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Watching the Changes

The UK COVID genomics consortium (COG-UK) is keeping a watchful eye on mutations that are arising within circulating SARS-CoV-2 strains for any that could, down the line, affect how well antibody-based treatments or vaccines may work, the Guardian reports

In a recent report, COG-UK notes that a viral lineage with a mutation that likely affects the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein receptor binding motif is currently circulating in Europe. The viral spike protein is targeted by most candidate vaccines under development.

While COG-UK adds that there is no evidence that this variant will affect how effective vaccines under development may be, it says the variant "highlight[s] the need to establish a systematic approach for monitoring" viral alterations that crop up, "in particular when selective pressure from mass vaccination programs begins." COG-UK adds that it is establishing a new working group to monitor mutations and prioritize them for more in-depth analysis.

"Anything that affects the spike protein can potentially change how either natural immunity or vaccine-induced immunity responds to the virus," Jeffrey Barrett from the Sanger Institute tells the Guardian.

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.