WHO monitoring new coronavirus variant named ‘Mu’

Issued on: 01/09/2021 – 07:25

The World Health Organization has said it is monitoring a new coronavirus variant known as “Mu”, which was first identified in Colombia in January 2021.

Mu, known scientifically as B.1.621, has been classified as a “variant of interest”, the global health body said Tuesday in its weekly pandemic bulletin.

The WHO said the variant has mutations that indicate a risk of resistance to vaccines and stressed that further studies were needed to better understand it.

“The Mu variant has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape,” the bulletin said.

There is widespread concern over the emergence of new virus mutations as infection rates are ticking up globally again, with the highly transmissible Delta variant taking hold – especially among the unvaccinated – and in regions where anti-virus measures have been relaxed.

All viruses, including SARS-CoV-2 that causes Covid-19, mutate over time and most mutations have little or no effect on the properties of the virus.

But certain mutations can impact the properties of a virus and influence how easily it spreads, the severity of the disease it causes, and its resistance to vaccines, drugs and other countermeasures.

The WHO currently identifies four Covid-19 variants of concern, including Alpha, which is present in 193 countries, and Delta, present in 170 countries.

Five variants, including Mu, are to be monitored.

After being detected in Colombia, Mu has since been reported in other South American countries and in Europe.

The WHO said its global prevalence has declined to below 0.1 percent among sequenced cases. In Colombia, however, it is at 39 percent.

New South African COVID-19 strain is the most mutated one yet: report

Authors: By Yaron SteinbuchAugust 30, 2021 10:50am

COVID-19 variant first detected in South Africa could be more infectious than other mutations — and may have the potential of being resistant to vaccines, according to a report.

The C.1.2 strain has been linked to “increased transmissibility” and is said to have mutated the most from the original virus, which first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the Mirror reported.

The strain has a mutation rate of about 41.8 mutations per year, almost double the global mutation rate seen in any other existing variant of concern, according to experts at South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform.

The number of C.1.2 genomes in South Africa has risen from 0.2 percent in May to 1.6 percent in June and 2 percent in July, according to scientists, who also have found 14 mutations in nearly 50 percent of the variants that had a C.1.2 sequence.

The C.1.2 strain also has been found in the UK, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritius, New Zealand, Portugal and Switzerland.

The latest South African variant could be capable of evading antibodies and immune systems, researchers said, while noting that additional research is needed.

“We describe and characterize a newly identified SARS-CoV-2 lineage with several spike mutations that is likely to have emerged in a major metropolitan area in South Africa after the first wave of the epidemic, and then to have spread to multiple locations within two neighboring provinces,” the researchers wrote in the report, which was published in the journal Nature.

 “We show that this lineage has rapidly expanded and become dominant in three provinces, at the same time as there has been a rapid resurgence in infections,” they added.

B.1.351, another South African strain found in April, had the potential to “break through” the Pfizer vaccine, scientists have found.

“We found a disproportionately higher rate of the South African variant among people vaccinated with a second dose, compared to the unvaccinated group,” said professor Adi Stern of Tel Aviv University in Israel, the Mirror reported. “This means that the South African variant is able, to some extent, to break through the vaccine’s protection.”

But still, he said the variant “has not spread widely through the population” — and that the UK variant may be “blocking” the spread of the South African strain.

News about the C.1.2 strain, which was discovered in May, comes as the US grapples with a resurgence caused by the Delta variant, which has complicated efforts to return to workplaces and schools.

“Inescapable” COVID-19 Antibody Discovery – Neutralizes All Known SARS-CoV-2 Strains

Authors: By LAWRENCE BERKELEY NATIONAL LABORATORY AUGUST 26, 2021

An antibody therapy that appears to neutralize all known SARS-CoV-2 strains, and other coronaviruses, was developed with a little help from structural biologist Jay Nix.

Lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines are allowing us to feel optimistic again, after more than a year of anxiety and tragedy. But vaccines are only one side of the coin – we also need treatments that can prevent severe disease after someone has been infected. In the past year, there has been significant progress in developing effective antibody-based therapies, and three drugs are currently available through emergency use authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration.

Sotrovimab, the newest antibody therapy, was developed by GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology after a large collaborative study by scientists from across the nation discovered a natural antibody (in the blood of a SARS survivor, back in 2003) that has remarkable breadth and efficacy.

Experiments showed that this antibody, called S309, neutralizes all known SARS-CoV-2 strains – including newly emerged mutants that can now “escape” from previous antibody therapies – as well as the closely related original SARS-CoV virus.

Jay Nix, leader of the Molecular Biology Consortium based at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source (ALS), used beamlines at the ALS and beamlines at SLAC’s Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource to perform X-ray crystallography on samples of survivor-derived antibodies during an early phase of the study. His work, alongside other crystallography and cryo-electron microscopy findings, helped generate detailed structural maps of how these antibodies bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, allowing the wider team to select the most promising contenders and advance them to cell culture- and animal-based studies. Following exciting lab results, the developers designed sotrovimab based on the structure of S309, and evaluated it in clinical trials.

The FDA granted an EUA for sotrovimab in late May after trials showed that people with mild to moderate COVID-19 infections who received an infusion of the therapy had an 85% reduction in rates of hospitalization or death, compared with placebo.

But the team didn’t stop there.

Understanding that new mutations could arise and that a novel pathogenic coronavirus could emerge from an animal-human crossover event, the scientists began a follow-up study to deeply explore what factors make antibodies resistant to viral escape and how certain antibodies are also broadly reactive against diverse, related viruses. Using biochemical and structural analysis, deep mutational scanning, and binding experiments, they identified one antibody with unparalleled universal potency.

“This antibody, which binds to a previously unknown site on the coronavirus spike protein, appears to neutralize all known sarbecoviruses – the genus of coronaviruses that cause respiratory infections in mammals,” said Nix, who is an affiliate in Berkeley Lab’s Biosciences Area. “And, due to the unique binding site on mutation-resistant part of the virus, it may well be more difficult for a new strain to escape.”

Subsequent tests in hamsters suggest that this antibody could even prevent a COVID-19 infection if given prophylactically. The new work was published in Nature.

Reference: “SARS-CoV-2 RBD antibodies that maximize breadth and resistance to escape” by Tyler N. Starr, Nadine Czudnochowski, Zhuoming Liu, Fabrizia Zatta, Young-Jun Park, Amin Addetia, Dora Pinto, Martina Beltramello, Patrick Hernandez, Allison J. Greaney, Roberta Marzi, William G. Glass, Ivy Zhang, Adam S. Dingens, John E. Bowen, M. Alejandra Tortorici, Alexandra C. Walls, Jason A. Wojcechowskyj, Anna De Marco, Laura E. Rosen, Jiayi Zhou, Martin Montiel-Ruiz, Hannah Kaiser, Josh Dillen, Heather Tucker, Jessica Bassi, Chiara Silacci-Fregni, Michael P. Housley, Julia di Iulio, Gloria Lombardo, Maria Agostini, Nicole Sprugasci, Katja Culap, Stefano Jaconi, Marcel Meury, Exequiel Dellota, Rana Abdelnabi, Shi-Yan Caroline Foo, Elisabetta Cameroni, Spencer Stumpf, Tristan I. Croll, Jay C. Nix, Colin Havenar-Daughton, Luca Piccoli, Fabio Benigni, Johan Neyts, Amalio Telenti, Florian A. Lempp, Matteo S. Pizzuto, John D. Chodera, Christy M. Hebner, Herbert W. Virgin, Sean P. J. Whelan, David Veesler, Davide Corti, Jesse D. Bloom and Gyorgy Snell, 14 July 2021, Nature.
DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03807-6

The Advanced Light Source and SLAC’s Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource are Department of Energy Office of Science User Facilities.

How Will the Coronavirus Evolve?

Authors: By Dhruv Khullar


In 1988, Richard Lenski, a thirty-one-year-old biologist at UC Irvine, started an experiment. He divided a population of a common bacterium, E. coli, into twelve flasks. Each flask was kept at thirty-seven degrees Celsius, and contained an identical cocktail of water, glucose, and other nutrients. Each day, as the bacteria replicated, Lenski transferred several drops of each cocktail to a new flask, and every so often he stored samples away in a freezer. His goal was to understand the mechanics of evolution. How quickly, effectively, creatively, and consistently do microorganisms improve their reproductive fitness?

Lenski’s flasks produced about six new generations of E. coli a day; the bacteria woke up as babies and went to bed as great-great-great-grandparents. In this way, Lenski and his team have studied more than seventy thousand generations of E. coli over thirty-three years. Compared with their distant ancestors, the latest versions of the bacterium reproduce seventy per cent faster; it once took them an hour to double their ranks, but now they can do it in less than forty minutes. Different populations have taken different paths to enhanced fitness, but, after decades, most have arrived at reproduction rates within a few percentage points of one another.

Lenski’s Long-Term Evolution Experiment, or L.T.E.E., as it’s called, has yielded fundamental insights into the mutational capabilities of microorganisms. For his work, Lenski, now in his sixties and at Michigan State University, has received a MacArthur “genius” grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship. “I’m not sure I can tell you how it’s affected my thinking, because I’m not sure I can conceive of being in this field without this experiment existing,” Michael Baym, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard Medical School, recently told Discover.

Three of the experiment’s key findings are especially relevant today. The first is that, in general, there were diminishing returns to mutation over time: the bacteria made many of their most reproductively advantageous moves early on. A second finding, however, was that the bacteria never stopped getting fitter. Seventy thousand generations in, they’re still finding new ways to improve, albeit at a somewhat slower rate. “I had sort of imagined that things would have flatlined,” Lenski told me recently, when we spoke over Zoom. “But there seem to be endless possibilities for tinkering and progress. If there is a hard limit, it’s so, so far away that it’s impractical to consider on an experimental timescale—maybe even a geological timescale.”

For More Information: https://www.newyorker.com/science/annals-of-medicine/how-will-the-coronavirus-evolve

Worse Than the Disease? Reviewing Some Possible Unintended Consequences of the mRNA Vaccines Against COVID-19

Authors: Stephanie Seneff1and Greg Nigh21Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, MIT, Cambridge MA, 02139, USA, E-mail: seneff@csail.mit.edu 2Naturopathic Oncology, Immersion Health, Portland, OR 97214, USA

ABSTRACT

Operation Warp Speed brought to market in the United States two mRNA vaccines, produced by Pfizer and Moderna. Interim data suggested high efficacy for both of these vaccines, which helped legitimize Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA. However, the exceptionally rapid movement of these vaccines through controlled trials and into mass deployment raises multiple safety concerns. In this review we first describe the technology underlying these vaccines in detail. We then review both components of and the intended biological response to these vaccines, including production of the spike protein itself, and their potential relationship to a wide range of both acute and long-term induced pathologies, such as blood disorders, neurodegenerative diseases and autoimmune diseases. Among these potential induced pathologies, we discuss the relevance of prion-protein-related amino acid sequences within the spike protein. We also present a brief review of studies supporting the potential for spike protein “shedding”, transmission of the protein from a vaccinated to an unvaccinated person, resulting in symptoms induced in the latter. We finish by addressing a common point of debate, namely, whether or not these vaccines could modify the DNA of those receiving the vaccination. While there are no studies demonstrating definitively that this is happening, we provide a plausible scenario, supported by previously established pathways for transformation and transport of genetic material, whereby injected mRNA could ultimately be incorporated into germ cell DNA for transgenerational transmission. We conclude with our recommendations regarding surveillance that will help to clarify the long-term effects of these experimental drugs and allow us to better assess the true risk/benefit ratio of these novel technologies.

For More Information: https://ijvtpr.com/index.php/IJVTPR/article/view/23/51

Hidden History When Vaccines go wrong…This chicken vaccine makes its virus more dangerous

Authors: By —Nsikan Akpan

The deadliest strains of viruses often take care of themselves — they flare up and then die out. This is because they are so good at destroying cells and causing illness that they ultimately kill their host before they have time to spread.

But a chicken virus that represents one of the deadliest germs in history breaks from this conventional wisdom, thanks to an inadvertent effect from a vaccine. Chickens vaccinated against Marek’s disease rarely get sick. But the vaccine does not prevent them from spreading Marek’s to unvaccinated birds.

“With the hottest strains, every unvaccinated bird dies within 10 days. There is no human virus that is that hot. Ebola, for example, doesn’t kill everything in 10 days.”

In fact, rather than stop fowl from spreading the virus, the vaccine allows the disease to spread faster and longer than it normally would, a new study finds. The scientists now believe that this vaccine has helped this chicken virus become uniquely virulent.

For More Information: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/science/tthis-chicken-vaccine-makes-virus-dangerous

Imperfect Vaccination Can Enhance the Transmission of Highly Virulent Pathogens

Authors: Andrew F. Read ,Susan J. Baigent,Claire Powers,Lydia B. Kgosana,Luke Blackwell,Lorraine P. Smith,David A. Kennedy,Stephen W. Walkden-Brown,Venugopal K. Nair

Abstract

Could some vaccines drive the evolution of more virulent pathogens? Conventional wisdom is that natural selection will remove highly lethal pathogens if host death greatly reduces transmission. Vaccines that keep hosts alive but still allow transmission could thus allow very virulent strains to circulate in a population. Here we show experimentally that immunization of chickens against Marek’s disease virus enhances the fitness of more virulent strains, making it possible for hyperpathogenic strains to transmit. Immunity elicited by direct vaccination or by maternal vaccination prolongs host survival but does not prevent infection, viral replication or transmission, thus extending the infectious periods of strains otherwise too lethal to persist. Our data show that anti-disease vaccines that do not prevent transmission can create conditions that promote the emergence of pathogen strains that cause more severe disease in unvaccinated hosts.

There is a theoretical expectation that some types of vaccines could prompt the evolution of more virulent (“hotter”) pathogens. This idea follows from the notion that natural selection removes pathogen strains that are so “hot” that they kill their hosts and, therefore, themselves. Vaccines that let the hosts survive but do not prevent the spread of the pathogen relax this selection, allowing the evolution of hotter pathogens to occur. This type of vaccine is often called a leaky vaccine. When vaccines prevent transmission, as is the case for nearly all vaccines used in humans, this type of evolution towards increased virulence is blocked. But when vaccines leak, allowing at least some pathogen transmission, they could create the ecological conditions that would allow hot strains to emerge and persist. This theory proved highly controversial when it was first proposed over a decade ago, but here we report experiments with Marek’s disease virus in poultry that show that modern commercial leaky vaccines can have precisely this effect: they allow the onward transmission of strains otherwise too lethal to persist. Thus, the use of leaky vaccines can facilitate the evolution of pathogen strains that put unvaccinated hosts at greater risk of severe disease. The future challenge is to identify whether there are other types of vaccines used in animals and humans that might also generate these evolutionary risks.

For More Information: https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.1002198

Goldilocks virus’: Delta vanquishes all variant rivals as scientists race to understand its tricks

Since late last year, the country has been overrun by a succession of coronavirus variants, each with its own suite of mutations conferring slightly different viral traits. For much of this year, the alpha variant — officially known as B.1.1.7 and first seen in the United Kingdom — looked like the clear winner, accounting for the majority of cases by April. In second place was iota, B.1.526, first seen in New York City. A few others made the rogue’s gallery of variants: gamma, beta, epsilon.

Then came delta — B.1.617.2. It had spread rapidly in India, but in the United States, it sat there for months, doing little as the alpha advanced. As recently as May 8, delta caused only about 1 percent of new infections nationally.

Today, it has nearly wiped out all of its rivals. The coronavirus pandemic in America has become a delta pandemic. By the end of July, it accounted for 93.4 percent of new infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The speed with which it dominated the pandemic has left scientists nervous about what the virus will do next. The variant battles of 2021 are part of a longer war, one that is far from over.

For More Information: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/e2-80-98goldilocks-virus-e2-80-99-delta-vanquishes-all-variant-rivals-as-scientists-race-to-understand-its-tricks/ar-AAN58B4

“One Step Closer To Dictatorship”: Joe Rogan Slams Vaccine Passports, Warns Vax May Cause ‘Virulent Mutations’

Rogan – who acknowledge thathe’s not a doctor or an anti-vaxx person, says that concerned doctors have been anonymously sending him studies – including one which asserts that an imperfect vaccine can lead to ‘highly virulent pathogens,’ and that ‘vaccines that keep the host alive but still allow transmission can thus allow virulent strains to circulate in a population.’

“The very sort of environment that we’re creating by having so many people vaccinated with a vaccine that doesn’t kill off the virus, it actually can lead to a more potent virus. Try finding that story anywhere,” said Rogan, who was referring to a peer-reviewed paper published in 2015, in which its authors – from Penn State and the Pirbright Institute concluded that “anti-disease vaccines that do not prevent transmission can create conditions that promote the emergence of pathogen strains that cause more severe disease in unvaccinated hosts.

For More Information: https://www.zerohedge.com/covid-19/one-step-closer-dictatorship-joe-rogan-slams-vaccine-passports-warns-vax-may-cause

Fauci fears a COVID variant worse than Delta could be coming

If America’s current COVID-19 surge continues unabated into the fall and winter, the country will likely face an even more deadly strain of the virus that could evade the current coronavirus vaccines, NIAID director Anthony Fauci told McClatchy Wednesday.

Why it matters: Fauci’s comments underscore the importance of acting quickly to vaccinate the tens of millions of Americans who have not been inoculated against the virus.

  • The current surge in coronavirus cases nationwide is being driven by the Delta variant, which is already more contagious than the original strain of the virus.

The big picture: As the virus continues to spread due to insufficient vaccination rates, it is being given “ample” time to mutate into a more dangerous new variant in the fall and winter, Fauci said.

  • “Quite frankly, we’re very lucky that the vaccines that we have now do very well against the variants — particularly against severe illness,” Fauci said, emphasizing that this might not be the case with a new variant.
  • “If another one comes along that has an equally high capability of transmitting but also is much more severe, then we could really be in trouble,” he said.
  • “People who are not getting vaccinated mistakenly think it’s only about them.

For More Information: https://www.axios.com/fauci-delta-variant-covid-d1c0d550-6624-417d-bde6-33c8f56deaba.html