(Press-News.org) Researchers from the Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Interdisciplinary Research Group (IRG) at Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), MIT's research enterprise in Singapore, alongside collaborators from Biobot Analytics, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), have successfully developed an innovative, open-source molecular detection method that is able to detect and quantify the B.1.1.7 (Alpha) variant of SARS-CoV-2. The breakthrough paves the way for rapid, inexpensive surveillance of other SARS-CoV-2 variants in wastewater.
As the world continues to battle and contain COVID-19, the recent identification of SARS-CoV-2 variants with higher transmissibility and increased severity has made the development of convenient variant tracking methods essential. Currently, identified variants include the B.1.17 (Alpha) variant first identified in the United Kingdom and the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant first detected in India.
Wastewater surveillance has emerged as a critical public health tool to safely and efficiently track the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic in a non-intrusive manner, providing complementary information that enables health authorities to acquire actionable community-level information. Most recently, viral fragments of SARS-CoV-2 were detected in housing estates in Singapore through a proactive wastewater surveillance programme. This information, alongside surveillance testing, allowed Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) to swiftly respond, isolate and conduct swab tests as part of precautionary measures.
However, detecting variants through wastewater surveillance is less commonplace due to challenges in existing technology. Next-generation sequencing (NGS) for wastewater surveillance is time-consuming and expensive. They also lack the sensitivity required to detect low variant abundances in dilute and mixed wastewater samples due to inconsistent and/or low sequencing coverage.
The method developed by the researchers is uniquely tailored to address these challenges and expands the utility of wastewater surveillance beyond testing for SARS-CoV-2, towards tracking the spread of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern. Dr Wei Lin Lee, Research Scientist at SMART AMR and first author on the paper added, "This is especially important in countries battling SARS-CoV-2 variants. Wastewater surveillance will help find out the true proportion and spread of the variants in the local communities. Our method is sensitive enough to detect variants in highly diluted SARS-CoV-2 concentrations typically seen in wastewater samples, and produces reliable results even for samples which contain multiple SARS-CoV-2 lineages."
Led by Associate Professor Janelle Thompson of NTU, and MIT Professor and SMART AMR Principal Investigator Eric Alm, the team's research "Quantitative SARS-CoV-2 Alpha variant B.1.1.7 Tracking in Wastewater by Allele-Specific RT-qPCR" has been published in prestigious journal, Environmental Science & Technology Letters. The research explains the innovative, open-source molecular detection method based on allele-specific RT-qPCR that detects and quantifies the B.1.1.7 (Alpha) variant. The developed assay, tested and validated in wastewater samples across 19 communities in the US, is able to reliably detect and quantify low levels of the B.1.1.7 (Alpha) variant with low cross-reactivity, and at variant proportions down to 1% in a background of mixed SARS-CoV-2 viruses.
Targeting spike protein mutations that are highly predictive of the B.1.1.7 (Alpha) variant, the method can be implemented using commercially available RT-qPCR protocols. Unlike commercially available products that use proprietary primers and probes for wastewater surveillance, the paper details the open-source method and its development that can be freely used by other organisations and research institutes for their work on wastewater surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants.
The breakthrough by the research team in Singapore is currently utilised by Biobot Analytics, a global leader in wastewater epidemiology headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the US, serving states and localities throughout the country. Using the method, Biobot Analytics is able to accept and analyse wastewater samples for the B.1.1.7 (Alpha) variant and plans to add additional variants to its analysis as methods are developed.
"Using the team's innovative method, we have been able to monitor the B.1.1.7 (Alpha) variant in local populations in the US - empowering leaders with information about COVID-19 trends in their communities and allowing them to make considered recommendations and changes to control measures," said Dr Mariana Matus, Biobot Analytics CEO and Cofounder.
The SMART AMR team is also currently developing specific assays that will be able to detect and quantify the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant, which has recently been identified as a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation.
"This method can be rapidly adapted to detect new variants of concern beyond B.1.1.7," said co-corresponding author Professor Eric Alm of MIT and Principal Investigator at SMART AMR. "Our partnership with Biobot Analytics has translated our research into real-world impact beyond the shores of Singapore and aid in the detection of COVID-19 and its variants, serving as an early warning system and guidance for policymakers as they trace infection clusters and consider suitable public health measures."
The research is carried out by SMART and supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF) Singapore under its Campus for Research Excellence And Technological Enterprise (CREATE) programme.
COLUMBUS, Ohio - The parasites that cause severe malaria are well-known for the sinister ways they infect humans, but new research may lead to drugs that could block one of their most reliable weapons: interference with the immune response.
In the study, scientists defined the atomic-level architecture of the connection between a protein on the surface of a parasite-infected red blood cell when it binds to a receptor on the surface of an immune cell.
When that protein-receptor connection is made under normal circumstances, the infected red blood cell, hijacked by the disease-causing parasite, de-activates the immune cell - meaning the body won't fight the infection. A drug designed to fit into that space could block the interaction, allowing the immune system to get to work clearing ...
LA JOLLA, CA--You can't make a banana split without bananas. And you can't generate stable regulatory T cells without Vitamin C or enzymes called TET proteins, it appears.
Regulatory T cells (Tregs) help control inflammation and autoimmunity in the body. Tregs are so important, in fact, that scientists are working to generate stable induced Tregs (iTregs) in vitro for use as treatments for autoimmune diseases as well as rejection to transplanted organs. Unfortunately, it has proven difficult to find the right molecular ingredients to induce stable iTregs.
Now scientists at La Jolla Institute for Immunology ...
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Research has found that cardiovascular disease risk factors, including high blood pressure, can start in childhood. Studies have also confirmed breastfeeding is associated with lower cardiovascular disease risk in adulthood. However, the amount and length of time breastfeeding that is needed ...
DALLAS, July 21, 2021 -- People who made even small increases in their daily physical activity levels after receiving an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) experienced fewer incidences of hospitalization and had a decreased risk of death, according to new research published today in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, an American Heart Association journal.
Implantable cardioverter defibrillators, also known as ICDs, are battery-powered devices placed under the skin that can detect abnormal heart rhythms and deliver an electric shock to restore a normal heartbeat. According to American Heart Association's Heart Disease ...
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Imagine meeting a friend on the street, and imagine that with every step they take, your visual system has to process their image from scratch in order to recognize them. Now imagine if the same thing were to happen for every object and creature that moves around us. We would live in a constant state of uncertainty and inconsistency. Luckily, that is not the case. Our visual system is able to retain information obtained in motion, thereby presenting us with a more consistent picture of our surroundings. These ...
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Researchers at the Universities of Birmingham and Oxford found that youngsters, in contrast, tend to learn much faster when they are making choices that benefit themselves.
The study, published in Nature Communications, focused on reinforcement learning - a fundamental type of learning in which we make decisions based on the positive outcomes from earlier choices. It allows us to adapt our choices to our environment by learning the associations between choices and their outcomes.
Dr Patricia Lockwood is senior author on ...
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Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is the most common leukemia in the Western world. New research published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology reveals that certain protein markers may indicate which patients have stable forms of CLL and which have more aggressive types.
Identifying these proteins may not only help determine patients' prognoses but also point to potential therapeutic targets for investigators who are searching for new CLL treatments.
"The results offer a meaningful biological approach into the protein composition of CLL cells at an early stage of the disease, when the clinical characteristics of patients are similar and the course of the disease is difficult to predict. ...
The COVID-19 pandemic has strongly impacted our sleep and dream activity. In a recent study published in the Journal of Sleep Research, people had a higher number of awakenings, a harder time falling asleep, higher dream recall, and more lucid dreams during lockdown than after lockdown.
People also reported more dreams related to "being in crowded places" during post-lockdown than lockdown.
For the study, 90 adults in Italy recorded their dream experiences and completed a sleep-dream diary each morning.
"Our results... confirmed that both sleep and ...