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biorxiv; 2023.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2023.01.07.523115


Wild animals are naturally infected with a range of viruses, some of which may be zoonotic for humans. During the human COIVD pandemic there was also the possibility of rodents acquiring SARS-CoV-2 from people, so-called reverse zoonoses. To investigate this we have sampled rats (Rattus norvegicus) and mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) from urban environments in 2020 during the human COVID-19 pandemic. We metagenomically sequenced lung and gut tissue and faeces for viruses, PCR screened for SARS-CoV-2, and serologically surveyed for anti-SARS-CoV-2 Spike antibodies. We describe the range of viruses that we found in these two rodent species. We found no molecular evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection, though in rats we found lung antibody responses and evidence of neutralisation ability, that are consistent with rats being exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and / or exposed to other viruses that result in cross-reactive antibodies.

researchsquare; 2022.


Despite intensive research since the emergence of SARS-CoV-2, it has remained unclear precisely which components of the early immune response protect against the development of severe COVID-19. To address this issue, we performed a comprehensive immunogenetic and virologic analysis of nasopharyngeal and peripheral blood samples obtained during the acute phase of infection with SARS-CoV-2. We found that soluble and transcriptional markers of systemic inflammation peaked during the first week after symptom onset and correlated directly with the upper airways viral loads (UA-VLs), whereas the contemporaneous frequencies of circulating viral nucleocapsid (NC)-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cells correlated inversely with various inflammatory markers and UA-VLs. In addition, we observed high frequencies of activated CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in acutely infected nasopharyngeal tissue, many of which expressed genes encoding various effector molecules, such as cytotoxic proteins and IFN-γ. The presence of functionally active T cells in the infected epithelium was further linked with common patterns of gene expression among virus-susceptible target cells and better local control of SARS-CoV-2. Collectively, these results identified an immune correlate of protection against SARS-CoV-2, which could inform the development of more effective vaccines to combat the acute and chronic illnesses attributable to COVID-19.

Inflammation , COVID-19
medrxiv; 2020.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2020.04.29.20085308


Chloroquine (CQ) and Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) have been proposed to be effective at treating COVID-19 patients. We, and others, have previously reported on the capacity of CQ to reduce HIV-1 replication in vitro . We tested CQ administration in post-partum mothers on influencing HIV-1 viral loads in human milk as a means of lowering mother to child transmission. A Phase I/II, randomized, placebo-controlled study to evaluate chloroquine administration to reduce HIV-1 RNA levels in human milk: the CHARGE study. Thirty HIV-1 positive pregnant Rwandese women (CQ n = 20; placebo n = 10) were enrolled in a 16-week study, with the treatment group receiving a 200 mg oral dose of CQ daily. Base-line plasma viral load (pVL) measurements and CD4 counts were determined prior to delivery, and pVL, breast milk VL (bmVL) and CQ levels measured during treatment. For women receiving treatment, CQ concentration was higher in breast milk compared to plasma (over 2.5-fold), with a positive correlation between the levels in the two compartments (P < 0.003). A link between high CQ concentrations in plasma and high CD4 counts ( P < 0.001) was observed. Surprisingly, we found a significant increase in pVL after CQ treatment in over half of the mothers (n=11; P < 0.001) and with no alteration to bmVL measurements. No specific amino acid alterations in the gp120 envelope sequences could be associated with CQ administration. CQ usage is associated with a significant increase to pVL in early breastfeeding mothers from Rwanda which cautions against the use of CQ in such individuals. Our results highlight a discrepancy between CQ effects on modulating HIV-1 replication in vitro versus in vivo and indicate caution when prescribing CQ to postpartum HIV-1 untreated mothers. This discrepancy should be taken into consideration when testing CQ or HCQ treatment in COVID-19 clinical trials, especially relating to the post-partum setting.

HIV Infections , Postpartum Hemorrhage , COVID-19