212 posts

Lethality of the Omicron Variant

Zachary Strasser, Aboozar Hadavand, Shawn Murphy, Hossein Estiri: SARS-CoV-2 Omicron Variant is as Deadly as Previous Waves After Adjusting for Vaccinations, Demographics, and Comorbidities [Preprint], in: Research Square (May 4, 2022), online in: Abstract The B.1.1.529 (Omicron) variant of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has previously been reported as more transmissible, but less severe than other SARS-CoV-2 variants. To test this assumption, the authors linked state-level vaccination data with quality-controlled electronic health records from a large healthcare system, including 13 hospitals, in Massachusetts, USA. The authors then performed a weighted case-control study to compare risks of hospital […]

Effect of Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions on the Economy

Sergio Correira, Stepahn Luck, Emil Verner: Pandemics Depress the Economy, Public Health Interventions Do Not: Evidence from the 1918 Flu, in: SSRN (June 5, 2020), online in: The authors studied the impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) on mortality and economic activity across U.S. cities during the 1918 Flu Pandemic. The combination of fast and stringent NPIs reduced peak mortality by 50% and cumulative excess mortality by 24% to 34%. However, while the pandemic itself was associated with short-run economic disruptions, the authors found that these disruptions were similar across cities with strict and lenient NPIs. NPIs also did not […]

Overcoming antigenic shift

Elisabetta Cameroni et al.: Broadly neutralizing antibodies overcome SARS-CoV-2 Omicron antigenic shift, in: Nature 602 (February 2022), pp. 664–670, online in: Abstract The recently emerged SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant encodes 37 amino acid substitutions in the spike protein, 15 of which are in the receptor-binding domain (RBD), thereby raising concerns about the effectiveness of available vaccines and antibody-based therapeutics. In this study, the authors show that the Omicron RBD binds to human ACE2 with enhanced affinity, relative to the Wuhan-Hu-1 RBD, and binds to mouse ACE2. Marked reductions in neutralizing activity were observed against Omicron compared to the ancestral pseudovirus […]

The Influenza Pandemic in Japan

Masato Shizume: The Great Influenza Pandemic in Japan: Policy Responses and Socioeconomic Consequences, in: RIEB Discussion Paper Series No. 2022-27 (June 7, 2022). This paper explores the socioeconomic consequences of the 1918-1920 Great Influenza Pandemic (GIP) in Japan. First, it reviews the chronological and geographical patterns of the disease’s spread and policy responses by the government. It then employs panel analyses to test the quantitative effects of the pandemic on socioeconomic indicators such as population growth, factory employment, and capital formation. The study finds that 1) Japan was hit by the pandemic twice, once in the winter of 1918-1919 and […]

Smallpox & Stillbirths

Eric B. Schneider, Sören Edvinsson, Kota Ogasawara: Did smallpox cause stillbirths? Maternal smallpox infection, vaccination and stillbirths in Sweden, 1780-1839, in: London School of Economics. Economic History Working Papers No. 340 (May 2022). In 2009, Robert Woods argued that smallpox was an important cause of stillbirths in the past. While there is strong evidence that maternal smallpox infection could lead to fetal loss, it is not clear whether smallpox infections were a demographically important source of stillbirths. In this paper, the authors use parish-level data from the Swedish Tabellverket dataset from 1780 to 1839 to test the effect of smallpox […]

Predicting Mutations

M. Cyrus Maher et al. (ed.): Predicting the mutational drivers of future SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, in: Science Translational Medicine 14, Nr. 633 (January 11, 2022) S. 1-10, online in: Abstract SARS-CoV-2 evolution threatens vaccine- and natural infection–derived immunity and the efficacy of therapeutic antibodies. To improve public health preparedness, the authors sought to predict which existing amino acid mutations in SARS-CoV-2 might contribute to future variants of concern. They tested the predictive value of features comprising epidemiology, evolution, immunology, and neural network–based protein sequence modeling and identified primary biological drivers of SARS-CoV-2 intrapandemic evolution. The authors found evidence […]

Effectiveness of a Fourth Dose

Peter Nordström, Marcel Ballin, Anna Nordström: Effectiveness of a fourth dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine against all-cause mortality in long-term care facility residents and in the oldest old: A nationwide, retrospective cohort study in Sweden, in: The Lancet Regional Health – Europe (July 13, 2022), online in: Summary Background The effect of a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine on the risk of death in the oldest and frailest individuals is unknown. Methods Two matched cohorts were formed using Swedish nationwide registers. In the first, residents of long-term care facilities (LTCFs) given a fourth dose of an mRNA vaccine from […]

14.9 Million Excess Deaths

WHO (ed.): 14.9 million excess deaths associated with the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, in: (May 5, 2022). Estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that the total number of deaths directly or indirectly associated with the COVID-19 pandemic (described as “excess mortality”) between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021, will be about 14.9 million. (Range 13.3 million to 16.6 million). The highest excess mortality was concentrated in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas, with 68% of excess mortality recorded in just 10 countries. Middle-income countries (81%) were particularly affected, in contrast to high-income (15%) and […]

Waiting for the Omicron Vaccine

BRISANT: Wann kommt der Corona-Impfstoff gegen die Omikron-Variante? [When will the Corona vaccine against the omicron variant be available?], in:, June 5, 2022. The Standing Committee on Vaccination at the Robert Koch Institute (STIKO) recommends a fourth vaccination against the Corona virus for groups at particular risk. Although the vaccine adapted to omicron could be delivered since the end of March, data for approval by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) were still missing in June 2022. The author explains why vaccines adapted to different variants are necessary and the steps involved in developing an adapted vaccine.

Omicron Vaccine Delivery Delay

Angela Göpfert: Omikron-Booster kommen später – oder nie [Omicron boosters come later – or never], in:, February 17, 2022. In her article published in February 2022, the author addresses the delay in delivery of a vaccine against the omicron variant that existed at that time. In February, the omicron wave seemed to have already passed its peak, which is why the author questioned the usefulness of an omicron-specific vaccine. First study results had shown that mRNA vaccines directed against the omicron variant would not work any better than the already approved vaccines. In order to save money and resources, […]

Efficacy of Antiviral Agents

Emi Takashita et al.: Efficacy of Antiviral Agents against the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron Subvariant BA.2, in: New England Journal of Medicine Vol. 386, Issue 15 (April 14, 2022) pp. 1475-1477, online in: In their letter to the editor, the authors report on their study looking at the efficacy of monoclonal antibodies against the omicron subvariants. They conclude that both etesevimab and bamlanivimab have lost neutralizing activity against the omicron subvariant BA.2. Imdevimab, which had no neutralizing activity against BA.1, however, has neutralizing activity against BA.2. Casirivimab inhibited BA.2 but not BA.1 or BA.1.1. Tixagevimab and cilgavimab neutralized BA. 2 with […]

Global Impact of the First Year of Vaccination

Oliver J. Watson et al.: Global impact of the first year of COVID-19 vaccination: a mathematical modelling study, in: The Lancet Infectious Diseases (published online June 23, 2022), online in: Summary Background The first COVID-19 vaccine outside a clinical trial setting was administered on Dec 8, 2020. To ensure global vaccine equity, vaccine targets were set by the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility and WHO. However, due to vaccine shortfalls, these targets were not achieved by the end of 2021. The authors aimed to quantify the global impact of the first year of COVID-19 vaccination programmes. Methods A […]

Area-Level Socioeconomic Deprivation

Sven Rohleder u. a.: Area-level socioeconomic deprivation, non-national residency, and Covid-19 incidence: A longitudinal spatiotemporal analysis in Germany Summary, in: eClincalMedicine (June 13, 2022), online: Summary Background Socioeconomic conditions affect the dynamics of the Covid-19 pandemic. The authors analysed the association between area-level socioeconomic deprivation, proportion of non-nationals, and incidence of Covid-19 infections in Germany. Methods Using linked nationally representative data at the level of 401 German districts from three waves of infection (January-2020 to May-2021), the authors fitted Bayesian spatiotemporal models to assess the association between socioeconomic deprivation, and proportion of non-nationals with Covid-19 incidence, controlling for age, […]

Omicron Subvariants and Monoclonal Antibodies

Daichi Yamasoba u. a.: Sensitivity of novel SARS-CoV-2 Omicron subvariants, BA.2.11, BA.2.12.1, BA.4 and BA.5 to therapeutic monoclonal antibodies [Preprint], in: bioRxiv. The Preprint Server for Biology (May 3, 2022), online in: Abstract In May 2022, Omicron BA.2 variant was the most dominant variant in the world. Thereafter, Omicron subvariants have emerged and some of them began outcompeting BA.2 in multiple countries. For instance, Omicron BA.2.11, BA.2.12.1 and BA.4/5 subvariants are becoming dominant in France, the USA and South Africa, respectively. In this study, the authors evaluated the sensitivity of these new Omicron subvariants (BA.2.11, BA.2.12.1 and BA.4/5) to […]

Neutralization of BA.1 and BA.2 by vaccines.

John E. Bowen et al.: Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 neutralizing activity elicited by a comprehensive panel of human vaccines [Preprint], in: bioRxiv. The Preprint Server for Biology (March 16, 2022), online in: Abstract At the time of publication of the study, the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant of concern comprises three sublineages designated BA.1, BA.2, and BA.3, with BA.2 steadily replacing the currently globally dominant BA.1. The authors show that the large number of BA.1 and BA.2 spike mutations severely dampen plasma neutralizing activity elicited by infection or seven clinical vaccines, with cross-neutralization of BA.2 being consistently more potent than that […]

Immune Escape of BA.4/BA.5

Khadija Khan et al.: Omicron sub-lineages BA.4/BA.5 escape BA.1 infection elicited neutralizing immunity, in: medRxiv (May 1, 2022), online in: Abstract The SARS-CoV-2 Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant first emerged as the BA.1 sub-lineage, with extensive escape from neutralizing immunity elicited by previous infection with other variants, vaccines, or combinations of both. Two new sub-lineages, BA.4 and BA.5, were emerging in South Africa with changes relative to BA.1, including L452R and F486V mutations in the spike receptor binding domain. The authors isolated live BA.4 and BA.5 viruses and tested them against neutralizing immunity elicited to BA.1 infection in participants who were […]

Neutralization Escape by Omicron Variants

Nicole P. Hachmann u. a.: Neutralization Escape by the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron Variants BA.2.12.1 and BA.4/BA.5 [Preprint], in: (May 19, 2022), online in: Abstract Multiple lineages of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) have emerged, and BA.1 and BA.2 have demonstrated substantial escape from neutralizing antibodies (NAbs). BA.2.12.1 has now become dominant in the United States, and BA.4 and BA.5 have become dominant in South Africa. The authors’ data show that BA.2.12.1 and BA.4/BA.5 substantially escape NAbs induced by both vaccination and infection. Moreover, BA.4/BA.5 NAb titers, and to lesser extent BA.2.12.1 NAb titers, were lower than BA.1 and BA.2 […]

Immune Escape of Omicron Sublineages

Xiaoliang Sunney Xie, Yunlong Cao et al: BA.2.12.1, BA.4 and BA.5 escape antibodies elicited by Omicron infection, in: bioRxiv (June 14, 2022), online in: Abstract SARS-CoV-2 Omicron sublineages BA.2.12.1, BA.4 and BA.5 exhibit higher transmissibility over BA.2. The new variants’ receptor binding and immune evasion capability require immediate investigation. In this study, coupled with Spike structural comparisons, the authors show that BA.2.12.1 and BA.4/BA.5 exhibit comparable ACE2-binding affinities to BA.2. Importantly, BA.2.12.1 and BA.4/BA.5 display stronger neutralization evasion than BA.2 against the plasma from 3-dose vaccination and, most strikingly, from post-vaccination BA.1 infections. To delineate the underlying antibody evasion […]

Omicron & Delta Comparison

Gunadi et al: Comparative analysis of the outcomes of COVID-19 between patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 Omicron and Delta variants: a retrospective cohort study [Preprint], in: medRxiv (May 3, 2022), online in: Abstract Background The SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant has replaced the previously dominant Delta variant because of high transmissibility. It is responsible for the current increase in the COVID-19 infectivity rate worldwide. However, studies on the impact of the Omicron variant on the severity of COVID-19 are still limited in developing countries. In this study, the authors compared the outcomes of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 Omicron and Delta variants and […]

Subvariants & Immune Evasion

Gretchen Vogel: New Subvariants are masters of immune evasion, in: Science 376, Issue 6594 (May 13, 2022), pp. 679-680, online in: In her article, Gretchen Vogel highlights the immune invasion of the Omicron sublines. While the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants caused a surge in cases in South Africa, the BA.2.12.1 subvariant is spreading on the East Coast of the United States. All three variants, like earlier Omikron versions, have the remarkable ability to evade immunity acquired through vaccination or infection. However, vaccinations and previous infections at least protect against severe disease in most cases, so while the new strains […]