New Covid variant reveals indicators of antibody resistance, extra extreme sickness in younger folks

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Scientists at Texas A & M University’s Global Health Research Complex have reportedly discovered a new variant of Covid-19 that shows signs of an infectious strain that causes more serious diseases and appears to be resistant to antibodies.

The new variant BV-1, named for its Brazos Valley origin, was found during routine coronavirus screening by Texas A & M via a saliva sample in a young student with mild symptoms of cold. The student tested positive for Covid on March 5 and tested positive again on March 25, showing that the new strain can cause prolonged infection in younger people. The student’s symptoms resolved by April 2nd and a third test on April 9th ​​was negative.

Texas A&M scientists say cell culture-based experiments from other laboratories showed that multiple neutralizing antibodies did not affect the control of other variants with the same genetic markers as BV-1.

“We don’t currently understand the full meaning of this variant, but it has a combination of mutations that are similar to other internationally notifiable variants,” said Ben Neuman, chief virologist at Texas A&M. “This variant combines genetic markers that are separate with faster Spread, serious disease and high resistance to neutralizing antibodies are linked. “

The scientists also say they presented a paper on BV-1 to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to alert officials before it spreads further.

The lab has identified many Covid mutations through its genetic sequencing program, but Neuman said the genetic makeup of this strain is of particular concern.

“We haven’t seen any other cases of this variant,” added Neuman. “We have not grown or tested this virus in any way. This announcement is based solely on genetic sequence analysis performed in the laboratory.”

Many U.S. labs only sequence severe Covid cases, but the Texas A&M lab tests and sequences asymptomatic students to detect dangerous strains early before they can cause serious illness.

“Sequencing helps provide an early warning system for new variants,” said Neuman. The lab’s scientists say they do not yet understand the full meaning of BV-1, but believe the variant “highlights an important need for strict surveillance and genomic testing,” especially in young adults who are asymptomatic or who show mild symptoms .

Scientists at the lab say the new variant is related to strain B.1.1.7 from the UK, against which current vaccines have been shown to be effective. The related British strain makes up a large part of the variant infections in the United States

Vaxart shares plunge on weak antibody response to oral vaccine

An experiment Coronavirus The orally taken vaccine showed promising results in an early clinical trial of 35 healthy adults from South San Francisco Vaxart said Wednesday. Despite the results, Vaxart’s stock fell about 57%.

Vaxart scientists divided volunteers between the ages of 18 and 54 into three groups. The first group received two low doses of the vaccine – called VXA-CoV2-1 – 29 days apart, while the remaining groups received a single low or high dose.

The vaccine, contained in a small tablet, produced a type of T cell responsible for killing virus-infected cells in about 75% of the volunteers who received a single low or high dose. It is said that the reported responses are higher than those in Modern and Pfizers Vaccinations.

However, neutralizing antibodies were not detected in volunteers after a single dose, Vaxart said. Researchers believe that the antibodies play an important role in the defense of cells against the virus. The company said it is currently testing second-dose antibody responses after antibodies were detected in two-dose volunteers’ nasal swab samples.

Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the University of Toronto, said the company’s shares could fall after the first dose due to the lack of neutralizing antibodies.

“The immune response is diverse,” he said, adding that one aspect of the immune response is to make antibodies, especially neutralizing antibodies. “While it is great to see that there seems to be a decent T-cell response, the lack of antibodies detected is problematic and can reduce the effectiveness of this vaccine.”

The company said no serious adverse events were reported in the Phase 1 study, with side effects generally being mild. Volunteers reported common side effects such as headache and fatigue, and there was a “slight increase” in the high-dose group of loose stool cases, the company said.

The data will be presented on Wednesday afternoon at the New York Academy of Sciences symposium.

“The most exciting thing about the [phase one data] is that we can get a very, very strong T-cell response even after one dose, “Sean Tucker, Vaxart’s chief scientific officer, told CNBC in a telephone interview, adding that T-cells do compared to antibodies fighting the virus is likely to be “underestimated”.

The biotech company said the vaccine has the potential to provide better protection against current and emerging strains of the virus than existing vaccines. Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax have said in the past few days that their vaccines may be less effective against B.1.351. highly contagious strain found in South Africa. US officials have raised concerns that Covid may continue to mutate and defy the protection of existing vaccines.

Vaxart’s vaccine contains DNA instructions for making the spike protein that allows the virus to enter human cells, as well as instructions for making the N protein, which is involved in other processes. Tucker said the inclusion of the N protein could cause the vaccine to retain its ability to work against emergent strains.

Many other vaccines under development chose spike protein as a “primary target,” he said. “But the problem with that [spike] Protein it definitely mutates more over time. We also added the N protein, which is highly conserved in the virus. “

According to Vaxart, the vaccine is the only oral tablet in the US that has been tested in humans. Similar technology is being used to develop vaccines against influenza and norovirus.

The company was investigated and investigated by the federal government late last year for allegedly exaggerating its involvement in Operation Warp Speed, former President Donald Trump’s vaccines and treatments program. It said in a press release in June that “Vaxart’s Covid-19 vaccine was selected for US government’s Operation Warp Speed,” which rocketed its stocks.

However, it found that the company had received no federal government funding for vaccine doses and was only participating in preliminary U.S. studies to identify potential areas for potential Warp Speed ​​partnership and support. according to the New York Times.

Tucker told CNBC the company is in talks with the US and other governments to find possible ways to collaborate on its vaccine.

If Vaxart’s vaccine goes through other clinical trials and US approval, it could offer advantages over needle-based vaccines.

Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the FDA’s Advisory Committee on Vaccines and Allied Biological Products, said that an orally taken vaccine may be better accepted by the public who may be afraid of needles. Two US-approved Covid-19 vaccines – from Pfizer and Moderna – are injected into the arm and require two injections three to four weeks apart.

Vaxart said his vaccine is stable even at room temperature and does not require a freezer, which means it “can be stored and delivered to mass populations around the world”. For comparison: Pfizer’s vaccine is a must stored in ultra-cold freezers that keeps it between negative 112 and negative 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Moderna vaccine must be delivered between 13 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Vaxart said the vaccine also doesn’t require any special medical training and can be taken at home. This will help comply with social distancing guidelines while relieving the burden on the health system.

The company said it was still critical whether it was single- or two-dose therapy.

A phase 2 study is expected “in the next few months,” Tucker said. In its “Fastest Accelerated Timeline,” the company expects Phase two and three studies to be completed by early 2022.

– CNBCs Hugh Son contributed to this report.