Moderna Stock Crash Intensifies: Losses Top $130 Billion After Scientists Find Covid Boosters Aren’t Halting Omicron Infections

Battered by a steep broad-market selloff this week, Moderna shares fell for a sixth straight day Friday as experts questioned whether Covid-19 vaccine sales alone will help justify the firm’s meteoric valuation, intensifying a crash that’s wiped out more than 60% of the value in one of last year’s top stocks and turned it into this year’s worst performer.

Moderna stock fell 4.4% Friday to an eight-month low of $160, pushing shares down more than 20% over the past week amid growing research suggesting Moderna’s Covid-19 booster, while very effective against previous strains, has been less effective against the rapidly spreading omicron variant.

Though the number of Covid infections has spiked amid the omicron-spurred wave of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that Moderna and Pfizer boosters were 90% effective at preventing people infected with the new variant from being hospitalized.

Speaking to Yahoo Finance on Thursday, Jefferies analyst Michael Yee said the “overly high expectations” set last year, as Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine became widely available to the public, will “lead to challenges . . . as people digest” what’s next for the firm beyond Covid vaccines.

Yee said the recent stock drawback has helped put Moderna’s valuation in line with other biotechnology competitors, but he warned analysts increasingly expect Covid vaccine sales—currently Moderna’s sole revenue source from a commercialized product—will fall over the next few years as the pandemic becomes endemic and competition heats up among treatment and prevention options.

Moderna’s stock plunge has pulled prices down so much that Bank of America analyst Geoff Meacham told investors in a Friday note that its valuation is now “back to earth” after its meteoric rise during the pandemic.

Meacham said he’s now focused on the company’s pipeline beyond Covid (Moderna is also developing a flu vaccine), pointing to the firm’s massive $17 billion in cash as a source of “strategic” opportunity.

In a Friday note, UBS analyst Eliana Merle was more optimistic about Moderna’s prospects, calling its mRNA technology a disruptive force in the $35 billion annual vaccine market and saying its success with Covid-19 suggests a high likelihood of success for other vaccine targets.

Shares of Moderna have plunged 67% from an all-time closing high of $484 on August 9, wiping out about $133 billion from the firm’s market capitalization, which now stands at roughly $65 billion.

Though it skyrocketed 143% to land the S&P 500’s third-best gain in 2021, Moderna stock has plummeted 35% this year—even worse than Netflix, which is down 32% after a steep 20% plunge Friday following a disappointing earnings report. To compare, Devon Energy and Marathon Oil, last year’s top- and second-best-performing stocks in the S&P, have climbed 7% and 11% this year, respectively.

$5.3 billion. That’s how much Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel, who joined the firm in 2011, is worth Friday, according to Forbes. The French native owns a roughly 8% stake in Moderna and was at one point worth more than $12 billion.

Founded in 2010, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna spent nearly a decade developing the technology for its messenger RNA vaccines, which tell the body to produce part of a pathogen to trigger an immune response—unlike traditional vaccines that instead use a piece of the pathogen.

Once the pandemic hit, the company doubled down on the efforts and filed for an emergency use authorization for its Covid-19 vaccine in November 2020. The shots have proven to be a massive boon for businesses heading up their development, but Moderna shares have struggled in recent months as critics increasingly question whether or not sales of Covid-19 vaccines alone will prove a viable revenue stream in years to come.

In November, the company reported third-quarter sales and earnings that failed to meet analysts’ expectations, with revenue falling short of $5 billion, despite average analyst projections calling for $6.2 billion. In addition to lower sales projections, supply chain constraints and the development of antiviral Covid-19 treatments have also dented investor sentiment—and triggered Moderna stock selloffs.

Moderna is expected to report fourth-quarter earnings by the end of February.

Shares of Moderna plunged 17% shortly after the market opened Thursday, wiping out more than $24 billion in market value and pushing prices to a three-month low of $287.

Triggering the morning crash, Moderna on Thursday reported third-quarter sales and earnings that failed to meet analysts’ expectations, with revenue falling short of $5 billion despite average analyst projections calling for $6.2 billion.

In a conference call, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel blamed a “more complex” supply-chain environment for the disappointing performance, adding that longer delivery times for international shipments may shift some deliveries to early 2022, instead of 2021’s fourth quarter.

Moderna said it now expects to deliver between 700 million and 800 million Covid-19 vaccine doses this year, down from previous projections calling for between 800 million and 1 billion doses; sales should now fall between $15 billion and $18 billion, instead of the $20 billion originally projected, the company said.

Covid-19 vaccines, which are Moderna’s only commercialized product, have proven to be highly effective in preventing serious illness and the market’s best defense against the virus—making them a massive boon to a slew of businesses heading up their development.However, Moderna shares have struggled in recent months as critics increasingly question whether or not sales of Covid-19 vaccines will prove a viable revenue stream in years to come.

In August, Bank of America sparked one of the biggest selloffs in Moderna’s history after saying future sales expectations don’t justify the company’s current valuation. The analysts warned that lower-than-expected vaccine sales and more intense competition as Covid-19 research advances marked the biggest risks to Moderna stock prices.

Despite its recent weakness, Moderna is still the S&P’s best-performing component this year, with shares skyrocketing about 200% thanks to the company’s Covid-19 vaccine becoming widely available across the world. Still, shares have crashed nearly 40% from an all-time closing high of $484 on August 9.

$9.5 billion. That’s how much Bancel, who joined Moderna in 2011, is worth as of 10:00 a.m. EDT Thursday, according to Forbes. The French native, who owns a roughly 8% stake in Moderna, has seen his fortune plunge by about $1.6 billion as a result of the stock’s rout on Thursday.

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Source: Moderna Stock Crash Intensifies: Losses Top $130 Billion After Scientists Find Covid Boosters Aren’t Halting Omicron Infections

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Omicron Job Loss? Unemployment Claims Unexpectedly Spike One Week After Steep Drop In Jobless Benefits Numbers

The number of new unemployment claims unexpectedly jumped for the second week in a row this month, despite a steep drop in the overall number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits just one week earlier—a concerning sign for the labor market recovery after experts warned a record surge in coronavirus cases—spurred by the rapidly spreading omicron variant—could slow the economic recovery.

About 230,000 people filed initial jobless claims in the week ending January 8, an increase of 23,000 from the previous week, according to the weekly data released Thursday. Economists were only expecting about 200,000 new claims last week, according to Bloomberg data.

“This may well be the first report suggesting Omicron is leading to new job loss,” Bankrate senior economic analyst Mark Hamrick wrote in a Thursday note, pointing out the largest increases were reported in California and New York, where new claims totaled more than 20,000 combined.

The new report also showed the number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits fell to less than 1.6 million in the week ending January 1, a decrease of 194,000 from the previous week and the lowest level since June 1973.

“The future path of the pandemic remains highly uncertain, but the underlying job market narrative overall continues be one of scarcity of available applicants and workers,” Hamrick said. “The latest wrinkle, the high level of individuals testing positive, becoming ill or staying away from work, has added to supply chain disruptions with inflation already running red-hot.”The new unemployment data comes after a disappointing labor report on Friday showed the U.S. added a lower-than-expected 199,000 jobs in December.

After the report, Hamrick said it was still “difficult to measure” the economic impact of the omicron variant at that point and cautioned against dismissing its potential, pointing out widespread worker shortages, stoked in part by lingering concerns over the pandemic, remain a big uncertainty.

Economists surveyed by Bankrate said the variant could weigh on job growth in the first three months of the year, but estimated the unemployment rate will fall from 3.9% to 3.8% in a year. Moody’s Analytics’ Mark Zandi shared a similar word of caution, saying, “Risks are rising,” and forecasting that the economic recovery “is set to turn soft” as omicron stunts business. Amid the latest surge, credit card spending and restaurant bookings have already dropped substantially, while widespread flight cancellations have been another economic concern, Zandi notes.

According to the Labor Department, the U.S. has thus far recovered about 80% of the 20.5 million jobs U.S. employers cut between March and April of last year.

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Source: Omicron Job Loss? Unemployment Claims Unexpectedly Spike One Week After Steep Drop In Jobless Benefits Numbers

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Amid Chaos, IRS Attempts A Return To Normal

E-filing of individual tax returns for the 2022 filing season opens on January 24. The start of e-filing and the April tax filing deadline return to an almost normal schedule while ongoing issues make filing season realities hard to predict.

In 2021 individual e-filing didn’t open until February 12. In 2020 it opened on January 27. This year’s opening appears to be moving the needle back toward the more normal mid-January opening. The April 18th filing deadline is also a return to normal after the July 17, 2020 and May 17, 2021 extended deadlines. Friday, April 15, 2022 is the Emancipation Day holiday in Washington, D.C. which is why the deadline has been moved forward to Monday April 18. It almost seems normal. Almost.

While the start and finish lines to filing season 2022 have a whiff of normalcy about them, everything in between stinks. It stinks of expectations bordering on the delusional and it stinks of IRS rot. When it comes to considering “known unknowns” such as the effects of reconciling economic impact payments (stimulus money) and advance payments of the Child Tax Credit (CTC), the IRS doesn’t seem delusional.

The Commissioner is taking every chance he is offered to urge taxpayers and tax practitioners to file accurately and electronically. The IRS is using every channel it has to remind taxpayers to watch for Letters 6419 and 6475 (which provide the amounts of the advance CTC payments and EIPs, respectively). It’s the Commissioner’s apparent failure to consider the “unknown unknowns” that reeks of delusion.

While the IRS Commissioner (in a recent statement) and the National Taxpayer Advocate (in her most recent report) have been open about anticipating another difficult filing season, they have not seemed to consider the potential for natural disasters to create yet another patchwork of filing deadlines. In 2021 the May 17th deadline wasn’t the deadline for Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana due to winter storms.

Louisiana’s deadline was re-adjusted after Hurricane Ida. In late April 2021 the May 17, 2021 deadline was extended for some Kentucky counties due to storm effects and the list of affected counties continued to be adjusted until June 28, 2021 (two days before the extended June 30 filing deadline). At the end of April 2021 Alabama taxpayers got an extension until August 2. In September New York and New Jersey got their deadline extended because of Hurricane Ida. That’s just a sample; the list goes on.

The other unknown unknown the Commissioner has failed to consider is the ongoing effects of the pandemic. His statement was issued January 10, 2022 amid the omicron variant surge. At this time it is unclear if that surge has peaked and it is even more unclear what effects the current surge will have on IRS staffing levels during filing season. Whatever the effects are, it is unlikely they will improve return processing or response times.

It’s early January 2022. It’s unlikely that the pace of natural disasters will abate and predicting pandemic surges has proved elusive, so why not plan for the worst and issue a pre-emptive extension of the filing deadline until July? Early filers will still file early. Procrastinators will still procrastinate. Extending the deadline until mid-year would simply mitigate some of the confusion resulting from yet another reactive patchwork of federal deadlines due to yet another bad weather year or more Covid-related staffing issues.

And then there’s the rot. Yes, the IRS has been underfunded for years. Yes, experienced people retired and because of funding cuts, they were never replaced. Yes Congress continues to ask the IRS to do more with less. But at some point the IRS needs to acknowledge certain systemic failures in its procedures and possibly its culture.

One such systemic failure was the continuation of automated notice processing despite the mail and phone backlog. Taxpayers and tax practitioners continue to receive second and third notices, each more aggressive than the last, about issues that were addressed by a mailed response to the first notice that has remained either unopened or unprocessed by the IRS. That’s a procedural failure.

The cultural failure is the idea that temporarily stopping automated notices or providing some sort of blanket penalty relief or temporarily giving more experienced customer service reps (or their supervisors) more autonomy to abate penalties until the IRS clears its mail backlog is some sort of abject moral failing that will result in massive taxpayer noncompliance. It’s the idea that cutting taxpayers some slack in the middle of yet another chaotic filing season will turn otherwise law abiding taxpayers into tax protesting scofflaws.

It’s the idea that their kindness will be considered weakness. Perhaps that is the case, but the fact of the matter is that our tax system is based on voluntary compliance and the complete inability to get assistance when trying to comply voluntarily with one’s tax obligations or exercise one’s rights under the tax laws could be as much (or more) of a disincentive to compliance as lack of enforcement. Unfortunately, heading into the third filing season under pandemic rules it seems we have yet to find rock bottom and a path out of this abyss.

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I own Tax Therapy, LLC, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I am an Enrolled Agent and non-attorney practitioner admitted to the bar of the U.S. Tax Court. I work as a tax general practitioner preparing returns for individuals and (really) small businesses as well as representing individuals before the IRS and, occasionally, the U.S. Tax Court. My passion is translating “taxspeak” into English for taxpayers and tax practitioners. I write to dispel myths with facts and to explain “the fine print” behind seemingly simple tax concepts. I cover individual tax issues and IRS developments with a focus on items of interest to taxpayers and retail tax practitioners. Follow me on Twitter @taxtherapist505

Source: Amid Chaos, IRS Attempts A Return To Normal

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Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Publication 15, which includes withholding tables for income tax. State requirements vary by state; for an example, see the New York state portal for withholding tax.

Canada Revenue Agency Publication T4001. Canada Revenue Agency also provides significant online guidance accessible through a web index, including an online payroll tax calculator.

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Do Rapid Tests Work With Omicron? Should I Swab My Throat? Covid Test Questions Answered

Should we be swabbing our noses or our throats for at-home tests? Do rapid tests even detect omicron at all? Are PCR tests the only results we can trust right now?

Guidance about how to approach testing in the omicron era seems to be evolving by the day. ​​A recent real-world study that followed 30 subjects likely exposed to omicron found that PCR saliva tests can catch Covid-19 cases three days before rapid antigen tests, which use nasal swabs.

These findings, which have not been peer reviewed, follow the Food and Drug Administration’s announcement in late December that, while they do detect omicron, rapid antigen tests may now have “reduced sensitivity.” But that doesn’t mean rapid tests don’t play a key role in our pandemic response going forward.

This is all confusing to a public that’s been pulled in several directions over the course of the pandemic when it comes to guidance and testing. Long delays for PCR test results, a shortage of at-home rapid tests, and the wait for more definitive science about the omicron variant have all made it more difficult to figure out when and how to to get tested. Nevertheless, public health experts say that, as more become available, rapid tests will be an increasingly vital tool for diagnosing Covid-19 and reducing its spread.

“We don’t want the perfect to be the enemy of the good”

So you might be wondering: What’s the point if rapid tests aren’t as accurate as PCR tests? Well, rapid antigen tests, which look for a specific protein on the Covid-19 virus, remain extremely effective at confirming positive cases. Put simply, if you test positive on a rapid test, you almost certainly have Covid-19.

If you test negative, in some cases, you might still test positive on a PCR test, which is much more sensitive because it tests for genetic evidence of the virus. Rapid tests may not pick up positive cases in people who have been vaccinated or who have recently recovered from Covid-19, since they may produce less virus, one expert told Recode.

Rapid tests can also reveal a positive case faster than the labs that process PCR tests, since they can take several days to share results with patients, especially during big waves of infection. Perhaps more importantly, rapid tests can indicate whether someone is contagious enough to spread the virus to others, which is what many people are most worried about.

“Given that a rapid antigen test is often the most feasible or available option for many, we don’t want the perfect to be the enemy of the good,” Joshua Michaud, the associate director for global health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told Recode. He explained that every Covid-19 case that’s caught by someone who could take a rapid antigen test but not a PCR test is a win for public health.

Taking rapid tests more frequently also makes them more effective. Most at-home rapid test kits are designed to be conducted over the course of two days, which is why kits typically include two tests. Because each test is a snapshot of the moment it’s taken, multiple tests help reduce the chance of receiving a false negative.

Of course, all of this is assuming that you can get your hands on a rapid test. In the weeks since omicron started to spread, rapid tests have been incredibly hard to find in some parts of the country. These tests are out of stock because neither test manufacturers nor the Biden administration anticipated record levels of Covid-19 cases, which have boosted the demand for rapid tests.

To confront the shortage, the White House plans to buy and distribute 500 million free rapid tests in the coming weeks. When that happens, these tests could help catch more positive cases and lower the number of people infected with Covid-19.

How accurate are rapid tests when it comes to omicron?

The accuracy of a rapid test depends on how often you’re testing yourself and whether you want to identify a Covid-19 infection or measure your contagiousness. But if you test positive on a rapid test, you should trust the result, assume you’re infectious, and isolate for at least five days. If you test positive again after five days, the CDC recommends isolating for five more.

Rapid tests, however, are not perfect. Research indicates that antigen tests are less accurate than PCR tests — this has been the case since the beginning of the pandemic. PCR tests are processed in a lab, where sophisticated equipment can identify and amplify even the tiniest genetic evidence of the virus that causes Covid-19.

These tests are so precise that patients can actually test positive for weeks after they’ve recovered and are no longer contagious. The results of rapid tests, meanwhile, can vary based on how much virus is in a patient’s nose at the time the sample is taken and how far along they are in their infection.

Scientists explain the difference between rapid tests and PCR tests in two ways: specificity, which reflects a test’s false-positive rate, and sensitivity, which reflects a test’s false-negative rate. Both PCR and rapid tests have high specificity, which means that their positive results are very trustworthy. But while PCR tests tend to have near-perfect sensitivity, rapid antigen tests tend to have a sensitivity around 80 to 90 percent. This means that rapid tests tend to produce more false negatives than PCR tests do.

“Most at-home tests are still able to detect infection by omicron because they target a part of the virus that doesn’t mutate that much”Omicron makes testing even trickier. The sensitivity of rapid tests may be even lower for omicron cases, according to early research from the FDA and other scientists.

Another problem is that omicron may propagate more in the throat than the lungs, and it could take longer for Covid-19 to show up in nasal samples, even if someone is symptomatic. It’s possible that vaccinated people and people who have recently recovered from Covid-19 are noticing more false negatives on rapid tests because they tend to produce less virus overall.

“At-home tests are mostly effective when the person has high viral loads, a time when the person is more likely to transmit the virus,” Pablo Penaloza-MacMaster, a viral immunologist at Northwestern’s medical school, told Recode, “Most at-home tests are still able to detect infection by omicron because they target a part of the virus that doesn’t mutate that much.”

Separate studies from both the UK’s Health Security Agency and researchers in Australia found that antigen tests are as sensitive to the omicron variant as they were to earlier strains of Covid-19. Again, the FDA does still recommend rapid tests to diagnose positive cases, and test manufacturers say they’re confident in their products’ ability to detect omicron.

While early research indicates saliva tests might detect Covid-19 more quickly, right now most of the PCR tests and all of the available rapid at-home tests that have emergency use authorizations from the FDA use nasal samples.

How to use rapid tests in less-than-ideal circumstances

Which brings us back to the question of whether you should be sticking nasal swabs in your throat. There is evidence that saliva samples may be a quicker indicator of Covid-19 cases, but that doesn’t mean you should stop following the directions that come with your test kit.

The FDA says that people should not use rapid antigen tests to swab their own mouths. Some experts say you might consider doing so anyway, and point out that other countries, including the UK, have approved rapid antigen tests that use throat swabs and released very careful directions about how to do so.

“​​I personally do swab my throat and my nose to get the best sensitivity when I use over-the-counter tests at home,” Michael Mina, an epidemiologist at Harvard, said at a Thursday press conference. “There are risks associated with that, but the biology does tell us that they might be getting better sensitivity earlier.”

But the concern with rapid test kits right now is not that people are swabbing their noses, but how often they’re swabbing their noses. A single test could miss a Covid-19 case and produce a false negative, but taking two tests over a 24 to 36 hour period reduces this risk.

The more rapid tests you take, the more you reduce your chances of a false negative, and the more times you test negative over multiple days, the more confident you can be that you’re not spreading Covid-19.

Still, the biggest problem right now is that rapid tests are pricey and hard to find. Pharmacies have limited the number of test kits people can buy, and many are completely sold out. A single test can also cost more than $10, which means that testing yourself regularly gets expensive quickly. Opportunists have even hoarded tests and engaged in price gouging, which has exacerbated the shortage.

If you don’t have enough tests to test yourself regularly, it’s best to test yourself right before seeing vulnerable people, says Mara Aspinall, a professor who leads Arizona State’s testing diagnostic commons and a board member for the test manufacturer Orasure, told Recode. “I’m heading to a vulnerable person [or] I’m going into a health care setting, and therefore need to test right beforehand.”

For now, the best test kit is the test you can get (Wired has a handy list of the brands currently available). If you’re planning to go somewhere and don’t want to spread the virus, you should take one rapid test the day before traveling, and then a second test immediately before you go. If you only have one rapid test, take it right before you see people.

Testing yourself should become easier as more rapid tests become available. In addition to the 500 million free rapid tests that the White House will distribute beginning later this month, people with private insurance will also be able to get their rapid test purchases reimbursed starting next week. You should also check with your local health department, as they might be distributing free tests.

Even though the rapid test situation is still less than ideal, there are other strategies we can use to protect both ourselves and other people from Covid-19, like getting vaccinated, getting boosted, and wearing a mask. And if you do happen to find some rapid tests, go ahead and grab them. They might just come in handy, especially if you use them correctly.

Correction, January 7, 10:30 am: An earlier version of this story misstated in one instance the kind of false results that might appear more often on rapid Covid-19 tests among vaccinated people and those with immunity from recent infection. The false results are false negatives, not false positives.

Rebecca Heilweil

Rebecca Heilweil is a reporter for Open Sourced, covering emerging technologies, artificial intelligence, and logistics. Her Twitter handle is @rebheilweil.

Source: Do rapid tests work with omicron? Should I swab my throat? Covid test questions, answered. – Vox

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Covid Science: Virus Leaves Antibodies That May Attack Healthy Tissues

The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review.

Coronavirus leaves survivors with self-attacking antibodies

Months after recovering from SARS-CoV-2 infection, survivors have elevated levels of antibodies that can mistakenly attack their own organs and tissues, even if they had not been severely ill, according to new findings.

Among 177 healthcare workers who had recovered from confirmed coronavirus infections contracted before the availability of vaccines, all had persistent autoantibodies, including ones that can cause chronic inflammation and injury of the joints, skin and nervous system.

“We would not normally expect to see such a diverse array of autoantibodies elevated in these individuals or stay elevated for as long six months after full clinical recovery,” said Susan Cheng of the Cedars-Sinai Smidt Heart Institute in Los Angeles.

Patterns of elevated autoantibodies varied between men and women, the researchers reported on Thursday in the Journal of Translational Medicine.

“We don’t yet know how much longer, beyond six months, the antibodies will stay elevated and/or lead to any important clinical symptoms,” Cheng said. “It will be essential to monitor individuals moving forward.”

Her team is investigating whether autoantibody elevations are linked with persistent symptoms in people with long COVID and planning to study autoantibody levels after infections with newer variants of the virus.

B cells’ effects weakened but not defeated by Omicron. The effects of antibodies produced by the immune system’s “memory B cells” against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, while weakened, could still be significant, researchers believe.

Once the body learns to recognize SARS-CoV-2, either after infection or vaccination, B cells generate fresh antibodies against the virus if there are not already enough antibodies circulating in the blood that can neutralize it.

In a study reported on bioRxiv ahead of peer review, researchers analyzed the strength of more than 300 antibodies produced by memory B cells obtained from vaccinated volunteers, including some who had a prior SARS-CoV-2 infection.

“Omicron seemed to evade a very large share of the memory B cells pool,” researchers said, adding that it “seems to still be efficiently recognized by 30% of total antibodies and close to 10% of all potent neutralizing antibodies,” said Matthieu Mahevas and Pascal Chappert of Universite de Paris in a joint email. Memory B cells’ robust ability to proliferate and produce antibodies might compensate “in less than two days” for those antibodies’ reduced effectiveness, they speculate.

In combination with other immune system components, particularly T cells, the effects of B cells likely help to explain why most vaccinated individuals who become infected do not become sick enough to require hospitalization, they said.

Virus variants’ activity in cells makes them more effective. Along with spike mutations that help the coronavirus break into cells, mutations that change how the virus behaves inside the cells are a big factor in why some variants have been more transmissible, researchers have discovered.

The findings, published in Nature, show that scientists “have to start looking at mutations outside the spike,” which has so far been the main focus of vaccines and antibody drugs, said Nevan Krogan of the University of California, San Francisco.

Studying the Alpha variant, his team found a mutation at a non-spike site that causes infected cells to ramp up their production of a protein called Orf9B. Orf9b in turn disables a protein called TOM70 that cells use to send signals to the immune system.

With higher levels of Orf9B disabling TOM70, the immune system does not respond as well and the virus can better evade detection, the researchers said.

Referring to the increase in Orf9B, Krogan said, “It’s rare that mutations ‘turn up’ a protein. It’s a very sneaky thing for this virus to do.” The same mutation was identified on Delta, “and sure enough, almost the same mutation is on Omicron,” he said, which suggests they may have similar effects on the immune system. The new information could spur development of drugs that target the interaction of Orf9b and TOM70.

Click for a Reuters graphic on vaccines in development.

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Source: Covid Science: Virus leaves antibodies that may attack healthy tissues | Reuters

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