Racial Impacts of COVID-19, Neutralizing Antibodies, More

August 28, 2020

August 28, 2020 | Racial segregation of COVID-19 is following HIV patterns, more data on neutralizing antibodies, four months of data from Italy's use of hydroxychloroquine, and a computer model for school launches. Plus, an award from the UK government for vaccine development. 

BITW Research Updates

Using publicly available Census data, a research team from amfAR, Foundation for AIDS Research, looks at the role of racial segregation on the risk of acquiring COVID-19. They find that COVID-19 diagnoses follow a similar pattern to HIV diagnoses. Counties with the highest proportion of white residents have the fewest cases of COVID-19 irrespective of geographic region or state political party inclination (i.e., red or blue states). And comparatively fewer COVID-19 diagnoses have occurred in primarily white counties throughout the duration of the US COVID-19 pandemic. Their findings were published in AIDS Patient Care and STDs. DOI:10.1089/apc.2020.0155

In two papers published in Critical Care Explorations, researchers from Lawson Health Research Institute and Western University outline their identification of six molecules that can be used as biomarkers to predict how severely ill a COVID-19 patient will become: CLM-1, IL12RB1, CD83, FAM3B, IGFR1R and OPTC. DOI: 10.1097/CCE.0000000000000189. In a separate paper, they report that thrombosis profiling identified endothelial activation and glycocalyx degradation in 10 COVID-19 positive patients (compared to 10 sex and age matched controls). Their data suggest that medications to protect and/or restore the endothelial glycocalyx, as well as platelet inhibitors, should be considered for further study. DOI: 10.1097/CCE.0000000000000194.

Researchers from the University of Washington School of Medicine report the infection rates and role of neutralizing antibodies gleaned from a fishing expedition that left from Seattle. Researchers tested the crew prior to the fishing expedition in an effort to keep the vessel free from coronavirus, and they tested them again after their return to port. However over an 18 day voyage, SARS-CoV-2 infected 104 of 122 people on board. Three individuals who tested positive for neutralizing antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 prior to embarking remained healthy during and following the expedition. The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology. DOI: 10.1128/JCM.02107-20  

An Italian team published a retrospective observational study of 3,451 unselected patients hospitalized in 33 clinical centers in Italy, from February 19, 2020 to May 23, 2020 to evaluate the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine in treating COVID-19. 76.3% of the patients received HCQ, and the researchers report a 30% lower risk of death in hospitalized patients receiving HCQ. They published their findings in the European Journal of Internal Medicine. DOI: 10.1016/j.ejim.2020.08.019

However, researchers at Columbia University advise rheumatoid arthritis patients against taking hydroxychloroquine in conjunction with azithromycin. Their retrospective study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis did not consider the drug as a treatment for COVID-19 and they did not include COVID-19 patients in their cohort. The team simply looked at the combination of HCQ and azithromycin for RA patients. In The Lancet Rheumatology, they report findings that the addition of azithromycin appeared to be associated with an increased risk of 30-day cardiovascular mortality, chest pain or angina, and heart failure. DOI: 10.1016/S2665-9913(20)30276-9

Biochemists and virologists from Goethe University have documented the communication pathways in a human cell infected with SARS-CoV-2 and observed what changes the infection triggers. They analyzed the phosphoproteome, all the proteins carrying a phosphate group at a given moment in time. SARS-CoV-2 evidently uses above all those signaling pathways of the host cell where a growth signal is transmitted into the cell from outside. If these signaling pathways are interrupted, the virus is no longer able to replicate. Their results are published in Molecular Cell. DOI: 10.1016/j.molcel.2020.08.006  

CAS, a division of the American Chemical Society specializing in scientific information solutions, has been working tirelessly to aid the global research efforts to eradicate COVID-19. They have just published their most comprehensive review article about COVID-19 in terms of protein targets and associated drug candidates to date in ACS Pharmacology & Translational Science. Drawing from published scientific data, the report provides an overview of protein targets and corresponding potential drug candidates with bioassay and structure-activity relationship data found in scientific literature and patents for COVID-19 and related virus infections. DOI: 10.1021/acsptsci.0c00074

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, have built a simple model for predicting the likelihood of an asymptomatic, infected child in a classroom and published it in JAMA Pediatrics. Based on COVID-19 test results from 33,000 asymptomatic children in 28 children nationwide. They found that asymptomatic positive cases linearly reflected confirmed local cases in the general population. The strong association between prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in children who are asymptomatic and contemporaneous weekly incidence of COVID-19 in the general population (quantified by the best-fit equation in Figure 2A) provides a simple means for institutions to estimate local pediatric asymptomatic prevalence from the publicly available data: asymptomatic pediatric prevalence (%) = 1.07 x the weekly incidence (per 1000 general population) + 0.23. DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.4095

Public health researchers from CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy have modeled how a COVID-19 vaccine will work and published their findings in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. They predict that to extinguish an ongoing epidemic, the vaccine efficacy has to be at least 60% when vaccine coverage is 100% and at least 80% effective when vaccine coverage drops to 60%. DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2020.06.011

In a study published in Science Immunology, researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden show that so-called natural killer (NK) cells were strongly activated early after SARS-CoV-2 infection but that the type of activation differed in patients with moderate and severe COVID-19. The study analyzed blood samples from 27 patients with moderate (10) and severe (17) COVID-19 infection. They found that patients who developed severe COVID-19 generally had NK cells with higher expression of the proteins perforin, NKG2C and Ksp37. DOI: 10.1126/sciimmunol.abd6832

BITW Industry Updates

A Cambridge, UK-developed vaccine candidate against SARS-CoV-2 could begin clinical trials in the UK in late autumn or early next year, thanks to a £1.9million award from the UK government. Innovate UK, the UK government’s innovation agency, has provided the funding for a collaboration between Cambridge spin-out company DIOSynVax (which is contributing an additional £400,000 to the trial), the University of Cambridge and the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust. Press release.