SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

2252

Messenger RNA (mRNA) BNT162b2 (Pfizer-BioNTech) and mRNA-1273 (Moderna) COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to be effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in randomized placebo-controlled Phase III trials (1,2); however, the benefits of these vaccines for preventing asymptomatic and symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) infection, particularly when administered in real-world conditions, is less well understood. Using prospective cohorts of health care personnel, first responders, and other essential and frontline workers* in eight U.S. locations during December 14, 2020-March 13, 2021, CDC routinely tested for SARS-CoV-2 infections every week regardless of symptom status and at the onset of symptoms consistent with COVID-19-associated illness. Among 3,950 participants with no previous laboratory documentation of SARS-CoV-2 infection, 2,479 (62.8%) received both recommended mRNA doses and 477 (12.1%) received only one dose of mRNA vaccine.† Among unvaccinated participants, 1.38 SARS-CoV-2 infections were confirmed by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) per 1,000 person-days.§ In contrast, among fully immunized (≥14 days after second dose) persons, 0.04 infections per 1,000 person-days were reported, and among partially immunized (≥14 days after first dose and before second dose) persons, 0.19 infections per 1,000 person-days were reported. Estimated mRNA vaccine effectiveness for prevention of infection, adjusted for study site, was 90% for full immunization and 80% for partial immunization. These findings indicate that authorized mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are effective for preventing SARS-CoV-2 infection, regardless of symptom status, among working-age adults in real-world conditions. COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for all eligible persons.

575

An outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection occurred among church attendees after an infectious chorister sang at multiple services. We detected 12 secondary case-patients. Video recordings of the services showed that case-patients were seated in the same section, >15 m from the primary case-patient, without close physical contact, suggesting airborne transmission.

401

Oral venom systems evolved multiple times in numerous vertebrates enabling the exploitation of unique predatory niches. Yet how and when they evolved remains poorly understood. Up to now, most research on venom evolution has focused strictly on the toxins. However, using toxins present in modern day animals to trace the origin of the venom system is difficult, since they tend to evolve rapidly, show complex patterns of expression, and were incorporated into the venom arsenal relatively recently. Here we focus on gene regulatory networks associated with the production of toxins in snakes, rather than the toxins themselves. We found that overall venom gland gene expression was surprisingly well conserved when compared to salivary glands of other amniotes. We characterized the “metavenom network,” a network of ∼3,000 nonsecreted housekeeping genes that are strongly coexpressed with the toxins, and are primarily involved in protein folding and modification. Conserved across amniotes, this network was coopted for venom evolution by exaptation of existing members and the recruitment of new toxin genes. For instance, starting from this common molecular foundation, Heloderma lizards, shrews, and solenodon, evolved venoms in parallel by overexpression of kallikreins, which were common in ancestral saliva and induce vasodilation when injected, causing circulatory shock. Derived venoms, such as those of snakes, incorporated novel toxins, though still rely on hypotension for prey immobilization. These similarities suggest repeated cooption of shared molecular machinery for the evolution of oral venom in mammals and reptiles, blurring the line between truly venomous animals and their ancestors.

365

Large airbursts, the most frequent hazardous impact events, are estimated to occur orders of magnitude more frequently than crater-forming impacts. However, finding traces of these events is impeded by the difficulty of identifying them in the recent geological record. Here, we describe condensation spherules found on top of Walnumfjellet in the Sør Rondane Mountains, Antarctica. Affinities with similar spherules found in EPICA Dome C and Dome Fuji ice cores suggest that these particles were produced during a single-asteroid impact ca. 430 thousand years (ka) ago. The lack of a confirmed crater on the Antarctic ice sheet and geochemical and 18O-poor oxygen isotope signatures allow us to hypothesize that the impact particles result from a touchdown event, in which a projectile vapor jet interacts with the Antarctic ice sheet. Numerical models support a touchdown scenario. This study has implications for the identification and inventory of large cosmic events on Earth.

363

Intake of processed foods has increased markedly over the past decades, coinciding with increased microvascular diseases such as chronic kidney disease (CKD) and diabetes. Here, we show in rodent models that long-term consumption of a processed diet drives intestinal barrier permeability and an increased risk of CKD. Inhibition of the advanced glycation pathway, which generates Maillard reaction products within foods upon thermal processing, reversed kidney injury. Consequently, a processed diet leads to innate immune complement activation and local kidney inflammation and injury via the potent proinflammatory effector molecule complement 5a (C5a). In a mouse model of diabetes, a high resistant starch fiber diet maintained gut barrier integrity and decreased severity of kidney injury via suppression of complement. These results demonstrate mechanisms by which processed foods cause inflammation that leads to chronic disease.

333

To quantify rates of organ specific dysfunction in individuals with covid-19 after discharge from hospital compared with a matched control group from the general population.

319

When vaccines are in limited supply, expanding the number of people who receive some vaccine, such as by halving doses or increasing the interval between doses, can reduce disease and mortality compared with concentrating available vaccine doses in a subset of the population. A corollary of such dose-sparing strategies is that the vaccinated individuals may have less protective immunity. Concerns have been raised that expanding the fraction of the population with partial immunity to SARS-CoV-2 could increase selection for vaccine-escape variants, ultimately undermining vaccine effectiveness. We argue that, although this is possible, preliminary evidence instead suggests such strategies should slow the rate of viral escape from vaccine or naturally induced immunity. As long as vaccination provides some protection against escape variants, the corresponding reduction in prevalence and incidence should reduce the rate at which new variants are generated and the speed of adaptation. Because there is little evidence of efficient immune selection of SARS-CoV-2 during typical infections, these population-level effects are likely to dominate vaccine-induced evolution.

277

The primary immunological target of COVID-19 vaccines is the SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) protein. S is exposed on the viral surface and mediates viral entry into the host cell. To identify possible antibody binding sites, we performed multi-microsecond molecular dynamics simulations of a 4.1 million atom system containing a patch of viral membrane with four full-length, fully glycosylated and palmitoylated S proteins. By mapping steric accessibility, structural rigidity, sequence conservation, and generic antibody binding signatures, we recover known epitopes on S and reveal promising epitope candidates for structure-based vaccine design. We find that the extensive and inherently flexible glycan coat shields a surface area larger than expected from static structures, highlighting the importance of structural dynamics. The protective glycan shield and the high flexibility of its hinges give the stalk overall low epitope scores. Our computational epitope-mapping procedure is general and should thus prove useful for other viral envelope proteins whose structures have been characterized.

243

The novel pandemic betacoronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has infected at least 120 million people since its identification as the cause of a December 2019 viral pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan, China. Despite the unprecedented pace of vaccine development, with six vaccines already in use worldwide, the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 ‘variants of concern’ (VOC) across diverse geographic locales suggests herd immunity may fail to eliminate the virus. All three officially designated VOC carry Spike (S) polymorphisms thought to enable escape from neutralizing antibodies elicited during initial waves of the pandemic. Here, we characterize the biological consequences of the ensemble of S mutations present in VOC lineages B.1.1.7 (501Y.V1) and B.1.351 (501Y.V2). Using a replication-competent EGFP-reporter vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) system, rcVSV-CoV2-S, which encodes S from SARS coronavirus 2 in place of VSV-G, and coupled with a clonal HEK-293T ACE2 TMPRSS2 cell line optimized for highly efficient S-mediated infection, we determined that 8 out of 12 (67%) serum samples from a cohort of recipients of the Gamaleya Sputnik V Ad26 / Ad5 vaccine showed dose response curve slopes indicative of failure to neutralize rcVSV-CoV2-S: B.1.351. The same set of sera efficiently neutralized S from B.1.1.7 and showed only moderately reduced activity against S carrying the E484K substitution alone. Taken together, our data suggest that control of emergent SARS-CoV-2 variants may benefit from updated vaccines.

226

Lipids are indispensable in the SARS-CoV-2 infection process. The clinical significance of plasma lipid profile during COVID-19 has not been rigorously evaluated. We aim to ascertain the association of the plasma lipid profile with SARS-CoV-2 infection clinical evolution. Observational cross-sectional study including 1411 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 and an available standard lipid profile prior (n: 1305) or during hospitalization (n: 297). The usefulness of serum total, LDL, non-HDL and HDL cholesterol to predict the COVID-19 prognosis (severe vs mild) was analysed. Patients with severe COVID-19 evolution had lower HDL cholesterol and higher triglyceride levels before the infection. The lipid profile measured during hospitalization also showed that a severe outcome was associated with lower HDL cholesterol levels and higher triglycerides. HDL cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations were correlated with ferritin and D-dimer levels but not with CRP levels. The presence of atherogenic dyslipidaemia during the infection was strongly and independently associated with a worse COVID-19 infection prognosis. The low HDL cholesterol and high triglyceride concentrations measured before or during hospitalization are strong predictors of a severe course of the disease. The lipid profile should be considered as a sensitive marker of inflammation and should be measured in patients with COVID-19.