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China CDC Weekly: Commentary by Dr. Robert C. Gallo

February 12, 2021 | Robert C. Gallo, MD

Robert C. Gallo, MD

Commentary written by Dr. Gallo appearing in China CDC Weekly

Over the past century, the great pandemics and most epidemics (defined as virus presence and disease induction presenting more than the expected number of infections in a population) were caused by the sudden outbreak of an RNA virus such as the pandemics of influenza, polio, and HIV/AIDS and the epidemics of influenza, Ebola, Dengue, Zika, West Nile, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and Chikungunya. Of course, there are other infections that remain endemic problems in parts of the world, which are caused by bacteria (like tuberculosis) or parasites (like malaria).

As everyone knows, the newest and among the most severe pandemic coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is again caused by an RNA virus, first identified by Chinese medical scientists and shown to be both highly contagious and dangerous (14). Why its relatives, SARS and MERS, rather quickly declined and disappeared as a global threat, while COVID-19 became global and persisted unabetted is unknown.

What is clear are the following: 1) the Chinese scientific and public health groups such as China CDC were quick and effective for China (see references at the end for a few of the key early papers); 2) the rapid publication (January 10, 2020) of the sequence of the genome of the virus enabled the world to rapidly design vaccine plans and more sophisticated diagnostics; 3) their grasp of transmission by aerosols; 4) asymptomatic persons could be infectious; and 5) their identification of numerous coronaviruses in bats as the key carriers benefited all.

As this virus spread globally, medical scientists were quick to see that it could induce a two-phase disease. First is the establishment of infection and showing mild symptoms, but in many cases progressing to a severe inflammatory disease involving numerous organs but especially lung damage and sometimes leading to death. Progress on developing safe, specific, and potent anti-viral drugs for the early first-stage disease has been slow and disappointing, whereas treatment of the inflammatory stage with dexamethasone has had some significant benefit, but this will soon greatly improve (see below).

As to the future, I am proud to state here that a major new advance will soon be announced from our Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine made by Professors Yang Liu and Pan Zheng in close cooperation with the company Oncoimmune. They have used the CD24 molecule to target an inflammatory pathway with specificity and with minimal or no side effects. It has shown outstanding success in COVID-19 patients in all preliminary studies, which will soon be reported. This work began decades ago when Yang Liu came from China to work with Charles Janeway at Yale, one of the greatest basic research immunologists in the world. This dramatic and life-saving result will be reported soon. Of interest, these scientists originating from China are true Chinese-Americans, and they collaborate with Chinese scientists and, of course, with Americans.

We speculate that COVID-19 virus may disappear or be controlled while returning seasonally, similar to the flu, but in reality, we have no idea. We have high hopes for the specific preventive vaccines due to some early positive results, but we must remain vigilant for possibilities of lack of antibody durability, virus escape mutations, and difficulties in global deployment. My collaborators and I have strongly suggested that we keep in mind exploiting the power of innate immunity. This can be achieved by the use of “old” non-specific “live” attenuated vaccines (LAVs) like oral polio, “live” measles vaccines etc., to induce off-target that is non-specific but powerful induction of innate immunity. Innate immunity responds immediately to invaders and is our first line of everyday defense against infections.

Apparently, it is the mechanism used by bats in order to live with their coronavirus infections, and the genome of COVID-19 virus contains regions that have specifically evolved to try to avoid the innate immune system indicating that these viruses are particularly sensitive to these mechanisms protecting us. Clinical studies with COVID-19 virus infection are consistent with this. There is a direct correlation with the expression of genes related to innate immune responses and better prognosis, and conversely with bad prognosis when there are deleterious mutations within the innate immunity system. We could have used LAVs at the onset of the pandemic as “stop gaps” until specific vaccines became available. They still can be used if problems occur with the specific vaccines or even with the specific vaccines to enhance them.

Finally, we need better global scientific organization. A “pan” demic means all are affected, and we are all at risk if one member of the global community remains impacted by the virus. All must be together, and that has been far from true so far. I propose that this can best be mediated in part by scientific expertise such as by the deep involvement of the Global Virus Network (GVN), which now consists of 61 Centers of Excellence and 11 Affiliates in 34 countries, containing expertise in virology that covers every type of pathogenic virus and includes animal virology, with a major role for China GVN.

During the beginning of the pandemic, we within the GVN had excellent discussions with Chinese colleagues like Yiming Shao and George F. Gao of Beijing as well as Linfa Wang in Singapore, who collaborates closely with Chinese colleagues. It was within the GVN large group discussions that we came to fully realize the importance of innate immunity in controlling COVID-19 virus. Indeed, and above all, we must foster closer ties and collaboration between the US and China, perhaps best mediated by the GVN, which continues to expand its global presence. The world expects this of China and America; the world needs this; the world deserves this. We can accomplish almost anything working together, such as the end of COVID-19 virus and advanced preparation for any future RNA virus threats. Without this, we can be sure such progress has far less chance.

    Corresponding author: Robert C. Gallo
    PublicationChina CDC Weekly
    Online Date: February 12 2021
    doi: 10.46234/ccdcw2021.037

    References

    1. Tan WJ, Zhao X, Ma XJ, Wang WL, Niu PH, Xu WB, et al. Notes from the field: a novel coronavirus genome identified in a cluster of pneumonia cases — Wuhan, China 2019−2020. China CDC Wkly 2020;2(4):61 − 2.
    2. Zhu N, Zhang DY, Wang WL, Li XW, Yang B, Song JD, et al. A novel coronavirus from patients with pneumonia in China, 2019. N Engl J Med 2020;382(8):727 − 33.
    3. The 2019-nCoV Outbreak Joint Field Epidemiology Investigation Team, Li Q. Notes from the field: an outbreak of NCIP (2019-nCoV) infection in China — Wuhan, Hubei Province, 2019−2020. China CDC Wkly 2020;2(5):79 − 80.
    4. Tu WX, Tang HL, Chen FF, Wei YN, Xu TL, Liao KJ, et al. Notes from the field: epidemic update and risk assessment of 2019 novel coronavirus — China, January 28, 2020. China CDC Wkly 2020;2(6):83 − 6.

    Citation

    Robert C. Gallo. The Great Coronavirus Pandemic of 2019−2021: the Future and the Requirement for China-America Cooperation[J]. China CDC Weekly, 2021, 3(7): 136-137. doi: 10.46234/ccdcw2021.037

     

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    Chief Communications & Public Affairs Officer
    (443) 823-0613 (phone)
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    nsamaranayake@ihv.umaryland.edu

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      NBC News: As the world waits for a coronavirus vaccine, some scientists are proposing that existing vaccines could give the body’s immune system a much-needed temporary boost to stave off infection. It’s still unclear whether such an approach would work, and some experts are skeptical. Others — including researchers in Israel, the Netherlands and Australia — are already investigating whether a tuberculosis vaccine could help jump-start the immune system and make COVID-19 less deadly, though the World Health Organization strongly advises against using that vaccine until it’s proven effective against the coronavirus.


      Thursday, June 11, 2020

      Global Virus Network Suggests Oral Polio Vaccine May Provide Temporary Protection Against COVID-19

      The Global Virus Network (GVN), a coalition comprised of the world’s preeminent human and animal virologists from 53 Centers of Excellence, including the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and 10 Affiliates in 32 countries, published a viewpoint in Science today that the stimulation of innate immunity by live attenuated vaccines in general, and oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) in particular, could provide temporary protection against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).


      Tuesday, June 02, 2020

      UM School of Medicine’s Institute of Human Virology Awarded Grants to Strengthen COVID-19 Response in Sub-Saharan Africa

      The Center for International Health, Education and Biosecurity (Ciheb) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Institute of Human Virology was awarded $4 million from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) response activities in Botswana, Nigeria, Malawi, and Mozambique.


      Monday, May 11, 2020

      BBC Global News Interviews Dr. Robert Gallo on Oral Polio Vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 and More

      Dr. Robert Gallo appeared on BBC World News with Matthew Amroliwala for a one-on-one, lengthy interview during their Coronavirus Explained segment.


      Saturday, May 09, 2020

      Dr. Robert Gallo Discuss COVID-19 Research on Aljazeera News

      Aljazeera discusses the status of therapy, testing and vaccine research on SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 with Dr. Robert Gallo.


      Thursday, May 07, 2020

      The Disappointing Truth About Antibody Testing: There’s still a lot we don’t know about COVID-19

      Dr. Robert Gallo discusses the status of COVID-19 antibody test with Vox's The Verge


      Wednesday, May 06, 2020

      The Coronavirus Appears to have Mutated. What Does that Mean for Contagiousness?

      While small mutations in the virus's genetic code are evident, it's unclear what these changes mean for people, if anything at all.


      Saturday, May 02, 2020

      IHV's Dr. Robert Gallo on FOX's Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren

      Overtime: Dr. Robert Gallo talks coronavirus treatments and antibody testing.


      Saturday, May 02, 2020

      Dr. Robert Gallo on iHeart Radio to Discuss COVID-19

      Ryan Gorman hosts an iHeartRadio nationwide special featuring experts on COVID-19-related issues, including the co-founder and director of the Institute Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the senior vice president for U.S. Programs & Advocacy at Save the Children, and the managing editor of the Military Times. Topics range from a discussion about why some people infected by the coronavirus are asymptomatic, while others face severe reactions and even death, to assistance for impoverished children, and a breakdown of the impact the virus is having on the U.S. military and veterans.


      Friday, May 01, 2020

      Could an Oral Polio Vaccine Stop the Coronavirus Pandemic?

      A YouTube video by the American Chemical Society and produced by PBS.


      Thursday, March 19, 2020

      What COVID-19 Symptoms Look Like, Day By Day

      (Source: Business Insider) According to the World Health Organization-China Joint Mission on COVID-19, as of February 20, 80% of laboratory-confirmed cases were mild to moderate, 14% were severe, and 6% were critical. Just to be clear, a mild case of COVID-19 is not like a mild cold. The symptoms will still be pretty severe. Anything less than needing oxygen puts you in this category. Severe cases do need supplemental oxygen, and critical ones are defined by respiratory or multi-organ failure.


      Tuesday, December 04, 2018

      Institute of Human Virology Researchers Discover That a Bacterial Protein Promotes Cancer

      The Institute of Human Virology (IHV) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) announced today the discovery that DnaK, a protein of the bacterium mycoplasma, interferes with the mycoplasma-infected cell’s ability to respond to and repair DNA damage, a known origin of cancer.


      Monday, December 03, 2018

      Institute of Human Virology Names Dr. Man Charurat as Director of the Center for International Health, Education, and Biosecurity

      The Institute of Human Virology (IHV) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine today announced the appointment of Man E. Charurat, PhD, MHS, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Division of Epidemiology and Prevention at the IHV as the Director of IHV’s Center for International Health, Education, and Biosecurity (CIHEB). Dr. Charurat will replace Deus Bazira, DrPH, MPH, MBA. The announcement was made by Robert C. Gallo, MD, The Homer & Martha Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine, Co-Founder and Director of the IHV, and Co-Founder and Director of the Global Virus Network (GVN).


      Wednesday, September 19, 2018

      Institute of Human Virology (IHV) Awarded $12M to Combat Opioid Epidemic Through Clinical Research Trials

      The Institute of Human Virology (IHV) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine will lead a $12 million dollar project to improve the morbidity and mortality of people with opioid use disorder (OUD). Utilizing a novel compound, IHV researches will implement a series of investigations, entitled SEARCH, to evaluate the underlying mechanisms of craving reduction as a strategy to prevent opioid misuse, dependence, and relapse. The grant is awarded through the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative, made possible through groundbreaking funding from the U.S. Congress.


      Tuesday, December 12, 2017

      A Statement from the Leadership of the Institute of Human Virology on the Passing of Stewart Greenebaum

      The Institute of Human Virology (IHV) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine mourns the passing of Stewart Greenebaum, a lifelong Baltimore resident, former president of Greenebaum and Rose Associates, and past chairman of the IHV Board of Advisors, as well as a guiding force in the establishment of the IHV at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.


      Wednesday, November 29, 2017

      To Mark World AIDS Day, Institute of Human Virology Releases Video on Dr. Robert Gallo

      The Institute of Human Virology (IHV) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) released a video on Dr. Robert Gallo, a trailblazer in HIV research, in advance of World AIDS Day, December 1. While many know Dr. Gallo for his pioneering work in AIDS research, the short video focuses on Dr. Gallo’s life and legacy in its entirety, including his pioneering discovery of human retroviruses.


      Tuesday, October 25, 2016

      "A Call to End HIV/AIDS in America" IHV Director Dr. Robert Gallo's Op-Ed in the Huffington Post

      As the new Administration is presented with great challenges facing the United States, one will be a longtime foe, the U.S. HIV/AIDS epidemic. Since President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, I have publicly called on our country’s leaders to utilize the largest global health initiative in history - the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) - as a model to address the U.S. epidemic.


      Monday, August 22, 2016

      Institute of Human Virology (IHV) Awarded $14.4M for HIV Vaccine Research

      The Institute of Human Virology (IHV) announced a $14.4M grant from NIAID to advance HIV vaccine research to solve a major challenge: produce long-lasting antibodies to protect against HIV infection.


      Thursday, March 10, 2016

      UM SOM Establishes Two Endowed Professorships Through Private Gifts and Matching State Funds

      University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, announced today that the School has been awarded matching funds from the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) as part of the Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative Fund program. The funds, when combined with private philanthropy, will enable UM SOM to establish two new endowed professorships – one in human virology and vaccine development, the other in surgical science and entrepreneurship.


      Tuesday, September 29, 2015

      Institute of Human Virology Hosts International Meeting of Prominent AIDS Researchers

      The Institute of Human Virology (IHV) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine is hosting IHV’s 17th Annual International Meeting Sunday, September 27 through Wednesday, September 30 at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland.