. “But we also found a small subset of patients with the disease who did not demonstrate the pro-inflammatory response that is typical of other COVID-19 patients,” Filbin said, yet these patients were just as likely as others to have severe disease. Filbin, who is also an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Harvard Medical School (HMS), noted that patients in this subset tended to be older people with chronic diseases, who likely had weakened immune systems.

Among other revelations, this showed that the most prevalent severity-associated protein, a pro-inflammatory protein called interleukin-6 (IL-6) rose steadily in patients who died, while it rose and then dropped in those with severe disease who survived. Early attempts by other groups to treat COVID-19 patients experiencing acute respiratory distress with drugs that block IL-6 were disappointing, though more recent studies show promise in combining these medications with the steroid dexamethasone.

Hacohen, who is a professor of medicine at HMS and director of the Broad’s Cell Circuits Program:

“You can ask which of the many thousands of proteins that are circulating in your blood are associated with the actual outcome,” he said, “and whether there is a set of proteins that tell us something.”

Goldberg, who is a professor of emergency medicine at HMS:

They are highly likely to be useful in figuring out some of the underlying mechanisms that lead to severe disease and death in COVID-19,” she said, noting her gratitude to the patients involved in the study. Their samples are already being used to study other aspects of COVID-19, such as identifying the qualities of antibodies that patients form against the virus.

SOURCES

Original Research

Filbin MR, Mehta A, et al. Longitudinal proteomic analysis of plasma from patients with severe COVID-19 reveal patient survival-associated signatures, tissue-specific cell death, and cell-cell interactionsCell Reports Medicine. Online April 30, 2021. DOI: 10.1016/j.xcrm.2021.100287.

Adapted from a press release originally issued by Massachusetts General Hospital.

https://www.broadinstitute.org/news/researchers-identify-protein-%E2%80%9Csignature%E2%80%9D-severe-covid-19

https://www.cell.com/cell-reports-medicine/fulltext/S2666-3791(21)00115-4

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