Posts

vaccine

Scientists Create Vaccine To Potentially Help Protect Us From Future Coronaviruses 

Scientists have now created a vaccine that could potentially protect against a wide range of coronaviruses, including variants that may not even be known yet. 

The shot is currently in its experimental phase and has been tested on mice. This new vaccine shows a change in “proactive vaccinology,” which refers to when vaccines are developed to be ready for manufacturing before potential pandemic outbreaks.

Embed from Getty Images

According to reports from The Guardian, this particular vaccine was developed by attaching harmless proteins from different coronaviruses to minuscule nanoparticles that are injected into the body to prime its defenses to fight the viruses if they were to invade. 

Since this vaccine was developed to train the immune system to target proteins that are shared among many various coronaviruses, the protection it could provide would be vast. 

“We’ve shown that a relatively simple vaccine can still provide a scattershot response across a range of different viruses. It takes us one step forward towards our goal of creating vaccines before a pandemic has even started,”  said Rory Hills, a graduate researcher at the University of Cambridge and first author of the report.

When the vaccines were tested in mice, the vaccine was shown to provide a broad immune response to coronaviruses. The study itself was a collaboration between the universities of Cambridge and Oxford and the California Institute of Technology, and has been published in Nature Nanotechnology.

Hills stated that the universal coronavirus vaccine can be produced in existing medical facilities for “microbial fermentation.” He added that the researchers involved in the recent study are working with industrial partners to scale up the production process.  

Embed from Getty Images

The nanoparticles and viral proteins that are used to produce the vaccine can also each be made in separate facilities at different times. However, medical regulators currently don’t have procedures for proactive vaccinology, and those procedures would have to be developed as the vaccine becomes more available. 

The researchers said that if this vaccine proves to be safe and effective in humans, it could potentially be used as a Covid booster, which would not only protect against Covid-19, but other coronaviruses. 

 “In the event that a coronavirus or other pathogen crosses over you could have pre-existing vaccine stocks ready and a clear plan to quickly scale up production if needed,” Hills said.

“Scientists did a great job in quickly producing an extremely effective Covid vaccine during the last pandemic, but the world still had a massive crisis with a huge number of deaths. We need to work out how we can do even better than that in the future, and a powerful component of that is starting to build the vaccines in advance,” said Professor Mark Howarth, a senior author of the study

covid

What Health Officials Are Saying About New Covid Variant JN.1

JN.1 is the newest fast-spreading variant of Covid-19, and is now the most widely circulating version of the virus, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

According to reports from the Alabama Local News, JN.1 is an offspring of the Omicron variant, and currently accounts for 66% of the current positive cases of Covid-19; an increase from the 44% two weeks ago. 

Embed from Getty Images

In a statement, the CDC said that “Covid-19 activity is currently high. Covid-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths have increased in recent weeks. JN.1 may be intensifying the spread of Covid-19 this winter.”

Covid-19 infections, however, are not causing severe disease as frequently as it was. The CDC’s recent report showed that while cases are up by 27% compared to this time last year, the number of Covid-related illnesses requiring emergency room visits are down by 21%. 

Overall Covid-19 hospitalizations are 22% lower when compared to 2023, and the total deaths associated with Covid is down by 38%. The CDC cited the immune protections provided by vaccines, prior infections, or the combination has led to these lower percentages. 

Embed from Getty Images

“Over 97% of people have natural or vaccine-induced antibodies against the virus that causes COVID-19. This immune protection can fade over time but tends to last longer for preventing severe disease than for preventing infections.”

While the JN.1 specifically hasn’t caused more severe illness for those who contract Covid-19, the symptoms are similar. ALN reported that these symptoms include: sore throat, congestion, runny nose, cough, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, fever, chills, loss of taste or smell, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

NBC News reported that of these symptoms, healthcare facilities have reported more upper respiratory symptoms followed by congestion and cough. The symptoms that were more common in earlier Covid-19 cases, such as loss of taste or smell and diarrhea, are much less present. 

All diagnostic Covid-19 tests, including common rapid antigen tests and PCR tests, are effective at detecting the JN.1 variant, as well as other variants. The CDC also reported that the variants are impacted by antiviral treatments as well.

shot

Getting Your Next Covid-19 Vaccine, With Or Without Insurance

Federal authorities are urging Americans to get the new Covid-19 vaccine, and to reach out to their insurers if they’re having issues getting the shot for free, as it’s been made available for no cost to any American citizen.

covid

Covid-19 Is Still A Part Of Our Reality: How The Virus And Our Immunity Has Changed

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 97% of people in the US have some level of immunity against Covid-19 through vaccination, infection, or both. Covid-19 infections are now on the rise again, and with the government slowing down on health and safety measures since the public health emergency was declared over in May, many individuals are wondering what to do as we enter this next wave of infections.

covid

US Experts Warn Of New Covid Variant, Eris

This summer in the US, a new Covid-19 variant has become the dominant strain currently spreading throughout the nation, according to infectious disease experts. Experts are warning Americans to remain diligent about their Covid-19 safety procedures and vaccine boosters to keep themselves protected from this spike. 

The technical name of this strain is EG.51, a subvariant of Omicron also referred to as Eris. The Eris variant is currently the leading strain of the virus, accounting for about 17% of Covid cases in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Embed from Getty Images

Experts state that the rise in infection and hospitalizations do not indicate a need for health and safety measures to be mandated, however, the new variant is a part of a potential evolution of the virus, so it’s important for people to protect themselves. 

​​“As this virus continues to circulate, the potential for mutations to occur remains, and so we will see new genetic variants. It’s very often the case when we see new genetic variants that they may increase in circulation. Sometimes they replace the variants that came before; sometimes they just kind of burn themselves out,”  said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist and director of the Pandemic Center at Brown University School of Public Health.

People should continue to take Covid-19 tests if they feel sick, and stay diligent about monitoring virus data, especially if they’re in a vulnerable immunocompromised position. 

“We do need to continue to keep our eye out and be cautious for something that is truly like a new pandemic strain, which EG.5.1 is not,” said Justin Lessler, an epidemiology professor at the University of North Carolina.

Embed from Getty Images

“The biggest concern that we have right now is that testing is not nearly what it was in many, many countries, including the United States,” Nuzzo said. This means it’s more difficult to track trends in the virus. 

“Even if there is a high percentage of test positivity, it’s unclear whether it’s because the only people getting tested right now are people who are really quite ill and know very well that they have Covid, versus maybe in the past people getting tested were people who needed a negative test before they could play sports or go to camp. That meant that we were sampling a larger portion of the population,” Nuzzo said

“Public health agencies rely on wastewater testing, which allows them to see the amount of Covid and what variants are in that concentration. But it’s harder for people collecting that data to determine whether that means people are getting sicker or whether a person who is infected is infecting more people on a per-person basis,” Nuzzo said.

“We can’t link the wastewater data to people. It’s totally anonymous. If the variant is a problem, we will see it, but the question is: how early will we see it? I don’t think there is this hidden severe wave,” Nuzzo added.

“Also, as the fall virus season approaches – meaning a likely uptick in Covid, flu and RSV cases – it’s important for healthcare workers to conduct tests in places with inadequate healthcare infrastructure, such as rural areas and low-income communities,” Nuzzo said.

According to the CDC, there were around 9,000 Covid-19 hospitalizations during the last week of July, marking a 28% increase from June.

New Study Offers Explanation As To Why Some Covid Patients Never Felt Symptoms 

In a new study published in Nature this month, scientists have estimated that over 20% of people who were infected with Covid-19 never had any symptoms, and now believe that their genetics are the reasoning behind why they never felt sick. 

Some people have a version of a gene in their immune system known as HLA-B which protects them from feeling the effects of the virus. The study found that people with a special variant of the gene are 2 to 8.5 times more likely to be asymptomatic than those without the variant. 

Scientists have concluded that this protein remembers infections from other seasonal coronaviruses, such as many common colds, and thus remembers how to go after the Covid-19 virus. 

Embed from Getty Images

Jill Hollenbach is an immunologist at the University of California, San Francisco who led the research in the new study. Hollenbach herself had Covid-19, but it wasn’t an asymptomatic experience. 

“I had Covid-19. I was sick for about a week. I didn’t love it,” Hollenbach explained, describing a more average experience with moderate symptoms before making a full recovery. Now, her research is very focused on the more extreme cases, as well as cases with no symptoms. 

“One extreme is very severe disease [leading to hospitalization or death]. And the other end of that spectrum is you didn’t have any symptoms. We really haven’t understood what’s driving that,” she stated.

Hollenbach’s Covid-19 Citizen Science Study received contributions from the Be The Match program, which accepts donations of bone marrow from volunteers. 

“We simply asked people who were registered donors to track their COVID experience through a smartphone app and consented to let us look at their genetic data and link it to their answers,” Hollenbach said.

Embed from Getty Images

When it comes to the HLA variants, Hollenbach found that one specific one, known as HLA-B*15:01, was associated with asymptomatic Covid. 

“To be fair, not everybody that has [HLA-B*15:01] will be asymptomatic. But it was a really clear, robust and replicable association. The thinking is that your exposure to some seasonal cold viruses, that in some cases share a lot of similarities with parts of SARS-CoV-2, gave you some existing immunity,” Hollenbach says.

Dr. Eric Topol, a physician-scientist at the Scripps Research Institute, discussed how this recent study could be the first step in further medical research: “It’s a breakthrough, I think it may wind up giving us a whole new map for what to do in terms of drugs and vaccines, which is really notable.”

One in every five people in the study were reported to be asymptomatic when they contracted Covid-19, and had the HLA-B*15:01 variant, there may even be other variants that offer the same potential protection. 

“I think that it gives us an opportunity to think about potentially developing vaccines and therapeutics that are aimed not at preventing infection but preventing symptoms,” Hollenbach says.

“If you can find a path so that people don’t get sick from COVID. That’s extraordinary,” Topol says.

cooking

New Study Suggests Women Leading Healthy Lifestyles May Reduce Their Risk Of Long Covid By Half

“Among the women who contracted Covid-19 during the study, 44% of them developed long Covid and of those women, the participants who practiced five or six of the healthy lifestyle factors lowered their risk of long covid by 49%.”

lunar

China Gearing Up For Likely Covid-19 Surge As Travel For The Lunar New Year Begins

The Lunar New Year holidays, also referred to as the spring festival, officially begins on January 21st. Local media outlets have already been reporting massive spikes in Covid-related hospitalizations and deaths, along with supply and drug shortages to combat the spread.

covid

60,000 People Have Died In China From Covid-19 Since December

Around 60,000 individuals in China have died from Covid-19 since early December when the country abandoned its strict “zero Covid” policy. 

covid

China Foreign Minister Calls International Travel Restrictions For Citizens ‘Unacceptable’

The United States, Canada, France, and Japan are among the countries implementing restrictions for travelers from China due to an ongoing concern over their rise in Covid-19 cases. Nations are asking travelers to provide a negative Covid-19 test before arrival at their destination.

China has responded by calling these international restrictions on travelers “unacceptable,” following more than a dozen nations’ announcements of the new restrictions. 

China’s recent spike in Covid-19 cases came after Beijing lifted their zero-Covid policies in December, which has led to a sudden rise in hospitalizations and deaths; crematoriums have also reported being overwhelmed according to the Aljazeera publication. 

Embed from Getty Images

Beijing is continuing to follow through with their reopening plans, and have even gotten rid of their mandatory quarantine requirements for individuals arriving into the city. Foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning held a briefing this week to discuss the reopening and recent international travel restrictions from other countries. 

“Some countries have taken entry restrictions targeting only Chinese travelers. This lacks scientific basis and some practices are unacceptable.” 

Ning also warned that China may “take countermeasures based on the principle of reciprocity.”

France’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne stated that the restrictions made sense, and as a nation they are “performing [their] duty in asking for testing.” 

Embed from Getty Images

Overall, the international travel restrictions will impact everyone traveling out of China, not just its citizens. The US and other countries have stated that Beijing hasn’t been fully honest regarding their infection data and risk factors surrounding new variants. 

“As health workers nationwide battle a surge in cases, a senior doctor at one of Shanghai’s top hospitals said 70 percent of the megacity’s population may now have been infected with COVID-19,” state media reported.

Chen Erzhen, a member of Shanghai’s COVID expert advisory panel, estimated that “the majority of the city’s 25 million people may have been infected.

Now the spread of the epidemic in Shanghai is very wide, and it may have reached 70 percent of the population, which is 20 to 30 times more than [in April and May],” he told Jiangdong Studio.