With the coronavirus variants’ ability to mutate so quickly, scientists are looking for other defenses. And they may have found one – our body’s T cells.
Alongside antibodies, the body’s immune system produces a battalion of T cells that can target viruses.
Some of these, known as killer T cells, seek out and destroy cells that are infected with the virus. Others, called helper T cells, are important for various immune functions. These include stimulating the production of antibodies and killer T cells.
T cells do not prevent infection. They kick into action only after a virus has entered the body.
But they are important for clearing an infection that has already started. That could mean the difference between a mild infection and a severe one that requires hospitalization.
Most importantly, T cells are likely more resistant than antibodies to threats posed by variants. Studies have shown that people who have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 typically generate T cells that target at least 15–20 different fragments of coronavirus proteins.
Which protein snippets are used as targets varies widely from person to person. That makes it very hard for the virus to mutate to escape detection, unlike the situation for antibodies.
In a study published Feb. 9, researchers found that most T-cell responses to coronavirus vaccination or previous infection do not target regions that were mutated in the recently discovered variants.
If T cells remain active against the South African variant, they might protect against severe disease.
More research is needed, such as this study led by immunologist Alessandro Sette at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in California.
Perhaps a T cell vaccine will be our best weapon. One of the world’s best vaccines, the 83-year-old yellow fever vaccine, stimulates a long-lasting, protective T-cell response.
The Big News
Essential Workers in Danger
Dangers loom for essential workers during the pandemic. A study looked at the death risk for essential workers during the first eight months of the COVID-19 pandemic in California. It found that – compared with a no-pandemic scenario – deaths were 39% higher for food and agriculture workers and 28% higher for transportation and logistics workers. The death rate was only 11% higher for non-essential workers comparing pandemic to non-pandemic periods.
Virus Mutation Breeding Ground
An antibody treatment for Covid-19 seems to have spurred mutations in SARS-CoV-2 that infected a man with a compromised immune system. This potential for viral evolution means doctors need to be more prudent. Convalescent plasma should be used cautiously when treating people who have compromised immune systems.
U.S. and Novavax to Aid Covax Program
The U.S. and Novavax make big contributions to the global vaccination effort, called Covax. The White House said it would make good on a pledge to donate $4 billion to a campaign aimed at making and distributing Covid-19 vaccines worldwide. Meanwhile, Novavax committed to selling 1.1 billion vaccine doses to Covax.
Pfizer to Test Booster Shot
Phil Dormitzer is one of Pfizer’s top viral vaccine scientists. He is also the co-author of the study of the vaccine vs. the South Africa variant. Dormitzer said that Pfizer is in intensive discussions with regulators to test a booster shot version of its coronavirus vaccine. It will be specifically targeted for the highly contagious variant that is spreading widely in South Africa and elsewhere.
Pharma Execs Cash In
Executives and directors at Pfizer, Moderna and other companies developing Covid-19 vaccines sold approximately $496 million of stock last year. This is according to The Wall Street Journal. More than 8.5 million shares were sold last year by insiders at these companies. This compared to 4.7 million shares in 2019. In dollar terms, most of the sales came from Moderna.
The Coronavirus Numbers
Here are the numbers from Friday at 8 a.m. ET from Johns Hopkins University:
- 110,409,967 Infected Worldwide
- 190,771,076 Vaccines Given Globally
- 2,443,779 Deaths
- 27,896,700 Infected in the U.S.
- 57,737,767 US Vaccine Doses Administered
- 493,119 Deaths in the U.S.
Wall Street closed lower yesterday. And with option expirations today, it could be a choppy day.
I wonder how much longer the Federal Reserve will let the shorts run loose in the Treasury bond market. U.S. 10-year yields have crept back above 1.3%.
Meanwhile, the economy is still weak, thanks to the pandemic.
Weekly initial jobless claims were worse than expected in the latest report. New claims totaled 861,000, the highest level in a month.
Besides the continuing rise in bitcoin, one other trend has caught my eye. That is how all sorts of commodities are on the rise from oil to cotton to tin and copper.
I’m especially interested in the industrial metals, which will benefit from the shift to EVs and green energy.
Yours in Health & Wealth,