09/18/2020 15:00 GMT — Regional WHO director: September cases spike signals ‘wake-up call’ for Europe

Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Director for Europe, held a press conference yesterday in Copenhagen, Denmark.

In it, he reminded Europeans that, “Last week, the region’s weekly tally exceeded 300,000 cases,” and “More than half of European countries have reported a greater than 10% increase in cases in the past 2 weeks.”

Dr. Kluge said these figures reflect higher testing rates, but they also indicate “alarming rates of transmission.”

The numbers should serve as a “wake-up call for all of us,” he continued. The WHO representative called for solidarity and a concerted, “amplified effort” from all European Member states.

To read or watch his entire message, visit the WHO website here.

09/18/2020 12:00 GMT — COVID-19 is here to stay, new research predicts

A new study predicts that the novel coronavirus is here to stay and will have a seasonal pattern, similar to the flu, wherein transmission decreases in summer and increases again in winter. This is largely due to the effect of the climate on viral transmission, the authors say. 

Judging by data on similar “enveloped” viruses, cold weather may lead to the stabilization of SARS-CoV-2. Conversely, UV light in hot summer months may kill the new coronavirus. The study looks at other considerations, too.

“Therefore, the public will need to learn to live with it and continue practicing the best prevention measures, including wearing of masks, physical distancing, hand hygiene, and avoidance of gatherings,” says senior study author Hassan Zaraket, Ph.D.

However, the authors emphasize that their predictions are merely a “best guess,” and that this predicted seasonality is heavily reliant on the development of a vaccine and the achievement of significant herd immunity.

“This remains a novel virus, and despite the fast-growing body of science about it, there are still things that are unknown. Whether our predictions hold true or not remains to be seen in the future. But we think it’s highly likely, given what we know so far, [that] COVID-19 will eventually become seasonal, like other coronaviruses,” says Zaraket.

Read our full coverage here. For a comprehensive overview of the impact of weather on COVID-19, read our feature here.

09/17/2020 10:00 GMT — Trump claims vaccine will be ready next month; experts disagree

Yesterday, President Donald Trump predicted that a safe, effective vaccine would be ready to use in October and rolled out across the United States soon after. His statement is in direct contradiction to comments made by the government’s top health experts. 

If scientists deem one of the experimental vaccines they are currently testing as safe and effective soon, experts believe there will still be some time before it is widely available. 

For instance, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), believes that it may be available for frontline staff toward the end of the year or in January 2021.

Dr. Redfield also explained that should scientists develop a successful vaccine, they would probably not deploy it on a wider scale until late spring or summer. 

Read more here.

09/17/2020 08:57 GMT — COVID-19: Antibody fragment could prevent infection

A recent study, which appears in the journal Nature Communications, suggests that an antibody fragment, called a nanobody, can neutralize SARS-CoV-2. According to the authors, it is possible to produce these fragments cheaply and at scale, making it a promising candidate for the widespread prevention of COVID-19.

Senior study author Prof. Gerald McInerney says, “We hope our findings can contribute to the amelioration of the COVID-19 pandemic by encouraging further examination of this nanobody as a therapeutic candidate against this viral infection.”

Read MNT’s full coverage of the research here.

09/16/2020 09:21 GMT — Links between obesity, COVID-19, and bacteria

A recent review, which appears in the journal eLife, examines how the microbiome interacts with COVID-19 in the lungs. The authors believe their findings help explain why people with obesity and diabetes are more likely to develop severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) after infection.

The authors conclude, “The appearance of bacteria, their products, or both in the lungs of [people with obesity and diabetes] promotes interactions between viral and bacterial pathogens, resulting in a more severe lung injury in COVID-19.”

Find the full study here.

09/16/2020 09:14 GMT — India passes 5 million cases

According to officials, India has now registered more than 5 million cases of COVID-19 and 82,066 related deaths. In the past 24 hours alone, the Health Ministry has reported 90,123 cases and 1,290 deaths. Already in September, they have registered more than 1 million cases.

The United States still has the highest total number of COVID-19 cases with 6.6 million, but experts believe India will surpass this figure within the next few weeks.

Read more about the situation in India here

9/15/2020 09:58 GMT — Chinese vaccine ready by November?

According to Chinese officials, a COVID-19 vaccine could be ready for the public in November. Scientists are currently testing four candidate vaccines in late-stage clinical trials, and three of these have already been offered to frontline staff.

According to Guizhen Wu, the chief biosafety expert at China’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), phase 3 clinical trials are going well.

Read more here.

09/15/2020 09:06 GMT — US COVID-19 cases down 15% in past week

Comparing the past 7 days with the 7 days before, cases of COVID-19 in the United States have dropped 15%. New cases have now dropped for 8 consecutive weeks. The number of coronavirus-related deaths has also fallen for 4 weeks in a row.

However, the number of cases in some states — including North Dakota, Wisconsin, Delaware, New Hampshire, and New Jersey — has risen for 2 weeks in a row.

Last week, on average, the U.S. tested 650,000 people each day. Of these individuals, 5.4% tested positive. This figure has dropped steadily over the past 6 weeks.

Read more here.

09/14/2020 09:37 GMT — Asthma may not increase the risk of severe COVID-19

A recent review finds that the proportion of all patients hospitalized with COVID-19 who also have asthma is similar to the prevalence of asthma in the wider population. The authors conclude that asthma is not a “significant risk factor for developing severe COVID-19 requiring hospitalization.”

The researchers also found that patients hospitalized with COVID-19 who had asthma were no more likely to be intubated than other patients without asthma.

“The CDC [place] people with asthma at higher risk [of] COVID-related hospitalization,” explains senior author Dr. Fernando Holguin. “However, many international studies show low numbers of [people with asthma] among hospitalized COVID-19 patients. These findings challenge the assumption about asthma as a risk factor.”

Read MNT’s coverage of the study here.

09/11/2020 11:56 GMT — No evidence of ‘cytokine storm’ in COVID-19

Contrary to current theories, a recent study concludes that COVID-19 is not associated with a cytokine storm. The findings could have implications for treatment, suggesting that anti-cytokine therapies may not be beneficial. The new study appears in JAMA Network.

Read our coverage of the study here.

09/11/2020 09:15 GMT — Latin America registers 8 million cases

Globally, Latin America now has the highest number of COVID-19 cases, with more than 8 million infections. Brazil remains the worst-affected country in the region, with 4.2 million infections. However, the daily average number of cases across the region is falling. 

Yesterday, Brazil reported 40,557 new infections, which is a decrease from recent days. Similarly, Peru, Colombia, and Mexico also registered slightly lower average numbers of cases.

Read more about the situation in Latin America here.

09/10/2020 10:34 GMT — Critically ill patients have robust immunity to new coronavirus

A recent study suggests immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 in severely ill patients are as strong or stronger than those of patients with milder COVID-19. This adds to the evidence that the immune system itself is to blame for the most life-threatening form of the infection.

The results of the study appear in the journal Cell Reports Medicine. Lead author Prof. Nina Babel explains, “Even though further studies will be necessary to understand the specific mechanism of COVID-19 development, our data suggest that excessive SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell response can cause [immune damage] leading to COVID-19-related lung failure.”

Find more about the study here.

09/10/2020 09:18 GMT — Promising results for Russian vaccine

A new paper, which appears in The Lancet, details the results of two early phase clinical trials of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. According to the authors, the vaccine “has a good safety profile and induced strong humoral and cellular immune responses in participants.”

However, it is worth noting that the researchers had designed the trials to assess the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine, not to evaluate whether it can prevent COVID-19. Senior author Prof. Alexander Gintsburg explains the next steps:

“The phase 3 clinical trial of our vaccine was approved on 26 August, 2020. It is planned to include 40,000 volunteers from different age and risk groups and will be undertaken with constant monitoring of volunteers through an online application.”

Read MNT’s full coverage of the vaccine trial here.

09/09/2020 15:45 GMT — Video update: Living with ‘long COVID’

09/09/2020 08:34 GMT — US: Number of cases and deaths fall for third week in a row 

A total of 17 states, particularly in the Midwest and Northeast of the United States, have registered increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases for 2 weeks in a row. Nationally, however, the numbers of new cases and deaths have fallen each week for 3 weeks.

Read more here.

09/14/2020 10:53 GMT — AstraZeneca resume vaccine clinical trial

Last week, AstraZeneca paused a clinical trial investigating a new vaccine. The move came following an illness in one study participant. Following a review, scientists are now resuming the trial in the United Kingdom. The World Health Organization (WHO) have described this vaccine as a leading candidate.

In a statement, AstraZeneca write, “The independent review process has concluded, and following the recommendations of both the independent safety review committee and the U.K. regulator, the [Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency], the trials will recommence in the U.K.”

Read more about the vaccine trial here.

09/09/2020 08:32 GMT — AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine trials halted

According to AstraZeneca Plc., they halted a large-scale clinical trial of a COVID-19 vaccine because one participant developed an unexplained illness. The World Health Organization (WHO) had described this vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, as a leading candidate.

AstraZeneca has paused trials while an independent committee reviews the safety data. In a statement, the company explain: “This is a routine action, which has to happen whenever there is a potentially unexplained illness in one of our trials.”

Although the company has not disclosed the nature of the illness, doctors expect the individual to recover. At this stage, it is not clear whether the vaccine was directly responsible for the illness.

Read more here.

09/08/2020 09:28 GMT — Addressing COVID-19 and incarceration

In a recent Medical News Today article, Wizdom Powell, Ph.D., discusses the relationship between COVID-19 and incarceration. Powell is an associate professor of psychiatry and the director of the Health Disparities Institute at UConn Health, part of the University of Connecticut in Farmington.

Find the article here.

09/08/2020 09:16 GMT — Living with long COVID

Medical News Today recently published a Special Feature on “long COVID.” Affected people experience symptoms months after the initial illness is supposed to have worn off. The feature includes first-hand accounts and insights from Prof. Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at King’s College London.

Read the full article here.

09/07/2020 10:25 GMT — Portable smartphone COVID-19 test delivers results in under 40 minutes

Scientists have designed a rapid, portable COVID-19 test that can provide results on a smartphone. Its developers claim that it could broaden access to affordable testing in regions that lack expertise, infrastructure, and specialized equipment for laboratory-based testing.

Read more about the experimental test here.

09/07/2020 09:51 GMT — Antibody-based arthritis drug could treat severe COVID-19

A new study demonstrates that an antibody-based blockade could effectively treat cytokine release syndrome, or CRS, and alleviate severe cases of COVID-19. The findings appear in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read our coverage of the research here.

09/04/2020 12:00 GMT — Alleged US case of SARS-CoV-2 reinfection raises questions

According to research that has yet to be peer reviewed or published in a journal, a 25-year-old male in the United States may have developed a second SARS-CoV-2 infection after recovering from the first. However, questions remain.

Read our full coverage of the study here.

09/04/2020 11:09 GMT — COVID-19-associated health worker deaths

According to a new Amnesty International report, globally, more than 7,000 health workers have died after contracting COVID-19. Mexico has registered the highest number of health worker fatalities, with a total of 1,320 deaths. The report states that in Mexico, hospital cleaners are particularly at risk.

The analysis also reports high numbers of health worker fatalities in the United States (1,077), United Kingdom (649), Brazil (634), Russia (631), India (573), and South Africa (240).

According to Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s head of economic and social justice, “For over 7,000 people to die while trying to save others is a crisis on a staggering scale. Every health worker has the right to be safe at work, and it is a scandal that so many are paying the ultimate price.”

“Many months into the pandemic, health workers are still dying at horrific rates in countries such as Mexico, Brazil, and the [U.S.]“, he continues, “while the rapid spread of infections in South Africa and India show the need for all states to take action.”

Speaking about the way forward, Cockburn explains, “There must be global cooperation to ensure all health workers are provided with adequate protective equipment so they can continue their vital work without risking their own lives.”

Although the figures in the analysis are stark, the authors of the report remind us that “These figures are likely to be a significant underestimate, due to underreporting by many of the countries included in the analysis.”

Read Amnesty International’s report here.

09/04/2020 10:43 GMT — People with eating disorders negatively affected by lockdown

A recent study concludes that people with a history of eating disorders experienced significant negative effects during the COVID-19 lockdown. The research appears in the Journal of Eating Disorders.

Read our full report on the study here.

09/03/2020 10:03 GMT — COVID-19: Breathing problems are the most common reason for returning to the hospital

According to a new study, it is relatively rare for COVID-19 patients to return to the hospital within 2 weeks of discharge. Individuals with hypertension or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are the most likely to return.

Using electronic health records, the authors of the latest study followed 2,864 discharged patients. Of these, 103 (3.6%) returned for emergency care, and, in total, the hospitals readmitted 56 patients.

People with breathing difficulties were the most likely group to return to the hospital, accounting for half of all return visits. The authors published their results in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Read MNT’s coverage of the study here.

09/03/2020 09:05 GMT — Winter flu-like illnesses could have been COVID-19

The results of a recent analysis suggest that thousands of people who had flu-like symptoms during the winter of 2019 may actually have had COVID-19. The findings are based on retested throat swabs from people in Wuhan, China, and Seattle, WA.

The results, which appear in the journal EClinicalMedicine, suggest that the early spread of COVID-19 could have been far greater than experts initially thought.

As senior author Prof. Lauren Ancel Meyers explains, “Even before we realized that COVID-19 was spreading, the data imply that there was at least one case of COVID-19 for every two cases of flu.”

Read our coverage of the research here.

09/02/2020 13:45 GMT — US confirms it will not take part in WHO-led coronavirus vaccine initiative

In communication with The Washington Post yesterday, Judd Deere, a spokesperson for the White House, confirmed that the United States will not be joining COVAX, the international initiative for the development of a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. This initiative is co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO), and it currently involves 172 countries.

“The [U.S.] will continue to engage our international partners to ensure we defeat this virus, but we will not be constrained by multilateral organizations influenced by the corrupt [WHO] and China,” Deere told The Washington Post.

This news follows U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to formally initiate the States’ withdrawal from the WHO in July after he claimed that China heavily influences the United Nations (UN) agency in their decision-making.

Read more here.

09/02/2020 09:59 GMT — Third US vaccine reaches final stages

On Monday, AstraZeneca announced that their experimental vaccine had entered the final stage of testing. The upcoming study will involve up to 30,000 people in the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa. The University of Oxford in the United Kingdom developed the vaccine.

Read more here.

09/02/2020 09:36 GMT — Link found between metabolic syndrome and worse COVID-19 outcomes

A recent study concludes that people with metabolic syndrome are more likely to have worse COVID-19 outcomes — including requiring ventilation and death. The results appear in the journal Diabetes Care

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions, which include obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. People with metabolic syndrome have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

After accounting for a range of variables — including age, sex, race, and the hospital location — the researchers found that people with metabolic syndrome were 3.4 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than people without metabolic syndrome.

Read our full coverage of the study here.

09/01/2020 16:06 GMT — The global number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has reached 25.5 million

09/01/2020 12:00 GMT — Treating COVID-19 may increase antibiotic resistance

A recent study, which appears in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, concludes theincreased use of antibiotics during the COVID-19 pandemic may be placing an added burden on wastewater treatment works. This might lead to raised levels of antibiotics in rivers.

Although antibiotics cannot treat viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, doctors commonly prescribe them to people who are hospitalized with COVID-19 to prevent secondary bacterial infections.

“From our previous research, we know that significant quantities of commonly prescribed drugs pass through treatment works and into our watercourses,” explains lead author Prof. Sean Comber.

Co-author Prof. Mathew Upton adds, “It is clear that mass prescribing of antibiotics will lead to increased levels in the environment, and we know that this can select for resistant bacteria. Studies like this are essential so that we can plan how to guide antibiotic prescription in future pandemics.”

Read more about the study here.

09/01/2020 11:23 GMT — Blood pressure drugs may improve COVID-19 survival

A recent review, which appears in the journal Current Atherosclerosis Reports, concludes that people taking certain drugs for high blood pressure had a lower risk of severe COVID-19 and death than thosewho were not taking these medications.

Doctors commonly prescribe angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) to treat high blood pressure.

Both drugs interact with ACE2 receptors. These receptors are also the entry point in the cell for SARS-CoV-2. Some researchers speculated that taking ACE inhibitors or ARBs might increase the number of ACE2 receptors and, therefore, exacerbate the infection.

“[What we] showed was that there is no evidence that these medications might increase the severity of COVID-19 or risk of death,” explains lead researcher Dr. Vassilios Vassiliou. “On the contrary, we found that there was a significantly lower risk of death and critical outcomes, so they might, in fact, have a protective role — particularly in patients with hypertension.”

Read our full coverage of the study here.

08/28/2020 15:00 GMT — Scientists reveal specific order of COVID-19 symptoms

MNT reported on new research that found that individuals with a SARS-CoV-2 infection will likely experience symptoms in the following order:

  1. fever
  2. coughing and muscle pain
  3. nausea, vomiting, or both
  4. diarrhea

The new study — which appears in the journal Frontiers in Public Health — reached the above conclusion after analyzing the rates of symptom incidence of 55,924 confirmed COVID-19 cases in China.

The scientists supplemented their data with another 1,099 cases collected by the National Health Commission of China and compared COVID-19 with influenza and two other diseases caused by coronaviruses: SARS and MERS.

“This order is especially important to know when we have overlapping cycles of illnesses like the flu that coincide with infections of COVID-19,” says the study’s senior author, Prof. Peter Kuhn, from the University of Southern California.

“Doctors can determine what steps to take to care for the patient, and they may prevent the patient’s condition from worsening.”

Read our full coverage here.

08/28/2020 14:00 GMT — 20% of nursing homes in the US lack PPE

A new study that appears ahead of print in the journal Health Affairs, finds that over 20% of US nursing homes lack sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE).

This is despite the fact that nursing home residents make up almost 50% of all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. “Twenty percent is a lot, given where we are in the course of this pandemic. I would have hoped by month six we would be close to 0%,” says lead author Brian E. McGarry, assistant professor of geriatrics/aging and public health sciences at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York. 

For their study, McGarry and colleagues used data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) COVID-19 Nursing Home Database, which amassed responses from 15,035 nursing homes. According to the researchers, this is about 98% of the total number of nursing care facilities in the U.S. The nursing homes also reported severe shortages of staff.

Read the full story here.

08/27/2020 14:00 GMT — CDC changes testing guidance, scientists express concern

Previously, the testing guidelines on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website read: “Testing is recommended for all close contacts of persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Because of the potential for asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, it is important that contacts of individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infection be quickly identified and tested.”

On August 24, the CDC updated their testing guidelines. According to their website, “Diagnostic testing categories have been edited to focus on testing considerations and actions to be taken by individuals undergoing testing.”

Now, the guidelines read: “If you have been in close contact (within 6 feet) of a person with a COVID-19 infection for at least 15 minutes but do not have symptoms, you do not necessarily need a test unless you are a vulnerable individual or your health care provider or State or local public health officials recommend you take one.”

Scientists and other health experts have expressed concern over these changes. Prof. Leana Wen from George Washington University and former health commissioner in Baltimore, MD, tweeted: “I still can’t make sense of @CDCgov change in guidance.”

“An estimated 40-50% of people with #covid19 are asymptomatic. Those exposed to the virus need to know to protect their family members & the public. One has to wonder: is this change because we don’t have enough tests?”

For more expert reactions, read the full story here.

08/27/2020 13:00 GMT — ‘We now have clear data’ that the immune response is ‘considerably different between the sexes’

Since the beginning of the pandemic, scientists have been intrigued by sex differences in COVID-19 — specifically, that female patients tend to have better overall outcomes than their male counterparts.

Scientists have not known whether this is due to immunological differences or environmental factors.

New research helps settle the matter by exploring differences between the sexes’ immunological responses to SARS-CoV-2.

Prof. Akiko Iwasaki, of the Department of Immunobiology at Yale University, in New Haven, CT, and colleagues took nasal, saliva, and blood samples from COVID-19 patients and healthy participants. 

The authors performed analyses of viral loads, plasma cytokines, tests for SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies, and blood cell phenotyping in the COVID-19 patients.

The team followed the evolution of immune markers over time, as the disease progressed. Ultimately, they found key differences between the sexes, including:

  • Male patients had higher levels of specific cytokines. These inflammatory proteins are a natural part of the immune response, but they can lead to the potentially fatal “cytokine storm” phenomenon in severe cases of COVID-19.
  • Female patients had a “significantly more robust T cell activation than male patients.” T cells are white blood cells that play an important role in the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection.
  • Over time, the team found, poor T-cell activation in male patients led to worsening of COVID-19.

“We now have clear data suggesting that the immune landscape in COVID-19 patients is considerably different between the sexes and that these differences may underlie heightened disease susceptibility in men,” says Prof. Iwasaki.

Read more here.

08/26/2020 09:54 GMT — Hydroxychloroquine: The research continues

This week, scientists have published two new studies that investigate hydroxychloroquine. One study looks at the long-term safety of thedrug when used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. The second study examines itsimpact in hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

The rheumatoid arthritis study appears in Lancet Rheumatology. Although the research is not directly related to COVID-19, the findings are relevant. The authors conclude:

“Hydroxychloroquine treatment appears to have no increased risk in the short term among patients with rheumatoid arthritis, but in the long term it appears to be associated with excess cardiovascular mortality.”

The authors of the second study, which appears in the European Journal of Internal Medicine, asked whether hydroxychloroquine reduced in-hospital mortality in patients with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections. 

Although the study was observational, the authors conclude hydroxychloroquine “was associated with a 30% lower risk of death in COVID-19 hospitalized patients.”

These results, which contradict similar, recent studies, are likely to spark fresh debate.

Read MNT’s article that explains how hydroxychloroquine has ignited a fire between medicine and politics.

08/26/2020 09:40 GMT — US colleges experience spike in cases

As many colleges begin their fall semester, some are struggling with high numbers of students testing positive for SARS-CoV-2. For instance, since August 19, officials from the University of Alabama have registered more than 550 positive tests.

Most of these cases were recorded at the university’s main campus in Tuscaloosa. In response, the mayor of Tuscaloosa has ordered bars to shut for 2 weeks and restricted the activity of other establishments.

At the University of Southern California’s University Park Campus in Los Angeles, 100 students are currently in a 14-day quarantine following exposure to the virus.

Last week, after a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill canceled all in-class teaching.

Read more here.

08/25/2020 14:08 GMT — Scientists report first case of reinfection

A new study paper documents the case of a 33-year-old man in China who appears to have contracted SARS-CoV-2 twice. He was treated for a mild case of COVID-19 in a hospital in March and tested positive again almost 5 months later.

Scientists have determined that the virus of the second infection was genetically different from the virus of the first.

The paper has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. However, the authors, researchers from The University of Hong Kong, say that that their manuscript has been accepted by the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

One of the authors, Dr. Kelvin To, writes, “This case proves that at least some patients do not have lifelong immunity.”

The researchers have only released parts of the paper online. In the text that has been made public, the authors argue that this case demonstrates that herd immunity is an impossibility and that a vaccine will not work.

However, other experts take a different view. For instance, Prof. Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School, in the United Kingdom, explains:

“The implications of this finding should not be overstated. It is quite likely that subsequent infections do not cause as severe an illness as the first episode because of some degree of residual immunity, which may not be sufficient to stop the infection but [may] be enough to reduce the risk of severe illness.”

He also explains that the viral load might not be as high in a second infection. Rather than conclude that immunization will never work, Prof. Hunter writes, “We need more information about this case and other cases of reinfection before we can really understand the implications.”

Prof. Brendan Wren, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, calls for similar restraint: “With over 3 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, the first reported case of a potential reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 needs to be taken into context. […] This is a very rare example of reinfection, and it should not negate the global drive to develop COVID-19 vaccines.”

Dr. Julian Tang, from the University of Leicester, in the U.K., also believes that we should wait for further details before deciding that a future vaccine will be useless.

For instance, he outlines a theoretical alternative, in which there is “an initial coinfection with two different SARS-CoV-2 viral clades — with one initial predominant clade, then with the other minority clade just persisting longer than the predominant one.” 

In other words, both strains could, potentially, have been present in the man from the start, with one strain simply surviving longer. Although theoretical, this possibility underlines the need for more detail before making wide-ranging conclusions.

It is also worth noting that, in this individual, the second case was asymptomatic. The man had undergone a routine test as he passed through a Hong Kong airport.

Read more here.

08/25/2020 10:36 GMT — Pandemic slows throughout much of the world

On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) published their weekly epidemiological report. In the update, they explain that, although the pandemic continues, it is slowing in most regions. However, some areas are still experiencing increasing numbers of cases.

As the report explains, “With the exception of the South-East Asia and Eastern Mediterranean regions, a decrease in the weekly case incidence was reported across WHO regions in the last 7 days.”

Last week, the Americas remained the most affected region, accounting for 50% of new cases and 62% of deaths. However, the report explains that this region also experienced the largest decrease compared with the previous week.

Find the WHO’s report here.

08/25/2020 09:45 GMT — COVID-19: Children may have a higher viral load than adults

A recent study of pediatric COVID-19 patients finds that children have a higher viral load than hospitalized adults. The research, which appears in the Journal of Pediatrics, suggests children may contribute to the spread of COVID-19 more than previously thought.

Read MNT’s full coverage of the study here.

08/24/2020 10:32 GMT — Is COVID-19 more dangerous because SARS-CoV-2 reduces specific microRNAs?

The authors of a new study ask whether microRNAs (miRNAs) might help explain why the novel coronavirus is particularly deadly. They conclude that SARS-CoV-2 might reduce miRNA levels in a way that assists viral replication and blocks the host immune response. 

miRNAs are short, noncoding RNAs that regulate gene expression. They also help fight viruses by latching onto viral RNA and cutting it. This means that if miRNAs are inhibited, viruses are more likely to replicate.

The authors of the new study found that SARS-CoV-2 may serve as a miRNA sponge, reducing levels of miRNA in the cell and making the virus more hazardous.

Read more about the new study here.

08/24/2020 09:50 GMT — Even mild COVID-19 may produce long lasting immunity

The results of a new study, which appear in the journal Cell, suggest that T cells could provide lasting immunity against future infection. This is even the case for individuals who had a mild or asymptomatic case of COVID-19.

Read more about the research here.

08/21/2020 09:43 GMT — Video update: Dreams during COVID-19

08/21/2020 09:41 GMT — Tool to help manage COVID-19 in patients with diabetes

People with diabetes have an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Recently, a group of researchers developed an algorithm that they hope will reduce the risk of complications in these patients, such as respiratory distress and kidney failure.

In their study, which appears in the journal Diabetes, the authors describe the management strategies used with almost 200 hospitalized COVID-19 patients with high blood sugar levels.

Using these observations, they developed an algorithm to help doctors manage levels of blood sugar in people who have diabetes and COVID-19.

Read MNT’s coverage of the recent study here.

08/21/2020 09:30 GMT — Electric cooker can effectively sanitize N95 masks

N95 respirators are a vital part of healthcare workers’ personal protective equipment. However, people can only use them once, and they are now in short supply. A recent study demonstrates that dry heat from an electric cooker can effectively sanitize these masks without compromising their effectiveness.

The authors published their findings in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters. They found that 50 minutes of dry heat at 212ºF (100ºC) successfully decontaminated N95 respirators.

Co-author of the study Prof. Vishal Verma explains, “The respirators maintained their filtration capacity of more than 95% and kept their fit, still properly seated on the wearer’s face, even after 20 cycles of decontamination in the electric cooker.”

Read our full coverage of the study here.

08/20/2020 10:11 GMT — New York teachers threaten strike

Yesterday, New York City’s United Federation of Teachers (UFT), which represents 133,000 public school teachers, voiced concerns about the city’s return-to-school plan. They promised to strike or bring legal action unless the district implements tighter safety measures and an improved COVID-19 testing plan.

At a briefing, UFT President Michael Mulgrew said, “The minute we feel that the mayor is trying to force people into a situation that is unsafe […] we go to court, we take a job action.”

However, local laws state that public employees are barred from striking. During a school tour in Brooklyn, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “any union leader who talks about doing something illegal should really think twice about what he’s saying.”

Read more here.

08/20/2020 09:36 GMT — Will the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement change science and society?

Medical News Today recently published an opinion piece by Winston Morgan, Ph.D., from the University of East London in the United Kingdom. In the article, he discusses a recent review into why COVID-19 disproportionately affects people from marginalized racial and ethnic groups. 

He explains how the review’s “overwhelming message was that the cumulative effects of structural racism on BAME [Black, Asian, and minority ethnic] groups was the major contributing factor.” 

Morgan also highlights why large-scale societal changes need more than sentiment to become reality. He writes:

“Major changes require the transfer of privilege from those who have always benefited from it to those who have never had privilege, a step that many, even those who advocate equality, are reluctant to make when faced with real choices.”

Read the full article here.

08/20/2020 09:13 GMT — Dr. Fauci quizzed at Healthline Town Hall meeting

This week, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci spoke about COVID-19 at a Town Hall meetingthat Healthline organized. During the discussion, he spoke about children returning to schools, his hopes for a vaccine, and experimental treatments that scientists are currently exploring.

Talking about reopening schools, Dr. Fauci said, “The general default position to reopen schools should be to try as best as you can to open up schools for the psychological health of the children and the secondary downstream ripple effects of the family that might have to interrupt work to take care of kids.”

However, he also makes it clear that “you have to pay attention to the safety and health and welfare of the children and teachers as well as the parents and relatives. With that as a background, we live in a big country that has different levels of infections.”

Read our coverage of the meeting here.

08/19/2020 07:20 GMT — How a new blood test could help speed up vaccine development and population screening

In a recent interview, Medical News Today spoke with James Hindley, Ph.D., from Indoor Biotechnologies. We discussed a new T cell test that will help scientists as they design new vaccines and study how the immune system responds to the virus.

Read the full interview here.

08/19/2020 07:15 GMT — What can we learn from South Korea’s response?

In comparison with other countries, South Korea responded to the pandemic well, registering fewer deaths than some similarly sized nations. A recent article, published in The American Review of Public Administration, discusses South Korea’s response and the lessons that other countries can learn from it.

Read our full coverage of the study here.

08/182020 15:41 GMT — MNT video update: T cells and COVID-19

08/18/2020 10:45 GMT — According to WHO, people aged 20–49 are driving the pandemic

The World Health Organization (WHO) state people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s are currently driving transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Many of these individuals are asymptomatic and unaware they have contracted the virus. This presents a risk to vulnerable populations.

Takeshi Takai, WHO Western Pacific regional director, explains: “What we are observing is not simply a resurgence. We believe it’s a signal that we have entered a new phase of pandemic in the Asia-Pacific.”

Read more here.

08/18/2020 10:24 GMT — Researchers call out lack of diversity in COVID-19 clinical trials

Marginalized people experience disproportionality higher rates of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and death. Despite this fact, according to a new perspective article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), they are significantly underrepresented in COVID-19 clinical trials.

The authors explain that clinical trials, in general, tend to lack diversity, and COVID-19 studies are no different. This fact makes it difficult to know whether interventions designed for COVID-19 will benefit those who are at most risk of the disease.

As an example, the authors explain that “[t]he modest benefit seen in time to clinical improvement with remdesivir may not be generalizable to minority populations, given the differences in disease severity and outcomes.”

Read our full coverage of the article here.