2023-10-03 General


Huge news! — if it pans out. This paper from USA found that a protein called WASF3 f’s with mitochondria, and that it was elevated in people with ME/CFS. (Here’s a lay article explaining/describing the paper.) The authors also made mice with excess WASF3, and found the mice acted fatigued.

This might be the first step in a treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome! And, as Long COVID fatigue looks a lot like ME/CFS, it might be that this will lead to a treatment for Long COVID as well. (I strongly suspect that Long COVID is the same as ME/CFS, just with a different trigger.)

They don’t know why WASF3 levels are elevated, but at least now they have something to work on. Before, everybody was just kind of wandering around looking under rocks to try to figure out what was causing ME/CFS. (They didn’t even have a diagnostic for ME/CFS, which meant that there were a significant number of people who thought ME/CFS people were just faking it.)

Even before COVID-19 hit the scene, ME/CFS was the most neglected disease compared to its impact on people’s lives. Now, with a huge number of people with Long COVID, it’s even more important to make progress on figuring out how to diagnose and treat it. This paper is a fantastic first step.

This paper found a bunch of Long COVID markers, including higher levels of antibodies to non-COVID viruses, especially Epstein-Barr virus.

This paper from USA in patients who had systemic autoimmune rheumatic disease and COVID-19 found that ones with Long COVID had elevated levels of antibodies to OC43, a common cold coronavirus.

Vaccination does not make you invulnerable to Long COVID, but it does help. This paper from Western Australia, where 94% of the participants had at least three doses of vax, found that 18.2% of respondents had Long COVID symptoms at 90 days. Furthermore, 17.9% of the people who had Long COVID (so ~3% of the total) cut back or stopped their work/study.

However, people who received 0-2 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were 70% more likely to have reduced work hours or not returned to work/study 90 days post COVID-19 diagnosis compared to those who received 4 or more doses.

I also hear people say that really it’s only the older people who get Long COVID. Not true: here are the % of respondents of each cohort who had Long COVID in this study:

  • 18-29 14.2%
  • 30-39 16.9% 
  • 40-49 19.1% 
  • 50-59 21.8% 
  • 60-69 21.6% 
  • 70 and above 17.1% 

This observational study from UK found two distinct blood profiles early in the pandemic (which means all the patients were unvaccinated) which correlated with Long COVID in patients who had been hospitalized. One profile was associated with subjective cognitive deficits (but not objective measures) and fatigue, while the other was associated with objective and subjective cognitive deficits but not fatigue. The profiles were both associated with blood clots; the former profile is also linked to inflammation.

The article reports that former Canuck Brandon Sutter has given up in the face of his Long COVID and retired. (So note! It’s not just old sick people who get Long COVID!!!)

This paper from Sweden found that Long COVID rates have been going down over time. Compared to Omicron, the Long COVID rate was:

  • 3.26x higher for Delta;
  • 5.33x higher for Alpha;
  • 6.31x higher for COVID Classic.

COVID-19 Related Excess Sickness and Death

This paper from USA found that diabetes rose in young people. Here’s the number of diagnoses per 100,000 person-years pre- and post-pandemic:

Type 118.522.4
Type 214.824.7

This paper from Singapore found that people who tested positive for COVID-19 had a 16% higher chance of having new-incident cardiovascular and cerebrovascular complications. The risk went down as the number of vax doses went up.


This paper from BC found that Paxlovid wasn’t useful except for people who were severely or moderately immunocompromised. They found that people who were not immunocompromised but otherwise at risk (like being over 70 or having diabetes) did not have statistically significantly lower risk of death. HOWEVER, I suspect that’s because the study was underpowered to find statistical significance. I am not a statistician, but these graphs for the latter two groups sure look like there is a difference:

Yellow line is people who got Paxlovid; blue line is people who did not. This chart’s population was people who had medical conditions that put them at risk, but who were not immunocompromised. (For example, diabetics.)
This chart’s population is people over 70.

The risk difference for death in immunocompromised people vs. not looked very small — a risk difference of 2.5% for severely immunocompromised people and 1.7% for moderately immunocompromised — but you have to remember that the death rate is low. It’s hard to tell what the case fatality rate is because governments aren’t accurately reporting cases any more, but I’d guess it’s between 1% or 2% (for everybody, not just vulnerable populations). That means that a risk difference of 2.5% is a LOT.

This paper from UK says that yes, Molnupiravir has in fact led to mutations which have been passed on to other people. This is bad.

This paper from USA says that Paxlovid decreased deaths in COVID-19-positive people who were not (at least not initially) hospitalized by 84% and Molnupiravir by 77%.


This paper from Indonesia found that the lower your Vitamin D levels, the more likely you were to catch COVID-19. It also mentioned that the longer people wear “long clothes”, the higher the risk of Vitamin D deficiency. (Indonesia is a majority-Muslim country, and Islam encourages concealing clothes for men and requires it for women.)

This paper from Italy also found a correlation between low Vitamin D and COVID-19 patients.

This paper found that the symptoms and viral load peaked at about the fourth or fifth day for COVID-19, but on the second day for influenza.

This paper from France found that people who had one specific allele (GG) of the rs2204985 gene had milder COVID-19 than people who had other variants of that gene. That gene affects affects how the thymus builds/trains T cells.

This paper estimates that in the 25% of the world’s population that they have adequate information for, there were 85.6 million years of life lost.

This paper from USA found COVID-19 induced plaques in arteries. This helps explain why COVID-19 infections make you more likely to have unpleasant cardiac events.


This article reports that Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman won the Nobel Prize for their work on mRNA vaccines. This is richly deserved, especially for Karikó, who had to really fight the patriarchical system to do that work.

This article reports that Health Canada has approved Pfizer’s XBB 1.5-based vaccine. Moderna’s was approved a while ago, and Novavax will probably be approved soon. (This article reports that the US FDA has approved Novavax’ XBB 1.5-based vaccine, and that the US CDC pre-approved it.)

This report from US CDC says that the mother’s COVID-19 vaccination effectiveness for the baby is 54% for babies under 3 months old. So mothers, stay up to date on your shots!

This paper from Moderna says that a nasally administered, slightly modified version of their old vax worked well in hamsters. I wasn’t convinced from their charts that it worked better than the intramuscular vaccine, but it worked about as well, and intranasal is inherently easier to administer than the intramuscular.

I noticed that in these experiments, they used a six-proline modification to the mRNA code to stabilize the spike instead of a two-proline modification. I was excited by that, because the six-proline (HexaPro) modification stabilizes the spike better, so it acts more like the spike protein embedded in the actual SARS-CoV-2 virus. I was hoping that means that the next version of Moderna available to humans will have the six-proline modification!

HOWEVER, after I wrote the above paragraph, I read this paper from USA where a new vax was tested with no stabilization, the 2-proline (2-P) stabilization, and the 6-proline stabilization (6-P, also called HexaPro). The 2-P and and 6-P were a lot better than no stabilization, and the 6-P was a little better than 2-P, but only a little bit. It was statistically significant, but it doesn’t look like it will be practically significant. 🙁

This article reports that the US government has awarded a $1M grant to CastleVax/Jurata Thin Films Technology to help develop next-generation vaccines. CastleVax is interesting because they are making a USA version of NDV-HXP-S, while Jurata Thin Films is interesting because they have a technology to turn vaxes into uh thin films:

Taken from Jurata Thin Films’ web site

The thin films are thermally stable, so no need for ultra-cool fridges, plus they can be reconstituted with water to make injectable vax. They are also looking into delivering the vax by putting the thin film straight into the mouth — in the cheek or under the tongue. (I hope it doesn’t taste awful, but I bet it does.) (Hmm, it looks a bit like a contact lens. I wonder if you could make contact lenses out of the films and so deliver the drugs via the eyes!)

This press release claims that a Phase 1 trial of VBI’s pan-coronavirus vaccine candidate (VBI-2901) did really well against COVID Classic, Delta, Beta, BA.5, and several bat coronaviruses! It also said that protection was more durable than the mRNAs, dropping only 25% at five months instead of 77%.

VBI is based in Canada, USA, and Israel; the Phase 1 trial was done various places in Canada. 🇨🇦 Their vax is a virus-like particle (eVLP) vaccine, with spikes from both SARS and MERS.

This paper from DIOSynVax says that, using computational methods, they found one spike protein (T2_17) which was was similar across many different coronavirus spike proteins. When they used T2_17 in a vaccine, it elicited antibodies against SARS-CoV-1, SARS-CoV-2 SARS-CoV, SARS-CoV-2, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Omicron (BA.1), and two bat coronaviruses in mice, rabbits and guinea pigs. This is good! (NB: It was actually better against SARS-CoV-1 than SARS-CoV-2! I’m okay with that; we have lots of other vaxes for SARS-CoV-2)

Recommended Reading

The Wikipedia article on Katalin Kariko is great, and shows just what she was up against in researching mRNA. I think never have so many lives been owed to one woman person.

My go-to expert on vaccines has a blog post on the latest developments. I’ve summarized some of them, but if you are a vax news junkie, go read the blog post.

This article gives a bit of a roundup of nasal therapeutics/prophylactics (including SaNOtize).

This article describes how a network of amateur sleuths underpins variant surveillance around the globe.

This article talks about the non-seasonality of COVID-19.