SciCombinator

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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.

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CDC recommends a combination of evidence-based strategies to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 (1). Because the virus is transmitted predominantly by inhaling respiratory droplets from infected persons, universal mask use can help reduce transmission (1). Starting in April, 39 states and the District of Columbia (DC) issued mask mandates in 2020. Reducing person-to-person interactions by avoiding nonessential shared spaces, such as restaurants, where interactions are typically unmasked and physical distancing (≥6 ft) is difficult to maintain, can also decrease transmission (2). In March and April 2020, 49 states and DC prohibited any on-premises dining at restaurants, but by mid-June, all states and DC had lifted these restrictions. To examine the association of state-issued mask mandates and allowing on-premises restaurant dining with COVID-19 cases and deaths during March 1-December 31, 2020, county-level data on mask mandates and restaurant reopenings were compared with county-level changes in COVID-19 case and death growth rates relative to the mandate implementation and reopening dates. Mask mandates were associated with decreases in daily COVID-19 case and death growth rates 1-20, 21-40, 41-60, 61-80, and 81-100 days after implementation. Allowing any on-premises dining at restaurants was associated with increases in daily COVID-19 case growth rates 41-60, 61-80, and 81-100 days after reopening, and increases in daily COVID-19 death growth rates 61-80 and 81-100 days after reopening. Implementing mask mandates was associated with reduced SARS-CoV-2 transmission, whereas reopening restaurants for on-premises dining was associated with increased transmission. Policies that require universal mask use and restrict any on-premises restaurant dining are important components of a comprehensive strategy to reduce exposure to and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (1). Such efforts are increasingly important given the emergence of highly transmissible SARS-CoV-2 variants in the United States (3,4).

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The emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants highlighted the need to better understand adaptive immune responses to this virus. It is important to address whether also CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses are affected, because of the role they play in disease resolution and modulation of COVID-19 disease severity. Here we performed a comprehensive analysis of SARS-CoV-2-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses from COVID-19 convalescent subjects recognizing the ancestral strain, compared to variant lineages B.1.1.7, B.1.351, P.1, and CAL.20C as well as recipients of the Moderna (mRNA-1273) or Pfizer/BioNTech (BNT162b2) COVID-19 vaccines. Similarly, we demonstrate that the sequences of the vast majority of SARS-CoV-2 T cell epitopes are not affected by the mutations found in the variants analyzed. Overall, the results demonstrate that CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses in convalescent COVID-19 subjects or COVID-19 mRNA vaccinees are not substantially affected by mutations found in the SARS-CoV-2 variants.

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Obesity* is a recognized risk factor for severe COVID-19 (1,2), possibly related to chronic inflammation that disrupts immune and thrombogenic responses to pathogens (3) as well as to impaired lung function from excess weight (4). Obesity is a common metabolic disease, affecting 42.4% of U.S. adults (5), and is a risk factor for other chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.† The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices considers obesity to be a high-risk medical condition for COVID-19 vaccine prioritization (6). Using data from the Premier Healthcare Database Special COVID-19 Release (PHD-SR),§ CDC assessed the association between body mass index (BMI) and risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes (i.e., hospitalization, intensive care unit [ICU] or stepdown unit admission, invasive mechanical ventilation, and death). Among 148,494 adults who received a COVID-19 diagnosis during an emergency department (ED) or inpatient visit at 238 U.S. hospitals during March-December 2020, 28.3% had overweight and 50.8% had obesity. Overweight and obesity were risk factors for invasive mechanical ventilation, and obesity was a risk factor for hospitalization and death, particularly among adults aged <65 years. Risks for hospitalization, ICU admission, and death were lowest among patients with BMIs of 24.2 kg/m2, 25.9 kg/m2, and 23.7 kg/m2, respectively, and then increased sharply with higher BMIs. Risk for invasive mechanical ventilation increased over the full range of BMIs, from 15 kg/m2 to 60 kg/m2. As clinicians develop care plans for COVID-19 patients, they should consider the risk for severe outcomes in patients with higher BMIs, especially for those with severe obesity. These findings highlight the clinical and public health implications of higher BMIs, including the need for intensive COVID-19 illness management as obesity severity increases, promotion of COVID-19 prevention strategies including continued vaccine prioritization (6) and masking, and policies to ensure community access to nutrition and physical activities that promote and support a healthy BMI.

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T-cell immunity is important for recovery from COVID-19 and provides heightened immunity for re-infection. However, little is known about the SARS-CoV-2-specific T-cell immunity in virus-exposed individuals. Here we report virus-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell memory in recovered COVID-19 patients and close contacts. We also demonstrate the size and quality of the memory T-cell pool of COVID-19 patients are larger and better than those of close contacts. However, the proliferation capacity, size and quality of T-cell responses in close contacts are readily distinguishable from healthy donors, suggesting close contacts are able to gain T-cell immunity against SARS-CoV-2 despite lacking a detectable infection. Additionally, asymptomatic and symptomatic COVID-19 patients contain similar levels of SARS-CoV-2-specific T-cell memory. Overall, this study demonstrates the versatility and potential of memory T cells from COVID-19 patients and close contacts, which may be important for host protection.

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Pregnant and lactating women were excluded from initial COVID-19 vaccine trials; thus, data to guide vaccine decision-making are lacking.

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Although airborne transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has been recognized, the condition of ventilation for its occurrence is still being debated. We analyzed a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak involving three families in a restaurant in Guangzhou, China, assessed the possibility of airborne transmission, and characterized the associated environmental conditions. We collected epidemiological data, obtained a full video recording and seating records from the restaurant, and measured the dispersion of a warm tracer gas as a surrogate for exhaled droplets from the index case. Computer simulations were performed to simulate the spread of fine exhaled droplets. We compared the in-room location of subsequently infected cases and spread of the simulated virus-laden aerosol tracer. The ventilation rate was measured using the tracer gas concentration decay method. This outbreak involved ten infected persons in three families (A, B, C). All ten persons ate lunch at three neighboring tables at the same restaurant on January 24, 2020. None of the restaurant staff or the 68 patrons at the other 15 tables became infected. During this occasion, the measured ventilation rate was 0.9 L/s per person. No close contact or fomite contact was identified, aside from back-to-back sitting in some cases. Analysis of the airflow dynamics indicates that the infection distribution is consistent with a spread pattern representative of long-range transmission of exhaled virus-laden aerosols. Airborne transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is possible in crowded space with a ventilation rate of 1 L/s per person.

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When hydrated, phosphides such as the mineral schreibersite, (Fe,Ni)3P, allow for the synthesis of important phosphorus-bearing organic compounds. Such phosphides are common accessory minerals in meteorites; consequently, meteorites are proposed to be a main source of prebiotic reactive phosphorus on early Earth. Here, we propose an alternative source for widespread phosphorus reduction, arguing that lightning strikes on early Earth potentially formed 10-1000 kg of phosphide and 100-10,000 kg of phosphite and hypophosphite annually. Therefore, lightning could have been a significant source of prebiotic, reactive phosphorus which would have been concentrated on landmasses in tropical regions. Lightning strikes could likewise provide a continual source of prebiotic reactive phosphorus independent of meteorite flux on other Earth-like planets, potentially facilitating the emergence of terrestrial life indefinitely.

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Vaccination elicits immune responses capable of potently neutralizing SARS-CoV-2. However, ongoing surveillance has revealed the emergence of variants harboring mutations in spike, the main target of neutralizing antibodies. To understand the impact of these variants, we evaluated the neutralization potency of 99 individuals that received one or two doses of either BNT162b2 or mRNA-1273 vaccines against pseudoviruses representing 10 globally circulating strains of SARS-CoV-2. Five of the 10 pseudoviruses, harboring receptor-binding domain mutations, including K417N/T, E484K, and N501Y, were highly resistant to neutralization. Cross-neutralization of B.1.351 variants was comparable to SARS-CoV and bat-derived WIV1-CoV, suggesting that a relatively small number of mutations can mediate potent escape from vaccine responses. While the clinical impact of neutralization resistance remains uncertain, these results highlight the potential for variants to escape from neutralizing humoral immunity and emphasize the need to develop broadly protective interventions against the evolving pandemic.

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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.