News Scan for Feb 23, 2021

News brief

Seasonal coronavirus antibodies correlate with lower COVID-19 severity

Patients critically ill with COVID-19 infections had significantly lower levels of antibodies against seasonal human coronaviruses (HCoVs) OV43 and HKU1 than those with mild to severe infections, according to a German study published yesterday in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases.

The researchers say the results could indicate that prior infections from seasonal coronaviruses, which frequently present as mild pediatric respiratory tract infections, may help prevent severe COVID-19 illness.

University Hospital of Munster researchers drew serum samples from 60 people with confirmed COVID-19 infections. Participants included outpatients (41.7%), hospitalized patients with severe or moderate disease (26.7%), and hospitalized patients with critical disease (31.7%). Outpatients were selected to match inpatient sex and age as best as possible. The median age of outpatients and those with critical illness was 58 and 55 for inpatients with severe or moderate illness.

Patients with lower levels of HCoV OV43 and HKU1 antibodies (P = 0.016 and 0.023, respectively) were more likely to have longer hospitalization periods. Overall median length of stay was 10 days (range, 2 to 55). Three deaths occurred.

While HCoV OC43 and HKU1 immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies were significantly lower in critical COVID-19 patients, these same patients had higher levels of antibodies against COVID-19. Antibodies were classified as non-detectable, below cutoff, with cutoff intensity, above cutoff, and very strong intensity using Mikrogen GmbH's immunostrip assay recomLine SARS-CoV-2 IgG, which also measures antibodies for HCoV 229E and NL63.

"One might argue that higher levels of antibodies against seasonal coronaviruses are merely a surrogate marker for a more active immune system," the researchers write. "However, HCoVs OC43 and HKU1 are betacoronaviruses and therefore closer related to SARS-CoV-2 than HCoVs 229E or NL63."

The researchers suggest that the possible protection HCoV OC43 and HKU1 infers is due to T cell-based immune response, but they say more research is needed in this area.
Feb 22 Int J Infect Dis study


COVID vaccine efficacy is largest predictor of acceptance, survey finds

COVID vaccine efficacy is more influential to vaccine acceptance than minor side effects or serious adverse reaction rates, according to a study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. While vaccination likelihood increased slightly after the high efficacy announcements of the first COVID-19 vaccines, the researchers say overall attitudes were "largely unchanged."

The researchers conducted a matched 1,000-person survey in August 2020 and then again in December 2020. Respondents were chosen to represent the US population and randomly assigned to one of nine different groups. Each group reported how likely they would be to receive the COVID-19 vaccine across three different scenarios (27 total) with varying vaccine efficacies, probabilities of minor side effects such as a 24-hour fever, or probabilities of serious reactions such as temporary or permanent paralysis

By using conjoint measurement methods to assess the survey results, the researchers found that the likelihood of the respondent choosing to get vaccinated went up when efficacy was 70% or above. The probability of minor side effects didn't significantly influence likelihood, and serious adverse reactions only had significant influence when they were a 1 in 100,000 chance as opposed to 1 in 1 million or 1 in 100 million. (For reference, the researchers report that the incidence of anaphylaxis after the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was 1.1 per 100,000.) Respondents appeared to assess factors independently.

In the December survey, after the announcement of the first COVID-19 vaccine's 95% efficacy, likelihood increased slightly, from 2.25 (standard deviation [SD], 1.16) to 2.14 (SD, 1.56) on a four-point scale with 1 being "most likely." However, no significant changes occurred across any of the three main influential factors.

The researchers note that political attitude had a stronger influence on the likelihood of getting vaccinated than statistics on the benefits and risks. For instance, 64% of those who were "very likely" to take the COVID-19 vaccine favored Joe Biden in the election, whereas 27% supported Donald Trump.
Feb 22 Proc Natl Acad Sci study


Nine deer at Minnesota farm had CWD in addition to case in October

After a chronic wasting disease (CWD) infection was reported at a Houston County, Minnesota, white-tailed deer farm in October 2020, the remaining 46 deer were culled Jan 26, revealing nine more cases, according to a Minnesota Board of Animal Health (MBAH) press release yesterday.

CWD is a fatal prion disease spread between cervidae such as deer and elk through contaminated environments, antler velvet, and body fluids and tissues.

Following the herd slaughter, the farm is not allowed to have any deer or elk for 5 years, and the owners must maintain fencing with biohazard signs to notify others and keep wild deer from getting in. 

“This herd was in good standing in our farmed cervid program and was double-fenced since 2017,” said MBAH assistant director, Linda Glaser, DVM, in the release. “It’s an example of how elusive CWD can be to detect and control quickly before it infects multiple animals within a herd. Ten infected animals despite an owner following all regulations highlights why we need the research to catch up to the disease.”

An Oct 15, 2020 MBAH news release following the initial case notes that the farm's location fell within the CWD endemic area in southeastern Minnesota. The release adds that in 2019, 3 deer out of approximately 2,260 tested within 10 miles of the farm were positive for CWD.
Feb 22 MBAH news release
Oct 15, 2020 MBAH news release


Ebola vaccine doses arrive in Guinea after storm delay

Today the World Health Organization (WHO) said Guinea will receive an emergency supply of 11,000 Ebola vaccines after delivery was delayed over the weekend by a dust storm. Vaccination started today.

On Feb 14, after more than 5 years after its last confirmed Ebola infection, Guinea reported new cases of the deadly disease. As of yesterday, the WHO African regional office has confirmed eight cases, including five fatalities, and identified 348 contacts, of which 91% are being closely monitored.

According to the WHO, the vaccination campaign will be launched in Gouecke, a rural community in N'Zerekore prefecture. The vaccines will be deployed in a ring vaccination campaign, in which close contacts are vaccinated first, along with healthcare workers.

"The last time Guinea faced an Ebola outbreak, vaccines were still being developed," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD. "With the experience and expertise it has built up, combined with safe and effective vaccines, Guinea has the tools and the know-how to respond to this outbreak. WHO is proud to support the government to engage and empower communities, to protect health and other frontline workers, to save lives and provide high-quality care."

The WHO also said an additional 8,000 doses of vaccine will be delivered in the coming days, for a total of 20,000 doses.
Feb 23 WHO
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Feb 23 BBC
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Stewardship / Resistance Scan for Feb 23, 2021

News brief

CARB-X to fund development of drug to rejuvenate ineffective antibiotics

CARB-X announced today that it is awarding up to $2.2 million to the University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) to continue developing new compounds designed to boost antibiotics that have become ineffective against drug-resistant bacterial infections.

The award will help fund IMB's octapeptins research program, which is developing octapeptin peptides that can disrupt the protective outer cell membrane of drug-resistant gram-negative bacteria, allowing antibiotics that have lost efficacy to work again. IMB researchers are currently trying to identify which antibiotics octapeptins are best at helping and can be combined with.

"We will harness this latest funding injection to investigate which existing antibiotics can be rejuvenated by combining them with compounds from the octapeptin family," Mark Blaskovich, PhD, director of the IMB Centre for Superbug Solutions, said in a CARB-X (the Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator) press release.

Octapeptins are being designed for use in low- and middle-income countries, where there are high levels of drug-resistant bacteria and many cheap, generic antibiotics have lost efficacy.

This is the second round of funding IMB has received from CARB-X for the Octapeptins project.
Feb 23 CARB-X press release


WHO details initial Global Leaders Group meeting

The World Health Organization (WHO) today released a report on the inaugural meeting of the One Health Global Leaders Group (GLG) on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).

The group, which is co-chaired by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed and Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley and includes other heads of state, researchers, and key stakeholders, met Jan 26 and 27 to share ideas and discuss visions for their mission. It was the GLG's first meeting since being launched in November 2020 to provide political leadership for global, regional, and national efforts to address AMR and its impact on humans, animals, and the environment.

According to the WHO report, the members agreed that all GLG actions should add value to the global AMR response and should be guided by evidence and accountability, that national AMR action plans should by the bedrock of the global AMR response, and that there is a need to bolster popular and political support for efforts to tackle AMR.      

The group also discussed ideas for a draft action plan to achieve their objectives. Members agreed that the action plan should be ambitious and evidence-based, with a focus on deliverable actions, should focus on the root causes of AMR, and should prioritize efforts to ensure sustained and dedicated funding.

They concluded that the five categories of recommendations created by the Interagency Coordination Group on AMR (accelerating progress in countries; research and development and innovations to secure the future; enhancing civil society and private sector engagement; investments and sustainable financing; and strengthening global governance with accountability) should provide the overall structure for their action plan.

The GLG plans to meet four times a year.
Feb 23 WHO report

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