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PepGen, a therapeutics company targeting severe neuromuscular diseases, including Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), has closed a $45 million Series A funding round led by RA Capital Management with participation from Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI), the company’s original seed investor.
<jats:sec><jats:title>Summary blurb</jats:title><jats:p>m<jats:sup>6</jats:sup>A-modification in the 5’ vicinity of the coding sequence of transcripts provides a selective mechanism for triaging mRNAs to stress granules and is mediated by YTHDF3 ‘reader’ protein.</jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec><jats:title>Abstract</jats:title><jats:p>Reversible post-transcriptional modifications on messenger RNA emerge as prevalent phenomena in RNA metabolism. The most abundant among them is N<jats:sup>6</jats:sup>-methyladenosine (m<jats:sup>6</jats:sup>A) which is pivotal for RNA metabolism and function, its role in stress response remains elusive. We have discovered that in response to oxidative stress, transcripts are additionally m<jats:sup>6</jats:sup>A-modified in their 5’ vicinity. Distinct from that of the translationally-active mRNAs, this methylation pattern provides a selective mechanism for triaging mRNAs from the translatable pool to stress-induced stress granules. These stress-induced newly methylated sites are selectively recognized by the YTH domain family 3 (YTHDF3) ‘reader’ protein, thereby revealing a new role for YTHDF3 in shaping the selectivity of stress response. Our findings describe a previously unappreciated function for RNA m<jats:sup>6</jats:sup>A modification in the oxidative-stress response and expand the breadth of physiological roles of m<jats:sup>6</jats:sup>A.</jats:p></jats:sec>
<jats:title>Abstract</jats:title><jats:p>Biochemical studies suggested that the antimicrobial peptide apidaecin (Api) inhibits protein synthesis by binding in the nascent peptide exit tunnel and trapping the release factor associated with a terminating ribosome. The mode of Api action in bacterial cells had remained unknown. Here, genome-wide analysis revealed that Api arrests translating ribosomes at stop codons and causes pronounced queuing of the trailing ribosomes. By sequestering the available release factors, Api promotes pervasive stop codon bypass, leading to expression of proteins with C-terminal extensions. Api-mediated translation arrest leads to futile activation of the ribosome rescue systems. Understanding the unique mechanism of Api action in living cells may facilitate development of new medicines and research tools for genome exploration.</jats:p>
<jats:title>Abstract</jats:title><jats:p>Translation of mRNAs into proteins is a key cellular process. Ribosome binding sites and stop codons provide signals to initiate and terminate translation, while stable secondary mRNA structures can induce translational recoding events. Fluorescent proteins are commonly used to characterize such elements but require the modification of a part’s natural context and allow only a few parameters to be monitored concurrently. Here, we develop an approach that combines ribosome profiling (Ribo-seq) with quantitative RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) to enable the high-throughput characterization of genetic parts controlling translation in absolute units. We simultaneously measure 743 translation initiation rates and 746 termination efficiencies across the <jats:italic>Escherichia coli</jats:italic> transcriptome, in addition to translational frameshifting induced at a stable RNA pseudoknot structure. By analyzing the transcriptional and translational response, we discover that sequestered ribosomes at the pseudoknot contribute to a σ<jats:sup>32</jats:sup>-mediated stress response, codon-specific pausing, and a drop in translation initiation rates across the cell. Our work demonstrates the power of integrating global approaches towards a comprehensive and quantitative understanding of gene regulation and burden in living cells.</jats:p>
Identification of novel locus associated with coronary artery aneurysms and validation of loci for susceptibility to Kawasaki disease.
Kawasaki disease (KD) is a paediatric vasculitis associated with coronary artery aneurysms (CAA). Genetic variants influencing susceptibility to KD have been previously identified, but no risk alleles have been validated that influence CAA formation. We conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) for CAA in KD patients of European descent with 200 cases and 276 controls. A second GWAS for susceptibility pooled KD cases with healthy paediatric controls from vaccine trials in the UK (n = 1609). Logistic regression mixed models were used for both GWASs. The susceptibility GWAS was meta-analysed with 400 KD cases and 6101 controls from a previous European GWAS, these results were further meta-analysed with Japanese GWASs at two putative loci. The CAA GWAS identified an intergenic region of chromosome 20q13 with multiple SNVs showing genome-wide significance. The risk allele of the most associated SNV (rs6017006) was present in 13% of cases and 4% of controls; in East Asian 1000 Genomes data, the allele was absent or rare. Susceptibility GWAS with meta-analysis with previously published European data identified two previously associated loci (ITPKC and FCGR2A). Further meta-analysis with Japanese GWAS summary data from the CASP3 and FAM167A genomic regions validated these loci in Europeans showing consistent effects of the top SNVs in both populations. We identified a novel locus for CAA in KD patients of European descent. The results suggest that different genes determine susceptibility to KD and development of CAA and future work should focus on the function of the intergenic region on chromosome 20q13.
Efficacy of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (AZD1222) vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern 202012/01 (B.1.1.7): an exploratory analysis of a randomised controlled trial.
BACKGROUND: A new variant of SARS-CoV-2, B.1.1.7, emerged as the dominant cause of COVID-19 disease in the UK from November, 2020. We report a post-hoc analysis of the efficacy of the adenoviral vector vaccine, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (AZD1222), against this variant. METHODS: Volunteers (aged ≥18 years) who were enrolled in phase 2/3 vaccine efficacy studies in the UK, and who were randomly assigned (1:1) to receive ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 or a meningococcal conjugate control (MenACWY) vaccine, provided upper airway swabs on a weekly basis and also if they developed symptoms of COVID-19 disease (a cough, a fever of 37·8°C or higher, shortness of breath, anosmia, or ageusia). Swabs were tested by nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) for SARS-CoV-2 and positive samples were sequenced through the COVID-19 Genomics UK consortium. Neutralising antibody responses were measured using a live-virus microneutralisation assay against the B.1.1.7 lineage and a canonical non-B.1.1.7 lineage (Victoria). The efficacy analysis included symptomatic COVID-19 in seronegative participants with a NAAT positive swab more than 14 days after a second dose of vaccine. Participants were analysed according to vaccine received. Vaccine efficacy was calculated as 1 - relative risk (ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vs MenACWY groups) derived from a robust Poisson regression model. This study is continuing and is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT04400838, and ISRCTN, 15281137. FINDINGS: Participants in efficacy cohorts were recruited between May 31 and Nov 13, 2020, and received booster doses between Aug 3 and Dec 30, 2020. Of 8534 participants in the primary efficacy cohort, 6636 (78%) were aged 18-55 years and 5065 (59%) were female. Between Oct 1, 2020, and Jan 14, 2021, 520 participants developed SARS-CoV-2 infection. 1466 NAAT positive nose and throat swabs were collected from these participants during the trial. Of these, 401 swabs from 311 participants were successfully sequenced. Laboratory virus neutralisation activity by vaccine-induced antibodies was lower against the B.1.1.7 variant than against the Victoria lineage (geometric mean ratio 8·9, 95% CI 7·2-11·0). Clinical vaccine efficacy against symptomatic NAAT positive infection was 70·4% (95% CI 43·6-84·5) for B.1.1.7 and 81·5% (67·9-89·4) for non-B.1.1.7 lineages. INTERPRETATION: ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 showed reduced neutralisation activity against the B.1.1.7 variant compared with a non-B.1.1.7 variant in vitro, but the vaccine showed efficacy against the B.1.1.7 variant of SARS-CoV-2. FUNDING: UK Research and Innovation, National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, Thames Valley and South Midlands NIHR Clinical Research Network, and AstraZeneca.
Single-dose administration and the influence of the timing of the booster dose on immunogenicity and efficacy of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (AZD1222) vaccine: a pooled analysis of four randomised trials.
BACKGROUND: The ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (AZD1222) vaccine has been approved for emergency use by the UK regulatory authority, Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, with a regimen of two standard doses given with an interval of 4-12 weeks. The planned roll-out in the UK will involve vaccinating people in high-risk categories with their first dose immediately, and delivering the second dose 12 weeks later. Here, we provide both a further prespecified pooled analysis of trials of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 and exploratory analyses of the impact on immunogenicity and efficacy of extending the interval between priming and booster doses. In addition, we show the immunogenicity and protection afforded by the first dose, before a booster dose has been offered. METHODS: We present data from three single-blind randomised controlled trials-one phase 1/2 study in the UK (COV001), one phase 2/3 study in the UK (COV002), and a phase 3 study in Brazil (COV003)-and one double-blind phase 1/2 study in South Africa (COV005). As previously described, individuals 18 years and older were randomly assigned 1:1 to receive two standard doses of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (5 × 1010 viral particles) or a control vaccine or saline placebo. In the UK trial, a subset of participants received a lower dose (2·2 × 1010 viral particles) of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 for the first dose. The primary outcome was virologically confirmed symptomatic COVID-19 disease, defined as a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT)-positive swab combined with at least one qualifying symptom (fever ≥37·8°C, cough, shortness of breath, or anosmia or ageusia) more than 14 days after the second dose. Secondary efficacy analyses included cases occuring at least 22 days after the first dose. Antibody responses measured by immunoassay and by pseudovirus neutralisation were exploratory outcomes. All cases of COVID-19 with a NAAT-positive swab were adjudicated for inclusion in the analysis by a masked independent endpoint review committee. The primary analysis included all participants who were SARS-CoV-2 N protein seronegative at baseline, had had at least 14 days of follow-up after the second dose, and had no evidence of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection from NAAT swabs. Safety was assessed in all participants who received at least one dose. The four trials are registered at ISRCTN89951424 (COV003) and ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT04324606 (COV001), NCT04400838 (COV002), and NCT04444674 (COV005). FINDINGS: Between April 23 and Dec 6, 2020, 24 422 participants were recruited and vaccinated across the four studies, of whom 17 178 were included in the primary analysis (8597 receiving ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 and 8581 receiving control vaccine). The data cutoff for these analyses was Dec 7, 2020. 332 NAAT-positive infections met the primary endpoint of symptomatic infection more than 14 days after the second dose. Overall vaccine efficacy more than 14 days after the second dose was 66·7% (95% CI 57·4-74·0), with 84 (1·0%) cases in the 8597 participants in the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 group and 248 (2·9%) in the 8581 participants in the control group. There were no hospital admissions for COVID-19 in the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 group after the initial 21-day exclusion period, and 15 in the control group. 108 (0·9%) of 12 282 participants in the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 group and 127 (1·1%) of 11 962 participants in the control group had serious adverse events. There were seven deaths considered unrelated to vaccination (two in the ChAdOx1 nCov-19 group and five in the control group), including one COVID-19-related death in one participant in the control group. Exploratory analyses showed that vaccine efficacy after a single standard dose of vaccine from day 22 to day 90 after vaccination was 76·0% (59·3-85·9). Our modelling analysis indicated that protection did not wane during this initial 3-month period. Similarly, antibody levels were maintained during this period with minimal waning by day 90 (geometric mean ratio [GMR] 0·66 [95% CI 0·59-0·74]). In the participants who received two standard doses, after the second dose, efficacy was higher in those with a longer prime-boost interval (vaccine efficacy 81·3% [95% CI 60·3-91·2] at ≥12 weeks) than in those with a short interval (vaccine efficacy 55·1% [33·0-69·9] at <6 weeks). These observations are supported by immunogenicity data that showed binding antibody responses more than two-fold higher after an interval of 12 or more weeks compared with an interval of less than 6 weeks in those who were aged 18-55 years (GMR 2·32 [2·01-2·68]). INTERPRETATION: The results of this primary analysis of two doses of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 were consistent with those seen in the interim analysis of the trials and confirm that the vaccine is efficacious, with results varying by dose interval in exploratory analyses. A 3-month dose interval might have advantages over a programme with a short dose interval for roll-out of a pandemic vaccine to protect the largest number of individuals in the population as early as possible when supplies are scarce, while also improving protection after receiving a second dose. FUNDING: UK Research and Innovation, National Institutes of Health Research (NIHR), The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lemann Foundation, Rede D'Or, the Brava and Telles Foundation, NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, Thames Valley and South Midland's NIHR Clinical Research Network, and AstraZeneca.
T cell and antibody responses induced by a single dose of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (AZD1222) vaccine in a phase 1/2 clinical trial.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the causative agent of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), has caused a global pandemic, and safe, effective vaccines are urgently needed1. Strong, Th1-skewed T cell responses can drive protective humoral and cell-mediated immune responses2 and might reduce the potential for disease enhancement3. Cytotoxic T cells clear virus-infected host cells and contribute to control of infection4. Studies of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 have suggested a protective role for both humoral and cell-mediated immune responses in recovery from COVID-19 (refs. 5,6). ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (AZD1222) is a candidate SARS-CoV-2 vaccine comprising a replication-deficient simian adenovirus expressing full-length SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. We recently reported preliminary safety and immunogenicity data from a phase 1/2 trial of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine (NCT04400838)7 given as either a one- or two-dose regimen. The vaccine was tolerated, with induction of neutralizing antibodies and antigen-specific T cells against the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Here we describe, in detail, exploratory analyses of the immune responses in adults, aged 18-55 years, up to 8 weeks after vaccination with a single dose of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 in this trial, demonstrating an induction of a Th1-biased response characterized by interferon-γ and tumor necrosis factor-α cytokine secretion by CD4+ T cells and antibody production predominantly of IgG1 and IgG3 subclasses. CD8+ T cells, of monofunctional, polyfunctional and cytotoxic phenotypes, were also induced. Taken together, these results suggest a favorable immune profile induced by ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine, supporting the progression of this vaccine candidate to ongoing phase 2/3 trials to assess vaccine efficacy.
How can community engagement in health research be strengthened for infectious disease outbreaks in Sub-Saharan Africa? A scoping review of the literature.
BACKGROUND: Community engagement (CE) is a well-established practical and scholarly field, recognised as core to the science and ethics of health research, for which researchers and practitioners have increasingly asked questions about desired standards and evaluation. In infectious disease outbreak contexts, questions may be more complex. However, it is unclear what body of knowledge has been developed for CE specifically as it applies to emerging infectious diseases. This scoping review seeks to describe (1) How CE has been conceptualised and understood; and (2) What conclusions have research teams reached on the effectiveness of CE in these settings, including challenges and facilitators. METHODS: We used a scoping review framework by Arksey and O'Malley (Int J Soc Res Methodol 8:19-32, 2005) to structure our review. We conducted a brainstorming session and initial trial search to inform the protocol, search terms, and strategy. Three researchers discussed, developed and applied agreed screening tools and selection criteria to the final search results. Five researchers used the screening tools to screen abstracts and full text for inclusion by consensus. Additional publications were sought from references of retrieved publications and an expert call for literature. We analysed and reported emerging themes qualitatively. RESULTS: We included 59 papers from a total of 722 articles derived from our trial and final literature searches, as well as a process of "citation chasing" and an expert call for grey literature. The core material related exclusively to health research trials during the 2014-2016 West Africa Ebola outbreak. We synthesized reports on components of effectiveness of CE to identify and propose three themes as essential elements of effective CE. CONCLUSIONS: While there is a large volume of literature documenting CE activities in infectious disease research settings generally, there are few accounts of effectiveness dimensions of CE. Our review proposes three themes to facilitate the effectiveness of CE initiatives as essential elements of CE activities in infectious diseases studies: (1) Communication towards building collaborative relationships; (2) Producing contextual knowledge; and (3) Learning lessons over time. As there were relatively few in-depth accounts of CE from our literature review, documentation and accounts of CE used in health research should be prioritised.
Quantifying individual noxious-evoked baseline sensitivity to optimise analgesic trials in neonates.
Despite the high burden of pain experienced by hospitalised neonates there are few analgesics with proven efficacy. Testing analgesics in neonates is experimentally and ethically challenging and minimising the number of neonates required to demonstrate efficacy is essential. EEG-derived measures of noxious-evoked brain activity can be used to assess analgesic efficacy, however, as variability exists in neonate's responses to painful procedures, large sample sizes are often required. Here we present a novel experimental paradigm to account for individual differences in noxious-evoked baseline sensitivity which can be used to improve the design of analgesic trials in neonates. The paradigm is developed and tested across four observational studies using clinical, experimental and simulated data (92 neonates). We provide evidence of the efficacy of gentle brushing and paracetamol, substantiating the need for randomised controlled trials of these interventions. This work provides an important step towards safe, cost-effective clinical trials of analgesics in neonates.
Safety and efficacy of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine (AZD1222) against SARS-CoV-2: an interim analysis of four randomised controlled trials in Brazil, South Africa, and the UK.
BACKGROUND: A safe and efficacious vaccine against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), if deployed with high coverage, could contribute to the control of the COVID-19 pandemic. We evaluated the safety and efficacy of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine in a pooled interim analysis of four trials. METHODS: This analysis includes data from four ongoing blinded, randomised, controlled trials done across the UK, Brazil, and South Africa. Participants aged 18 years and older were randomly assigned (1:1) to ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine or control (meningococcal group A, C, W, and Y conjugate vaccine or saline). Participants in the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 group received two doses containing 5 × 1010 viral particles (standard dose; SD/SD cohort); a subset in the UK trial received a half dose as their first dose (low dose) and a standard dose as their second dose (LD/SD cohort). The primary efficacy analysis included symptomatic COVID-19 in seronegative participants with a nucleic acid amplification test-positive swab more than 14 days after a second dose of vaccine. Participants were analysed according to treatment received, with data cutoff on Nov 4, 2020. Vaccine efficacy was calculated as 1 - relative risk derived from a robust Poisson regression model adjusted for age. Studies are registered at ISRCTN89951424 and ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT04324606, NCT04400838, and NCT04444674. FINDINGS: Between April 23 and Nov 4, 2020, 23 848 participants were enrolled and 11 636 participants (7548 in the UK, 4088 in Brazil) were included in the interim primary efficacy analysis. In participants who received two standard doses, vaccine efficacy was 62·1% (95% CI 41·0-75·7; 27 [0·6%] of 4440 in the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 group vs71 [1·6%] of 4455 in the control group) and in participants who received a low dose followed by a standard dose, efficacy was 90·0% (67·4-97·0; three [0·2%] of 1367 vs 30 [2·2%] of 1374; pinteraction=0·010). Overall vaccine efficacy across both groups was 70·4% (95·8% CI 54·8-80·6; 30 [0·5%] of 5807 vs 101 [1·7%] of 5829). From 21 days after the first dose, there were ten cases hospitalised for COVID-19, all in the control arm; two were classified as severe COVID-19, including one death. There were 74 341 person-months of safety follow-up (median 3·4 months, IQR 1·3-4·8): 175 severe adverse events occurred in 168 participants, 84 events in the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 group and 91 in the control group. Three events were classified as possibly related to a vaccine: one in the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 group, one in the control group, and one in a participant who remains masked to group allocation. INTERPRETATION: ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 has an acceptable safety profile and has been found to be efficacious against symptomatic COVID-19 in this interim analysis of ongoing clinical trials. FUNDING: UK Research and Innovation, National Institutes for Health Research (NIHR), Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Lemann Foundation, Rede D'Or, Brava and Telles Foundation, NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, Thames Valley and South Midland's NIHR Clinical Research Network, and AstraZeneca.
Safety and immunogenicity of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine against SARS-CoV-2: a preliminary report of a phase 1/2, single-blind, randomised controlled trial.
BACKGROUND: The pandemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) might be curtailed by vaccination. We assessed the safety, reactogenicity, and immunogenicity of a viral vectored coronavirus vaccine that expresses the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. METHODS: We did a phase 1/2, single-blind, randomised controlled trial in five trial sites in the UK of a chimpanzee adenovirus-vectored vaccine (ChAdOx1 nCoV-19) expressing the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein compared with a meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY) as control. Healthy adults aged 18-55 years with no history of laboratory confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection or of COVID-19-like symptoms were randomly assigned (1:1) to receive ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 at a dose of 5 × 1010 viral particles or MenACWY as a single intramuscular injection. A protocol amendment in two of the five sites allowed prophylactic paracetamol to be administered before vaccination. Ten participants assigned to a non-randomised, unblinded ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 prime-boost group received a two-dose schedule, with the booster vaccine administered 28 days after the first dose. Humoral responses at baseline and following vaccination were assessed using a standardised total IgG ELISA against trimeric SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, a muliplexed immunoassay, three live SARS-CoV-2 neutralisation assays (a 50% plaque reduction neutralisation assay [PRNT50]; a microneutralisation assay [MNA50, MNA80, and MNA90]; and Marburg VN), and a pseudovirus neutralisation assay. Cellular responses were assessed using an ex-vivo interferon-γ enzyme-linked immunospot assay. The co-primary outcomes are to assess efficacy, as measured by cases of symptomatic virologically confirmed COVID-19, and safety, as measured by the occurrence of serious adverse events. Analyses were done by group allocation in participants who received the vaccine. Safety was assessed over 28 days after vaccination. Here, we report the preliminary findings on safety, reactogenicity, and cellular and humoral immune responses. The study is ongoing, and was registered at ISRCTN, 15281137, and ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT04324606. FINDINGS: Between April 23 and May 21, 2020, 1077 participants were enrolled and assigned to receive either ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (n=543) or MenACWY (n=534), ten of whom were enrolled in the non-randomised ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 prime-boost group. Local and systemic reactions were more common in the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 group and many were reduced by use of prophylactic paracetamol, including pain, feeling feverish, chills, muscle ache, headache, and malaise (all p<0·05). There were no serious adverse events related to ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. In the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 group, spike-specific T-cell responses peaked on day 14 (median 856 spot-forming cells per million peripheral blood mononuclear cells, IQR 493-1802; n=43). Anti-spike IgG responses rose by day 28 (median 157 ELISA units [EU], 96-317; n=127), and were boosted following a second dose (639 EU, 360-792; n=10). Neutralising antibody responses against SARS-CoV-2 were detected in 32 (91%) of 35 participants after a single dose when measured in MNA80 and in 35 (100%) participants when measured in PRNT50. After a booster dose, all participants had neutralising activity (nine of nine in MNA80 at day 42 and ten of ten in Marburg VN on day 56). Neutralising antibody responses correlated strongly with antibody levels measured by ELISA (R2=0·67 by Marburg VN; p<0·001). INTERPRETATION: ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 showed an acceptable safety profile, and homologous boosting increased antibody responses. These results, together with the induction of both humoral and cellular immune responses, support large-scale evaluation of this candidate vaccine in an ongoing phase 3 programme. FUNDING: UK Research and Innovation, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, Thames Valley and South Midland's NIHR Clinical Research Network, and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF), Partner site Gießen-Marburg-Langen.
Phase 1/2 trial of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 with a booster dose induces multifunctional antibody responses.
More than 190 vaccines are currently in development to prevent infection by the novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Animal studies suggest that while neutralizing antibodies against the viral spike protein may correlate with protection, additional antibody functions may also be important in preventing infection. Previously, we reported early immunogenicity and safety outcomes of a viral vector coronavirus vaccine, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (AZD1222), in a single-blinded phase 1/2 randomized controlled trial of healthy adults aged 18-55 years ( NCT04324606 ). Now we describe safety and exploratory humoral and cellular immunogenicity of the vaccine, from subgroups of volunteers in that trial, who were subsequently allocated to receive a homologous full-dose (SD/SD D56; n = 20) or half-dose (SD/LD D56; n = 32) ChAdOx1 booster vaccine 56 d following prime vaccination. Previously reported immunogenicity data from the open-label 28-d interval prime-boost group (SD/SD D28; n = 10) are also presented to facilitate comparison. Additionally, we describe volunteers boosted with the comparator vaccine (MenACWY; n = 10). In this interim report, we demonstrate that a booster dose of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 is safe and better tolerated than priming doses. Using a systems serology approach we also demonstrate that anti-spike neutralizing antibody titers, as well as Fc-mediated functional antibody responses, including antibody-dependent neutrophil/monocyte phagocytosis, complement activation and natural killer cell activation, are substantially enhanced by a booster dose of vaccine. A booster dose of vaccine induced stronger antibody responses than a dose-sparing half-dose boost, although the magnitude of T cell responses did not increase with either boost dose. These data support the two-dose vaccine regime that is now being evaluated in phase 3 clinical trials.
Immunological and Inflammatory Biomarkers of Susceptibility and Severity in Adult Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections.
BACKGROUND: Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most common cause of bronchiolitis in young infants. However, it is also a significant pathogen in older adults. Validated biomarkers of RSV disease severity would benefit diagnostics, treatment decisions, and prophylactic interventions. This review summarizes knowledge of biomarkers for RSV disease in adults. METHODS: A literature review was performed using Ovid Medline, Embase, Global health, Scopus, and Web of Science for articles published 1946-October 2016. Nine articles were identified plus 9 from other sources. RESULTS: From observational studies of natural infection and challenge studies in volunteers, biomarkers of RSV susceptibility or disease severity in adults were: (1) lower anti-RSV neutralizing antibodies, where neutralizing antibody (and local IgA) may be a correlate of susceptibility/severity; (2) RSV-specific CD8+ T cells in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid preinfection (subjects with higher levels had less severe illness); and (3) elevated interleukin-6 (IL-6), IL-8, and myeloperoxidase levels in the airway are indicative of severe infection. CONCLUSIONS: Factors determining susceptibility to and severity of RSV disease in adults have not been well defined. Respiratory mucosal antibodies and CD8+ T cells appear to contribute to preventing infection and modulation of disease severity. Studies of RSV pathogenesis in at-risk populations are needed.
<b>Background:</b> The COVID-19 pandemic caused >1 million infections during January-March 2020. There is an urgent need for reliable antibody detection approaches to support diagnosis, vaccine development, safe release of individuals from quarantine, and population lock-down exit strategies. We set out to evaluate the performance of ELISA and lateral flow immunoassay (LFIA) devices. <b>Methods:</b> We tested plasma for COVID (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2; SARS-CoV-2) IgM and IgG antibodies by ELISA and using nine different LFIA devices. We used a panel of plasma samples from individuals who have had confirmed COVID infection based on a PCR result (n=40), and pre-pandemic negative control samples banked in the UK prior to December-2019 (n=142). <b>Results:</b> ELISA detected IgM or IgG in 34/40 individuals with a confirmed history of COVID infection (sensitivity 85%, 95%CI 70-94%), vs. 0/50 pre-pandemic controls (specificity 100% [95%CI 93-100%]). IgG levels were detected in 31/31 COVID-positive individuals tested ≥10 days after symptom onset (sensitivity 100%, 95%CI 89-100%). IgG titres rose during the 3 weeks post symptom onset and began to fall by 8 weeks, but remained above the detection threshold. Point estimates for the sensitivity of LFIA devices ranged from 55-70% versus RT-PCR and 65-85% versus ELISA, with specificity 95-100% and 93-100% respectively. Within the limits of the study size, the performance of most LFIA devices was similar. <b>Conclusions:</b> Currently available commercial LFIA devices do not perform sufficiently well for individual patient applications. However, ELISA can be calibrated to be specific for detecting and quantifying SARS-CoV-2 IgM and IgG and is highly sensitive for IgG from 10 days following first symptoms.
T cell assays differentiate clinical and subclinical SARS-CoV-2 infections from cross-reactive antiviral responses.
Identification of protective T cell responses against SARS-CoV-2 requires distinguishing people infected with SARS-CoV-2 from those with cross-reactive immunity to other coronaviruses. Here we show a range of T cell assays that differentially capture immune function to characterise SARS-CoV-2 responses. Strong ex vivo ELISpot and proliferation responses to multiple antigens (including M, NP and ORF3) are found in 168 PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infected volunteers, but are rare in 119 uninfected volunteers. Highly exposed seronegative healthcare workers with recent COVID-19-compatible illness show T cell response patterns characteristic of infection. By contrast, >90% of convalescent or unexposed people show proliferation and cellular lactate responses to spike subunits S1/S2, indicating pre-existing cross-reactive T cell populations. The detection of T cell responses to SARS-CoV-2 is therefore critically dependent on assay and antigen selection. Memory responses to specific non-spike proteins provide a method to distinguish recent infection from pre-existing immunity in exposed populations.
A subclass of C fibre sensory neurons found in hairy skin are activated by gentle touch  and respond optimally to stroking at ∼1-10 cm/s, serving a protective function by promoting affiliative behaviours. In adult humans, stimulation of these C-tactile (CT) afferents is pleasant, and can reduce pain perception . Touch-based techniques, such as infant massage and kangaroo care, are designed to comfort infants during procedures, and a modest reduction in pain-related behavioural and physiological responses has been observed in some studies . Here, we investigated whether touch can reduce noxious-evoked brain activity. We demonstrate that stroking (at 3 cm/s) prior to an experimental noxious stimulus or clinical heel lance can attenuate noxious-evoked brain activity in infants. CT fibres may represent a biological target for non-pharmacological interventions that modulate pain in early life.
The developing Human Connectome Project (dHCP) automated resting-state functional processing framework for newborn infants.
The developing Human Connectome Project (dHCP) aims to create a detailed 4-dimensional connectome of early life spanning 20-45 weeks post-menstrual age. This is being achieved through the acquisition of multi-modal MRI data from over 1000 in- and ex-utero subjects combined with the development of optimised pre-processing pipelines. In this paper we present an automated and robust pipeline to minimally pre-process highly confounded neonatal resting-state fMRI data, robustly, with low failure rates and high quality-assurance. The pipeline has been designed to specifically address the challenges that neonatal data presents including low and variable contrast and high levels of head motion. We provide a detailed description and evaluation of the pipeline which includes integrated slice-to-volume motion correction and dynamic susceptibility distortion correction, a robust multimodal registration approach, bespoke ICA-based denoising, and an automated QC framework. We assess these components on a large cohort of dHCP subjects and demonstrate that processing refinements integrated into the pipeline provide substantial reduction in movement related distortions, resulting in significant improvements in SNR, and detection of high quality RSNs from neonates.
The descending pain modulatory system (DPMS) constitutes a network of widely distributed brain regions whose integrated function is essential for effective modulation of sensory input to the central nervous system and behavioural responses to pain. Animal studies demonstrate that young rodents have an immature DPMS, but comparable studies have not been conducted in human infants. In Goksan et al. (2015) we used functional MRI (fMRI) to show that pain-related brain activity in newborn infants is similar to that observed in adults. Here, we investigated whether the functional network connectivity strength across the infant DPMS influences the magnitude of this brain activity. FMRI scans were collected while mild mechanical noxious stimulation was applied to the infant's foot. Greater pre-stimulus functional network connectivity across the DPMS was significantly associated with lower noxious-evoked brain activity (p = 0.0004, r = -0.86, n = 13), suggesting that in newborn infants the DPMS may regulate the magnitude of noxious-evoked brain activity.