We study disease mechanisms in two severe viral infections, hantavirus hemorrhagic fever and COVID-19, to understand disease mechanisms and be able to develop future treatment. The CoVacc project assesses the protective effect of vaccines against COVID-19, and how persons who have been infected with COVID-19 respond to vaccines relative to those who have not been infected before being vaccinated.
Clas Ahlm lab studies two important viral infections: COVID-19 and hantavirus infection. Both these viral infections are transmitted via the lungs and may cause severe illness and even death, especially in elderly persons and persons with other concomitant chronic illness.
Further knowledge is needed about disease mechanisms and protective immunity, effective treatment and vaccine effect for COVID-19, and there is still no cure or vaccine against hantavirus hemorrhagic fever and other more severe viruses in the hantavirus group.
Puumala hantavirus causes hantavirus hemorrhagic fever, which is a mild type of hemorrhagic fever that occurs in Central and Northern Europe. In Sweden, the infection is called sorkfeber and is found mainly in the northern part of Sweden The infection is characterised by high fever, abdominal pain, headache, respiratory symptoms, mild hemorrhagic symptoms and transient renal failure. Through our studies, we have been able to demonstrate occurrence of complications with stroke, myocardial infarction and pulmonary blood clot. Infections caused by other hantaviruses occurring in the Balkans, Asia and America have a mortality rate of up to 40 percent. Many cases of hantavirus hemorrhagic fever also entail severe illness, often resulting in hospitalisation and some mortality. The mortality rate for hantavirus hemorrhagic fever is approximately 0.5 percent, but it is 2-6 percent for patients over 80 years.
The research project uses advanced analyses of clinical material from acutely ill patients and cellular infection experiments. Our objective is to increase our knowledge about disease mechanisms and develop future treatments against hantavirus infections.
For many years, we have collected a unique data material comprising blood, urine and lung samples from acutely ill patients with hantavirus hemorrhagic fever. These clinical samples are used to examine various markers for measuring immune response, coagulation disorders and cardiopulmonary effects. The results of these analyses can be compared with clinical symptoms, the severity of the infection and any complications.
In the NIH-supported consortium Prometheus, we develop and test monoclonal antibodies against hantavirus. They may become an effective and safe future treatment option for alleviating the course of illness and reducing the risk of severe illness, first and foremost in connection with the severer American forms of hantavirus.
Overall, our research will increase our knowledge of long-term immunity in relation to both COVID-19 and hantavirus, and result in the development of future treatments against hantavirus.
The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 pandemic
There is still a great need for new knowledge about the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 pandemic. The CoVUm study examines disease mechanisms, various biomarkers and immune responses during acute COVID-19 infection as well as immunity after recovery from infection with COVID-19.
Clas Ahlm is the national investigator responsible for the study ‘CoVacc – Immune response in vaccination against COVID-19, an open multicentre phase IV study’ on follow-up of immune response and immunity after vaccination against COVID-19. The included subjects will be followed up for up to four years after vaccination.
As the main applicant, Clas Ahlm coordinates the vaccine follow-up project COVERS, which has received funding of SEK 15 million from the Swedish Research Council.
Within COVERS (COVID-19 Vaccine Effectiveness, Responses and Safety (COVERS) Sweden: Clinical and epidemiological studies with special focus on vulnerable groups), we study the short-term and long-term protection provided by the COVID-19 vaccines by measuring specific antibodies against the S-protein of the virus. The project also includes epidemiological studies in which the protection of the entire population is monitored over time.
In the project, we collaborate with researchers at Lund University and Karolinska Institutet as well as county medical officers for communicable diseases and infectious disease specialists in nine Swedish healthcare regions.
The Foundation for Medical Research at Umeå University Studies of disease mechanisms and development of treatment against hantavirus infections
The Swedish Heart Lung Foundation Research grants for various studies of cardiopulmonary involvement in hantavirus hemorrhagic fever and COVID-19.
Umeå University grants under the Medical Training and Research Agreement (ALF) Immune response and long-term immunity in COVID-19 and hantavirus hemorrhagic fever as well as development of therapeutic antibodies against hantavirus infections.
NIH Prometheus: A Platform for Rapid Development of Human Antibody-based Therapeutics and Prophylactics against Emerging Viral Threats
SciLifeLab Grants for the collection of samples from COVID-19 patients for research purposes