Coronavirus Briefing Newsletter – Times of India


THE COUNT
  • India on Sunday reported 492 new Covid cases and four fatalities. The cumulative caseload is 4,46,69,015 (6,489 active cases) and 5,30,574 fatalities
  • Worldwide: Over 637 million cases and over 6.6 million fatalities.
  • Vaccination in India: Over 2.1 billion doses. Worldwide: Over 12.8 billion doses.
TODAY’S TAKE
‘Covid could reactivate latent viruses in body’
‘Covid could reactivate latent viruses in body’
Covid-19 can reactivate several latent viruses lurking in the body’s cells following previous infections, particularly in people with chronic fatigue syndrome, according to a study. The findings, published in the journal ‘Frontiers in Immunology’, contribute to our understanding of the causes of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as ME/CFS, and prospects of reaching a diagnosis.

  • The study compared infection among people with ME/CFS during a mild ailment with that in healthy controls. The researchers analysed samples for antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 and latent viruses, and found a special fingerprint of antibodies against common herpes viruses in saliva.
  • Findings: One of these viruses was the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which has infected nearly everybody. Most people experience a mild infection during childhood.
  • People infected with EBV in their teenage years can develop glandular fever, also known as “kissing disease”. The virus then remains in a latent condition in the body.
  • The EBV virus may proliferate in situations in which the immune system is impaired, causing fatigue, autoimmune responses, and increased risk of lymphoma, if allowed to continue, the researchers said.
  • Post-SARS-CoV-2 infection, the researchers, however, detected specific antibodies in the saliva that suggested that three latent viruses had been strongly reactivated, one of them being EBV.
  • The reactivation was seen both in patients with ME/CFS and in the control group, but was significantly stronger in the ME/CFS group. This can have negative consequences, one of which is that the immune system attacks certain tissues, such as nerve tissue, in the body, the researchers said.
  • Causes: Though the causes of the condition are not known with certainty, it has been established that the onset in most cases follows a viral or bacterial infection.
  • Symptoms: Exhaustion after light exercise, brain fog and unrefreshing sleep are common symptoms, while impaired lung capacity and abnormal senses of smell and taste are more specific for long COVID.
TELL ME ONE THING
Why women fare better with Covid than men
Why women fare better with Covid than men
  • The two years of the pandemic have shown that men are not only more vulnerable to Covid infections but are also at higher risk for mortality and severe cases regardless of age.
  • A new US-based study shows that there is nothing wrong with men – it’s something right with females. Specifically the latter’s innate immune systems.
  • The study: Published in the journal Cell Systems, the study focussed on a group of nearly 3,000 members of the US Marine Corps, who have been monitored since the start of their training in 2020, which is before the Covid outbreak, and through the pandemic, when many of them tested positive.
  • The researchers – a team from Princeton University, Flatiron Institute of the Simons Foundation, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the Naval Medical Research Center – found that even though infected females had higher rates of symptoms, their average viral load was 2.6 times lower than that of the males.
  • The findings: The team identified molecular signatures that pointed to a sex-specific genetic basis for the difference.
  • “This study created an unprecedented opportunity,” says co-author Olga Troyanskaya, pointing out that the Marines were about the same age and fitness level, living in nearly identical conditions.
  • Interestingly, although all the Marines had similar severity of disease — asymptomatic or mild Covid – the symptoms manifested differently.
  • “Our analysis indicates that the women’s innate immunity is more activated both prior and during infection, thus helping fight the virus more effectively,” says co-author Natalie Sauerwald. This is also why females show more severe symptoms: Higher fevers, more severe fatigue and worse coughs.
  • Key takeaway: The team identified sex differences across many metrics, including symptoms, viral load, blood transcriptome, RNA splicing, and proteomic signatures. For instance, females have higher pre-infection antiviral interferon-stimulated gene (ISG) expression, a wide array of genes that generally function to inhibit viral replication.
  • Identifying these differences won’t lead immediately to a treatment plan, caution the researchers, but it provides a clear path forward for biomedical research.
GOOD NEWS
A new nasal vaccine that boosts lung immunity
A new nasal vaccine that boosts lung immunity
What: A new nasal vaccination method, developed by researchers from the Centenary Institute and the University of Sydney, induces potent lung immunity and protection against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, according to the findings of a study.

How it works

  • Made up of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and an adjuvant called Pam2Cys (a molecule that helps stimulate a stronger immune response in the body), that was developed by Professor Richard Payne, NHMRC Investigator in the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Science, the new vaccine was delivered via simply breathing in through the nose. It prompted substantial levels of neutralising antibodies and increased T-cell responses in the lungs and airways of the mice that were tested.

Why it is important

  • While current COVID-19 vaccines are critical, there were some limitations, including the waning of immunity post-vaccination and infection, combined with the impact of new viral variants evolving, according to Dr Anneliese Ashhurst, Lead author of the study and a research fellow in the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Medicine and Health and the Centenary Institute.

The mice study

  • The new vaccine approach has been tested successfully in mice and has the potential to be a powerful tool for enhancing protection against COVID-19 infection and minimising ongoing viral spread. In the mice study, the new vaccine was delivered nasally, making its way through the respiratory tract, adhering to the tissues of the nasal cavity, airways and lungs. Testing showed the generation of high levels of protective antibodies in the airways and increased T-cell responses in the lungs (T-cells help destroy SARS-CoV-2 infected cells). Significantly, none of the vaccinated mice became infected with COVID-19.
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Written by: Rakesh Rai, Sushmita Choudhury, Jayanta Kalita, Prabhash K Dutta
Research: Rajesh Sharma



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