By Nancy Lapid (Reuters) - The following is a brief roundup of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.
Twin antibodies may be better than one
Scientists have found twin antibodies that neutralize the new coronavirus, each by slightly different mechanisms. Finding a way to use both antibodies simultaneously might be a particularly good way to attack the virus, the researchers say. According to their report on Wednesday in Science, the two antibodies were isolated from a patient who recovered from COVID-19. Both work by attaching to a spike on the virus that helps it break into human cells. Because the antibodies each bind to different places on the spike, a "cocktail" containing both may be more effective than a treatment using either one by itself. The information could also help in development of a preventive vaccine, the laboratory experiments suggest. Furthermore, even if the virus mutates so that one of the antibodies no longer works, the other might still retain its neutralizing activity. (bit.ly/2WsbD7b)
Scientists find cheaper way to study coronavirus genome
Researchers have found a simpler, cheaper way to sequence the coronavirus genome, a crucial process that allows researchers access the genetic information in the RNA of the virus. "This approach builds on ongoing sequencing efforts by other groups but bypasses time consuming and costly steps in preparing samples for sequencing," Daryl Gohl of the University of Minnesota Genomics Center, who led the research, told Reuters. "The ability to sequence SARS-CoV-2 at low cost and at large scale will aid in the genomic surveillance of (the virus) for public health efforts, and has the potential to accelerate studies on the influence of viral genetics on transmissibility, virulence, and clinical outcomes." The paper describing the new method was posted online on Tuesday on the bioRxiv website but has not yet been peer-reviewed. (bit.ly/3buhU6A)
Coronavirus particles in feces may not be infectious
The new coronavirus may not spread via contact with fecal matter, researchers suggest in a report on Wednesday in Science Immunology. In laboratory experiments, they discovered that while the virus does infect the cells of the small intestine, fluid from the large intestine inactivates it, so that the virus is no longer infectious by the time it is excreted. The authors caution, however, that because they only studied fecal samples from 10 patients, they cannot definitively rule out fecal-oral transmission of COVID-19. Their findings also suggest the protein-digesting enzyme TMPRSS4 - related to TMPRSS2, implicated in previous SARS-CoV-2 infectivity studies - helps the virus get into cells in the gut. Blocking those two enzymes might be a way to treat the infection, they speculate, especially since a drug that inhibits the TMPRSS2 enzyme is already approved in Japan to treat pancreatitis. (bit.ly/3cvkr1Z)