By Nancy Lapid
(Reuters) – The following is a brief roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.
Early tests of COVID-19 vaccines yield promising results
Results from trials of two potential COVID-19 vaccines yielded initial signs of efficacy with no serious adverse side effects, according to early data released on Monday. One was a UK study of the candidate being developed by Oxford University and British drugmaker AstraZeneca. The other was a Chinese study of a vaccine from CanSino Biologics. Both vaccines use a modified, harmless common cold virus known as an adenovirus to deliver genetic instructions to cells for inducing an immune response against the novel coronavirus. The genetic components include a copy of a “spike” protein found on the surface of the novel coronavirus so that the immune system will recognize and attack the actual virus. In both trials, according to reports in The Lancet, “showing” just the coronavirus spike protein to the body was enough to trigger the immune system to produce antibodies and germ-fighting T cells to battle the coronavirus. The trials used healthy volunteers who were not directly exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. The studies just assessed immune responses to the vaccines, along with safety. Much larger trials will be needed to prove these vaccines to be safe and effective in preventing infection by the virus. (https://reut.rs/2CPhjRu; https://reut.rs/39cA8dm; https://bit.ly/30y4nrz; https://bit.ly/3fMY5KK; https://bit.ly/2Cy7JCP)
Inhaled interferon may help hospitalized COVID-19 patients
Treatment with an inhaled form of interferon significantly reduced the risk of worsening illness in hospitalized COVID-19 patients and improved their odds of recovery, according to preliminary data from a mid-stage trial released by Synairgen Plc on Monday. In the trial not yet available for peer review, 101 patients received the experimental treatment, called SG001, or a placebo. Patients who got SNG001 had a 79% lower risk of developing severe disease requiring ventilation or death. They were also more than twice as likely to have recovered within 28 days of starting treatment. Breathing difficulty was also markedly reduced in patients who received SNG001, the company said. Interferon is a naturally occurring protein that regulates the body’s antiviral responses. “There are reasons to believe it could well be an effective treatment, but these results, while encouraging, should not be taken to mean that the treatment is so dramatic that everyone should be given it,” said Stephen Evans, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who was not involved in the study. (https://reut.rs/2WHrjDA)
BioNTech, Pfizer vaccine shows promise in small trial
German biotech BioNTech and U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc on Monday released data from an early-stage trial of their experimental coronavirus vaccine that showed that it prompted an immune response and was well-tolerated, similar to results seen in prior early test. In the study conducted in Germany on 60 healthy volunteers, the vaccine induced virus-neutralizing antibodies in those given two doses, in-line with previous results from an early-stage U.S. trial. The vaccine also generated a high level of T cell responses against the coronavirus. T cells are a key component of the immune system’s attack against foreign invaders, such as viruses, believed to be important for mounting a longer term immune response. The vaccine candidate uses messenger RNA to instruct cells to build a protein that resembles the spike on the surface of the coronavirus. Once the cells build the spike, the immune system learns to recognize it and is prepared to attack the virus. (https://reut.rs/32BZ64B; https://bit.ly/3jnLhgo)
Bystander CPR can be done safely during pandemic
Hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) carries a low risk of transmitting the coronavirus and bystanders who witness a cardiac arrest during the pandemic should not be afraid to perform it, doctors say. People are wary about close contact with others, so the pandemic is a real threat to bystander CPR, Dr. Sarah Perman of the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora told Reuters. Writing in the journal Circulation, she notes that the American Heart Association recommends hands-only CPR and precautions such as covering faces to reduce the spread of respiratory droplets that may carry the coronavirus. Bystanders who live with the cardiac arrest victim have likely already been exposed at home. “Many more lives would be saved than harmed by continuing to perform bystander CPR, especially if basic safety measures are taken,” Dr. Torben Becker, an emergency medicine doctor at the University of Florida, told Reuters. Rescuers should wear a mask and cover the victim’s mouth and nose with a cloth such as a shirt, he added. (https://bit.ly/39d21SI; https://bit.ly/30yJNXO)
Open https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/yxmvjqywprz/index.html in an external browser for a Reuters graphic on vaccines and treatments in development.
(Reporting by Nancy Lapid and Carolyn Christ; Editing by Bill Berkrot)