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Two studies suggest COVID-19 antibodies provide immunity - The Boston Globe
Research teams led by a Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center vaccine specialist have published two studies of monkeys that suggest the answer is yes ― antibodies do provide protection, whether they are triggered by an infection or a vaccine.
Now research teams led by a Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center vaccine specialist have published two studies of laboratory monkeys that suggest the answer is yes antibodies do provide protection, whether they are triggered by an infection or a vaccine. Both studies, which appear to be among the first peer-reviewed papers studying immunity to COVID-19 in primates, were published Wednesday in the journal Science. Dr. Dan Barouch, head of Beth Israels Center for Virology and Vaccine Research and lead author of the studies, said more research must be done to determine whether the findings apply to humans. But hes hopeful, given that humans and rhesus macaque monkeys share 93 percent of the same genetic make-up. We have to be careful about making predictions for humans, said Barouch, who is also affiliated with the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, MIT and Harvard University. "But I can say these data increase our optimism that natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity can be achieved in humans. Neither study determined whether the immunity response is permanent, or how long it may last. Barouchs laboratory is working on an experimental coronavirus vaccine with Johnson & Johnson that has received a pledge of more than $1 billion in funding from that company and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a federal agency. That vaccine uses a common cold virus to deliver a coronavirus antigen into cells to stimulate the immune system. Its expected to enter clinical trials by September and was not the subject of either published study. One of the studies involved nine adult monkeys. Researchers infected their noses and lungs with SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The virus quickly spread into their upper and lower respiratory tracts. The nine monkeys developed viral pneumonia, but all of them recovered within 28 days. A week later, researchers exposed the monkeys to the virus a second time. Although the scientists were able to detect tiny amounts of the virus in the lungs of some of the monkeys, none of the animals got sick. Their immune systems protected them. It has long been suspected that there would be natural protective immunity [after recovery from COVID-19] because most viruses do that, but thats not always the case, said Barouch, who cited HIV as a notable exception. Our team found this data very compelling. If the finding was confirmed in humans, it might fuel calls for immunity passports for people who recover from COVID-19 and test positive for the antibodies. That idea that has been floated by some scientists and governments as a way to enable people who fight off the disease to return to work. On April 24, the World Health Organization discouraged that, saying, There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection. The other study by Barouchs researchers involved 35 rhesus macaque monkeys 25 vaccinated against the virus and 10 that werent. The vaccinated monkeys received one of six prototypes of DNA vaccines developed by his lab for the experiment. Each monkey got two doses. To provoke an immune response, each prototype used the genetic code for portions of the protein that scientists believe the coronavirus uses to invade cells. None of the prototypes are among dozens of experimental vaccines that have been developed by drug companies for testing in humans. Indeed, many scientists are skeptical of the clinical potential of DNA vaccines, and none has ever been licensed. Nonetheless, all of the vaccinated monkeys developed antibodies, some at levels comparable to those made by the monkeys that recovered from COVID-19 in the other study. Researchers then infected the 25 vaccinated monkeys, as well as the 10 that hadnt been vaccinated. None of the vaccinated monkeys developed high levels of the virus in their lungs. All 10 of the monkeys that werent vaccinated did. Dr. Nelson Michael, director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said he was impressed that the DNA vaccines protected all the monkeys because such vaccines generally arent very effective. If a DNA vaccine can work, then that really tells you this is probably doable, said Michael, whose institute is testing another type of vaccine on mice. Barouchs researchers also found a direct link between the level of antibodies in the vaccinated monkeys and the level of protection from infection, Michael said. Thats the holy grail of vaccine development, he said. If you can figure out a lab test that would accurately predict whos likely to be protected and whos not likely to be protected, thats huge. Dr. Louis Picker, associate director of the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute at Oregon Health & Science University, said no vaccine is 100 percent effective. Even the vaccine for measles is considered about 97 percent effective after two doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Still, he said that the two new studies has convinced me that this is an infection that will be controllable with vaccination. More than 100 experimental vaccines are in the works as drug firms, academic laboratories, and governments around the globe scramble to find a way to end the COVID-19 epidemic. Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at [email protected]
Trump’s veiled threat to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci spooks scientists, Democrats - The Boston Globe
President Trump retweeted a tweet that sharply criticized the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, emblazoned with the hashtag #FireFauci. The episode spooked both Democrats and outside health experts, who see Fauci as one of the few con…
The walkback followed a remarkable series of events. After Faucis CNN interview Sunday, Trump retweeted a tweet that sharply criticized the doctor, emblazoned with the hashtag #FireFauci. The doctors comments Monday seemed to help matters. I like him, I think hes terrific," Trump said. But he added: Not everybodys happy with Anthony." The episode underscored Faucis precarious standing in the mind of the president despite his decades of expertise, as Trump faces scathing coverage for his slow response to the virus. The retweeted threat in particular spooked both Democrats and outside health experts, who see Fauci as one of the few consistent voices of caution within the White House and a key player in a coronavirus task force they already believe includes too few scientists. Except for Tony Fauci, were not bringing the best of what we have to bear on this, said Dr. James Curran, the dean of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University and a former Centers for Disease Control official who complained that the agencys experts in respiratory disease outbreaks have been sidelined. Its a form of intimidation, Curran said of Trumps retweet. Democrats are so worried about Fauci a longtime civil servant who is not a political appointee serving at the presidents pleasure that they are drafting legislation to protect him. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, who calls Fauci a national treasure, is planning to introduce a bill that would shield him from Trumps wrath by allowing for a director of a national research institute or national center of the National Institutes of Health to be fired only on the grounds of malfeasance, neglect of office, or incapacity. Every day that Ive been watching Dr. Fauci stand next to Donald Trump, I have been concerned that the presidents political agenda is different than Tony Faucis scientific and medical agenda, Markey said. Donald Trump has an allergy to both science and the truth. The controversy comes as Trump weighs whether to lift federal social distancing guidelines by the end of the month. Experts like Fauci say the reopening of the nations economy must be a gradual process, backed by data from ramped-up coronavirus testing and contact tracing to prevent more outbreaks. But when asked by a reporter Friday what metrics he will use in making that decision, Trump pointed to his head. The metrics right here, he said. Thats my metrics. Since the coronavirus began its insidious spread in the United States, Trump has repeatedly displayed a casual or even dismissive attitude toward the scientists and experts charged with containing it, hawking potential cures with little scientific backing and declaring he wouldnt personally follow new guidelines that urge Americans to don masks in public. But those who worried about Trumps seeming disregard for facts and expertise in the midst of a pandemic could always comfort themselves with the presence of Fauci, the nations top infectious disease expert, who has become a household name while injecting Trumps daily press conferences with sober, factual information about the virus which is why they see any threat to his job security as cause for deep concern. Generally speaking, there arent too many scientists who have been involved from the get-go with these decisions, said Dr. Ali Nouri, the president of the Federation of American Scientists. To the extent that he has these people around him, he should keep them and he should listen to them. Fauci and Trump have tangled before, after Fauci gave several media interviews admitting that the president delivers inaccurate information during his daily press briefings. That blunt style made him something of a hero among liberals and a villain to many of the presidents allies, who have long urged his firing. Faucis job may be protected in part by politics. Trump would likely face a fierce backlash if he were to fire Fauci, or even remove him from the White House coronavirus task force, according to Alex Conant, a Republican strategist who worked on Senator Marco Rubios 2016 presidential bid. Fauci is as close to untouchable as you can be inside the Trump administration unless youre related to the president, Conant said. He is so well known and liked by the American people that firing him would really shake the publics and the markets confidence. A recent Quinnipiac poll found that 78 percent of people approved of Faucis handling of the pandemic, compared to just 46 percent who said the same of Trump. That may rankle the president, but it could also tie his hands. The tense relations between the two men already fraught after Fauci attempted to tamp down Trumps enthusiasm for an unproven treatment for the virus comes while the president is deciding what to do when social distancing guidelines that have helped shutter much of the economy end this month. A second task force thats being created to advise the president on reopening the economy does not include any medical or scientific experts, according to an initial list reported by Fox News, furthering concerns that Trump may sideline Fauci and other scientists when he needs their advice more than ever. It would not be the first time. Since the beginning of his presidency, Trump has pushed scientific expertise to the side, particularly when it conflicts with his political interests, taking the United States out of agreements like the Paris Climate Accord and installing political appointees with industry ties instead of scientific ones to run agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency. This pattern has been most pronounced when it comes to climate and environmental science Columbia University has tracked more than 250 examples of his administrations attempts to limit scientific research or the use of scientific information in some way. Its been a war on science since he came in, said Christine Todd Whitman, a former Republican governor of New Jersey and the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under George W. Bush. What hes doing to the EPA, what hes done to the Department of the Interior wherever scientists are, theyre being ignored. Trumps handling of the coronavirus crisis has frustrated public health experts who believe he ignored their warnings and downplayed the threat it posed to the country, costing the nation valuable time. Fauci has often faced the brunt of Trumps wrath as he bristles at that criticism, and online attacks against the doctor were so intense that he was reportedly provided with personal security. But in his 36 years as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Fauci has found himself at the center of more than one political firestorm. In 1990, 1,000 activists protested the governments handling of the AIDS crisis on the grounds of the National Institutes of Health, setting off colored smoke bombs. Some dressed up as the grim reaper and hoisted signs urging Fauci to resign, but he earned the trust of AIDS activists in the ensuing years. He has also testified hundreds of times before Congress an experience that thickened his skin ahead of his current clash with Trump. You either get praised or you get killed, he said once, according to Science Magazine. You just got to know when to duck. Liz Goodwin can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @lizcgoodwin Jess Bidgood can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @jessbidgood.
Massachusetts joins multistate pact on post-coronavirus economy - The Boston Globe
As in other states participating in the deal, Baker's office maintained that it's too early to consider easing restrictions. But the governors said they want to be prepared to move ahead once the disease threat recedes.
The house is still on fire," he said during a conference call with reporters. We still have to put the fire out, but we do have to begin putting in the pieces of the puzzle that we know were going to need ... to make sure this doesnt reignite. His state is in a coalition with its Northeastern neighbors Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. The coalition announced early Monday evening that Massachusetts had also joined the group. The Baker-Polito Administration looks forward to participating in discussions with neighboring states and experts regarding the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Baker said in a statement distributed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomos office. Massachusetts also remains focused on efforts to expand testing, ensure hospital capacity and provide the necessary PPE to those on the front lines to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. An aide to Baker confirmed that the Republican governor will participate in the compact along with Democratic governors from Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York had earlier announced that Baker would be part of the compact. Thank you to @MassGovernor for joining our multi-state regional effort along with NJ, CT, PA, DE, RI to plan a safe & coordinated reopening. When we work together, we're stronger. — Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) April 13, 2020 As in other states participating in the deal, Baker's office maintained that it's too early to consider easing restrictions. But the governors said they want to be prepared to move ahead once the disease threat recedes. Economic and health experts from each state will be part of a group working on a framework for the states reopening plans, Cuomo said. At a Boston press conference earlier on Monday, when Baker was asked about Trumps comments on reopening the country, the governor replied, I dont think anyone thinks you can just flip the switch at any point in the not-so-distant future, given the surge is not the same everywhere. The governors of California, Oregon and Washington announced similar plans Monday. While each state is building its own plan, the three West Coast states have agreed to a framework saying they will work together, put their residents health first and let science guide their decisions. COVID-19 has preyed upon our interconnectedness, the three governors said in a statement. In the coming weeks, the West Coast will flip the script on COVID-19 with our states acting in close coordination and collaboration to ensure the virus can never spread wildly in our communities. Some of the Northeastern states coordinated last month as they ordered businesses to shut down. States also have been sharing medical supplies. Republican President Donald Trump responded to the governors' plans by saying he is the ultimate decision-maker. Some are saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government. Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect...it is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons, Trump tweeted Monday. Trump and his administration are working closely with governors, he said. It was not immediately clear whether the compacts announced by the Northeast and West Coast states were in reaction to the presidents earlier message or had been in the works beforehand. Jaclyn Reiss of the Globe staff contributed to this report.