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Genetic Linkage

Expand Rapid Testing to Help Counter COVID Variant Spread, Says Harvard Epidemiologist Michael Mina

I just returned from an enlightening trip to CVS, to photograph Abbott Lab's at-home rapid antigen test for COVID, BinaxNOW. It became available at three major drugstore chains on April 19.

 

"Do you have the rapid COVID test? The at-home one?" I asked the woman behind the pharmacy counter.

Deer-in-the-headlights.

 

Fortunately, the pharmacist behind her overheard. "Not only don't we have it, but we don't know when we'll be getting it." I wasn't too surprised; I live in a small town.

 

So I got on line to buy some vitamin gummies, appropriately socially distanced, and saw to my immediate left a prominent display of items that everyone should have to prevent COVID: wipes, hand sanitizer, gloves, masks. They provided a backdrop to a stack of 6 boxes of – BinaxNOW!

 

Of course, a detection test to see if you've been infected is not at all the same thing as a preventive measure. So I circled back to the pharmacy, and within seconds of notifying the pharmacist that the tests were indeed available, an angry summons for the manager bellowed out over the loudspeaker.

 

Oops.

 

 

To continue reading, go to DNA Science, where this post first appeared.

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Are Old Vaccines Helpful Against COVID-19?

The idea that old vaccines might have a role in the fight against COVID-19 has been floated since the early days of the pandemic. Vaccines stimulate the broad, innate immune response, which appears to play a key role in fighting COVID-19. Can the approach bridge the time until entire populations are vaccinated specifically against SARS-CoV-2?

 

Three vaccines dominate the discussion: bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) against tuberculosis; measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR); and oral polio vaccine (OPV).

 

To continue reading, go to MedPage Today, where this article first appeared.

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Final weeks to approval: NIH’s Anthony Fauci and FDA’s Peter Marks on what’s ahead before we can expect a safe COVID vaccine

As tens of thousands of people participate in phase 3 clinical trials on COVID-19 vaccine candidates, the focus is turning to the approval process: Will the approved vaccines be safe and effective? For how long? Has politics been injected into the process?

 

To reassure the public that the checks and balances that regulatory agencies have always had in place will prevail, Anthony Fauci, MD, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Peter Marks, MD, PhD, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, discussed the current state of the science with Howard Bauchner, MD, at JAMA Live Q+A webinars for the media on September 25 and October 5.

 

Their comments interweaved into a compelling narrative is like visiting with two scientific maestros.

 

To continue reading, go to Genetic Literacy Project, where this post first appeared.

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How the Various COVID Vaccines Work

COVID vaccine hesitancy is on the rise, perhaps in the wake of pressure to speed approval beyond scientific reason. But I think some of the hesitancy might be due to confusion over how so many different vaccines can target the same pathogen – and why this is a good idea.

 

The ultimate voice of scientific reason, Anthony Fauci said in a media webinar:

 

"I'm cautiously optimistic that with the multiple candidates with different platforms that we're going to have a vaccine with a degree of efficacy that would make it deployable. The overwhelming majority of people make an immune response that clears the virus and recover. If the body can mount an immune response and clear the virus in natural infection, that's a pretty good proof-of-concept that you'll have an immune response against a vaccine."

 

Having choices would provide options for people not covered by some of the vaccines, like those over age 65 and people with certain medical conditions. "It's a misperception that vaccine development is a race to be a winner. I hope more than one is successful, with equitable distribution," Fauci said.

 

The vaccines work in what can seem to be mysterious ways, but all present a pathogen in some form, or its parts, to alert the immune system to mount a response. Understanding how it all happens isn't like learning "how the sausage gets made." Knowledge may quell fears.

 

To continue reading, go to my blog DNA Science.

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Vaccine ‘durability’: COVID-19 immunizations coming soon but will they last?

As the days unfold with a seeming sameness in this odd summer of the pandemic, news of vaccine clinical trials begins to trickle in, and another buzzword from epidemiology is entering the everyday lexicon: durability.

 

To be successful, a vaccine's protection must last or booster shots periodically restore it. Some vaccines lose efficacy over time, including those for yellow fever, pertussis, and of course influenza.

 

For some vaccines, antibodies and the B cells that make them persist and protect for a long time. For other infectious diseases, like TB and malaria, T cells are needed in vaccines too. B and T cells (lymphocytes) are types of white blood cells, which are part of the immune system.

 

Antibody response may be ephemeral

 

"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime," said Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, founder of Taoism.

 

Tzu might have been referring metaphorically to the immune system's response to viral infection: an initial rush of antibodies that fades as a longer-lasting cell-based memory builds that primes the body to rapidly release antibodies upon a future encounter with the pathogen.

 

 

To continue reading, go to Genetic Literacy Project, where this post first appeared.

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