The seven natural gas investments to buy could benefit from price increases if the Nord Stream 1 pipeline that transports Russian gas to Germany reduces production further than it already has thus far. A full stop to Nord Stream 1 would leave Germany particularly vulnerable if energy protectionism grows, likely causing gas inventories to struggle to hit 2021 highs and storage to fall “perilously low” by season’s end, according to BofA Global Research.
It is unclear how much faith to put into a claim by Russia’s Gazprom that part of the reason for its reduced supply of natural gas to Europe is due to “extended maintenance” of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. The cuts to Europe’s flow of natural gas from Russia are occurring as the country’s attack of neighboring Ukraine extends past six months and has been met by a successful counteroffensive in the past week.
Inadequate paperwork for the recently maintained Nord Stream 1 gas turbine is the most recent in a “laundry list of issues” that Russia has given as reasons not to flow gas to Europe, BofA reported. As uncertainty about Russian supplies grows, Europe’s natural gas spot and forward prices are settling into a higher range, the investment firm reported.
Seven Natural Gas Investments to Buy Offer Inflation Protection
Despite Russia’s supply cuts, storage of natural gas in Europe has been built back to a five-year average, according to BofA. Key reasons for preventing a collapse in natural gas supply include high year-over-year exports of the energy source from Norway, strong U.K. output and a significant jump in liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports from nations other than Russia, BofA added.
LNG, created by cooling natural gas and reducing its volume to make it easier, safer and more efficient to ship around the world, has endured price hikes that have caused consumption to drop 12% year over year, BofA wrote in a recent research note.
Natural gas investments offer protection against inflation and the Fed’s interest rate hikes, since such companies wield pricing power with goods and services that are necessities for customers to heat their homes or buildings. The buyers of such essential products and services may be willing to accept a small or even larger increase in price.
Russia’s Export Cuts Fortify Seven Natural Gas Investments to Buy
Russia cut its export of gas from the pipeline to 40% of capacity in June and to 20% in July, while shutting off supply to European nations such as Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Poland. The supply squeeze also applied to other nations in apparent retaliation for opposing Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.
Gazprom has scaled back its flows via other pipelines since Russia attacked its neighboring nation in what the country’s President Vladimir Putin described as a “special military operation.” However, military action against a sovereign country like Ukraine violates international law, under Article 2 (4) of the United Nations Charter.
Pre-war Russia Supplied about 40% of Europe’s Natural Gas
Russia typically supplies about 40% of Europe’s natural gas, mostly by pipeline. Deliveries in 2021 totaled around 155 billion cubic metres (bcm).
Bob Carlson, a pension fund chairman who also leads the Retirement Watch investment newsletter, said recently added Cohen & Steers MLP & Energy Opportunity Fund (MLOAX) to all of his portfolios.
“Natural gas should continue to be a good investment, as long as Europe is looking for ways to reduce dependence on Russia,” Carlson told me. “In addition, the natural gas drillers in the U.S. are focused on increasing cash flow and earnings. They’re not inclined to maximize drilling expenses in the short run to increase output.”
Good investment opportunities can be found with companies that provide the pipelines, storage facilities and other infrastructure needed to supply the world with natural gas and other energy sources, Carlson continued.
“One of the attractive qualities of these investments is that their revenues are independent of the prices of the commodities,” Carlson counseled. “The firms charge fees for their services, and the fees often are adjusted for inflation. Their revenues and earnings depend on the volume of commodities passing through their facilities, not the price of the commodity.”
The total returns of “leading” energy service companies are aided by current income and price appreciation, using investments in energy-related master limited partnerships (MLPs) and securities of industry companies, Carlson said. Those businesses are expected to derive at least 50% of their revenues or operating income from exploration, production, gathering, transportation, processing, storage, refining, distribution or marketing of natural gas, crude oil and other energy resources.
The Cohen & Steers MLP & Energy Opportunity Fund recently held 49 positions and had 53% of the fund in the 10 largest positions. Top holdings of the fund were Enbridge (NYSE: ENB), Cheniere Energy (NYSEAMERICAN: LNG), Williams Companies (NYSE: WMB), Energy Transfer (NYSE: ET) and Pembina Pipeline Corp. (NYSE: PBA).
UNG Earns Spot on List of Seven Natural Gas Investments to Buy
Carlson’s other LNG recommendation is United States Natural Gas (UNG), an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that invests in natural gas futures contracts and related contracts on natural gas prices. The contracts are collateralized with cash and treasury securities.
The fund is designed to track, in percentage terms, the movements of natural gas prices. UNG issues shares that can be bought and sold on the NYSE Arca.
The investment objective of UNG is for the daily percentage changes of its shares’ net asset value (NAV) to reflect daily changes in the price of natural gas delivered at the Henry Hub, Louisiana. Those prices are measured by the daily changes in the Benchmark Futures Contract, less UNG’s expenses.
The Benchmark is the futures contract on natural gas that is traded on the NYMEX. If the near-month contract is within two weeks of expiration, the Benchmark will be the next month contract to expire. The natural gas contract pertains to natural gas delivered at the Henry Hub in Louisiana.
UNG invests primarily in listed natural gas futures contracts and other natural gas related futures contracts. The fund also may invest in forwards and swap contracts. These investments will be collateralized by cash, cash equivalents and U.S. government obligations that have remaining maturities of two years or less.
Bryan Perry, who leads the Cash Machine investment newsletter, proposes investing in energy through the Alerian MLP Exchange Traded Fund (NYSE: AMLP). That fund seeks investment results that correspond generally to the price and yield performance of the Alerian MLP Infrastructure Index. The index is a capped, float-adjusted, capitalization-weighted composite of energy infrastructure Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) that earn most of their cash flow from midstream activities such as the transportation, storage and processing of energy commodities.
Paul Dykewicz interviews Bryan Perry, head of the Cash Machine investment newsletter.
The United States is the world’s largest producer of oil and gas, with MLPs providing exposure to long-lived assets that generate inflation-protected cash flows. Plus, MLPs have low correlations to other yield-oriented investment such as bond and utilities.
Dividend lovers will appreciate that Alerian MLP ETF offers a current dividend yield of 7.4% and paid $2.94 per share in the past year. The dividend is paid every three months and the last ex-dividend date was Aug. 11, 2022.
The MLP does not require investors to contend with a notoriously troublesome K-1 document at tax preparation time. I once asked a senior accountant at an industry-leading firm for his advice if an investment sends a K-1 to shareholders in preparing their taxes. “Sell it,” he responded.
Seven Natural Gas Investments to Buy Include Exxon Mobil
Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) zoomed during its time as a recommendation in the Cash Machineinvestment newsletter between July 2021 and May 17, 2022, providing investors with exposure to liquefied natural gas (LNG), oil refining and strong returns. The company ranks as the world’s second-largest supplier of natural gas and jumped about 55% since its addition to the newsletter’s Safe Haven Portfolio.
Perry, who leads the Cash Machineinvestment newsletter, focuses on high-income investments. For that reason, Perry wrote that he recommended the stock’s sale when the company’s dividend yield dipped below his 4% minimum.
With tight energy supply, Perry predicted XOM’s share price would remain well supported by investors seeking an alternative to the sagging stock market so far in 2022, even if Exxon Mobil no longer fit his requirement for a high-yield dividend stock. The company is one of the biggest producers of oil and natural gas worldwide.
In 2021, Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest refiner, produced 2.3 million barrels of liquids and 8.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. At the end of 2021, its reserves reached 18.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent, 66% of which were liquids. The company’s global refining capacity totals 4.6 million barrels of oil per day and ranks as one of the biggest manufacturers of commodity and specialty chemicals.
Oil prices have soared due to a combination of robust demand and constricted supply partly caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the Fast Money Alert advisory service co-led by Mark Skousen and Jim Woods. They wrote that the “smart money” is betting on higher energy prices. Even smarter, faster money is betting on XOM, they added.
Skousen, editor of the Forecasts & Strategies investment newsletter, recently wrote to his subscribers that he is recommending two stocks that are positioned to ride the wave of interest in natural gas. One is Enterprise Products Partners (NYSE: EPD), with a return of 28.9% so far in 2022.
EPD has benefited substantially from increased demand for natural gas and is amassing liquid natural gas (LNG) from processing natural gas at its facilities. It has 19,079 miles of natural gas pipelines and 19 processing facilities, storage and related LNG marketing activities.
Enterprise Products Partners is one of the largest publicly traded partnerships and a key North American provider of midstream energy services to producers and consumers of natural gas, natural gas liquids (NGLs), crude oil, refined products and petrochemicals. In addition, the company’s services include natural gas gathering, treating, processing, transportation and storage.
The company further provides NGL transportation, fractionation, storage and import and export terminals. It also offers crude oil gathering, transportation, storage and terminals, along with petrochemical and refined products transportation, storage and terminals, as well as a marine transportation business.
I bought shares of Enterprise Products Partners shortly after the 2020 stock market crash to profit from what I perceived as an inevitable recovery. The surge in oil and natural gas prices since then has turned that decision into a nicely profitable one with the stock still on the ascent.
Cheniere Energy Is One of Seven Natural Gas Investments to Buy
Another way to profit from the growing demand for LNG is to invest in energy companies that export liquid natural gas. One of them is Cheniere Energy (NYSE American: LNG). Based in Houston, Texas, Cheniere Energy is the largest liquefied natural gas exporter in the United States.
Business is booming. Revenues surged 165% in the past year to $8.1 billion, and second-quarter earnings per share hit $2.90, compared to only 54 cents a year earlier.
Guidance is strongly positive — there is increasing demand from European customers looking to replace Russian gas. It recently has signed long-term contracts to deliver some 140 million tons of liquid natural gas through 2050. Cheniere Energy also is exiting its Corpus Christi Stage 3 project.
Starting in November of last year, Cheniere Energy began to pay a modest dividend of 33 cents per share. To further enhance shareholder value, Cheniere Energy also has repurchased 4.1 million shares worth $540 million in the most recent quarter.
Mark Skousen, a descendent of Benjamin Franklin, meets with Paul Dykewicz.
EOG Resources Joins Seven Natural Gas Investments to Buy
The U.S. LNG inventory remains below its five-year average for this time of year by double-digit percentages, said Michelle Connell, CFA, president and owner of Portia Capital Management, of Dallas, Texas. A key issue for the U.S. LNG industry is that production of that commodity has never been profitable on its own, but it is as a byproduct of oil production, she added.
“There isn’t enough oil being produced,” Connell said. “Currently, only 11.6 million barrels/day are being produced. Pre-pandemic, we produced 13 million barrels/day.”
Instead of investing to expand capacity, oil companies have focused on hiking their dividends, Connell continued. If they pivot, these companies face a backlash from investors who could sell their shares and crush the market value of these companies, Connell added.
Former portfolio manager Michelle Connell, CEO, Portia Capital Management
EOG Resources Makes List of Seven Natural Gas Investments to Buy
LNG companies cannot boost production quickly, Connell cautioned. Oil companies need a minimum of six to eight months to increase their oil and LNG output, Connell added.
Production of oil via shale recently created the largest share of the America’s natural gas reserves, Connell continued. Unfortunately for proponents of increasing output to meet rising demand, shale production has “decreased exponentially” since the pandemic began and the buildup of LNG reserves has slid, Connell counseled.
However, Houston-based EOG Resources Inc. (NYSE: EOG) is producing substantial amounts of oil via shale, and LNG. Its Chief Executive Officer Ezra Yacob called the company’s recent financial results “outstanding” and said 2021 was a “tremendous year” for EOG with record earnings, record free cash flow and return of cash that places it near industry leaders.
Income investors will appreciate that the company’s long-standing focus on free cash flow led to payment of another $1.00 per share special dividend while also strengthening its balance sheet.
-Wall Street investment firms such as Wells Fargo and Raymond James raised future earnings estimates and target prices on EOG, despite strong performance so far in 2022;
-Based on its fundamentals and increased energy demand, the 12-month estimated upside has jumped from 25% to 35%;
-The company is on a roll with a gain of 14% in the past month, 45% so far in 2022 and 97% in the past 12 months.
Connell raised a concern about whether EOG is too generous with its dividend payouts that equal 27% of profits. She wondered aloud whether it is leaving enough cash for reinvestment.
Ukraine’s Counteroffensive Raises Questions about What’s Next
Ukrainelaunched a potent counterattack last weekend that reportedly allowed it to take back more than 2,317 sq. miles, or 6,000 sq. km., from Russia’s control. In the Kharkiv region, the towns of Izyum and Kupiansk were regained by Ukraine last Saturday after that they previously had been seized by Russia and used as key hubs to supply invading forces in the Donbas region.
Even though Russia still holds about one-fifth of Ukraine’s territory, the counterattack is showing that the defenders of freedom are gaining ground. Whether those lands can be retained or even enlarged will be critical to the ultimate outcome.
Inflation Affects Energy Pricing Significantly
Another uncertainty is inflation. The U.S. Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers rose 0.1% in August, on a seasonally adjusted basis, after no change in July, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. For the last 12 months, the index for all items jumped 8.3% before seasonal adjustments.
Increases in the shelter, food, and medical care indexes were the largest of the broad-based monthly all-items advance. These increases were mostly offset by a 10.6% decline in the gasoline index.
The food index rose 0.8% for the month, but the energy index fell 5.0% in August as the gasoline index dipped, while the electricity and natural gas indexes climbed. The index for all items, other than food and energy, jumped 0.6% in August, a larger rise than in July.
The all-items index increased 8.3% for the 12 months ending in August, smaller than the 8.5% increase for the period ending July. The energy index increased 23.8% for the 12 months ending August, short of the 32.9% rise for the 12-month period ending in July.
U.S. COVID Cases Near 95.4 Million
COVID-19 cases and deaths can affect supply and demand for products such natural gas, especially since the fuel can be obtained worldwide. Investors are wise to monitor COVID-19 outbreaks and lockdowns that can cause supply chain problems. As of Sept. 12, more than 70 cities in China were under full or partial lockdown as the country enforces its policy of zero tolerance of cases, even as the morbidity has decreased compared to earlier stages of the virus.
U.S. COVID-19 deaths rose for the seventh consecutive week by more than 3,000, jumping to 1,051,277, as of Sept. 13, according to Johns Hopkins University. Cases in the United States climbed to 95,387,374. America remains the nation with the largest number of COVID-19 deaths and cases.
Worldwide COVID-19 deaths in the last week dipped to about 12,000, compared to 14,977 during the previous week and more than 33,000 the week before that one, to total 6,517,721, as of Sept. 13, according to Johns Hopkins. Global COVID-19 cases slowed to a gain of just below 3.4 million in the past week, down from almost 4 million from the previous week. The new worldwide case total is 609,577,548.
Roughly 79.2% of the U.S. population, or 263,103,582, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, as of Sept. 7, the CDC reported. Fully vaccinated people total 224,367,691, or 67.6%, of the U.S. population, according to the CDC. The United States also has given at least one COVID-19 booster vaccine to 109.0 million people, up 200,000, compared to roughly 300,000 for the prior two weeks.
The seven natural gas investments to buy have strong potential to rise. With high inflation, recession risk after 0.75% rate hikes by the Fed in June and July, as well as possibly another in September, the seven natural gas investments to buy could fuel portfolios in the months ahead.
Paul Dykewicz, www.pauldykewicz.com, is an accomplished, award-winning journalist who has written for Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, the Journal of Commerce, Seeking Alpha, Guru Focus and other publications and websites. Paul, who can be followed on Twitter @PaulDykewicz, is the editor of StockInvestor.com and
DividendInvestor.com, a writer for both websites and a columnist. He further is editorial director of Eagle Financial Publications in Washington, D.C., where he edits monthly investment newsletters, time-sensitive trading alerts, free e-letters and other investment reports. Paul previously served as business editor of Baltimore’s Daily Record newspaper. Paul also is the author of an inspirational book, “Holy Smokes! Golden Guidance from Notre Dame’s Championship Chaplain,” with a foreword by former national championship-winning football coach Lou Holtz. The book is great as a gift and is endorsed by Joe Montana, Joe Theismann, Ara Parseghian, “Rocket” Ismail, Reggie Brooks, Dick Vitale and many others. Call 202-677-4457 for multiple-book pricing.
An enduring mystery for three years is how Donald Trump came to be the president who shut down American society for what turned out to be a manageable respiratory virus, setting off an unspeakable crisis with waves of destructive fallout that continue to this day.
Let’s review the timeline and offer some well-founded speculations about what happened.
On March 9, 2020, Trump was still of the opinion that the virus could be handled by normal means.
So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!
What changed? Deborah Birx reports in her book that Trump had a friend die in a New York hospital and this is what shifted his opinion. Jared Kushner reports that he simply listened to reason. Mike Pence says he was persuaded that his staff would respect him more. No question (and based on all existing reports) that he found himself surrounded by “trusted advisors” amounting to about 5 or so people (including Mike Pence and Pfizer board member Scott Gottlieb)
It was only a week later when Trump issued the edict to close all “indoor and outdoor venues where people congregate,” initiating the biggest regime change in US history that flew in the face of all rights and liberties Americans had previously taken for granted. It was the ultimate in political triangulation: as John F. Kennedy cut taxes, Nixon opened China, and Clinton reformed welfare, Trump shut down the economy he promised to revive. This action confounded critics on all sides.
A month later, Trump said his decision to have “turned off” the economy saved millions of lives, later even claiming to have saved billions. He has yet to admit error.
....My Administration and I built the greatest economy in history, of any country, turned it off, saved millions of lives, and now am building an even greater economy than it was before. Jobs are flowing, NASDAQ is already at a record high, the rest to follow. Sit back & watch!
Even as late as June 23rd of that year, Trump was demanding credit for having followed all of Fauci’s recommendations. Why do they love him and hate me, he wanted to know.
We did a great job on CoronaVirus, including the very early ban on China, Ventilator production, and Testing, which is by far the most, and best, in the World. We saved millions of U.S. lives.! Yet the Fake News refuses to acknowledge this in a positive way. But they do give....
Something about this story has never really added up. How could one person have been so persuaded by a handful of others such as Fauci, Birx, Pence, and Kushner and his friends? He surely had other sources of information – some other scenario or intelligence – that fed into his disastrous decision.
In one version of events, his advisors simply pointed to the supposed success of Xi Jinping in enacting lockdowns in Wuhan, which the World Health Organization claimed had stopped infections and brought the virus under control. Perhaps his advisors flattered Trump with the observation that he is at least as great as the president of China so he should be bold and enact the same policies here.
One problem with this scenario is timing. The Oval Office meetings that preceded his March 16, 2020, edict took place the weekend of the 14th and 15th, Friday and Saturday. It was already clear by the 11th that Trump was ready for lockdowns. This was the same day as Fauci’s deliberately misleading testimony to the House Oversight Committee in which he rattled the room with predictions of Hollywood-style carnage.
On the 12th, Trump shut all travel from Europe, the UK, and Australia, causing huge human pile-ups at international airports. On the 13th, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a classified document that transferred control of pandemic policy from the CDC to the National Security Council and eventually the Department of Homeland Security. By the time that Trump met with Fauci and Birx in that legendary weekend, the country was already under quasi-martial law.
Isolating the date in the trajectory here, it is apparent that whatever happened to change Trump occurred on March 10, 2020, the day after his Tweet saying there should be no shutdowns and one day before Fauci’s testimony.
That something very likely revolves around the most substantial discovery we’ve made in three years of investigations. It was Debbie Lerman who first cracked the code: Covid policy was forged not by the public-health bureaucracies but by the national-security sector of the administrative state. She has further explained that this occurred because of two critical features of the response: 1) the belief that this virus came from a lab leak, and 2) the vaccine was the biosecurity countermeasure pushed by the same people as the fix.
Knowing this, we gain greater insight into 1) why Trump changed his mind, 2) why he has never explained this momentous decision and otherwise completely avoids the topic, and 3) why it has been so unbearably difficult to find out any information about these mysterious few days other than the pablum served up in books designed to earn royalties for authors like Birx, Pence, and Kushner.
Based on a number of second-hand reports, all available clues we have assembled, and the context of the times, the following scenario seems most likely. On March 10, and in response to Trump’s dismissive tweet the day before, some trusted sources within and around the National Security Council (Matthew Pottinger and Michael Callahan, for example), and probably involving some from military command and others, came to Trump to let him know a highly classified secret.
Imagine a scene from Get Smart with the Cone of Silence, for example. These are the events in the life of statecraft that infuse powerful people with a sense of their personal awesomeness. The fate of all of society rests on their shoulders and the decisions they make at this point. Of course they are sworn to intense secrecy following the great reveal.
The revelation was that the virus was not a textbook virus but something far more threatening and terrible. It came from a research lab in Wuhan. It might in fact be a bioweapon. This is why Xi had to do extreme things to protect his people. The US should do the same, they said, and there is a fix available too and it is being carefully guarded by the military.
It seems that the virus had already been mapped in order to make a vaccine to protect the population. Thanks to 20 years of research on mRNA platforms, they told him, this vaccine can be rolled out in months, not years. That means that Trump can lock down and distribute vaccines to save everyone from the China virus, all in time for the election. Doing this would not only assure his reelection but guarantee that he would go down in history as one of the greatest US presidents of all time.
This meeting might only have lasted an hour or two – and might have included a parade of people with the highest-level security clearances – but it was enough to convince Trump. After all, he had battled China for two previous years, imposing tariffs and making all sorts of threats. It was easy to believe at that point that China might have initiated biological warfare as retaliation. That’s why he made the decision to use all the power of the presidency to push a lockdown under emergency rule.
To be sure, the Constitution does not allow him to override the discretion of the states but with the weight of the office complete with enough funding and persuasion, he could make it happen. And thus did he make the fateful decision that not only wrecked his presidency but the country too, imposing harms that will last a generation.
It only took a few weeks for Trump to become suspicious about what happened. For weeks and months, he toggled between believing that he was tricked and believing that he did the right thing. He had already approved another 30 days of lockdowns and even inveighed against Georgia and later Florida for opening. He went so far as to claim that no state could open without his approval.
For the purpose of creating conflict and confusion, some in the Fake News Media are saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government. Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect....
There is another fascinating feature to this entirely plausible scenario. Even as Trump’s advisors were telling him that this could be a bioweapon leaked from the lab in China, we had Anthony Fauci and his cronies going to great lengths to deny it was a lab leak (even if they believed that it was). This created an interesting situation. The NIH and those surrounding Fauci were publicly insisting that the virus was of zoonotic origin, even as Trump’s circle was telling the president that it should be regarded as a bioweapon.
Fauci belonged to both camps, which suggests that Trump very likely knew of Fauci’s deception all along: the “noble lie” to protect the public from knowing the truth. Trump had to be fine with that.
Gradually following the lockdown edicts and the takeover by the Department of Homeland Security, in cooperation with a very hostile CDC, Trump lost power and influence over his own government, which is why his later Tweets urging a reopening fell on deaf ears. To top it off, the vaccine failed to arrive in time for the election. This is because Fauci himself delayed the rollout until after the election, claiming that the trials were not racially diverse enough. Thus Trump’s gambit completely failed, despite all the promises of those around him that it was a guaranteed way to win reelection.
To be sure, this scenario cannot be proven because the entire event – certainly the most dramatic political move in at least a generation and one with unspeakable costs for the country – remains cloaked in secrecy. Not even Senator Rand Paul can get the information he needs because it remains classified. If anyone thinks the Biden approval of releasing documents will show what we need, that person is naive. Still, the above scenario fits all available facts and it is confirmed by second-hand reports from inside the White House.
It’s enough for a great movie or a play of Shakespearean levels of tragedy. And to this day, none of the main players are speaking openly about it.
Jeffrey A. Tucker is Founder and President of the Brownstone Institute. He is also Senior Economics Columnist for Epoch Times, author of 10 books, including Liberty or Lockdown, and thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.
Why children are less likely to become severely ill with COVID compared with adults is not clear. Some have suggested that it might be because children are less likely to have diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, that are known to be linked to more severe COVID. Others have suggested that it could be because of a difference in ACE2 receptors in children – ACE2 receptors being the route through which the virus enters our cells.
Some scientists have also suggested that children may have a higher level of existing immunity to COVID compared with adults. In particular, this immunity is thought to come from memory T cells (immune cells that help your body remember invading germs and destroy them) generated by common colds – some of which are caused by coronaviruses.
We put this theory to the test in a recent study. We found that T cells previously activated by a coronavirus that causes the common cold recognise SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID) in children. And these responses declined with age.
Early in the pandemic, scientists observed the presence of memory T cells able to recognise SARS-CoV-2 in people who had never been exposed to the virus. Such cells are often called cross-reactive T cells, as they stem from past infections due to pathogens other than SARS-CoV-2. Research has suggested these cells may provide some protection against COVID, and even enhance responses to COVID vaccines.
What we did
We used blood samples from children, sampled at age two and then again at age six, before the pandemic. We also included adults, none of whom had previously been infected with SARS-CoV-2.
In these blood samples, we looked for T cells specific to one of the coronaviruses that causes the common cold (called OC43) and for T cells that reacted against SARS-CoV-2.
We used an advanced technique called high-dimensional flow cytometry, which enabled us to identify T cells and characterise their state in significant detail. In particular, we looked at T cells’ reactivity against OC43 and SARS-CoV-2.
We found SARS-CoV-2 cross-reactive T cells were closely linked to the frequency of OC43-specific memory T cells, which was higher in children than in adults. The cross-reactive T cell response was evident in two-year-olds, strongest at age six, and then subsequently became weaker with advancing age.
We don’t know for sure if the presence of these T cells translates to protection against COVID, or how much. But this existing immunity, which appears to be especially potent in early life, could go some way to explaining why children tend to fare better than adults with a COVID infection.
Our study is based on samples from adults (26-83 years old) and children at age two and six. We didn’t analyse samples from children of other ages, which will be important to further understand age differences, especially considering that the mortality rate from COVID in children is lowest from ages five to nine, and higher in younger children. We also didn’t have samples from teenagers or adults younger than 26.
In addition, our study investigated T cells circulating in the blood. But immune cells are also found in other parts of the body. It remains to be determined whether the age differences we observed in our study would be similar in samples from the lower respiratory tract or tonsil tissue, for example, in which T cells reactive against SARS-CoV-2 have also been detected in adults who haven’t been exposed to the virus.
Nonetheless, this study provides new insights into T cells in the context of COVID in children and adults. Advancing our understanding of memory T cell development and maturation could help guide future vaccines and therapies.
Marion Humbert received funding from KI Foundation for Virus Research (Karolinsk Institutet, Sweden) and Läkare mot AIDS (Sweden).
Annika Karlsson receives funding from the Swedish Research Council (Dnr 2020-02033), CIMED project grant, senior (Dnr: 20190495), and Karolinska Institutet (Dnr: 2019-00931 and 2020-01599).
HAMILTON, ON – Mar 24, 2024– Tobacco users in Canada are exposed to higher levels of cyanide than smokers in lower-income nations, according to a large-scale population health study from McMaster University.
Credit: McMaster University
HAMILTON, ON – Mar 24, 2024– Tobacco users in Canada are exposed to higher levels of cyanide than smokers in lower-income nations, according to a large-scale population health study from McMaster University.
Scientists made the discovery while investigating the molecule thiocyanate – a detoxified metabolite excreted by the body after cyanide inhalation. It was measured as a urinary biomarker of tobacco use in a study of self-reported smokers and non-smokers from 14 countries of varying socioeconomic status.
“We expected the urinary thiocyanate levels would be similar across regions and reflect primarily smoking intensity. However, we noticed significant elevation of thiocyanate in smokers from high-income countries even after adjusting for differences in the number of cigarettes smoked per day,” says Philip Britz-McKibbin, co-author of the study and a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at McMaster.
Tobacco-related illness remains the leading cause of preventable illness and premature death in Canada, contributing to approximately 48,000 deaths annually. According to researchers, the findings could be caused by the type of cigarettes smoked in high-income countries like Canada.
“The cigarettes commonly consumed in Canada are highly engineered products with lower tar and nicotine content to imply they’re less harmful. Heavy smokers with nicotine dependence compensate by smoking more aggressively with more frequent and deeper inhalations that may elicit more harm, such as greater exposure to the respiratory and cardiotoxin, cyanide.”
Smoking rates in Canada have declined from 26 per cent in 2001 to 13 per cent in 2020. But participation in smoking cessation programs has declined during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to concern about a potential uptick in smoking rates, including cannabis use and a plethora of vaping of products popular among young adults.
Researchers say urinary thiocyanate can serve as a robust biomarker of the harms of tobacco smoke that will aid future research on the global tobacco picture, since most smokers now reside in developing countries. As smoking rates have decreased here in Canada, at-risk groups like youth and pregnant women have been prone to underreport their tobacco use when surveyed, making a reliable biomarker more valuable.
“Historically assessing tobacco behaviors have relied on questionnaires that are prone to bias, especially when comparing different countries and local cultures. The idea is to find robust methods that can quantify recent tobacco smoke exposure more reliably and objectively, which may better predict disease risk and prioritize interventions for smoking cessation.” says Britz-Mckibbin.
The study was published in the latest issue of Nicotine and Tobacco Research and received funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Genome Canada, the Canada Foundation for Innovation,Hamilton Health Sciences New Investigator Fund, and an internal grant from the Population Health Research Institute.
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Photos of Philip Britz-McKibbin can be found here
Credit: McMaster University
Nicotine & Tobacco Research
Method of Research
Subject of Research
Validation of Urinary Thiocyanate as a Robust Biomarker of Active Tobacco Smoking in the Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological Study