Immunology Spotlight

Blog Post

News from the field of Immunology.

Immunology Spotlight | Bentham Science

Immunology is a complex field that spans both preclinical and clinical research in medicine and drug development. The COVID-19 pandemic has also renewed interest among scientists in the immune system response to fight viruses such as SARS-CoV-2. Here is some recent news on immunology research.

Measuring COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness

We all know COVID-19 vaccines work, but in what way? Some researchers have been looking for answers. Here are a couple of recent studies.

Since implementing its national COVID-19 vaccination program in 2021, attempts to determine the effectiveness of the program have been limited. A team of researchers from Kyoto University and the Center for Surveillance, Immunization, and Epidemiologic Research, National Institute of Infectious Diseases have published a report evaluating the impact of the program.

The team used a renewal process model to study the spread of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Renewal processes are a popular approach used in modelling outbreaks. In a renewal process, previous infections give rise to future infections. The model is used to create a counterfactual scenario of ‘what could have happened’ without the vaccinations.

The researchers found that vaccinations reduced mortality rates by as much as 97%. A projection of the cumulative number of deaths from February 17 to December 30, 2021, was found to be 364,000. The study also revealed that starting the program 14 days earlier could have decreased the peak infection rates by 73%. The studies demonstrated the importance of vaccination drives against dangerous viral outbreaks such as COVID-19. Note that this is a pre-Omicron study, and the team notes that further research needs to assess the impact of similar vaccine programs during the Omicron variant outbreak.

On the other side of the world, Canadian researchers looked at data to determine whether COVID-19 mRNA vaccination during pregnancy had any adverse outcomes for newborns. A team of researchers from Ontario published a population-based cohort study of 142,006 live births in the province.

Their study revealed that maternal mRNA COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy was associated with lower risks of severe neonatal morbidity, neonatal death, and NICU admission compared with no maternal COVID-19 vaccination before delivery. These results suggest that COVID-18 vaccines are indeed safe for pregnant women in general and beneficial to the health of newborns.

Interestingly, researchers adjusted for several covariates to account for multiple factors that they hypothesized might influence maternal vaccinations. These factors included proxy parameters for health behaviors, which means that the outcomes are somewhat independent of women taking appropriate medical advice.

In a related JAMA Pediatrics editorial, the editors noted that the results of this study might impact recommendations for all other maternal mRNA vaccines currently in use or on the horizon.

Indeed, the benefits of vaccine immunization have been demonstrated before, and further reports continue to reinforce the benefits.

Nasal Vaccine for Streptococcus: Clinical trial underway

Streptococcus is a genus of bacteria that encompasses various species. Some are commensals in the human body, while others can cause a range of infections.

Streptococcal infections include strep throat, pneumonia, necrotizing fasciitis, and toxic shock syndrome. Certain streptococcal strains are also implicated in rheumatic fever and post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis, highlighting the diverse impact of these bacteria on human health. Understanding and managing streptococcal infections are crucial for preventing both mild and severe diseases associated with this bacterial group.

A team at Griffiths University Institute of Glycomics has developed a new nasal vaccine that provides long-term mucosal protection against Streptococcus A. The vaccine is a liposome-based vaccine approach incorporating a conserved M-protein epitope from Strep A and an immunostimulatory glycolipid (3D(6-acyl) PHAD). The team has studied its effects in mice, and it has been effective against all Strep A strains tested against it. A phase I human clinical trial is underway in Canada. The team has secured funding for phase II efficacy testing.

There is currently no known cure for rheumatic fever and associated heart disease. Scientists hope that this vaccine will help clinicians fight a pathogen that is responsible for more than half a million deaths worldwide.

Vaccines against Streptococcus are challenging to use due to problems of cross reactivity with the heart, at least in the case of the Dental Caries Vaccine. Nevertheless, the team at Griffiths University has its sights on a world first against Strep A if the clinical trials succeed.

Decoding COVID-19: Unravelling Diagnostic Clues Beyond Symptoms

A recent systematic review and meta-analysis, led by Milad Azami and a team from Iran, delves into the intricacies of biochemical, serological, and immunological tests for COVID-19 . The study, which analysed 51 papers and a cohort of 5,490 COVID-19 patients, aimed to clarify the often contradictory landscape of diagnostic laboratory findings.

The meta-analysis uncovered compelling insights into prevalent indicators at the time of admission. Lymphopenia, elevated CRP, ESR, serum amyloid-A, procalcitonin, interleukin-6, and TNFα emerged as common markers. Additionally, altered CD3 and CD4 levels, elevated BNP, LDH, and D-dimer, and reduced albumin and prealbumin were noted. These findings not only highlight the multifaceted nature of COVID-19 but also underscore the potential of laboratory tests beyond clinical symptoms.

We continue to navigate the complexities of pandemic diagnosis and to aim for more nuanced and accurate diagnostic approaches. This comprehensive analysis illuminates the crucial role of diverse laboratory parameters in enhancing our understanding of COVID-19.

Navigating Trade-offs: IL-6 Blockers in Collagen-Induced Arthritis

A recent study by South African researchers explored the multifaceted impact of interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor blockers in the context of collagen-induced arthritis, shedding light on their effects on lipid metabolism and liver health. In a rat model, IL-6 blockers, specifically tocilizumab, demonstrated a positive influence by mitigating inflammation-induced disruptions in lipid metabolism. Notably, reductions in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) and ATP-binding cassette transporter-A1 (ABCA1) associated with inflammation were attenuated.

However, the benefits came with a trade-off. The IL-6 blocker group exhibited signs of liver fibrosis, a concerning development not observed in the control or inflammation groups. Markers of fibrosis, such as collagen area fractions, were notably increased in the IL-6 blocker cohort. Alkaline phosphatase concentrations were also elevated in this group, suggesting liver dysfunction.

This study highlights the nuances in treatments using IL-6 blockers such as tocilizumab in clinical settings. While these blockers show promise in addressing inflammation-related lipid metabolism issues, their potential to induce liver fibrosis underscores the need for caution. The data in this study emphasize the importance of continuous liver function monitoring when employing IL-6 blockers in chronic inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.

Interested in more immunology research? Here are relevant journals from Bentham Science.

Endocrine, Metabolic & Immune Disorders - Drug Targets


Current Probiotics

Bentham Books on Immunology:

Probiotics in Anticancer Immunity

Anticancer Immunity: Reviewing the Potential of Probiotics

Herbal Immunity Boosters Against COVID-19

Toll-Like Receptors in Vector-borne Diseases

Check out the
Bentham Anti-Inflammatory Research Collection.

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