Category Archives: Microbiology

COVID-19 Vaccines and Fever: Scientists Have Discovered a New Potential Link

There has been some concern about the side effects of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, such as fever and fatigue, which are generally considered normal and transient. However, the relationship between these adverse reactions and antibody production after receiving the vaccine has not been thoroughly studied.

A team of researchers from Okayama University recently conducted a study to examine this link. They recruited 49 university staff and students who had not previously had COVID-19 and found that there is a relationship between the incidence of fever and antibody counts, particularly after the third dose of the vaccine. Their findings were published in the Journal of Epidemiology.

mRNA vaccines mimic the surface structure of SARS-CoV-2 in the body. These are then recognized as invading pathogens by immune cells, which create antibodies against them. As a result, antibody counts may be used to quantify the immune system’s response to vaccination.

All subjects were surveyed for adverse reactions a week after they received the third mRNA-1273 vaccine dose. Simultaneously, antibody levels of all subjects were measured just before receiving the vaccine, 3 days after, ~1 week after, and finally 1 month after the dose. Using statistical modeling, correlations between the incidence of fever and antibody levels at various time points were stipulated. To account for factors contributing to the onset of fever post-vaccination, the team also looked at sex, age differences, a history of allergy, and the use of antipyretics (fever-reducing drugs) amongst the participants.

The subjects were then classified into a “fever” or “non-fever” group based on the survey results. It was found that the fever group was more likely to be younger (20 to 49 years old) and had a past history of allergies. Next, antibody levels at different time points in the two groups were analyzed. At 1 week post-vaccination, the fever group had substantially higher antibody counts than the non-fever group. However, at 1-month post-vaccination there seemed to be no correlation between the incidence of fever and high antibody levels.

This is the first study to highlight associations between the induction of fever and antibody levels at various time points after the third dose of the mRNA-1273 vaccine. “Antibody titers after mRNA-1273 vaccination may be faster in the group with post-vaccination fever, but the difference may not be significant 1-month post-vaccination,” concludes the team. The researchers also suggest that while these contradictory observations may not have significant clinical relevance, a study with a larger sample size might provide better insights.

Reference: “Association Between Fever and Antibody Titer Trends After a Third Dose of the mRNA-1273 Vaccine” by Naomi Matsumoto, Tomoka Kadowaki, Rumi Matsuo, Ayako Sasaki, Chikara Miyaji, Chigusa Higuchi, Masanori Nakayama, Yasue Sakurada, Hideharu Hagiya, Soshi Takao, Fumio Otsuka and Takashi Yorifuji, 5 December 2022, Journal of Epidemiology.
DOI: 10.2188/jea.JE20220210

Scientists Uncover a Surprising New Benefit of Flu Vaccination

According to researchers from the University of Calgary, the flu vaccine can lower the risk of stroke in adults, even if they are not at high risk for stroke. A team of investigators conducted a study by reviewing the health records of more than 4 million Albertans over a period of nine years. The study results suggest that influenza vaccination should be strongly recommended for everyone, similar to how it is already recommended for individuals with heart disease.

“The flu shot is known to reduce the risk of heart attack and hospitalization for people with heart disease. We wanted to find out whether the vaccine has the same protective qualities for those at risk of stroke,” says Dr. Michael Hill, MD, a researcher at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) and principal investigator on the study. “Our findings show the risk of stroke is lower among people who have recently received a flu shot. This was true for all adults, not just those at high risk of having a stroke.”

The data for the study was obtained from the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan. Researchers took into account various factors such as age, use of anticoagulants, and risk factors including chronic health conditions in their analysis.

“We found that the risk of stroke was significantly reduced in the six months following an influenza vaccination.,” says Dr. Jessalyn Holodinsky, Ph.D., a postdoctoral scholar at the CSM and first author of the study. “The findings suggest broad influenza vaccination may be a viable public health strategy to prevent stroke.”

The study was recently published in The Lancet Public Health. The researchers say two strengths of this study are that the study used data from an entire population over a period of 10 flu seasons, and the study occurred in a province with one single universal healthcare system.

Hill says the generalized benefit of influenza vaccination for stroke prevention is a new finding that he hopes will lead to more research about the indirect protective factors of the flu and other vaccines.

“We know that upper respiratory infections often precede heart attacks and strokes. Preventing or reducing the severity of influenza provides a protective factor, particularly for stroke,” says Hill. “The protective association was very strong. We saw it benefitted both men and women and that there was a clear reduction in risk of stroke with increasing age for those who had a flu shot.”

Reference: “Association between influenza vaccination and risk of stroke in Alberta, Canada: a population-based study” by Jessalyn K Holodinsky, Ph.D., Charlotte Zerna, Ph.D., Shaun Malo, MSc, Lawrence W Svenson, Ph.D. and Professor Michael D Hill, MD, 1 November 2022, The Lancet Public Health.
DOI: 10.1016/S2468-2667(22)00222-5

The study adds to the body of research conducted by the Calgary Stroke Program, a collaboration between the University of Calgary (Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Department of Clinical Neurosciences) and Alberta Health Services at the Foothills Medical Centre.

Fewer symptoms for mpox infection seen after vaccination

Individuals with mpox infection ≥14 days after receipt of one JYNNEOS vaccine dose have less hospitalization, fever, headache, malaise, myalgia, and chills compared with unvaccinated individuals, according to research published in the Dec. 30 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Jennifer L. Farrar, M.P.H., from the CDC Mpox Emergency Response Team, and colleagues describe the demographic and clinical characteristics of mpox cases occurring ≥14 days after receipt of one dose of the JYNNEOS vaccine and compared them to characteristics of unvaccinated persons with mpox. The analysis included 6,605 mpox cases during May 22 to Sept. 3, 2022, with available vaccination information.

The researchers found that overall, 276 cases (4.2 percent) occurred among people who had received one dose of vaccine ≥14 days before onset of illness. Mpox cases that occurred in vaccinated individuals versus unvaccinated individuals were associated with a lower percentage of hospitalization (2.1 versus 7.5 percent), , , malaise, myalgia, and chills.

“Although infection ≥14 days after receipt of one JYNNEOS vaccine dose is infrequent, the occurrence of such cases and the unknown duration of protection conferred by one vaccine dose highlights the need for providers and to encourage completion of the two-dose vaccination series among persons at risk,” the authors write.

Copyright © 2022 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

More information:
Jennifer L. Farrar et al, Demographic and Clinical Characteristics of Mpox in Persons Who Had Previously Received 1 Dose of JYNNEOS Vaccine and in Unvaccinated Persons—29 U.S. Jurisdictions, May 22–September 3, 2022, MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (2022). DOI: 10.15585/mmwr.mm715152a2

Science X Network

Could Eating Tomatoes Improve Your Gut Health?

According to researchers, a diet heavy in tomatoes for two weeks led to an increase in the diversity of gut microbes and a change in gut bacteria towards a more favorable profile in young pigs.

Based on these findings from a short-term intervention, the research team plans to conduct similar studies in humans to explore the potential health-related connections between consuming tomatoes and changes to the human gut microbiome.

“It’s possible that tomatoes impart benefits through their modulation of the gut microbiome,” said senior author Jessica Cooperstone, assistant professor of horticulture and crop science and food science and technology at The Ohio State University.

“Overall dietary patterns have been associated with differences in microbiome composition, but food-specific effects haven’t been studied very much,” Cooperstone said. “Ultimately we’d like to identify in humans what the role is of these particular microorganisms and how they might be contributing to potential health outcomes.”

The research was recently published in the journal Microbiology Spectrum.

The tomatoes used in the study were developed by Ohio State plant breeder, tomato geneticist, and co-author David Francis, and are the type typically found in canned tomato products.

Ten recently weaned control pigs were fed a standard diet and 10 pigs were fed the standard diet fine-tuned so that 10% of the food consisted of a freeze-dried powder made from the tomatoes.

Fiber, sugar, protein, fat, and calories were identical for both diets. The control and study pig populations lived separately, and researchers running the study minimized their time spent with the pigs – a series of precautions designed to ensure that any microbiome changes seen with the study diet could be attributed to chemical compounds in the tomatoes.

Microbial communities in the pigs’ guts were detected in fecal samples taken before the study began and then seven and 14 days after the diet was introduced.

The team used a technique called shotgun metagenomics to sequence all microbial DNA present in the samples. Results showed two main changes in the microbiomes of pigs fed the tomato-heavy diet – the diversity of microbe species in their guts increased, and the concentrations of two types of bacteria common in the mammal microbiome shifted to a more favorable profile.

This higher ratio of the phyla Bacteroidota (formerly known as Bacteriodetes) compared to Bacillota (formerly known as Firmicutes) present in the microbiome has been found to be linked with positive health outcomes, while other studies have linked this ratio in reverse, of higher Bacillota compared to Bacteroidota, to obesity.

Tomatoes account for about 22% of vegetable intake in Western diets, and previous research has associated the consumption of tomatoes with reduced risk for the development of various conditions that include cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

But tomatoes’ impact on the gut microbiome is still a mystery, and Cooperstone said these findings in pigs – whose gastrointestinal tract is more similar than rodents’ to the human GI system – suggest it’s an avenue worth exploring.

“This was our first investigation as to how tomato consumption might affect the microbiome, and we’ve characterized which microbes are present, and how their relative abundance has changed with this tomato intervention,” she said.

“To really understand the mechanisms, we need to do more of this kind of work in the long term in humans. We also want to understand the complex interplay – how does consuming these foods change the composition of what microbes are present, and functionally, what does that do?

“A better understanding could lead to more evidence-based dietary recommendations for long-term health.”

Reference: “Short-Term Tomato Consumption Alters the Pig Gut Microbiome toward a More Favorable Profile” by Mallory L. Goggans, Emma A. Bilbrey, Cristian D. Quiroz-Moreno, David M. Francis, Sheila K. Jacobi, Jasna Kovac and Jessica L. Cooperstone, 8 November 2022, Microbiology Spectrum.
DOI: 10.1128/spectrum.02506-22

The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, and the Foods for Health initiative at Ohio State.

Modelling the collective movement of bacteria

Biofilms form when microorganisms such as certain types of bacteria adhere to the surface of objects in a moist environment and begin to reproduce resulting in the excretion of a slimy glue-like substance.

These biofilms aren’t just unpleasant and unappealing however, they can be seriously troublesome. For example, in the medical field, the formation of biofilm can reduce the effectiveness of antibiotic treatments. The key to understanding biomass formation lies in understanding how bacteria behave en masse.

A new paper in EPJE by Heinrich-Heine-Universität, Düsseldorf, Germany, researcher Davide Breoni and his co-authors presents a mathematical model for the motion of bacteria that includes cell division and death, the basic ingredients of the cell cycle.

The team developed a mathematical model of bacterial movement in process creating a link between statistical physics and biophysics.

“Our new model belongs to a class of models for ‘active matter’ that currently encounter a lot of interest in statistical physics,” Breoni says. “This field studies the collective properties of particle systems that have their own energy source — bacteria are an exemplary case.”

The model devised by the team delivered a surprise by suggesting that when it comes to movement bacteria can act as a unit.

“In the course of our investigation, we found out that the model predicts that the formation of bacterial colonies can occur through the build-up of travelling waves, concentrated ‘packages’ of bacteria,” Breoni adds. “We did not expect this to arise from such a simple model as ours.”

He believes that the results should be interesting to the general public who may be aware of bacterial colonies, but not know how they move in a collective way.

Breoni concludes by pointing out this is a very simple model suggesting how the research could proceed from here. “We could try to make the model more realistic and confront the results to experiment to test its predictions,” he says. “On the other hand, this research is very much curiosity-driven and results from intense discussions among the researchers — an approach we’d like to maintain so we can continue to surprise ourselves with our findings.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Springer. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  • Davide Breoni, Fabian Jan Schwarzendahl, Ralf Blossey, Hartmut Löwen. A one-dimensional three-state run-and-tumble model with a ‘cell cycle’. The European Physical Journal E, 2022; 45 (10) DOI: 10.1140/epje/s10189-022-00238-7
  • Springer

    Viruses can infect cells, and take them over to produce more viruses. But can viruses serve as a …

    Viruses can infect cells, and take them over to produce more viruses. But can viruses serve as a source of nutrition? It seems that, yes, some aquatic microbes are able tocan consume viruses and use them as a source of energy that fuels the microbe’s growth. In new research reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), investigators showed that a species of microbe called Halteria, which are ciliates that live in freshwater ecosystems around the world, can survive on a diet of viruses alone; the researchers termed this phenomenon “virovory.” The microbes can eat thousands, even a million particles of chloroviruses in a single day, the researchers found.

    Image credit: Pixabay

    Chloroviruses infect green algae, which eventually causes the microscopic algal cells to burst, releasing carbon and other elements that other microorganisms can use in a kind of recycling process. The carbon is thought to be retained in a layer of microbial soup, without moving up the food chain, noted senior study author John DeLong, an associate professor at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

    But vivory, noted DeLong, could be helping carbon escape that cycle, and those tiny organisms may be having a big impact.

    By taking a rough estimate of the number of viruses and ciliates in the volume of water there is, a massive amount of energy could be moving up the food chain, said DeLong, who estimated that in a small pond, ciliates could eat 10 trillion viruses every day. “If this is happening at the scale that we think it could be, it should completely change our view on global carbon cycling.”

    DeLong had suspected that some microbes could use viruses as a form of nutrition that almost anything would want to eat. “They’re made up of really good stuff: nucleic acids, a lot of nitrogen and phosphorous,” he explained. Lots of organisms will consume anything they can, so “surely something would have learned how to eat these really good raw materials.”

    To see whether any microbes had indeed started to eat viruses, he did a simple experiment. After collecting samples from a local pond, he added chlorovirus to droplets of water that contained microbes from the pond. After one day, he could see that Halteria used chlorovirus as a snack food; there were so many more Halteria that he was able to start counting them. This was happening as the chlorovirus level was dropping precipitously. In two days, there were 100 times fewer viruses, and Halteria cells were growing to be about 15 percent larger. Halteria that had no access to chlorovirus weren’t getting any bigger.

    Another experiment confirmed that Halteria cells were eating the virus. The researchers labeled chlorovirus DNA green, then watched as an organelle in Halteria cells that were exposed to these chloroviruses began to turn green. The ciliates were eating the virus.

    After collecting additional data, DeLong found that Halteria can convert about 17 percent of the chlorovirus mass they consume into a new mass of their own.

    DeLong is planning to return to the pond as the weather warms to confirm that this is also occurring in nature.

    Sources: University of Nebraska-Lincoln, PNAS

    Carmen Leitch

    Off-Patent Liver Disease Drug Could Stop COVID-19 and Protect Against Future Variants


    Unique experiments involved ‘mini-organs’, animal research, donated human organs, volunteers, and patients.

    Cambridge scientists have identified an off-patent drug that can be repurposed to prevent COVID-19 – and may be capable of protecting against future variants of the virus – in research involving a unique mix of ‘mini-organs’, donor organs, animal studies, and patients.

    The research, published recently in the journal Nature, showed that an existing drug used to treat a type of liver disease is able to ‘lock’ the doorway by which SARS-CoV-2 enters our cells, a receptor on the cell surface known as ACE2. Because this drug targets the host cells and not the virus, it should protect against future new variants of the virus as well as other coronaviruses that might emerge.

    If confirmed in larger clinical trials, this could provide a vital drug for protecting those individuals for whom vaccines are ineffective or inaccessible as well as individuals at increased risk of infection.

    Dr. Fotios Sampaziotis, from the Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute at the University of Cambridge and Addenbrooke’s Hospital, led the research in collaboration with Professor Ludovic Vallier from the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité.

    Dr. Sampaziotis said: “Vaccines protect us by boosting our immune system so that it can recognize the virus and clear it, or at least weaken it. But vaccines don’t work for everyone – for example patients with a weak immune system – and not everyone has access to them. Also, the virus can mutate into new vaccine-resistant variants.

    “We’re interested in finding alternative ways to protect us from SARS-CoV-2 infection that are not dependent on the immune system and could complement vaccination. We’ve discovered a way to close the door to the virus, preventing it from getting into our cells in the first place and protecting us from infection.”

    Dr. Sampaziotis had previously been working with organoids – ‘mini-bile ducts’ – to study diseases of the bile ducts. Organoids are clusters of cells that can grow and proliferate in culture, taking on a 3D structure that has the same functions as the part of the organ being studied.

    Using these, the researchers found – rather serendipitously – that a molecule known as FXR, which is present in large amounts in these bile duct organoids, directly regulates the viral ‘doorway’ ACE2, effectively opening and closing it. They went on to show that ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), an off-patent drug used to treat a form of liver disease known as primary biliary cholangitis, ‘turns down’ FXR and closes the ACE2 doorway.

    In this new study, his team showed that they could use the same approach to close the ACE2 doorway in ‘mini-lungs’ and ‘mini-guts’ – representing the two main targets of SARS-CoV-2 – and prevent viral infection.

    The next step was to show that the drug could prevent infection not only in lab-grown cells but also in living organisms. For this, they teamed up with Professor Andrew Owen from the University of Liverpool to show that the drug prevented infection in hamsters exposed to the virus, which are used as the ‘gold-standard’ model for pre-clinical testing of drugs against SARS-CoV-2. Importantly, the hamsters treated with UDCA were protected from the delta variant of the virus, which was new at the time and was partially resistant to existing vaccines.

    Professor Owen said: “Although we will need properly-controlled randomized trials to confirm these findings, the data provide compelling evidence that UDCA could work as a drug to protect against COVID-19 and complement vaccination programs, particularly in vulnerable population groups. As it targets the ACE2 receptor directly, we hope it may be more resilient to changes resulting from the evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 spike, which result in the rapid emergence of new variants.”

    Next, the researchers worked with Professor Andrew Fisher from Newcastle University and Professor Chris Watson from Addenbrooke’s hospital to see if their findings in hamsters held true in human lungs exposed to the virus.

    The team took a pair of donated lungs not suitable for transplantation, keeping them breathing outside the body with a ventilator and using a pump to circulate blood-like fluid through them to keep the organs functioning while they could be studied. One lung was given the drug, but both were exposed to SARS-CoV-2. Sure enough, the lung that received the drug did not become infected, while the other lung did.

    Professor Fisher said: “This is one of the first studies to test the effect of a drug in a whole human organ while it’s being perfused. This could prove important for organ transplantation – given the risks of passing on COVID-19 through transplanted organs, it could open up the possibility of treating organs with drugs to clear the virus before transplantation.”

    Moving next to human volunteers, the Cambridge team collaborated with Professor Ansgar Lohse from the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany.

    Professor Lohse explained: “We recruited eight healthy volunteers to receive the drug. When we swabbed the noses of these volunteers, we found lower levels of ACE2, suggesting that the virus would have fewer opportunities to break into and infect their nasal cells – the main gateway for the virus.”

    While it wasn’t possible to run a full-scale clinical trial, the researchers did the next best thing: looking at data on COVID-19 outcomes from two independent cohorts of patients, comparing those individuals who were already taking UDCA for their liver conditions against patients not receiving the drug. They found that patients receiving UDCA were less likely to develop severe COVID-19 and be hospitalized.

    First author and PhD candidate Teresa Brevini from the University of Cambridge said: “This unique study gave us the opportunity to do really translational science, using a laboratory finding to directly address a clinical need.

    “Using almost every approach at our fingertips we showed that an existing drug shuts the door on the virus and can protect us from COVID-19. Importantly, because this drug works on our cells, it is not affected by mutations in the virus and should be effective even as new variants emerge.”

    Dr. Sampaziotis said the drug could be an affordable and effective way of protecting those for whom the COVID-19 vaccine is ineffective or inaccessible. “We have used UDCA in clinic for many years, so we know it’s safe and very well tolerated, which makes administering it to individuals with high COVID-19 risk straightforward.

    “This tablet costs little, can be produced in large quantities fast and easily stored or shipped, which makes it easy to rapidly deploy during outbreaks – especially against vaccine-resistant variants, when it might be the only line of protection while waiting for new vaccines to be developed. We are optimistic that this drug could become an important weapon in our fight against COVID-19.”

    Reference: “FXR inhibition may protect from SARS-CoV-2 infection by reducing ACE2” by Teresa Brevini, Mailis Maes, Gwilym J. Webb, Binu V. John, Claudia D. Fuchs, Gustav Buescher, Lu Wang, Chelsea Griffiths, Marnie L. Brown, William E. Scott III, Pehuén Pereyra-Gerber, William T. H. Gelson, Stephanie Brown, Scott Dillon, Daniele Muraro, Jo Sharp, Megan Neary, Helen Box, Lee Tatham, James Stewart, Paul Curley, Henry Pertinez, Sally Forrest, Petra Mlcochova, Sagar S. Varankar, Mahnaz Darvish-Damavandi, Victoria L. Mulcahy, Rhoda E. Kuc, Thomas L. Williams, James A. Heslop, Davide Rossetti, Olivia C. Tysoe, Vasileios Galanakis, Marta Vila-Gonzalez, Thomas W. M. Crozier, Johannes Bargehr, Sanjay Sinha, Sara S. Upponi, Corrina Fear, Lisa Swift, Kourosh Saeb-Parsy, Susan E. Davies, Axel Wester, Hannes Hagström, Espen Melum, Darran Clements, Peter Humphreys, Jo Herriott, Edyta Kijak, Helen Cox, Chloe Bramwell, Anthony Valentijn, Christopher J. R. Illingworth, UK-PBC research consortium, Bassam Dahman, Dustin R. Bastaich, Raphaella D. Ferreira, Thomas Marjot, Eleanor Barnes, Andrew M. Moon, Alfred S. Barritt IV, Ravindra K. Gupta, Stephen Baker, Anthony P. Davenport, Gareth Corbett, Vassilis G. Gorgoulis, Simon J. A. Buczacki, Joo-Hyeon Lee, Nicholas J. Matheson, Michael Trauner, Andrew J. Fisher, Paul Gibbs, Andrew J. Butler, Christopher J. E. Watson, George F. Mells, Gordon Dougan, Andrew Owen, Ansgar W. Lohse, Ludovic Vallier and Fotios Sampaziotis, 5 December 2022, Nature.
    DOI: 10.1038/s41586-022-05594-0

    The research was largely funded by UK Research & Innovation, the European Association for the Study of the Liver, the NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre and the Evelyn Trust.

    Rheumatologist recommends patients receive pneumococcal vaccine

    Patients with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other rheumatic conditions are more at risk for complications and death from pneumonia, meningitis, and other bacterial infections, yet most have not been vaccinated against infection.

    UT Southwestern rheumatologist Elena K. Joerns, M.D., recommends that all patients with rheumatic disorders receive a to protect against the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, which can cause infections in the ears, sinuses, lungs, spinal fluid, or bloodstream and lead to and hospitalization.

    “In people who take immunosuppressant drugs to treat chronic inflammatory conditions, pneumococcal infections are more likely to be severe due to the ,” said Dr. Joerns, Instructor in Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just 23.9% of adults ages 64 and younger with a higher risk of infection due to various conditions had received one or more in 2020.

    At UT Southwestern, a team in the West Campus Rheumatology-Internal Medicine Subspecialties Clinic has taken steps to boost among its patients, offering greater flexibility to provide vaccines during the check-in process or while patients wait to be seen by a physician.

    “These patients often don’t have a lot of time during their clinic visits because they’re dealing with other complex issues, and there is a lack of awareness and knowledge about these vaccines,” Dr. Joerns said.

    As a result of the effort, the percentage of unvaccinated patients visiting the clinic decreased from 68.2% in 2019 to 40.5% in 2021, the team reported this month in The Journal of Rheumatology.

    The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which provides guidance to the CDC, updated its recommendations in 2022 to give providers and patients the option of a new, single-dose pneumococcal vaccine rather than a three-dose regimen previously recommended, making vaccination more convenient.

    Dr. Joerns noted that the new protocol could be useful for administering vaccinations in other clinical settings. “Our data showed that this protocol, which shifts vaccination to be standardized and done as part of patient check-in, allows vaccination to be completed more efficiently and effectively,” she said.

    This quality improvement project involving the Clinic was supported by Pfizer Inc. in partnership with the Alliance for Continuing Education.

    More information:
    Elena K. Joerns et al, Implementing a Nurse-Driven Protocol for Pneumococcal Vaccination in an Academic Rheumatology Clinic, The Journal of Rheumatology (2022). DOI: 10.3899/jrheum.220771

    Journal information:
    Journal of Rheumatology.

    Science X Network

    ‘Adaptive leadership’ led to successful COVID-19 response in Alaskan capital

    To date, Juneau, Alaska has the highest vaccination rates, among the lowest coronavirus cases, and among the fewest deaths among other boroughs (counties) in Alaska. Now, a research team that studied Juneau’s early response to the pandemic has identified a number of factors that helped the Alaskan capital mitigate COVID-19’s impact on residents.

    In a new study, the team found that local lawmakers’ creation of an administrative system that facilitated making evidence-based decisions and implementing them stood out as a particularly successful example of adaptive leadership within a complex system. Additionally, regular communications by the mayor and city manager ensured that the population supported leadership action.

    Finally, emergent new collaborative structures with community stakeholders, particularly the local Indigenous Alaskan community, brought additional resources to the effort, while local ownership of key assets—the airport, hospital, convention center, dock and harbors—made it easier for city and borough officials to act quickly and efficiently.

    The paper, “Juneau, Alaska’s Successful Response to COVID-19: A case study of adaptive in a complex system,” was published in State and Local Government Review. Study authors include faculty from George Washington University, the University of Alaska Southeast, University of Alaska Fairbanks, and Northern Arizona University.

    More information:
    James E. Powell et al, Juneau, Alaska’s Successful Response to COVID-19: A Case Study of Adaptive Leadership in a Complex System, State and Local Government Review (2022). DOI: 10.1177/0160323X221136504

    Science X Network

    Researchers Identify Insidious New Way COVID-19 Virus Uses To Invade Cells

    COVID-19 Pandemic Virus Cells

    University of Ottawa-led team found a new viral entry for SARS-CoV-2 and suggests it may be able to use proteins to infect a wider range of cells.

    One of the many pressing research undertakings by the scientific community amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has focused on ways the coronavirus manages to enter host cells.

    Now, in a study adding to the pool of knowledge about viral entry, Dr. Marceline Côté’s Faculty of Medicine lab and collaborators have published a highly compelling study showing a previously unrecognized entryway for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 and the driver of the global health crisis that’s transformed the world.

    Previous studies have shown that SARS-CoV-2 as well as an earlier coronavirus, SARS-CoV-1, the virus behind the SARS outbreak in 2003, enter cells via two distinct pathways. The new research led by Dr. Côté’s lab shows a third entry route.

    This viral entryway involves metalloproteinases, enzymes in the body with a catalytic mechanism that requires a metal, such as zinc atoms, to function.

    Over a series of experiments starting in 2020, Dr. Côté’s research team discovered that SARS-COV-2 can enter cells in a metalloproteinase-dependent manner. The team describes a role for two matrix metalloproteinases—MMP-2 and MMP-9—in the activation of the spike glycoprotein.

    What are the ramifications of this kind of viral entry?  The study published in a recent issue of iScience, an open access journal from Cell Press, suggests that variants that gravitate toward metalloproteinases may cause more havoc.

    The team’s experiments showed that some variants clearly prefer the metalloproteinases for activation. For instance, the Delta variant, a more pathogenic variant that surged in 2021, commonly used metalloproteinases for entry. Its less pathogenic successor, Omicron, did not.

    “SARS-CoV-2 may be able to use proteins, which are typically secreted by some activated immune cells, to cause more damage and potentially infect a wider range of cells and tissues,” says Dr. Côté, a Faculty associate professor who is the holder of the Canada Research Chair in Molecular Virology and Antiviral Therapeutics.

    The entry mechanism could also play a role in disease progression.

    Dr. Côté says the findings could have implications in the progression to severe illness and some post-COVID-19 conditions, such as the complex array of post-infection symptoms known as “long Covid.”

    Reference: “Identification and differential usage of a host metalloproteinase entry pathway by SARS-CoV-2 Delta and Omicron” by Mehdi Benlarbi, Geneviève Laroche, Corby Fink, Kathy Fu, Rory P. Mulloy, Alexandra Phan, Ardeshir Ariana, Corina M. Stewart, Jérémie Prévost, Guillaume Beaudoin-Bussières, Redaet Daniel, Yuxia Bo, Omar El Ferri, Julien Yockell-Lelièvre, William L. Stanford, Patrick M. Giguère, Samira Mubareka, Andrés Finzi, Gregory A. Dekaban, Jimmy D. Dikeakos and Marceline Côté, 10 October 2022, iScience.
    DOI: 10.1016/j.isci.2022.105316

    The study’s co-first authors are Mehdi Benlarbi, an undergraduate honours’ thesis student in Dr. Cote’s lab and recipient of a uOttawa Centre for Infection, Immunity and Inflammation scholarship, and Dr. Geneviève Laroche of uOttawa. Collaborators include researchers at the University of Western Ontario, Centre de recherche du CHUM, and Sunnybrook Research Institute. Funding was provided by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).