Virus more efficient at infection after mutation; diseased lungs more receptive to virus

By Nancy Lapid
(Reuters) - The following is a brief summary 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.

The virus mutation makes it more efficient when entering cells
A genetic mutation in the new coronavirus that significantly increases the ability to infect cells could explain why the outbreaks in northern Italy and New York were larger than those previously observed in the pandemic. Scientists at Scripps Research in Florida say the mutant virus was rarely seen in March, but by April approximately 65% ​​of cases from around the world had been filed in the National Institutes of Health's GenBank database. The mutation, known as the D614G, increased the number of "spikes" the virus uses to bind to and break into cells and made them more stable, as researchers found in the study that was peer-reviewed. In test tube experiments, the mutant virus was about nine times more efficient in breaking into and infecting cells. "The number - or density - of the virus' functional spikes is four or five times higher due to this mutation," said Hyeryun Choe, co-author of the study. It is not clear to what extent the changes affect symptoms and transmission, "but it is hard to believe that they have no effect," said Michael Farzan, another senior researcher. "However," he said, "this particular virus is changing slowly, so for a while I would not expect anything as dramatic as D614G. We do not expect the virus to become more deadly, but to spread itself more efficiently." Compared to viral particles without a mutation, the mutated viruses are also susceptible to treatment with antibodies from the blood of restored coronavirus patients, the researchers said. (https://reut.rs/2BepDJy; https://bit.ly/3e5ufAy)

Sick lungs are more susceptible to coronavirus infections
New data explain why people with respiratory diseases appear to be more susceptible to coronavirus infections. The virus breaks into cells via a receptor protein on the cell surface called ACE2. Researchers found that people with diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, pulmonary hypertension and smokers have more ACE2 receptors in their lung cells than healthy people. When analyzing the lung cell genes of 700 people with these diseases, they also found that other proteins in addition to ACE2 affected the "viral life cycle". This means that genes for these proteins "may be important for the SARS-CoV-2 cell cycle and invasion / binding," they wrote in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. These other genes could also be potential "targets for the treatment and prevention of severe COVID-19 cases," they said. (https://bit.ly/37HUniF)

The virus has persistent protective equipment. Cotton can be king
A new study shows the potential risks of handling PSA (Personal Protection Equipment) items after being used by healthcare workers at the forefront. The researchers contaminated eight different types of protective equipment and materials with viruses, including nitrile medical exam gloves, reinforced chemical-resistant gloves, N-95 and N-100 respirators, Tyvek overalls (a textile commonly found in PPE clothing), plastic, cotton, and Stainless steel. Under the test conditions, a potentially infectious virus was still present after 21 days on a plastic visor, 14 days on stainless steel and Tyvek overalls, 7 days on nitrile gloves and 4 days on chemical-resistant gloves - albeit in extremely small quantities. But just one hour after applying virus particles to 100% cotton fabric, the amount of active virus had dropped by 99.9% and was completely undetectable in less than 24 hours. "These results are of direct relevance to methods for infection prevention and control, washing and waste treatment in healthcare," the researchers write in an article that has not yet been reviewed by experts and published on the preprint server medRxiv on Friday. "These results suggest that the use of cotton-based fabrics in healthcare presents a lower risk of handling for later decontamination and reuse." (https://bit.ly/37yJzTW)

Expert advice on how to fight sleep disorders during a pandemic
Given the health and economic anxiety of life during the coronavirus pandemic, many people have trouble sleeping. In the journal Behavioral Sleep Medicine, the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine published a free article on Saturday with links to two handouts, one for patients and one for doctors. Among the advices for patients: keep a daily schedule; Expose to sunlight early in the day, preferably outdoors; Find ways to make contacts by phone or social media (but focus on sharing things that are uplifting or amusing); Watch what you eat (and when); Turn off pandemic coverage a few hours before bed and use the rest of the evening for more relaxing activities. Click the "Additional Material" link to access the full flyer of the item. (https://bit.ly/3hvkJc8)

(GRAPHICS: The lifeline pipeline, COVID-19 treatments, vaccines in development - https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/yxmvjqywprz/index.html)


(Reporting by Nancy Lapid and Manas Mishra; editing by Bill Berkrot)

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