Russian Scientists Investigate the Immune Response to SARS-CoV-2 Variants
HSE University researchers assessed the effectiveness of the T-cell immune response to 11 variants of SARS-CoV-2. Their findings have been published in Nucleic Acids Research.
The continuing emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 mutations allows the virus to spread more effectively and evade antibodies. However, it is unclear whether new strains are capable of evading T-cell immunity — one of the body’s main lines of defence against COVID-19.
The development of a T-cell immune response is largely governed by genetic factors, including variations in the genes of the major histocompatibility complex (also known as HLA). Each HLA gene variant has a corresponding molecule that identifies a specific set of peptides (protein) of a virus. There are a huge number of such gene variations, and each person has a unique set of them.
The effectiveness of the development of T-cell immunity to COVID-19 strains varies from person to person. Depending on the set of HLA molecules, some people’s immune systems will identify and destroy a mutated virus with the same efficacy as they would the base form of the virus. In others, the response is less effective.
The research was carried out by a group of scientists from HSE University’s Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology and the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry of the Russian Academy of Sciences, including Stepan Nersisyan, Anton Zhiyanov, Maxim Shkurnikov, and Alexander Tonevitsky. They assessed the genetic features of the development of T-cell immunity to 11 main SARS-CoV-2 variants by analyzing the most common HLA gene variants. The researchers used their results to develop the T-cell COVID-19 Atlas portal (T-CoV).
The researchers used bioinformatics to assess the binding affinities of hundreds of HLA molecule variations and tens of thousands of virus peptides of the main SARS-CoV-2 variants (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota, Kappa and Lambda). The team identified the HLA alleles that displayed the most significantly changed set of identified virus peptides. According to the scientists, mutated variants may pose a higher risk to people with these alleles.
‘T-cell immunity works such that the variation in HLA molecules and T-cell receptors prevents viruses from evading the immune response. Our research did not find a single HLA genotype variant that is negatively affected by viral mutations in a significant way. This means that even in conditions of reduced antibody effectiveness, T-cell immunity continues to operate effectively,’ commented Aleksander Tonevitsky, Dean of the Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology at HSE University.
Russian researchers have developed a strategy to create a cheap and rapid COVID-19 test based on isothermal amplification. According to their publication in Applied Biochemistry and Microbiology, use of this strategy will make it possible to create universal test systems for any of the COVID-19 variants.
HSE social and political analysts have established which value models and circumstances promote support for restrictive government policies aimed at combatting the coronavirus pandemic. The research is published in Plos One.
Researchers from the HSE Faculty of Economic Sciences have proposed a mathematical model that describes the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, taking into account the restrictions applied in different countries. The model will help governments make reasonable and timely decisions on introducing or lifting restrictions. The paper was published in Eurasian Economic Review.
The new regulations ‘On the Organization of Studies for the 2021/2022 Academic Year’ feature in detail what will change for first-year students in the new academic year. HSE University will be organizing a vaccination drive in September for students aged 18 and over who are unvaccinated. Younger students will be eligible for vaccination once they turn 18.
Starting September 1, 2021, HSE University-Moscow is introducing new safety policies on campus to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They apply to students over 18 years old who have not had COVID during the last six months, have not been vaccinated (with a Russian or a foreign vaccine), nor have a medical exemption from vaccination. Free vaccination will be available on campus to all arriving students.
Researchers of HSE Tikhonov Moscow Institute of Electronics and Mathematics (MIEM), in cooperation with their colleagues from the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), and The European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), have developed software to model the spread of the COVID-19 global pandemic. This is the world’s fastest Viral Genealogy Simulator (VGsim). For more details about this scalable simulator, read the reprint on medRxiv. The code is freely available at GitHub.
The year 2020 was a period of economic hardship and significant change in a wide range of sectors for most countries. A team of authors from HSE University has explored how Russia will recover from this crisis and which industries will be affected by the economic recovery. Their study was published in the journal Voprosy ekonomiki.
Researchers have yet to evaluate the entire impact of COVID on mortality. However, it is now possible to discuss the first results of some initial studies. The HSE International Laboratory for Population and Health held a webinar ‘The First Year of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Russia (April 2020—March 2021)’. Although the Russian total mortality rate increased during that period, it was Slovakia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Poland that topped the list. The lowest growth in the mortality rate was observed in South Korea. Meanwhile, researchers have failed to detect a lockdown-induced baby boom anywhere in the world.
The HSE Centre for Fundamental Sociology has recently held ‘Logica Socialis’, an open social theory seminar. Andrei Korbut, Senior Research Fellow at the HSE Centre for Fundamental Sociology, presented his report entitled ‘COVID-19 as an interactional phenomenon: People’s behaviour in public places during the pandemic’.