Coronavirus Vaccine Candidate Shows Promise in Mice
But there is hope in the fight against the deadly pandemic as well: The first peer-reviewed research into a new vaccine was published in Lancet publication eBioMedicine Thursday, and it shows promise.
"Our ability to rapidly develop this vaccine was a result of scientists with expertise in diverse areas of research working together with a common goal," co-senior author and dermatology chair at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Louis Falo said in a press release.
#ICYMI: Scientists from @PittDeptofMed announced a highly scalable potential vaccine for the new coronavirus behind… https://t.co/ea2ACW4as2— University of Pittsburgh (@University of Pittsburgh)1585844761.0
The University of Pittsburgh researchers said the new vaccine generated enough antibodies in mice to "neutralize" the virus that causes COVID-19 within two weeks of being administered, The Independent reported.
This isn't the first coronavirus vaccine in development. Another vaccine skipped animal testing and began human trials in Seattle in March. Dozens of other research teams are also working on vaccines. But this is the first of these vaccines to be peer reviewed, which means that the research behind it was published after scientists at other institutions looked it over.
The reason the Pittsburgh researchers were able to reach this step so quickly is that they had previously worked on two other deadly coronaviruses: the viruses that cause Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Reuters reported.
Studying those viruses, which are closely related to the virus known as SARS-COV-2, taught the researchers that a certain protein called a "spike" protein was key to creating immunity against the disease.
"We knew exactly where to fight this new virus," co-senior author and associate professor of surgery at the Pitt School of Medicine Andrea Gambotto said in the press release.
Gambotto said the experience was an object lesson in the value of maintaining public health research.
"That's why it's important to fund vaccine research," Gambotto said. "You never know where the next pandemic will come from."
It is too soon to know how long the SARS-COV-2 antibodies will last in mice, but the mice the researchers vaccinated for MERS retained their immunity for at least a year, and the mice injected with the new vaccine seem to be showing similar antibody levels. The researchers are now applying for permission from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to start human testing within a few months. Clinical testing typically takes a year or longer, but Falo said there was a chance they could speed the process up.
If the vaccine pans out, the researchers say it is scalable. It also might be less intimidating to anyone with a fear of needles.
That's because the researchers administer it via a small Band-Aid-like patch containing 400 tiny needles that dissolve into the skin as they deliver the spike protein."We developed this to build on the original scratch method used to deliver the smallpox vaccine to the skin, but as a high-tech version that is more efficient and reproducible patient to patient," Falo explained in the press release. "And it's actually pretty painless — it feels kind of like Velcro."
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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