mRNA Vaccine to Prevent Colorectal Cancer Recurrence

The COVID-19 vaccines mark the first widespread use of mRNA technology. They work by using synthetic genetic code to instruct the patient’s cells to recognize the coronavirus and activate the immune system against the virus. But researchers began exploring how to use mRNA vaccines as a new way to treat cancer long before this technology was used against the coronavirus.

A B-cell displaying antibodies created in response to foreign protein fragments produced from a personalized mRNA vaccine recognizes a colorectal cancer cell and signals killer T-cells to destroy it

We’ve known about this technology for a long time, well before COVID-19,” says Van Morris, M.D. Here, he explains how mRNA vaccines work and how a team of MD Anderson colorectal cancer experts led by Scott Kopetz, M.D., Ph.D., are testing the technology in a Phase II clinical trial, following high-risk patients with stage II or stage III colorectal cancer who test positive for circulating tumor DNA after surgery.

The presence of circulating tumor DNA is checked with a blood test. “If there is ctDNA present, it can mean that a patient is at higher risk for the cancer coming back,” Morris says. The opposite can also be true: if there is not circulating tumor DNA present, the patient may have a lower risk of recurrence, he adds.

In the Phase II clinical trial, enrolled patients start chemotherapy after the tumor is surgically removed. Tissue from the tumor is sent off to a specialized lab, where it’s tested to look for genetic mutations that fuel the cancer’s growth. Morris explains anywhere from five to 20 mutations specific to that patient’s tumor can be identified during testing. The mutations are then prioritized by the most common to the least common, and an mRNA vaccine is created based on that ranking. “Each patient on the trial receives a personalized mRNA vaccine based on their individual mutation test results from their tumor.

As with the COVID-19 vaccines, the mRNA instructs the patient’s cells to produce protein fragments based off tumor’s genetic mutations identified during testing. The immune system then searches for other cells with the mutated proteins and clears out any remaining circulating tumor cells.We’re hopeful that with the personalized vaccine, we’re priming the immune system to go after the residual tumor cells, clear them out and cure the patient,” says Morris.

Source: https://www.mdanderson.org/

Holistic Immune Response Against Covid-19

Researchers say it’s the first real look at exactly what types of “red flags” the human body uses to enlist the help of T cells—killers the immune system sends out to destroy infected cells. Until now, COVID vaccines have focused on activating a different type of immune cell, B cells, which are responsible for creating antibodies. Developing vaccines to activate the other arm of the immune system—the T cells—could dramatically increase immunity against coronavirus, and importantly, its variants.

As reported in the journal Cell, the researchers say current vaccines might lack some important bits of viral material capable of triggering a holistic immune response in the human body.

Companies should reevaluate their vaccine designs,” says Mohsan Saeed, a virologist at Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) and co-corresponding author of the paper.

Saeed, an assistant professor of biochemistry at the School of Medicine, performed experiments on human cells infected with coronavirus. He isolated and identified those missing pieces of SARS-CoV-2 proteins inside one of the NEIDL’s Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) labs.

This was a big undertaking because many research techniques are difficult to adapt for high containment levels [such as BSL-3],” Saeed says. “The overall coronavirus research pipeline we’ve created at the NEIDL, and the support of our entire NEIDL team, has helped us along the way.”

Saeed got involved when computational geneticists Pardis Sabeti and Shira Weingarten-Gabbay contacted him. They hoped to identify fragments of SARS-CoV-2 that activate the immune system’s T cells.

The emergence of viral variants, an active area of research in my lab, is a major concern for vaccine development,” says Sabeti, a leader in the Broad Institute’s Infectious Disease and Microbiome Program. She is also a Harvard University professor of systems biology.

We swung into full action right away because my laboratory had [already] generated human cell lines that could be readily infected with SARS-CoV-2,” Saeed says. The group’s efforts were spearheaded by two members of the Saeed lab: Da-Yuan Chen, a postdoctoral associate, and Hasahn Conway, a lab technician.

Source:  https://www.futurity.org/

Indian Antiviral Receives Emergency Authorisation for COVID-19 Treatment

Zydus Cadila said that its antiviral Virafin has been given emergency use authorisation by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) for treatment against coronavirus. The pharma company said that a single dose of the antiviral administered subcutaneously early on shows significant clinical and virological improvement in patients with moderate coronavirus. It stated that 91.15 per cent of patients who were treated with the antiviral were RT-PCR negative by Day 7. The treatment also reduces hours of supplemental oxygen in patients.

The company said that when administered early on during COVID-19, the Pegylated Interferon alpha-2b (PegIFN) Virafin will help patients recover faster and avoid many complications. The antiviral will be available on the prescription of medical specialists for use in hospital/institutional setups. A multicentric trial was conducted in 20-25 centres across the nation that showed that with Virafin, patients required less supplemental oxygen. The company said that the trials indicate that the antiviral is able to control respiratory distress and failure that has been one of the biggest challenges in treating coronavirus. The drug also showed efficacy against other viral infections.

The fact that we are able to offer a therapy which significantly reduces viral load when given early on can help in better disease management. It comes at a much-needed time for patients and we will continue to provide them access to critical therapies in this battle against COVID-19,“, said Dr. Sharvil Patel, Managing Director, Cadila Healthcare.

During the Phase III clinical trials, patients administered with the drug were RT-PCR negative by Day 7. “The drug ensures faster viral clearance and has several add-on advantages compared to other antiviral agents,” said the company.

Source: https://www.businesstoday.in/

COVID-19 Can Cause Antibodies that Mistakenly Target your Own Tissues

An increasing body of research is pointing toward the possibility that COVID-19 causes the development of autoantibodies linked to other autoimmune diseases — and may be tied to the long-hauler symptoms associated with coronavirus.

In the latest preprint study (which means it has not yet undergone peer review) researchers analyzed the levels of 18 different autoantibodies between four groups:

  • 29 unexposed pre-pandemic individuals from the general population
  • 20 individuals hospitalized with moderate-to-severe COVID-19
  • 9 recovering COVID-19-infected individuals with asymptomatic to mild viral symptoms during the acute phase, with samples collected between 1.8 and 7.3 months after infection
  • 6 unexposed pre-pandemic subjects with lupus (an autoimmune disease that involves different kinds of autoantibodies)
  • Autoantibodies are antibodies that mistakenly target your own tissues or organs and are associated with diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Unsurprisingly, the researchers found that autoantibodies were detected in five out of the six lupus subjects, compared to just 11 of 29 non-lupus, pre-pandemic controls.

However, the researchers also found that autoantibodies were detected in seven out of nine patients recovering from SARS-CoV-2 and in 12 out of the 20 hospitalized individuals with moderate to severe COVID-19. In the first group, autoantibodies were detected in all patients with reported persistent symptoms and two of the four without any long-term symptoms.

The autoantibodies that set SARS-CoV-2  infected patients apart from the pre-pandemic subjects are widely associated with myopathies (neuromuscular disorders), vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels), and antiphospholipid syndromes (when your body creates antibodies that make your blood much more likely to clot), all of which are conditions that share some similarities with COVID-19. The researchers note that these results underscore the importance of further investigating autoimmunity during a COVID-19 infection, and the role of autoimmunity in lingering symptoms. That said, they do urge caution in interpreting the results, which still need to undergo peer review.

It’s a signal; it is not definitive,” lead researcher Nahid Bhadelia, MD, told the New York Times. We don’t know how prevalent it is, and whether or not it can be linked to long COVID.” (Long COVID is sometimes used to describe the syndrome that causes long-hauler symptoms in those who have recovered from COVID-19.)

Still, as many as one-third of COVID-19 survivors say they still experience symptoms — and determining the role autoimmunity may play after coronavirus infection is critical.

This is a real phenomenon,” Dr. Bhadelia said. “We’re looking at a second pandemic of people with ongoing potential disability who may not be able to return to work, and that’s a huge impact on the health symptoms.”

Source: https://creakyjoints.org/
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https://www.medrxiv.org/

A Third of COVID Survivors Suffer Mental or Neurological Problems

A third of coronavirus patients were found to suffer from psychiatric or brain problems within six months of their COVID-19 diagnosis, according to a study published recently.

Researchers analyzed the health records of 236,379 COVID patients, mostly from the US, and found that 34 percent had been diagnosed with neurological or psychiatric disorders six months on.

About one in eight of the patients, or 12.8 percent, were diagnosed for the first time with such an illness, the study showed.

Anxiety, at 17 percent, and depression or mood disorders, at 14 percent, were the most common diagnoses, according to the research.

Instances of post-COVID cases of stroke, dementia and other neurological disorders were rarer, but still significant — especially in people who had been seriously ill with the virus, the scientists said.

https://www.thelancet.com/

Summer Sunlight Could Inactivate 90% of Coronavirus Particles in 30 minutes

A team of scientists is calling for greater research into how sunlight inactivates SARS-CoV-2 after realizing there’s a glaring discrepancy between the most recent theory and experimental results. UC Santa Barbara mechanical engineer Paolo Luzzatto-Fegiz and colleagues noticed the virus was inactivated as much as eight times faster in experiments than the most recent theoretical model predicted.

The theory assumes that inactivation works by having UVB hit the RNA of the virus, damaging it,” explained Luzzatto-Fegiz.

But the discrepancy suggests there’s something more going on than that, and figuring out what this is may be helpful for managing the virus.

UV light, or the ultraviolet part of the spectrum, is easily absorbed by certain nucleic acid bases in DNA and RNA, which can cause them to bond in ways that are hard to fix.

But not all UV light is the sameLonger UV waves, called UVA, don’t have quite enough energy to cause problems. It’s the mid-range UVB waves in sunlight that are primarily responsible for killing microbes and putting our own cells at risk of Sun damage.

Short-wave UVC radiation has been shown to be effective against viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, even while it’s still safely enveloped in human fluids.

But this type of UV doesn’t usually come into contact with Earth’s surface, thanks to the ozone layer.

UVC is great for hospitals,” said co-author and Oregon State University toxicologist Julie McMurry. “But in other environments – for instance, kitchens or subways – UVC would interact with the particulates to produce harmful ozone.”

In July 2020, an experimental study tested the effects of UV light on SARS-CoV-2 in simulated saliva. They recorded the virus was inactivated when exposed to simulated sunlight for between 10-20 minutes.

Natural sunlight may be effective as a disinfectant for contaminated nonporous materials,” Wood and colleagues concluded in the paper.

Luzzatto-Feigiz and team compared those results with a theory about how sunlight achieved this, which was published just a month later, and saw the math didn’t add up. his study found the SARS-CoV-2 virus was three times more sensitive to the UV in sunlight than influenza A, with 90 percent of the coronavirus‘s particles being inactivated after just half an hour of exposure to midday sunlight in summer.

By comparison, in winter light infectious particles could remain intact for days.

Source: https://www.news.ucsb.edu/
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https://www.sciencealert.com/

COVID-19: Single vaccine jab linked to 85% and 94% drop in risk of coronavirus hospital admissions

The COVID-19  vaccines being used in the UK could reduce a person’s risk of being admitted to hospital by as much as 94% four weeks after the first dose, new data suggests. Experts examined coronavirus hospital admissions in Scotland among people who have had their first jab and compared them to those who had not yet received a vaccine.

Four weeks after receiving the initial dose, the Oxford/Astrazeneca  jab appeared to reduce a person’s risk of hospital admission by 94%. Those who received the Pfizer jab had a reduction in risk of 85% between 28 and 34 days after the first dose. Data for the two jabs combined showed that among people over the age of 80 – who are at high risk of severe disease – the reduction in risk of hospital admission was 81% four weeks after the first dose.

https://news.sky.com/

The Vaccination against Covid-19 Prevents the Transmission of the Virus

A growing body of evidence suggests that the Covid-19 vaccine can slow the spread of the coronavirus, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday. Whether vaccination can prevent transmission of the virus is “the looming question,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a White House coronavirus response team briefing.

If a person gets infected despite being vaccinated — we refer to that as a ‘breakthrough’ infection — does that person have the capability of transmitting to another person?” “There have been some studies that are pointing in a very favorable direction,” he said, adding that these studies will have to be corroborated by additional research.

Fauci highlighted two recent studies that looked at a person’s viral load — that is, how much virus he or she has in the body — and transmissibility. One study from Spain, published Feb. 2 in The Lancet, found a direct correlation between viral load and transmissibility. The higher the viral load, the greater the transmissibility of the virus.

That’s in line with what years of research on HIV have shown: there’s a direct link between the viral load in someone’s blood and the likelihood that individual will transmit HIV to a sexual partner, Fauci said.

For SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, researchers are focused on how much virus is found the nasopharynx, the upper part of the throat behind the nose that’s reached with a long, skinny swab.

https://www.nbcnews.com/

New Drug Reduces Risk Of Death By 24% For Critically Ill COVID Patients

Patients across the UK who are admitted to intensive care units due to COVID-19 are set to receive new life-saving treatments which can reduce the time spent in hospital by up to 10 days, the government has announced today (Thursday 7 January).

Results from the government-funded REMAP-CAP clinical trial published today showed tocilizumab and sarilumab reduced the relative risk of death by 24%, when administered to patients within 24 hours of entering intensive care.

Most of the data came from when the drugs were administered in addition to a corticosteroid, such as dexamethasone – also discovered through government-backed research through the RECOVERY clinical trial – which is already provided as standard of care to the NHS.

Patients receiving these drugs, typically used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, left intensive care between 7 to 10 days earlier on average. The rollout of these treatments could therefore contribute significantly towards reducing pressures on hospitals over the coming weeks and months.

Source: https://www.gov.uk/

New Variant Of Coronavirus Identified In England

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said at least 60 different local authorities had recorded Covid infections caused by the new variantHe said the World Health Organization had been notified and UK scientists were doing detailed studies.“Nothing to suggest” it caused worse disease or that vaccines would no longer work, he added. Over the last week, there had been sharp, exponential rises in coronavirus infections across London, Kent, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire.

We’ve currently identified over 1,000 cases with this variant predominantly in the South of England although cases have been identified in nearly 60 different local authority areas.“We do not know the extent to which this is because of the new variant but no matter its cause we have to take swift and decisive action which unfortunately is absolutely essential to control this deadly disease while the vaccine is rolled out”, he explained.

England’s Chief Medical Officer Prof Chris Whitty said current coronavirus swab tests would detect the new variant that has been found predominantly in Kent and neighbouring areas in recent weeks. The changes or mutations involve the spike protein of the virus – the part that helps it infect cells, and the target Covid vaccines are designed around.

It is too soon to know exactly what this will do to the behaviour of the virus.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/