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Posts Tagged ‘COVID-19’


Covid-19 and its implications on pregnancy

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

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

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

Reporter: Amandeep Kaur

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/

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/

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

Reporter: Amandeep Kaur, B.Sc., M.Sc. (ept. 5/2021)

Scientists have recognized human genes that fight against the SARS-CoV-2 viral infection. The information about genes and their function can help to control infection and aids the understanding of crucial factors that causes severe infection. These novel genes are related to interferons, the frontline fighter in our body’s defense system and provide options for therapeutic strategies.

The research was published in the journal Molecular Cell.

Sumit K. Chanda, Ph.D., professor and director of the Immunity and Pathogenesis Program at Sanford Burnham Prebys reported in the article that they focused on better understanding of the cellular response and downstream mechanism in cells to SARS-CoV-2, including the factors which causes strong or weak response to viral infection. He is the lead author of the study and explained that in this study they have gained new insights into how the human cells are exploited by invading virus and are still working towards finding any weak point of virus to develop new antivirals against SARS-CoV-2.

With the surge of pandemic, researchers and scientists found that in severe cases of COVID-19, the response of interferons to SARS-CoV-2 viral infection is low. This information led Chanda and other collaborators to search for interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs), are genes in human which are triggered by interferons and play important role in confining COVID-19 infection by controlling their viral replication in host.

The investigators have developed laboratory experiments to identify ISGs based on the previous knowledge gathered by the outbreak of SARS-CoV-1 from 2002-2004 which was similar to COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The article reports that Chanda mentioned “we found that 65 ISGs controlled SAR-CoV-2 infection, including some that inhibited the virus’ ability to enter cells, some that suppressed manufacture of the RNA that is the virus’s lifeblood, and a cluster of genes that inhibited assembly of the virus.” They also found an interesting fact about ISGs that some of these genes revealed control over unrelated viruses, such as HIV, West Nile and seasonal flu.

Laura Martin-Sancho, Ph.D., a senior postdoctoral associate in the Chanda lab and first author of the study reported in the article that they identified 8 different ISGs that blocked the replication of both SARS-CoV-1 and CoV-2 in the subcellular compartments responsible for packaging of proteins, which provide option to exploit these vulnerable sites to restrict infection. They are further investigating whether the genetic variability within the ISGs is associated with COVID-19 severity.

The next step for researchers will be investigating and observing the biology of variants of SARS-CoV-2 that are evolving and affecting vaccine efficacy. Martin-Sancho mentioned that their lab has already started gathering all the possible variants for further investigation.

“It’s vitally important that we don’t take our foot off the pedal of basic research efforts now that vaccines are helping control the pandemic,” reported in the article by Chanda.

“We’ve come so far so fast because of investment in fundamental research at Sanford Burnham Prebys and elsewhere, and our continued efforts will be especially important when, not if, another viral outbreak occurs,” concluded Chanda.

Source: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-04-covid-scientists-human-genes-infection.html

Reference: Laura Martin-Sancho et al. Functional Landscape of SARS-CoV-2 Cellular Restriction, Molecular Cell (2021). DOI: 10.1016/j.molcel.2021.04.008

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

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

Reporter: Amandeep Kaur

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

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/

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/

Mechanistic link between SARS-CoV-2 infection and increased risk of stroke using 3D printed models and human endothelial cells

Reporter: Adina Hazan, PhD

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2020/12/28/mechanistic-link-between-sars-cov-2-infection-and-increased-risk-of-stroke-using-3d-printed-models-and-human-endothelial-cells/

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

Reporter: Amandeep Kaur, BSc, MSc (Exp. 6/2021)

According to the Global Health Security Index released by Johns Hopkins University in October 2019 in collaboration with Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the United States was announced to be the best developed country in the world to tackle any pandemic or health emergency in future.

The table turned within in one year of outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. By the end of March 2021, the country with highest COVID-19 cases and deaths in the world was United States. According to the latest numbers provided by World Health Organization (WHO), there were more than 540,000 deaths and more than 30 million confirmed cases in the United States.

Joia Mukherjee, associate professor of global health and social medicine in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School said,

“When we think about how to balance control of an epidemic over chaos, we have to double down on care and concern for the people and communities who are hardest hit”.

She also added that U.S. possess all the necessary building blocks required for a health system to work, but it lacks trust, leadership, engagement and care to assemble it into a working system.

Mukherjee mentioned about the issues with the Index that it undervalued the organized and integrated system which is necessary to help public meet their needs for clinical care. Another necessary element for real health safety which was underestimated was conveying clear message and social support to make effective and sustainable efforts for preventive public health measures.

Mukherjee is a chief medical officer at Partners In Health, an organization focused on strengthening community-based health care delivery. She is also a core member of HMS community members who play important role in constructing a more comprehensive response to the pandemic in all over the U.S. With years of experience, they are training global health care workers, analyzing the results and constructing an integrated health system to fight against the widespread health emergency caused by coronavirus all around the world.

Mukherjee encouraged to strengthen the consensus among the community to constrain this infectious disease epidemic. She suggested that validation of the following steps are crucial such as testing of the people with symptoms of infection with coronavirus, isolation of infected individuals by providing them with necessary resources and providing clinical treatment and care to those people who are in need. Mukherjee said, that community engagement and material support are not just idealistic goal rather these are essential components for functioning of health care system during an outburst of coronavirus.

Continued alertness such as social distancing and personal contact with infected individual is important because it is not possible to rapidly replace the old-school public health approaches with new advanced technologies like smart phone applications or biomedical improvements.

Public health specialists emphasized that the infection limitation is the only and most vital strategy for controlling the outbreak in near future, even if the population is getting vaccinated. It is crucial to slowdown the spread of disease for restricting the natural modification of more dangerous variants as that could potentially escape the immune protection mechanism developed by recently generated vaccines as well as natural immune defense systems.

Making Crucial connections

The treatment is more expensive and complicated in areas with less health facilities, said Paul Farmer, the Kolokotrones University Professor at Harvard and chair of the HMS Department of Global Health and Social Medicine. He called this situation as treatment nihilism. Due to shortage of resources, the maximum energy is focused in public health care and prevention efforts. U.S. has resources to cope up with the increasing demand of hospital space and is developing vaccines, but there is a form of containment nihilism- which means prevention and infection containment are unattainable- said by many experts.

Farmer said, integration of necessary elements such as clinical care, therapies, vaccines, preventive measures and social support into a single comprehensive plan is the best approach for a better response to COVID-19 disease. He understands the importance of community trust and integrated health care system for fighting against this pandemic, as being one of the founders of Partners In Health and have years of experience along with his colleagues from HMS and PIH in fighting epidemics of HIV, Ebola, cholera, tuberculosis, other infectious and non-infectious diseases.

PIH launched the Massachusetts Community Tracing Collaborative (CTC), which is an initiative of contact tracing statewide in partnership with several other state bodies, local boards of Health system and PIH. The CTC was setup in April 2020 in U.S. by Governor Charlie Baker, with leadership from HMS faculty, to build a unified response to COVID-19 and create a foundation for a long-term movement towards a more integrated community-based health care system.

The contact tracing involves reaching out to individuals who are COVID-19 positive, then further detect people who came in close contact with infected individuals and screen out people with coronavirus symptoms and encourage them to seek testing and take necessary precautions to break the chain of infection into the community.

In the initial phase of outbreak, the CTC group comprises of contact tracers and health care coordinators who spoke 23 different languages, including social workers, public health practitioners, nurses and staff members from local board health agencies with deep links to the communities they are helping. The CTC worked with 339 out of 351 state municipalities with local public health agencies relied completely on CTC whereas some cities and towns depend occasionally on CTC backup. According to a report, CTC members reached up to 80 percent of contact tracking in hard-hit and resource deprived communities such as New Bedford.

Putting COVID-19 in context

Based on generations of experience helping people surviving some of the deadliest epidemic and endemic outbreaks in places like Haiti, Mexico, Rwanda and Peru, the staff was alert that people with bad social and economic condition have less space to get quarantined and follow other public health safety measures and are most vulnerable people at high risk in the pandemic situation.

Infected individuals or individuals at risk of getting infected by SARS-CoV-2 had many questions regarding when to seek doctor’s help and where to get tested, reported by contact tracers. People were worried about being evicted from work for two weeks and some immigrants worried about basic supplies as they were away from their family and friends.

The CTC team received more than 7,000 requests for social support assistance in the initial three months. The staff members and contact tracers were actively connecting the resourceful individuals with the needy people and filling up the gap when there was shortage in their own resources.

Farmer said, “COVID is a misery-seeking missile that has targeted the most vulnerable.”

The reality that infected individuals concerned about lacking primary household items, food items and access to childcare, emphasizes the urgency of rudimentary social care and community support in fighting against the pandemic. Farmer said, to break the chain of infection and resume society it is mandatory to meet all the elementary needs of people.

“What kinds of help are people asking for?” Farmer said and added “it’s important to listen to what your patients are telling you.”

An outbreak of care

The launch of Massachusetts CTC with the support from PIH, started receiving requests from all around the country to assist initiating contact tracing procedures. In May, 2020 the organization announced the launch of a U.S. public health accompaniment to cope up with the asked need.

The unit has included team members in nearly 24 states and municipal health departments in the country and work in collaboration with local organizations. The technical support on things like choosing and implementing the tools and software for contact tracing was provided by PIH. To create awareness and provide new understanding more rapidly, a learning collaboration was established with more than 200 team members from more than 100 different organizations. The team worked to meet the needs of population at higher risk of infection by advocating them for a stronger and more reliable public health response.

The PIH public health team helped to train contact trackers in the Navajo nation and operate to strengthen the coordination between SARS-CoV-2 testing, efforts for precaution, clinical health care delivery and social support in vulnerable communities around the U.S.

“For us to reopen our schools, our churches, our workplaces,” Mukherjee said, “we have to know where the virus is spreading so that we don’t just continue on this path.”

SOURCE:

https://hms.harvard.edu/news/fighting-chaos-care?utm_source=Silverpop&utm_medium=email&utm_term=field_news_item_1&utm_content=HMNews04052021

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

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/

The WHO team is expected to soon publish a 300-page final report on its investigation, after scrapping plans for an interim report on the origins of SARS-CoV-2 — the new coronavirus responsible for killing 2.7 million people globally

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2021/03/27/the-who-team-is-expected-to-soon-publish-a-300-page-final-report-on-its-investigation-after-scrapping-plans-for-an-interim-report-on-the-origins-of-sars-cov-2-the-new-coronavirus-responsibl/

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/

Mechanistic link between SARS-CoV-2 infection and increased risk of stroke using 3D printed models and human endothelial cells

Reporter: Adina Hazan, PhD

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2020/12/28/mechanistic-link-between-sars-cov-2-infection-and-increased-risk-of-stroke-using-3d-printed-models-and-human-endothelial-cells/

Artificial intelligence predicts the immunogenic landscape of SARS-CoV-2

Reporter: Irina Robu, PhD

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2021/02/04/artificial-intelligence-predicts-the-immunogenic-landscape-of-sars-cov-2/

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COVID-19-vaccine rollout risks and challenges

Reporter : Irina Robu, PhD

BioNTech and Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines received Emergency Use Authorization in January 2021 in Canada, European Union, United Kingdom and United States. However, in certain places COVID-19 has hit a few hindrances such as stockpiles have accumulated, deployment to vulnerable countries and at-risk groups has been slower than expected.  Yet, experts can see the light at the end of the tunnel of the pandemic. In United States, hundred of organization take a vital role in vaccine deployment, adapting their operations to meet the demands for volume, speed and better technology. Tens of thousands of transporters, vaccine handlers, medical and pharmacy staff, and frontline workers have mandatory training on the specific characteristics of each manufacturer’s distinct vaccines.

The common operating model provides the details of end-to-end vaccine deployment. Possible areas of risk to the rapid delivery of COVID-19 vaccines in the United States include:

Raw-materials constraints in production scaling

Scaling access to material and boosting production levels can cause logistical, contractual and even diplomatic challenges, requiring new forms of collaboration. The top two US manufacturers, for example, can produce 280 million vials per year, capable of holding up to 2.8 billion doses.

Quality-assurance challenges in manufacturing

Generating yields to produce a new class of vaccines—such as those based on mRNA or viral vectors—at an unprecedented scale (1.8 billion to 2.3 billion doses by mid-2021), manufacturers have required massive volumes of inputs, a larger technical workforce.

Cold-chain logistics and storage-management challenges

Manufacturers and distributors are preparing to maintain cold-chain requirements for distribution and long-term storage of mRNA-based vaccines. Large amounts of dry ice may be needed at various locations before administration.

Increased labor requirements

Complex protocols for handling and preparing COVID-19 vaccines have the potential to strain labor capacities or divert workers from other critical roles.

Wastage at points of care

Errors in storing, preparing, or scheduling administration of doses at points of care will have significant consequences and proper on-site storage conditions are also of critical importance.

IT challenges

IT systems, including vaccine-tracking systems and immunization information systems will be vital for allocating, distributing, recording, and monitoring the deployment of vaccines.

There are several possible approaches to help mitigate each of the six risks discussed, each with practical steps for organization to take across the common operating model.

Building resilient raw-materials supplies

  • Resilience planning.Producers can partner with global suppliers of raw materials and ancillary-product manufacturers to create redundancies.
  • Collaboration between industry and government.Ongoing industry engagement with government is essential for ramping-up production and maintaining high levels of production.

 Scaling manufacturing within quality guidelines

  • Scale manufacturing in new and existing facilities.  Various digital and analytics tools can help expand capacity and scale more quickly.
  • Assure quality and yield in current facilities. By continuing to coordinate with regulators, manufacturers and authorities can certify that procedures and dosage quality meet both long-established and newly issued guidelines.
  • Establish predictable supplier plans. Each manufacturing stakeholder can follow a clearly defined plan and they can also conduct regular cross-functional risk reviews to ensure that quality.

Optimizing the cold chain

  • Build redundancy into distribution.Manufacturers, distributers should quickly identify points of failure and creating redundancies at each stage.
  • Leverage feedback loops.Reporting systems could be set up to capture supply-chain disruption events as soon as they happen, with data used to refine best practices and procedures and avoid further losses.
  • Use point-of-care stock management.Vaccine inventories can be redistributed to locations with greater demand. Strategies to avoid over stockpiling must confirm maintenance of the cold chain to prevent risks to the receiving administration site.

Addressing labor shortages

  • Use several types of point-of-care facilities.Rely on hospitals and primary-care locations for vaccine administration, in addition to retail pharmacies.
  • Streamline administration across sites.Deploying vaccines at larger, streamlined vaccination sites can be more efficient and improve patient safety, labor utilization, and speed of vaccination.

 Reducing spoilage at points of care

  • Track and monitor spoilage at points of care.Manufacturers and distributors can collaborate to establish the means to identify and trace instances of spoilage. They can learn from experience and refine guidance, training, certification, and allocation to optimize utilization of doses.
  • Pace first-dose allocation.Allocation of first doses to populations and locations where the need is greatest and the confidence in the availability of second doses is high (such as healthcare professionals and vulnerable populations in nursing homes).
  • Prioritize second doses.Authorities can help ensure that the recommended two-dose course schedule for such vaccines as the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines are duly completed.
  • Establish recipient commitment.Vaccine recipients could be asked to commit to second-dose appointments at their point of care before first-dose administration.
  • Manage certification.National and local government institutions can collaborate to ensure that vaccination certifications are withheld until recipients receive their second dose.

Meeting IT challenges

  • Balance IT upgrades and resilience.Stakeholders should identify IT systems that can be relied upon in the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines and assess their ability to perform at scale.
  • Share cyberthreat intelligence.COVID-19-vaccine stakeholders should agree upon common requirements and processes for generating and sharing threat intelligence.
  • Establish means of demonstrating immunity.Manufacturers and distributers can commission systems to track and verify that vaccine recipients have demonstrated immunity. if it will release them from travel limits and other pandemic-related restrictions.

Although not one organization is involved for managing vaccine deployment, but the risks can be fully address if organizations align on lead organization to build scenarios to test responses to emerging crises. The groups could align on lead organizations to manage issues while building scenarios to test responses to emerging crises. The benefits in managing each of these risks could be demonstrated with compelling metrics and communications.  As COVID-19-vaccine rollouts commence, the steps mentioned above can be undertaken by manufactures, distributors and governments.

SOURCE

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/risk/our-insights/the-risks-and-challenges-of-the-global-covid-19-vaccine-rollout?cid=other-eml-nsl-mip-mck&hlkid=19a51f848bee4d00806d2da81315f70d&hctky=2071733&hdpid=062f1841-f911-48f3-ab14-a9f92e30721f#

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Early Details of Brain Damage in COVID-19 Patients

Reporter: Irina Robu, PhD

 

COVID-19 has currently claimed more American lives than World War I, Vietnam War and the Korean war combined. And while it is mainly a respiratory disease, COVID-19 infection affects other organs, including the brain. Researchers at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital found that COVID patients with neurological symptoms show more than some metabolic disturbances in the brain as patients who have suffered oxygen deprivation.

During the course of the pandemic, thousand patients with COVID-19 have been seen at MGH and the severity of the neurological symptoms varies from temporary loss of smell to more severe symptoms such as dizziness, confusion, seizures, and stroke. According to the principal investigator of the study, Eva Maria Ratai, Department of Radiology used 3 Tesla Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS) to identify neurochemical abnormalities even the structural imagining findings are normal. COVID-19 patients’ brains showed N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA) reduction, choline elevation, and myo-inositol elevation, comparable to what is seen with these metabolites in other patients with leukoencephalopathy after hypoxia without COVID.

Their research indicated that one of patients with COVID-19 indicate the most severe white matter damage, whereas another had COVID-19 associated necrotizing leukoencephalopathy at the time of imaging. And the patient that experience cardiac arrest showed subtle white matter changes on structural MR. The control cases included one patient with damage due to hypoxia from other causes: one with sepsis-related white matter damage, and a normal, age-matched, healthy volunteer.

The main question still remains whether the decrease in the oxygen of the brain is causing the white matter to change or whether the virus itself is attacking white matter. The conclusion is that MRS can be used as a disease and therapy monitoring tool.

SOURCE

Small study reveals details of brain damage in COVID-19 patients

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Mysteries of COVID Smell Loss

Reported : Irina  Robu, PhD

When Covid-19 patients have smell loss it tends to be sudden and severe. They are usually don’t have a blocked, stuffy or runny nose – most people with coronavirus can still breathe freely.  Since the epidemy started in march, an estimated of 80 percent of people with COVID-19 have experience smell disturbances in addition to loss of taste and the ability to smell chemical irritants. Research has shown that smell loss is common in people with COVID-19 disease, the reason why researchers and doctors have recommended to use a diagnostic test to determine if a patient has COVID-19.

Yet, the mystery is how the new coronavirus robs patients of their senses. During the early days of the epidemic, physicians and researchers thought that COVID related loss of smell might signal that the virus makes its way into the brain through the nose, where it can do the most severe damage. According to Sandeep Robert Data, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School, the research data showed that the primary source is the in the nose, but more specifically in the nasal epithelium. It looks like the virus attacks the cells responsible for registering odors rather than attacking neurons directly.  

It is well known that  olfactory neurons do not have angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptors, which permit the virus entry to cells, on their surface. But sustentacular cells, which provide support for  olfactory neurons are scattered with the receptors. These cells preserve the important  balance of salt ions in the mucus that neurons rest on on to send signals to the brain. If that balance is disturbed, it could lead to a closure of neuronal signaling and loss of smell.

The sustentacular cells correspondingly deliver the metabolic and physical support necessary to keep the fingerlike cilia on the olfactory neurons wherever receptors that detect odors are disturbed. Nicolas Meunier, a neuroscientist at the Paris-Saclay University in France determined that disruption of the olfactory epithelium might explain the loss of smell. Yet, it remains unclear if the damage done by the virus or because it invades immune cells.

Since COVID-19 doesn’t cause nasal congestion, researchers have found a few clues about the loss of smell. Taste receptor cells, which detect chemicals in the saliva and sends signals to the brain do not have ACE receptors. They don’t necessarily  get infected by COVID-19, but other support cells in the tongue carry the receptor.

Researchers determined that more clues on  to how the virus obliterates smell. However, some patients have seen that after five months the ability to smell has returned but not as great as expected. That news is welcomed for patients that have suffered loss of smell due to the COVID-19 virus, yet apprehensions about long term loss of smell is a large cause of concern.

SOURCE

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mysteries-of-covid-smell-loss-finally-yield-some-answers1/

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12/5/2020

Regeneron’s Covid Antibody coktail has been cleared for emergency use by the FDA. The emergency authorization for REGN-COV2, a combination of monoclonal antibodies casiriviamb and imdevimab, marks the second for the antibody therapy. The first emergency authorization was given to Eli Lily’s bamlanivimab.

The difference that REGN-COV2 is a concoction of several drugs, whereas Lilly’s treatment contains only one drug, the two emergency authorizations  are almost identical. They treat both for mild-to-moderate COVID-19 patients at least 12 years of age who are not hospitalized but are at high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19.

SOURCE

https://www.fiercepharma.com/pharma/regeneron-following-lilly-s-footsteps-wins-fda-emergency-nod-for-covid-19-antibody-cocktail


Regeneron’s new antibody cocktail drug, REGN-COV2

Reporter : Irina Robu, PhD

Regeneron,  leading biotechnology company using the power of science to bring new medicines to patients in need answered quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic and found an antibody cocktail  as the pandemic numbers increase in the U.S. The antibody cocktail, also known as REGN-COV2 antibody combination therapy is an investigational medicine, and its safety and efficacy have not been fully evaluated by any regulatory authority.

REGN-COV2 is being studied in four ongoing late-stage clinical trials: two Phase 2/3 trials for the treatment of hospitalized and non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients, Phase 3 RECOVERY trial of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the UK, and a Phase 3 trial for the prevention of COVID-19 in uninfected people who are at high-risk of exposure to a COVID-19 patient. The Phase 3 prevention trial is being jointly conducted with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The company expects approval from FDA on its antibody cocktail and expect to have 2.4-gram doses ready for about 80,000 patients at the end of November and 200,000 doses at the beginning of January.  At the same time, Regeneron partnered with Roche to expand its capacity further by increasing its manufacturing capacity.

Regeneron come in COVID-19 research early this year as the outbreak was in its early stages, testing hundreds of virus-neutralizing antibodies in mice and seeing how they compared with antibodies from human survivors of the novel coronavirus.

SOURCE

https://www.fiercepharma.com/manufacturing/regeneron-predicts-300-000-covid-19-cocktail-doses-ready-by-january-and-substantially

 

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Tiny biologic drug to fight COVID-19 show promise in animal models

Reporter : Irina Robu, PhD

A research team at University of Pittsburg School of Medicine identified an antibody component that is 10 times smaller than a full-sized antibody. Their research published in Cell, indicates that the drug, Ab8 based on it is effective in mice and hamsters. The research was started by screening a library of about 100 billion antibody fragments to identify candidates that bound tightly to the spike protein on SARS-CoV-2’s surface, which the virus uses to enter and infect human cells.

A typical antibody consists of two heavy chains and two light chains. The chosen molecule is the variable domain of the heavy chain of an immunoglobulin, which is a type of antibody. The heavy chain variable domain is essential for binding with an antigen. Ab8 was created by fusing the variable, heavy chain domain with part of the immunoglobulin tail region, giving it immune functions but doing so with a molecule that’s about half the size of a full immunoglobulin.

The smaller size of the antibody can improve the therapeutic efficacy for infectious diseases and can be delivered through inhalation. Their research showed that Ab8 completely neutralized SARS-CoV-2 in lab dishes. The drug developed showed that inhibited the virus in lung tissue in animal body even at the lowest dose 2 mg/kg as compared to untreated controls.

The research team is looking to determine the drug effect in hamsters, which were reported to have better clinical signatures of COVID-19. And the hamsters that got the drug display less severe pneumonia that did the control animals. Drugs with alternative administration routers could provide additions to the first wave of COVID-19 therapies and vaccines.

What is more important, Ab8 does not appear to bind to human cells which is a good sign that it won’t have negative side effects.

SOURCE

https://www.fiercebiotech.com/research/small-sized-biologic-against-covid-19-shows-promise-animal-models

 

 

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Llama inspired “AeroNabs” to strangle COVID-19 with an inhaler 

Reporter : Irina Robu, PhD

Llama and other camelids fight off pathogens like viruses with tiny antibodies called nanobodies. A USCF team used protein engineering to make a synthetic nanobody that prevents the spike protein on the surface of SARS-CoV-2 from binding to healthy cells and infecting them. The team indicates promising preclinical results for aerosol formulation and can be used as a self-administered form of protein against the virus.

According to the UCSF team, an aerosolized form of nanobody exhibit SARS-CoV-2 incapable of binding to the ACE2 receptor on healthy cells that line airways. The synthetic nanobody stays functional after it was freeze-dried, exposed to heat and aerosolized.

The researchers ongoing screening a library of synthetic nanobodies, ultimately landing on 21 that banned the spike-ACE2 interaction. The scientists decided that in order to be truly efficient, a nanobody based treatment with interact with all three of the receptor binding domains on the spike protein that attaches to ACE2.  Their solution was to engineer a molecular chain that connects three nanobodies together, which would ensure that when one of the nanobodies attached to RBD, the others would link to the two remaining RBD. This molecular chain resulted in a drug candidate proved to be 200,000 times more potent than a single antibody.

At the same time, ExeVir Bio is also developing an aerosolized COVID-19 treatment inspired by llamas and is currently trying to advance its candidate into clinical trials by the end of the year. Their main candidate, VHH-72Fc was considered to bind to an epitope that is found both in SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV. Yet, the llama inspired treatments are still behind antibody efforts like that of Regeneron.

Even though, there are multiple vaccines in development, researchers at UCSF believe that AeroNabs can be used as a sort of personal protective equipment until vaccines become available. The same researchers are planning human trials and are in discussion with partners who can provide manufacturing and distribution backing.

SOURCE

https://www.fiercebiotech.com/research/ucsf-engineers-develop-llama-inspired-aeronabs-to-strangle-covid-19-inhaler

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