Cases on the Rise in All 50 States
This week marks the first time in months that all 50 states are seeing a rise in cases, with more than 30 states seeing at least a 50% increase over the previous week. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 57% of the U.S. population 12 years and older is currently fully vaccinated and 62% have received at least one dose. Experts say the high transmissibility of the dominant delta variant compounded with vaccine hesitancy is fueling the rise in cases. Majority of hospitalizations and deaths have been of unvaccinated individuals. Unfortunately, vaccination rates have plummeted. On July 15, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy released a 22-page advisory report — the first he has published since taking office — noting misinformation claims has undermined the pandemic response efforts. In addition, the report outlines action that various entities can take to combat the crisis. One jurisdiction, Los Angeles county, has already reinstated indoor mask mandate amid surge — with other states monitoring their caseload to evaluate if reversing back to a pre-vaccinated pandemic model will be needed.
COVID vaccine for Children Under 12 Expected Later This Year
An official from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated this week they expect emergency use authorization (EUA) for at least one of the mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines to come sometime in September for children 5 to 11 years old, with another authorization for ages 2 to 5 soon after.
Discovering Antivirals is Far From Easy
Stopping SARS-CoV-2 infection before it progresses to severe disease has been one of the goals of medical research since early 2020. Numerous studies were promptly launched exploring the possibility of “repurposing” pre-existing drugs to combat the new virus. One class of such drugs, described chemically as “cationic amphiphilic drugs” (CADs), looked particularly promising. For example, these would-be anti-SARS-CoV-2 medicines may have “killed” infected cells in a petri dish. However, they failed to demonstrate beneficial effects when given to human participants in clinical trials. A newly published investigation of molecular and biochemical mechanisms revealed that CADs are injurious to human cells, not to the virus. As a result, these drugs did not prevent viral replication in infected persons and, moreover, were potentially toxic. Researchers hope that these new findings will allow future studies to zero in on more effective treatments earlier in the process.
NH NIAID Program for Antivirals
The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is leading the Antiviral Program for Pandemics (APP) to stimulate discovery and development of oral or intranasal antiviral medicines that could reduce viral burden early in the infection. The program targets SARS-CoV-2 and other RNA viruses with pandemic potential.
Post-COVID Effects Detected by Wearable Technologies
A study of data from digital wearable technologies indicate that COVID-19 survivors experience long-term adverse health effects, most notably altered heartbeat patterns. It took, on average, more than two months for the health indicators to return to normal readings post COVID-19 infection.
Cardiovascular Manifestations of COVID-19
A SARS-CoV-2 infection may affect a number of different organs and systems, including respiratory, neurological, gastrointestinal and others. Next to lung damage, cardiovascular impacts are among the most worrisome and far-reaching effects, influencing all organs that depend on a healthy blood supply for proper functioning. A new review of cardiovascular effects due to COVID-19 is a helpful resource for clinicians and researchers. After recovering from acute COVID-19, patients often continue to experience cardiovascular problems, as explained in two other recent reviews.
Severity of COVID-19 Infection May Have a Genetic Component
One of the distinguishing features of SARS-CoV-2 infection is a wide range of individual responses, with most humans experiencing hardly any symptoms at all and others perishing within a couple of weeks of getting infected. This complexity must be understood at a mechanistic level because it might give clues to the development of effective treatments, as well as help with containment measures, since it is the transmission by asymptomatic individuals that turned COVID-19 into a global pandemic.
A recent study suggests that some host gene combinations might be associated with the incidence of severe COVID-19. The viral genes (and therefore viral proteins) play a role, too. A variety of additional risk factors for severe COVID-19 are reviewed in a recent webcast hosted by FDA
Some questions remain unanswered, and intense research continues. The dynamic interplay between human biology and behavior, as well as viral biology and evolution, leads to the changing picture of the current pandemic and influences projections and planning for the near and longer-term future.
SARS-CoV-2 Transmission Factors in Work or Home Environment
An epidemiological study of individuals in the US and UK concluded that among factors facilitating transmission of SARS-CoV-2 at home or at work, transportation is the most significant one. The authors recommend that preventive measures focus more on transport-related aspects of public life.
The 20-Year Journey to mRNA Platforms
In this 80-minute presentation, two pioneers of early mRNA research tell their story of discovery, search and development. Their presentation illustrates how the disparate research streams and serendipitously timely innovations in analytical techniques combined to lay the foundation of our current knowledge base related to mRNAs, unlocking mRNA’s medicinal potential when the world needed it most. The passion, hard work and perseverance of individual scientists —and even some “luck” and “pluck” — played a big role, proving to be essential ingredients for creating world-changing, life-saving products.
That story is complemented by an article about the contribution of other scientists from academic institutions and government research-funding agencies.
Summer School is in Session!
A fun yet scientifically accurate lecture about COVID-19 vaccines — their development, structure and mechanism of action — is a convenient way to understand key concepts and to learn how to interpret vaccine-related publications and press releases.