Archive for the ‘immunity’ Category

Trump advisor reportedly wants to let COVID-19 spread, repeat Sweden’s mistakes

August 31st, 2020
A serious man in a business suit sits with his hands folded in his lap.

Enlarge / Member of the coronavirus task force Scott Atlas listens to US President Donald Trump during a briefing at the White House August 10, 2020, in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty | BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI )

A new advisor to President Donald Trump is reportedly advocating that the pandemic coronavirus spread largely unrestrained so that the United States can reach “herd immunity”—an idea that infectious disease experts call “absolutely absurd,” “simply wrong,” and a strategy that actually amounts to the absence of a strategy, which could leave hundreds of thousands of more Americans dead.

Still, according to reporting by The Washington Post, the idea is being pushed by Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist from Stanford’s conservative Hoover Institution, who began advising Trump in August. In his short tenure so far, Professor Atlas has repeatedly made statements contrary to scientific evidence, such as saying that children do not spread the virus.

Officials say Atlas was recruited to the advisory role counter the advice of Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, and Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator. One senior administration official said Atlas, who has no background in infectious diseases, sees himself as the “anti-Dr. Fauci.”

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Posted in COVID-19, herd immunity, immunity, Infectious disease, public health, science, scott atlas, sweden, Trump, WHO | Comments (0)

Hint of COVID-19 immunity: 3 sailors with antibodies spared in outbreak at sea

August 22nd, 2020
Fishing vessels in Seattle.

Enlarge / Fishing vessels in Seattle. (credit: Getty | Art Seitz)

Hints of protective immunity against the pandemic coronavirus have surfaced in the wake of a recent COVID-19 outbreak that flooded the crew of a fishing vessel.

The coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, infected 104 of the 122 people on board, about 85 percent, during a short voyage. But trawling through data collected before and after the ship set sail, researchers noted that the 18 spared from infection just happened to include the only three people on board that had potent, pre-existing immune responses against SARS-CoV-2. Specifically, the three sailors were the only ones found to have SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies, which are proteins that circulate in the blood and completely sink the infectious virus.

The numbers are small and the finding is not definitive. Additionally, the study appeared this month on a pre-print server, meaning it has not been published by a scientific journal or gone through peer review. Still, experts say the study was well done and significant for netting data that hint that potent, pre-existing immune responses from a past infection can indeed protect someone from catching the virus again.

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Posted in antibodies, coronavirus, COVID-19, fishing, immunity, neutralizing antibodies, outbreak, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science | Comments (0)

Meet the 4 frontrunners in the COVID-19 vaccine race

July 23rd, 2020
A volunteer receives an injection from a medical worker during the country's first human clinical trial for a potential vaccine against COVID-19 at the Baragwanath Hospital on June 28, 2020 in Soweto, South Africa. It is reported that Africa's first COVID-19 vaccine trial began on June 24 in South Africa. The vaccine, developed by Oxford University's (UK) Jenner Institute, will inoculate 2,000 South Africans.

Enlarge / A volunteer receives an injection from a medical worker during the country's first human clinical trial for a potential vaccine against COVID-19 at the Baragwanath Hospital on June 28, 2020 in Soweto, South Africa. It is reported that Africa's first COVID-19 vaccine trial began on June 24 in South Africa. The vaccine, developed by Oxford University's (UK) Jenner Institute, will inoculate 2,000 South Africans. (credit: Getty | Felix Dlangamandla)

Researchers have now reported data from early (and small) clinical trials of four candidate COVID-19 vaccines.

So far, the data is positive. The vaccines appear to be generally safe, and they spur immune responses against the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. But whether these immune responses are enough to protect people from infection and disease remains an important unknown.

The four candidates are now headed to larger trials—phase III trials—that will put them to the ultimate test: can they protect people from COVID-19 and end this pandemic?

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Posted in antibodieis, Astrazeneca, cansino, china, COVID-19, Features, immune system, immune system response, immunity, immunology, moderna, mRNA, Pfizer, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science, vaccines | Comments (0)

CDC finds lots of undetected coronavirus cases in the US

July 22nd, 2020
Image of a person processing biological samples.

Enlarge / A nurse at the Miami Beach Convention Center Community Based Testing Site conducts a COVID-19 antibody test. The Florida Guard is providing support at the Miami Beach hybrid CBTS and Hard Rock Stadium CBTS to allow the state and local partners to conduct antibody testing for first responders at both facilities. (US Army photo by Sgt. Leia Tascarini) (credit: Army Sgt. Leia Tascarini)

It's been clear from quite early in the COVID-19 pandemic that a substantial number of people who get infected by SARS-CoV-2 don't experience significant symptoms. This simple fact has enormous public health consequences, as these asymptomatic individuals can still pass the infection on to others. That means that even if we were able to get everyone with symptoms to self-isolate, we may still be unable to check the spread of the pandemic. It also makes it much harder to find out the true spread of the virus, since many people won't bother to get tested if they aren't feeling unwell.

Most of the data on the spread of the pandemic within the US comes from tests that pick up the presence of the virus' genome, which indicates the presence of an active infection. But you have to catch the person while the infection is happening for this to work. The alternative is to look for an indication of a past infection: the presence of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. While the immune response to the virus is complex and isn't present immediately after an infection, most people have at least some antibodies a few weeks after the virus is cleared.

This allows widespread antibody testing to provide a clearer picture of the virus' past spread through a population. On Tuesday, the CDC started releasing lots of data from past antibody testing. While it was from a period where the virus was relatively rare in the US, the data provides a sharp contrast to the RNA-based tests from the same time, showing that lots of infections have gone undetected.

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Posted in antibodies, Biology, CDC, COVID-19, immunity, immunology, medicine, pandemic, SARS-CoV-2, science | Comments (0)

China moves forward with COVID-19 vaccine, approving it for use in military

June 30th, 2020
Chinese President Xi Jinping learns about the progress on a COVID-19 vaccine during his visit to the Academy of Military Medical Sciences in Beijing on March 2, 2020.

Enlarge / Chinese President Xi Jinping learns about the progress on a COVID-19 vaccine during his visit to the Academy of Military Medical Sciences in Beijing on March 2, 2020. (credit: Getty | Xinhua News Agency)

China has approved an experimental COVID-19 vaccine for use in its military after early clinical trial data suggested it was safe and spurred immune responses—but before larger trials that will test whether the vaccine can protect against SARS-CoV-2 infections.

China’s approval marks the first time any country has approved a candidate vaccine for military use. The country’s Central Military Commission, made the approval June 25, which will last for a year, according to a filing reported by Reuters.

The vaccine, developed by biotech company CanSino Biologics and the Chinese military, is a type of viral vector-based vaccine That is, researchers started with a viral vector, in this case a common strain of adenovirus (type-5), which typically causes mild upper respiratory infections. The researchers crippled the virus so that it doesn’t replicate in human cells and cause disease. Then, they engineered it to carry a signature feature of SARS-CoV-2—the coronavirus’ infamous spike protein, which juts out from the viral particle and allows the virus to get a hold on human cells.

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Posted in adenovirus, antibody, cansino, china, coronavirus, COVID-19, immune response, immunity, SARS-CoV-2, science, vaccine, vector | Comments (0)

Immunity to COVID-19 may wane just 2-3 months after infection, study suggests

June 19th, 2020
WUHAN, CHINA: The medical detection of antibodies for fresh graduates in Huazhong University of science and technology on June 11. 2020 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

Enlarge / WUHAN, CHINA: The medical detection of antibodies for fresh graduates in Huazhong University of science and technology on June 11. 2020 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. (credit: Getty | Stringer)

Protective immune responses that build up during a SARS-CoV-2 infection may weaken just two to three months later—particularly if the infection didn’t come with any symptoms, a new study suggests.

The finding does not necessarily mean that people will no longer be immune to the novel coronavirus after a few months. The lower levels of the immune responses measured in the study may still be enough to thwart the virus, and there are other types of immune responses not examined in the study that play a role in immunity. Overall, there are still many unknowns about potential immunity to SAR-CoV-2 infections, including who is most protected and how long that protection may last.

But the authors of the new study say that their findings are enough to raise more concerns about the potential use of so-called “immunity passports"—documents indicating someone is immune based on past infection. The authors—a team of researchers in Chongqing, China—also suggest that their findings support the continued use of physical distancing and other prevention efforts until we have a clearer understanding of immunity.

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Posted in antibody, coroanvirus, COVID-19, immune response, immunity, inflammation, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science | Comments (0)

Researchers say those recovered from SARS-CoV-2 can be a societal shield

May 14th, 2020
Image of medical samples.

Enlarge / View of blood collection tubes in a rack awaiting SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing. (credit: Getty Images / Barcroft Media)

While many societies remain locked down in various forms of isolation and social distancing, there's a growing population for whom these measures may be irrelevant: those who have had a SARS-CoV-2 infection and cleared it. While we haven't yet ascertained these people's susceptibility to repeated infections, many clearly have antibodies to the virus, and we're finding that some antibodies seem to neutralize the virus. So, there's a reasonable chance that it's safe for these individuals to circulate more widely within the population.

A group of researchers largely based at Georgia Tech have looked at whether this population might be helpful for limiting further infections. The researchers used an epidemiological model to test what would happen if we started placing the formerly infected individuals in the key jobs that we've deemed essential for society to function during social isolation. The results suggest that this "shield immunity" is somewhat effective on its own and significantly enhances the impact of social isolation.

Lots of caveats

As of right now, there are a number of things we don't know about the progression of a viral infection that will be essential for this to work. One is how long it takes for the person to stop being infectious and how that relates to our ability to detect viral RNA in samples from these individuals.

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Posted in epidemiology, immunity, SARS-CoV-2, science | Comments (0)

Here’s how measles wipes out the immune system’s memory

November 6th, 2019
A child with measles.

Enlarge / A child with measles. (credit: Greene, Charles Lyman)

As every parent knows, kids spend their early years exploring the world with their mouths, gumming every germ-riddled object within reach and sampling their ever-sticky fingers. If left to their own devices, it seems likely they would taste-test door knobs and lick the floors of public bathrooms.

However horrifying, their slobbery ways have an upside—building up immune defenses. Their daily buffet of germs provides their immune systems with thorough intel on countless microscopic enemies. The dirt on the germs is enough to train immune cells to produce Y-shaped blood proteins called antibodies that can detect individual foes based on unique molecular patterns. From there, armies of antibodies act like security guards, surveilling the body for specific, pre-identified threats. Any time they recognize an invader, they can sound the alarm and lead a strike.

Thus, the drool-based defense system arms kids with a bulwark against a wide range of bugs that commonly float around daycares, schools, and beyond. Of course, for some particularly nasty diseases, vaccines do the work of a grimy mitt—safely. They prime the immune system to make antibodies that lead to longstanding protection, sans severe infections.

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Posted in antibodies, biology - immunology, immune cells, immunity, immunology, Infectious disease, measles, science, vaccines, virus | Comments (0)