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COVID SCIENCE-Antibody levels higher after Moderna shot; Lilly arthritis drug used with steroid cuts death risk

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By Nancy Lapid

Sept 1 (Reuters) - The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that have yet to be certified by peer review.

Antibody levels are higher after Moderna vaccine

The mRNA vaccine from Moderna Inc induces higher levels of antibodies against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 than the similar vaccine from Pfizer Inc and partner BioNTech SE, Belgian researchers have found, although what this means for their efficacy is not clear. Soon after receiving their second shot, the 688 healthcare workers who got Moderna's vaccine had antibody levels roughly twice as high as the 959 who received the Pfizer/BioNTech product, regardless of their ages, doctors at a Belgian medical center reported. This held true even after accounting for individual risk factors, and regardless of whether participants had previously been infected with the virus, the researchers reported on Monday in JAMA https://bit.ly/38wJcdI. Antibodies are just one component https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/mrna -vaccines-trigger-backup-immune-response-some-cancer-drugs-may-h elp-2021-08-25 of the immune system's defenses, however. The study cannot determine whether one vaccine is more effective at preventing infection or illness, or whether the antibodies induced stay longer in the blood before disappearing. Those questions, and others, require further investigation, the researchers said.

Arthritis drug adds to benefit of steroids in severe illness

Hospitalized COVID-19 patients died less often if they received Eli Lilly and Co's rheumatoid arthritis drug baricitinib along with the other treatments their doctors had prescribed, according to a study published on Wednesday in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine https://bit.ly/38vos5Z. The randomized trial involved 1,525 seriously ill patients, all of whom needed extra oxygen to help with breathing. More than 90% were already receiving dexamethasone, a cheap generic steroid known to improve survival of critically ill COVID-19 patients. While baricitinib, sold under the brand name Olumiant, did not appear to keep patients from getting sicker, it did reduce their risk of dying. The 28-day and 60-day death rates were 5% lower among patients randomly assigned to receive baricitinib instead of a placebo. Baricitinib is already approved in the United States for use in hospitalized COVID-19 patients in combination with Gilead Science's antiviral drug remdesivir. The two drugs together appear to have more benefit https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-science/fl u-outbreaks-may-be-linked-to-covid-19-arthritis-drug-benefit-see n-idUSKBN26538P than remdesivir alone. In the new study, more than 80% of participants were not receiving remdesivir, suggesting that baricitinib also "has synergistic effects with other standard-of-care treatments," including dexamethasone, researchers said.

Vaccine poses low risk for adults with high-risk allergies

Highly allergic adults can safely receive the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech, a new study suggests. Among the 8,102 patients with allergies in the Israeli study, 95% received the shots in routine settings because their risk of a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine was low, and no such reactions were reported. The remaining 429 patients, who were considered to be highly allergic, received the vaccines under careful supervision and were observed for two hours afterward. Nine had allergic reactions, including three who showed signs of potentially life-threatening anaphylaxis. All responded to treatment with epinephrine and no one had to be hospitalized, according to a report published on Tuesday in JAMA Network Open https://bit.ly/2WJJzid. An editorial https://bit.ly/3zAXHsJ published with the study said lessons from this study of allergic reactions to the Pfizer vaccine are likely "generalizable to the Moderna" shot as well.

Click for a Reuters graphic https://tmsnrt.rs/3c7R3Bl on vaccines in development.

(Reporting by Nancy Lapid; Editing by Bill Berkrot)