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medrxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2022.10.13.22281024


Age is a major risk factor for hospitalization and death after SARS-CoV-2 infection, even in vaccinees. Suboptimal responses to a primary vaccination course have been reported in the elderly, but there is little information regarding the impact of age on responses to booster third doses. Here we show that individuals 70 or older who received a primary two dose schedule with AZD1222 and booster third dose with mRNA vaccine achieved significantly lower neutralizing antibody responses against SARS-CoV-2 spike pseudotyped virus compared to those younger than 70. One month after the booster neither the concentration of serum binding anti spike IgG antibody, nor the frequency of spike-specific B cells showed differences by age grouping. However, the impaired neutralization potency and breadth post-third dose in the elderly was associated with enrichment of circulating atypical spike-specific B cells expressing CD11c and FCRL5. Single cell RNA sequencing confirmed an expansion of TBX21-, ITGAX-expressing B cells in the elderly that enriched for B cell activation/receptor signalling pathway genes. Importantly we also observed impaired T cell responses to SARS-CoV-2 spike peptides in the elderly post-booster, both in terms of IFNgamma and IL2 secretion, as well as a decrease in T cell receptor signalling pathway genes. This expansion of atypical B cells and impaired T cell responses may contribute to the generation of less affinity-matured antibodies, with lower neutralizing capacity post-third dose in the elderly. Altogether, our data reveal the extent and potential mechanistic underpinning of the impaired vaccine responses present in the elderly after a booster dose, contributing to their increased susceptibility to COVID-19 infection.

researchsquare; 2021.


The SARS-CoV-2 B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant was first identified in the state of Maharashtra in late 2020 and has spread throughout India, displacing the B.1.1.7 (Alpha) variant and other pre-existing lineages. Mathematical modelling indicates that the growth advantage is most likely explained by a combination of increased transmissibility and immune evasion. Indeed in vitro, the delta variant is less sensitive to neutralising antibodies in sera from recovered individuals, with higher replication efficiency as compared to the Alpha variant. In an analysis of vaccine breakthrough in over 100 healthcare workers across three centres in India, the Delta variant not only dominates vaccine-breakthrough infections with higher respiratory viral loads compared to non-delta infections (Ct value of 16.5 versus 19), but also generates greater transmission between HCW as compared to B.1.1.7 or B.1.617.1 (p=0.02). In vitro, the Delta variant shows 8 fold approximately reduced sensitivity to vaccine-elicited antibodies compared to wild type Wuhan-1 bearing D614G. Serum neutralising titres against the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant were significantly lower in participants vaccinated with ChadOx-1 as compared to BNT162b2 (GMT 3372 versus 654, p<0001). These combined epidemiological and in vitro data indicate that the dominance of the Delta variant in India has been most likely driven by a combination of evasion of neutralising antibodies in previously infected individuals and increased virus infectivity. Whilst severe disease in fully vaccinated HCW was rare, breakthrough transmission clusters in hospitals associated with the Delta variant are concerning and indicate that infection control measures need continue in the post-vaccination era.

medrxiv; 2020.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2020.12.05.20241927


SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein is critical for virus infection via engagement of ACE2, and amino acid variation in Spike is increasingly appreciated. Given both vaccines and therapeutics are designed around Wuhan-1 Spike, this raises the theoretical possibility of virus escape, particularly in immunocompromised individuals where prolonged viral replication occurs. Here we report chronic SARS-CoV-2 with reduced sensitivity to neutralising antibodies in an immune suppressed individual treated with convalescent plasma, generating whole genome ultradeep sequences by both short and long read technologies over 23 time points spanning 101 days. Although little change was observed in the overall viral population structure following two courses of remdesivir over the first 57 days, N501Y in Spike was transiently detected at day 55 and V157L in RdRp emerged. However, following convalescent plasma we observed large, dynamic virus population shifts, with the emergence of a dominant viral strain bearing D796H in S2 and{Delta} H69/{Delta}V70 in the S1 N-terminal domain NTD of the Spike protein. As passively transferred serum antibodies diminished, viruses with the escape genotype diminished in frequency, before returning during a final, unsuccessful course of convalescent plasma. In vitro, the Spike escape double mutant bearing{Delta} H69/{Delta}V70 and D796H conferred decreased sensitivity to convalescent plasma, whilst maintaining infectivity similar to wild type. D796H appeared to be the main contributor to decreased susceptibility, but incurred an infectivity defect. The{Delta} H69/{Delta}V70 single mutant had two-fold higher infectivity compared to wild type and appeared to compensate for the reduced infectivity of D796H. Consistent with the observed mutations being outside the RBD, monoclonal antibodies targeting the RBD were not impacted by either or both mutations, but a non RBD binding monoclonal antibody was less potent against{Delta} H69/{Delta}V70 and the double mutant. These data reveal strong selection on SARS-CoV-2 during convalescent plasma therapy associated with emergence of viral variants with reduced susceptibility to neutralising antibodies.

medrxiv; 2020.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2020.05.31.20114520


BackgroundThere is urgent need for safe and efficient triage protocols for hospitalized COVID-19 suspects to appropriate isolation wards. A major barrier to timely discharge of patients from the emergency room and hospital is the turnaround time for many SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid tests. We validated a point of care nucleic acid amplification based platform SAMBA II for diagnosis of COVID-19 and performed an implementation study to assess its impact on patient disposition at a major academic hospital. MethodsWe prospectively recruited COVID-19 suspects admitted to hospital (NCT04326387). In an initial pilot phase, individuals were tested using a nasal/throat swab with the SAMBA II SARS-CoV-2 rapid diagnostic platform in parallel with a combined nasal/throat swab for standard central laboratory RT-PCR testing. In the second implementation phase, we examined the utility of adding the SAMBA platform to routine care. In the pilot phase, we measured concordance and assay validity using the central laboratory as the reference standard and assessed assay turnaround time. In the implementation phase, we assessed 1) time to definitive bed placement from admission, 2) time spent on COVID-19 holding wards, 3) proportion of patients in isolation versus COVID negative areas following a test, comparing the implementation phase with the 10 days prior to implementation. ResultsIn phase I, 149 participants were included in the pilot. By central laboratory RT-PCR testing, 32 (21.5%) tested positive and 117 (78.5%). Sensitivity and specificity of the SAMBA assay compared to RT-PCR lab test were 96.9% (95% CI 0.838-0.999) and 99.1% (0.953-0.999), respectively. Median time to result was 2.6 hours (IQR 2.3 to 4.8) for SAMBA II SARS-CoV-2 test and 26.4 hours (IQR 21.4 to 31.4) for the standard lab RT-PCR test (p<0.001). In the first 10 days of the SAMBA implementation phase, we conducted 992 tests, with the majority (59.8%) used for hospital admission, and the remainder for pre-operative screening (11.3%), discharge planning (10%), in-hospital screening of new symptoms (9.7%). Comparing the pre-implementation (n=599) with the implementation phase, median time to definitive bed placement from admission was reduced from 23.4 hours (8.6-41.9) to 17.1 hours (9.0-28.8), P=0.02 in Cox analysis, adjusted for age, sex, comorbidities and clinical severity at presentation. Mean length of stay on a COVID-19 holding ward decreased from 58.5 hours to 29.9 hours (P<0.001). Use of single occupancy rooms amongst those tested fell from 30.8% before to 21.2% (P=0.03) and 11 hospital bay closures (on average 6 beds each) were avoided after implementation of the POC assay. ConclusionsThe SAMBA II SARS-CoV-2 rapid assay performed well compared to a centralized laboratory RT-PCR platform and demonstrated shorter time to result both in trial and real-world settings. It was also associated with faster time to definitive bed placement from the emergency room, greater availability of isolation rooms, avoidance of hospital bay closures, and greater movement of patients to COVID negative open "green" category wards. Rapid testing in hospitals has the potential to transform ability to deal with the COVID-19 epidemic.