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New data on the mystery of virus reproduction; non-COVID vaccines may help



By Nancy Lapid

(Reuters) – Below is a summary of some of the most recent scientific studies on the coronavirus novel and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

The “potential link” found in the virus replication cycle

Researchers may have found a missing link in the reproductive cycle of the coronavirus that may be targeted by drugs, according to a report in Science on Thursday. Scientists already knew that once the virus explodes in a cell, it forms double-membrane bags, or vesicles, into which it makes copies of its genetic material. But the sacs seemed to be closed and it was previously unclear how the genetic material moved from the sac to the fluid in the cell, where the new virus particles collected themselves. Eric Snijder from Leiden University Medical Center and his colleagues discovered tiny channels across both membranes that are wide enough to allow genetic material to pass through. “In electron microscope images we can see ̵

6;stuff’ sticking out of these channels. “Most likely this ‘item’ is viral RNA at its exit, but since the sample is frozen, there is no movement and we still have to find ways to properly identify ‘items’ as viral RNA,” Snijder told Reuters. “Blocking this channel somehow … can create a big problem for the virus to do its tricks,” he added. (Https://bit.ly/2Xy4UZN)

The data suggest safety, benefit of non-COVID vaccines

Two new studies found that people who had received vaccines for other viruses developed more or less coronavirus infections, although more research is needed to determine their potential effectiveness against COVID-19. According to a study published in Cell Reports Medicine on Wednesday, people who received the BCG tuberculosis vaccine in the last 3 years have not developed more severe coronavirus infections. “The results of future BCG trials are currently needed before definitive conclusions can be drawn,” said co-author Mihai Netea of ​​Radboud University Medical Center. A separate study from the Mayo Clinic, posted online before peer review, found that people who received other vaccines in the past 5 years – such as the flu, pneumonia or hepatitis – had lower levels of coronavirus infection. Netea said the Mayo Clinic report suggests that “the beneficial effects of vaccines may be broader than currently known” and that his team had seen similar data in influenza vaccines. (https://bit.ly/3fDzwPu; https://bit.ly/2DDlQXD)

Graph: Vaccines and developing treatments https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/yxmvjqywprz/index.html

Large viral loads in asymptomatic patients

Patients with symptomatic COVID-19 may carry high loads of the new coronavirus in their noses, throats and lungs, and the loads tend to decrease more slowly than in patients who show symptoms, according to a report in JAMA Medical Medicine on Thursday. The researchers studied 303 young and otherwise healthy isolated patients at a community treatment center in the Republic of Korea. Approximately one-third had no symptoms when diagnosed, and about 20% of this group developed symptoms while isolated. Numerous tests over a month showed similar viral loads in people with or without symptoms. The tests could not distinguish active or infectious virus particles from inactive particles. “For a better understanding of viral shedding and the potential transmission of asymptomatic infection, large rigorous epidemiological and experimental studies are needed,” the researchers write. (Https://bit.ly/30zjthC)

The cancer detection rate in the US dropped during the pandemic

The average number of weekly diagnoses of six common types of cancer in the United States fell by 46% in the early stages of the pandemic, according to new data in the JAMA Network Open. Researchers led by Dr. Harvey Kaufman of Quest Diagnostics studied more than 278,000 patients with new diagnoses of breast, colorectal, lung, pancreas, stomach or esophageal cancer from early January to mid-April. In January and February, an average of 4,310 new cancers were diagnosed each week, they reported. After March 1, weekly diagnoses dropped between 25% and 52%. “Some cancers grow very slowly but others grow a little faster and these delays can be important for some patients,” Kaufman said. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has recommended cancer screening that requires in-person visits to be delayed during the pandemic. But this is not an empty statement, told Reuters ASCO chief medical officer Dr. Richard L. Schilsky. “These are decisions that need to be weighed between the doctor and the patient,” he said, adding that they should consider the patient’s cancer risk as well as the possibility of exposure to COVID-19. (Https://bit.ly/3ibcIZb)

(Reporting by Nancy Lapid and Anne Harding; Editing by Tiffany Wu)


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