Miniature organs help test potential coronavirus drugs; GI symptoms
linked to severe COVID-19
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[October 31, 2020]
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 illness caused
by the virus.
Miniature lungs, colons help test COVID-19 treatments
Tiny organ-like structures grown in the laboratory to behave like human
lungs and colons can be used to rapidly screen drugs and identify those
with potential as COVID-19 treatments, researchers reported on Wednesday
in Nature. Compared with traditional pre-clinical approaches, in which
drugs are tested in cells from monkeys or from human cancer patients,
these so-called organoids more faithfully mimic the complex cell types
and structure of human tissues, according to Dr. Shuibing Chen and Dr.
Robert Schwartz of Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. Their team
developed organoids containing types of lung and colon cells that are
known to become infected in people with COVID-19. In collaboration with
teams at Columbia University and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount
Sinai, they screened 1,200 FDA-approved drugs and found three that
showed activity against the novel coronavirus, including the cancer drug
imatinib, sold as Gleevec by Novartis. It is currently being tested in
four different COVID-19 clinical trials.
GI symptoms linked with more severe COVID-19
Gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms are associated with more severe COVID-19
and worse outcomes, two research teams reported on Monday, a reversal of
earlier data that suggested the opposite was true. One team reviewed 38
earlier studies of a total of more than 8,400 patients and found those
with diarrhea were 63% more likely to develop severe COVID-19. Dr.
Subash Ghimire of Guthrie Robert Packer Hospital in Pennsylvania
suggested that patients with diarrhea may have higher viral loads, which
can potentially lead the body to fight back with more severe responses.
The other team studied 921 patients and found that the roughly 22% with
at least one GI symptom had higher rates of hospital and intensive-care
unit admissions and greater need for mechanical breathing assistance.
The more GI symptoms patients had, the more their risk for these
outcomes increased, Dr. Darbaz Adnan of Rush University Medical Center
in Chicago reported. He said doctors evaluating COVID-19 patients need
to bear in mind that GI symptoms may signal a markedly higher risk of a
worsened disease course. Both studies were presented at the American
College of Gastroenterology virtual annual meeting.
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A 3D-printed coronavirus model is seen in front of a world map and
the words "CoronaVirus Disease (Covid-19)" on display in this
illustration taken March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
UK population with COVID-19 antibodies is shrinking
A new wave of coronavirus infections has been spreading in the UK,
but the proportion of the population there with antibodies to the
virus has been shrinking, potentially leaving more people
vulnerable, new data show. In a report posted on Tuesday on medRxiv
ahead of peer review, scientists at Imperial College London say that
while 6% of the population had COVID-19 antibodies around the end of
June, that rate fell to just 4.4% in September. Antibodies are not
the body's only line of defense. Also important are immune cells
called T cells and B cells that stimulate antibody production. "On
the balance of evidence I would say, with what we know for other
coronaviruses, it would look as if immunity declines away at the
same rate as antibodies decline away, and that this is an indication
of waning immunity at the population level," said study coauthor
Wendy Barclay in a news briefing. World Health Organization
spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said uncertainty over how long immunity
would last and the fact most people had never had antibodies against
this coronavirus shows the need to break transmission chains.
"Acquiring this collective immunity just by letting virus run
through the population is not really an option," he told a U.N.
briefing in Geneva.
(Reporting by Nancy Lapid, Megan Brooks and Alistair Smout; Editing
by Bill Berkrot)
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