Top 10: January 18

Copy-editor: Rob Camp


Faria NR, Claro IM, Candido D, et al. Genomic characterisation of an emergent SARS-CoV-2 lineage in Manaus: preliminary findings. 2021, posted 12 January. Full-text:

A new variant (P.1, descendent of B.1.1.28) was circulating in December 2020 in Manaus, Amazonas state, and was identified in 42% (13 out of 31) of RT-PCR positive samples collected between 15 and 23 December. These findings indicate local transmission and possibly recent increase in the frequency of a new lineage from the Amazon region. P.1 contains several mutations of known biological importance such as E484K, K417T, and N501Y. Read also Kupferschmidt K. New coronavirus variants could cause more reinfections, require updated vaccines. Nature 2021, published 15 January. Full-text:



Haynes WA, Kamath K, Lucas C, Shon J, Iwasaki A. Impact of B.1.1.7 variant mutations on antibody recognition of linear SARS-CoV-2 epitopes. medRxiv 2021, posted 8 January. Full-text:

The B.1.1.7 strain circulating within the UK has raised public concerns about potential for re-infection and vaccine efficacy due to possible evasion from antibody recognition. Here, Akiko Iwasaki, Winston Haynes and colleagues suggest that the mutations might not result in immune evasion for a large majority of COVID patients.


Cohen AA, Gnanapragasam PNP, Lee YE, et al. Mosaic nanoparticles elicit cross-reactive immune responses to zoonotic coronaviruses in mice. Science. 2021 Jan 12:eabf6840. PubMed: Full-text:

A single immunization with mosaic-RBD-nanoparticles provides a potential strategy to protect against SARS-CoV-2 and other emerging zoonotic coronaviruses. The authors confirm that multimerization of receptor-binding domains on nanoparticles enhances immunogenicity compared with soluble antigen.


Koenig PA, Das H, Liu H, et al. Structure-guided multivalent nanobodies block SARS-CoV-2 infection and suppress mutational escape. Science. 2021 Jan 12:eabe6230. PubMed: Full-text:

Nanobodies may represent a versatile and less costly alternative to conventional antibodies for passive immunization against SARS-CoV-2. They are efficiently produced in prokaryotic expression systems at low cost and exhibit favorable biophysical properties including high thermostability. Here, Paul-Albert König et al. from the University of Bonn, Germany, designed multivalent nanobody constructs based on epitope mapping data by SPR and X-ray crystallography, as well as extensive information on the conformation of spike:nanobody complexes determined by cryo-EM.



Topol EJ. Messenger RNA vaccines against SARS-CoV-2. Cell 2021, published 16 January. Access:

The first two vaccines proven to be effective for inhibiting COVID-19 illness were both mRNA, achieving 95% efficacy (and safety) among 74.000 participants (half receiving placebo) after intramuscular delivery of two shots, 3–4 weeks apart. A one-page summary by Eric Topol.



Vogl T, Leviatan S, Segal E. SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing for estimating COVID-19 prevalence in the population. Cell Reports Med 2021, published 14 January. Full-text:

ELISAs/CLIAs appear currently as the method of choice for monitoring the population-wide spread of SARS-CoV-2 in a post-lockdown world. This is the conclusion of Eran Segal, Thomas Vogl and Sigal Leviatan who review different types of antibody tests and their application for population-scale testing.



Lechien JR, Chiesa-Estomba CM, Beckers E, et al. Prevalence and 6-month recovery of olfactory dysfunction: a multicentre study of 1363 COVID-19 patients. J Intern Med. 2021 Jan 5. PubMed: Full-text:

Olfactory dysfunction (OD) is more prevalent in mild COVID‐19 forms than in moderate‐to‐critical forms. Of 1363 patients, 328 (24,1%) did not subjectively recover olfaction 60 days after the onset of the dysfunction. The mean duration of self‐reported OD was 21,6 ± 17,9 days. The higher baseline severity of objective olfactory evaluations was strongly predictive of persistent OD (p < 0.001).


Severe COVID

Silva J, Lucas C, Sundaram M, et al. Saliva viral load is a dynamic unifying correlate of COVID-19 severity and mortality. medRxiv. 2021 Jan 10:2021.01.04.21249236. PubMed: Full-text:

Saliva viral load was significantly higher in those with COVID-19 risk factors and correlated with increasing levels of disease severity and showed a superior ability over nasopharyngeal viral load as a predictor of mortality over time. This is the message by Akiko Iwasaki, Julio Silva and colleagues who studied 154 patients admitted to Yale-New Haven hospital between March and June of 2020. Saliva viral load was positively associated with many known COVID-19 inflammatory markers such as IL-6, IL-18, IL-10, and CXCL10, as well as type 1 immune response cytokines. The authors conclude that viral load measured by saliva is a dynamic unifying correlate of disease presentation, severity, and mortality over time.


Collateral Effects

Wang J, Li Y, Musch DC, et al. Progression of Myopia in School-Aged Children After COVID-19 Home Confinement. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2021 Jan 14. PubMed: Full-text:

Home confinement during the COVID-19 pandemic may have been associated with a substantial myopic shift for younger school-aged children (6-8 years). In this cross-sectional study of 123.535 children, Xuehan Qian, Jiaxing Wang and colleagues found that the prevalence of myopia increased 1,4 to 3 times in 2020 compared with the previous 5 years. See also the comment by Klaver CCW, Polling JR, Enthoven CA. 2020 as the Year of Quarantine Myopia. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2021 Jan 14. PubMed: Full-text:



Bleich SN, Ard JD. COVID-19, obesity, and structural racism: Understanding the past and identifying solutions for the future. Cell Metabol 2021, published 13 January. Full-text:

Longstanding systemic inequalities – fueling unequal access to critical resources such as healthcare, housing, education, and employment opportunities – are largely responsible for the significant race disparities in obesity and COVID-19. Sara Bleich and Jamy Ard analyze lines of future action.



Levin S. ‘The horror stories are countless’: inside the LA hospital at the center of the Covid crisis. The Guardian 2021, 12 January. Full-text:

Los Angeles sees a person infected every six seconds. In a predominantly Latino neighborhood, Martin Luther King Jr community hospital faces ‘a sea of illness’.



If you read Spanish, read Ansede, M. De discoteca a epicentro de la lucha contra la pandemia. El País 2021, published 17 January. Full-text:

El médico argentino Fernando Polack lidera las pruebas de la vacuna de Pfizer desde una organización científica situada en un antiguo local de baile.


Ford T, Schweik CM. La odisea de la cadena de suministro en frío y de la vacuna de la covid-19 para llegar a todas partes. El País 2021, published 17 January. Full-text:

En interés de la salud global y por pura justicia social, las dosis de inmunización deben distribuirse con igualdad entre las poblaciones con menos recursos. Pero en muchos países del mundo preservarlas congeladas es imposible.

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