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Last Modified, September 25, 2022
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Cross-reactive and mono-reactive SARS-CoV-2 CD4+T cells in prepandemic and COVID-19 convalescent individuals

PLoS Pathog

2021 Anna Wald; David Koelle

Class II tetramer reagents for eleven common DR alleles and a DP allele prevalent in the world population were used to identify SARS-CoV-2 CD4+ T cell epitopes. A total of 112, 28 and 42 epitopes specific for Spike, Membrane and Nucleocapsid, respectively, with defined HLA-restriction were identified. Direct ex vivo staining of PBMC with tetramer reagents was used to define immunodominant and subdominant T cell epitopes and estimate the frequencies of these T cells in SARS-CoV-2 exposed and naïve individuals. Majority of SARS-CoV-2 epitopes identified have <67% amino acid sequence identity with endemic coronaviruses and are unlikely to elicit high avidity cross-reactive T cell responses. Four SARS-CoV-2 Spike reactive epitopes, including a DPB1*04:01 restricted epitope, with ≥67% amino acid sequence identity to endemic coronavirus were identified. SARS-CoV-2 T cell lines for three of these epitopes elicited cross-reactive T cell responses to endemic cold viruses. An endemic coronavirus Spike T cell line showed cross-reactivity to the fourth SARS-CoV-2 epitope. Three of the Spike cross-reactive epitopes were subdominant epitopes, while the DPB1*04:01 restricted epitope was a dominant epitope. Frequency analyses showed Spike cross-reactive T cells as detected by tetramers were present at relatively low frequency in unexposed people and only contributed a small proportion of the overall Spike-specific CD4+ T cells in COVID-19 convalescent individuals. In total, these results suggested a very limited number of SARS-CoV-2 T cells as detected by tetramers are capable of recognizing ccCoV with relative high avidity and vice versa. The potentially supportive role of these high avidity cross-reactive T cells in protective immunity against SARS-CoV-2 needs further studies.

Early Remdesivir to Prevent Progression to Severe Covid-19 in Outpatients

N Engl J Med

2021 Joshua Schiffer; Joshua Hill

BACKGROUND: Remdesivir improves clinical outcomes in patients hospitalized with moderate-to-severe coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19). Whether the use of remdesivir in symptomatic, nonhospitalized patients with Covid-19 who are at high risk for disease progression prevents hospitalization is uncertain. METHODS: We conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involving nonhospitalized patients with Covid-19 who had symptom onset within the previous 7 days and who had at least one risk factor for disease progression (age 60 years, obesity, or certain coexisting medical conditions). Patients were randomly assigned to receive intravenous remdesivir (200 mg on day 1 and 100 mg on days 2 and 3) or placebo. The primary efficacy end point was a composite of Covid-19-related hospitalization or death from any cause by day 28. The primary safety end point was any adverse event. A secondary end point was a composite of a Covid-19-related medically attended visit or death from any cause by day 28. RESULTS: A total of 562 patients who underwent randomization and received at least one dose of remdesivir or placebo were included in the analyses: 279 patients in the remdesivir group and 283 in the placebo group. The mean age was 50 years, 47.9% of the patients were women, and 41.8% were Hispanic or Latinx. The most common coexisting conditions were diabetes mellitus (61.6%), obesity (55.2%), and hypertension (47.7%). Covid-19-related hospitalization or death from any cause occurred in 2 patients (0.7%) in the remdesivir group and in 15 (5.3%) in the placebo group (hazard ratio, 0.13; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.03 to 0.59; P=0.008). A total of 4 of 246 patients (1.6%) in the remdesivir group and 21 of 252 (8.3%) in the placebo group had a Covid-19-related medically attended visit by day 28 (hazard ratio, 0.19; 95% CI, 0.07 to 0.56). No patients had died by day 28. Adverse events occurred in 42.3% of the patients in the remdesivir group and in 46.3% of those in the placebo group. CONCLUSIONS: Among nonhospitalized patients who were at high risk for Covid-19 progression, a 3-day course of remdesivir had an acceptable safety profile and resulted in an 87% lower risk of hospitalization or death than placebo. (Funded by Gilead Sciences; PINETREE number, NCT04501952; EudraCT number, 2020-003510-12.).

The Seattle Flu Study: when regulations hinder pandemic surveillance

Nat Med

2021 Debbie Nickerson; Lea Starita; Jay Shendure; Michael Boeckh; Janet Englund; Christina Lockwood


Drug Combinations as a First Line of Defense against Coronaviruses and Other Emerging Viruses


2021 Rachel Bender Ignacio; Shuang Xu; Joshua Schiffer; Stephan Polyak

The world was unprepared for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and remains ill-equipped for future pandemics. While unprecedented strides have been made developing vaccines and treatments for COVID-19, there remains a need for highly effective and widely available regimens for ambulatory use for novel coronaviruses and other viral pathogens. We posit that a priority is to develop pan-family drug cocktails to enhance potency, limit toxicity, and avoid drug resistance. We urge cocktail development for all viruses with pandemic potential both in the short term (<1 to 2 years) and longer term with pairs of drugs in advanced clinical testing or repurposed agents approved for other indications. While significant efforts were launched against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), in vitro and in the clinic, many studies employed solo drugs and had disappointing results. Here, we review drug combination studies against SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses and introduce a model-driven approach to assess drug pairs with the highest likelihood of clinical efficacy. Where component agents lack sufficient potency, we advocate for synergistic combinations to achieve therapeutic levels. We also discuss issues that stymied therapeutic progress against COVID-19, including testing of agents with low likelihood of efficacy late in clinical disease and lack of focus on developing virologic surrogate endpoints. There is a need to expedite efficient clinical trials testing drug combinations that could be taken at home by recently infected individuals and exposed contacts as early as possible during the next pandemic, whether caused by a coronavirus or another viral pathogen. The approach herein represents a proactive plan for global viral pandemic preparedness.

HIV reservoir quantification by five-target multiplex droplet digital PCR

STAR Protoc

2021 Florian Hladik; Dara Lehman; Chelsea Amstuz; Keith Jerome

Most latent human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) proviruses are defective and cannot produce infectious virions. Thus, the number of HIV proviruses with intact genomes is a relevant clinical parameter to assess therapies for HIV cure. We describe high-molecular-weight DNA isolation, followed by restriction enzyme fragmentation that limits cutting within the HIV genome. Multiplexed droplet digital PCR quantifies five targets spanning the HIV genome to estimate potentially intact proviral copies. A reference assay counts the number of T lymphocytes and assesses the level of DNA shearing. For complete details on the use and execution of this protocol, please refer to Levy et al. (2021).

Neonatal Herpes Simplex Virus Infection: Epidemiology and Outcomes in the Modern Era

J Pediatric Infect Dis Soc

2021 Anna Wald

BACKGROUND: Over the past several decades, there have been advances in diagnosis and treatment of neonatal herpes simplex virus (HSV) disease. There has been no recent comprehensive evaluation of the impact of these advances on the management and outcomes for neonates with HSV. METHODS: Clinical data for initial presentation, treatment, and outcomes were abstracted from medical records of neonates with HSV treated at Seattle Children's Hospital between 1980 and 2016. RESULTS: One hundred thirty infants with a diagnosis of neonatal HSV were identified. Between 1980 and 2016, high-dose acyclovir treatment for neonatal HSV infection increased from 0% to close to 95%, with subsequent decrease in overall HSV-related mortality from 20.9% to 5.6%. However, even among infants treated with high-dose acyclovir, mortality was 40.9% for infants with disseminated (DIS) disease, and only 55% of infants with central nervous system (CNS) disease were without obvious neurologic abnormalities at 24 months. Over the study period, the time between initial symptoms and diagnosis decreased. Skin recurrences were more common with HSV-2 than HSV-1 (80% vs 55%; P = .02) and in infants with lesions at initial diagnosis (76% vs 47%; P = .02). CONCLUSION: Changes in the standard of care for management of neonatal HSV disease have led to improvements in timeliness of diagnosis and outcome but mortality in infants with DIS disease and neurologic morbidity in infants with CNS disease remain high. Future research should focus on prevention of perinatal infection and subsequent recurrences.

Multiplex CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing in hematopoietic stem cells for fetal hemoglobin reinduction generates chromosomal translocations

Mol Ther Methods Clin Dev

2021 Stefan Radtke; Clare Samuelson; Savannah Cook; Keith Jerome; Hans-Peter Kiem; Olivier Humbert

Sickle cell disease and β-thalassemia are common monogenic disorders that cause significant morbidity and mortality globally. The only curative treatment currently is allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, which is unavailable to many patients due to a lack of matched donors and carries risks including graft-versus-host disease. Genome editing therapies targeting either the BCL11A erythroid enhancer or the HBG promoter are already demonstrating success in reinducing fetal hemoglobin. However, where a single locus is targeted, reliably achieving levels high enough to deliver an effective cure remains a challenge. We investigated the application of a CRISPR/Cas9 multiplex genome editing approach, in which both the BCL11A erythroid enhancer and HBG promoter are disrupted within human hematopoietic stem cells. We demonstrate superior fetal hemoglobin reinduction with this dual-editing approach without compromising engraftment or lineage differentiation potential of edited cells post-xenotransplantation. However, multiplex editing consistently resulted in the generation of chromosomal rearrangement events that persisted in vivo following transplantation into immunodeficient mice. The risk of oncogenic events resulting from such translocations therefore currently prohibits its clinical translation, but it is anticipated that, in the future, alternative editing platforms will help alleviate this risk.

Predicting infectivity: comparing four PCR-based assays to detect culturable SARS-CoV-2 in clinical samples

EMBO Mol Med

2022 Keith Jerome; Pavitra Roychoudhury; Alex Greninger

With the COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 now in its second year, there remains an urgent need for diagnostic testing that can identify infected individuals, particularly those who harbor infectious virus. Various RT-PCR strategies have been proposed to identify specific viral RNA species that may predict the presence of infectious virus, including detection of transcriptional intermediates (e.g. subgenomic RNA [sgRNA]) and replicative intermediates (e.g. negative-strand RNA species). Using a novel primer/probe set for detection of subgenomic (sg)E transcripts, we successfully identified 100% of specimens containing culturable SARS-CoV-2 from a set of 126 clinical samples (total sgE CT values ranging from 12.3-37.5). This assay showed superior performance compared to a previously published sgRNA assay and to a negative-strand RNA assay, both of which failed to detect target RNA in a subset of samples from which we isolated live virus. In addition, total levels of viral RNA (genome, negative-strand, and sgE) detected with the WHO/Charité primer-probe set correlated closely with levels of infectious virus. Specifically, infectious virus was not detected in samples with a CT above 31.0. Clinical samples with higher levels of viral RNA also displayed cytopathic effect (CPE) more quickly than those with lower levels of viral RNA. Finally, we found that the infectivity of SARS-CoV-2 samples is significantly dependent on the cell type used for viral isolation, as Vero E6 cells expressing TMRPSS2 extended the analytical sensitivity of isolation by more than 3 CT compared to parental Vero E6 cells and resulted in faster isolation. Our work shows that using a total viral RNA Ct cut-off of >31 or specifically testing for sgRNA can serve as an effective rule-out test for the presence of culturable virus.

Complete Genome Sequence of Arachnia rubra Strain DSM 100122(T), a Cultured Member of the Human Oral Microbiome

Microbiol Resour Announc

2021 Dakota Jones; Christopher Johnston

We report the complete genome of Arachnia rubra strain DSM 100122T. The genome is 3.32 Mb, with a GC content of 64.2%. The genome contains 3,005 predicted genes, including 2,923 predicted protein-coding genes.

Cannabis and the Cancer Patient

J Natl Cancer Inst Monogr

2021 Steven Pergam

Session 2 of the National Cancer Institute's Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Cancer Research Workshop opened with testimony from a lymphoma survivor who detailed medicinal cannabis-related improvements in nausea, low appetite, insomnia, and mental health and the limited clinical counsel she received regarding cannabis use. Discussion next turned to the evolution of the legal landscape of cannabis in the United States, one in which state and federal laws frequently conflict and the Controlled Substance Act renders cannabis Schedule I. This legal climate creates conundrums for US medicinal cannabis researchers who contend with limited funding opportunities, avenues to source trial drug, and procedural red tape and for oncology clinicians who recommend medicinal cannabis to patients with some frequency while perceiving themselves as ill equipped to make such clinical recommendations. Ultimately, it creates challenges for cancer patients who find themselves turning to nonmedical and anecdotal information sources. The risks of cannabis use by the cancer patient were discussed next. These include infection, pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic drug-botanical interactions, cyclic nausea and vomiting, e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated illness, legal issues, and high cost. The session concluded with a broad survey of the research supporting oncologic cannabinoid use, conclusive evidence for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and suggestive evidence for cancer-related pain.