On March 16, 2020, the day that national social distancing guidelines were released (1), the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) was notified of two cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) from a rural county of approximately 25,000 persons; these cases were the first identified in this county. The two cases occurred in a husband and wife; the husband is the pastor at a local church (church A). The couple (the index cases) attended church-related events during March 6-8, and developed nonspecific respiratory symptoms and fever on March 10 (wife) and 11 (husband). Before his symptoms had developed, the husband attended a Bible study group on March 11. Including the index cases, 35 confirmed COVID-19 cases occurred among 92 (38%) persons who attended events held at church A during March 6-11; three patients died. The age-specific attack rates among persons aged ≤18 years, 19-64 years, and ≥65 years were 6.3%, 59.4%, and 50.0%, respectively. During contact tracing, at least 26 additional persons with confirmed COVID-19 cases were identified among community members who reported contact with church A attendees and likely were infected by them; one of the additional persons was hospitalized and subsequently died. This outbreak highlights the potential for widespread transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, both at group gatherings during church events and within the broader community. These findings underscore the opportunity for faith-based organizations to prevent COVID-19 by following local authorities' guidance and the U.S. Government’s Guidelines: Opening Up America Again (2) regarding modification of activities to prevent virus transmission during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a pandemic with no specific drugs and high fatality. The most urgent need is to find effective treatments. We sought to determine whether hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) application may reduce the death risk of critically ill COVID-19 patients. In this retrospective study, we included 550 critically ill COVID-19 patients who need mechanical ventilation in Tongji Hospital, Wuhan, from February 1, 2020 to April 4, 2020. All 550 patients received comparable basic treatments including antiviral drugs and antibiotics, and 48 of them were treated with oral HCQ treatment (200 mg twice a day for 7-10 days) in addition to the basic treatments. Primary endpoint is fatality of patients, and inflammatory cytokine levels were compared between HCQ and non-hydroxychloroquine (NHCQ) treatments. We found that fatalities are 18.8% (9/48) in HCQ group, which is significantly lower than 47.4% (238/502) in the NHCQ group (P<0.001). The time of hospital stay before patient death is 15 (10-21) days and 8 (4-14) days for the HCQ and NHCQ groups, respectively (P<0.05). The levels of inflammatory cytokine IL-6 were significantly reduced from 22.2 (8.3-118.9) pg mL-1 at the beginning of the treatment to 5.2 (3.0-23.4) pg mL-1 (P<0.05) at the end of the treatment in the HCQ group but there is no change in the NHCQ group. These data demonstrate that addition of HCQ on top of the basic treatments is highly effective in reducing the fatality of critically ill patients of COVID-19 through attenuation of inflammatory cytokine storm. Therefore, HCQ should be prescribed as a part of treatment for critically ill COVID-19 patients, with possible outcome of saving lives. hydroxychloroquine, IL-6, mortalities, COVID-19.
As COVID-19 is rapidly spreading across the globe, short-term modeling forecasts provide time-critical information for decisions on containment and mitigation strategies. A major challenge for short-term forecasts is the assessment of key epidemiological parameters and how they change when first interventions show an effect. By combining an established epidemiological model with Bayesian inference, we analyze the time dependence of the effective growth rate of new infections. Focusing on COVID-19 spread in Germany, we detect change points in the effective growth rate that correlate well with the times of publicly announced interventions. Thereby, we can quantify the effect of interventions, and we can incorporate the corresponding change points into forecasts of future scenarios and case numbers. Our code is freely available and can be readily adapted to any country or region.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 was isolated from feces of a patient in China with coronavirus disease who died. Confirmation of infectious virus in feces affirms the potential for fecal-oral or fecal-respiratory transmission and warrants further study.
The COVID-19 pandemic urgently needs therapeutic and prophylactic interventions. Here we report the rapid identification of SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies by high-throughput single-cell RNA and VDJ sequencing of antigen-enriched B cells from 60 convalescent patients. From 8,558 antigen-binding IgG1+ clonotypes, 14 potent neutralizing antibodies were identified with the most potent one, BD-368-2, exhibiting an IC50 of 1.2 ng/mL and 15 ng/mL against pseudotyped and authentic SARS-CoV-2, respectively. BD-368-2 also displayed strong therapeutic and prophylactic efficacy in SARS-CoV-2-infected hACE2-transgenic mice. Additionally, the 3.8Å Cryo-EM structure of a neutralizing antibody in complex with the spike-ectodomain trimer revealed the antibody’s epitope overlaps with the ACE2 binding site. Moreover, we demonstrated that SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies could be directly selected based on similarities of their predicted CDR3H structures to those of SARS-CoV neutralizing antibodies. Altogether, we showed that human neutralizing antibodies could be efficiently discovered by high-throughput single B-cell sequencing in response to pandemic infectious diseases.
Explanations for the Upper Pleistocene extinction of megafauna from Sahul (Australia and New Guinea) remain unresolved. Extinction hypotheses have advanced climate or human-driven scenarios, in spite of over three quarters of Sahul lacking reliable biogeographic or chronologic data. Here we present new megafauna from north-eastern Australia that suffered extinction sometime after 40,100 (±1700) years ago. Megafauna fossils preserved alongside leaves, seeds, pollen and insects, indicate a sclerophyllous forest with heathy understorey that was home to aquatic and terrestrial carnivorous reptiles and megaherbivores, including the world’s largest kangaroo. Megafauna species diversity is greater compared to southern sites of similar age, which is contrary to expectations if extinctions followed proposed migration routes for people across Sahul. Our results do not support rapid or synchronous human-mediated continental-wide extinction, or the proposed timing of peak extinction events. Instead, megafauna extinctions coincide with regionally staggered spatio-temporal deterioration in hydroclimate coupled with sustained environmental change.
While evidence suggests that warming may impact cognition of ectotherms, the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. A possible, but rarely considered mechanism is that metabolic response of ectotherms to warming associate with changes in brain morphology and functioning. Here we compared aerobic metabolism, volume of brain, boldness, and accuracy of maze solving of common minnows (Phoxinus phoxinus) acclimated for eight months to either their current optimal natural (14 °C) or warm (20 °C) water temperature. Metabolic rates indicated increased energy expenditure in warm acclimated fish, but also at least partial thermal compensation as warm acclimate fish maintained high aerobic scope. Warm acclimated fish had larger brain than cool acclimated fish. Volume of dorsal medulla relative to the overall brain size was larger in warm than cool acclimated fish, but proportion of other brain regions did not differ between the temperature treatments. Warm acclimated fish did not differ in boldness but did more errors than cool acclimated fish in exploring the maze across four trials. Inter-individual differences in numbers of exploration errors were repeatable across the four trials of the maze test. Our findings suggest that in warm environments, maintaining a high aerobic scope which is important for the performance of physically demanding tasks, can come at the cost of changes in brain morphology and impairment of the capacity to explore novel environments. This trade-off could have strong fitness implications for wild ectotherms.
Although several therapeutic agents have been evaluated for the treatment of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), none have yet been shown to be efficacious.
The unprecedented pandemic of pneumonia caused by a novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, in China and beyond has had major public health impacts on a global scale [1, 2]. Although bats are regarded as the most likely natural hosts for SARS-CoV-2 , the origins of the virus remain unclear. Here, we report a novel bat-derived coronavirus, denoted RmYN02, identified from a metagenomic analysis of samples from 227 bats collected from Yunnan Province in China between May and October 2019. Notably, RmYN02 shares 93.3% nucleotide identity with SARS-CoV-2 at the scale of the complete virus genome and 97.2% identity in the 1ab gene, in which it is the closest relative of SARS-CoV-2 reported to date. In contrast, RmYN02 showed low sequence identity (61.3%) to SARS-CoV-2 in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) and might not bind to angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). Critically, and in a similar manner to SARS-CoV-2, RmYN02 was characterized by the insertion of multiple amino acids at the junction site of the S1 and S2 subunits of the spike (S) protein. This provides strong evidence that such insertion events can occur naturally in animal betacoronaviruses.
The factors mediating fatal SARS-CoV-2 infections are poorly understood. Here, we show that cigarette smoke causes a dose-dependent upregulation of Angiotensin Converting Enzyme 2 (ACE2), the SARS-CoV-2 receptor, in rodent and human lungs. Using single-cell sequencing data, we demonstrate that ACE2 is expressed in a subset of secretory cells in the respiratory tract. Chronic smoke exposure triggers the expansion of this cell population and a concomitant increase in ACE2 expression. In contrast, quitting smoking decreases the abundance of these secretory cells and reduces ACE2 levels. Finally, we demonstrate that ACE2 expression is responsive to inflammatory signaling and can be upregulated by viral infections or interferon treatment. Taken together, these results may partially explain why smokers are particularly susceptible to severe SARS-CoV-2 infections. Furthermore, our work identifies ACE2 as an interferon-stimulated gene in lung cells, suggesting that SARS-CoV-2 infections could create positive-feedback loops that increase ACE2 levels and facilitate viral dissemination.