'Very low chance' vaccine will be ready in October, Warp Speed leader says; virus causes 'carnage' in lab-grown heart cells — 4 COVID-19 updates

The U.S. reported an average of 40,530 cases daily in the past week, down 12 percent from the average seen two weeks ago, reports The New York Times.

Four updates:

1. Lab research from the University of California, San Francisco offers new evidence of how COVID-19 may damage the heart, reports STAT. Researchers at UCSF's Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease conducted the study, which entailed adding the SARS-CoV-2 virus to heart cells grown in petri dishes. They found the long muscle fibers that help hearts beat were "diced" into precise, small pieces, which one researcher described as "carnage." Researchers witnessed a similar phenomenon in heart tissue from deceased COVID-19 patients. The study was published in the medical preprint server bioRxiv and has not been peer-reviewed. 

"When we saw this disruption in those microfibers … that was when we made the decision to pull the trigger and put out this preprint," study co-author Todd McDevitt, PhD, a senior investigator at Gladstone, told STAT. "I'm not a scientist who likes to stoke these things [but] I did not sleep, honestly, while we were finishing this paper and putting it out there."

2. Depression symptoms in Americans jumped more than three-fold during the COVID-19 pandemic, a study published in JAMA Network Open found. Researchers compared responses of 1,441 U.S. adults surveyed between March 31 and April 13 to responses from 5,065 people surveyed between 2017-18. The prevalence of mild to severe depression symptoms was consistently higher during the pandemic. People with fewer social and economic resources, along with a greater exposure to stressors like job loss, reported a greater burden of symptoms.  

3. There is a "very, very low chance" of getting a vaccine by late October, though it's not impossible, Moncef Slaoui, PhD, chief scientific adviser of Operation Warp Speed, told NPR. During a Sept. 3 interview, Dr. Slaoui said the CDC's guidance to states to prepare for vaccine distribution as soon as late October was "the right thing to do" in case a vaccine was ready, though he expressed doubt that it would be ready that early. However, Dr. Slaoui said he firmly believes the U.S. will have a COVID-19 vaccine "available before the end of the year," estimating between 20 and 25 million people could be vaccinated by the end of 2020. The U.S. has no intent to introduce a vaccine before clinical trials are complete, Dr. Slaoui added.

4. Russian scientists found a modest amount of antibodies in volunteers given the country's COVID-19 vaccine dubbed Sputnik V, according to a small study published Sept. 4 in The Lancet. In August, Russia became the first country to approve a vaccine, though no data had been published. The Sept. 4 publication details results from a phase ½ trial, an early stage of clinical research, from Moscow-based Gamaleya Research Institute. Only 40 volunteers received the full vaccine and there wasn't a placebo. The vaccine produced mild symptoms in a number of participants, such as fever and headache. Volunteers receiving the full vaccine produced antibodies to the coronavirus, as well as immune cells that could respond strongly to the virus, researchers found. However, the vaccine did not produce as many antibodies as AstraZeneca's or Moderna's vaccines, the researchers noted. The Russian scientists said they received approval Aug. 26 to run a phase 3 trial on 40,000 people. 

Snapshot of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Cases: 6,151,253
Deaths: 186,806
Recovered: 2,266,957

Counts reflect data available as of 8:40 a.m. CDT Sept. 4.

More articles on public health:
US coronavirus death rates by state: Aug. 21
20 states where COVID-19 is spreading fastest, slowest: Aug. 21 
Iowa's former communications director says state tried to withhold COVID-19 info



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