CoVICIS Newsletter​ September 2023

CoVICIS so far…

Since launching in early 2022, the CoVICIS study teams have contributed to cutting edge genomic surveillance studies in Europe and sub-Saharan Africa to combat the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. A core focus of the consortium has been to identify the emergence of variants of concern in across Europe and Africa. This included the analysis of over 100,000 whole genome sequences across the study sites, made possible in part through CoVICIS support.

CoVICIS is proud to be part of the EU-funded Cohorts United Against COVID-19 Variants of Concern. Drawing on world leading multidisciplinary expertise, this collective effort is allowing the rapid and consistent estimation of the occurrence and spread of emerging variants of concern in different parts of the world, while contributing to a better understanding of their transmissibility, virulence, and pathogenicity. This network is comprised of diverse cohort- research projects: (CoVICIS, ECRAID, ENDVOC, EuCARE, Orchestra, ReCoDID, SYNCHROS, unCoVer, VACCELERATE, VERDI) and other initiatives such as the European COVID-19 Data Platform.

Key findings from the work so far include:

> SARS-CoV-2 has made a big step toward being resistant to the vaccine induced humoral immune response. In contrast, studies confirm that cross-reactive CD4 and CD8 T cell immunity between the ancestral SARS-CoV-2 strain and the Omicron BA.1, BA4/5 and XBB.1.5 variants tested is preserved, with no indication of significant T cell escape.

> A combination of vaccination and natural infection creates a longer lasting immunological response than vaccination alone.

Two vaccine doses are not protective against the Omicron BA.1 variant in patients with haematological malignancies, autoimmune disease, and solid organ transplant, and may have minimal benefits in solid cancer patients. However a third dose significantly increases humoral immune response in autoimmune and solid cancer patients with the exception of patients receiving B cell depleting therapies, such as anti-CD20. This adds to the body of evidence to inform vaccination and safeguarding policies for individuals with compromised immunity.

BLOG POST – CoVICIS in context: SARS-CoV-2 surveillance in Switzerland with Prof. Milo Puhan, Ph.D., University of Zurich

We recently spoke with Professor Milo Puhan, MD, Ph.D., who serves as chair of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Zurich and as director of the Epidemiology, Biostatistics & Prevention Institute (EBPI). Professor Puhan is helping lead three prospective cohort studies at EBPI in children, adolescent, and adults, with a core focus on Long-COVID among different populations.

Thanks to the dynamic design of these cohort studies, which are all part of the Corona Immunitas research program at the Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+), we’re able to investigate multiple research questions. In Ciao Corona we have studied the spread and clustering of infections at schools but also the prevalence of Long Covid among children and adolescents and the impact of the pandemic on health behaviour and health-related quality of life. In the Zurich SARS-CoV-2 Cohort study (ZSAC) and the Zurich SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine Cohort Study (ZVAC), we have not only assessed immunological trajectories post-infection, vaccination, or both, but also experiences of participants of isolation and quarantine, the efficacy of the SwissCovid App, and of Long Covid.

Professor Milo Puhan
Chair, Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Zurich
Director,Epidemiology, Biostatistics & Prevention Institute (EBPI)

Interview with Giuseppe Pantaleo, Horizon Magazine

Professor Giuseppe Pantaleo, CoVICIS Principal Investigator and Chief of the Division of Immunology and Allergy at Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois in Switzerland, spoke with Vittoria D’Alessio from Horizon Magazine to discuss the ongoing work of researchers to monitor populations for new variants of concern. The article features a profile of CoVICIS and the EU-funding COVIRNA project which is devising a test to predict who is most likely to develop cardiovascular complications.

We might have good control over the pandemic – and the vaccine has played a major role in achieving this – but the virus continues to persist, and the situation is still very dynamic. It’s critical for us to keep monitoring populations for new variants. We need to know the impact each mutation has on the effectiveness of vaccines and treatments so we can be prepared for what is coming next and put in place new measures to control the spread.

Professor Giuseppe Pantaleo
CoVICIS Principical Investigator and Chief of the Division of Immunology and Allergy, CHUV, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Key publications

CoVICIS consortium members have contributed to a range of publications, conference proceedings, and communications over the last eighteen months, discussing important findings from studies co-funded by CoVICIS. Highlights include insights on Long-COVID in children in Italy, the efficacy of mRNA vaccines in immunocompromised patients, and epidemiological and clinical features of SARS-COV2 variants circulating in Italy between April-October 2021.

Visit the CoVICIS Publications page to explore all the articles.

Potential for policy impact

CoVICIS partners are collaborating with other EU-funding cohort consortia to identify policy relevant evidence that can help strengthen and improve EU policy priorities, as well as those in sub-Saharan Africa, with relevant lessons for global disease surveillance.

The potential policy impact is far reaching, with CoVICIS’ activities geared towards supporting three overarching areas:

  1. Improved understanding of the emergence and evolution of SARS-CoV-2 through increased data harmonization;
  2. Informing the best strategies to prevent and control COVID-19 infection and optimized clinical management and treatment for COVID-19 patients; and
  3. Sustainable pandemic preparedness, prevention, and response (PPPR) infrastructure

Stay tuned to learn more.

CoVICIS online materials

Don’t forget to check out our online materials on the CoVICIS website to help communicate about the consortium with external stakeholders. Head over to News and Resources to find a handy one-pager for a quick overview of the consortium, including our objectives, scientific pillars, and partners, or download a set of graphics that can be used in presentations or shared on social media.

2023 International Society for Vaccines Annual Congress

22-24 October 2023, SwissTech Convention Center, Lausanne, Switzerland
The International Society for Vaccines (ISV) is an organization that engages, supports, and sustains the professional goals of a diverse membership in all areas relevant to vaccines and immunotherapeutics. The upcoming 2023 ISV Annual Congress welcomes delegates from all over the world to present and discuss the latest insights in vaccinology. This year's Congress features a range of sessions on COVID-19 vaccinology. Participants can attend in person or virtually.

  CoVICIS is funded by the European Union’s Horizon Europe Research and Innovation Programme under grant nr 101046041

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