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Journal: Science translational medicine


Coronaviruses (CoVs) traffic frequently between species resulting in novel disease outbreaks, most recently exemplified by the newly emerged SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19. Herein, we show that the ribonucleoside analog β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine (NHC, EIDD-1931) has broad spectrum antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2, MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and related zoonotic group 2b or 2c Bat-CoVs, as well as increased potency against a coronavirus bearing resistance mutations to the nucleoside analog inhibitor remdesivir. In mice infected with SARS-CoV or MERS-CoV, both prophylactic and therapeutic administration of EIDD-2801, an orally bioavailable NHC-prodrug (β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine-5'-isopropyl ester), improved pulmonary function, and reduced virus titer and body weight loss. Decreased MERS-CoV yields in vitro and in vivo were associated with increased transition mutation frequency in viral but not host cell RNA, supporting a mechanism of lethal mutagenesis in CoV. The potency of NHC/EIDD-2801 against multiple coronaviruses and oral bioavailability highlight its potential utility as an effective antiviral against SARS-CoV-2 and other future zoonotic coronaviruses.


Detection of SARS-CoV-2 infections to date has relied heavily on RT-PCR testing. However, limited test availability, high false-negative rates, and the existence of asymptomatic or sub-clinical infections have resulted in an under-counting of the true prevalence of SARS-CoV-2. Here, we show how influenza-like illness (ILI) outpatient surveillance data can be used to estimate the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2. We found a surge of non-influenza ILI above the seasonal average in March 2020 and showed that this surge correlated with COVID-19 case counts across states. If 1/3 of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 in the US sought care, this ILI surge would have corresponded to more than 8.7 million new SARS-CoV-2 infections across the US during the three-week period from March 8 to March 28, 2020. Combining excess ILI counts with the date of onset of community transmission in the US, we also show that the early epidemic in the US was unlikely to have been doubling slower than every 4 days. Together these results suggest a conceptual model for the COVID-19 epidemic in the US characterized by rapid spread across the US with over 80% infected patients remaining undetected. We emphasize the importance of testing these findings with seroprevalence data and discuss the broader potential to use syndromic surveillance for early detection and understanding of emerging infectious diseases.


Increased prevalence of inflammatory airway diseases including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) together with inadequate disease control by current frontline treatments means that there is a need to define therapeutic targets for these conditions. Here, we investigate a member of the G protein-coupled receptor family, FFA4, that responds to free circulating fatty acids including dietary omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils. We show that FFA4, although usually associated with metabolic responses linked with food intake, is expressed in the lung where it is coupled to Gq/11 signaling. Activation of FFA4 by drug-like agonists produced relaxation of murine airway smooth muscle mediated at least in part by the release of the prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) that subsequently acts on EP2 prostanoid receptors. In normal mice, activation of FFA4 resulted in a decrease in lung resistance. In acute and chronic ozone models of pollution-mediated inflammation and house dust mite and cigarette smoke-induced inflammatory disease, FFA4 agonists acted to reduce airway resistance, a response that was absent in mice lacking expression of FFA4. The expression profile of FFA4 in human lung was similar to that observed in mice, and the response to FFA4/FFA1 agonists similarly mediated human airway smooth muscle relaxation ex vivo. Our study provides evidence that pharmacological targeting of lung FFA4, and possibly combined activation of FFA4 and FFA1, has in vivo efficacy and might have therapeutic value in the treatment of bronchoconstriction associated with inflammatory airway diseases such as asthma and COPD.


Pathogenic coronaviruses are a major threat to global public health, as exemplified by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and the newly emerged SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). We describe herein the structure-guided optimization of a series of inhibitors of the coronavirus 3C-like protease (3CLpro), an enzyme essential for viral replication. The optimized compounds were effective against several human coronaviruses including MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 in an enzyme assay and in cell-based assays using Huh-7 and Vero E6 cell lines. Two selected compounds showed antiviral effects against SARS-CoV-2 in cultured primary human airway epithelial cells. In a mouse model of MERS-CoV infection, administration of a lead compound one day after virus infection increased survival from 0 to 100% and reduced lung viral titers and lung histopathology. These results suggest that this series of compounds has the potential to be developed further as antiviral drugs against human coronaviruses.


Intracortical microstimulation of the somatosensory cortex offers the potential for creating a sensory neuroprosthesis to restore tactile sensation. Whereas animal studies have suggested that both cutaneous and proprioceptive percepts can be evoked using this approach, the perceptual quality of the stimuli cannot be measured in these experiments. We show that microstimulation within the hand area of the somatosensory cortex of a person with long-term spinal cord injury evokes tactile sensations perceived as originating from locations on the hand and that cortical stimulation sites are organized according to expected somatotopic principles. Many of these percepts exhibit naturalistic characteristics (including feelings of pressure), can be evoked at low stimulation amplitudes, and remain stable for months. Further, modulating the stimulus amplitude grades the perceptual intensity of the stimuli, suggesting that intracortical microstimulation could be used to convey information about the contact location and pressure necessary to perform dexterous hand movements associated with object manipulation.

Concepts: Perception, Sensory system, Skin, Sense, Somatosensory system, Mind, Proprioception, Philosophy of perception


Alcohol-based disinfectants and particularly hand rubs are a key way to control hospital infections worldwide. Such disinfectants restrict transmission of pathogens, such as multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Enterococcus faecium Despite this success, health care infections caused by E. faecium are increasing. We tested alcohol tolerance of 139 hospital isolates of E. faecium obtained between 1997 and 2015 and found that E. faecium isolates after 2010 were 10-fold more tolerant to killing by alcohol than were older isolates. Using a mouse gut colonization model of E. faecium transmission, we showed that alcohol-tolerant E. faecium resisted standard 70% isopropanol surface disinfection, resulting in greater mouse gut colonization compared to alcohol-sensitive E. faecium We next looked for bacterial genomic signatures of adaptation. Alcohol-tolerant E. faecium accumulated mutations in genes involved in carbohydrate uptake and metabolism. Mutagenesis confirmed the roles of these genes in the tolerance of E. faecium to isopropanol. These findings suggest that bacterial adaptation is complicating infection control recommendations, necessitating additional procedures to prevent E. faecium from spreading in hospital settings.


Accurate medical recordkeeping is a major challenge in many low-resource settings where well-maintained centralized databases do not exist, contributing to 1.5 million vaccine-preventable deaths annually. Here, we present an approach to encode medical history on a patient using the spatial distribution of biocompatible, near-infrared quantum dots (NIR QDs) in the dermis. QDs are invisible to the naked eye yet detectable when exposed to NIR light. QDs with a copper indium selenide core and aluminum-doped zinc sulfide shell were tuned to emit in the NIR spectrum by controlling stoichiometry and shelling time. The formulation showing the greatest resistance to photobleaching after simulated sunlight exposure (5-year equivalence) through pigmented human skin was encapsulated in microparticles for use in vivo. In parallel, microneedle geometry was optimized in silico and validated ex vivo using porcine and synthetic human skin. QD-containing microparticles were then embedded in dissolvable microneedles and administered to rats with or without a vaccine. Longitudinal in vivo imaging using a smartphone adapted to detect NIR light demonstrated that microneedle-delivered QD patterns remained bright and could be accurately identified using a machine learning algorithm 9 months after application. In addition, codelivery with inactivated poliovirus vaccine produced neutralizing antibody titers above the threshold considered protective. These findings suggest that intradermal QDs can be used to reliably encode information and can be delivered with a vaccine, which may be particularly valuable in the developing world and open up new avenues for decentralized data storage and biosensing.


The current paradigm of robot-assisted surgeries (RASs) depends entirely on an individual surgeon’s manual capability. Autonomous robotic surgery-removing the surgeon’s hands-promises enhanced efficacy, safety, and improved access to optimized surgical techniques. Surgeries involving soft tissue have not been performed autonomously because of technological limitations, including lack of vision systems that can distinguish and track the target tissues in dynamic surgical environments and lack of intelligent algorithms that can execute complex surgical tasks. We demonstrate in vivo supervised autonomous soft tissue surgery in an open surgical setting, enabled by a plenoptic three-dimensional and near-infrared fluorescent (NIRF) imaging system and an autonomous suturing algorithm. Inspired by the best human surgical practices, a computer program generates a plan to complete complex surgical tasks on deformable soft tissue, such as suturing and intestinal anastomosis. We compared metrics of anastomosis-including the consistency of suturing informed by the average suture spacing, the pressure at which the anastomosis leaked, the number of mistakes that required removing the needle from the tissue, completion time, and lumen reduction in intestinal anastomoses-between our supervised autonomous system, manual laparoscopic surgery, and clinically used RAS approaches. Despite dynamic scene changes and tissue movement during surgery, we demonstrate that the outcome of supervised autonomous procedures is superior to surgery performed by expert surgeons and RAS techniques in ex vivo porcine tissues and in living pigs. These results demonstrate the potential for autonomous robots to improve the efficacy, consistency, functional outcome, and accessibility of surgical techniques.

Concepts: Surgery, Physician, Tissues, Surgeon, Laparoscopic surgery, Laparoscopy, Anastomosis, Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi


The pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease (PD) involves the accumulation of aggregated α-synuclein, which has been suggested to begin in the gastrointestinal tract. Here, we determined the capacity of the appendix to modify PD risk and influence pathogenesis. In two independent epidemiological datasets, involving more than 1.6 million individuals and over 91 million person-years, we observed that removal of the appendix decades before PD onset was associated with a lower risk for PD, particularly for individuals living in rural areas, and delayed the age of PD onset. We also found that the healthy human appendix contained intraneuronal α-synuclein aggregates and an abundance of PD pathology-associated α-synuclein truncation products that are known to accumulate in Lewy bodies, the pathological hallmark of PD. Lysates of human appendix tissue induced the rapid cleavage and oligomerization of full-length recombinant α-synuclein. Together, we propose that the normal human appendix contains pathogenic forms of α-synuclein that affect the risk of developing PD.


There is much interest in form-fitting, low-modulus, implantable devices or soft robots that can mimic or assist in complex biological functions such as the contraction of heart muscle. We present a soft robotic sleeve that is implanted around the heart and actively compresses and twists to act as a cardiac ventricular assist device. The sleeve does not contact blood, obviating the need for anticoagulation therapy or blood thinners, and reduces complications with current ventricular assist devices, such as clotting and infection. Our approach used a biologically inspired design to orient individual contracting elements or actuators in a layered helical and circumferential fashion, mimicking the orientation of the outer two muscle layers of the mammalian heart. The resulting implantable soft robot mimicked the form and function of the native heart, with a stiffness value of the same order of magnitude as that of the heart tissue. We demonstrated feasibility of this soft sleeve device for supporting heart function in a porcine model of acute heart failure. The soft robotic sleeve can be customized to patient-specific needs and may have the potential to act as a bridge to transplant for patients with heart failure.

Concepts: Blood, Cardiology, Heart, Muscle, Cardiac muscle, Circulatory system, Mammal, Ventricular assist device