COVID-19: New Subvariant Gains Traction and Hopeful News for the Immunocompromised

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As the world speculates the potential impact of the novel COVID-19 variant omicron XE and subvariant BA.2, research continues to shed light on the impact and future of the pandemic. Continue reading for that and more COVID news. 

Dr. Ashish Jha Takes over as BA.2 Gains Traction

New White House coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha will take on the role of facilitating the government’s coronavirus response. The shift comes during an uptick in cases of the now-dominant BA.2 subvariant, which Jha advises to regard with a calm but proactive approach. A four-pronged approach strategy was issued by the White House last month: protect against and treat current infections, prepare for new variants, prevent economic and educational repercussions and support global vaccination.

The BA.2 omicron subvariant has taken the lead in COVID-19 infections, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that the subvariant now accounts for 86% of all current infections. The White House’s Jha appeared on NBC, commenting “Case numbers are rising. We were expecting this because we saw this in Europe a few weeks ago, but the good news is we’re coming off of still very low infection numbers. Hospitalizations right now are the lowest they’ve been in the entire pandemic.” 

Post-COVID Symptoms: Causes and Effects

Findings published by the University of Minnesota suggest that the chance of developing post-COVID myocarditis is as high as 2.4 people in every 1,000 admitted for hospitalization. When adding in potential cases of myocarditis, this number jumps to 4.1 per 1,000 admitted. The statistics are based on the records of over 56,000 unvaccinated patients from February 2020 to April 2021. Although rare, information on cases of COVID-19-related myocarditis is critical for encouraging vaccination and determining how to administer preventative care.

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has released results from a study investigating the origins of COVID-19 related anosmia, or loss of smell, in JAMA Neurology. The findings are that the inflammation of olfactory bulb axons is to blame. These neurons are needed to communicate senses and movement to the rest of the central nervous system. The study’s lead author, Dr. Cheng-Ying Ho commented on the finding’s potential implications, saying, "If inflammation is the major cause of the injury in olfactory structures, it is possible that we may be able to use an anti-inflammatory agent as the treatment."

Good News for the Immunocompromised

Some people manage to evade COVID-19 infection, while others remain unprotected by the top COVID-19 vaccines. Researchers at the University Hospital Tübingen are working to find new protection for patients with immunocompromised systems who are incapable of building the adaptive immunity that typically stems from vaccination. The research, recently presented at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting, demonstrates the efficacy of a vaccination that targets COVID-19 protein epitopes, which can lead to upregulated T cell response. The T cell immune response would provide protection in the absence of an antibody defense. Additional research will investigate patient qualifiers and disqualifiers while a Phase III study will determine efficacy. Potential funding sources are being explored.

New Treatment Yields Positive Data

Promising clinical data has been released by Veru regarding a Phase III study investigating the efficacy of sabizabulin to treat Coronavirus. The positive results indicate an astonishing 55% reduction in hospitalized patient mortality. Study sites include the U.S., Brazil, Bulgaria, Mexico, Argentina and Columbia. The study design included double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled protocols for the once-daily oral drug investigation.

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