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A Mathematical Model Shows High Viral Transmissions Reduce the Progression Rates for Severe Covid-19
The model suggests a clue as to when a pandemic will turn into an endemic A mathematical model demonstrated that high transmission rates among highly vaccinated populations of COVID-19 ultimately reduce the numbers of severe cases. This model suggests a clue as to when this pandemic will turn into an endemic. With the future of the pandemic remaining uncertain, a research team of mathematicians and medical scientists analyzed a mathematical model that may predict how the changing transmission rate of COVID-19 would affect the settlement process of the virus as a mild respiratory virus. The team led by Professor Jae Kyoung Kim from the Department of Mathematical Science and Professor Eui-Cheol Shin from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering used a new approach by dividing the human immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 into a shorter-term neutralizing antibody response and a longer-term T-cell immune response, and applying them each to a mathematical model. Additionally, the analysis was based on the fact that although breakthrough infection may occur frequently, the immune response of the patient will be boosted after recovery from each breakthrough infection. The results showed that in an environment with a high vaccination rate, although COVID-19 cases may rise temporarily when the transmission rate increases, the ratio of critical cases would ultimately decline, thereby decreasing the total number of critical cases and in fact settling COVID-19 as a mild respiratory disease more quickly. Conditions in which the number of cases may spike include relaxing social distancing measures or the rise of variants with higher transmission rates like the Omicron variant. This research did not take the less virulent characteristic of the Omicron variant into account but focused on the results of its high transmission rate, thereby predicting what may happen in the process of the endemic transition of COVID-19. The research team pointed out the limitations of their mathematical model, such as the lack of consideration for age or patients with underlying diseases, and explained that the results of this study must be applied with care when compared against high-risk groups. Additionally, as medical systems may collapse when the number of cases rises sharply, this study must be interpreted with prudence and applied accordingly. The research team therefore emphasized that for policies that encourage a step-wise return to normality to succeed, the sustainable maintenance of public health systems is indispensable. Professor Kim said, “We have drawn a counter-intuitive conclusion amid the unpredictable pandemic through an adequate mathematical model,” asserting the importance of applying mathematical models to medical research. Professor Shin said, “Although the Omicron variant has become the dominant strain and the number of cases is rising rapidly in South Korea, it is important to use scientific approaches to predict the future and apply them to policies rather than fearing the current situation.” The results of the research were published on medRxiv.org on February 11, under the title “Increasing viral transmission paradoxically reduces progression rates to severe COVID-19 during endemic transition.” This research was funded by the Institute of Basic Science, the Korea Health Industry Development Institute, and the National Research Foundation of Korea. -PublicationHyukpyo Hong, Ji Yun Noh, Hyojung Lee, Sunhwa Choi, Boseung Choi, Jae Kyung Kim, Eui-Cheol Shin, “Increasing viral transmission paradoxically reduces progression rates to severe COVID-19 during endemic transition,” medRxiv, February 9, 2022 (doi.org/10.1101/2022.02.09.22270633) -ProfileProfessor Jae Kyung KimDepartment of Mathematical SciencesKAIST Professor Eui-Cheol ShinGraduate School of Medical Science and EngineeringKAIST
A Study Reveals What Triggers Lung Damage during COVID-19
A longitudinal study of macrophages from SARS-CoV-2 infected lungs offers new insights into dynamic immunological changes A KAIST immunology research team found that a specific subtype of macrophages that originated from blood monocytes plays a key role in the hyper-inflammatory response in SARS-CoV-2 infected lungs, by performing single-cell RNA sequencing of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid cells. This study provides new insights for understanding dynamic changes in immune responses to COVID-19. In the early phase of COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 infected lung tissue and the immediate defense system is activated. This early and fast response is called ‘innate immunity,’ provided by immune cells residing in lungs. Macrophages are major cell types of the innate immune system of the lungs, and newly differentiated macrophages originating from the bloodstream also contribute to early defenses against viruses. Professor Su-Hyung Park and his collaborators investigated the quantitative and qualitative evaluation of immune responses in the lungs of SARS-CoV-2 infected ferrets. To overcome the limitations of research using patient-originated specimens, the researchers used a ferret infection model to obtain SARS-CoV-2 infected lungs sequentially with a defined time interval. The researchers analyzed the 10 subtypes of macrophages during the five-day course of SARS-CoV-2 infection, and found that infiltrating macrophages originating from activated monocytes in the blood were key players for viral clearance as well as damaged lung tissue. Moreover, they found that the differentiation process of these inflammatory macrophages resembled the immune responses in the lung tissue of severe COVID-19 patients. Currently, the research team is conducting a follow-up study to identify the dynamic changes in immune responses during the use of immunosuppressive agents to control hyper-inflammatory response called ‘cytokine storm’ in patients with COVID-19. Dr. Jeong Seok Lee, the chief medical officer at Genome Insight Inc., explained, “Our analysis will enhance the understanding of the early features of COVID-19 immunity and provide a scientific background for the more precise use of immunosuppressive agents targeting specific macrophage subtypes.” “This study is the first longitudinal study using sequentially obtained immune cells originating from SARS-CoV-2 infected lungs. The research describes the innate immune response to COVID-19 using single cell transcriptome data and enhances our understanding of the two phases of inflammatory responses,” Professor Park said. This work was supported by the Ministry of Health and Welfare and KAIST, and was published in Nature Communications on July 28. -PublicationSu-Hyung Park, Jeong Seok Lee, Su-Hyung Park et al. “Single-cell transcriptome of bronchoalverolar lavage fluid reveals sequential change of macrophages during SARS-CoV-2 infection in ferrets” Nature Communications (https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-24807-0) -ProfileProfessor Su-Hyung ParkLaboratory of Translational Immunology and Vaccinologyhttps://ltiv.kaist.ac.kr/ Graduate School of Medical Science and EngineeringKAIST
Study of T Cells from COVID-19 Convalescents Guides Vaccine Strategies
Researchers confirm that most COVID-19 patients in their convalescent stage carry stem cell-like memory T cells for months A KAIST immunology research team found that most convalescent patients of COVID-19 develop and maintain T cell memory for over 10 months regardless of the severity of their symptoms. In addition, memory T cells proliferate rapidly after encountering their cognate antigen and accomplish their multifunctional roles. This study provides new insights for effective vaccine strategies against COVID-19, considering the self-renewal capacity and multipotency of memory T cells. COVID-19 is a disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection. When patients recover from COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2-specific adaptive immune memory is developed. The adaptive immune system consists of two principal components: B cells that produce antibodies and T cells that eliminate infected cells. The current results suggest that the protective immune function of memory T cells will be implemented upon re-exposure to SARS-CoV-2. Recently, the role of memory T cells against SARS-CoV-2 has been gaining attention as neutralizing antibodies wane after recovery. Although memory T cells cannot prevent the infection itself, they play a central role in preventing the severe progression of COVID-19. However, the longevity and functional maintenance of SARS-CoV-2-specific memory T cells remain unknown. Professor Eui-Cheol Shin and his collaborators investigated the characteristics and functions of stem cell-like memory T cells, which are expected to play a crucial role in long-term immunity. Researchers analyzed the generation of stem cell-like memory T cells and multi-cytokine producing polyfunctional memory T cells, using cutting-edge immunological techniques. This research is significant in that revealing the long-term immunity of COVID-19 convalescent patients provides an indicator regarding the long-term persistence of T cell immunity, one of the main goals of future vaccine development, as well as evaluating the long-term efficacy of currently available COVID-19 vaccines. The research team is presently conducting a follow-up study to identify the memory T cell formation and functional characteristics of those who received COVID-19 vaccines, and to understand the immunological effect of COVID-19 vaccines by comparing the characteristics of memory T cells from vaccinated individuals with those of COVID-19 convalescent patients. PhD candidate Jae Hyung Jung and Dr. Min-Seok Rha, a clinical fellow at Yonsei Severance Hospital, who led the study together explained, “Our analysis will enhance the understanding of COVID-19 immunity and establish an index for COVID-19 vaccine-induced memory T cells.” “This study is the world’s longest longitudinal study on differentiation and functions of memory T cells among COVID-19 convalescent patients. The research on the temporal dynamics of immune responses has laid the groundwork for building a strategy for next-generation vaccine development,” Professor Shin added. This work was supported by the Samsung Science and Technology Foundation and KAIST, and was published in Nature Communications on June 30. -Publication: Jung, J.H., Rha, MS., Sa, M. et al. SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell memory is sustained in COVID-19 convalescent patients for 10 months with successful development of stem cell-like memory T cells. Nat Communications 12, 4043 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-24377-1 -Profile: Professor Eui-Cheol Shin Laboratory of Immunology & Infectious Diseases (http://liid.kaist.ac.kr/) Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering KAIST
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