By Nancy Lapid
(Reuters) – The following is a summary of some of the latest scientific studies on the new coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
The New York variant does not escape vaccines
Antibodies induced by Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna vaccines and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals’ antibody therapy are capable of neutralizing a variant of the coronavirus on the rise in New York, laboratory experiments show. The New York variant contains mutations, E484K, S477N and D235G, that experts feared could reduce the effectiveness of the antibodies. The new results “show that this potential problem will not be a problem,” said Nathaniel Landau of New York University, who co-authored a report published Wednesday in bioRxiv ahead of peer review. All mutations cause changes in the spike protein that the virus uses to infect cells and are found in the part of the spike protein where antibodies bind. The researchers exposed replicas of the New York variant to the blood of vaccine recipients or to the Regeneron antibody combination used to treat infected patients. The vaccine-induced antibodies were “very effective in binding to the altered spike protein,” Landau said. The Regeneron therapy was also “still a potent blocker” of the virus. “Vaccines are very effective in stopping this highly contagious variant strain of SARS COV2, so it is more important than ever to get vaccinated,” Landau said. (https://bit.ly/3ssmR9u)
Super spreader events bring virus variants to life
Super-spreading events, in which an infected person transmits the virus to many other people, are critical to survival and the prevalence of new variants, the researchers have found. If transmission of the coronavirus only occurs in one person at a time, a new variant is unlikely to become established and will usually disappear in the population by chance, said Daniel Reeves of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. “Even very strong variants can disappear if they are ‘unlucky’ and are not broadcast by chance in a superstore event,” he added. His team’s new mathematical models, published Wednesday on medRxiv ahead of peer review, show that early super spreader events infecting more than five people are critical to the survival of a variant, while super spreader events spreaders that infect more than 20 people are critical to their eventual prevalence. Even a highly infectious new variant generally needs a super spreader event to help it outperform a current variant, Reeves explained. The findings provide yet another reason to focus on preventing large super spreader events by banning large gatherings indoors, focusing on adequate indoor ventilation, and demanding the highest quality masks (K95 or N95) when group exposures are unavoidable. the researchers concluded. (https://bit.ly/39fZ4C7)
The coronavirus can infect the tissues of the mouth and spread the infection
The new coronavirus can infect the salivary glands, which can then play a role in transmitting the virus to the lungs or digestive tract through saliva, according to a report published Thursday in Nature Medicine. The researchers first studied the buccal cells of healthy volunteers, looking for two proteins that the coronavirus uses as inputs. Cells in the salivary glands and gums express both proteins, making them vulnerable to infection. The researchers then discovered genetic material for the virus in the mouth tissues of COVID-19 patients, indicating an infection. They also found evidence that the virus was replicating in some of these cells. Among the 27 volunteers with mild COVID-19, those with viruses in their saliva were more likely to report loss of taste and smell, suggesting that infected salivary glands could help explain some oral symptoms of COVID-19, the researchers said. researchers. “The study findings suggest that the mouth, via infected oral cells, plays a more important role in SARS-CoV-2 infection than previously thought,” study co-author Kevin Byrd said in a statement. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “When infected saliva is ingested or small particles are inhaled, we believe it can potentially transmit SARS-CoV-2” further into the body “(https://go.nature.com/3spbFdQ).
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(Reporting by Nancy Lapid; Editing by Bill Berkrot)