A mutation made the coronavirus more contagious • Earth.com – Earth.com

Last Updated on October 31, 2020 by

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin report that mutations may have made the coronavirus more contagious. As SARS-COV-2 evolved, the D614G mutation located in its spike protein made the virus more infectious, allowing it to spread more easily. 

The study involved more than 5,000 COVID-19 patients in Houston, and was focused on the various genetic mutations emerging in different strains of SARS-COV-2 since the time of the initial outbreak. 

According to the researchers, the spike protein is continuing to accumulate additional mutations with unknown abilities. Lab experiments revealed that at least one such mutation allows the protein to evade a neutralizing antibody that humans naturally produce to fight SARS-CoV-2 infections.

“The virus is mutating due to a combination of neutral drift – which just means random genetic changes that don’t help or hurt the virus – and pressure from our immune systems,” said study co-author Professor Ilya Finkelstein.

In collaboration with experts at Houston Methodist Hospital, the UT Austin team tested different genetic variants of the spike protein, which is used by the virus to gain entry into host cells. The experts measured the protein’s stability by examining how well it binds to a receptor on host cells and to neutralizing antibodies. 

The researchers found that SARS-CoV-2 was independently introduced to the Houston area many times from diverse geographic regions, including virus strains from Europe, Asia, South America,  and elsewhere in the United States. 

During the initial wave, 71 percent of the coronaviruses identified in COVID-19 patients in Houston had the D614G mutation on the spike protein. When the second wave of the pandemic hit Houston during the summer, this variant was found in 99.9 percent of the patients.

The same trend has been observed worldwide. A study that was based on more than 28,000 genome sequences showed that SARS-COV-2 strains with the infectious mutation took over as the globally dominant form of SARS-CoV-2 in about one month.

In another study of more than 25,000 genome sequences in the U.K., experts have determined that the D614G mutation allowed viruses to transmit faster than those without it and caused larger clusters of infections.

Some scientists believe the D614G mutation may have simply been more common in the first viruses to arrive in Europe and North America, which would have given them a head start on other strains.

“The virus continues to mutate as it rips through the world,” said Professor Finkelstein. “Real-time surveillance efforts like our study will ensure that global vaccines and therapeutics are always one step ahead.”

Overall, the team found a total of 285 mutations across thousands of infections, most of which did not seem to affect the severity of COVID-19. Ongoing studies will continue to monitor the third wave of COVID-19 patients to understand how the virus is adapting to neutralizing antibodies that are produced by our immune systems. Each new infection gives SARS-CoV-2 an additional chance to develop more dangerous mutations.

“We have given this virus a lot of chances,” study lead author James Musser told The Washington Post. “There is a huge population size out there right now.”

The research represents the largest peer-reviewed study of SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences in one metropolitan region of the United States.

The study is published in the journal mBio.

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

COVID-19 is spreading faster and further in households than previously thought:… – AlKhaleej Today

Last Updated on October 31, 2020 by

Washington, October 31

The transmission of the novel coronavirus in households is high, rapid and can come from both children and adults, according to a new study that examined 101 homes in the United States.

Preliminary results of ongoing research, published in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, showed that 51 percent of other people who lived with someone who was positive for COVID-19 also became infected.

“We found that multiple infections were quickly discovered after a first household member became ill,” said Carlos G. Grijalva, co-author of the study and associate professor of health policy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in the United States.

“These infections came on quickly, regardless of whether the first sick member of the household was a child or an adult,” said Grijalva.

According to the study, at least 75 percent of secondary household infections occurred within five days of the first person in the household showing symptoms.

It was also found that less than half of household members had symptoms when they first tested positive, and many reported no symptoms during the seven-day daily follow-up period.

“In the absence of an efficient approach to identifying infections without considering symptoms, these results suggest that imposing isolation measures immediately as soon as a person feels sick could reduce the likelihood of household transmission,” the researchers wrote in the study .

Citing the limitations of the study, the scientists said the original household member who started showing symptoms was considered the index patient in the study, while other household members may have been infected at the same time but developed symptoms or remained asymptomatic at different times.

However, the researchers believe the results still underscore the potential for transmission through symptomatic or asymptomatic contact with household members and the importance of quarantine.

“Because isolating people with COVID-19 immediately can reduce household transmission, people who suspect they may have COVID-19 should isolate, stay at home and use a separate bedroom and bathroom if possible,” said the Scientist.

“Isolation should begin before testing is done and before test results are available, as delaying isolation until infection is confirmed could miss an opportunity to reduce transmission to others,” they wrote in the study. – PTI

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Austria orders curfew, shutting restaurants to fight COVID … – Thomson Reuters Foundation

Last Updated on October 31, 2020 by

VIENNA, Oct 31 (Reuters) – Austria on Saturday announced a nighttime curfew and the closure of restaurants to all but take-away service as coronavirus infections approach what the government says is an unsustainable level for its hospital system.

The restrictions including a curfew from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. will apply as of Tuesday, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told a news conference, adding that shops would remain open. (Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Coronavirus strain from Spain likely source for most of Europes spread – The Jerusalem Post

Last Updated on October 31, 2020 by

A coronavirus strain that emerged in
Spain in June has spread across Europe and now makes up a large proportion of infections in several countries, researchers said, highlighting the role of travel in the pandemic and the need to track mutations.

The variant, which has not been found to be inherently more dangerous, was first identified among farm workers in the eastern Spanish regions of Aragon and Catalonia.

Over the last two months, it has accounted for close to 90% of new infections in Spain, according to the research paper, authored by seven researchers with backing by Swiss and Spanish public-sector science institutions.

It was posted on a so-called
preprint server and is yet to be peer reviewed for publication in a scientific journal.

The strain has crossed European borders and accounted for 40-70% of new infections in Switzerland, Ireland and the United Kingdom in September, they found.

The scientists said the strain’s characteristic mutation did not give it any apparent edge and its success may be down to the people who caught it first being particularly mobile and sociable.

But in some places outside Spain the variant’s journey developed a dynamic of its own, indicating it may have a transmission advantage.

“Its frequency in the UK has continued to increase even after quarantine-free travel was discontinued and the main summer travel period ended. Thus this variant might transmit faster than competing variants,” the researchers wrote.

Efforts to sequence viral genomes differ widely across Europe, limiting their research, they said.

“The rapid rise of these variants in Europe highlights the importance of genomic surveillance of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic… it is imperative to understand whether novel variants impact the severity of the disease.”

The World Health Organisation said in July that there was no evidence mutations of the virus had led to more severe disease. It formed a working group to better understand how mutations behave.

All viruses make only imperfect copies of themselves when they infect a host but the tendency for this random drift varies between classes of viruses.

Coronaviruses, which were also behind the 2002–2004 SARS outbreak, are known to be more stable than, for instance, the seasonal flu, which requires a new vaccine every year.

Erectile Dysfunction Drugs Market and Forecast Study Launched – Aerospace Journal

Last Updated on October 31, 2020 by

Researchers identify new drug to treat Covid-19 patients – MENAFN.COM

Last Updated on October 31, 2020 by

(MENAFN – IANS)

London, Oct 31 (IANS) In the continuing fight against the novel Coronavirus, researchers have now identified a drug with the potential to provide treatment for Covid-19 close to a year after it turned into a pandemic.

The study, published in the journal Cells, found that the approved protease inhibitor aprotinin displayed activity against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, in concentrations that are achieved in patients.

According to the researchers, aprotinin aerosols are approved in Russia for the treatment of influenza and could be readily tested for the treatment of Covid-19.

Aprotinin inhibits the entry of SARS-CoV-2 into host cells and may compensate for the loss of host cell protease inhibitors that are downregulated upon SARS-CoV-2 infection.

“The aprotinin aerosol has been reported to be tolerated extremely well in influenza patients. Hence, it may have a particular potential to prevent severe Covid-19 disease when applied early after diagnosis,” said study author Martin Michaelis from the University of Kent in the UK.

“Aprotinin has previously been shown to inhibit TMPRSS2 gene and has been suggested as a treatment option for influenza viruses and coronaviruses. Herein, we investigated the effects of aprotinin against SARS-CoV-2,” Michaelis added.

The findings showed that aprotinin displayed anti-SARS-CoV-2 activity in different cell types (Caco2, Calu-3, and primary bronchial epithelial cell air-liquid interface cultures) and against four virus isolates.

“An approved aprotinin aerosol may have the potential for the early local control of SARS-CoV-2 replication and the prevention of Covid-19 progression to a severe, systemic disease,” the study authors noted.

–IANS

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NIH scientists discover rare genetic inflammatory condition in men – The Streetjournal

Last Updated on October 31, 2020 by

Hundreds of men may be living with a potentially deadly condition just discovered by National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientists. 

The new disease, dubbed VEXAS, causes recurring blood clots, fevers, inflammation and lung damage – in men, specifically. 

NIH researchers began seeing a trickle  of men with the strange network of symptoms (which, oddly, but unrelatedly mirror those of COVID-19), coming into their clinics. 

Three of these men shared a gene mutation, and the scientists later discovered dozens more who had the mutation – and the same life-threatening set of symptoms. 

Now, they suspect that hundreds or more men in the US may have VEXAS – and if the men the NIH have studied so far are representative, 40 percent of them may die, of a disease that didn’t have a name before now.  

NIH scientists have discovered a rare genetic inflammatory disease that may affect hundreds of American men - and could be fatal for up to 40% of them (file)

NIH scientists have discovered a rare genetic inflammatory disease that may affect hundreds of American men - and could be fatal for up to 40% of them (file)

NIH scientists have discovered a rare genetic inflammatory disease that may affect hundreds of American men – and could be fatal for up to 40% of them (file)

Inflammation, in small doses, is an essential part of the immune system’s ability to fight infection. 

But when it becomes chronic, for any number of reasons, it can prove fatal. 

And it’s a particularly American disease. Nearly 125 million people in the US suffer some form of chronic inflammatory condition.  

Often caused or exacerbated by obesity, there are many such diseases, and distinguishing one from another is challenging because they may have multiple overlapping causes and symptoms. 

After exhausting their own doctors’ potential explanations for symptoms of chronic inflammation, some patients wind up at the NIH’s research hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. 

‘We had many patients with undiagnosed inflammatory conditions who were coming to the NIH Clinical Center, and we were just unable to diagnose them,’ said Dr David Beck, clinical fellow at NHGRI and lead author of the paper on VEXAS. 

Typically, a diagnosis is made based on a group of symptoms and lab findings. 

But that wasn’t working, so the NIH team decided to try a different approach. 

‘That’s when we had the idea of doing it the opposite way. Instead of starting with symptoms, start with a list of genes. Then, study the genomes of undiagnosed individuals and see where it takes us.’ 

They sequenced the entire genomes of 2,560 patients who had undiagnosed inflammatory conditions. 

More than 1,000 of them shared symptoms of recurring fevers and inflammation throughout their bodies, not just affecting specific parts or systems.  

They found one anomaly, shared by three men in the group.

Each had two copies – instead of one – of a gene called UBA1, which is found on the X chromosome. 

Because men have just one X chromosome, and one Y (as opposed to women, who have two X chromosomes), genetic abnormalities on this chromosome can have particularly profound effect on men’s health. 

But two copies of a gene on the X chromosome is next to impossible in men, because they should have just one of each gene on that chromosome, and have just one X chromosome. 

‘We were amazed to see this and wondered what it could mean. And that’s when it clicked–this was only possible if there was mosaicism in these men,’ said Dr Beck.  

Normally, all cells have the exact same set of DNA. But people with genetic mosaicism have more than one set of genes. Some groups of cells have one set of genes with a mutation, while other groups of cells have a set of DNA that does not contain that mutation. 

The UAB1 mutations were present in myeloid cells, which are largely responsible for mounting the  innate (or inborn) immune system’s first defense against infection – including inflammation. 

After scouring the genomes of other patients stored in NIH databases, the study authors found 22 other men with the mutation, and most had a similar pattern of symptoms: fevers, clots, lung abnormalities and cavities, known as vacuoles, in their myeloid cells. 

The researchers named the disease after its symptoms and genetic origin: VEXAS, a much simpler acronym for vacuoles, E1 enzyme, X-linked, autoinflammatory and somatic syndrome.   

Discovering the  disease and its cause was a revelation – but it came too late for some of the men it affected. So far, 40 percent have died. 

Given the prevalence of the VEXAS mutation in their databases, the NIH researchers think that hundreds more men may be suffering from the disease  – and their lives may be in danger. 

The team’s next steps will be to try to what they’ve learned about the condition to develop therapeutics.   

Coronavirus Spreads Faster, More Widely Within Households Than Previously Estimated: US Study – Yahoo India News

Last Updated on October 31, 2020 by

Transmission of the novel coronavirus within households is high, occurs quickly, and can originate from both children and adults, according to a new study which assessed 101 houses in the US. The preliminary findings from the ongoing research, published in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, revealed that 51 per cent of others living with someone who was positive for COVID-19 also became infected.

“We observed that, after a first household member became sick, several infections were rapidly detected in the household,” said Carlos G. Grijalva, study co-author and associate professor of Health Policy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in the US. “Those infections occurred fast, whether the first sick household member was a child or an adult,” Grijalva said. According to the research, at least 75 per cent of the secondary household infections occurred within five days of the first person in the household experiencing symptoms.

It also found that less than half of household members experienced symptoms when they first tested positive, and many reported no symptoms throughout the seven-day daily follow-up period. “In the absence of an efficient approach for identification of infections without regard to symptoms, these findings suggest that prompt adoption of isolation measures as soon as a person feels ill might reduce the probability of household transmission,” the scientists wrote in the study.

Citing the limitations of the study, the scientists said the initial household member who experienced symptoms was considered the index patient in the research, while other household members may have been infected concurrently but developed symptoms at different times or remained asymptomatic. However, the researchers believe the findings still underscore the potential for transmission from symptomatic or asymptomatic contact with household members and the importance of quarantine. “Because prompt isolation of persons with COVID-19 can reduce household transmission, persons who suspect that they might have COVID-19 should isolate, stay at home, and use a separate bedroom and bathroom if feasible,” the scientists said. “Isolation should begin before seeking testing, and before test results become available because delaying isolation until confirmation of infection could miss an opportunity to reduce transmission to others,” they wrote in the study.