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Will New Vaccines Be Better At Fighting Coronavirus Variants?

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Will New Vaccines Be Better At Fighting Coronavirus Variants?


The first three coronavirus vaccines earned Emergency Use Authorization more than a year ago. To date, no other vaccines have been put into use in the U.S – but that will soon change. More than 40 vaccines are undergoing clinical trials in the U.S., employing a number of different approaches to protecting people from the coronavirus. Vaibhav Upadhyay and Krishna Mallela have been studying the coronavirus spike protein since the outbreak of the pandemic and are developing COVID-19 therapeutics. Together, they explain what vaccines are in development and why some of the vaccines should be better than what’s available now.

1. Why are companies working on new vaccines?

A major reason why new vaccines are important – and why the world is still dealing with COVID-19 – is the continued emergence of new variants. Most of the differences between variants are changes in the spike protein, which is on the surface of the virus and helps it enter and infect cells.

Some of these small changes in the spike protein have allowed the coronavirus to infect human cells more efficiently. These changes have also made it so that previous vaccinations or infections with COVID-19 provide less protection against the new variants. Updated or new vaccines could be better at detecting these different spike proteins and better at protecting against new variants.

 

2. What kinds of vaccines are in the works?

So far, 38 vaccines have been approved around the world, and the U.S. has approved three of those. There are currently 195 vaccine candidates at different stages of development worldwide, out of which 41 are in clinical trials in U.S. Vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 can be broadly divided into four classes: whole virus, viral vector, protein-based and nucleic acid-based vaccines.

Whole virus vaccines generate immunity using a complete, though weakened – called inactivated or attenuated – SARS-CoV-2 virus. Currently there are two of these vaccines in clinical trials in the U.S. Viral vector vaccines are a variation on this approach. Instead of using the whole coronavirus, they use a modified version of a harmless adenovirus that carries parts of the coronavirus spike protein. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a viral vector vaccine, and there are 15 more candidates in this category in clinical trials in the U.S..

Protein-based vaccines use just the spike protein or part of the spike protein to generate immunity. Since the spike protein is one of the most functionally important parts of the coronavirus, an immune response that just targets this one part is sufficient to prevent or overcome an infection. The U.S. currently has five protein-based vaccines undergoing clinical trials.

Nucleic acid-based vaccines are currently the most widely used in the U.S. These are made of genetic material, like DNA or RNA, that codes for the coronavirus’ spike protein. Once a person gets one of these shots, their body reads the genetic material and produces the spike protein. This in turn generates an immune response. There are 17 RNA and two DNA vaccines in clinical trials in the U.S. Some of these are using the genetic material from newer variants, including updated versions of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

3. Will new vaccines be better than existing ones?

The Moderna, Pfizer and J&J vaccines are based on the original strain of the coronavirus and are less potent when facing new variants. Vaccines based on new variants would provide better protection against those newer strains than existing vaccines, and some are under development. Nucleic acid-based vaccines are the easiest to update and make up the majority of variant-targeted vaccines. Moderna has already produced a vaccine that contains mRNA from both the beta and omicron variants, and some recently published clinical data shows that it is more effective against newer variants than Moderna’s original shot.

While updating nucleic acid vaccines is important, some research suggests that viral vector or whole virus vaccines could be more effective against new variants – without the need for updating.

 

4. What are the advantages of whole virus vaccines?

Nucleic acid-based and protein-based vaccines use only the spike protein to produce an immune response. With a whole virus vaccine, the immune system not only recognizes the spike protein, but all other parts of the coronavirus, too. The other parts of the virus help to quickly generate a strong immune response that involves many different branches of the immune system and lasts a long time.

Another benefit of whole virus and viral vector vaccines is the ease of storage and shipping. Viral vector vaccines can be stored in common household refrigerators for months, sometimes years. By comparison, the Moderna and Pfizer mRNA vaccines must be stored and shipped at ultra-low temperatures. These infrastructure requirements make whole-virus vaccines much more feasible for use in remote locations of the U.S., as well as across the world.

5. What are some disadvantages of whole virus vaccines?

There are some downsides to whole virus vaccines.

To produce inactivated virus vaccines, you must first produce a huge amount of live coronavirus and then inactivate it. There is a small, but legitimate biohazard risk associated with producing a lot of live coronavirus. A second disadvantage is that inactivated virus and viral vector vaccines might not produce strong protection in immunocompromised patients.

Finally, producing whole virus vaccines is much more labor intensive compared to making mRNA vaccines. You must grow, then purify and then inactivate the virus while carefully checking the quality at each step. This long production process makes it hard to produce large amounts of the vaccine. For the same reasons, redesigning or updating whole-virus vaccines for future variants is more difficult compared to simply changing the code of nucleic acid-based or protein-based vaccine.

Looking at the pros and cons of each vaccine type, we believe virus-based vaccines could play an important role in generating a long-lasting, broad immunity against a rapidly mutating virus. But easily updated mRNA or protein-based approaches that can be fine-tuned to the latest variants can also be key in containing the spread of the pandemic. With vaccines of all types in the works, public health officials and governments around the world will have more tools at their disposal to deal with whatever the coronavirus brings next.

Vaibhav Upadhyay, Postdoctoral Fellow of Pharmaceutical Science, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and Krishna Mallela, Professor of Pharmaceutical Science, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.





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3 Things You Can Do to Stay on Track With Your Health Journey

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Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a struggle, especially when you’re surrounded by temptations and distractions. It may be easier at first to say that you’re switching to a healthy lifestyle or diet, but it can become more difficult during the process. You need to adapt to a new lifestyle, change your diet, and follow a strict routine, which requires a lot of time and effort.

It is also normal to feel demotivated, frustrated, or hopeless at some point, but what matters the most is the progress you made, no matter how big or small it is – every step counts! Aside from getting support and helpful tips from professionals, like health and fitness specialists, it is important to stay consistent, motivated, and disciplined as well.

Starting a Life-Long Healthy Journey

Changing your diet is the most challenging part of a health journey. It is hard to resist sudden cravings, and even a single meal can make you feel like you are falling off the wellness wagon. That’s why you need to regularly track the food you consume, along with your workout routine and sleep schedule. 

The good news is there are loads of online programs that do all the hard work for you. One example would be Perfect Body which can help you stay on track during your health journey with its personalized diet plan.

Perfect Body offers a variety of delicious, easy-to-cook recipes that will keep you satisfied. Perfect Body

It offers a variety of delicious, easy-to-cook recipes that will keep you satisfied, whether you’re maintaining a healthy diet or losing weight to achieve your body goals. 

You won’t feel deprived or pressured as you devour mouthwatering meals since they are all made from healthy ingredients based on your preferences and health condition, allowing you to live a healthier lifestyle in the best way possible.

How Does It Work?

What makes Perfect Body exceptional and effective is that its diet plan changes simultaneously with your body. Once you start losing weight, your meal plan will adjust to your body to ensure you receive all the nutrients and calories you need. 

Your diet will be monitored carefully without the feeling of restricting yourself or limiting your food intake.

Perfect Body App All you have to do is answer a few questions. Perfect Body

All you have to do is answer a few questions about your preferences, weight goals, and health conditions in a short 1-minute online quiz. 

Then, your meal plan will be created based on your answers to the questionnaire for effective results. You’ll get a 28-day meal plan that includes five deliciously healthy recipes with easy-to-follow instructions. There are 10,000+ recipes to choose from in total. 

You can even adjust your meal plan according to your new needs by answering some additional questions. Aside from that, you can opt to add a workout plan that provides simple but highly effective workouts created by fitness professionals to help you achieve maximum weight loss results without going to the gym. 

Once your 28-day meal plan ends, you can recreate your new meal plan tailored to your new goals and needs.

Tips to Stay on Track on Your Healthy Journey

Whether you’re just starting to switch to a healthy lifestyle or maintaining a healthy diet for years, it is normal to encounter difficulties and discouragements. You have to continue striving until you reach your goals. After all, living a healthy lifestyle is not only about losing weight – it is for your overall well-being, too. 

These tips might help you stay on track while on your healthy journey.

Eat a balanced diet.

The first impression of most people when it comes to a healthy diet is eating pure greens or veggies every single day. While fruits and vegetables are the main sources of all the nutrients your body needs, incorporating the right amount of meat, poultry, grains, and dairy into your diet will provide you with enough protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Keep in mind to stick to a balanced diet.

Salmon Avoid eating highly-processed food. Perfect Body

Another tip would be to avoid eating highly-processed food. Make sure every food you eat distributes the nutrients your body needs equally. You may fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, one quarter with grains, and another quarter with protein. 

Don’t forget to drink plenty of water, too. It doesn’t only keep you hydrated; the health benefits of water include:

  • Aid in weight loss
  • Increased energy
  • Constipation relief
  • Gut cleanse
  • Maintaining regular bowel movements
  • Flushing out toxins
  • Improving skin health
  • Delivering oxygen and nutrients to the body

Engage in healthy activities.

Your diet alone is not enough to sustain a healthy lifestyle. Everything contributes to your health journey, from your hobbies and activities to your daily routine. 

Although working out or exercising plays a big role in a healthy lifestyle, there are still other physical activities you can do if you can’t commit to working out on a regular basis. You don’t necessarily have to go to the gym or buy expensive gym equipment. Not everyone has the time and capability to do so.

Workout You can try sports, dancing, biking, and even walking around your neighborhood every morning. Perfect Body

You can try sports, dancing, biking, and even walking around your neighborhood every morning. Always engage with any activities you enjoy that will help exercise your mind and body, enhance your strength and flexibility, and keep you away from unhealthy habits or vices.

Perfect Body has a personalized workout program, too, where you can choose what kind of exercises you want to do. These workouts are optimized for you to achieve the best results in the shortest time possible. So go on and move your body; you will not only be living a healthy life but also a happy life.

Nurture your mental health.

Mental health has a great impact on your overall well-being. It goes without saying that it’s as important as physical health. Not having a good mental state can result in a lack of energy, focus, and determination to do things and think clearly. 

Several mental health problems can also negatively affect your eating and sleeping habits, which are significant to a healthy lifestyle. If not managed properly, there’s a risk of developing unhealthy habits that can be difficult to unlearn.

Endorphins Nurturing your mental health can help combat or prevent mental health problems. Perfect Body

Nurturing your mental health can help combat or prevent mental health problems that are sometimes associated with chronic physical illness. It will give you a positive outlook, encouraging you to live a healthy and fulfilling life. You will be able to build healthier relationships and learn to value yourself more. 

Perfect Body aims to provide you with sustainable and long-term results, so you can ensure your overall health will always be the top priority. You won’t feel any pressure or worry as you maintain your health journey here. 

Final Words

So here you have it, 3 main things that will surely help you stay on track while trying to become a better, healthier version of yourself. Besides, if you want to achieve your goals faster, Perfect Body is now offering an exclusive 60% OFF for our readers only. 

Hurry up before this great deal ends!

Click here to take a short quiz and kickstart your Perfect Body journey now!





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COVID Has Reached North Korea, Threatening A Humanitarian Emergency

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COVID Has Reached North Korea, Threatening A Humanitarian Emergency


The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March 2020. But it’s only in recent days, in May 2022, that the secretive Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) has reported its first confirmed cases of the virus.

While it may seem somewhat astounding that a country has managed to get so far into the pandemic without an outbreak, North Korea has reportedly had its borders sealed since January 2020, with no movement in or out of the country. So it is plausible that they’ve had no COVID until now.

But now, the country, which has a population of roughly 26 million people, looks to be facing a very sizeable and rapidly-spreading outbreak of the omicron variant. As of May 17, 1.4 million cases of “fever” had been reported, with 56 deaths since late April. The country is treating fever as indicative of COVID infection owing to reported shortages of testing supplies.

Of course, we don’t know how many of these cases of fever are definitely COVID, which in theory could lead to an overestimation of case numbers. At the same time, a proportion of cases are likely to be asymptomatic, and a lack of reporting coupled with limited surveillance means there’s a likelihood of under-reporting. Either way, these numbers are unlikely to be accurate.

There has been some testing taking place, with an unspecified number of omicron cases confirmed. But ultimately, there are huge gaps in our knowledge about this outbreak. This includes the index case – the case which was the source of this outbreak.

North Korea is ill-equipped for a COVID outbreak

The COVID pandemic has highlighted the need for national and global presentations of high-quality real-time data, along with rigorous and mass-scale testing infrastructure, to underpin surveillance and healthcare decision-making. North Korea doesn’t appear to have any of that in place.

Importantly, there’s also no known COVID vaccination programme in North Korea, despite previous offers of supplies from China and COVAX, a global initiative which aims to provide equitable access to COVID vaccines. The government has previously turned down three million Sinovac doses from China, along with shipments of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the latter reportedly due to concerns around side effects. Now, South Korea has offered to donate vaccine doses, but North Korea is yet to accept.

To some extent, North Korea is in the same position the rest of the world was in early to mid 2020. The government has ordered a national lockdown. This will have socio-economic consequences for residents but, overall, is probably a sensible move, given the population will have little immunity against the virus, whether through prior infection or the safer route of vaccination.

Kim Jong-un has also ordered the army to distribute medicines and supplies, while criticising officials and the public health sector for what he has deemed an inadequate pandemic response.

The healthcare system in North Korea is reported to be fragile, especially away from the capital city of Pyongyang. An outbreak could easily overwhelm the health facilities in some areas. This would have a knock-on effect to other areas of healthcare, further limiting access to care for non-communicable diseases, for example. A lockdown will at least buy the country some time to implement other public health measures, such as vaccination campaigns.

It is thought that North Korea has a lower prevalence of some of the conditions which we know increase the risk of severe COVID, such as obesity, compared with many other Asia and Pacific countries. However, more than ten million people in North Korea are considered to be food insecure (where having access to sufficient safe and nutritious food isn’t guaranteed). And we know malnutrition increases the risk of severe disease with COVID.

Another factor which increases risk is older age. An estimated 10% of the population in North Korea is aged 65 or over, and roughly another 19% aged between 50 and 64. So there are a large number of people who may be vulnerable to severe illness if they contract COVID.

How will things play out?

New variants of concern may emerge from this outbreak, though given the lack of contact with the rest of the world, they may not be easily exported.

There have been several humanitarian catastrophes related to uncontrolled COVID outbreaks, perhaps most notably in India, where it’s likely that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, died in just a few months. With uncontrolled outbreaks on such a large scale, the true death tolls can only ever be estimated.

The situation in North Korea threatens a similar humanitarian catastrophe. We know infection numbers can get very large very quickly, particularly with omicron being even more infectious that previous variants.

Routine datasets, such as death registers and certificates indicating cause of death, are likely to be limited and of low quality. Public reporting may be non-existent, and if surveillance data is revealed, the accuracy of the findings should be given very careful consideration.

This COVID outbreak is likely to create a high burden of disease in North Korea, putting huge pressures on the health system. The population will undoubtedly suffer greatly, whether or not public reporting of health outcomes shows the full fallout.

There is an urgent need for widespread COVID vaccination, particularly of older and vulnerable people. Now would be a very good time for North Korea to overcome its usual suspicion of the outside world, and accept international offers of help.

Michael Head, Senior Research Fellow in Global Health, University of Southampton

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.





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Why Is The FDA Seeking To Ban Menthol Cigarettes?

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Why Is The FDA Seeking To Ban Menthol Cigarettes?


The FDA has opened the public comment period for the agency’s proposed ban on menthol cigarettes. Epidemiology and global health professor Rafael Meza studies data modeling in disease prevention and cancer risk. David Mendez, who studies smoking cessation and tobacco control policies, is an associate professor of health management and policy. These University of Michigan researchers found that, in a 38-year period, African Americans suffered most of the harmful effects of menthol cigarettes. Now the researchers have developed a model to simulate the possible benefits of the menthol ban, based on studies of population trends in tobacco use. As experts on the behavioral and public health aspects of smoking, they explain the role of menthol in smoking-related illness and death.

What are menthol cigarettes?

Menthol is a chemical compound, obtained naturally from peppermint oil or produced synthetically using thymol, a compound in the herb thyme. When added to tobacco cigarettes, menthol produces a cooling sensation in the mouth and throat. Menthol cigarettes have enough of the compound added to give them that characteristic sensation and minty flavor. Instead of tasting like burning tobacco, menthol cigarettes might bring to mind cough drops or strong breath mints.

Why are menthol cigarettes particularly harmful?

Menthol reduces the harshness of cigarette smoking, making it more palatable for those new to smoking. Most of the experimenters are teens and young adults, who are vulnerable to long-term effects of nicotine on still-developing brains. Among youths who are smokers, about 60% smoke menthols, with even higher rates among Black adolescents. Every year, menthol cigarettes increase the number of individuals who become regular smokers. Those who start with menthols often continue with them.

Our research shows that the harm of tobacco use continues as well. In addition to providing youths a more palatable introduction to smoking, the menthol flavor appears to keep them smoking. People who smoke menthol cigarettes smoke longer over their lifetimes and are less likely to quit. That translates into hundreds of thousands of additional premature deaths from lung cancer, emphysema and diseases made worse by smoking, like heart disease. In our study, we estimated that menthol cigarettes were responsible for 377,000 premature deaths among the U.S. population during the past 40 years.

 

Why has there been a backlash to the FDA’s proposed ban?

Some critics have raised concerns about potential unintended consequences of the proposed ban, particularly for African American menthol smokers. One worry is that banning menthol cigarettes could make Black people subject to arrest for buying or smoking them. Another concern is that a ban might create an illicit market for the cigarettes, particularly in African American neighborhoods.

But the FDA ban is on distributing the cigarettes, not buying, possessing or smoking them. The agency has been clear that it cannot and will not enforce the ban on individual consumers of menthol cigarettes or flavored cigars. And Canada’s experience with a similar ban suggests that it is unlikely an illegal market would emerge.

Most importantly, any negative consequences would be outweighed by considerable health gains.

How would a menthol cigarette ban help?

Cigarette smoking prevalence has decreased drastically since the 1960s, thanks to tobacco control interventions like cigarette taxes, smoke-free air laws, marketing restrictions and education campaigns. The prevalence of menthol cigarette smoking, however, has remained relatively constant since 2000, which highlights the need for interventions specifically targeting menthol cigarettes.

We recently estimated that banning menthol cigarettes in the U.S. would translate into a 15% reduction in menthol smoking prevalence and prevent 650,000 premature deaths by 2060. The gains among the Black population would be particularly considerable, with an estimated 255,000 premature deaths averted.

Under a menthol cigarette ban, it’s important that menthol cigarette smokers have help to quit smoking, and not just switch to nonmenthol cigarettes.

David Mendez, Associate Professor of Health Management and Policy, University of Michigan and Rafael Meza, Professor of Global Public Health, University of Michigan

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.





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