A New Covid Wave Is Spreading In Europe — Here’s Why The U.S. Should Pay Attention

The number of Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are approaching or surpassing record highs across Europe just weeks after countries lifted pandemic restrictions and outlined plans to live with the virus, which could be a warning sign for the U.S., where numbers have been falling for weeks, but which tends to follow trends in Europe.

Covid infections are on the rise across Europe including in France, the U.K., Ireland, Switzerland, Finland and Italy, and are respectively nearing or surpassing record highs in Germany and Austria, according to official data collated by Our World in Data.

Many of these countries—including the U.K., France, the Netherlands and Belgium—are also reporting increases in the number of Covid-19 hospital admissions, according to Our World in Data, and the number of Covid deaths in the region have also started to modestly increase including in the U.K., Sweden, Slovakia, Ireland and Iceland.

The Covid burden for many European countries was already high before the recent surge, though several are now fighting outbreaks that rank among the world’s very worst: excluding territories with a population smaller than 1 million, European nations account for 16 of the highest 20 death rates (including four in the top five) and 19 of the top 25 highest case rates.

While there is no unifying feature behind the surge, experts told Forbes the uptick is likely driven by a mixture of relaxed pandemic restrictions, waning immunity and the more infectious BA.2 variant of omicron.

Though the number of Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths across the U.S. have fallen significantly in recent weeks, Dr. John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert at the University of California at Berkeley, told Forbes the situation in Europe could presage another coronavirus wave in the U.S.

What happens in Europe, and especially in the U.K., tends to happen in the U.S. with a “few weeks lag,” Swartzberg explained, adding that “there’s every reason to think this pattern will hold for the immediate future.”

Even as cases soared, a growing number of European countries—including the U.K., Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, France and Switzerland—have scrapped almost all Covid restrictions under plans to live with the virus. Officials across the region have repeatedly cited the availability of vaccines and treatments, and lower rates of serious illness with omicron, when justifying the decision.

Austria even dropped its controversial law requiring compulsory vaccination for all adults, with its minister in charge of constitutional affairs saying the mandate was no longer “proportionate” with the disease. The figures across Europe are likely just the “tip of the iceberg,” warned World Health Organization chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Ordinarily, disease surveillance usually misses a large number of Covid cases and there are differences in how each nation records its Covid deaths and hospital admissions. This is made worse by the fact that many countries are also taking steps to dismantle the testing infrastructure used to keep tabs on the pandemic at the same time as lifting restrictions, a move experts warn hampers the ability to detect new variants.

There are early signs Covid-19 rates may already be rising across the U.S., according to the CDC’s monitoring of wastewater sewage. As the genetic material of the virus that causes Covid-19 can be detected in sewage, wastewater surveillance has been used as an early warning system to help predict new outbreaks. Coronavirus rates have risen at 38% of the hundreds of wastewater sampling sites tracked by the CDC over the last two weeks.

When it comes to Covid, the United States specializes in denialism,” wrote Dr. Eric Topol, the founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, in the Guardian. It has denied human-to-human transmission of the virus when the first cases were publicized in China, denied the virus is airborne and denied the need for boosters, Topol said.

But one denial in particular now one stands out, Topol said: learning from other countries. “The United Kingdom and Europe have provided five unmistakable warnings to America that a new surge was occurring. Within weeks, each time, the United States experienced a new wave, some not as severe (such as with the Alpha variant), some worse (Delta and Omicron variants).

From this Covid track record over two years, it is palpable: what happens in the U.K. and Europe doesn’t stay in the UK and Europe.” The current surge in the U.K. and Europe “is the sixth warning… to the United States,” Topol said.

 

I am a London-based reporter for Forbes covering breaking news. Previously, I have worked as a reporter for a specialist legal publication covering big data and

Source: A New Covid Wave Is Spreading In Europe — Here’s Why The U.S. Should Pay Attention

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Critics:

Experts told The Post that the BA.2 subvariant — essentially the original Omicron variant’s more contagious cousin — has fueled the recent surge in cases and hospitalizations in Europe.

In a separate tweet, Topol wrote that the rollback of pandemic restrictions, along with a natural waning of the immunity afforded by vaccines, had enabled the new subvariant to spread widely.

While the BA.2 subvariant appears to be 1.5 times as infectious as the previous iteration of the Omicron variant, according to early data, there’s no evidence indicating the new version causes more severe disease than its predecessors.

Some reports have described BA.2 as harder to track than BA.1. Scientists tracked the spread of the original Omicron variant by looking for a specific genetic mutation, which BA.2 lacks.

The subvariant will still cause someone to test positive for COVID-19 on a PCR test, but it’ll take extra genetic analysis for researchers to connect new cases to the Omicron lineage.

More contents:

‘Stealth’ Omicron Subvariant Is Likely Behind A Surge In Cases And Hospitalizations In The U.K.

Antigenic evolution will lead to new SARS-CoV-2 variants with unpredictable severity

Once again, America is in denial about signs of a fresh Covid wave

‘Stealth’ Omicron Subvariant Is Likely Behind A Surge In Cases And Hospitalizations In The U.K. (Forbes)

Antigenic evolution will lead to new SARS-CoV-2 variants with unpredictable severity (Nature)

Once again, America is in denial about signs of a fresh Covid wave

 
 
 
 

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Researchers Warn of Heightened Risk of HIV With Certain COVID-19 Vaccines

As the race to approval of a safe and effective vaccine for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues, a group of researchers is warning some of these vaccines could make patients more susceptible to contracting HIV.

Writing in The Lancet, the researchers are urging caution when it comes to the use of adenovirus type-5 (Ad5) vectored vaccines for COVID-19, recalling their research from a decade ago on an Ad5 vectored vaccine in 2 HIV vaccine trials.

“On the basis of these findings, we are concerned that use of an Ad5 vector for immunisation against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) could similarly increase the risk of HIV-1 acquisition among men who receive the vaccine,” wrote the researchers. “Both the HIV and COVID-19 pandemics disproportionately affect vulnerable populations globally. Roll-out of an effective SARS-CoV-2 vaccine globally could be given to populations at risk of HIV infection, which could potentially increase their risk of HIV-1 acquisition.”

There are several clinical trials assessing Ad5 vectored vaccine candidates underway, including by China’s CanSino Biologics and California-based ImmunityBio.

The group’s ”cautionary tale” stems from the Step and Phambili phase 2b trials that studied the efficacy of an Ad5 vectored HIV-1 vaccine in preventing HIV infection. Across both international studies, they found that the vaccine actually increased the risk of HIV among the vaccinated men.

The findings from the Phambili study, in particular, have important implications for the use of the vaccines in COVID-19, according to the researchers, as findings from this study showed that heterosexual men receiving the Ad5 vectored vaccine faced a consistently increased risk of HIV infection. Notably, this increased risk appeared to be limited to men, with women not having an observed increase of infection in the study.

In the Step trial, the risk of acquiring HIV was particularly high among men who were uncircumcised and Ad5 seropositive men who reported having unprotected anal sex with a partner who was HIV seropositive or who had unknown serostatus as baseline.

Of note, the vaccine in both studies did not have the HIV envelope. Meanwhile, in another study that used a DNA prime and an Ad5 vector, both of which had the HIV envelope, there was no observed increase in HIV infection.

The reason for the observed increase in HIV risk remains uncertain, although several follow-up studies have suggested a potential explanation, according to the researchers.

“The vaccine was highly immunogenic in the induction of HIV-specific CD4 and CD8 T cells; however, there was no difference in the frequency of T-cell responses after vaccination in men who did and did not later become infected with HIV in the Step Study,” they wrote. “These findings suggest that immune responses induced by the HIV-specific vaccine were not the mechanism of increased acquisition.

Participants with high frequencies of preimmunisation Ad5-specific T cells were associated with a decreased magnitude of HIV-specific CD4 responses and recipients of the vaccine had a decreased breadth of HIV-specific CD8 responses, suggesting that pre-existing Ad5 immunity might dampen desired vaccine-induced responses.”

Other exploratory studies have indicated that the vaccine enhances HIV replication in CD4 T cells or that Ad5-specific CD4 T cells could be more susceptible to HIV infection.

Jaime Rosenberg

Reference

Buchbinder SP, McElrath MJ, Dieffenback C, Corey L. Use of adenovirus type-5 vectored vaccines: a cautionary tale. Lancet. Published online October 19, 2020.doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)32156-5

Source: http://ajmc.com

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ENewsTrends

A new paper warns the link between COVID-19 vaccines and HIV risk.

Mayo Clinic

Nearly half of people in the U.S. diagnosed with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, are over 50, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). HIV damages the body’s immune system, and interferes with the body’s ability to fight infection and disease. Does that make it more difficult to fight off COVID-19? Dr. Stacey Rizza, an infectious diseases specialist at Mayo Clinic, says, “We know that anybody who has a suppressed immune system may have an altered response to the virus that causes COVID-19. We know that older people whose immune systems are a little weaker, and people who have medical issues or organ diseases, are going to generally do worse with the infection.

If somebody has HIV and their immune system is weaker, meaning they’re not on therapy, or they’re earlier on in their therapy and their CD4 count is still low, they may be at risk of having a worse reaction to the virus. We will learn more about SARS-CoV-2 on people living with HIV over time.” Read more: https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/di… More health and medical news on the Mayo Clinic News Network. https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/ Journalists: Clean and nat sound versions of this pkg available for download at https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/ Register (free) at https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/re…

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