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It seems odd to be saying this after a year and a half (and with the pandemic still at the top of everyone’s minds) – but for the final time: Welcome to The COVID-19 Curator!

Don’t fret – we’re not leaving your inboxes. As we mentioned in Issue 64, we’re simply making a few changes as of next week (just in time for ECCMID). From now on, Essential Stories will see a mix of COVID-19 and wider infectious disease stories, whereas our Worth Your Time section will be more clearly divided. My opening section will be a mix’n’match each week – depending on where that week’s news and research take us.

Now, I hear you ask, what will this new Curator be called? Drumroll, please! From next Friday, we’ll be sliding into your inbox with… The Infectious Disease Curator!

I think we’re all aware that it’s not yet time to leave the pandemic behind – but it’s an exciting prospect to divide our attention between COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. If you work in the field and would like to contribute to a future issue, I’d love to hear from you!

Over and (not actually) out,

Liv Gaskill, The Curator

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Essential Reading

Two steps back. Researchers have estimated the negative effects of COVID-19 death toll on life expectancy in Brazil. 2020 life expectancy at birth (e0) declined by 1.3 years, whereas a 0.9-year reduction was predicted at age 65, levels not seen since 2014 and 2012, respectively. In 2021, e0 was reduced by 1.8 years. 

Summer of (not-so-)fun. A phylogeographic model has revealed how newly introduced lineages contributed to COVID-19 resurgence in Europe in summer 2020, rather than re-emerging persistent lineages. Success of onward transmission of new lineages was affected by local COVID-19 incidence, highlighting the need for well-coordinated European travel strategies.

B cell bootcamp. In previously uninfected individuals vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, SARS-CoV-2-binding germinal center B cell responses persist for at least 15 weeks after receiving the first dose and 12 weeks after the second. In previously infected individuals, these levels rise more rapidly and peak higher after vaccination compared to the uninfected group.

Mix’n’match. Heterologous and homologous schedules of Oxford-AstraZeneca (ChAd) and Pfizer-BioNTech (BNT) vaccination can induce robust immune responses within a 4-week prime boost interval. ChAd/BNT showed non-inferior geometric mean ratios of SARS-CoV-2 anti-spike IgG levels to ChAd/ChAd; however, BNT/ChAd failed to show non-inferiority against BNT/BNT.

Worth Your Time...

Understanding

Structurally evasive. Amino acid substitutions in B.1.1.7 protein increase cell ACE2 binding affinity and accessibility of receptor binding domain, leading to increased transmissibility; alternative host cell receptor found in E484D variant [LINKS: 1, 2]

Minking around. SARS-CoV-2 spike mutations alter transmission rates and antibody resistance; multiple analyses show that mechanistic changes either increase mink-to-human transmission or evade antibodies [LINK]

Structure over sequence. In silico modeling of spike-ACE2 shows high human binding in earliest SARS-CoV-2 isolates; sequence homology less important than structural in cross-species analysis [LINK]

Golden years. Diminished immune response and potency against SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOC) in over-80s following single mRNA vaccination; second dose enables age-independent VOC neutralization [LINK]

Testing

Below the surface. First study of near-complete SARS-CoV-2 genomic sequences from hospital surface samples confirms low risk of COVID-19 transmission via this route [LINK]

Right here, right now. Multi-antigen serological assay accurately profiles antibody response to COVID-19 at point of care; same chip detects prognostic biomarker of disease severity [LINK]

(Bar)coding COVID-19. LAMP-Seq (RT-LAMP method for detecting SARS-CoV-2 based on molecular barcoding) offers highly specific and sensitive diagnostic for potential mass surveillance of COVID-19 [LINK]

Fighting

Fighting resistance. Research suggests that only monoclonal antibodies with high affinity for SARS-CoV-2 receptor-binding domains are effective against B.1.351 and P.1 SARS-CoV-2 variants [LINK]

Accelerated recovery. Administering cocktail of combined metabolic activators to COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms could speed up recovery [LINK]

Neutralize the target. Study outlines approach for producing neutralizing antibodies with high binding affinity for SARS-CoV-2 – helping to treat both live viruses and pseudoviruses [LINK]

Repurposing potential. Relying on neural networks, researchers unveil 200 different drugs capable of targeting SARS-CoV-2, two of which were shown to inhibit viral replication in vitro [LINK]


Think of the children. China’s CoronaVac vaccine demonstrates good safety and tolerability profile in children aged 3–17 [LINK]
 
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