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Another Animal Study Provides Crucial Information in Effort to Rapidly Develop COVID-19 Vaccines

Animal studies have revealed additional encouraging data about the investigational vaccine being developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Moderna. The candidate, named mRNA-1273, protected mice from infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The research appears today in the journal Nature. Additional research collaborators were involved in the published study.  

The findings show the investigational vaccine induced neutralizing antibodies in mice when given two intramuscular injections of a 1-microgram (mcg) dose three weeks apart. Additional experiments found that mice given two injections of the 1-mcg dose and later challenged with SARS-CoV-2 virus either 5 or 13 weeks after the second injection were protected from viral replication in the lungs and nose. Importantly, mice challenged 7 weeks after only a single dose of 1 mcg or 10 mcg of mRNA-1273 were also protected against viral replication in the lungs. The investigational vaccine also induced robust CD8 T-cell responses in mice. It did not induce the type of cellular immune response that has been linked to vaccine-associated enhanced respiratory disease. 

Today’s news is just the latest in a series of animal studies that have provided helpful data in the development of COVID-19 vaccines. Research results released last week showed the same vaccine from NIAID/Moderna was able to quickly clear the infection from the lungs of nonhuman primates that were vaccinated and then exposed. Meanwhile, a separate vaccine being developed by Johnson & Johnson has been shown to protect monkeys from infection. 

The Nature preprint article mentioned above can be found at this link.

Link to National Institutes of Health press release containing additional details

T Cells May Offer Lasting COVID-19 Protection

A new study suggests memory T cells might protect some people infected with SARS-CoV-2 by remembering past encounters with other human coronaviruses. The finding might help explain why some people seem to fend off COVID-19 and may be less susceptible to becoming severely ill. 

To come to this conclusion, researchers obtained and analyzed blood samples from 36 people who’d recently recovered from mild to severe COVID-19. All these individuals produced T cells that recognize multiple parts of SARS-CoV-2. They then compared this data to people who’d survived SARS. Interestingly, those memory T cells, acquired in response to SARS-CoV-1, also recognized parts of SARS-CoV-2. 

Finally, the team looked at healthy individuals with no history of either COVID-19 or SARS. To their surprise, more than half had T cells that recognize one or more of the SARS-CoV-2 proteins being studied. It’s still not clear if this acquired immunity stemmed from previous infection with coronaviruses that cause the common cold or perhaps from exposure to other as-yet unknown coronaviruses.

Overall, the study makes clear that past experiences with coronavirus infections may have something important to tell us about COVID-19. 

The findings, were recently reported in the journal Nature.

Additional information can be found in this blog post by NIH director Dr. Francis Collins.

Clinical Trial Results for Moderna/NIH Vaccine Released in Preliminary Report

Late this afternoon, the National Institutes of Health announced preliminary phase 1 results of mRNA-1273, an investigational vaccine designed to protect against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The vaccine candidate was one of the first to reach clinical trials. This was due in part to prior animal studies of related vaccines also developed collaboratively by NIH and Moderna Inc. 

According to the NIH, the vaccine was generally well tolerated and prompted neutralizing antibody activity in healthy adults. mRNA-1273 is designed to induce neutralizing antibodies directed at a portion of the coronavirus “spike” protein, which the virus uses to bind to and enter human cells. A Phase 2 clinical trial of mRNA-1273 began enrollment in late May. Plans are underway to launch a Phase 3 efficacy trial in July 2020. 

The preliminary report was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and can be found at this link.

Additional information can also be found in this NIH press release.

NIH Launches Clinical Trials Network to Test COVID-19 Vaccines, Other Prevention Strategies

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) today announced it has established a new clinical trials network. The network seeks to enroll thousands of volunteers to test a variety of investigational vaccines and monoclonal antibodies intended to protect people from COVID-19.

The COVID-19 Prevention Trials Network (COVPN) was established by merging four existing NIAID-funded clinical trials networks: the HIV Vaccine Trials Network, based in Seattle; the HIV Prevention Trials Network, based in Durham, N.C.; the Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Consortium, based in Atlanta; and the AIDS Clinical Trials Group, based in Los Angeles. 

The first Phase 3 clinical trial the COVPN is expected to conduct will involve testing the investigational mRNA-1273 vaccine, developed by NIAID scientists and their collaborators at the biotechnology company Moderna, Inc., based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. That study is expected to begin this summer.

Additional information about the COVPN can be found in this NIH press release.

NIAID Director suggests new COVID-19 cases could ‘go up to 100,000 a day’

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, provided a dire warning today during a Senate committee hearing. “We are now having 40-plus thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around,” Fauci said in response to a question about the likely U.S. coronavirus death toll 

Meanwhile, the European Union has confirmed that Americans will not be allowed to travel to the bloc of 27 countries when it reopens to some foreign travel Wednesday.

Additional information:

Washington Post: Fauci testifies new coronavirus cases could ‘go up to 100,000 a day’

BBC: Coronavirus: Fauci warns of 100,000 US cases per day

AMP Reveals Latest Video in COVID-19 Series

The latest addition to AMP’s COVID-19 video series is now out. The short movie highlights and corrects many of the myths, conspiracy theories and untruths that have spread along with the novel coronavirus itself. As you might expect, the video focuses on some of the misleading claims made by animal research opponents. But it also features other false statements that have impeded America’s ability to respond to the global pandemic. 

The video is titled “Debunking the Myths Surrounding COVID-19. ” It can be found on both YouTube and Vimeo. The links are below. AMP has also posted the clip on our COVID-19 resources pages and on all our social media channels including Facebook and Twitter.

We hope you take the time to watch. And if you like it, please share it on your social media channels. 

YouTube 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2YJsCR9Qro

Vimeo

https://vimeo.com/manage/432263878/general

 

New Study Suggests Large Percentage of COVID-19 Cases in U.S. Went Undetected in March

A new study in Science Translational Medicine claims as many as 8.7 million Americans were infected with COVID-19 in March, but more than 80% of them were never diagnosed.

The estimate comes from a review of cases where patients went to the doctor with influenza-like illnesses that were never diagnosed as coronavirus, influenza or any of the other viruses that usually circulate in winter. Only 100,000 novel coronavirus cases were officially reported during that time period. 

The study can be found at this link.

More information about the study can be found in this report from CNN.

Study Shows Steroid Reduces Deaths Among Patients With Severe COVID-19

For the first time, a therapy has been shown to possibly improve the survival odds for patients suffering from the most severe cases of COVID-19. In a large study, the steroid drug dexamethasone was shown to reduce deaths by a third in patients hospitalized with the novel coronavirus. The full data has yet to be published. 

Some experts quickly celebrated the results. However, others including surgeon, writer and public health researcher Atul Gawande has urged caution. He responded by tweeting, “after all the retractions and walk backs, it is unacceptable to tout study results by press release without releasing the paper.”

Additional details can be found in this story published by STAT News.

NIH Launches COVID-19 Patient Data Platform to Speed Treatments

The National Institutes of Health today announced it has launched a centralized database to store and study medical record data generated from patients nationwide who have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. The program is part of the National COVID Cohort Collaborative (N3C).  The effort aims to rapidly translate clinical information into increased knowledge about COVID-19 in order to better diagnose, track and treat the disease. 

More information can be found in this press release from the NIH.