Ravaged Landscape of COVID-19 Lungs

A revolutionary tool designed to broaden our understanding of human anatomy has for the first time provided scientists with a cellular-level look at lungs damaged by COVID-19. In healthy lungs, the blood vessel system that oxygenates the blood is separate from the system that feeds the lung tissue itself. But in some severe respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia, pressures caused by the infection can lead blood vessels in the heart and lungs to expand and grow, sometimes cutting through the body and forming channels between parts of the pulmonary system that shouldn’t be connected. Similarly, COVID-19 infections can create the same types of abnormal channels. The channels give unoxygenated blood coming into the lungs an alternate exit ramp, allowing it to essentially skip the line and shoot back into the body without picking up any oxygen molecules first. Scientists believed that this could be a cause of the low blood oxygen levels sometimes experienced by COVID-19 patients, a condition known as hypoxemia.

Blood vessel growth is a very controlled process,” said Claire Walsh, a medical engineer at University College London and the first author of the imaging study, published in the journal Nature Methods. “It should be in this lovely tree-like branching structure. And you look at the COVID lungs, and you can just see it’s in these big clumps of really dense vessels all over the place, so that it just looks … wrong.

Walsh’s team, which included clinicians from Germany and France, has procured sharper-than-ever images of these warped structures, thanks to an imaging technique known as HiP-CT, or Hierarchical Phase-Contrast Tomography, which allows them to zoom in on any body part with 100 times the resolution of a traditional CT scan. Although the technique can only be used to capture images of samples removed from a body and preserved in a way that minimizes interference (rather than of organs that are still part of a living person), in pairing it with the world’s brightest X-rays at the European Synchrotron particle accelerator, the researchers hope to build a visual database of not only lungs infected with COVID-19, but other, healthy organs throughout the body.

Source: https://www.insidescience.org/

British Data Suggests Lower Hospitalisation Rate for Omicron Covid-19 Variant

Omicron is associated with a two-thirds reduction in the risk of Covid-19 hospitalisation. The preliminary studies — one paper from Scotland and the other from England — were cautiously welcomed by experts, who nonetheless stressed that any advantage in milder outcomes could still be negated by the new strain’s heightened infectiousness, which may still lead to more overall severe cases.

We’re saying that this is qualified good news — qualified because these are early observations, they are statistically significant, and we are showing a reduced risk of hospitalisations,” Jim McMenamin, a co-author of the Scottish research, told reporters on a call.

The Scottish paper examined Covid cases recorded in November and December, and grouped them by cases caused by Delta against those caused by Omicron. It found that “Omicron is associated with a two-thirds reduction in the risk of Covid-19 hospitalisation when compared to Delta,” while also showing that a booster vaccine offered substantial additional protection against symptomatic infection.

https://www.france24.com/

New copper surface eliminates bacteria in just two minutes

A new surface that kills bacteria more than 100 times faster and more effectively than standard copper could help combat the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. The new copper product is the result of a collaborative research project with RMIT University and Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, with findings just published in Biomaterials. Copper has long been used to fight different strains of bacteria, including the commonly found golden staph, because the ions released from the metal’s surface are toxic to bacterial cells. But this process is slow when standard copper is used, as RMIT University’s Distinguished Professor Ma Qian explained, and significant efforts are underway by researchers worldwide to speed it up.

The copper magnified 500,000 times under a scanning electron microscope shows the tiny nano-scale pores in the structure

A standard copper surface will kill about 97% of golden staph within four hours,” Qian said. “Incredibly, when we placed golden staph bacteria on our specially-designed copper surface, it destroyed more than 99.99% of the cells in just two minutes.” “So not only is it more effective, it’s 120 times faster.” Importantly, said Qian, these results were achieved without the assistance of any drug. “Our copper structure has shown itself to be remarkably potent for such a common material,” he said.

The team believes there could be a huge range of applications for the new material once further developed, including antimicrobial doorhandles and other touch surfaces in schools, hospitals, homes and public transport, as well as filters in antimicrobial respirators or air ventilation systems, and in face masks. The team is now looking to investigate the enhanced copper’s effectiveness against SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, including assessing 3D-printed samples. Other studies suggest copper may be highly effective against the virus, leading the US Environmental Protection Agency to officially approve copper surfaces for antiviral uses earlier this year.

Source: https://www.rmit.edu.au/news/

Pfizer CEO: “Very High Level of Confidence” that the Covid Treatment Pill Is Effective Against the Omicron Variant

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said he expects the company’s Covid-19 treatment pill to be effective against the omicron variant of the virus causes Covid-19.

The good news when it comes to our treatment, it was designed with that in mind, it was designed with the fact that most mutations are coming in the spikes,” Bourla explained.  “So that gives me very high level of confidence that the treatment will not be affected, our oral treatment will not be affected by this virus.”

Pfizer submitted its application earlier this month to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to authorize the pill, Paxlovid, for emergency use. In a clinical trial of people age 18 and over, Pfizer found the pill reduces hospitalization and death by 89% when taken with a widely used HIV drug within three days of the start of symptoms. The pill blocks an enzyme the virus needs to replicate. It is used in combination with HIV drug ritonavir, which slows the human metabolism to allow the Paxlovid to remain active in the body longer at a higher concentration to combat the virus.

https://www.cnbc.com/

Covid: Pfizer Says Antiviral Pill 89% Effective in High-Risk Cases

An experimental pill to treat Covid developed by the US company Pfizer cuts the risk of hospitalisation or death by 89% in vulnerable adults, clinical trial results suggest. The drugPaxlovid – is intended for use soon after symptoms develop in people at high risk of severe diseaseIt comes a day after the UK medicines regulator approved a similar treatment from Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD).

Pfizer says it stopped trials early as the initial results were so positiveThe UK has already ordered 250,000 courses of the new Pfizer treatment, along with another 480,000 courses of MSD‘s molnupiravir pillHealth and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid called the results “incredible”, and said the UK’s medicines regulator would now assess its safety and effectiveness.

If approved, this could be another significant weapon in our armoury to fight the virus alongside our vaccines and other treatments,” he said.

The Pfizer drug, known as a protease inhibitor, is designed to block an enzyme the virus needs in order to multiply. When taken alongside a low dose of another antiviral pill called ritonavir, it stays in the body for longer.

Three pills are taken twice a day for five days.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/

New Vaccine is Targeting All Coronaviruses

Army scientists working on a vaccine to target all coronaviruses, including mutations of the one causing COVID-19 and others that may emerge in the future, are finding data from early human trials promising and expect to publish the results by year-end.

Researchers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research have been working since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic on a pan-coronavirus vaccine and are currently analyzing data from the Phase I clinical trial, which began in April with dozens of volunteers. They are following up with participants to monitor the safety and effectiveness of the new vaccine one month after each received their last dose.

Everything that we have been seeing from early stages of design of our vaccine and testing, in all different animal species, has really just been consistent and predictive of a very good response,” Kayvon Modjarrad, director of Walter Reed’s Emerging Infectious Diseases Branch, said in an interview. “Indications are that we are on that same pathway.”

The Walter Reed vaccine — called SpFN — may eventually be used by people who have already received other COVID-19 vaccines “as a bridge towards providing individuals continued, broad, long-term immunity for SARS-like viruses, whether they be variants that emerge in the future or new species of SARS viruses,” Modjarrad said.

The SpFN vaccine deploys a soccer ball-shaped protein that can target the spikes of multiple coronavirus strains on its different faces.

Source: https://www.bradenton.com/

Nano-Sensor Detects SARS-CoV-2

Using specialized carbon nanotubes, MIT engineers have designed a novel sensor that can detect SARS-CoV-2 without any antibodies, giving a result within minutes. Their new sensor is based on technology that can quickly generate rapid and accurate diagnostics, not just for Covid-19 but for future pandemics, the researchers say.

Using specialized carbon nanotubes, MIT engineers have designed a novel sensor that can detect SARS-CoV-2 without any antibody, giving a result within minutes.

A rapid test means that you can open up travel much earlier in a future pandemic. You can screen people getting off of an airplane and determine whether they should quarantine or not. You could similarly screen people entering their workplace and so forth,” says Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT and the senior author of the study. “We do not yet have technology that can develop and deploy such sensors fast enough to prevent economic loss.”

The diagnostic is based on carbon nanotube sensor technology that Strano’s lab has previously developed. Once the researchers began working on a Covid-19 sensor, it took them just 10 days to identify a modified carbon nanotube capable of selectively detecting the viral proteins they were looking for, and then test it and incorporate it into a working prototype. This approach also eliminates the need for antibodies or other reagents that are time-consuming to generate, purify, and make widely available.

Several years ago, Strano’s lab developed a novel approach to designing sensors for a variety of molecules. Their technique relies on carbon nanotubeshollow, nanometer-thick cylinders made of carbon that naturally fluoresce when exposed to laser light. They have shown that by wrapping such tubes in different polymers, they can create sensors that respond to specific target molecules by chemically recognizing them.

Their approach, known as Corona Phase Molecular Recognition (CoPhMoRe), takes advantage of a phenomenon that occurs when certain types of polymers bind to a nanoparticle. Known as amphiphilic polymers, these molecules have hydrophobic regions that latch onto the tubes like anchors and hydrophilic regions that form a series of loops extending away from the tubes.

MIT postdoc Sooyeon Cho and graduate student Xiaojia Jin are the lead authors of the paper, which appears today in Analytical Chemistry. Other authors include MIT graduate students Sungyun Yang and Jianqiao Cui, and postdoc Xun Gong.

Source: https://news.mit.edu/

COVID: Valneva Reports Positive Results for their Phase3 Vaccine

French-Austrian laboratory Valneva announced their Covid candidate vaccine – currently completing phase 3 of clinical trial – showed “positive ropline results“.

The trial met its co-primary endpoints“, the press release reads while specifying the vaccine “demonstrated superiority against AZD1222 (AstraZeneca), in terms of geometric mean titer for neutralization antibodies, as well as non-inferiority in terms of seroconversion rates (SCR above 95% in both treatment groups) at two weeks after the second vaccination (i.e. Day 43) in adults aged 30 years and older.

The phase 3 of the trial has been performed in 4,012 people aged 18+ and the vaccine has been “generally well tolerated“: “The tolerability profile of VLA2001 was significantly more favorable compared to the active comparator vaccine.”

For the record, the vaccine relies on the inactivated virus” technology, the standard form of vaccines so far, like products developed by Sinovac and Sinopharm. “This is a much more traditional approach to vaccine manufacture than the vaccines so far deployed in the UK, Europe and North America and these results suggest this vaccine candidate is on track to play an important role in overcoming the pandemicAdam Finn, Professor of Paediatrics, University of Bristol, Trial Chief Investigator, said.

This new vaccine could be licensuredas quickly as possible” to “propose an alternative vaccine solution for people who have not yet been vaccinated“, Thomas Lingelbach, Chief Executive Officer of Valneva, said. Furthermore, the laboratory announced they have “commenced rolling submission for initial approval with the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency” as well as “preparing to commence rolling submission for conditional approval with the European Medicines Agency“.

Source: https://valneva.com/

The Drugmaker Merck Says Its Antiviral Pill Is Effective Against Coronavirus

The drug maker says its pill was shown in a clinical trial to cut the risk of hospitalization or death from the virus in half. Australia is accelerating plans to ease international travel restrictions for its citizens and permanent residents.

The drug maker Merck said on Friday that it would seek authorization for the first antiviral pill for Covid after its drug, known as molnupiravir, was shown in a clinical trial to cut the risk of hospitalization or death in half when given to high-risk people early in their infections.

The treatment could become the first in a wave of antiviral pill products, which experts say could offer a powerful new tool in efforts to tame the pandemic, as they could reach more people than the antibody treatments that are being widely used in the United States for similar patients.

I think it will translate into many thousands of lives being saved worldwide, where there’s less access to monoclonal antibodies, and in this country, too,” said Dr. Robert Shafer, an infectious disease specialist and expert on antiviral therapy at Stanford University.

Late-stage study results of two other antiviral pills, one developed by Pfizer and the other by Atea Pharmaceuticals and Roche, are expected within the next few months.

The Merck drug, which is designed to stop the coronavirus from replicating, is to be taken as four capsules twice a day for five days.

Merck said an independent board of experts monitoring its study data had recommended that its trial be stopped early because the drug’s benefit to patients had proved so convincing. The company said that the Food and Drug Administration had agreed with that decision.

For the research, the monitors looked at data through early August, when the study had enrolled 775 volunteers in the United States and overseas. For volunteers who received the drug, their risk of being hospitalized or dying fell 50 percent, without any concerning side effects, compared with those who received placebo pills, Merck said in a news release announcing the findings.

Seven percent of volunteers in the group that received the drug were hospitalized, and none of them died, compared with a 14 percent rate of hospitalization and death — including eight deaths — in the group that received the placebo.

The Merck pill’s efficacy was lower than that of monoclonal antibody treatments, which mimic antibodies that the immune system generates naturally when fighting the virus. Those drugs have been in high demand recently, but they are expensive, are typically given intravenously, and have proved cumbersome and labor-intensive for hospitals and clinics to administer. Studies have shown that they reduce hospitalizations and deaths 70 to 85 percent in similar high-risk Covid patients.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/

World’s First COVID-19 DNA Vaccine

 India‘s drug regulator has granted emergency use approval for Zydus Cadila‘s COVID-19 vaccine, the world’s first DNA shot against the coronavirus, in adults and children aged 12 years and above. The approval gives a boost to India’s vaccination programme, which aims to inoculate all eligible adults by December, and will provide the first shot for those under 18, as the country still struggles to contain the virus spread in some states. The vaccine, ZyCoV-D, uses a section of genetic material from the virus that gives instructions as either DNA or RNA to make the specific protein that the immune system recognises and responds to. Unlike most COVID-19 vaccines, which need two doses or even a single dose, ZyCoV-D is administered in three doses.

The generic drugmaker, listed as Cadila Healthcare Ltd, aims to make 100 million to 120 million doses of ZyCoV-D annually and has already begun stockpiling the vaccineZydus Cadila‘s vaccine, developed in partnership with the Department of Biotechnology, is the second home-grown shot to get emergency authorization in India after Bharat Biotech‘s Covaxin. The drugmaker said in July its COVID-19 vaccine was effective against the new coronavirus mutants, especially the Delta variant, and that the shot is administered using a needle-free applicator as opposed to traditional syringes. The regulatory nod makes ZyCoV-D the sixth vaccine authorized for use in the country where only about 9.18% of the entire population has been fully vaccinated so far, according to Johns Hopkins data.

The firm had applied for the authorization of ZyCoV-D on July 1, based on an efficacy rate of 66.6% in a late-stage trial of over 28,000 volunteers nationwide.

https://www.reuters.com/