Brush With Common Cold Might Help Protect Against COVID-19

Brush With Common Cold Might Help Protect Against COVID-19

  • August 4, 2020

By
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Aug. 4, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Since the pandemic began, it’s been known that the severity of coronavirus illness varies widely between people. Could the common cold be the reason why?

It’s still just a theory, but researchers in California suspect that if you’ve recently had a cold — many of which are also caused by coronaviruses — your immune system’s T-cells might recognize SARS-CoV-2 and help fight it.

“We have now proven that in some people, preexisting T-cell memory against common cold coronaviruses can cross-recognize SARS-CoV-2, down to exact molecular structures,” said study co-lead author Daniela Weiskopf, an assistant professor at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology.

“This could help explain why some people show milder symptoms of disease while others get severely sick,” she said in an institute news release.

Still, Weiskopf and her team cautioned that even if that’s true, it’s too soon to say if immune cell memory will help you recover any faster from COVID-19.

The new research was spurred by evidence — collected from COVID-19 patients around the world — that immune system T-cells were reacting to fragments of SARS-CoV-2’s makeup, even though these cells had never encountered the virus before.

One way that could happen was if T-cells had gained a memory of these viral components from a prior encounter with a common cold coronavirus. Study co-lead author Dr. Alessandro Sette, also of the Institute, called these cold viruses COVID-19’s “less dangerous cousins.”

So in the new study, the La Jolla researchers collected samples from people who’d never been exposed to SARS-CoV-2. Their analysis showed that unexposed people had a wide range of memory T-cells that were equally reactive against SARS-CoV-2 as well as four types of common cold coronaviruses.

They also found that memory T-cells that recognized the common cold also recognized key sites on the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

This could mean that the fight against a common cold might be teaching T-cells to recognize at least some parts of SARS-CoV-2 — and perhaps jump-start the fight against SARS-CoV-2 should it appear.

Some T-cells appeared to target the “spike” protein on the surface of SARS-CoV-2, the area of the virus that recognizes and binds to human cells. Other parts of the immune system’s memory seemed to target other SARS-CoV-2 proteins, Weiskopf’s team reported Aug. 4 in Science.

The latter point is important because most vaccines under development target the spike protein. Including other targets on SARS-CoV-2 might boost a vaccine’s potency, the researchers explained.

Dr. Amesh Adalja is an infectious disease expert and a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore. Reading over the new report, he said it “provides more evidence that the fact that humans are exposed to other coronaviruses on a regular basis does have an impact on their immunity to the novel coronavirus.”

Still, just how or to what extent infection with a common cold might affect infection with SARS-CoV-2 remains “unclear,” Adalja added.

Would people who’ve recently encountered the common cold have no or fewer symptoms of COVID-19? According to Adalja, “the next step in the studies is understanding what the differences are among individuals who have this T-cell immunity that cross-reacts, versus others that do not.”

More information

For more on COVID-19, see the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: Amesh Adalja, M.D., senior scholar, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Baltimore; La Jolla Institute for Immunology, news release, Aug. 4, 2020

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Health experts unsure COVID-19 antibodies protect against reinfection

Health experts unsure COVID-19 antibodies protect against reinfection

  • August 3, 2020

As an increasing number of people across the country get tested for COVID-19 antibodies, health experts are cautioning that much is still unknown about what the results mean — including if antibodies provide protection from catching the virus again, how strong that protection might be and how long it may last.

A COVID-19 antibody test, also known as a serology test, aims to detect the presence of antibodies in the blood specific to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

A positive test result is presumed to mean that a person was exposed to the virus at some point in the past and their immune system produced proteins called antibodies to fight it off. The tests are different from nasal swab tests and do not indicate whether a person is currently infected with the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a June 30 update, said it does not know if people who recover from COVID-19 can get infected again. It also said even with a positive test for antibodies, people “still should take preventive measures to protect yourself and others.”

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Dr. Raymond Kiser, medical director of hospital care physicians at Columbus Regional Health, said antibody testing is “probably not that helpful” for most people because it won’t tell them if a particular bout of illness in the past was COVID-19 or if they are currently immune to the virus.

Additionally, Kiser said he is “nervous” that people who test positive for COVID-19 antibodies may be lulled into a false sense of security and “think they’re protected and they may not be.”

“We have no idea if you develop (COVID-19) antibodies, does that confer immunity, and if it does, for how long,” he said. “…When people ask me, ‘Should I get antibody tested,’ in all honesty, I usually tell them no. It’s not going to answer the question you really want to know and that is ‘Are you protected from this virus?’ And the answer is, ‘I don’t know’ — even if you have antibodies I won’t know the answer to that.”

Studies underway

Currently, numerous studies are underway to better understand the protective role of antibodies against the novel coronavirus, but just months into the pandemic much still remains unknown.

Health experts say antibodies usually confer at least partial immunity against some viruses, but the length and level of protection varies.

The antibodies produced in response to an infection of certain viruses, like the one that causes measles, are believed to provide lifetime immunity, while antibodies generated against other viruses, like the ones that cause the common cold, tend to offer shorter-lived protection. For some viruses, however, antibodies provide nearly no protection at all.

Most health experts, including Kiser, suspect that COVID-19 antibodies may offer some level of protection against the virus in the short-term, but nobody knows for sure where those antibodies fall on the spectrum.

The strongest evidence so far for short-term immunity comes from a study done on monkeys infected with the novel coronavirus, and it’s not yet clear the extent to which those results will hold true for humans, Kiser said.

“The only data that we really have for that is a study done on primates where they actually exposed them to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and those who had antibodies didn’t get re-infected at 30 days. But we don’t really know if that applies to humans,” Kiser said.

CRH, for its part, does have COVID-19 antibody tests in-house, hospital officials said.

As of mid-July, CRH had administered 106 antibody tests, but only one of them had come back positive, Kiser said.

In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released performance results of 21 antibody tests, including the Siemens Healthineers total antibody test, which is the antibody test that CRH uses, according to hospital officials.

The FDA started requiring companies to submit testing data and apply for emergency authorization to remain on the market in May after reports of faulty results and fraud emerged, The Associated Press reported.

The accuracy of antibody tests is measured by their “sensitivity,” or their ability to identify if someone has COVID-19 antibodies in their blood, and their “specificity,” which is their ability to determine who does not have the antibodies, according to the FDA.

The tests are also described by their positive predictive value, which measures how likely it is that a person who receives a positive result from a test truly has COVID-19 antibodies based on the test’s sensitivity, specificity and assumptions about the prevalence of the virus in a community, according to the FDA.

“Every test returns some false positive and false negative results” and some people may need more than one antibody test to ensure accurate results, according to the FDA’s website.

The test CRH uses was shown to be 100% sensitive and 99.8% specific and has a positive predictive value of at least 96.5% depending on how prevalent the virus is in a given community, according to the FDA’s performance data.

That means that the test is expected to correctly identify the presence of COVID-19 antibodies at least 96.5% of the time, according Siemens Healthengineers.

“We have not seen a lot of positive (antibody) testing here so far,” Kiser said. “With regards to the tests, especially the ones that we are using, we do believe that they are very specific, which means that if you have this antibody positive it means that you’ve definitely been exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”

Public health efforts

Though the protective role of antibodies against COVID-19 isn’t clear, antibody testing could provide valuable information for public health efforts, including studies seeking to determine how many people in a community have been exposed to the virus.

Researchers across the United States, including in Indiana, have embarked on such studies, aiming to use a representative sample of the overall population to shed light on the prevalence of COVID-19 in different areas of the country.

The hope, health experts say, is that these studies may help scientists and doctors measure the infection fatality rate of COVID-19, or the proportion of deaths from the virus compared to the total number of people diagnosed with the disease.

So far, initial results from several studies have found varying degrees of COVID-19 prevalence across the United States.

A study by the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles County Health Department found in May that an estimated 2.5% to 7% of adults in Los Angeles County had contracted the new coronavirus in May.

A similar study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital and the Boston Public Health Commission found that roughly 10% of Boston residents tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies in May.

The prevalence of COVID-19 in Indiana, however, is believed to be much lower.

Last month, researchers at the Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI and the Indiana State Department of Health released preliminary data from the second phase of their prevalence study, finding that a total of 1.5% of participants tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, up from 1.1% in the first phase, according to preliminary findings.

“One of the big things we want to know about this virus is how many people have been infected,” Kiser said. “…If I know how many people in a general population have been exposed and I know how many people have died, then I can really tell you the information that you’re going to want to know, which is if everybody gets exposed, how many deaths can we expect?”

Scientists are getting closer to an answer, according to leading science journal Nature. Research so far suggests that COVID-19 is five to eight times deadlier than the seasonal flu, which kills hundreds of thousands of people around the world each year.

The seasonal flu has an infection fatality rate of around 0.1%, meaning that one out of every 1,000 people infected would be expected to die, Kiser said. By comparison, five to eight out of every 1,000 people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus would be expected to die.

In other words, if all of Indiana’s estimated 6.7 million residents were to be infected with COVID-19, an estimated 33,500 to 53,600 people would be expected to die, compared an estimated 6,700 estimated deaths from influenza.

“Influenza is probably one of our No. 1 infectious killers in the U.S., and this thing is five to eight times worse,” Kiser said.

In addition, antibody testing could help identify potential blood plasma donors for convalescent plasma therapy, which is an experimental treatment for COVID-19 currently in trials at numerous hospitals across the country, including Columbus Regional Hospital, where at least 54 patients have received the treatment, Kiser said.

Convalescent plasma therapy involves giving COVID-19 patients an infusion of blood plasma from people who have already recovered from the illness, CRH officials said.

Though it currently is not known precisely how COVID-19 antibodies work, researchers and doctors believe that plasma from COVID-19 survivors could boost the immune system’s response in a patient whose body is struggling to fight off the infection.

At this point, however, antibody testing is most useful for public health efforts and identifying potential plasma donors, Kiser said.

“Right now, the best use of antibody testing is public health,” Kiser said. “…I think on an individual basis, it’s probably not that helpful.”

Where to learn more

Anyone with concerns about COVID-19 is urged to call the health system’s Triage Resource Call Center, a phone resource line launched by CRH to handle calls from residents with questions and concerns about exposure or symptoms associated with COVID-19. The phone line is open daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is staffed by registered nurses who will offer screening questions and potentially recommend a course of action for patients.

The phone resource line can be contacted at 812-379-4449.

Visit crh.org/news/2020/03/16/coronavirus-update-what-you-need-to-know for more information.

Visit the Community COVID-19 Task Force’s website at covid19communitytaskforce.org.

Can Kimchi Protect You From COVID-19?

Can Kimchi Protect You From COVID-19?

  • July 28, 2020

The demand for organic food and vitamins have surged since the pandemic started and now, even some everyday household staples are being crowned as superfoods. The latest under the spotlight is kimchi.

According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical and Translational Allergy in May, fermented vegetables, like kimchi, could make it difficult for the coronavirus to penetrate the body. Consuming fermented vegetables in large amounts could reduce levels of the enzyme ACE2. ACE2 is a protein that has been found to stick to cells on the surface of the lungs, creating an entry point the novel coronavirus can hook into.

The study noted that countries, where fermented vegetables are integral to people’s meals, had lower fatality rates from COVID-19. This is true for South Korea, where kimchi (fermented vegetables like cabbage and radish) is usually part of every meal. As of July 27, South Korea’s COVID-19 fatality rate was at 2.11 percent, which is below the global fatality rate of 3.97 percent.

The study’s findings quickly went viral.

One Korean Twitter user said: “REALLY? One research team abroad found that kimchi helps to protect ourselves from COVID-19. [Thanks to this study], I want to eat kimchi stew on this rainy day.”

It’s important to note that South Korea’s low fatality rate can be attributable to other factors such as easy access to medical services, the government’s quick response, and more people wearing masks and practicing social distancing. The researchers also acknowledged that countries have different methods when it comes to reporting COVID-19 cases.

The South Korean government even went so far as releasing a statement to clarify that kimchi cannot cure COVID-19, even though it could boost immunity against the virus.

“Eating kimchi does not prevent coronavirus infection,” a representative of South Korea’s Health Ministry said in a press conference.

Even the lead researcher of the study said that kimchi, or any other fermented vegetable, should not be seen as a magic cure for COVID-19.

Dr. Jean Bousquet of the Pulmonary Medicine Department at Montpellier University in France told VICE that what they proved in the study is the correlation between the high consumption of fermented vegetables and the low COVID-19 fatality rates, not “the cause-and-effect” between them.

However, he also noted that there is merit in studying a culture’s eating habits and how it relates to the coronavirus. He gave sauerkraut, a fermented cabbage popular in Central and Eastern European cuisines, as an example.

Bousquet and his team first focused on comparing European countries and found that in countries where fermented cabbage is not regularly consumed, the death rates from the coronavirus were notably higher.

In Germany, where sauerkraut is a staple food, the current death rate is 4.61 percent. Poland has the same affinity for sauerkraut and has a death rate of 3.9 percent. In comparison, countries that don’t consume as much fermented foods have higher fatality rates, like Italy with 15.03 percent and the United Kingdom with 15.3 percent.

The researchers then found that South Korea, where kimchi and many other fermented vegetables are consumed, also has a lower death rate.

The health benefits of kimchi aren’t exactly news. It’s been known to be rich in vitamin C, minerals, and fiber. It contains probiotics, which could help boost the immune system. Kimchi is also popular as a diet food because it’s low in fat and calories.

Bousquet’s research team is now studying the possible role of the antioxidants and lactic acid bacteria found in cabbage and fermented vegetables in protecting against severe COVID-19.

The idea that kimchi can protect people from COVID-19 might not be completely crazy.

The World Institute of Kimchi (WiKim), a research institute under South Korea’s National Research Council of Science and Technology, is now looking into the possible antiviral effects of fermented vegetables.

Kwon Min-sung, a researcher for WiKim’s microbiology and functionality team, told VICE that they have been developing an antiviral drug for COVID-19, by analyzing kimchi components that work as antiviral agents, since June.

“We’ve already seen in our previous study that kimchi is effective not only for cholesterol reduction, anti-obesity, and anti-aging but also for anti-influenza,” Kwon said. “Finding a way to defeat COVID-19 is everyone’s priority now, and we see the promise of success of the project based on our previous studies.”

The study is still in its early stages and Kwon’s team has not published their findings yet.

For now, Bousquet suggests adding more of these foods to one’s diet.

“Eat more natural food and fermented vegetables. It may be of interest to defeat COVID-19,” he said.

Boosting Immune System to Protect Against COIVD-19

Boosting Immune System to Protect Against COIVD-19

  • July 28, 2020

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) – With the rise of COVID-19 cases in Florida, people may be looking for ways to boost their immune system to help fight the virus.

Panama City respiratory specialist, Doctor Marwan Obid, said over the counter medicine is one way to do it. He stated, “what you need is a multivitamin, zinc, and vitamin D also work really good.”

Officials with the University of Chicago Medicine say certain medications such as Tylenol, Aleve, and Advil can help treat COVID-19 symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends getting plenty of rest and staying hydrated.

Doctor Obid says you can also protect yourself against COVID-19 by implementing healthy practices in your everyday routine. “You need to do exercise and relax and sleep a clean 7 hours,” said Obid.

Bay County resident, Donna Schneider, said she’s been staying home, among other things, to protect her health. “[I have been] wearing a mask when I go out grocery shopping, I take just a one-a-day vitamin and a couple of supplements,” said Schneider.

Doctor Obid emphasized that “exercise, staying away from smoking and staying away from crowds” will help strengthen your immune system against COVID-19.

Copyright 2020 WJHG. All rights reserved.

Indians seek ancient ayurvedic remedies to protect against Covid-19, Asia News

Indians seek ancient ayurvedic remedies to protect against Covid-19, Asia News

  • July 26, 2020

Indians are digging deep into their ancient traditions to unearth any herb, berry, seed, grain, or spice that might boost their immune system, as the country’s coronavirus count surges toward the 1.5 million mark.

Reckoning it’s one of the best ways to avoid contracting the virus in a nation where social distancing in densely populated cities is near-impossible, Indians have been trawling the web for home remedies.

A study in May of Google searches showed a big increase in people from India looking up the medicinal properties of certain foods. And they’re not looking for honey or mint tea. Those are humdrum. They are going much deeper in the search for the elixir of immunity.

Herbs normally known only to practitioners of ayurveda, the ancient system of medicine, appear to be sought. For example, the herb giloy is actually known by ayurvedic doctors as the “heavenly elixir” because of its immunity-boosting properties. Kadha is a herbal concoction that claims to protect people against the flu and infections.

Apart from the fact that there is no cure for coronavirus, Indians are extra anxious about contracting it because of the country’s limited medical facilities. Some government hospitals are putting people off because of their decrepitude and lack of hygiene.

A video last week showed pigs roaming in a hospital holding coronavirus patients in the southwest state of Karnataka.

Coronavirus patients in another hospital, in Uttar Pradesh, were stunned to see rainwater gushing like a waterfall through the ceiling because of a damaged pipe.

Yet, private hospitals are expensive and inaccessible to all except the upper-middle class and the rich. It is these fears that are prompting Indians to go the extra mile to build up their immunity.

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The bestselling drinks at airport lounges these days are milk and turmeric beverages and saffron shakes.

A firm that supplies milk in the Indian capital of New Delhi has started offering turmeric-based drinks. Another one sells ice cream flavoured with “immunity-boosting turmeric”.

Sales of one the oldest “immunity boosters” in the country, a product called Chyawanprash based on ayurvedic ingredients, have quadrupled in recent months. Inspired by the demand for such foods, Dabur, the company that makes it, has launched a new range of similar remedies.

Other food and drink companies have jumped on the bandwagon, launching new products promising to enhance immunity, prevent infections, and protect the respiratory system.

For the same reason, yoga is being taken up with a vengeance. The soundtrack of the nation these days is millions of Indians inhaling and exhaling.

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“My teenage son has asthma so his lungs are already weak. He has joined the whole family in yoga twice a day. With no vaccine, the only way to keep ourselves safe is through our immune system,” said Ashima Puri, 45, a teacher in New Delhi.

Faddism is becoming a way of life. Puri’s morning routine has become an elaborate ritual. Yoga, followed by deep breathing, gargling three times a day (to reduce the viral load in the mouth), a vitamin cocktail that must include zinc, and a weekly Vitamin D pill.

Another must is ‘nasal irrigation’ three times a day to flush out the virus or at least reduce the viral load.

“During zoom calls, all my friends and I do is exchange notes on what we are taking to avoid the virus,” Puri said.

In addition to new foods and potions, Indians have taken to exercising, again to boost their immunity. But with gyms closed, they have discovered that the best way to exercise while maintaining social distancing is cycling.

The All India Cycle Manufacturers’ Association said sales went up by 25 per cent last month as against June last year. Cycle dealers are running out of stock, with some reporting sales increases of 40 per cent in the past few weeks.

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With cases still rising, these new trends are likely to continue. Doctors say the peak of the pandemic in India may not come for another couple of months. Every day, India records a new “highest-ever” single-day spike. Sunday saw nearly 49,000 new infections, taking

India’s total number of cases to more than 1.38 million, with just over 32,000 deaths.

The search for the elixir continues. A bakery in Srinagar is offering immunity-boosting breads “enriched with Vitamin A, Vitamin E, B 6, Omega 3, Omega 6”. Even the humble chicken is not safe from Indians wanting to pump their bodies with healthy goodness.

There is a new interest in a little known black chicken called kadanath, found only in Madhya Pradesh state, whose bones and organs are also black. It’s thought to be a veritable atomic bomb of protein, vitamins, iron, calcium, and antioxidant properties.

It has just become available in some organic food shops in New Delhi. Events organiser Salil Kapoor, 34, plans to buy it.

“I’m going to have it twice a week,” he said. “I’ve heard it’s a huge immunity booster and what do we have these days except our immune system to save us from the virus?”

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.

New Study Says Kimchi May Protect Against COVID-19; Here’s Where to Find it in San Antonio

New Study Says Kimchi May Protect Against COVID-19; Here’s Where to Find it in San Antonio

  • July 20, 2020

click to enlarge
Fermented cabbage — shown here in kimchi and sauerkraut — is great for boosting immunity. - NINA RANGEL

  • Nina Rangel
  • Fermented cabbage — shown here in kimchi and sauerkraut — is great for boosting immunity.

Dr. Jean Bousquet, honorary professor of Pulmonary Medicine at Montpellier University in France, has published a study suggesting there’s a link between low COVID-19 fatalities and national dietary differences, specifically fermented cabbage.

According to a study Bousquet and his research partners published in the journal Clinical and Translational Allergy, countries where fermented cabbage features prominently in the diet have had lower fatalities. He draws attention to both South Korea and Germany, where fermented cabbage is a dietary staple, in the forms of kimchi and sauerkraut respectively.




High in antioxidants, fermented cabbage can boost immunity and help decrease levels of ACE2, an enzyme in the cell membrane mostly found in lungs that is used by COVID-19 as an entry point into the body.


Key to Bousquet’s theory is the notion that when ACE2 is reduced, the virus may find it harder to enter the lungs.


Interested — and adventurous — foodies interested in testing the scientist’s theory can spend some time perusing the websites of San Antonio-based fermented food suppliers Madge’s Food Company and Happy Gut Foods. Both supply a variety of fermented products aimed at supporting general immune system and digestion health.


You can also hit many Asian markets in town for pre-prepared kimchi. Just be sure you check the refrigerated sections if you can’t find what you’re looking for on the shelf. Below are a few to get you started.


Korean Market, 6210 Fairdale Dr, (210) 646-7005.
Hung Phong Oriental Market, 243 Remount, (210) 655-8448.
Seoul Asian Food Market & Cafe, 1005 Rittiman Road, Suite 101, (210) 822-1529.


So many restaurants, so little time. Find out the latest San Antonio dining news with our Flavor Friday Newsletter.

How to Protect Your Immune System as You Slowly Head Back to Public Life? Tips to Support Your Body's Natural Immunity

How to Protect Your Immune System as You Slowly Head Back to Public Life? Tips to Support Your Body’s Natural Immunity

  • July 20, 2020

Following months of quarantine, we have slowly started to take baby steps towards public life. And as the novel coronavirus continues to be a threat, maintaining social distancing, diligently washing hands and maintaining social distancing are the best ways to avoid contracting COVID-19. But apart from following these norms, boosting and protecting your immune health is another line of defence. Here’s how to support your body’s natural immunity in the coming weeks and months as quarantine orders are slowly lifted.

Stay Physically Active

A lot of research had suggested that physical activity increases efficacy on the influenza vaccine, so being active can undoubtedly help to protect you against viruses in the long run. Too Soon to Say Whether Recovered COVID-19 Patients Lose Immunity With Time: Scientists.

Reduce Your Alcohol Consumption

A lot of other studies had also suggested that chronic alcohol consumption suppresses immune function. Therefore, it is essential to keep a tab on how many glasses of booze you are downing in a day. Can Coconut Oil Help Boost Your Immunity? Here’s How Including Copra Oil in Your Diet Can Improve Immune Health.

Pop Immunity-Supporting Supplements

It would help if you had optimum levels of vitamin D to support your immune system and reduce your risk of COVID-19 complications. The adaptive immune system can help manage inflammation and ward off infections.  

Have a Consistent Bed Time Routine

You need enough sleep to support your immune system and to promote deep and restorative rest. If you find it difficult to fall asleep, one great trick is to simply take a whiff straight from the bottle and put it in a diffuser. Adding a bit of your essential oil in warm water and sniffing it can also help you fall asleep.

Prioritise Immune-Supporting Foods

Snacking on vitamin-C-rich clementines, munching on raw ginger and adding garlic to everything can be a great way to support your immune system. Foods That Weaken Your Immunity: From Coffee to Sweets, Avoid These Foods to Keep Your Immune System Strong and Help Your Body Fight Infections!

Although these strategies will not safeguard y from COVID, but combined with the other protective measures, they will help boost your natural ability to fight infection.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Jul 20, 2020 12:32 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).

Ottawa-led clinical trial seeks to protect cancer patients from COVID-19

Ottawa-led clinical trial seeks to protect cancer patients from COVID-19

  • July 18, 2020


OTTAWA – July 16, 2020 – Dr. Rebecca Auer, surgical oncologist and director of cancer research at The Ottawa Hospital, will lead a $2.8-million clinical trial that seeks to protect cancer patients from COVID-19 by strengthening their depleted immune systems. If it proves successful, the immunotherapy approach could help many of the people most vulnerable to COVID-19. Photo courtesy of The Ottawa Hospital.

Postmedia

A surgical oncologist at The Ottawa Hospital will lead a $2.8 million Canada-wide clinical trial that seeks to protect cancer patients from COVID-19 by strengthening their depleted immune systems.

If it proves successful, the approach could help not only cancer patients, but anyone vulnerable to COVID-19 because of immune systems weakened by age or disease.

“We think harnessing innate immunity could be one of our best weapons for fighting COVID-19 — and could easily be adapted to tackle future pandemics,” said Dr. Rebecca Auer, director of cancer research at The Ottawa Hospital, and the study lead.

The clinical trial involves IMM-101, an immune-boosting biotherapeutic made with a heat-killed bacterium, Mycobacterium obuense, found in soil and water.

Developed as an immunotherapy cancer treatment, IMM-101 has demonstrated the ability to activate the body’s first line of defence, including the natural killer (NK) cells responsible for guarding against viral and bacterial infections. It has been safely used in other clinical trials with cancer patients.

“An effective vaccine against COVID-19 could take another year or more to develop, test, and implement,” said Auer, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa. “In the meantime, there is an urgent need to protect people with cancer from severe COVID-19 infection, and we think this immune stimulator, IMM-101, may be able to do this.”

The researchers hope that boosting cancer patients’ immune systems with IMM-101 will protect them from developing COVID-19 or other respiratory illnesses, such as the flu, that can force delays in their treatment.

Cancer patients are often vulnerable to infection because chemotherapy indiscriminately targets fast-dividing cells, whether cancer cells or immune cells. The cancer itself can also attack a patient’s bone marrow, where most immune cells are made.

More than 90,000 people in Ontario received chemotherapy or radiation treatments last year alone, and COVID-19 has greatly complicated their care.

The clinical trial, approved by Health Canada, is expected to launch later this summer. It will enrol 1,500 patients — including about 250 in Ottawa — at nine cancer centres across the country.

Patients in the study will be randomly assigned to two groups: One that receives regular care, and one that has IMM-101 added to it.

Those in the latter group will be given three doses of IMM-101 over the course of 45 days then carefully observed for COVID-19, other flu-like illnesses, and respiratory infections.

Researchers want to understand if patients who receive IMM-101 are less likely to develop such illnesses.

There’s considerable evidence to support the scientific theory on which the trial is built. Immune boosters have been successfully used for years in veterinary medicine to prevent the transmission of respiratory viruses in cattle, horses and other animals.

What’s more, clinical trials in Europe are now testing the ability of the BCG vaccine — a tuberculosis vaccine that contains a live, weakened strain of Mycobacterium bovis — to prime the immune system against COVID-19. Research has shown BCG can train the immune system to better fight all kinds of respiratory infections.

“It’s like sending your innate immune system to the gym for a while,” Auer explained. “So when it comes back to attack the next pathogen, it’s much stronger and better.”

Researchers believe that an individual’s innate immune system response helps to explain why some people get severely ill with COVID-19 while others have only mild symptoms.

Innate immune cells, such as NK cells, recognize and attack a broad spectrum of infectious agents based on their general characteristics. (Our second line of defence, known as the adaptive immune system, recognizes specific features of a bacterium or virus, and those that it has previously encountered.)

But BCG and other live vaccines can’t be given to cancer patients, so Auer and her colleagues looked for an alternative and found IMM-101. Even though it’s not a live vaccine, IMM-101 creates a response because the innate immune system recognizes it as a foreign invader.

Researchers from The Ottawa Hospital worked with the Canadian Cancer Trials Group at Queen’s University to design the clinical trial. 

Funding and support has also come from the Canadian Cancer Society, BioCanRx, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, The Ottawa Hospital Academic Medical Organization, ATGen Canada/NKMax, a biotechnology company, and Immodulon Therapeutics, the manufacturer of IMM-101.

The clinical trial is expected to completed by the end of the year.

Auer warned that COVID-19 will not be the last pandemic.

“I imagine that if this trial was positive, this would be something you could have in your back pocket when the next pandemic came,” she said. “You’d be able to say, ‘We have something that works and can protect high risk people.’”

OTTAWA - July 16, 2020 - Dr. Rebecca Auer, surgical oncologist and director of cancer research at The Ottawa Hospital, will lead a $2.8-million clinical trial that seeks to protect cancer patients from COVID-19 by strengthening their depleted immune systems. If it proves successful, the immunotherapy approach could help many of the people most vulnerable to COVID-19. Photo courtesy of The Ottawa Hospital.

Ottawa-led clinical trial seeks to protect cancer patients from COVID-19 | News

  • July 17, 2020

A surgical oncologist at The Ottawa Hospital will lead a $2.8 million Canada-wide clinical trial that seeks to protect cancer patients from COVID-19 by strengthening their depleted immune systems.

If it proves successful, the approach could help not only cancer patients, but anyone vulnerable to COVID-19 because of immune systems weakened by age or disease.

“We think harnessing innate immunity could be one of our best weapons for fighting COVID-19 — and could easily be adapted to tackle future pandemics,” said Dr. Rebecca Auer, director of cancer research at The Ottawa Hospital, and the study lead.


The clinical trial involves IMM-101, an immune-boosting biotherapeutic made with a heat-killed bacterium, Mycobacterium obuense, found in soil and water.


Developed as an immunotherapy cancer treatment, IMM-101 has demonstrated the ability to


activate the body’s first line of defence, including the natural killer (NK) cells responsible for guarding against viral and bacterial infections. It h

as been safely used in other clinical trials with cancer patients.


“An effective vaccine against COVID-19 could take another year or more to develop, test, and implement,” said Auer, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa. “In the meantime, there is an urgent need to protect people with cancer from severe COVID-19 infection, and we think this immune stimulator, IMM-101, may be able to do this.”


The researchers hope that boosting cancer patients’ immune systems with IMM-101 will protect them from developing COVID-19 or other respiratory illnesses, such as the flu, that can force delays in their treatment.

Cancer patients are often vulnerable to infection because chemotherapy indiscriminately targets fast-dividing cells, whether cancer cells or immune cells. The cancer itself can also attack a patient’s bone marrow, where most immune cells are made.

More than 90,000 people in Ontario received chemotherapy or radiation treatments last year alone, and COVID-19 has greatly complicated their care.

The clinical trial, approved by Health Canada, is expected to launch later this summer. It will enrol 1,500 patients — including about 250 in Ottawa — at nine cancer centres across the country.

Patients in the study will be randomly assigned to two groups: One that receives regular care, and one that has IMM-101 added to it.

Those in the latter group will be given three doses of IMM-101 over the course of 45 days then carefully observed for COVID-19, other flu-like illnesses, and respiratory infections.

Researchers want to understand if patients who receive IMM-101 are less likely to develop such illnesses.

There’s considerable evidence to support the scientific theory on which the trial is built.

Immune boosters have been


successfully used for years in veterinary medicine


to prevent the transmission of respiratory viruses in cattle, horses and other animals.

What’s more,

clinical trials in Europe

are now testing the ability of the BCG vaccine — a tuberculosis vaccine that contains a live, weakened strain of

Mycobacterium bovis —

to prime the immune system against COVID-19. Research has shown BCG can train the immune system to better fight all kinds of respiratory infections.

“It’s like sending your innate immune system to the gym for a while,” Auer explained. “So when it comes back to attack the next pathogen, it’s much stronger and better.”

Researchers believe that an individual’s innate immune system response helps to explain why some people get severely ill with COVID-19 while others have only mild symptoms.

Innate immune cells, such as NK cells, recognize and attack a broad spectrum of infectious agents based on their general characteristics. (Our second line of defence, known as the adaptive immune system, recognizes specific features of a bacterium or virus, and those that it has previously encountered.)

But BCG and other live vaccines can’t be given to cancer patients, so Auer and her colleagues looked for an alternative and found IMM-101. Even though it’s not a live vaccine, IMM-101 creates a response because the innate immune system recognizes it as a foreign invader.


Researchers from The Ottawa Hospital worked with the Canadian Cancer Trials Group at Queen’s University to design the clinical trial.


Funding and support has also come from the Canadian Cancer Society, BioCanRx, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, The Ottawa Hospital Academic Medical Organization, ATGen Canada/NKMax, a biotechnology company, and Immodulon Therapeutics, the manufacturer of IMM-101.

The clinical trial is expected to completed by the end of the year.

Auer warned that COVID-19 will not be the last pandemic.

“I imagine that if this trial was positive, this would be something you could have in your back pocket when the next pandemic came,” she said. “You’d be able to say, ‘We have something that works and can protect high risk people.’”

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

the letters Zn spelled out in pills

Could zinc protect against COVID-19?

  • July 17, 2020

A review of the evidence on zinc suggests the mineral could have protective effects against COVID-19 by boosting anti-viral immunity and curbing inflammation.

the letters Zn spelled out in pills Share on Pinterest
New research highlights the importance of zinc for boosting the body’s ability to fight infection.

Diet and health have many links, including immune system function. Good nutrition supports the immune system to fight pathogens and helps to avoid chronic inflammation following an infection.

Many people know that vitamin C has significant effects on the immune system. Deficiency in the vitamin has associations with a higher risk of infections, such as pneumonia.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, interest in dietary supplements to support the function of the immune system has intensified. Although no specific food or supplement can prevent a person from contracting COVID-19, certain nutrients can help support the immune system’s function.

Stay informed with live updates on the current COVID-19 outbreak and visit our coronavirus hub for more advice on prevention and treatment.

A recent review has focused on the benefits of zinc against COVID-19. Zinc is a mineral found in many different food types.

The findings suggest that zinc could have protective effects against COVID-19 by supporting anti-viral immunity and reducing inflammation. A team of researchers at Sechenov University in Moscow, Russia, led the review and published it in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine.

Zinc is an essential mineral with a wide range of roles in the human body, including supporting the function of over 300 enzymes. The body needs zinc to carry out normal metabolism and ensure the proper function of the reproductive, cardiovascular, and nervous systems.

Foods high in zinc include animal products, such as meat, shellfish, chicken, and fortified breakfast cereal. However, beans, nuts, and seeds also contain zinc. Phytates in vegetables and grains can reduce the absorption of zinc and, therefore, vegetarians and vegans may need 50% more zinc in their diet.

Deficiency in zinc has associations with delayed growth in children, as well as increased risk of infection. It is also a significant risk factor for the development of pneumonia, which can be a consequence of COVID-19.

“According to the current estimates, the risk of zinc deficiency is observed in more than 1.5 billion people in the world,” explains lead author of the review Prof. Anatoly Skalny, who heads the Laboratory of Molecular Dietetics at Sechenov University.

“Given the crucial role of zinc in regulation of immunity, one can propose that its insufficiency may be considered as a risk factor for infectious diseases.”

– Prof. Anatoly Skalny

Together with colleagues in Russia, Germany, Greece, Norway, and the United States, Professor Skalny put together a review of the scientific evidence on zinc’s role in preventing and treating respiratory infections, including COVID-19.

Zinc supports the production and maturation of white blood cells, which are the major players in the immune system. There are multiple types of white blood cells, some of which make antibodies, capture and destroy pathogens, and return the immune system to normal after an infection.

Zinc also helps to regulate inflammation. While an inflammatory response is necessary to fight infection, the overproduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines early in the infection is responsible for some of the worst symptoms of COVID-19.

The review describes evidence showing that zinc may have an anti-inflammatory effect in pneumonia, limiting the damage to lung tissue.

For decades, scientists have known that zinc can block the replication of rhinoviruses responsible for respiratory infections in people, including the common cold.

Higher levels of zinc in cells help block the reproduction of rhinoviruses and stimulate interferon alfa production. This signaling molecule prompts nearby cells to initiate their anti-viral defenses.

The review also found evidence specific to coronaviruses. One study showed that zinc blocks the enzyme responsible for replicating the coronavirus that led to the SARS outbreak of 2002.

Interestingly, chloroquine — which some people suggested as a treatment option early on in the pandemic – increases the cells uptake of zinc, which may underlie some of its positive effects.

A 2020 study showed that when doctors treated patients with zinc and hydroxychloroquine, they discharged more patients, and fewer people died from COVID-19.

However, the paper suggesting that hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine could treat COVID-19 has since been retracted. The latest advice from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against using either of these drugs due to the risk of severe side effects.

The researchers also clarify that, although the evidence suggests zinc reduces the risk of respiratory diseases and their complications, there is not enough data to make recommendations regarding zinc intake and COVID-19.

It is also worth noting that consuming excess zinc can have adverse effects, including nausea, loss of appetite, and stomach cramps. Over the long-term, too much zinc has associations with low immunity. The National Institutes of Health provide daily recommended amounts of zinc.

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