Security Evaluation Begins Into AstraZeneca’s Coronavirus Vaccine Trial

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Safety Review Begins Into AstraZeneca's Coronavirus Vaccine Trial

A source familiar with the event, who spoke about the condition of anonymity, said in an interview Tuesday that the affected volunteer had symptoms consistent with a condition known as transverse myelitis, or inflammation of the spinal cord.

In a statement to reporters Wednesday, AstraZeneca spokesman Michele Meixell said the person did not have a confirmed case of transverse myelitis. She said the company's executive director, Pascal Soriot, stated on a phone call reported by STAT that there is no definitive diagnosis and that there will be none until more tests are done. These tests are submitted to an independent safety committee who will review the event and make a final diagnosis. "

The company did not respond to a request for clarification of the suspected transverse myelitis.

Transverse myelitis is relatively rare and causes symptoms in about 1,400 people each year, according to the National Institutes of Health in the United States. The condition can lead to pain, muscle weakness, paralysis, or bladder problems. The root cause is often puzzling, although doctors believe the syndrome generally occurs when inflammatory responses go wrong in the body, sometimes in response to a persistent or past infection, said Dr. Felicia Chow, a neurologist at the University of California at San Francisco. "It's not unusual that we never find out why," she said.

There has been some speculation in the past that vaccines could potentially cause transverse myelitis, she added. A handful of vaccines were previously linked to a few other autoimmune diseases, including Guillain-Barre syndrome, in which the immune system attacks nerves. However, such complications are rare.

Both transverse myelitis and Guillain-Barre syndrome have been identified as possible complications from Covid-19.

Although vaccines are designed to be harmless to humans, they still need to strengthen the body's defenses in order to develop a protective immune response. But if the wrong subsets of cells or molecules are stimulated to act, or if the body cannot curb its own reactions, it could trigger a cascade that begins to damage healthy tissue, said Dr. Serena Spudich, a neurologist at Yale University.

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