SciCombinator

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Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the etiology of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is readily transmitted person to person. Optimal control of COVID-19 depends on directing resources and health messaging to mitigation efforts that are most likely to prevent transmission, but the relative importance of such measures has been disputed.

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Vaccines are needed to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) and to protect persons who are at high risk for complications. The mRNA-1273 vaccine is a lipid nanoparticle-encapsulated mRNA-based vaccine that encodes the prefusion stabilized full-length spike protein of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes Covid-19.

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The relationship between the presence of antibodies to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and the risk of subsequent reinfection remains unclear.

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SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein is critical for virus infection via engagement of ACE2, and amino acid variation in Spike is increasingly appreciated. Given both vaccines and therapeutics are designed around Wuhan-1 Spike, this raises the theoretical possibility of virus escape, particularly in immunocompromised individuals where prolonged viral replication occurs. Here we report chronic SARS-CoV-2 with reduced sensitivity to neutralising antibodies in an immune suppressed individual treated with convalescent plasma, generating whole genome ultradeep sequences by both short and long read technologies over 23 time points spanning 101 days. Although little change was observed in the overall viral population structure following two courses of remdesivir over the first 57 days, N501Y in Spike was transiently detected at day 55 and V157L in RdRp emerged. However, following convalescent plasma we observed large, dynamic virus population shifts, with the emergence of a dominant viral strain bearing D796H in S2 and Δ H69/ Δ V70 in the S1 N-terminal domain NTD of the Spike protein. As passively transferred serum antibodies diminished, viruses with the escape genotype diminished in frequency, before returning during a final, unsuccessful course of convalescent plasma. In vitro, the Spike escape double mutant bearing Δ H69/ Δ V70 and D796H conferred decreased sensitivity to convalescent plasma, whilst maintaining infectivity similar to wild type. D796H appeared to be the main contributor to decreased susceptibility, but incurred an infectivity defect. The Δ H69/ Δ V70 single mutant had two-fold higher infectivity compared to wild type and appeared to compensate for the reduced infectivity of D796H. Consistent with the observed mutations being outside the RBD, monoclonal antibodies targeting the RBD were not impacted by either or both mutations, but a non RBD binding monoclonal antibody was less potent against Δ H69/ Δ V70 and the double mutant. These data reveal strong selection on SARS-CoV-2 during convalescent plasma therapy associated with emergence of viral variants with reduced susceptibility to neutralising antibodies.

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Since the first wave of coronavirus disease in March 2020, citizens and permanent residents returning to New Zealand have been required to undergo managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) for 14 days and mandatory testing for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). As of October 20, 2020, of 62,698 arrivals, testing of persons in MIQ had identified 215 cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Among 86 passengers on a flight from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, that arrived in New Zealand on September 29, test results were positive for 7 persons in MIQ. These passengers originated from 5 different countries before a layover in Dubai; 5 had negative predeparture SARS-CoV-2 test results. To assess possible points of infection, we analyzed information about their journeys, disease progression, and virus genomic data. All 7 SARS-CoV-2 genomes were genetically identical, except for a single mutation in 1 sample. Despite predeparture testing, multiple instances of in-flight SARS-CoV-2 transmission are likely.

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Although COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory illness, there is mounting evidence suggesting that the GI tract is involved in this disease. We investigated whether the gut microbiome is linked to disease severity in patients with COVID-19, and whether perturbations in microbiome composition, if any, resolve with clearance of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

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Antigen-based tests for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), are inexpensive and can return results within 15 minutes (1). Antigen tests have received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for use in asymptomatic and symptomatic persons within the first 5-12 days after symptom onset (2). These tests have been used at U.S. colleges and universities and other congregate settings (e.g., nursing homes and correctional and detention facilities), where serial testing of asymptomatic persons might facilitate early case identification (3-5). However, test performance data from symptomatic and asymptomatic persons are limited. This investigation evaluated performance of the Sofia SARS Antigen Fluorescent Immunoassay (FIA) (Quidel Corporation) compared with real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) for SARS-CoV-2 detection among asymptomatic and symptomatic persons at two universities in Wisconsin. During September 28-October 9, a total of 1,098 paired nasal swabs were tested using the Sofia SARS Antigen FIA and real-time RT-PCR. Virus culture was attempted on all antigen-positive or real-time RT-PCR-positive specimens. Among 871 (79%) paired swabs from asymptomatic participants, the antigen test sensitivity was 41.2%, specificity was 98.4%, and in this population the estimated positive predictive value (PPV) was 33.3%, and negative predictive value (NPV) was 98.8%. Antigen test performance was improved among 227 (21%) paired swabs from participants who reported one or more symptoms at specimen collection (sensitivity = 80.0%; specificity = 98.9%; PPV = 94.1%; NPV = 95.9%). Virus was isolated from 34 (46.6%) of 73 antigen-positive or real-time RT-PCR-positive nasal swab specimens, including two of 18 that were antigen-negative and real-time RT-PCR-positive (false-negatives). The advantages of antigen tests such as low cost and rapid turnaround might allow for rapid identification of infectious persons. However, these advantages need to be balanced against lower sensitivity and lower PPV, especially among asymptomatic persons. Confirmatory testing with an FDA-authorized nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT), such as RT-PCR, should be considered after negative antigen test results in symptomatic persons, and after positive antigen test results in asymptomatic persons (1).

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To investigate the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 in the immune population, we co-incubated authentic virus with a highly neutralizing plasma from a COVID-19 convalescent patient. The plasma fully neutralized the virus for 7 passages, but after 45 days, the deletion of F140 in the spike N-terminal domain (NTD) N3 loop led to partial breakthrough. At day 73, an E484K substitution in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) occurred, followed at day 80 by an insertion in the NTD N5 loop containing a new glycan sequon, which generated a variant completely resistant to plasma neutralization. Computational modeling predicts that the deletion and insertion in loops N3 and N5 prevent binding of neutralizing antibodies. The recent emergence in the United Kingdom and South Africa of natural variants with similar changes suggests that SARS-CoV-2 has the potential to escape an effective immune response and that vaccines and antibodies able to control emerging variants should be developed.

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Microplastics are particles smaller than five millimeters deriving from the degradation of plastic objects present in the environment. Microplastics can move from the environment to living organisms, including mammals. In this study, six human placentas, collected from consenting women with physiological pregnancies, were analyzed by Raman Microspectroscopy to evaluate the presence of microplastics. In total, 12 microplastic fragments (ranging from 5 to 10 μm in size), with spheric or irregular shape were found in 4 placentas (5 in the fetal side, 4 in the maternal side and 3 in the chorioamniotic membranes); all microplastics particles were characterized in terms of morphology and chemical composition. All of them were pigmented; three were identified as stained polypropylene a thermoplastic polymer, while for the other nine it was possible to identify only the pigments, which were all used for man-made coatings, paints, adhesives, plasters, finger paints, polymers and cosmetics and personal care products.

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Whether and when to mandate the wearing of facemasks in the community to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 remains controversial. Published literature across disciplines about the role of masks in mitigating severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) transmission is summarized. Growing evidence that SARS-CoV-2 is airborne indicates that infection control interventions must go beyond contact and droplet measures (such as handwashing and cleaning surfaces) and attend to masking and ventilation. Observational evidence suggests that masks work mainly by source control (preventing infected persons from transmitting the virus to others), but laboratory studies of mask filtration properties suggest that they could also provide some protection to wearers (protective effect). Even small reductions in individual transmission could lead to substantial reductions in population spread. To date, only 1 randomized controlled trial has examined a community mask recommendation. This trial did not identify a significant protective effect and was not designed to evaluate source control. Filtration properties and comfort vary widely across mask types. Masks may cause discomfort and communication difficulties. However, there is no evidence that masks result in significant physiologic decompensation or that risk compensation and fomite transmission are associated with mask wearing. The psychological effects of masks are culturally shaped; they may include threats to autonomy, social relatedness, and competence. Evidence suggests that the potential benefits of wearing masks likely outweigh the potential harms when SARS-CoV-2 is spreading in a community. However, mask mandates involve a tradeoff with personal freedom, so such policies should be pursued only if the threat is substantial and mitigation of spread cannot be achieved through other means.