From The NIH: The Director’s Blog
The National Institutes of Health (@NIH), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the nation’s medical research agency — making important discoveries that improve health and save lives.
About the NIH Director
Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. (@NIHDirector) was appointed the 16th Director of NIH by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate. He was sworn in on August 17, 2009. In this role, Dr. Collins oversees the work of the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world, spanning the spectrum from basic to clinical research. Here are some excerpts from the his latest blog posts with links to read in entirety.
Infections with ‘U.K Variant’ B.1.1.7 Have Greater Risk of Mortality
Since the genome sequence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, was first reported in January 2020, thousands of variants have been reported. In the vast majority of cases, these variants, which arise from random genomic changes as SARS-CoV-2 makes copies of itself in an infected person, haven’t raised any alarm among public health officials. But that’s now changed with the emergence of at least three variants carrying mutations that potentially make them even more dangerous.
At the top of this short list is a variant known as B.1.1.7, first detected in the United Kingdom in September 2020. This variant is considerably more contagious than the original virus. It has spread rapidly around the globe and likely accounts already for at least one-third of all cases in the United States. Now comes more troubling news: emerging evidence indicates that infection with this B.1.1.7 variant also comes with an increased risk of severe illness and death.
Predicting ‘Long COVID Syndrome’ with Help of a Smartphone App
As devastating as this pandemic has been, it’s truly inspiring to see the many innovative ways in which researchers around the world have enlisted the help of everyday citizens to beat COVID-19. An intriguing example is the COVID Symptom Study’s smartphone-based app, which already has been downloaded millions of times, mostly in the United States and United Kingdom. Analyzing data from 2.6 million app users, researchers published a paper last summer showing that self-reported symptoms can help to predict infection with SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
New work from the COVID Symptom Study now takes advantage of the smartphone app to shed more light on Long COVID Syndrome, in which people experience a constellation of symptoms long past the time that they’ve recovered from the initial stages of COVID-19 illness. Such symptoms, which can include fatigue, shortness of breath, “brain fog,” sleep disorders, fevers, gastrointestinal symptoms, anxiety, and depression, can persist for months and can range from mild to incapacitating.
Finding New Ways to Fight Coronavirus … From Studying Bats
David Veesler has spent nearly 20 years imaging in near-atomic detail the parts of various viruses, including coronaviruses, that enable them to infect Homo sapiens. In fact, his lab at the University of Washington, Seattle, was the first to elucidate the 3D architecture of the now infamous spike protein, which coronaviruses use to gain entry into human cells . He uses these fundamental insights to guide the design of vaccines and therapeutics, including promising monoclonal antibodies.
Now, Veesler and his lab are turning to another mammal in their search for new leads for the next generation of antiviral treatments, including ones aimed at the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2. With support from a 2020 NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, Veesler will study members of the order Chiroptera. Or, more colloquially, bats.