By Nancy Lapid
November 20 (Reuters) – The following is a summary of some of the latest scientific studies of the new coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines against COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Pediatric vaccine can help prevent severe COVID-19
People whose immune system reacted strongly to a measles-mumps (MMR) vaccine may be less likely to become seriously ill if infected with the new coronavirus, new data suggest. The MMR II vaccine, manufactured by Merck and licensed in 1979, works by triggering the immune system to produce antibodies. Researchers reported on Friday in mBio that among 50 COVID-19 patients under the age of 42 who had received MMR II as children, the higher their titers ̵
Cigarette smoke increases cell vulnerability to COVID-19
Exposure to cigarette smoke makes airway cells more vulnerable to infection with the new coronavirus, UCLA researchers found. They obtained respiratory lining cells from five individuals without COVID-19 and exposed some of the cells to cigarette smoke in test tubes. Then they exposed all the cells to coronavirus. Compared to cells that were not exposed to smoke, smoke-exposed cells were two or even three times more likely to become infected with the virus, the researchers reported Tuesday in the Cell Stem Cell. Analysis of individual respiratory cells showed that cigarette smoke reduced the immune response to the virus. “If you think of the airways as the high walls that protect a castle, smoking cigarettes is like making holes in those walls,” co-author Brigitte Gomperts told Reuters. “Smoking reduces the natural defenses, and this allows the virus to enter and take over the cells.” (https://bit.ly/3kPAYRx)
AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine shows promise in the elderly
AstraZeneca and Oxford University’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine produced strong immune responses in older adults in an intermediate-stage trial, researchers reported Thursday in The Lancet. Late-stage trials are underway to confirm whether the vaccine protects against COVID-19 in a wide range of people, including those with underlying health conditions. The current study involved 560 healthy volunteers, including 240 years 70 or older. Volunteers received one or two doses of the vaccine, made from an attenuated version of a common cold virus found in chimpanzees or placebo. No serious adverse reactions were reported. Participants older than 80, frail patients and those with significant chronic illnesses were excluded, according to an editorial published with the study. “Weakness is increasingly understood to affect older adults’ responses to vaccines,” the editors write. “A plan for how to consider weakness in COVID-19 vaccine development is important.” (https://bit.ly/35OVrlq; https://bit.ly/3kKXDhP; https://reut.rs/2IVeod0)
Researchers are looking at cells infected with new coronavirus
Cells infected with the new coronavirus die within a day or two, and researchers have found a way to see what the virus does to them. By integrating multiple imaging techniques, they saw the virus create “viral copy factories” in cells that look like clusters of balloons. The virus also disrupts cellular systems responsible for excreting drugs, researchers reported Tuesday in Cell Host & Microbe. In addition, it reorganizes the “cytoskeleton”, which gives the cells their shape and “acts as a railway system to allow the transport of various loads inside the cell,” said co-author Dr. Ralf Bartenschlager from the University of Heidelberg, Germany, to Reuters. When his team added drugs that affect the cytoskeleton, the virus had trouble making copies of itself, “indicating to us that the virus needs to rearrange the cytoskeleton to replicate with high efficiency,” Bartenschlager said. “We now have a much better idea of how SARS-CoV-2 alters the intracellular architecture of the infected cell, and this will help us understand why the cells die so quickly.” The Zika virus causes similar cell changes, he said, so it could be possible to develop drugs for COVID-19 that also work against other viruses. (https://bit.ly/2UI9BOT)
Open https://tmsnrt.rs/3a5EyDh in an external browser for a Reuters graphic on vaccines and treatments under development.
(Reporting by Nancy Lapid, Kate Kelland and Alistair Smout; Editing by Tiffany Wu)