Top 10: January 28

Copy-editor: Rob Camp


* * * Paper of the Day * * *

Brouwer JM, Brinkkemper M, Maisonnasse P, et al. Two-component spike nanoparticle vaccine protects macaques from SARS-CoV-2 infection. Cell 2021, published 25 January. Full-text:

Rogier Sanders, Philip Brouwer and colleagues present a two-component protein-based nanoparticle vaccine that displays twenty copies of pre-fusion SARS-CoV-2 S protein, capable of inducing potent neutralizing antibody responses in 400 in mice, rabbits and cynomolgus macaques. The vaccine-induced immunity protected macaques against a high dose challenge, resulting in strongly reduced viral infection and replication in upper and lower airways.


Muik A, Wallisch AK, Sänger B, et al. Neutralization of SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.7 pseudovirus by BNT162b2 vaccine-elicited human sera. bioRxiv 2021, posted 19 January. Full-text:

Good news from the variants vaccine front. Ugur Sahin, Alexander Muik and colleagues report that after analyzing immune sera from individuals vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (Comirnaty™), it seems unlikely that the (“UK”) B.1.1.7 variant will escape vaccine-mediated protection. The authors investigated SARS-CoV-2-S pseudoviruses bearing either the Wuhan reference strain or the B.1.1.7 lineage spike protein with the sera of 16 participants in a previously reported trial with the mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty™. The immune sera had equivalent neutralizing titers to both variants.


Wu K, Werner AP, Moliva JI, et al. mRNA-1273 vaccine induces neutralizing antibodies against spike mutants from global SARS-CoV-2 variants. bioRxiv 2021, published 25 January. Full-text:

Good news from another variants vaccine front. Kai Wu et al. demonstrate that people aged 18-55 years who received two 100 µg doses of the mRNA-1273 vaccine, “maintained activity against all circulating strain variants tested to date”, and only the B.1.351 variant showed reduced neutralizing titers. Viral escape was not detected from any sample and neutralizing titers remained above those previously found to be protective in NHP challenge studies.  (Editor’s Note: All circulating strain variants? The paper doesn’t seem to mention the P.1 variant from Brazil.) See also the Moderna press release at


Cele S, Gazy I, Jackson L, et al. Escape of SARS-CoV-2 501Y.V2 variants from neutralization by convalescent plasma. medRxiv 2021, published 26 January. Full-text:

Bad news from the variants antibody front. Mutations in the B.1.351 variant (alias 501Y.V2) may cause the virus to lose much of its sensitivity to antibodies. That is the result of a pre-print paper by Tulio de Oliveira, Alex Sigal, Sandile Cele and colleagues. After examining the neutralizing effect of convalescent plasma collected from six adults hospitalized with COVID-19, the authors observed that neutralization of the B.1.351 variant was strongly attenuated, with IC50 6 to 200-fold higher relative to the first wave virus. Reduced protection against re-infection? Let’s live on and see!


Wang Z, Schmidt F, Weisblum Y, et al. mRNA vaccine-elicited antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 and circulating variants. bioRxiv 2021, published 19 January. Full-text:

And, finally, good news again: Michel Nussenzweig and colleagues tested samples from 14 and 6 people who had received the Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, respectively. They saw a slight decrease in antibody activity against engineered viruses with three key mutations of the B.1.351 variant first discovered in South Africa.



Borges V, Sousa C, Menezes L, et al. Tracking SARS-CoV-2 VOC 202012/01 (lineage B.1.1.7) dissemination in Portugal: insights from nationwide RT-PCR Spike gene drop out data. 2021, published 19 January. Full-text:

Portugal is facing a highly dynamic epidemic situation. Here, João P Gomes, Vítor Borges and colleagues show that the B.1.1.7 variant represented 5,8% of all positive cases detected since week 49 of 2020 and 13,3% by the end of week 2, 2021. The authors anticipate that B.1.1.7 might reach up to 60% of positive cases by early February 2021. Robust public health measures on the horizon.



Combes AJ, Courau T, Kuhn NF, et al. Global absence and targeting of protective immune states in severe COVID-19. Nature 2021, published 25 January. Full-text:

Examining the serum from severe patients, Alexis Combes et al. demonstrate that these patients uniquely produce antibodies that functionally block the production of the mild disease-associated ISG-expressing cells, by engaging conserved signaling circuits that dampen cellular responses to interferons.



Tinelli G, Minelli F, Sica, Tshomba Y. Complete aortic thrombosis in SARS-CoV-2 infection. Eur Heart J 2021, published 26 January. Full-text:

A 74-year-old man with a history of diabetes mellitus, coronary artery disease, and previous myocardial infarction presents to the emergency department with cardiogenic shock. Three-dimensional computed tomographic (CT) angiography revealed a complete thrombotic occlusion of the aorta. SARS-CoV-2 infection was confirmed by RT-PCR. The patient died immediately after the CT scan.


Figure. Complete thrombotic occlusion of the aorta, arising from the descending aorta and including all the visceral arteries, celiac trunk, superior mesenteric artery, and left and right renal arteries (Panels A). Multifocal ground-glass opacities were visualized in the bilateral lungs (Panels B and C).


Velasquez-Manoff M. What If You Never Get Better From Covid-19? The New York Times 2021, published 21 January. Full-text:

Some patients could be living with the after-effects of COVID-19 for years to come. Recent research into another persistent, mysterious disease might help us understand how to treat them.



If you read Spanish, read Perelman C. Una mirada a las vacunas contra COVID-19: la mejor estrategia para acabar con la pandemia. Academia de Ciencias de Morelos, published 24 January. Full-text:



If you read French, read LarousserieD, Herzberg N, Boussion M. Ce que l’on sait de l’efficacité des vaccins et des anticorps sur les variants du Covid-19. Le Monde 2021, published 22 January. Full-text :

Plusieurs études semblent indiquer que certains variants commencent à échapper aux anticorps formés contre le virus d’origine.



If you read German, read Sprechen kann genauso gefährlich sein wie Husten. Der Spiegel 2021, published 20 January. Full-text:

In Innenräumen ist die Corona-Gefahr deutlich erhöht, so viel ist klar. Eine Studie legt nun nahe, dass nicht nur Singen oder Husten viele gefährliche Aerosole produzieren – das Gleiche gilt auch für einfaches Sprechen.


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