Covid-19 News

  • International research: Brazilian COVID-19 variant much more transmissible than other strains


    https://medicalxpress.com/news…variant-transmissible.amp


    An international team of researchers has found evidence suggesting that the P.1 coronavirus variant that was first seen in parts of Brazil may be up to twice as transmissible as prior strains. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes their work involving study of the variant and what they found.

    The P.1 SARS-CoV-2 variant was first seen in Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas in Brazil. Initial research suggested the virus arose late last year and began spreading in November. It quickly became the dominant strain, leading many in the country to believe it could infect people who had already been infected with the initial strain earlier in the year. During the initial infection period, approximately 70% of the people in the city were believed to have been infected. After variant infections rose in Manaus, the P.1 variant soon spread throughout Brazil, and then to other countries—to date, it has been found in 37 countries.


    Via molecular clock analysis, the researchers determined that the virus had 17 identifiable mutations and that three spike protein mutations—N501Y, E484K and K417T—were particularly worrisome because they appeared to allow the virus to bind more tightly to human cells, and in some cases, to aid in evading antibodies. They also found evidence that the variant can evade an immune response to prior strains of the virus.


    Other work involved simulating the virus to determine how its abilities have changed since it mutated. The simulations showed the variant to be from 1.7 to 2.4 times more transmissible than previous strains of the virus. The researchers were not able to determine if the increase was due to the virus persisting longer in the body or from an increase in viral load. Also, they were not able to determine if the new variant makes people sicker or if it is deadlier. They estimated that those infected in Manaus were 1.2 to 1.9 times as likely to die from a P.1 infection than prior strains, but it was not clear if that was due to changes in the virus or the health care system in the city, which has been overburdened by more demand than the city can handle.


    The researchers conclude that more work is required to determine if the P.1 strain is truly able to infect people who have been infected with prior strains, or those who have been vaccinated.

  • You may soon be getting a COVID 'stimulus check' from your health insurer


    https://finance.yahoo.com/amph…d-stimulus-210000761.html


    Private insurance companies are expected to dole out $2.1 billion in rebates to more than 10.7 million policyholders this fall, according to analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation.


    That sum will be the second-highest amount ever issued under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) after last year’s record-breaking $2.5 billion in refunds.

    For the average consumer who bought health insurance on the individual market, that means an average cash rebate of $299 in the fall.


    Here’s what you need to know about how these rebates will work.


    Why are we getting these rebates?

    These rebates are coming through because a number of insurance companies failed to meet the ACA’s medical loss ratio threshold in 2020, which requires insurers to spend at least 80% of premium revenues on health care claims or quality improvement activities.


    Last year, some companies fell short of their threshold as health spending and utilization dipped during the pandemic.


    This happened in part because providers cancelled elective procedures and consumers opted to forgo routine care to avoid potential exposure at a doctor’s office.


    But everyone continued to pay their premiums, resulting in higher levels of profits for the insurance companies who had set their rates well before the pandemic hit.

  • The long‐standing history of Corynebacterium parvum, immunity, and viruses

    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.co…ll/10.1002/jmv.26100?af=R


    Abstract

    "We report a review of all the experimental and clinical studies performed in the last 60 years on the antiviral activity of inactivated Corynebacterium parvum (Cutibacterium acnes). This bacterium has been originally investigated and used for its oncolytic properties linked to immunomodulating activity, but the interest to successfully prevent and treat bacterial, fungal, and viral infections and lethality, uprising the innate immunity barriers produced many experimental models and very few clinical studies. The dramatic defenseless situation due to impending CoViD‐19 pandemic claims to exhume and highlight this aspecific strategy in preventive and therapeutic settings; as a matter of fact, no new or mutated virus can potentially escape to this strong innate immune surveillance strengthened by adequate C. parvum protocols."

  • An international team of researchers has found evidence suggesting that the P.1 coronavirus variant that was first seen in parts of Brazil may be up to twice as transmissible as prior strains.

    Switzerland today joined the mafia by buying a Roche crap antibody mixture instead of Ivermectin. USA/EU, already a long time ago, did buy useless Gielead crap Remdesivir for billions and many other useless drugs.

    All states/governments are self service instituitions for "service clubs" ... (Also called FM/R/J mafia) See Hungria/Russia for the worst examples and how it will look in the near future...


    P1! Not yet in Switzerland! But Ivermectin will stop it too!


  • Herpes infection possibly linked to COVID-19 vaccine, study says


    https://nypost.com/2021/04/20/…-to-covid-19-vaccine/amp/


    Herpes infections may be a side effect of a COVID-19 vaccine, experts have revealed.


    Scientists in Israel identified six cases in a new study of patients developing a skin rash known as herpes zoster — or shingles — after receiving the Pfizer vaccine, according to a study in the Rheumatology journa


    Herpes zoster starts off as a small, itchy skin rash, but if left untreated, it could cause nerve damage and pain, the Jerusalem Post reporte


    This can include a prolonged burning sensation on the skin even after the rash disappear


    Researchers from Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and Carmel Medical Center in Haifa found those with autoimmune inflammatory rheumatic diseases had a higher risk of developing the herpes infection.Herpes infections may be a side effect of a COVID-19 vaccine, experts have reveale


    Scientists in Israel identified six cases in a new study of patients developing a skin rash known as herpes zoster — or shingles — after receiving the Pfizer vaccine, according to a study in the Rheumatology journa


    Herpes zoster starts off as a small, itchy skin rash, but if left untreated, it could cause nerve damage and pain, the Jerusalem Post reporte


    This can include a prolonged burning sensation on the skin even after the rash disappear


    Researchers from Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and Carmel Medical Center in Haifa found those with autoimmune inflammatory rheumatic diseases had a higher risk of developing the herpes infection.

    Out of 491 patients, six people or 1.2 percent experienced the infection, researchers said

  • Interesting. The CDC just recently asked providers to hold off TB testing on vaccinated patients


    https://www.cdc.gov/tb/publica…letters/covid19-mrna.html


    For healthcare personnel or patients who require baseline TB testing (at onboarding or entry into facilities) at the same time they are to receive a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, CDC recommends:


    Perform TB symptom screening on all healthcare personnel or patients.

    If using IGRA, draw blood prior to COVID-19 mRNA vaccination.

    If using TST, place prior to COVID-19 mRNA vaccination.

    If COVID-19 mRNA vaccination has already occurred, defer TST or IGRA until 4 weeks after completion of 2-dose COVID-19 mRNA vaccination.

  • J&J to resume rollout of COVID-19 vaccine in Europe with safety warning


    https://www.reuters.com/busine…vaccine-sales-2021-04-20/


    Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) said on Tuesday it will resume rolling out its COVID-19 vaccine in Europe after the region’s medical regulator said the benefits of the shot outweigh the risk of very rare, potentially lethal blood clots.


    Europe’s health regulator, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), on Tuesday recommended adding a warning about rare blood clots with low blood platelet count to the vaccine’s product label and said the benefits of the one-dose shot outweigh its risks.

  • How ivermectin works

    Dr Jackie Stone,, Zimbabwe..

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  • Substantial Differences in SARS-CoV-2 Antibody Responses Elicited by Natural Infection and mRNA Vaccination


    https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.04.15.440089v2


    Abstract

    We analyzed data from two ongoing serologic surveys, a longitudinal cohort of health care workers (HCW) from the University of California Irvine Medical Center (Orange County, CA, USA), collected from May and December 2020 through March 2021, and a cross sectional county-wide study in July 2020 (actOC; Orange County, CA) and a more focused community study in the city of Santa Ana (Santa Ana Cares; Orange County, CA, USA), collected in December 2020 - in order to compare the antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 natural infection and vaccination. In addition, we serially tested 9 volunteers at multiple time points to analyze the time course of vaccine-induced antibody response in more detail. In May 2020, 1060 HCW were enrolled and had finger stick samples collected. Finger stick samples were again collected in December 2020, before vaccination, as well as January, February and March 2021 during vaccination campaign. A total of 8,729 finger stick blood specimens were probed and analyzed for IgG and IgM antibodies using a coronavirus antigen microarray (COVAM). The microarray contained 10 SARS-CoV-2 antigens including nucleocapid protein (NP) and several varying fragments of the spike protein, as well as 4 SARS, 3 MERS, 12 Common CoV, and 8 Influenza antigens.Based on a random forest based prediction algorithm, between May and December, prior to vaccine rollout, we observed that seropositivity in the HCW cohort increased from 4.5% to 13%. An intensive vaccination campaign with mRNA vaccines was initiated on December 16, 2020 and 6,724 healthcare workers were vaccinated within 3 weeks. The observed seropositivity of the HCW specimens taken in the last week of January 2021 jumped to 78%, and by the last week in February it reached 93%, and peaked at 98% seropositive in March. The antibody profile induced by natural exposure differed from the profile induced after mRNA vaccination. Messenger RNA vaccines induced elevated antibody (Ab) reactivity levels against the Receptor Binding Domain (RBD) domain of SARS-CoV-2 spike, and cross-reactive responses against SARS and MERS RBD domains. Nucleocapsid protein (NP), which is an immunodominant antigen induced after natural exposure, is not present in the vaccine and can be used as a biomarker of past exposure. The results show that naturally-exposed individuals mount a stronger anti-spike response upon vaccination than individuals that were not previously exposed. Longitudinal specimens taken at approximately weekly intervals from 9 individuals show variation in the response to the mRNA vaccine, with some showing a vigorous response to the first dose (prime) and others requiring a subsequent dose (boost) to reach high anti-SARS-CoV-2 levels. Antibody titers determined by serial dilution of the specimens were used to accurately compare antibody levels in these samples. mRNA vaccinees after the boost have higher Ab titers (up to 10 times higher) than convalescent plasmas from donors who recovered from natural infection. The results of this study exemplify the time course and outcomes expected from similar mRNA mass vaccination campaigns conducted in other institutions.

  • The Great Barrington Declaration and Ad Hominem Argumentation


    https://www.aier.org/article/t…ominem-argumentation/amp/


    In my previous column I promised that today’s column would continue a discussion of vaccine passports. Alas, I’m breaking that promise in order to promote a different cause, one whose urgency was raised, at least from my vantage point, in the past week. The cause is the fight against ad hominem argumentation, and specifically, the use of such argumentation to disparage AIER generally and, specifically, the Great Barrington Declaration.


    Ad Hominem

    Loosely, the Latin phrase ad hominem translates as “to the man.” And according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the adjective “ad hominem” – as in “That’s an ad hominem argument” – is an argument or reaction “directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining.”


    Every semester near the start of my Principles of Microeconomics course I identify six logical fallacies that occur with great frequency in discussions of economics and economic policy. The ad hominem fallacy is among these six. (The other five are [1] the post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy; [2] the naturalistic fallacy; [3] what Matt Ridley calls the “reverse naturalistic fallacy;” [4] the fallacy of confusing the mean or median of a group with any individual in the group; and [5] the fallacy of composition.) I perform this exercise in order to warn students both to avoid committing these fallacies themselves, and to avoid being misled by these fallacies when these are committed by others.


    While always widely used, ad hominem argumentation has seemingly become not only acceptable, but de rigueur, in arguments used by pro-lockdowners and anti-anti-lockdowners.


    Not surprisingly, although no less unfortunately, AIER has been bombarded of late by ad hominem attacks. I say “not surprisingly” because no organization has been as visibly out in front as has AIER in challenging lockdowns in particular, and the hysteria over Covid-19 more generally. Politicians, government officials, and pundits who are committed to lockdowns and to opposing us anti-lockdowners are angry at AIER’s unrelenting exposure of the countless exaggerations, half-truths, and outright lies about lockdowns, mask mandates, school closures, and Covid’s dangers.


    But of course the single most significant of AIER’s efforts is the Great Barrington Declaration.


    AIER arranged for the October 2020 meeting that led to this document’s drafting, and the Declaration is hosted on a website maintained by AIER. It’s important to note, however, that no AIER personnel – no board member, columnist, intern, accountant, receptionist, or groundskeeper – played any role in writing this document. The Declaration is co-written by Prof. Jay Bhattacharya of the Stanford medical school, Prof. Sunetra Gupta, a theoretical epidemiologist at Oxford University, and Prof. Martin Kulldorff of the Harvard medical school.


    Because this clear and concise anti-lockdown Declaration is not only infused with much good sense, but also proposes, as a response to SARS-CoV-2, what was regarded as mainstream public-health practice until early 2020 – and even well-regarded by SAGE as recently as May of last year – pro-lockdowners and anti-anti-lockdowners cannot easily attack the Declaration’s substance. And so pro-lockdowers and anti-anti-lockdowners resort to ad hominem argumentation.


    Some of these logically fallacious arguments are attempts to discredit the Declaration by pointing to mistaken predictions made by its authors. Some other of these logically fallacious arguments are attempts to discredit the Declaration by smearing AIER. Let’s consider each of these attempts.


    Science Is a Human Enterprise

    Science is carried out by non-omniscient human beings who seek greater knowledge and understanding through trial-and-error processes unobstructed by dogma. Hypotheses are offered and then tested as best as is humanly possible with logic, against the data, and against competing hypotheses. Less-successful hypotheses are replaced by more-successful ones. Thus does science advance.


    The results are never perfect. Error is inseparable from trial and error. A scientist who makes a faulty prediction no more thereby becomes an unreliable scientist than does a baseball pitcher become an unreliable pitcher merely by walking a batter or by giving up a grand slam. Just as what matters for assessing the quality of a baseball pitcher is his performance over many innings on the mound, what matters for assessing someone’s quality as a scientist is that person’s performance over many years in the lab, at the observatory, or at wherever a particular scientist does his or her work.


    Obviously, a scientist with a record of making an unusually large number of poor predictions rightly loses credibility, especially relative to scientists with better track records. And because time and effort are scarce, it’s legitimate to screen out of consideration claims made by scientists with poor reputations. Such a screening process is not ad hominem; it’s a useful rule of thumb.


    What’s not legitimate is to attempt to discredit an esteemed scientist on the basis of one or a handful of poor predictions. Even less legitimate is the attempt to discredit a substantive piece of work by an esteemed scientist – a piece of work that can be judged on its own merits – by pointing to one or a handful of that scientist’s poor predictions.


    Sadly, some of the ‘arguments’ against the Great Barrington Declaration are of this sort. Each of its co-authors is an esteemed scientist, and none of these scientists has the reputation of being an ideologue. Yet some opponents of the Declaration nevertheless say, in effect, “Look! This GBD co-author made this mistaken prediction. Gotcha! The Great Barrington Declaration therefore is faulty and should be ignored.”


    The irony in this sort of logically fallacious argumentation is that those who engage in it put their own credibility as scientists in jeopardy. Making predictions that turn out to be faulty is a legitimate and unavoidable feature of the scientific process; ad hominem argumentation is not.


    It’s notable that those who are quick to disparage the Great Barrington Declaration by pointing to some faulty predictions made by its co-authors do not hold pro-lockdown scientists to the same exacting standards. Anthony Fauci in 1983, writing about AIDS, suggested (as quoted by Phil Magness) “the possibility that routine close contact, as within a family household, can spread the disease.” Is Fauci’s penning of this claim – known now (but not then) to be a howler – sufficient to discredit him as a scientist?


    And let’s not overlook Neil Ferguson’s several faulty predictions, as summarized by Matt Ridley:


    In various years in the early 2000s Ferguson predicted up to 136,000 deaths from mad cow disease, 200 million from bird flu and 65,000 from swine flu. The final death toll in each case was in the hundreds.


    What logic leads anyone to continue to give credence to Fauci and Ferguson while simultaneously pointing to faulty predictions by, say, Prof. Gupta as a legitimate reason for dismissing the substance of the Great Barrington Declaration?


    Guilt by Association

    An even weaker argument against the Great Barrington Declaration is the observation that some people associated with AIER say, write, or tweet some things that other people find to be beyond the pale.


    I don’t wish here to assess, and much less to defend, everything ever said or written by everyone affiliated with AIER. Undoubtedly, were I to survey it all I’d find much with which I disagree. But the same is true for every organization under the moon and stars.


    Of relevance here is the irrelevance to the merits of the Great Barrington Declaration of what AIER associates Mr. X and Ms. Y said or tweeted.


    Had the Great Barrington Declaration been penned by individuals known chiefly for their membership in the Libertarian Party, by Fox News interns, or by Miss Grundy’s sixth graders as a class project, dismissing it merely by pointing to the identities and affiliations of its authors would be acceptable. But this Declaration is co-authored by world-renowned scientists, each of whom is expert in the public-health challenges presented by Covid-19. Furthermore, this Declaration has been endorsed by a large number of other credible scientists. Under these circumstances, ad hominem dismissals of the Declaration simply carry no credibility.


    Substantively criticizing parts or the whole of the Great Barrington Declaration is legitimate. Indeed, such criticism is welcome; it’s part of the scientific process. But in far too many cases people dismiss the Declaration with nothing more than ad hominem assertions and attempts to establish guilt by association. The conclusion that I draw from these sorts of dismissals is that those who offer them actually have no substantive criticism of the Declaration. After all, because substantive criticisms would carry more weight even with Miss Grundy’s sixth graders, anyone with such criticisms to offer would present them front and center rather than resort to ad hominem argumentation.


    The greatest compliment paid to the Great Barrington Declaration, therefore, is one wholly unintended: Many of its staunchest opponents offer against it nothing beyond ad hominem attacks and accusations of guilt by association. This Declaration must indeed be powerful!

  • Clinical Trial Conducted by MedinCell Confirms the Safety of Continuous Administration of ivermectin


    https://www.businesswire.com/n…inistration-of-ivermectin


    MONTPELLIER, France--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Regulatory News:


    MedinCell (Paris:MEDCL):


    Clinical trial validates the safety of ivermectin taken daily in oral form, to simulate the continuous release of the active substance by a long-acting injection.


    No side effects were observed with the three doses of ivermectin tested up to 100 µg / kg.


    MedinCell develops several long-acting injectable formulations of ivermectin, the most advanced aims at preventing infection from Covid-19 and its mutants for several months.


    Positive results of the safety study


    "All our programs are developed in accordance with the highest ethical standards and on the basis of reliable scientific principles with a view to potential massive deployment. Proving the safety of ivermectin in regular daily administration over a long period was an essential step for our ivermectin programs, in particular mdc-TTG in Covid-19," said Joël Richard, Chief Development Officer at MedinCell.


    Ivermectin has already been administered as a once-daily treatment to hundreds of millions of patients worldwide. Its safety as a once-daily treatment has been demonstrated and documented. MedinCell tested ivermectin taken daily in oral form to simulate the continuous release of the active substance by a long-acting injectable. After completion, the study confirms the safety of ivermectin up to a dose of 100 µg / kg / day in continuous administration over 1 month in healthy volunteers. No significant difference was observed between the treated volunteers and the placebo volunteers in the three cohorts studied successively (daily doses of 50 µg / kg, 75 µg / kg and 100 µg / kg respectively).


    The pharmacokinetic data of the three cohorts shows a limited peak circulating plasma concentration in the first 12 hours (Cmax between 25-60 ng / mL) and the rapid achievement of a stationary regime and a regular plasma concentration of between approximately 10 and 30 ng / mL for 28 days, depending on the dose administered. These preliminary results are considered positive and live up to Company expectations based on the data in the literature. The dose-response relationship has not yet been established.


    After study completion and in regard of the expert review conducted by Professor Jacques Descotes1 (March 2021), the safety profile of ivermectin supports the progress of MedinCell programs using this molecule, in particular mdc-TTG against Covid-19 and mdc-STM against malaria.


    Covid-19: The prophylactic strategy


    "Our hypotheses are being confirmed, says Christophe Douat, CEO of MedinCell: the pandemic continues, and vaccination may not be enough to stop it. The body of clinical data and scientific knowledge supporting the efficacy of ivermectin at a therapeutic dose against Covid-19, in particular as a prophylaxis, continues to grow. In this context, our treatment, based on a widely known molecule, which could be stored at room temperature and which aims to offer protection for several months after a simple injection against Covid-19 and its variants, could become a key tool of the anti-Covid arsenal. Our goal is still to have a product ready in 2022. "


    Currently in regulatory development, the mdc-TTG program aims to offer an injectable treatment in the form of a pre-filled syringe, ready to use, and stable for 24 months at room temperature. MedinCell’s BEPO® technology will allow the formation of a small subcutaneous deposit at the time of injection. It will act as a mini pump that releases ivermectin regularly until it disappears completely.


    The long-acting formulation of ivermectin in the mdc-TTG program could provide protection against Covid-19 and its mutants for several months after a single injection. It could also be administered to people identified as Covid-19 contact cases to protect them.


    About the clinical safety study


    Study title


    Exploratory phase 1, randomized, double-blind trial assessing the pharmacokinetic profile, safety and tolerability of a regime of continuous daily administration of Ivermectin to healthy volunteers


    Participants


    3 successive cohorts of 8 healthy volunteers (one cohort per dose)


    Administration


    Daily dose of Ivermectin or placebo taken orally for 4 weeks by each cohort


    Doses tested


    Cohort 1: 200 μg/kg (day 1) + 50 μg/kg daily (day 2 to 28)


    Cohort 2: 200 μg/kg (day 1) + 75 μg/kg daily (Day 2 to 28)


    Cohort 3: 200 μg/kg (day 1) + 100 μg/kg daily (day 2 to 28)


    Authorization of clinical trials


    MHRA (Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency – United Kingdom)


    Study period


    September 2020 – March 2021


    About MedinCell


    MedinCell is a clinical stage pharmaceutical company that develops a portfolio of long-acting injectable products in various therapeutic areas by combining its proprietary BEPO® technology with active ingredients already known and marketed. Through the controlled and extended release of the active pharmaceutical ingredient, MedinCell makes medical treatments more efficient, particularly thanks to improved compliance, i.e. compliance with medical prescriptions, and to a significant reduction in the quantity of medication required as part of a one-off or chronic treatment. The BEPO® technology makes it possible to control and guarantee the regular delivery of a drug at the optimal therapeutic dose for several days, weeks or months starting from the subcutaneous or local injection of a simple deposit of a few millimeters, fully bioresorbable. Based in Montpellier, MedinCell currently employs more than 140 people representing over 25 different nationalities.


    This press release may contain forward-looking statements, especially on the Company’s progress of its clinical trials. Although the Company believes that its expectations are based on reasonable assumptions, any statements other than statements of historical facts that may be contained in this press release relating to future events are subject to change without notice, factors beyond the Company's control and the Company's financial capabilities.


    These statements may include, but are not limited to, any statement beginning with, followed by or including words or phrases such as "objective", "believe", "anticipate", "foresee", "aim", "intend", "may", "anticipate", "estimate", "plan", "project", "will", "may", "probably", "should", "could" and other words and phrases of the same meaning or used in negative form. Forward-looking statements are subject to inherent risks and uncertainties beyond the Company's control that may, if any, cause actual results, performance or achievements to differ materially from those anticipated or expressed explicitly or implicitly by such forward-looking statements. A list and description of these risks, contingencies and uncertainties can be found in the documents filed by the Company with the Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF) pursuant to its regulatory obligations, including the Company's registration document, registered with the AMF on September 4, 2018 under number I. 18-062, as well as in the documents and reports to be published subsequently by the Company. In addition, these forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this press release. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements. Except as required by law, the Company does not undertake any obligation to publicly update these forward-looking statements or to update the reasons why actual results could differ materially from those anticipated by the forward-looking statements, including in the event that new information becomes available. The Company's update of one or more forward-looking statements does not imply that the Company will make any further updates to such forward-looking statements or other forward-looking statements.


    This press release is for information purposes only. The information contained herein does not constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy or subscribe for the Company's shares in any jurisdiction, in particular in France. Similarly, this press release does not constitute investment advice and should not be treated as such. It is not related to the investment objectives, financial situation or specific needs of any recipient. It should not deprive the recipients of the opportunity to exercise their own judgment. All opinions expressed in this document are subject to change without notice. The distribution of this press release may be subject to legal restrictions in certain jurisdictions. Persons who come to know about this press release are required to inquire about and comply with these restrictions.

  • In evolving to infect mink, SARS-CoV-2’s risk for humans changes


    https://arstechnica.com/scienc…ions-found-in-mink/?amp=1


    We've always needed to limit the total SARS-CoV-2 infections for reasons beyond the immediate risk they pose to the infected. Each new infected individual is a chance for the virus to evolve in a way that makes it more dangerous—more infective or more lethal. This is true even when an individual has a completely symptom-free infection. The more the virus replicates, the more mutations it will experience and the greater chance that something threatening will evolve.


    One of the disturbing discoveries of the past year has been that it's not just the human population we have to worry about. SARS-CoV-2 has been found in a number of species, notably cats and mink, that we spend a lot of time around. It has even spread from there to the wild mink population, and the virus has jumped back and forth between humans and farmed mink. These animal reservoirs provide added opportunities for COVID to evolve in ways that make it more dangerous to us—perhaps via mutations that allow it to adapt to the new species.

    A group of German researchers has now tested some of the mutations that have appeared in viruses circulating in mink populations, and the news is mixed. One specific mutation makes the virus somewhat less infectious to humans but reduces the probability that antibodies raised against the virus will recognize it.


    A bit different

    When we first reported on the virus appearing in mink, all we really knew was that it picked up mutations while infecting the animals; we were still too early to even put together a list of mutations commonly seen in mink. That has now changed, and the research team has a list to work with; there's now a catalog of mutations found in European mink farms but not circulating in humans. The researchers focused on mutations in the Spike protein, which the virus uses to latch on to human cells and infect them. Spike is important both because it determines which cells the virus can infect, and it's often the target of antibodies that can block the virus from entering cells.


    To look into these mutations, the researchers engineered different versions of the Spike protein into a harmless virus and tested whether the engineered virus could infect cells. They found that certain mutations made it harder for Spike to get the virus into some human cells. There were still some types of human cells it could infect—notably intestine and lung cells, two major sites of SARS-CoV-2 infection. But the virus had a harder time infecting others.

    Separately, the researchers looked at how these mutations fared against the antibody response mounted after SARS-CoV-2 infection using serum obtained from 14 people who had been infected previously. They focused on a single mutation located in the part of the Spike protein that latches on to the surface of human cells (as opposed to the part that opens up the cells' membrane).


    All but one of the 14 serum samples were able to block infection by the engineered virus without any Spike mutations. But all the sera were less effective at blocking infections by viruses that carried a Spike protein altered by a single mutation found in mink. All of them could still block the virus; it just took more serum to do so.


    Looking into this more carefully, the researchers checked the two antibodies used in a potential COVID-19 therapy made by Regeneron. Either of these antibodies is capable of blocking infection of cultured human cells by SARS-CoV-2 on their own. But when tested against Spike carrying the mutation found in mink, only one of the two antibodies still neutralized it. Again, this is consistent with the mutation altering Spike's profile from the immune system's perspective.


    What does this mean?

    The specific mutation that alters the immune response has also been seen in strains that have adapted to circulate in ferrets, and it's at a location that physically interacts with a human protein. So, in all likelihood, this mutation has been selected for enabling more efficient infection of mink. By contrast, the mutation has rarely been seen in humans—just one report of it being found in a person with a persistent infection.


    The same virus seems to infect human cells somewhat less well. This suggests that current adaptations to mink don't seem to make the virus more dangerous to humans in this regard, although we can't rule out that further evolution won't have different implications for humans.

  • "This paper reports on experimental work related to a technology development project that had to be abandoned in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recognizing that the window of opportunity for timely exploitation of this technology is no longer open and also taking into account the likely future commercial value of the downstream innovations, it was decided to partially release proprietary experimental information which is of current scientific interest to the plasma focus community. This information pertains to the replacement of the traditional plasma initiation method using a sliding discharge on a glass or ceramic insulator with a novel construction. This paper discusses the motivation, theoretical background, practical realization and experimental observations. Some downstream novel plasma focus based technology concepts that are heavily dependent on this innovation are briefly described."

  • FLCCC update, listen to the doctors treating the virus


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