Targeting internal proteins instead of spike proteins may be a promising strategy for monoclonal antibody therapy to combat SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Northwestern Medicine investigators continue to investigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, from evaluating repurposed drugs in preventing severe disease to using sentinel surveillance to monitor SARS-CoV-2 transmission rates and studying the prevalence of “long COVID” in pediatric patients.
Northwestern Medicine investigators continue to study COVID-19, from comparing mortality rates between SARS-CoV-2 variants to examining the effectiveness of maternal vaccination in protecting infants and combating COVID-19 misinformation on social media.
Tobias Holden, a fourth-year student in the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), was lead author of a paper that used mathematical modeling to determine the impact of structural racism and health disparities on COVID-19 mortality rates in Illinois.
Metformin, a common, safe and inexpensive drug for type 2 diabetes, lowered the odds of emergency department visits, hospitalizations or death due to COVID-19 by over 40 percent, according to a new multi-site clinical trial.
Physicians and scientists from Northwestern Medicine and other institutions have banded together to combat COVID-19 misinformation and disinformation.
Northwestern Medicine scientists are expanding the global network of COVID-19 sequencing in regions where there is limited viral genetic information reporting.
Northwestern Medicine investigators have continued to examine COVID-19, from the impact of prone positioning during treatment to vaccine protection against the Omicron variant in children.
What do we know about the effectiveness of COVID-19 boosters, and how might they better protect us from new variants such as omicron? Alexis Demonbreun, PhD, assistant professor of Pharmacology, offers insight. She is the author of a new study that shows COVID-19 boosters seem to supercharge antibody response.
Judd Hultquist, PhD, talks about key variants of SARS-CoV-2 and how his lab is identifying and studying these variants.
As the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 is causing breakthrough infections in some vaccinated people around the world, scientists at Northwestern Medicine are developing and studying potential next-generation COVID-19 vaccines that could be more effective at preventing and clearing breakthrough infections. Pablo Penaloza-MacMaster, PhD, an assistant professor of Microbiology-Immunology at Feinberg, discusses work in his lab that could lead to better vaccines and treatments for coronaviruses.
Daniel Batlle, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension at Northwestern, has been studying ACE2 and its potential therapeutic uses for many years. When the pandemic began, he proposed a hypothesis that soluble ACE2 could treat the SARS-CoV-2 virus and lead to survival and full recovery, and now he has some exciting preliminary results.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Thursday that teenagers and adults get updated booster shots from Pfizer or Moderna. The shots – also known as bivalent vaccines – are designed to target both the original coronavirus strain and the currently circulating omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5. Some vaccine experts wonder whether the shots are necessary yet for young, healthy people. Nonetheless, Pablo Peanloza-MacMaster, an assistant professor of microbiology-immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, says the potential benefits seem to outweigh the risks. “the way that I look at it right now is that it seems like there’s not much to lose,” he said.
The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized the first redesign of coronavirus vaccines since they were rolled out in late 2020, setting up millions of Americans to receive new booster doses targeting Omicron subvariants as soon as next week. The agency cleared two options aimed at the BA.5 variant of Omicron that is now dominant: one made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech for use in people as young as 12, and the other by Moderna, for those 18 or older. “Covid-19 is the third leading cause of death in the United States. And it’s as if we’ve just accepted that that is going to be the case,” said Mercedes Carnethon, an epidemiologist and professor of epidemiology and pulmonary and critical care at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “I really hope as many people as possible will seek the updated booster so we can protect those who will have a terrible outcome.” Vaccinations remain the cornerstone of the federal government’s Covid strategy, even with tests and treatments widely available. The Biden administration has ordered over 170 million doses for the fall campaign, and officials do not expect shortages when they are rolled out.
A growing number of people are reporting signs of long COVID, a concerning trend where virus symptoms continue for months after initial infection. There are signs that that you’ve already had COVID. These include fatigue, shortness of breath, brain fog, sleep issues and muscle aches. Long-term brain fog – where people have memory issues, trouble focusing and more – is one of the more common symptoms of long COVID. “There are thousands of people who have that,” says Dr. Igor Koralnik, chief of neuro-infectious diseases at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “The impact on the workforce that’s affected is going to be signficant.” Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live – get vaccinated or boosted as soon as possible. If you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don’t travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with and practice good hand hygiene.
As omicron subvariants continue to make up roughly all COVID cases in the U.S., marking a shift in the most common symptoms and in the virus’ incubation period, how long will symptoms last? A recent study from Northwestern Medicine showed that many so-called COVID “long-haulers” continue to experience symptoms like brain fog, tingling, headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, tinnitus and fatigue an average of 15 months after the onset of the virus. “Long-haulers,” are defined as individuals who have had COVID symptoms for six or more weeks, the hospital system said. Health experts share that like many other viral infections, cough tends to be the most lingering symptom. In general, symptoms will typically appear 2-to-14 days after exposure to the virus. How long they last, however, can depend on the person, the severity of their infection and whether or not they end up with long COVID. Symptoms of the virus include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea.
President Biden emerged from his covid-19 isolation on Wednesday saying his mild case was a testament to his administration’s progress on a pandemic that has killed more than 1 million Americans, and he urged people to take advantage of vaccine boosters, antivirals and at-home tests so they, too, could have mild infections. Yet experts say many Americans now avoid testing altogether because of the disruption an infection could cause, whether it’s missed travel or an inability to get paid time off work. “There are so many people who would like to just decide to put a mask on and hope things go well and continue on with their lives for various financial reasons,” said Mercedes Carnethon, professor and vice chair of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Carnethon added that Biden’s early diagnosis and treatment with Paxlovid was crucial to his mild infection. “If we can detect it early and treat it early, we can help ensure that more people have an experience like [Biden’s]. But there are many people who for structural reasons, access, financial barriers, aren’t going to be able to be diagnosed as early as he was,” Carnethon said.
For some who test positive for COVID, symptoms can last much longer as part of a condition known as “long COVID.” Newer variants including the highly contagious BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants currently making up a majority of cases in the Midwest, are leading to an increase in those experiencing symptoms. A recent study from Northwestern Medicine showed that many so-called COVID “long-haulers” continue to experience symptoms like brain fog, tingling, headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, tinnitus and fatigue an average of 15 months after the onset of the virus. “Long-haulers,” are defined as individuals who have had COVID symptoms for six or more weeks, the hospital system has said. Long-COVID symptoms can range from a wide variety of ailments, some of which may even disappear and then return later.
According to John Walkup, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, the pandemic hasn’t increased mental illness in teens, but instead “unmasked symptoms” that may have otherwise been managed. Walkup said that on average, 20% of kids have a mental health problem before they graduate in the US, with only half of them receiving assessment or treatment. Of them, only about 40% of them received clinically meaningful benefits. “Then take away school, family, peer support and sports, and you force them to stay home. You know those kids are not going to do well over time,” he explained.
As Americans start a third summer living amid the specter of the coronavirus, their attitude to the pandemic has shifted. Even as infections rise to levels that are four to five times higher than the same point last year, the push for normalcy is winning out. “People are tired of the changes that they’re had to make to their lives related to COVID-19 and so eager to get back to normal,” said Mercedes Carnethon, an epidemiologist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “And what they’ve seen with increased experience, two-plus years into the pandemic is that, if they know people who’ve had COVID-19, most of them – and this ignores a million people who have died – but most of them have recovered,” Carnethon said.
Moderna says its COVID-19 vaccine works in babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Vaccinating the littlest “has been somewhat of a moving target over the last couple months,” said Dr. Bill Muller of Northwestern University, who is helping study Moderna’s pediatric doses.
The BA.2 variant, also known as “stealth omicron,” a more transmissible version of the omicron variant, is beginning to grow in the U.S. Northwestern Medicine’s Center for Pathogen Genomics and Microbial Evolution said the subvariant was found in a Chicago resident in January. Based on how quickly new variants have arisen, some experts suggest the next one could arrive as early as May.