Although there is much attention being directed toward SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus at the center of the global pandemic, there are multiple coronaviruses that infect humans.
These seasonal coronavirus infections occur frequently and typically result in a mild, common cold-like illness. The presence of these coronavirus infections in the population has led to the hypothesis that immune cross-reactivity among these related viruses could occur, and potentially offer some protection to SARS-CoV-2. Now, a group of scientists has detected preexisting antibody-driven immunity against SARS-CoV-2 in a small proportion of individuals who were uninfected at the time of sampling.
This work is published in Science in the paper, “Preexisting and de novo humoral immunity to SARS-CoV-2 in humans.”
The four coronaviruses that result in a common cold-like infection when infecting humans are 229E (alpha coronavirus), NL63 (alpha coronavirus), OC43 (beta coronavirus), and HKU1 (beta coronavirus). The other three coronaviruses known to infect humans cause far more serious infections. They are MERS-CoV (the beta coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS), SARS-CoV (the beta coronavirus that causes SARS), and SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
People around the world commonly get infected with human coronaviruses 229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1.
The London-based group of researchers found that 16 out of 302 adults (5.3%) harbored IgG antibodies that were likely generated during previous seasonal “common cold” coronavirus infections, and which cross-reacted with subunit S2 of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein complex.
Researchers from UCLA believe using plasma could promise a significant breakthrough in the fight against the spread of COVID-19.
In Physics of Fluids, by AIP Publishing, modeling conducted in June showed strains of the novel coronavirus on surfaces like metal, leather, and plastic were killed in as little as 30 seconds of treatment with argon-fed, cold atmospheric plasma.
The researchers used an atmospheric pressure plasma jet they built with a 3D printer to spray surfaces that were treated with SARS-CoV-2 cultures. The surfaces included plastic, metal, cardboard, and basketball, football, and baseball leather.
The spray using plasma fed by argon killed all the coronavirus on the six surfaces in less than three minutes, and most of the virus was destroyed after 30 seconds. Additional testing showed the virus was destroyed in similar times on cotton from face masks.
The novel coronavirus can remain infectious on surfaces for several hours. Author Richard E. Wirz said the findings show great potential for the use of plasma in halting the virus’s transmission cycle.
“This is only the beginning,” Wirz said. “We are very confident and have very high expectations for plasma in future work. In the future, a lot of answers for the scientific community will come from plasma.”
Plasma is one of the four basic states of matter and can be created by heating a neutral gas or subjecting it to a strong electromagnetic field. A relatively new technology, cold atmospheric plasma is an ionized, near-room-temperature gas that has proven effective in cancer treatments, wound healing, dentistry, and other medical applications.
The authors ran a similar coronavirus test with helium-fed plasma, but the helium was not effective, even with treatments up to five minutes. The authors believe this was due to lower rates of reactive oxygen and reactive nitrogen when using helium-fed gas, compared to argon.
A variant of the coronavirus that is believed to have originated in Spain has spread across Europe and now accounts for most of the new cases reported in several countries in the region, according to the findings of a new study.
The research, which is due to published on Thursday and has not been peer reviewed, details how an international team of scientists has closely monitored the coronavirus through its genetic mutations.
Each variant of the coronavirus has its own genetic signature, meaning it can be traced back to the place it first emerged.
It says a new variant of the disease, identified as 20A.EU1 by researchers from Switzerland and Spain, was first observed in Spain in June. The new variant has been recorded in Spain at frequencies of above 40% since July, the study said.
Elsewhere, the new variant of the coronavirus has increased from “very low” values prior to July 15 to 40% to 70% in Switzerland, Ireland, and the U.K. in September. It was also found to be prevalent in Norway, Latvia, the Netherlands, and France.
Many COVID-19 survivors are likely to be at greater risk of developing mental illness, psychiatrists said on Monday, after a large study found 20% of those infected with the coronavirus are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder within 90 days.
Anxiety, depression and insomnia were most common among recovered COVID-19 patients in the study who developed mental health problems, and the researchers also found significantly higher risks of dementia, a brain impairment condition.
“People have been worried that COVID-19 survivors will be at greater risk of mental health problems, and our findings … show this to be likely,” said Paul Harrison, a professor of psychiatry at Britain’s Oxford University.
Doctors and scientists around the world urgently need to investigate the causes and identify new treatments for mental illness after COVID-19, Harrison said.
“(Health) services need to be ready to provide care, especially since our results are likely to be underestimates (of the number of psychiatric patients),” he added.
The study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, analyzed electronic health records of 69 million people in the United States, including more than 62,000 cases of COVID-19.
The rest of the world joined the celebration today as Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech announced the encouraging results of their candidate in a press release.
Pfizer says it could seek an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the vaccine from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the next few weeks. But Peter Hotez, a vaccine researcher at Baylor College of Medicine, speaks for many scientists when he says that despite the “apparently good news,” he would keep the champagne corked. “It’s always hard to read the tea leaves of a company press release,” without the underlying data, says Hotez, who is also part of a team making a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. He stresses that whatever happens, the vast majority of the public will not have access to this or any other COVID-19 vaccine for several months. “This is a slowly evolving process,” Hotez says.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” adds Georgetown University’s Jesse Goodman, who was formerly chief scientist at FDA and before that headed its vaccine division. Nothing, for example, is known about how long the immunity triggered by the vaccine will last, whether it can prevent severe COVID-19, and even whether it will slow transmission rates if it’s used widely in a population. It’s unclear how well it works in the elderly, who suffer the most from SARS-CoV-2. The vaccine, based on a simple strand of messenger RNA (mRNA), has to be kept at frigid temperatures below –80°C to preserve the genetic material, and making and delivering it to hundreds of millions—if not billions—of people remain huge challenges.
Siemens Healthineers has launched a rapid and easy-to-use antigen test for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 in the United Kingdom and other CE countries.
The CLINITEST Rapid COVID-19 Antigen Test is a point-of-care cassette test that does not require laboratory instruments or specialised lab personnel to administer, and it delivers results in 15 minutes.
The CE-marked test, which has been developed and tested by a Siemens Healthineers partner demonstrated 96.72 % sensitivity and 99.22 % specificity based on a clinical study of 317 subjects.
The study was performed using operators with varied credentials at six diverse sites including a hospital, a community clinic, a college campus, and an oncology unit.
Siemens Healthineers intends to meet such testing demand as the pandemic evolves. There are also plans to submit the test for FDA Emergency Use Authorisation in the USA.
“There is a great public need for reliable tests that can quickly identify contagious individuals and help to minimise the spread of COVID-19, especially in high-traffic areas and where people commonly congregate,” states Stewart Hutton, Head of Point of Care Diagnostics at Siemens Healthineers GB&I.
“With quality at the forefront of decision-makers’ criteria to determine test reliability, it was critical the clinical study for this test assessed variable clinical conditions that can be expected when implementing a rapid antigen test.
The Microsoft co-founder and medical school dean talked about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on global health, the race for vaccines and therapeutics, and how to renew the faltering trust many Americans feel in science and medicine.
In 2015, on the heels of a frightening Ebola outbreak in Africa, Bill Gates gave a TED talk titled “The next outbreak? We’re not ready.” In it, he outlined ways in which the world was unprepared for a threat entirely different from the one his generation had grown up fearing.
“It’s not missiles; it’s microbes,” he asserted.
On Oct. 21, the Microsoft co-founder recalled that talk when he spoke with Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the School of Medicine, during a StanfordMed LIVE event. They discussed the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on global health, the race for vaccines and therapeutics, and how to renew the faltering trust many Americans feel in science and medicine.
Gates’ wake-up call in 2015 included remarks about the importance of ensuring the availability of antiviral medications, therapeutic antibodies and high-speed diagnostic testing to prepare for a coming pandemic. “Sadly, not that much was done,” he told Minor. “The idea of ‘germ games’ to simulate what governments would need to do to move quickly — that didn’t take place.”
Gates noted that, as a result, the full scope of the COVID-19 crisis dwarfs what he had expected would happen in a pandemic.
“In 2015, I talked about a $3 trillion economic cost,” he said. “In this pandemic, even though the death rate is way lower than it might have been, the economic devastation has been much greater. It will easily get to $10 [trillion] or perhaps even $15 trillion overall over the next two years before we really get completely back to normal.”
A new discovery about how the body transports dexamethasone, a drug that can increase the survival chances of patients with severe COVID-19, suggests diabetes and other factors may reduce its potentially lifesaving effectiveness. Based on their findings, the researchers say doctors may need to rethink how they dose the drug for certain groups of patients.
The team of scientists, based at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, the University of South Carolina, and in Poland, has determined how a protein in our blood called serum albumin picks up dexamethasone and takes it where it is needed. Low serum albumin levels are already considered a major risk factor for severe COVID-19, as is diabetes.
The new research suggests diabetes or low albumin levels may make it difficult for patients to get the benefits of dexamethasone, a corticosteroid that calms the hyperactive immune response that can lead to death in severe COVID-19.
Diabetes is associated with high blood sugar levels, which results in a modification of albumin that may alter the binding site for dexamethasone. Other drugs may also compete with dexamethasone for the limited space in serum albumin’s cargo holds. Albumin’s cargo capacity is also naturally decreased when there is a low albumin level in the blood.
The researchers published their findings in the scientific journal IUCrJ, and the research will be featured on the journal’s cover. The research team consisted of Shabalin, Mateusz P. Czub, Karolina A. Majorek, Brzezinski, Marek Grabowski, David R. Cooper, Mateusz Panasiuk, Maksymilian Chruszcz, and Minor.
How well do the masks work? Do they make it safe to fly across the country for a family visit?
Early in the coronavirus pandemic, air travel looked like a risky endeavor. Some scientists even worried that airplanes could be sites of superspreading events. For example, in March a Vietnamese businesswoman with a sore throat and a cough boarded a flight in London. Ten hours later, she landed in Hanoi, Vietnam; she infected 15 people on the flight, including more than half of the passengers sitting with her in business class.
Then in April, airlines shifted course. Many started requiring passengers to wear masks on planes — and some airlines even enforced the policy. Just on Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it now “strongly recommends” all passengers and crew members wear masks.
So the big question is this: How well do the masks work? Do they make it safe to fly across the country for a family visit?
Scientists are just beginning to answer that question. And their findings offer a glimmer of hope as well as fresh ideas about what’s most important for protecting yourself on a plane.
The new evidence comes largely from Hong Kong, where health officials have been meticulously testing — and tracking — all passengers who land in the city. “They test everybody by PCR on arrival, quarantine them in single rooms for 14 days and then test the passengers again,” says infectious disease doctor David O. Freedman at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. So health officials there know which passengers boarded the plane while already infected with the virus and whether they could have infected anyone else on the plane.
Freedman and his colleague have been analyzing these data, with a specific focus on one airline: Emirates.
“Since April, Emirates has had a very rigid masking policy,” Freedman says. Not only does the airline require passengers and crew members to wear masks, but flight attendants also make sure everyone keeps on their masks, as much as possible, throughout the entire flight.
Freedman looked at all Emirates flights from Dubai to Hong Kong between June 16 and July 5. What he found is quite telling. During those three weeks, Emirates had five flights with seven or more infected passengers on each flight, for a total of 58 coronavirus-positive passengers flying on eight-hour trips. And yet, nobody else on the planes — none of the other 1,500 to 2,000 passengers — picked up the virus, Freedman and his colleague report in the Journal of Travel Medicine.
As scientists around the world race to find a treatment for the coronavirus, a young girl among them stands out.
Anika Chebrolu, a 14-year-old from Frisco, Texas, has just won the 2020 3M Young Scientist Challenge — and a $25,000 prize — for a discovery that could provide a potential therapy to Covid-19.
Anika’s winning invention uses in-silico methodology to discover a lead molecule that can selectively bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
“The last two days, I saw that there is a lot of media hype about my project since it involves the SARS-CoV-2 virus and it reflects our collective hopes to end this pandemic as I, like everyone else, wish that we go back to our normal lives soon,” Anika told CNN.