Brazil variant can reinfect virus survivors; COVID-19 vaccine antibodies pass into breast milk

By Nancy Lapid
(Reuters) - The following is a roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Variants in Brazil are more likely to re-infect survivors
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A variant of coronavirus circulating in Brazil can likely reinfect people who survived infections with earlier versions of the coronavirus, new data suggests. The variant called P.1, which originated in Brazil, has a mutation of which it is already known that a variant that is predominant in South Africa is more difficult to treat with antibodies and more difficult to prevent with available vaccines. New data suggest that in many recovered patients, immunity to previous versions of the virus does not provide immunity to P.1. The researchers tested the neutralization ability of antibodies in plasma samples from survivors of COVID-19 caused by previous versions of the virus. The plasma "compared to the P.1 variant had a 6-fold lower neutralizing capacity" than compared to previous virus versions, the researchers reported on the Monday before the assessment on a preprint server of the Lancet Journal. "A lower neutralization capacity of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies and a partial immunity to new variants suggest that a new infection could occur in convalescent or even vaccinated people," said the authors. In a separate article posted on medRxiv the Wednesday before the peer review, some of the same researchers estimated that out of 100 survivors of COVID-19, 25 to 60 could become re-infected due to previous versions of the virus if exposed to the P.1 Variant because their antibodies couldn't protect them. There were 13 cases of COVID-19 due to P.1 in the United States on Thursday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention Control. (https://bit.ly/2PyNFGt; https://bit.ly/3qeqq1a)
COVID-19 vaccine antibodies are excreted in breast milk
COVID-19 antibodies induced by vaccines from Pfizer Inc / BioNTech and Moderna Inc can pass into breast milk, according to a small study, although it is not yet clear how long the antibodies will be present. Six breastfeeding mothers who wanted to receive both doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech or Moderna vaccines were given milk samples before and after vaccination, with the last sample taken two weeks after the second shot. None of the women had been infected with the coronavirus. A week after the first shot, all women had COVID-19 antibodies in their breast milk. The antibody levels then fell slightly and rose sharply after the second shot. The two vaccines were similarly effective in inducing the antibodies, although the antibody levels differed from woman to woman, the research team reported on medRxiv on Tuesday before the peer review. "More research is needed on the longevity of the antibody response in breast milk and the extent and duration of its effect on the child's immunity to the virus," said the researchers. (https://bit.ly/3kNOPJP)
Neurological problems common in hospitalized children with COVID-19
Most children and adolescents are spared severe COVID-19, but transient neurological effects are common among those in need of hospitalization, researchers found. In their study of 1,695 patients, age 21 or younger, hospitalized for COVID-19 or a COVID-19-related disease known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome, 365 - or 22% - had neurological complications including 43 (12%) with life-threatening neurological disorders such as strokes and central nervous system infections. Other neurological effects included seizures, headache, weakness, loss of smell and taste, and altered awareness or confusion. According to a report published in JAMA Neurology on Friday, neurological involvement was temporary in most patients and resolved by the time they left the hospital. Since they only examined hospitalized children, the extent and rate of neurological complications may underestimate the real problem, the authors said. They said more research is needed both to determine the true incidence and to track these children over the long term. (https://bit.ly/2PCxXKC)
Open https://tmsnrt.rs/3c7R3Bl in an external browser for a Reuters graphic on vaccines in development.
(Reporting by Nancy Lapid; Editing by Bill Berkrot)
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