Pregnant women being infected at higher rates; COVID-19 from UK variant lasting longer

Nancy Lapid By

(Reuters) - This is a follow-up on some of the new research reports on novel coronaviruses and attempts to discover COVID-19 therapy and virus-causing disease vaccines.

Higher numbers of pregnant women contaminated with COVID-19

According to new evidence, pregnant women become infected with the new coronavirus at higher rates than other adults.

Researchers found that 14 cases of COVID-19 were found for every 1,000 pregnant women between March and June, compared to 7 cases for every 1,000 non-pregnant adults 20 to 39.

According to a paper in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, COVID-19 was 70% higher in pregnant women than in non-pregnant adults when taking into account other risk factors.

Among non-white racial/ethnic groups, pregnant women were especially vulnerable.

The percentage of COVID-19 pregnancies in the most racial and ethnic minority communities during the pandemic study era was two to four times higher than in all women in Washington State, who gave live births in 2018.

Moreover, while people seeking medical attention in a language other than English make up approximately 8% of the general population, they accounted for approximately 30% of pregnant women with COVID-19.

Furthermore, the recent study "strongly suggests that pregnant people should be broadly prioritized for COVID-19 vaccine allocation," the researchers concluded.


Variant found in Great Britain can cause longer infections

The explanation the coronavirus strain initially discovered in the United Kingdom is more transmissible than previous virus variants may be because it takes more time to transmit the virus among infected individuals, according to a small report.

Researchers measured viral loads daily in 65 COVID-19 patients, including 7 patients who had UK variant infections.

The amount of viruses borne by patients in both categories was identical.

However, for persons infected with the variant B.1.1.7, the average period of infection in an older form was 13.3 days compared to 8.2 days.

The duration before viral loads peaked was also longer for the UK variant: 5.3 days, compared with 2 days before.

"The findings are preliminary, as they are based on seven B.1.1.7 cases," the researchers noted in a paper on the website of Harvard University after being checked by peers.

"However, if borne out by additional data, a longer isolation period than the currently recommended 10 days after symptom onset may be needed to effectively interrupt secondary infections by this variant," they added.


Greater associations are made between some mutant viruses and infected cells

Scientists are learning more about what may make the vaccines and antibody therapies found in South Africa and Brazil less vulnerable.

Researchers now know that the E484K is a troubling mutant of these variants.

A recent research showed that the variant has "more favorable electrostatic interactions," or electric loads after a virus spike cuts through cell receptors, reinforcing bands that keep it securely bound to the infected cell.

Moreover, in the E484K mutation region, the structure of the spike protein varies according to an analysis on bioRxiv on Wednesday before the peer review, helping the spike bind closer to the "receptor" positions of the infected cells.

The authors further confirmed that six antibodies to neutralize other E484K variants are considerably less successful.

They noticed this mostly because the electrical charges connecting the anticorps to the spike are not high enough.

They state that these results are "of great significance" for the production of safe vaccines and antibodies.


Female sex hormones can assist males with COVID-19 in hospital

During the pandemic, men were more vulnerable to serious diseases and death than women.

In a limited pilot safety trial 42 men received injections of either female hormone progesterone under the skin twice a day and routine therapy alone to see if the female hormone could dampen the inflammatory cascade that contributes to serious lung injuries in COVID-19.

No adverse side effects have been reported and overall health condition of men who got progesterone has increased.

Three fewer days of extra oxygen were required for men treated with progesterone and 2,5 fewer days were taken to hospital relative to men without female hormone, although these variations were not statistical.

"This proof of concept pilot trial showed very encouraging outcome data, suggesting that administration of progesterone ... may represent a safe and effective approach to treatment of COVID-19" researchers said in the study published on Saturday in Chest.


Open for a Reuters graphic on producing vaccines in an external tab.

(Nancy Lapid reporting; Bill Berkrot editing)