Research News

19 May 2020

Chris Mok’s Work On Cross-Reactive Antibody Response Between SARS-CoV-2 And SARS-CoV Infections Published In Cell Reports And featured On EurekAlert!

EurekAlert!, operated by AAAS, has featured a publication from Chris Mok's team on Cross-Reactive Antibody Response Between SARS-CoV-2 And SARS-CoV Infections published in Cell Reports

Patients infected with either severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) or SARS-CoV-2 produce antibodies that bind to the other coronavirus, but the cross-reactive antibodies are not cross protective, at least in cell-culture experiments, researchers report May 17 in the journal Cell Reports. It remains unclear whether such antibodies offer cross protection in the human body or potentiate disease. The findings suggest that more research is needed to identify parts of the virus that are critical for inducing a cross-protective immune response.
"Since coronavirus outbreaks are likely to continue to pose global health risks in the future, the possibility of developing a cross-protective vaccine against multiple coronaviruses has been considered," says co-senior study author Chris Mok of the University of Hong Kong. "Our findings, albeit limited at present, would suggest that broadly cross-neutralizing antibodies to coronaviruses might not be commonly produced by the human immune repertoire. Moving forward, monoclonal antibody discovery and characterization will be crucial to the development of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in the short-term, as well as a cross-protective coronavirus vaccine in the long term. [...]"

15 May 2020

Infection of dogs with SARS-CoV-2

Malik Peiris, Co-Director at HKU-Pasteur, reveals in Nature that SARS-CoV-2 can pass from human to dogs: Infection of dogs with SARS-CoV-2

In this study, Prof. Peiris reported that the two first dogs tested positive to the new coronavirus caught the infection from their owner. An analysis of viral genetic sequences from the dogs showed them to be identical to those in the infected people. 

Although the analysis confirms that people with COVID-19 can infect dogs, the probability of this happening is low. In the study only 2 of the 15 dogs who lived with infected people caught the disease.

The study showed no evidence that dogs can pass the infection to other dogs or people, but it is impossible to be certain in which direction the virus traveled “so we have to keep an open mind”, says Peiris.

14 May 2020

Estimating the burden of SARS-CoV-2 in France

A new study by the Institut Pasteur reveals the burden of SARS-CoV-2 from data collected in France on a national scale. Using models applied to hospital and death data, this new study estimates the impact of the lockdown and current population immunity.
France has been heavily affected by the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic and went into lockdown on the 17th of March 2020, with relieving measures starting on 11th of May. In order to appropriately exit from the lockdown, researchers need to understand the underlying level of population immunity and infection, identify those most at risk for severe disease and the impact of current control efforts.
Daily reported numbers of hospitalizations and deaths only provide limited insight into the state of the epidemic. Many people will either develop no symptoms or symptoms so mild they will not be detected through healthcare-based surveillance. 
By 11th of May, Institut Pasteur projected that 5.7% of the population, roughly 4 million people, will have been infected, the lockdown reducing the reproductive number from 3.3 to 0.5 (84% reduction). They also found that while 2.6% of infected individuals required hospitalization.
On the basis of these figures, one can estimates that there was an overall 0.5-0.6% of mortality from all COVID-19 patients, much less than the 19% case fatality rate based on the number of laboratory confirmed cases and total number of reported deaths on the same day.
Detailed data shows large variation depending on age: 0.001% of mortality rate in those under 20 years old, to 8.3% in those over 80 years old. The concentration of hospitalized cases in older individuals has led to hypotheses that there may be widespread ‘silent’ transmission in younger individuals. Moreover, across all ages, men are more likely to be hospitalized, enter intensive care, and die than women.

06 May 2020

Sophie Valkenburg Awarded With A Grant From HMRF For Research On SARS-CoV-2

Sophie Valkenburg and her team have been awarded with a special grant to conduct research on SARS-CoV-2 following a call from the Health and Medical Research Fund (HMRF).

Those funds will allow the team to work on a crucial project : assessing novel coronaviruses antibodies for specificity and function during clinical infection and community asymptomatic cases. Sophie Valkenburg's team published earlier a major paper on SARS-CoV-2 called Beyond the Spike: identification of viral targets of the antibody response to SARS-CoV-2 in COVID-19 patients.

The HMRF is going to support 26 research studies on COVID-19 under its commissioned research programme which cover a wide range of topics to address important research areas in transmissibility and infectability of the virus, effective detection and surveillance and prevention strategies of the disease and development of treatments and therapies.

06 May 2020

Sophie Valkenburg’s Team Signed A Major Publication On Antibody Responses to SARS-CoV-2

Asmaa Hachim, Niloufar Kavian, Carolyn Cohen, Sophie Valkenburg and their team at HKU-Pasteur Research Pole signed a major publication this week on the identification of viral targets of the antibody response to SARS-CoV-2: Beyond the Spike: identification of viral targets of the antibody response to SARS-CoV-2 in COVID-19 patients.
In this paper, the authors studied the landscape of the antibody responses to SARS-COV-2 in COVID-19 patients. They found that the Nucleoprotein, along with 2 newly described antigenic targets ORF8 and ORF3b, are immune-dominant and trigger specific humoral responses compared to other SARS-CoV-2 antigenic targets.  
Also, these antigenic targets show high performances in the detection of all COVID-19 patients of the cohort even at early time-points, whilst the Spike protein does not. This study has many important implications for serology assays, vaccine development along with the understanding of the COVID-19 pathology.