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Long COVID-19 and other chronic respiratory conditions after viral infections may stem from an overactive immune response in the lungs

While a strong immune response is essential to fight against viral infection, an immune system that continues to stay active long after the virus has been…

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The immune system usually stays dormant in the lungs in times of health. wildpixel/iStock via Getty Images

Viruses that cause respiratory diseases like the flu and COVID-19 can lead to mild to severe symptoms within the first few weeks of infection. These symptoms typically resolve within a few more weeks, sometimes with the help of treatment if severe. However, some people go on to experience persistent symptoms that last several months to years. Why and how respiratory diseases can develop into chronic conditions like long COVID-19 are still unclear.

I am a doctoral student working in the Sun Lab at the University of Virginia. We study how the immune system sometimes goes awry after fighting off viral infections. We also develop ways to target the immune system to prevent further complications without weakening its ability to protect against future infections. Our recently published review of the research in this area found that it is becoming clearer that it might not be an active viral infection causing long COVID-19 and similar conditions, but an overactive immune system.

Long COVID-19 patients can experience persistent respiratory, cognitive and neurological symptoms.

The lungs in health and disease

Keeping your immune system dormant when there isn’t an active infection is essential for your lungs to be able to function optimally.

Your respiratory tract is in constant contact with your external environment, sampling around 5 to 8 liters (1.3 to 2 gallons) of air – and the toxins and microorganisms in it – every minute. Despite continuous exposure to potential pathogens and harmful substances, your body has evolved to keep the immune system dormant in the lungs. In fact, allergies and conditions such as asthma are byproducts of an overactive immune system. These excessive immune responses can cause your airways to constrict and make it difficult to breathe. Some severe cases may require treatment to suppress the immune system.

During an active infection, however, the immune system is absolutely essential. When viruses infect your respiratory tract, immune cells are recruited to your lungs to fight off the infection. Although these cells are crucial to eliminate the virus from your body, their activity often results in collateral damage to your lung tissue. After the virus is removed, your body dampens your immune system to give your lungs a chance to recover.

An overactive immune system, as in the case of asthma, can damage the lungs.

Over the past decade, researchers have identified a variety of specialized stem cells in the lungs that can help regenerate damaged tissue. These stem cells can turn into almost all the different types of cells in the lungs depending on the signals they receive from their surrounding environment. Recent studies have highlighted the prominent role the immune system plays in providing signals that facilitate lung recovery. But these signals can produce more than one effect. They can not only activate stem cells, but also perpetuate damaging inflammatory processes in the lung. Therefore, your body tightly regulates when, where and how strongly these signals are made in order to prevent further damage.

While the reasons are still unclear, some people are unable to turn off their immune system after infection and continue to produce tissue-damaging molecules long after the virus has been flushed out. This not only further damages the lungs, but also interferes with regeneration via the lung’s resident stem cells. This phenomenon can result in chronic disease, as seen in several respiratory viral infections including COVID-19, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and the common cold.

The immune system’s role in chronic disease

In our review, my colleagues and I found that many different types of immune cells are involved in the development of chronic disease after respiratory viral infections, including long COVID-19.

Scientists so far have identified one particular type of immune cells, killer T cells, as potential contributors to chronic disease. Also known as cytotoxic or CD8+ T cells, they specialize in killing infected cells either by interacting directly with them or by producing damaging molecules called cytokines.

Killer T cells are essential to curbing the virus from spreading in the body during an active infection. But their persistence in the lungs after the infection has resolved is linked to extended reduced respiratory function. Moreover, animal studies have shown that removing killer T cells from the lungs after infection may improve lung function and tissue repair.

A legion of immune cells work together to remove invading pathogens.

Another type of immune cells called monocytes are also involved in fighting respiratory infections, serving among the first responders by producing virus- and tissue-damaging cytokines. Research has found that these cells also continue to accumulate in the lungs of long COVID-19 patients and promote a pro-inflammatory environment that can cause further damage.

Understanding the immunological mechanisms underlying long COVID-19 is the first step to addressing a quickly worsening public health problem. Identifying the subtle differences in how the same immune cells that protect you during an active infection can later become harmful could lead to earlier diagnosis of long COVID-19. Moreover, based on our findings, my team and I believe treatments that target the immune system could be an effective approach to manage long COVID-19 symptoms. We believe that this strategy may turn out to be useful not only for COVID-19, but also for other respiratory viral infections that lead to chronic disease as well.

Harish Narasimhan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Pro-crypto lawmaker stays interim US House Speaker as front-runner loses first round of voting

Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, the Republican Party’s nominee for Speaker, won the support of 200 of his colleagues in an Oct. 17 vote — below the…

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Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, the Republican Party’s nominee for Speaker, won the support of 200 of his colleagues in an Oct. 17 vote — below the 217 needed to hold the position.

Representative Patrick McHenry, chair of the United States House Financial Services Committee and a crypto proponent in Congress, is still temporarily in the third most powerful role in government after one of his Republican colleagues failed to secure enough votes.

In a vote conducted with members of the U.S. House of Representatives on Oct. 17, no candidate for Speaker won a majority of votes needed to secure the position. Representative Jim Jordan, the Republican Party’s nominee for Speaker, obtained 200 votes — short of the 217 needed to win.

All 212 Democratic members of the House voted for Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, with other votes by Republican lawmakers going to Representatives Steve Scalise, Kevin McCarthy, Tom Emmer, Tom Cole, Thomas Massie and Mike Garcia, as well as former New York Representative Lee Zeldin. According to House rules, a Speaker need not be a member of Congress.

McHenry, who has been serving as interim Speaker since Republican members voted to oust McCarthy on Oct. 4, currently lacks the authority to move legislation forward in the House, with the exception of the Speaker vote. For the first time in U.S. history, half of the legislative branch of the federal government was largely paralyzed, making it impossible to move forward with crypto-related bills.

Representative Patrick McHenry addresses the U.S. House of Representatives on Oct. 17. Source: Live.house.gov

Many pro-crypto users on social media have called on lawmakers to make McHenry the next Speaker — an outcome that would also require nearly all Republicans in the House to unite behind one candidate. Behind U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the Speaker of the House is second in the country’s presidential line of succession. However, some experts have reportedly said the line of succession does not apply to an interim Speaker like McHenry.

Related: US government among largest Bitcoin hodlers with over $5B in BTC: Report

At the time of publication, it was unclear when McHenry planned to call for a second vote. Many have criticized Jordan for repeating falsehoods surrounding the results of the 2020 presidential election in favor of former President Donald Trump, but he remains the leading candidate, with a Republican majority in the House and Democrats united behind Jeffries.

McHenry led the House Financial Services Committee as lawmakers voted in favor of crypto bills, including the Financial Innovation and Technology for the 21st Century Act, the Blockchain Regulatory Certainty Act, the Clarity for Payment Stablecoins Act and the Keep Your Coins Act. The pieces of legislation are expected to head to the House floor for a full vote, but the current situation with the Speaker makes that unlikely in the near future.

Magazine: Opinion: GOP crypto maxis almost as bad as Dems’ ‘anti-crypto army’

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International

EU Wants To Increase Ukraine Aid By €50 Billion Despite Corruption Concerns

EU Wants To Increase Ukraine Aid By €50 Billion Despite Corruption Concerns

Via Remix News,

The European Union plans to set up a fund called…

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EU Wants To Increase Ukraine Aid By €50 Billion Despite Corruption Concerns

Via Remix News,

The European Union plans to set up a fund called the Ukraine Facility, under which a new credit line for Ukraine would be opened in the amount of €50 billion for the period 2024-2027, but there are growing concerns about corruption.

EU budget commissioner Johannes Hahn.

The facility would provide assistance to Ukraine in three pillars. The first pillar would provide financial assistance to Ukraine, the second would support and finance investment, and under the third pillar, Brussels would help Ukraine plan the reforms needed to join the European Union. A specific feature of the Ukraine Facility is that frozen Russian assets would be confiscated and incorporated into the assistance model.

However, support for Ukraine remains a divisive issue in Brussels. Although the EU is keen to continue providing aid to a country at war, it is undeniable that Ukraine features sky-high levels of corruption and the “rule of law” fell far short of EU standards even before the war broke out, let alone during it. This came to the fore in Strasbourg during Monday’s plenary session when the Ukraine Facility was debated.

MEPs Michael Gahler and Eider Gardiazabal Rubial, the proponents of the report, said that the €50 billion credit line is a significant commitment by the European Union. They argued that Ukraine needs to improve corruption rates, the independence of its judiciary, the fight against oligarchs, and the fight against organized crime, but these efforts can be successful if complemented by the private sector.

Due to the corruption situation, several MEPs also expressed concerns about whether EU funds will go where they are supposed to. Roman Haider of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) complained that while sanctions are not working and the European economy has failed, it is worth considering whether it is worth investing another €50 billion in Ukraine, a country that is corrupt at all levels.

At the end of the agenda point, Johannes Hahn, commissioner for budget and administrative affairs of the European Commission, spoke on behalf of the commission, reminding the critical voices that “we Europeans must clearly support Ukraine.”

The politician also said that so far €80 billion in aid had been made available to Ukraine in various forms, including military assistance, and that the EU would support Ukraine as long as it needed it.

Tyler Durden Wed, 10/18/2023 - 02:00

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International

Where’s The Best Internet In Europe

Where’s The Best Internet In Europe

The channel island of Jersey has been crowned as Europe’s broadband champion of 2023, with an average…

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Where's The Best Internet In Europe

The channel island of Jersey has been crowned as Europe’s broadband champion of 2023, with an average download speed of 265 megabits per second (Mbps).

As Statista's Anna Fleck reports, this is according to an annual study by cable.co.uk, based on the network connection speeds found in 220 countries and territories around the world. Jersey is officially a part of the British Islands as a ‘Crown Dependency’, but it is self-governing and not a part of the United Kingdom.

You will find more infographics at Statista

Liechtenstein, Iceland, Gibraltar and Andorra complete the top five in the European roundup, with average download speeds of between 190 and 250 megabits per second.

These five places are also among the top ten locations in the world in 2023. At the lower end of the scale among the European countries and territories are Croatia and Albania, where the average download speed is less than 30 megabits per second.

The size of a service area has an impact on its internet speed.

For instance, countries or territories like Luxembourg, Liechtenstein or Jersey have the advantage of having to provide service over a smaller area to that of larger countries such as Germany or Italy.

According to cable.co.uk, the overall average speed for the globe is speeding up.

Where the world had an average download speed of just 7.41Mbps in 2017, it has risen to 46.79Mbps this year.

Tyler Durden Wed, 10/18/2023 - 02:45

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