COVID-19-Related Stroke Risk and Omicron-Specific Vaccine May Not be Necessary

COVID-19 Update

COVID-19 is largely a respiratory illness, but as everyone knows by now, it presents a number of other symptoms, including blood clots, which can cause strokes or heart attacks. For more details and other COVID-19 news, continue reading.

Highest COVID-19 Stroke Risk Comes First 3 Days After Diagnosis

A new study by the American Stroke Association found that the risk of stroke in adults with COVID-19 between the ages of 65 to 74 was highest the first three days after diagnosis. The researchers examined the health records of 37,379 Medicare beneficiaries 65 years and older who were diagnosed with COVID-19 and had been hospitalized with stroke within a measured timeframe. 

The timeframe was within a control window of seven days before to 28 days after diagnosis with COVID-19. The risk of stroke within the first three days of diagnosis was 10 times higher than during the rest of the control window. There was still risk during the entire period: four to seven days after diagnosis the risk was 60% higher, but by 15 to 28 days after diagnosis, risk decreased to 9%. No difference based on sex or race was determined, although more than 75% of the patients were non-Hispanic whites in the study. The average age at the time of COVID-19 diagnosis was 80 years. Women represented 57% of the patients.

Quanhe Yang, the lead author of the study, said, "Stroke following the diagnosis of COVID-19 is a possible complication of COVID-19 that patients and clinicians should be aware of. Vaccination and other preventive measures for COVID-19 are important to reduce the risk of infection and complications including stroke."

Omicron-Targeting Boosters May Not Provide Benefit

Investigators at the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases' Vaccine Research Center ran tests on primates and found that updating COVID-19 vaccines to focus on the Omicron variant may not provide much benefit. Their research demonstrated that the animals given boosters of the original vaccine reported similar levels of protection against COVID-19 in the lungs than the animals that received a booster based on the Omicron strain. The study was based on the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. Not yet peer-reviewed, it was published on the BioRxiv preprint server.

The data was based on a small number of animals. Confirming studies would have to be performed on people, but the data, according to John Moore, a virologist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, combined with earlier work on a Beta-based booster, probably show the current vaccine is creating cross-protective immune responses.

"Accordingly, changing to an Omicron boost may well be unnecessary — literally more trouble than it's worth. What we have is likely to be important for formulating future policies," Moore said.

Celltrion Submitted IND to Run a Phase III Trial for an Inhaled COVID Antibody Cocktail

South Korea-based Celltrion Group submitted an Investigational New Drug (IND) application to run a global Phase III trial of an inhaled antibody cocktail against mild-to-moderate COVID-19. They plan to enroll 2,200 patients around the world. It is a combination of two monoclonal antibodies, regdanvimab (CT-P59) and CT-P63 and was engineered to target newly emerging mutations, including the Omicron variant.

"We have accelerated development of our inhaled COVID-19 antibody cocktail therapy, leveraging our antibody platform to address the ongoing challenges of the pandemic," said HoUng Kim, Head of Medical and Marketing Division at Celltrion Healthcare. "Inhaled delivery substantially reduces the dose required to achieve a therapeutic effect compared to intravenous injections, thereby reducing the cost of treatment."

South African Biotech Copies Moderna mRNA Vaccine

Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines in Cape Town, South Africa, reported they have almost finished the process of reproducing Moderna's mRNA vaccine against COVID-19. Although they have only generated microliters of the vaccine, it was built on data Moderna used and was recreated without the company's involvement. It is part of the World Health Organization (WHO) initiative to develop a technology-transfer hub to grow capacity for vaccine manufacturing in poorer countries.

According to an analysis of vaccine distribution, Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech have delivered more than 70% of their vaccines to wealthy nations. Doses acquired by or promised to low- and middle-income nations have been delayed for various reasons, often related to distribution channels and infrastructure.

The Afrigen vaccine is a long way from being ready and isn't likely to help with the pandemic in 2022. But the WHO initiative hopes that the effort will be the foundation for more global distribution of the mRNA vaccine industry.

The initiative had asked the three companies for assistance but did not get a response, so the WHO chose to move ahead without their help. Moderna has announced it will not enforce its patents during the pandemic. The company's technology data is also publicly available compared to Pfizer-BioNTech.

Charles Gore, director of the Medicines Patent Pool in Geneva, Switzerland, which is working with the hub, said the hub does not plan to infringe on Moderna's patents. He also expressed hope that once the vaccine was ready, Moderna might license its patents or that there might be options for companies to produce the vaccines without risk of lawsuits.

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