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Round-up: COVID-19 September 2020

As we fast approach winter, concerns about how the COVID-19 virus will spread during these cold months have heightened. Last week, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson enforced a new set of strict lockdown rules, which he hopes will control the spread of the virus as UK cases continue to rise. Furthermore, researchers have been continuing to study the virus and work on creating effective therapies and/or a vaccine. Here at Front Line Genomics, we know how difficult it is to keep on top of all the information, so we have provided you with a quick round-up of the ‘need-to-know’ this week.

Statistics

At the time of writing there has been:

  • 33,328,650 coronavirus cases
  • 1,002,699 deaths
  • 24,647,277 recoveries

Research

  • Scientists in Houston released a study of over 5,000 genetic sequences of the coronavirus, revealing the continual accumulation of mutations within the virus, one of which they suggest may be specifically linked to increased transmission and infectivity. (Long et al, 2020)
  • Researchers have found that a timely adaptive immune response can limit COVID-19 disease severity. The team observed that an uncoordinated adaptive immune response was particularly found amongst older individuals. (Moderbacher et al, 2020)
  • Several reports of neurological symptoms observed in COVID-19 patients have raised concerns about the potential neurotropism of SARS-CoV-2. Scientists have argued that we should be prepared for ‘Parkinsonism as a third wave’ of the virus and therefore recommend that long-term screening of cases is needed.  (Barnham et al, 2020)
  • Scientists from 23andMe have published results from the first four months of a study, with data from over one million participants, revealing a strong association between the ABO gene and COVID-19 diagnosis. Specifically, they found that within the severe-outcome population, blood type O was protective. (Auton et al, 2020)
  • A recent study has explored the impact of COVID-19 on people experiencing homelessness in England. The study reports that these individuals were protected during the first wave due to interventions within the general population, infection control in hostels and closing of dormitory-style accommodation. The team note that it is especially vital that these measures remain in place to avoid outbreaks and a high attack rate amongst homeless people. (Lewer et al, 2020)
  • Researchers have found that phenotypic and functional abnormalities of CD14+ monocytes are early biomarkers of risk for progression to severe COVID-19 disease. (Mann et al, 2020)
  • Researchers have built a comprehensive human-SARS-CoV-2 interactome by integrating transcriptomic data related to lung epithelial cells with a human interactome. In particular, network analyses revealed potential molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis for SARS-CoV-2. These findings may provide insight into effective therapies. (Kumar et al, 2020)
  • Using electron cryo-microscopy, researchers identified the presence of a small molecule, linoleic acid, buried within the Spike protein. The team believe that specifically targeting these ‘druggable pockets’ could set the stage for new interventions. (Toelzer et al, 2020)
  • A team find that differences in the outcomes of hospitalised adults compared to children may not be attributable to a failure to generate adaptive immune responses. (Pierce et al, 2020)

Other news

  • A study, in the Lancet, has shown that the COVID-19 test DnaNudge is sensitive, specific and offers a particularly rapid point of care. (Gibani et al, 2020)
  • A UK survey conducted by UCL has revealed that a fifth of people are likely to refuse a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The UK has finally launched their ‘test and trace’ app after months of delay.
  • Sano Genetics are offering people across the UK and USA with ‘long covid‘ free genetic tests. The team are working with researchers globally to explore how genetics impacts long covid symptoms and recovery.

Image credit: By starline – www.freepik.com


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