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University Of Pittsburgh Doctor On Virus: ‘We Are Not Seeing The Same Pattern Of Increase In Severe Cases’
A sign points to areas on the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center campus in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2008.
Kevin Lorenzi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Amid data released on Thursday of a daily record of 63,247 new cases of the coronavirus nationwide, the second time this week new infections reported in a 24-hour period had set a new record, doctors at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center stated that the majority of new COVID-19 cases they are seeing have been in a less vulnerable demographic, young people, and their conditions have not proven to be as perilous.

Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, Dr. Graham Snyder, UPMC Medical Director of Infection Prevention, stated that the average age of new COVID-19 patients is under 30. “Our testing data indicates these cases are largely linked to younger people who contracted the virus while traveling or while socializing without masks or proper distance,” said Dr. Snyder, as WPXI reported.

Senior Medical Director Dr. Donald Yealy added, “Despite more people testing positive, often younger people, we are not seeing the same pattern of increase in severe cases.”

Thursday featured the lowest COVID-19 case increase in Allegheny County of the week, with 158 new cases, 12 more hospitalizations and no one dying.

At the beginning of April, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine announced they had created a potential vaccine for the coronavirus.

Researchers gave the vaccine to mice through a patch in the skin, and said not only that the vaccine had proven effective, but that producing similar patches with a vaccine for humans was scalable and can be produced in large quantities, according to KDKA radio, which noted, “It is the first study to be published after it was critiqued by other scientists ‘at outside institutions that describes a candidate vaccine for COVID-19.’”

Co-senior author Andrea Gambotto, M.D, who is an associate professor of surgery at the Pitt School of Medicine, stated, “We had previous experience on SARS-CoV in 2003 and MERS-CoV in 2014. These two viruses, which are closely related to SARS-CoV-2, teach us that a particular protein, called a spike protein, is important for inducing immunity against the virus. We knew exactly where to fight this new virus. That’s why it’s important to fund vaccine research. You never know where the next pandemic will come from.”

Co-senior author Louis Falo, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of dermatology at Pitt’s School of Medicine and UPMC, echoed, “Our ability to rapidly develop this vaccine was a result of scientists with expertise in diverse areas of research working together with a common goal.”

In the paper describing their work, the authors, who were waiting for approval from the FDA to quickly start human trials, wrote:

Genomic analyses indicated that SARS-CoV-2 shares genomic similarities with SARS-CoV within the receptor-binding motif that directly contacts the human receptor ACE2. This has important implications for vaccine design and for predicting pandemic potential. Human-to-human transmission of SARS-CoV-2 has now been established, and the situation with SARS-CoV-2 is evolving rapidly with the numbers of verified cases growing into the thousands.

…Taken together, our studies demonstrate the speed at which vaccines against emerging infections can be designed and produced using the recent advances in recombinant DNA technology. Combining emerging biotechnology methods with bioengineering advances in vaccine delivery strategies, it may now be possible to rapidly produce clinically-translatable vaccines against novel pathogens for human testing and subsequent global distribution in time to significantly impact the spread of disease.

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