Scientists working on genomic sequences of SARS-CoV-2 to find answer to combat COVID-19

Agencies
September 13, 2020

New Delhi, Sept 13: A group of scientists in India is working on genomic sequences of SARS-CoV-2 around the World, including India, to identify genetic variability and potential molecular targets in virus and human to find the best possible answer to combat the COVID-19 virus.

As per the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the study is sponsored by Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), a statutory body under the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the study has been published in the Journal called Infection, Genetics, and Evolution.

Breaking down the novel coronavirus challenge into many pieces to get to its root and see it from multiple directions, Dr. Indrajit Saha, Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering of National Institute of Technical Teachers' Training and Research, Kolkata, and his team have developed a web-based COVID- Predictor to predict the sequence of viruses online on the basis of machine learning and analysed 566 Indian SARS-CoV-2 genomes to find the genetic variability in terms of point mutation and Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP).

"They have mainly found that 57 out of 64 SNPs are present in 6 coding regions of Indian SARS-CoV-2 genomes, and all are nonsynonymous in nature. They have extended this research for more than 10 thousand sequences around the globe, including India and found 20260, 18997, and 3514 unique mutation points globally, including India, excluding India and only for India, respectively," the ministry said.

The scientists are on the track to identify the genetic variability in SARS-CoV-2 genomes around the globe including India, find the number of virus strains using Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP), spot the potential target proteins of the virus and human host based on Protein-Protein Interactions. They also carried out integrating the knowledge of genetic variability, recognize candidates of synthetic vaccine based on conserved genomic regions that are highly immunogenic and antigenic, and detect the virus miRNAs that are also involved in regulating human mRNA.

"They have computed the mutation similarity in sequences of different countries. The results show that the USA, England, and India are the top three countries having the geometric mean, 3.27 per cent, 3.59 per cent, and 5.39 per cent, respectively, of mutation similarity score with other 72 countries," the ministry said.

The scientists have also developed a web application for searching the mutation points in SARS-CoV-2 genomes globally and country wise. Besides, they are now working more towards protein-protein interactions, epitopes discovery, and virus miRNA prediction, it said.

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News Network
October 26,2020

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Houston: Indian and Pakistani women are diagnosed with breast cancer, including more aggressive forms, at a younger age, according to a study that provides an insight into understanding the risk factors influencing the disease.

The study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, examined the characteristics of breast cancer among Indian and Pakistani-American and non-Hispanic white women in the US using data from the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program.

Both, Indian and Pakistani women are diagnosed with more aggressive forms of the disease, at a younger age, according to the researchers.

The researchers, who are part of the Rutgers School of Public Health and Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, reviewed incidence data among Indian and Pakistani women between 1990 and 2014.

"Our results provide an insight into breast cancer in Indian and Pakistani women, suggesting several hypotheses to guide future scientific studies to better understand the risk factors influencing disease etiology and prognosis," said Jaya M Satagopan, lead author and director of the Center for South Asian Quantitative Health and Education at the Rutgers School of Public Health.

South Asians are the fastest-growing major ethnic group in the United States with breast cancer rates increasing within the population, but little is known about the disease in this socio-culturally unique population, according to the study.

The researchers also reviewed the disease characteristics, treatment and survival data between 2000 and 2016 for 4,900 Indian and Pakistani women and 482,250 non-Hispanic white women with breast cancer.

They found that the occurrence of breast cancer in Indian and Pakistani women was lower than in non-Hispanic white women, however, the number of Indian and Pakistani women diagnosed with breast cancer increased over the years.

Indian and Pakistani women with breast cancer were more likely to be diagnosed at a younger age and at more advanced stages of the disease. In addition, they received more subcutaneous or total mastectomies than non-Hispanic white women, it said.

While the researchers found that Indian and Pakistani women were less likely to die of breast cancer than their non-Hispanic white counterparts, their health was tracked for a shorter time.

Prior cancer research has shown that fewer Indian and Pakistani women participate in scientific studies and that several sociocultural factors may delay their seeking health care.

Research also has shown poor mammogram screening rates in Indian and Pakistani women, which is linked to a lack of family support, lack of transportation, modesty, fear, beliefs that cancer is divine punishment for past deeds, having lived in the United States for less than 10 years, low English proficiency and a lack of faith in the health system.

"Our study indicated that there are important differences in this population that justify further studies to better understand biological, sociocultural, and system level factors such as interactions with the health system, affecting breast cancer screening patterns, diagnosis, risk and survival among South Asian women, given the paucity of literature on this topic,” said the study's senior author Elisa V Bandera, co-leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and professor at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

The study recommends identifying strategies to better engage Indian and Pakistani women in breast cancer studies and to improve interactions between health care providers and Indian and Pakistani women to identify sociocultural factors associated with screening decisions and health care use in this population.

"As the South Asian population in the United States — and especially in New Jersey — grows, it is imperative that we work to promote health equity in cancer prevention, screening, early diagnosis and treatment through community engagement and a team science approach," said Anita Kinney, director of the Center for Cancer Health Equity at Rutgers School of Public Health and Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health, who is also one of the study's authors.

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Agencies
October 24,2020

Antibodies against the novel coronavirus follow a classic pattern with a rapid increase within the first three weeks after symptoms, and detectable up to seven months post contracting the disease, according to a new study which assessed 300 patients infected with the virus and 198 post-COVID-19 volunteers.

According to the research, published in the European Journal of Immunology, the participants had antibodies with confirmed neutralisation activity for up to six months post infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The scientists, led by Marc Veldhoen from Instituto de Medicina Molecular (IMM) in Portugal, monitored the antibody levels of over 300 COVID-19 hospital patients and healthcare workers, 2500 university staff, and 198 post-COVID volunteers.

They setup an in-house sensitive specific and versatile COVID-19 serology test.

The study revealed that 90 per cent of subjects have detectable antibodies up to seven months post contracting COVID-19.

It also found that age was not a confounding factor in levels of antibodies produced, but disease severity is.

"Our immune system recognises the virus SARS-CoV-2 as harmful and produces antibodies in response to it, which helps to fight the virus," Voldhoen said.

"The results of this six months cross-sectional study show a classic pattern with a rapid increase of antibody levels within the first three weeks after COVID-19 symptoms and, as expected, a reduction to intermediate levels thereafter," he added.

Based on the findings, the scientists said men produce more antibodies on average than women, "but levels equilibrate during the resolution phase and are similar between the sexes in the months after SARS-CoV-2 infection".

In the acute phase of the immune response, the researchers observed higher antibody levels in subjects with more severe disease.

They said age is not a confounding factor for the production of antibodies since no significant differences were observed between age groups.

While there was a reduction in the levels of antibodies over time, the team found that there was "robust neutralisation activity" for up to the seventh month post-infection in a large proportion of previously virus-positive screened subjects.

"Our work provides detailed information for the assays used, facilitating further and longitudinal analysis of protective immunity to SARS-CoV-2," Veldhoen said.

"Importantly, it highlights a continued level of circulating neutralising antibodies in most people with confirmed SARS-CoV-2," he added.

The researchers believe the next months will be critical to evaluate the robustness of the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection, and to find clues for questions such as the duration of circulating antibodies and the impact of reinfection.

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Agencies
October 28,2020

Washington, Oct 28: Drugmakers Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline have agreed to provide 200 million doses of their potential COVID-19 vaccine to the COVAX Facility, a collaboration designed to give countries around the world equal access to coronavirus vaccines.

The Sanofi-GSK vaccine candidate is in early stage trials, with results expected in early December. The drugmakers said Wednesday that they plan to begin phase three trial by the end of the year and request regulatory approval of the vaccine in the first half of 2021.

The facility is part of COVAX, a coalition of governments, health organisations, businesses and charities working to accelerate the development of COVID-19 vaccines.

Thomas Triomphe, head of Sanofi's vaccine unit, said: To address a global health crisis of this magnitude, it takes unique partnerships. The commitment we are announcing today for the COVAX Facility can help us together stand a better chance of bringing the pandemic under control.

Almost 44 million people have been confirmed to be infected with the virus worldwide and 1.16 million of them have died, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Experts say the true toll of the pandemic is much greater than that, due to limited testing, missed mild cases and concealment of cases by some governments.

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