The COVID Booster: Food proteins could prepare immune system, long COVID risks neurological issues

Cosmos checks out the data, stories and new research into COVID-19 emerging around the world.

What’s the data today?

Globally, there are 613,942,561 confirmed cases and 6,520,263 confirmed deaths from COVID-19.

Since our last edition, Australia’s health department has changed to a weekly reporting schedule.

In Australia, over 95% of eligible Australians have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

More than 71% of people over 16 have received a booster, and over 40% of eligible people have received a fourth dose.

There were 45,800 estimated active cases in Australia over the last seven days (increasing). Data.

Of these, 1,963 (decreasing) are hospitalised, 55 (decreasing) are in ICU and 19 (decreasing) are currently ventilated.

There have been over 10.1 million cases of COVID-19 in Australia, and 14,853 deaths. Data.

COVID-19 cases and deaths per million people

COVID news in brief

Certain proteins in your diet might ready your immune system against COVID-19

American research published in Frontiers in Immunology suggests exposure to certain dietary proteins might enhance the body’s natural immunity against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Researchers tested the antibodies produced to fight off COVID-19 against 15 bacterial and viral antigens, the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) and tuberculosis vaccines, and 180 food peptides and proteins.

It found the strongest responses from the SARS-CoV-2 antibodies occurred to the DTaP vaccine antigen, the bacterium Enterococcus faecalis, and peptides and proteins from roasted almond, broccoli, soy, cashews, α+β casein and milk, pork, rice endochitinase, pineapple bromelain, and lentil lectin.

The findings suggest the immune system is able to ‘remember’ a response to molecules that are similarly shaped to the spike protein on the virus that causes COVID-19.

Neurological problem risk increases in the year after COVID-19 infection

A study published in Nature Medicine has found that in the 12 months following recovery from COVID-19, a person is at increased risk of numerous, potential neurological conditions. Among over 150,000 people with the disease, the researchers from the St Louis Health Care System in the USA who have previously investigated the relationship of ‘long COVID’ and potential heart complications, found a significantly increased risk of cerebrovascular disorders like thrombosis and stroke, cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, nerve disorders, episodic disorders like epilepsy and seizures, movement disorders, mental health disorders, musculoskeletal problems like myopathy, loss of taste and smell and other disorders like Guillain-Barre syndrome.

These issues were found to cross demographic boundaries as well as those with no record of hospitalisation from the disease, with the researchers recommending the impact of long-term COVID-19 problems be considered by authorities when “devising policies for managing the ongoing pandemic, and developing exit strategies for a postpandemic era.”

“More than two years into the COVID-19 global pandemic, it is abundantly clear that infection with SARS-CoV-2 may result in a broad array of long-terms disorders,” they write.

“This places more emphasis on the continued need for multipronged primary prevention strategies through nonpharmaceutical interventions (for example, masking) and vaccines to reduce to the extent possible the risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2.”

Should ‘long COVID’ be considered an autoimmune disease?

Canadian and US researchers suggest long COVID may be an autoimmune disease.

A study of 106 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 against a control group of healthy participants and another of those with different respiratory infections found the at least two antibodies associated with immune responses to the disease continued after recovery in 80 percent of patients, falling to 41% after a year. Two ‘autoantibodies’ and other cytokines involved in immune response were found in 30% of COVID patients 12 months after recovery.

Lead researcher Dr Manali Mukherjee from McMaster University in Canada says the findings point to long COVID potentially being an autoimmune disorder.

“For the majority the patients in our study, even if they had autoantibodies soon after their infection, this resolved after 12 months,” says Mukherjee.

“However, in some patients, autoantibodies persist, and these patients are more likely to continue suffering with symptoms and to need medical help.

“These results point towards the need to test for signs of autoimmune disease in patients with symptoms of long COVID that last for a year or more.”

There is a “very small” risk of COVID-19 leading to chronic fatigue in children.

A study of German children published in JAMA Network Open has found a present, but small risk, of children with COVID-19 developing myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome. The study, which investigated 600 inpatients to paediatric hospitals aged between five and 17, found 40% of those with COVID-19 reported symptoms associated with chronic fatigue.  It found a less than two-percent risk of developing chronic fatigue among children.

Longer reads

SARS-CoV-2 detecting mask can alert of exposure via your smartphone

Move over inaccurate RATs. Get out of my nose and throat PCR swab tests. There’s a new method of COVID-19 detection and it’s wearable.

Story by Claire Kenyon

Young Australians’ mental health is bouncing back dramatically despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, young Australians’ mental health and wellbeing has dramatically improved, according to new analysis by Australian National University (ANU) researchers.

Story by Imma Perfetto

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