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Scientists to trial coronavirus antibody treatment to protect older people from Covid-19

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scientists to trial coronavirus antibody treatment to protect older people from covid 19

A British pharmaceutical giant is preparing to launch human trials of an antibody treatment that could protect old and vulnerable people from coronavirus.

Cambridge-based drugmaker AstraZeneca plans to test its three-minute infusion of antibodies – immune cells trained to fight infections – on 30 Britons next month.

If it is proven to be safe then the therapy will be fast-tracked into large-scale trials on thousands of people in the autumn and winter, when Covid-19 cases are expected to rise.

The treatment, described by Government scientists as ‘very exciting’, works by recreating the body’s natural disease-fighting substances in a lab and injecting them into vulnerable patients.

It is designed for people with immune systems so weak that conventional vaccines do not fully protect them. It would be suitable for those on chemotherapy and immunosuppressant drugs, or elderly patients who naturally struggle to fight off infections.

Conventional vaccines prompt the body to produce its own antibodies in preparation for the real infection. But elderly people do not respond as well and develop less potent antibodies than young people.

An antibody treatment to instantly provide protection against the coronavirus could be ready next year, according to the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca (stock image)

An antibody treatment to instantly provide protection against the coronavirus could be ready next year, according to the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca (stock image)

An antibody treatment to instantly provide protection against the coronavirus could be ready next year, according to the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca (stock image)

AstraZeneca, which has already partnered with Oxford University to develop a separate Covid-19 vaccine, says the antibody treatment could shield people from catching the infection for six months.

The therapy can also be used on people who are already infected to block the illness from progressing.

Sir Mene Pangalos, who leads pharmaceutical discovery research at AstraZeneca, told The Times: ‘There’s a population who are elderly that [may not] get a particularly good immune response to the [conventional] vaccine.

‘In those instances you might want to prophylactically treat those patients with an antibody to give them additional protection.

WHAT ARE ANTIBODIES?

Antibodies are substances produced by the immune system which store memories of how to fight off a specific virus. 

They can only be created if the body is exposed to the virus by getting infected for real, or through a vaccine or other type of specialist immune therapy.

Generally speaking, antibodies produce immunity to a virus because they are redeployed if it enters the body for a second time, defeating the bug faster than it can take hold and cause an illness. 

An antibody test, which involves analysis of someone’s blood sample, has two purposes: to reveal whether an individual has been infected in the past and may therefore be protected against the virus, and to count those people.

Knowing you are immune to a virus – although whether people actually develop immunity to Covid-19 is still unknown – can affect how you act in the future. 

Someone may need to protect themselves less if they know they have been infected, for example, or medical staff may be able to return to work in the knowledge they are not at risk.

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‘We’re going to do this as fast as we can. Obviously we’ve got to show that you’re safe but antibodies are well known entities — it should be safe.’

Sir Mene warned the treatment will likely cost double the amount of a standard vaccine and should be reserved for the sickest of patients.

The treatment uses so-called monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), which have been engineered in a laboratory and mimic antibodies naturally produced by recovered Covid patients.

Monoclonal antibodies are already being used to treat tetanus, Ebola and diphtheria.

Researchers from Vanderbilt University in the US evaluated more than 1,500 mAbs to find the two most effective at stifling Covid-19’s spread.

The two antibodies are given in combination via an injection. They work by binding to the coronavirus’s spike proteins, which is uses to latch onto human cells, and preventing it from entering the body.

A scientific adviser to the UK Government today described the new treatment as ‘very exciting’ and said it could prevent the sickest Covid patients developing severe complications.

Professor Peter Openshaw, an immunologist at Imperial College London, told The Telegraph: ‘I think it’s potentially a very exciting form of therapy and the field has advanced quite remarkably over recent years in terms of the ability to produce antibodies in factories or in labs in bulk, that would be necessary for such a treatment to work. We do have to wait for some really good studies to demonstrate this.’

A similar therapy is being trialled on dozens of Covid-19 patients in the US by New York-based firm Regeneron.

The drugmaker has developed its own antibody cocktail using an antibody made in a lab and a second isolated from humans who recovered from the disease.

Like AstraZeneca’s treatment, it is designed so that its two antibodies bind to the coronavirus’ spike protein, preventing the virus from latching onto human cells.

Antibodies are proteins which are produced by the immune system in response to the presence of a foreign substance, like the coronavirus. This can take a number of days.

Antibodies recognize and latch onto these substances, called antigens, in order to remove them from the body.

The immune system remembers the antigen so that if a person is exposed to it again, it can produce antibodies quicker.

It is not clear how long antibodies from the first infection last in the system providing some form of immunity.

An injection of cloned antibodies would be made by taking genetic coding for Covid-19 antibodies and engineering clones in a lab in order to make mass quantities.

Oxford University’s jab, which is being trialled on more than 11,000 people, is the frontrunner to become the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine.

Professor Sarah Gilbert, the the world-renowned expert behind the vaccine, believes the jab will give protection the virus for several years at least.   

Concerns had been raised after those with other types of coronavirus – which are less dangerous and cause the common cold – were able, in tests, to be reinfected within a year.

But Professor Gilbert told MPs earlier this month there may be a better result from a vaccine than the natural immunity acquired when individuals simply recover from a virus.

She said: ‘Vaccines have a different way of engaging with the immune system, and we follow people in our studies using the same type of technology to make the vaccines for several years, and we still see strong immune responses.

‘It’s something we have to test and follow over time – we can’t know until we actually have the data – but we’re optimistic based on earlier studies that we will see a good duration of immunity, for several years at least, and probably better than naturally-acquired immunity.’

Asked for a timeline on the vaccine, after the prospect was raised of facing the winter without one, Professor Gilbert told the committee: ‘I hope we can improve on those timelines and come to your rescue.’

Some 8,000 Britons are taking part in a major trial of the Oxford vaccine, which is being manufactured by pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca. But, as rates of coronavirus have fallen in this country, researchers are also aiming to vaccinate 4,000 individuals in Brazil and 2,000 in South Africa.

Covid-19 vaccine could be ready within a year if trials are successful, leading UK research scientist reveals

A vaccine for Covid-19 could be ready within a year if trials go well, a leading UK research scientist has sad.

Professor Robin Shattock, who leads a team working to produce a vaccine at Imperial College London, said that enough of the vaccine would be available for every person in the UK if trials go ‘really well’.

There is no certainty that the vaccine being developed with work though as its effectiveness depends on the level of immunity needed to prevent infection, which makes chances of success difficult to predict.

Professor Robin Shattock, who leads a team working to produce a vaccine at Imperial College London, said that enough of the vaccine would be available for every person in the UK if trials go 'really well'

Professor Robin Shattock, who leads a team working to produce a vaccine at Imperial College London, said that enough of the vaccine would be available for every person in the UK if trials go 'really well'

Professor Robin Shattock, who leads a team working to produce a vaccine at Imperial College London, said that enough of the vaccine would be available for every person in the UK if trials go ‘really well’

Speaking on Sky News’ Sophie Ridge On Sunday, Professor Shattock said: ‘So we anticipate if everything goes really well that we’ll get an answer as to whether it works by early next year.

‘And we have put in place the infrastructure to make that vaccine for the whole of the UK.

‘So, assuming that the funding is there to purchase that vaccine, we could have that vaccine rolled out across the UK in the first half of next year.’

15 volunteers have already been given the trial vaccines and testing is expected to ramp up to include as many as 200-300 new participants in the coming weeks.

15 volunteers have already been given the trial vaccines and testing is expected to ramp up to include as many as 200-300 new participants in the coming weeks (file image)

15 volunteers have already been given the trial vaccines and testing is expected to ramp up to include as many as 200-300 new participants in the coming weeks (file image)

15 volunteers have already been given the trial vaccines and testing is expected to ramp up to include as many as 200-300 new participants in the coming weeks (file image)

Professor Shattock told the programme: ‘If you only need a very small amount of immunity, I suspect most of the vaccines that are being developed will actually work, but if you need a very strong immune response or particular quality of immune response, we’ll see that actually it will be shaking out to some of these candidates.

‘We hope we will be the candidate, one of the candidates, that is successful, but there’s no certainty with any individual approach.’

Another vaccine is also being developed at Oxford University and the combined efforts of both teams has left Professor Shattock feeling optimistic that a vaccine could be ready soon – especially as the number of cases are falling.

He said that the although there is no certainty that either the vaccine at Imperial or Oxford could not work, the likelihood of both failing he says is ‘very low’.

Professor Shattock said that any vaccine will have to be introduced cautiously because normal full trials will not have taken place (file image)

Professor Shattock said that any vaccine will have to be introduced cautiously because normal full trials will not have taken place (file image)

Professor Shattock said that any vaccine will have to be introduced cautiously because normal full trials will not have taken place (file image)

However, given the importance of a vaccine and the pressure to develop one quickly, Professor Shattock said that any vaccine will have to be introduced cautiously because normal full trials will not have taken place.

He said: ‘I think the wire pressure is actually there’s such a push to develop a vaccine that normally, we would study a vaccine for two years before we made it widely available to the general public,’ he told the programme.

‘And of course, we won’t have two years of safety for this vaccine or any of the vaccines that are being developed.

‘And so they still will need to be introduced very cautiously, with long-term follow up, as that pressure to get a vaccine in and to get economies up and running is really very strong.’

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Renters betrayed as new evictions approach after housing secretary ‘tears up his pledge’

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renters betrayed as new evictions approach after housing secretary tears up his pledge

Renters have been plunged into turmoil as evictions are set to resume after the housing secretary ‘tore up his pledge’ to protect them. 

Robert Jenrick introduced a ban at the start of the Covid pandemic which halted all hearings of possession cases as he championed that ‘no renter who lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home’.

But, six months later, the government will allow evictions to resume in England and Wales from Monday.

Robert Jenrick (pictured) introduced a ban at the start of the Covid pandemic which halted all hearings of possession cases as he championed that 'no renter who lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home'

Robert Jenrick (pictured) introduced a ban at the start of the Covid pandemic which halted all hearings of possession cases as he championed that 'no renter who lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home'

Robert Jenrick (pictured) introduced a ban at the start of the Covid pandemic which halted all hearings of possession cases as he championed that ‘no renter who lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home’

Alicia Kennedy, who has directed the campaign Generation Rent, told The Times: ‘Robert Jenrick has torn up his pledge to protect renters.

‘There is now nothing stopping tenants who have been given a Section 21 [eviction] notice from being forced out of their home. 

‘Even renters in severe financial distress can only buy themselves an extra six weeks’ grace.

‘These new rules provide no comfort and do nothing to prevent hardship and homelessness.’

UK courts can usually grant automatic eviction notices if a tenant falls eight weeks into rent arrears. 

The ban on evictions has already been extended twice since March as figures from YouGov and Shelter suggest that 322,000 renters have fallen behind on their monthly payments due to the impact of the pandemic.    

The ban on evictions has already been extended twice as figures from YouGov and Shelter suggest that 322,000 private renters have fallen behind on their monthly payments due to the impact of the pandemic (stock image)

The ban on evictions has already been extended twice as figures from YouGov and Shelter suggest that 322,000 private renters have fallen behind on their monthly payments due to the impact of the pandemic (stock image)

The ban on evictions has already been extended twice as figures from YouGov and Shelter suggest that 322,000 private renters have fallen behind on their monthly payments due to the impact of the pandemic (stock image)

The government has instructed that bailiffs are still forbidden from evicting those in areas of local lockdown or in the run up to Christmas – apart from in exceptional circumstances. 

Labour is also calling for a further extension of the ban similar to that seen in Scotland and Northern Ireland where renters will not face eviction until March 31. 

Defending the decision, Mr Jenrick said it was ‘right that we strike a balance between protecting renters and ensuring landlords whose tenants have behaved in illegal or anti-social ways have access to justice’.

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Question of Sport team captain Willie Carson says BBC are on ‘dangerous ground’

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question of sport team captain willie carson says bbc are on dangerous ground

Former A Question of Sport team captain Willie Carson has said the BBC is on ‘dangerous ground’ by ditching host Sue Barker.

The former tennis player, 64, has been axed as host of the show, alongside team captains Matt Dawson and Phil Tufnell, so that bosses can draft in fresh talent to revamp the long-running sports quiz. 

Mr Carson, 77, who was a team captain in 1972, told the Daily Express: ‘The BBC are on dangerous ground because these are big shoes to fill. Very big shoes to fill.

Sue Barker, 64, (centre) has been axed as host of BBC's A Question Of Sport, alongside team captains Matt Dawson (left) and Phil Tufnell (right), so that bosses can draft in fresh talent

Sue Barker, 64, (centre) has been axed as host of BBC's A Question Of Sport, alongside team captains Matt Dawson (left) and Phil Tufnell (right), so that bosses can draft in fresh talent

Sue Barker, 64, (centre) has been axed as host of BBC’s A Question Of Sport, alongside team captains Matt Dawson (left) and Phil Tufnell (right), so that bosses can draft in fresh talent

Mr Carson, 77, who was a team captain in 1972, said: 'The BBC are on dangerous ground because these are big shoes to fill. Very big shoes to fill'

Mr Carson, 77, who was a team captain in 1972, said: 'The BBC are on dangerous ground because these are big shoes to fill. Very big shoes to fill'

Mr Carson, 77, who was a team captain in 1972, said: ‘The BBC are on dangerous ground because these are big shoes to fill. Very big shoes to fill’

‘It seems a little bit harsh in a way, because it seems to be a very successful team.

‘I’m sure most people were very happy the way the format is at the moment. I certainly am.

‘They have great chemistry between the three of them – seems a shame to lose that.’ 

Mr Carson was particularly critical of BBC middle-management for getting rid of Miss Barker, who will continue with presenting duties for the next two summers at Wimbledon, having signed a three-year deal last year.

He added: ‘People sitting at a desk think they can do better.

‘The racing term is: people in the stands can ride the horse better than the fellow on top, the jockey. That’s what’s happening.’ 

Jermaine Jenas is in the running to become one of the new team captains

Jermaine Jenas is in the running to become one of the new team captains

Alex Scott is in the mix to replace Barker as the host for A Question of Sport

Alex Scott is in the mix to replace Barker as the host for A Question of Sport

Jermaine Jenas and Alex Scott have both been tipped to join A Question of Sport in the future

Sources previously disclosed to Sportsmail that Alex Scott, the former Arsenal and England defender, is well-liked by the broadcaster and in the mix to replace Barker as presenter. 

Ex-Tottenham and England midfielder Jermaine Jenas is also in the running to become one of the new team captains, with the BBC keen to diversify.  

The final series of A Question Of Sport featuring Miss Barker, Tufnell and Dawson will be shown next year. 

The BBC told the Daily Express that ‘no conversations have been had about the future line-up.’  

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DR MICHAEL MOSLEY: Here’s how you CAN let a second wave wash over you

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dr michael mosley heres how you can let a second wave wash over you

After a last, glorious blast of heat, the British summer is almost over and we are now heading into autumn. 

I normally love this time of year, but right now I am seriously worried the next few months will bring a big surge in coronavirus cases — if we aren’t already heading into a second wave, with rises in cases in parts of the UK.

Part of the problem with colder weather is that we spend more time indoors, allowing viruses to flourish. But we’re also all still learning how to Covid-behave and it’s a steep learning curve. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pictured during a visit to the Jenner Institute in Oxford.  Like the flu, this coronavirus spreads when someone who is infected (but may not know it) coughs, sneezes, laughs, sings or shouts, spraying tiny droplets packed with viruses into the air

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pictured during a visit to the Jenner Institute in Oxford.  Like the flu, this coronavirus spreads when someone who is infected (but may not know it) coughs, sneezes, laughs, sings or shouts, spraying tiny droplets packed with viruses into the air

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pictured during a visit to the Jenner Institute in Oxford.  Like the flu, this coronavirus spreads when someone who is infected (but may not know it) coughs, sneezes, laughs, sings or shouts, spraying tiny droplets packed with viruses into the air

A few weeks ago my wife Clare and I went out with a couple of friends for a meal in a pub restaurant — the four of us ended up sitting close together, cheek by jowl with lots of other people shouting and having a good time. 

There was no attempt at social distancing, none of the waiters wore masks and no one was asked to give their contact information. I must confess, it freaked me out — and I haven’t been back since.

I’m no germaphobe — our house has always been the average-family-with-dog type clean, we don’t use antibacterial soap and normally we do just a quick wipe of the surfaces — but with the R (the virus reproduction) rate cross the UK above 1, the figure at which cases can increase exponentially, more people are going to be exposed to the virus, and that’s a worry.

And I don’t think we can rely on a vaccine being widely available until the end of this year at the earliest.

As a man now in his seventh decade (I am 63), I tick two of the boxes for risk factors for severe Covid — my gender and older age — should I catch it.

I normally love this time of year, but right now I am seriously worried the next few months will bring a big surge in coronavirus cases — if we aren’t already heading into a second wave, with rises in cases in parts of the UK [File photo]

I normally love this time of year, but right now I am seriously worried the next few months will bring a big surge in coronavirus cases — if we aren’t already heading into a second wave, with rises in cases in parts of the UK [File photo]

I normally love this time of year, but right now I am seriously worried the next few months will bring a big surge in coronavirus cases — if we aren’t already heading into a second wave, with rises in cases in parts of the UK [File photo]

So what can we do to protect ourselves and our loved ones — beyond obvious things such as wearing a mask and practising social distancing?

Like the flu, this coronavirus spreads when someone who is infected (but may not know it) coughs, sneezes, laughs, sings or shouts, spraying tiny droplets packed with viruses into the air.

If you’re unlucky enough to be nearby, you can become infected by getting the virus on your hands (and later rubbing your eyes) or breathing in some of the viruses.

The longer spent with an infected person, particularly if you are close up indoors, the higher the risk.

So one of the things to do is avoid or reduce Covid-risky activities (Google ‘Covid risk’ for diagrams that conveniently break down routine activities into different risk categories).

The least risky include getting a takeaway or opening the post — which you will be pleased to know if you’re someone who leaves letters and parcels to ‘self-isolate’ for several days before handling.

‘Low to moderate’ risk are things like food shopping, eating outside at a restaurant, staying in a hotel for two nights and playing golf. 

‘Moderate to high’ risk includes going to a hair salon, eating inside a restaurant, travelling by plane, and hugging or shaking hands. 

The ‘high risk’ category seems pretty obvious — eating at a buffet, attending a religious service (particularly if it’s packed) and going to a bar or gym.

I’ve done plenty of the ‘low to moderate’ risk activities (including handling the post!); but in the ‘moderately high risk category’ there are things Clare, who is a GP, and I have consciously stopped doing — for instance, I haven’t shaken hands since early March, and we’ve only eaten indoors at a restaurant, on a couple of occasions. 

The only ‘high risk’ thing we’ve done is go to our local cinema, which had about ten people in it. 

I hate gyms and have no intention of going to a bar until this crisis is over. This isn’t because I’m personally worried about becoming seriously ill if I got infected. 

In fact, reassuringly my personal risk is pretty low — I know this thanks to the Covid-risk quiz below, designed by the British Medical Association. 

My score was 3 (two for my age, and one for being male), putting me at ‘medium’ risk, while Clare, who is 59, scored just 1, so her risk is low.

Even if you are low risk, nobody wants to catch or spread Covid-19, so here are my evidence-based steps to stop that happening: 

33360938 0 image a 520 1600475769752

33360938 0 image a 520 1600475769752

Weigh yourself 

While you can’t do anything about your age, gender or ethnicity (which matters for severe Covid risk), you can do something about your weight, blood pressure and blood sugar levels — all risk factors for severe Covid. 

Losing weight can lead to big improvements in blood pressure and blood sugar levels, as last week’s Shape Up Britain series in the Mail demonstrated so well.

What surprises me is that so many people who are overweight don’t know it — a recent study found only 10 per cent of people who are obese (with a BMI over 30) realise it. 

Get into the sun 

A good night’s sleep is especially important for keeping your immune system in good shape as this is when your body starts making important components of your immunity, such as antibodies. 

A big U.S. study in 2019 found that people who had over seven hours’ sleep a night were four times less likely to come down with a cold than those getting six hours or less. 

Bright light in the morning helps set your body clock, leading to better sleep and stronger immunity. If you can’t get outdoors, sit by a window. 

A good night’s sleep is especially important for keeping your immune system in good shape [File photo]

A good night’s sleep is especially important for keeping your immune system in good shape [File photo]

A good night’s sleep is especially important for keeping your immune system in good shape [File photo]

Take vitamin D 

Although I’m not a fan of supplements, I have recently bought some vitamin D. It is vital for a healthy immune system and plays a key role in activating your T cells, which seem to be particularly important for destroying coronaviruses. 

While the evidence whether it makes much difference with Covid-19 is mixed, NHS advice is that most of us should consider taking 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day. 

The hello elbow 

Instead of shaking hands, I’ve become an elbow nudger — I also use my forearm or elbow to push open doors. If I have to touch a lift button, I do it with a pen — even better, I take the stairs.

Don’t hand it on

I wash my hands whenever I’ve been out, and always before eating. And these days I do it for at least 20 seconds, while singing Staying Alive.

Brain tricks I used to cut back on my drinking…

I was shocked to read earlier this week that the number of people now drinking at levels that threaten their health has doubled to 8.5 million since February. 

Stuck indoors, anxious about Covid-19 and worried about their jobs, it’s not surprising so many have turned to booze. 

While I’ve never been a heavy drinker — not least because boringly, alcohol just makes me sleepy — a few years ago my wife, Clare, and I decided to try a 5:2 approach to alcohol: we now drink only on Fridays and Saturdays and try to stay alcohol free the other five days of the week. 

Another trick I use to slow down the amount of alcohol I drink is to leave the bottle of wine on the other side of the room, so I have to get up for a refill, and I try to drink a glass of water for each glass of booze. 

These are ways of cutting your intake without overtaxing your willpower — it’s about tricking your brain into forming new habits that moderate your behaviour without you realising it!

Of course, if your drinking is serious, you may need professional support: an honest conversation with your GP is a good place to start.

Stuck indoors, anxious about Covid-19 and worried about their jobs, it’s not surprising so many have turned to booze [File photo]

Stuck indoors, anxious about Covid-19 and worried about their jobs, it’s not surprising so many have turned to booze [File photo]

Stuck indoors, anxious about Covid-19 and worried about their jobs, it’s not surprising so many have turned to booze [File photo]

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