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What We’re Reading About COVID-19 – Monday, June 1, 2020

Here are a few articles that might be of interest:

General News 

There are concerns the protests we are seeing across the nation and around the globe following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police will set off another COVID-19 wave. The mayor of Los Angeles is concerned the gatherings will become “super spreader” events.  

Of course, one of the major challenges of the novel coronavirus is the fact that some people can unknowingly be carriers. The BBC recently published a story about this unique and troubling aspect of the disease. 

Research News 

Eli Lilly says it has started human trials of an antibody therapy designed to treat COVID-19. Results are expected in late June.  (more…)

Pew Poll: Trust in Medical Scientists Grows in U.S.

According to a new national survey by Pew Research Center, Americans’ confidence in health scientists has grown since the COVID-19 outbreak first began. Furthermore, most U.S. adults think the outbreak increases the importance of scientific developments.

Those who said they have a “a great deal of confidence” in medical scientists to act in the public’s best interests has gone up from 35% before the outbreak to 43%. A large percentage of respondents (46%) said they currently have “a fair amount” of confidence that scientists will act in the public’s best interests.  

However, the polling data also reflects growing partisan divisions over the risk the novel coronavirus poses to public health, as well as public confidence in the scientific and medical community and the role such experts are playing in public policy.

Additional details about the Pew poll can be found at this link.

White House Unveils New Vaccine Effort

The White House today formally announced two men chosen to lead the country’s rapid vaccine development efforts. Earlier this week it was reported Moncef Slaoui, the ex-head of GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccines division, will lead the push alongside four-star Army General Gustave Perna. Slaoui will act as the chief adviser to the vaccine effort. Perna will serve as the chief operating officer overseeing logistics. Both of these individuals supplement the vaccine development efforts already underway by the federal government, including those tacking place at the National Institutes of Health.

More information:

Donald Trump unveils new vaccine effort – CNN

Drs. Collins, Fauci, Part authors of Science Article on Need for Coordinated COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy

A new opinion article published by Science today advocates for a “harmonized and collaborative approach to the clinical testing, scale-up and distribution of candidate vaccines to prevent COVID-19. ” The piece was penned by NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Lawrence Corey, a vaccine expert at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Dr. John R. Mascola, of the NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center. 

The authors suggest more than one effective vaccine approach will likely be required to successfully protect the global community from SARS-CoV-2. Their article also describes a strategic approach aimed at generating the data required to develop multiple vaccine candidates in parallel.

The writers emphasize developing COVID-19 vaccines will require unprecedented cooperation from governments, academic institutions, industry and global philanthropic partners. The Science article also repeatedly refers to the importance of animal studies in developing effective COVID-19 vaccines. It can be found at this link.

Video Sneak Peek: The Many Ways Animal Research Will Help End the Pandemic

We just added the finishing touches to our latest video in our COVID-19 series. This one looks at the many ways animal research will help bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It likely comes as no surprise that the video highlights the role of animal studies in identifying treatments and developing vaccines. But that’s not all. We also investigate how animal-based research is providing important information about SARS-CoV-2: where it came from and whether our bodies can learn to defend themselves against it. Other portions of the video are dedicated to efforts to address the ventilator shortage and concerns about becoming infected by pet animals.     

We’ll be sharing the video widely next week. However, we placed it online today to give you an early sneak peek:

The video can also be found on YouTube and Vimeo. Links below. Feel free to share it widely as soon as you like! 

YouTube link:

Vimeo link:

Newly Released Study Finds Nearly Everyone Who Recovers From COVID-19 Makes Coronavirus Antibodies

A recent study published in Nature Medicine offers new hope regarding the benefits of antibody testing for SARS-CoV-2. Researchers in China drew blood from 285 people hospitalized with severe COVID-19. After analyzing those samples, scientists found all had developed SARS-CoV-2 specific antibodies within two to three weeks of their first symptoms. The findings suggest the immune systems of people who survive COVID-19 have been primed to recognize SARS-CoV-2 and possibly thwart a second infection.

To confirm their results, the researchers focused on 69 additional people diagnosed with COVID-19. With this group, they collected blood samples from each person upon admission to the hospital and every three days until discharge. The research team found that, with the exception of one woman and her daughter, the patients produced specific antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 within 20 days of their first symptoms of COVID-19.

NIH Director Dr. Francis Colins covered the study in his blog which can be found here.  

USDA Developing Plans to Resume Animal Inspections

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service sent out an announcement this morning to all AWA licensees and registrants to update them on the status of facility inspections. 

The agency reports it is currently developing plans to allow the resumption of routine inspections. This follows protocols put in place in March where some inspections were halted in response to regional shelter-in-place orders. At that time, APHIS said it would continue to investigate serious welfare concerns but routine checks were limited based on risk assessments to both inspectors and facility personnel

For the time being, APHIS says the process developed in March will remain in effect. 

The USDA’s full announcement can be found at this link.

NIH Clinical Trial Shows Remdesivir Accelerates COVID-19 Recovery

According to preliminary data generated by an NIH clinical trial, hospitalized patients with advanced COVID-19 and breathing issues who received the drug remdesivir recovered faster than similar patients who received a placebo. The trial, sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was the first launched in the United States to evaluate an experimental treatment for COVID-19. 

An NIH press release containing additional details can be found here.

What We’re Reading About COVID-19 – April 27, 2020

General News 

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the US is approaching one million as more than 55 thousand deaths have been documented. Overseas in Europe, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is back on the job today after recovering from coronavirus. Meanwhile, Italy, one of the hardest hit countries is making plans to ease social distancing measures. 

Health and Science News

An article in the New York Times suggests Oxford University is currently leading efforts to produce a COVID-19 vaccine. Last month six rhesus macaque monkeys were inoculated with a single dose of the Oxford vaccine. The animals were then exposed to heavy quantities of the virus causing the pandemic. More than 28 days later, all six reportedly remain healthy. The scientists are now hoping to conduct a clinical trial involving 6,000 people by the end of next month.  (more…)

New NIAID Strategic Plan Identifies COVID-19 Research Priorities, Highlights Critical Role of Animal Studies

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases today released a new strategic plan to identify and define the institute’s plan for accelerating research to diagnose, prevent and treat COVID-19.

The NIAID’s plan includes four key priorities: 

  1. Improving fundamental knowledge of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, including studies to characterize the virus and better understand how it causes infection and disease. Here, the NIH institute specifically notes that small and large animal models that can recapitulate COVID-19 disease seen in humans must be developed.
  2. Developing rapid, accurate diagnostics and assays to identify and isolate COVID-19 cases and track the spread of the virus.
  3. Characterizing and testing potential treatments for COVID-19. 
  4. Developing safe and effective vaccines to protect individuals from infection and prevent future SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks.