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Booster shots in progress for scary COVID virus mutants

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Since the beginning of the pandemic, SARS-CoV-2, the cause of the virus, has been mutated. These genetic changes initially seemed insignificant. But recently, some changes have created potentially unstable variants that reduce the effectiveness of the new COVID vaccine, as shots have begun to invade people’s arms. Currently, pharmaceutical companies are responding by developing various follow-up shots for these variants to keep the disease away. These efforts represent the next step that has been shaped into a long battle between the ever-changing virus and the vaccinations deployed against it.

New variants of interest change the behavior of the virus. One is called B.1.1.7 and was first detected in the United Kingdom. It contains several mutations, including one that helps the virus spread more easily between humans, and can be even more deadly than the original version. Scientists predict that it could become the dominant stock in the United States by March. Another disturbing variant called B.1.351 was first noticed in South Africa. It contains mutations that make it much more difficult for immune system antibodies to interfere with the coronavirus peplomer. Spikes are the primary target for natural antibodies and antibodies produced by vaccination because they are viral components that latch into cells and initiate infection.recently PreprintIn a research paper that has not yet been peer-reviewed, scientists found that antibodies taken from the blood of people who received two doses of the new modelna vaccine were more effective in neutralizing B.1.351 in laboratory samples than Earlier versions of the virus reported to be 8.6 times lower. The same study showed that the new vaccine made by Pfizer was 6.5 times less active against the new variant.

[Read about five emerging variants of SARS-CoV-2, what new mutations they have, and how they can make these versions more contagious or more resistant to vaccines and treatments]

However, these reductions may not interfere with the effectiveness of the vaccine, especially for severe illnesses that hospitalize people. According to Roberto Burioni, a virologist at the University of Vita-Salute San Raffaele in Milan, vaccine-induced antibody levels are high enough to leave enough antibodies for such drops to provide protection in the first place. twitter..

Real-world evidence also provides positive news, showing that current vaccines protect against the worst forms of COVID. Johnson & Johnson vaccine in clinical trials involving South Africa where B.1.135 is widespread Reduced the risk of the average person with severe illness by 85% The risk of hospitalization and death has been reduced by 100%. Overall, it reduced the risk of symptomatological infections by 57%. Lance Baldo, chief medical officer at Adaptive Biotechnologies based in San Francisco, is testing the immune response to viral infections because the vaccine produces a wide range of antiviral activity beyond antibodies, probably due to the involvement of T cells. It states that there is. Recognizes and kills infected cells.

Paul Offit, a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and director of the Vaccine Education Center, agrees. He says that the protection of vaccines from severe COVID is generally “good news” and keeping people away from hospitals is a top priority. “If fully vaccinated people start to be hospitalized with any of these variants, we need to be more worried. So far, we haven’t crossed that line,” he said. Says.

Updated shot

To enhance protection against mild illness, vaccine makers believe that existing shots can be adapted to variants with less difficulty. Vaccines based on genetic material, such as Moderna and Pfizer vaccinations, are particularly well suited for these changes, as scientists can easily exchange new gene sequences as needed. Moderna plans to work on variants with two strategies. The company plans to test booster shots of existing vaccines to see if higher antibody levels can prevent new mutants. Moderna has also begun production of a new vaccine specifically targeted for mutations in the B.1.351 variant. Stephen Hoge, president, says boosters can be used for people vaccinated with the first Moderna vaccine or another company’s vaccine. He also states that this shot can be used for people who have already been naturally infected by the previous virus but may be vulnerable to reinfection by one of the new variants. In a press release on January 25, the company announced that it is proceeding with boosters in preclinical and early stage clinical trials in the United States.

Hoge did not comment on when the new booster will be available. “Our current vaccine appears to have produced neutralizing antibodies that we consider to be defensive,” he emphasized. Preprint Released in late January, it is based on research by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna scientists. Hoge said, “If a couple of months from now the variants actually start taking over the infection and have clinical data that says” OK, you can boost “, when and how to switch. “

[There is a new generation of COVID vaccines on the way. Read about how they differ from the first shots, and their possible advantages]

Other companies are moving in the same direction.Pfizer posted a preprint result It shows that the vaccine protects people from B.1.1.7 and B.1.135.But by email Scientific American, A Pfizer spokeswoman also said the company “lays the foundation for a quick response if a variant of SARS-CoV-2 shows evidence of evasion of the vaccine.” The renewed vaccine will be given as booster immunity, a spokesman said.

AstraZeneca, which uses a common cold virus to deliver peplomer DNA to human cells, plans to release a new vaccine against B.1.351 in the fall. Johnson & Johnson, who also uses harmless viruses as a delivery medium for DNA vaccines, has just applied for an emergency permit from the US Food and Drug Administration.The company is “thinking about whether it’s a revised booster or other modified vaccine. [for addressing variants] It may be necessary, “said Dumbarouchi, a vaccine co-developer who is responsible for virology and vaccine research at the Beth Israel Dicones Medical Center in Boston.

Finally, vaccine maker Novavax is conducting late-stage clinical trials with shots from an early version of the SARS-CoV-2 peplomer, working on the latest booster that the company plans to test in April or in the months that follow. I’m out.By email Scientific American, A spokeswoman for Novovax said a decision has not yet been made, but company officials are considering targeting South African variants.

Even if vaccine researchers have strategized how to create new shots, it is not yet clear what kind of tests will be needed to secure government approval to use them. Norman Baylor, a former director of the FDA’s Vaccine Research Review Authority and now president of Biologics Consulting in Alexandria, Virginia, asked most questions about safety and efficacy when easily changing gene-based vaccines. He emphasizes that he can answer as follows. Small and rapid research. These can enroll up to hundreds of people, rather than the tens of thousands required for clinical trials of the original vaccine. He says the goal is to show that booster-induced neutralizing antibody levels are “equivalent to those found in clinical trials with the original vaccine.” If that’s the case and the manufacturing platform itself hasn’t changed, he says boosters are likely to turn green soon.

However, approval still leaves big questions about how to deploy boosters and how to oppose which mutations. “Who should get it when? Does the company have the ability to switch gears and start producing millions of new vaccines targeting mutations?” Baylor I will ask.

Experts predict that in the future, the COVID vaccine program may reflect an annual influenza immune program. For the disease, the World Health Organization and other cooperating agencies will track circulating strains and adjust vaccines as part of an internationally synchronized strategy. An immunologist at Flinders University in Bedford said that if SARS-CoV-2 continues to circulate for years or becomes a background virus that never disappears, the variant to be vaccinated can be determined in a similar manner. One Nikolai Petrovsky suggests. South Australia Park. For now, “each vaccine maker has its own strategy,” says Petrovuxie. A better approach, he says, is for businesses and international groups to coordinate their efforts around a consensus set of mutations that are most likely to escape vaccine immunity.

Until that happens, Petrovsky is the best way to prevent the emergence of dangerous new variants worldwide, as soon as possible, encouraging mask wear, social distance, and other basic public health measures. Emphasize that vaccination is to be done. These steps deprive the virus of new hosts that can evolve new versions. “We are always vulnerable until everyone is protected,” he says.

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