02/22/2021 09:30 GMT — The 4 challenges of stopping the COVID-19 pandemic
According to a recent opinion piece in The Lancet, having licensed vaccines will not be sufficient to stop the pandemic. The scale of production, affordability, global allocation, and local community deployment of vaccines will be the key to efficient control. Vaccine hesitancy can also hamper efforts.
Face masks reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2, but they may also lessen the severity of COVID-19. A recent study proposes that this might be due to the increased humidity inside a face mask. The results of the study appear in Biophysical Journal.
02/22/2021 09:21 GMT — How Google search data can predict COVID-19 outbreaks
A recent study finds that online searches can accurately predict regional increases and decreases in COVID-19 cases. The search volume for outside-the-home versus stay-at-home activities forecasts the number of COVID-19 diagnoses 10–14 days later.
02/19/2021 15:38 GMT — Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine may not need to be stored at such low temperatures
Pfizer is seeking permission from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to store its vaccine for up to 2 weeks at 25°C to -15°C (-13°F to 5°F). These temperatures are common in standard pharmaceutical freezers and refrigerators.
Read more about this in our live vaccine update article.
02/19/2021 09:30 GMT — Pfizer begin vaccine trials in pregnant women
Yesterday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that they have begun vaccine trials in pregnant participants aged 18 years and older. They write, “We are proud to start this study in pregnant women and continue to gather the evidence on safety and efficacy to potentially support the use of the vaccine by important subpopulations.”
02/19/2021 09:10 GMT — Can a heart failure drug help treat long COVID symptoms?
There is an overlap between the symptoms of long COVID and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), which has led some scientists to suggest they are related. A small clinical trial indicates that ivabradine, a drug approved for use in heart failure, may be an effective treatment for POTS.
02/19/2021 09:05 GMT — What are human challenge studies?
Recently, the government of the United Kingdom received ethics approval to run the world’s first SARS-CoV-2 human challenge study. In a recent feature, Medical News Today explain what human challenge studies are and what insights they can provide.
02/18/2021 16:00 GMT — Azithromycin has no effect on survival outcomes for patients hospitalized with COVID-19
Some researchers and medical practitioners believe that azithromycin, a common antibiotic, might help improve outcomes for some people who test positive for COVID-19 and who do not require hospitalization.
Moreover, some studies from 2020 suggest that administering this antibiotic to patients hospitalized with COVID-19 appeared to reduce mortality rates due to the disease.
Additionally, an online survey conducted last spring by Sermo, a private social media network for physicians, indicates that 41% of physicians who treat patients with COVID-19 prescribed them azithromycin, making this antibiotic the second most commonly prescribed medication for this disease.
Now, the RECOVERY Collaborative Group — in charge of the RECOVERY clinical trial, which tests potential COVID-19 treatments — have announced that, according to their data, this antibiotic does not improve mortality outcomes in patients hospitalized with COVID-19.
The study paper, which appears in The Lancet, reports that the researchers monitored 7,763 hospitalized patients, 2,582 of whom received azithromycin.
“Overall, 561 (22%) patients allocated to azithromycin and 1,162 (22%) patients allocated to usual care died within 28 days,” the paper states, suggesting that the antibiotic “did not improve survival” among those treated for COVID-19 in a hospital setting.
02/18/2021 09:14 GMT — UK set to run world’s first coronavirus Human Challenge study
In the next few weeks, the United Kingdom will embark on the world’s first Human Challenge study. As a government press release explains, part of the research will “involve establishing the smallest amount of virus needed to cause infection.”
Scientists will recruit 90 healthy adult volunteers and expose them to SARS-CoV-2 in a safe and controlled environment.
In their press release, the government explain that the study “will give doctors greater understanding of COVID-19 and help support the pandemic response by aiding vaccine and treatment development.”
Following the initial trial, scientists will give vaccine candidates to healthy participants before exposing them to SARS-CoV-2. According to their press release, this will help “identify the most effective vaccines and accelerate their development.”
Speaking about the upcoming research, Interim Chair of the Vaccines Taskforce Clive Dix says:
“We have secured a number of safe and effective vaccines for the U.K., but it is essential that we continue to develop new vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. We expect these studies to offer unique insights into how the virus works and help us understand which promising vaccines offer the best chance of preventing the infection.”
02/18/2021 08:53 GMT — Lockdown may have boosted well-being for some
A recent study of people who care for children concludes that COVID-19 lockdowns have provided some unexpected benefits. Some people reported positive changes in their family relationships, spiritual well-being, and more. The results appear in the British Journal of Psychiatry.
When the researchers asked participants, “Do you think there are any positives to come out of this pandemic and the social distancing restrictions?” 88.6% responded “yes.”
However, there are limitations. The study was relatively small and included participants who were, as the authors explain, “highly educated mothers.” It is not possible to know how the results would have differed in other groups.
Similarly, the study primarily included mothers who had intact nuclear families with one or two children aged 6–16 years. The results may not be applicable to single parents and caregivers and those with younger children.
02/17/2020 08:41 GMT — COVID-19 and the heart: What do we know so far?
In a recent Special Feature, Medical News Today investigate how SARS-CoV-2 impacts the heart and the cardiovascular system at large. We dive into the research and speak with doctors about their observations in hospital settings.
02/17/2021 08:39 GMT — Allocetra may improve outcomes for people with severe or critical COVID-19
In a press release, Enlivex Therapeutics outline the results of a recent trial investigating the benefits of their drug — Allocetra — for people with severe or critical COVID-19. The results are encouraging, but the study has important limitations.
The phase 2 clinical trial included data from just 21 people. All participants had severe or critical COVID-19. By day 28, none had died, and 19 of the 21 had left the hospital.
Prof. Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the study, adds some context:
“The results here are not from a randomized or controlled trial; it is effectively an observational study. Even though the results look encouraging […] the results are statistically compatible with a mortality rate of over 20%.”
He calls for randomized controlled trials that compare Allocetra, which is not yet licensed, with dexamethasone, which is relatively cost effective, easily available, and proven to be effective in similar patients.
02/17/2021 08:36 GMT — Winter COVID-19: Climate less important than control measures
COVID-19 rates have spiked in the winter months in the Northern Hemisphere and in summer months in the Southern Hemisphere. However, a new study suggests that the current winter peaks result from relaxing control measures — not changing climatic conditions.
02/16/2021 10:42 GMT — WHO authorize AstraZeneca COVID vaccine for emergency use
The World Health Organization (WHO) have announced that they are granting the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine emergency approval. Millions of doses are now likely to be sent to the world’s most vulnerable people as part of COVAX, which is a global initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
02/16/2021 09:55 GMT — Antiviral prevents and treats SARS-C0V-2 infection in lab tests
According to a recent study in mice, molnupiravir (EIDD-2801) halts the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in grafts of human lung tissue. The drug also prevented infection when administered 12 hours before exposure to the virus. Clinical trials of the drug are ongoing.
Read Medical News Today’s coverage of the study here.
02/16/2021 09:50 GMT — Gastrointestinal symptoms in COVID-19: What we know so far and why it is important
According to a recent review, 53% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 experience at least one gastrointestinal symptom at some time during their illness. In a recent Special Feature, Medical News Today round up the existing evidence on the gastrointestinal symptoms in COVID-19.
02/12/2021 16:30 GMT — People with disabilities account for 6 out of 10 COVID-19 deaths in England
In the United Kingdom, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have just released data showing that people with disabilities account for six out of 10 COVID-19 deaths.
The data cover the entire period of the pandemic up to November 20, 2020. During this time, 30,296 of 50,888 people who died had disabilities. Of the total study population, only 17.2% were living with disabilities, which suggests that the pandemic affects this group of people to a disproportionate degree.
The data also show that men with disabilities were 3.1 times more likely to die from COVID-19 compared with men without disabilities. Among women with disabilities, this risk was 3.5 times greater.
02/12/2021 14:30 GMT — Gastrointestinal symptoms in COVID-19: What we know so far
Respiratory symptoms are the most common symptom of COVID-19. However, according to some recent studies, over half of people hospitalized with COVID-19 also experience at least one gastrointestinal (GI) symptom.
Furthermore, evidence increasingly suggests that having GI symptoms with COVID-19 or developing COVID-19 in addition to preexisting GI conditions may raise the risk of disease severity and complications.
In a Special Feature, Medical News Today round up the evidence that we have so far on the relationship, prevalence, and impact of GI symptoms in SARS-CoV-2 infections.
02/11/2021 14:20 GMT —Japan declares it will discard millions of vaccine doses, due to unsuitable syringes
Japan’s health minister, Norihisa Tamura, has announced that the country will have to discard millions of doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.
This is because Japan does not have enough suitable syringes for the extraction of six doses per vial. These are the so-called “low dead space” syringes, which have less space between the plunger and the needle, meaning that they can draw more liquid.
The standard syringes in the country are “high dead space,” and they can only be used to extract five doses from a vial. This will be enough to vaccinate 60 million people.
Japan had acquired 144 million shots of the Pfizer vaccine, which would have been enough to vaccinate 72 million people — if, and only if, healthcare practitioners could extract six doses from each vial.
02/11/2021 14:15 GMT — FDA issue EUA for two monoclonal antibodies as COVID-19 treatment
On February 9, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for two monoclonal antibodies — bamlanivimab and etesevimab — as a treatment for mild to moderate COVID-19.
Bamlanivimab and etesevimab will be administered together through an intravenous infusion. They are recommended for emergency use in adultsand in children aged at least 12 and weighing at least 40 kilograms.
However, this treatment is not recommended for those already hospitalized with COVID-19 or those who are receiving oxygen therapy for the disease.
“The data supporting this emergency authorization add to emerging evidence that points to the clinical utility of neutralizing antibodies for the treatment of COVID-19 in certain patients,” said Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, acting director of the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.
02/11/2021 09:51 GMT — mRNA vaccines may be slightly less effective against some SARS-CoV-2 variants
A recent study investigated the neutralizing effect of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccines against mutant forms of the spike protein found in some of the recently identified SARS-CoV-2 variants. The scientists found a one- to three-fold decrease in neutralizing activity against the variants.
02/10/2021 08:54 GMT — South Africa replaces AstraZeneca with Johnson & Johnson shots
The results of a small study hinted that the AstraZeneca vaccine was less effective against the SARS-CoV-2 variant that scientists first identified in South Africa. In response, South Africa has scrapped the vaccine and is planning to roll out the Jonson & Johnson offering, which is not currently approved.
02/10/2021 08:51 GMT — SARS-CoV-2 unlikely to have escaped from Chinese lab, according to WHO
A delegation of experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) recently completed a 4-week visit to Wuhan, China. Considering their findings, Peter Ben Embarek, who led the investigation, believes that the virus is unlikely to have escaped from a laboratory.
“The findings suggest that the laboratory incidents hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus to the human population,” he explains.
The team also found no evidence that the virus was spreading widely before the initial outbreak in December 2020.
“We haven’t been able to fully do the research, but there is no indication there were clusters before what we saw happen in the later part of December in Wuhan,” explains Liang Wannian, who led the Chinese experts who were involved in the WHO mission.
09/02/2021 13:19 GMT — COVID-19: Intensive care deaths fell steeply in 2020
According to a new analysis, between the end of March and October 2020, the overall mortality rate from COVID-19 in intensive care units worldwide declined from 60% to 36%. The results appear in the journal Anaesthesia.
02/09/2021 09:52 GMT — The Navajo Nation to receive 29,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine
Yesterday, the Navajo Nation officials announced that they will be receiving almost 29,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine: 26,000 more doses of the Moderna vaccine and 2,925 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Also, an extra 82 federal personnel will help with vaccination.
02/09/2021 09:27 GMT — From physician to cancer patient during a pandemic
In a recent edition of our Through My Eyes series, we hear from a young doctor who in the midst of the pandemic received a diagnosis of two types of lymphoma — a rare variant of Hodgkin that had transformed into an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin.
02/08/2021 09:05 GMT — South Africa halts AstraZeneca vaccine rollout
Officials in South Africa have paused the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine to healthcare staff. The move comes following the results of a small trial, which indicate that the vaccine is not effective in preventing mild-to-moderate illness caused by the variant that is now dominant in the country.
02/08/2021 09:01 GMT — China report no new cases of COVID-19
Yesterday, for the first time since December 16, 2020, Chinese officials reported no new locally transmitted cases of COVID-19 on the mainland. On February 7, there were 14 cases, all of which were imported from overseas. Half of these occurred in Shanghai and the rest in Guangdong province.
02/05/2021 09:03 GMT — Johnson & Johnson push for emergency use authorization
Preliminary results from clinical trials show that Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine candidate is safe and effective. On Thursday, they urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to consider emergency use authorization. The FDA have asked their independent experts to debate the details on February 26.
02/05/2021 08:55 GMT — Some COVID-19 patients have a higher risk of bleeding
Excessive blood clotting is a recognized feature of severe COVID-19. However, a new study suggests that some hospitalized patients may also be vulnerable to bleeding, which is associated with an increased risk of death. The research appears in the journal Scientific Reports.
02/04/2021 09:10 GMT — SARS-CoV-2 can impact metabolism by infecting pancreas cells
A new study, which appears in Nature Metabolism, settles a long-standing debate. Using a multipronged approach, the researchers demonstrate that SARS-CoV-2 can infect beta-cells, which are the pancreatic cells that produce insulin. They also showed that this infection can disrupt beta-cell function.
Although scientists initially considered COVID-19 a disease of the lungs, they have shown that it impacts a range of organs, including the brain and heart.
There is also evidence that COVID-19 impacts glucose metabolism. For instance, a meta-analysis showed that severe COVID-19 was associated with increased blood glucose.
The authors conclude, “Our data identify the human pancreas as a target of SARS-CoV-2 infection and suggest that beta-cell infection could contribute to the metabolic dysregulation observed in patients with COVID-19.”
02/04/2021 09:05 GMT — Oxford-AstraZeneca working on vaccine to tackle SARS-CoV-2 variants
There is growing evidence that current vaccines are effective against SARS-CoV-2 variants. However, Oxford-AstraZeneca are working on a vaccine designed specifically to protect against these emerging variants. They hope to have the altered vaccine ready by fall 2021.
02/03/2021 09:09 GMT — COVID-19: Why are Asian and Black patients at greater risk?
A recent study concludes that, even after accounting for other known risk factors, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, Black and Asian patients hospitalized with COVID-19 were more likely to need mechanical ventilation and more likely to die than white patients.
“As the impact of COVID-19 continues to be seen within our community, the importance of responding to the ethnic disparities unmasked during the COVID-19 pandemic is crucial to prevent entrenching and inflicting them on future generations,” explains Dr. Yize Wan, one of the study authors.
02/03/2021 09:04 GMT — Oxford-AstraZeneca shot 76% effective for 3 months after single dose
Following a single dose, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is 76% effective at preventing symptomatic infection with SARS-CoV-2 for 3 months, according to a new study. The results support the United Kingdom’s approach of leaving a 12-week gap between shots.
02/02/2021 15:32 GMT — The B.1.1.7 coronavirus picks up ‘worrying’ mutations in the UK
A report by Public Health England (PHE) describes 11 instances of an additional mutation in the B.1.1.7 SARS-CoV-2 variant. The particular mutation, called E484K, is also present in the variants first identified in Brazil and South Africa.
Scientists first identified the B.1.1.7 variant in the United Kingdom last year. Some people refer to it as the “U.K. variant.” Modeling data indicate that this variant is more likely to pass from person to person.
Additional variants that researchers identified in South Africa and Brazil carry some of the same mutations as B.1.1.7. What has set them apart until now is the addition of the E484K mutation in the spike protein. It appears to make vaccines and monoclonal antibodies less effective at fighting off the virus.
Prof. Jonathan Stoye, a group leader at the Francis Crick Institute in London, U.K. — whose laboratory studies virus-host interactions — provided comments on the report by PHE:
“The E484K mutation [has] now been identified in a small fraction of viruses carrying sequence differences defining the U.K. variant,” he says. “This suggests that the U.K. variant is now independently acquiring the E484K change.”
“From a virological standpoint, appearance of new variants by mutation during replication cannot be considered surprising. Whether this change will provide significant growth advantages for the novel virus causing it to predominate remains to be seen,” Prof. Stoye continues. “This report would seem to suggest that under conditions of very high levels of virus replication even the most stringent of border controls, although they may delay spread, are unlikely to prevent the appearance of new variants.”
“This updated PHE report on the U.K. B.1.1.7 [variant] mentions the acquisition of the E484K mutation — which is a worrying development, though not entirely unexpected,” adds Dr. Julian Tang, a clinical virologist from the University of Leicester in the U.K.
“This is another reason to follow the COVID-19 restrictions/infection control measures more strictly — otherwise not only can the virus continue to spread, it can also evolve,” he adds.
Today, new mask rules come into effect in the United States. People must wear a face mask when they are on trains, airplanes, buses, taxis, ferries, and ride-share vehicles. People must also wear them in stations, ports, airports, and other transport hubs.
“This Order must be followed by all passengers on public conveyances […] traveling into, within, or out of the United States, as well as conveyance operators (e.g., crew, drivers, conductors, and other workers involved in the operation of conveyances) and operators of transportation hubs […] or any other area that provides transportation in the United States.”
02/02/2021 09:09 GMT — US officials will not make immigration arrests at vaccination centers
According to a statement, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) consider vaccination sites “sensitive locations.” As such, the DHS will not make routine immigration enforcement arrests at these centers. They encourage everyone “regardless of immigration status” to receive the vaccine when they are eligible.
02/01/2021 09:16 GMT — Johnson & Johnson vaccine candidate 66% effective
According to an interim analysis, which included data from 43,783 people, the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine is 66% effective in preventing moderate or severe COVID-19 from 28 days after vaccination. Overall, the experimental vaccine was 85% effective in preventing severe disease. Importantly, no one who received the vaccine candidate needed hospital treatment or died.
Find more on the the Johnson & Johnson vaccine here.
02/01/2021 09:10 GMT — WHO team visits Wuhan wet markets
Yesterday, a number of experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) visited the wet market in Wuhan, China, that is linked to some of the earliest cases of COVID-19. They hope that this visit might provide clues as to how the virus spread so widely.
Earlier in their trip, the experts visited a museum dedicated to the early days of COVID-19, as well as two hospitals in the region and the Baishazhou market, one of the largest wet markets in Wuhan.
Understanding the complex genesis of SARS-CoV-2 is likely to be a long project, but the experts hope that visits such as these might illuminate further avenues of investigation.
As one of the team, zoologist Dr. Peter Daszak, explains, the visit is “critical for our joint teams to understand the epidemiology of COVID-19 as it started to spread at the end of 2019.”
Novavax have announced that, according to an interim analysis of Phase 3 clinical trials, their vaccine candidate demonstrates 89.3% efficacy. The analysis included 62 cases of COVID-19, 56 of which occurred in the placebo group, and six in the vaccine group.
Find more on this story in our live vaccine updates article.
01/29/2021 09:00 GMT — South Africa variant detected in the US
Yesterday, the SARS-CoV-2 variant first identified in South Africa was detected in two South Carolina residents. This is the first time it has been detected in the United Sates. The two residents were not connected and neither had recently traveled.
According to Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious diseases expert at the Medical University of South Carolina, in Charleston, this is particularly concerning because it means that the variant is “probably more widespread.”
The AAVCOVID Vaccine Program has produced a gene-based vaccine that is storable at room temperature and appears to be effective after one dose. A recent influx of up to $2.1 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will help the company move the vaccine into phase 1 clinical trials.
Find more on this story in our live vaccine updates article.
01/28/2021 09:13 GMT — Some states ease restrictions
In response to reduced infection rates and hospitalization, some states are beginning to ease restrictions. For instance, in Michigan, restaurants are open to indoor dining for the first time in 10 weeks. However a 10 p.m. curfew is in place, and their capacity is limited.
Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan’s governor, explained: “We are in a stronger position because we have taken this pause. But we are also very mindful of the fact that this variant is now here in Michigan. It poses a real threat.”
Similarly, Washington, D.C., has recently reopened indoor dining for the first time this year. In California, Governor Gavin Newsom has removed stay-at-home orders, and restaurants and places of worship can now operate outdoors.
In Oregon, officials have announced that from tomorrow gyms and movie theaters can reopen but with limited capacity.
Experts are rightfully cautious about reopening too soon. Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean for public health practice and community engagement at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, said:
“I do not think it is unreasonable to start to reopen, but if people think that is the green light to pretend the virus does not exist, then we are going to be right back to where we were. If you do restrictions, the virus goes down. You can open up and see how it goes. But if the variants really take hold, that may not be so easy.”
01/27/2020 09:21 GMT — Problems with EU vaccine rollout
The European Union has been criticized for the slow pace of vaccine distribution across its member states. In December, the E.U. approved the purchase of 300 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. However, due to miscommunication and supply chain problems, Pfizer have not been able to meet expectations.
A press release from Eli Lilly outlines encouraging findings from recent Phase 3 trials. They found that a combination of monoclonal antibodies bamlanivimab (LY-CoV555) and etesevimab (LY-CoV016) reduces the risk of COVID-19 hospitalization and death by 70%.
According to the press release, the study included data from 1,035 “high risk patients recently diagnosed with COVID-19.” Of those who received the monoclonal antibodies, 2.1% were hospitalized or died, compared with 7% of those who took the placebo.
In total, there were 10 deaths, all of which occurred in the placebo group. According to the press release, “These exciting results, which replicate positive Phase 2 data in a much larger set of patients, add valuable clinical evidence about the role neutralizing antibodies can play in fighting this pandemic.”
Prof. Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the study, says:
“These results are very encouraging. They are the first antiviral drugs that demonstrably work in the first phase of the disease, just after the virus has infected someone but before it has had time to cause a lot of damage.”
However, Prof. Evans also outlines some limitations. For instance, he is concerned that the cost of the treatment may be quite high and that the drugs need to be given by infusion.
He also questions how much of an impact this type of therapy could have: “Identifying patients who test positive and are at high risk of hospitalization and death prior to their admission to hospital is not simple. It is not clear whether this could be many tens of thousands of patients or relatively few.”
01/26/2021 09:35 GMT — Is the AstraZeneca vaccine only 8% effective in over 65s?
According to some media outlets, German officials were concerned that the AstraZeneca vaccine will not be approved by the European Union because it is only 8% effective in adults over 65. However, this appears to be an error.
01/26/2021 09:26 GMT — COVID-19 and the brain: What do we know so far?
How does SARS-CoV-2 affect the brain? A recent Medical News Today Special Feature examines the latest evidence. The article explores the loss of smell associated with COVID-19, its links with neurological disorders, the role of sedation, how the virus can infect neurons, and more.
01/25/2021 15:58 GMT — Moderna vaccine effective against emerging variants
According to a Moderna press release, their COVID-19 vaccine is still effective against the SARS-CoV-2 variants, B.1.1.7 and B.1.351, which scientists first identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa, respectively. However, the vaccine had a significantly reduced antibody response to the latter.
In a press release today, Merck & Co. announced that they are “discontinuing development” of their SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. They explain that, although the vaccines were well tolerated, “The immune responses were inferior to those seen following natural infection and those reported for other” COVID-19 vaccines.
Find more on this story in our live vaccine updates article.
01/25/2021 08:46 GMT — Diabetes treatment may protect against COVID-19 mortality
In a recent study, scientists found that people with diabetes undergoing treatment with the medication metformin have a significantly lower risk of death due to COVID-19 than those not taking the medication. The findings appear in the journal Frontiers in Endocrinology.
According to study lead Prof. Anath Shalev:
“Since similar results have now been obtained in different populations from around the world — including China, France, and a [UnitedHealth] analysis — this suggests that the observed reduction in mortality risk associated with metformin use in [people] with type 2 diabetes and COVID-19 might be generalizable.”
01/25/2021 08:38 GMT — COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Israel: Successes, lessons, and caveats
Many consider Israel a world leader in the race to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine. In a recent Special Feature, Medical News Today look at why the vaccine rollout has been so successful in Israel and discuss the controversies and equity issues related to the campaign.
01/22/2021 09:02 GMT — Antibody drug may protect nursing home residents
According to a recent study, bamlanivimab, a monoclonal antibody drug manufactured by Eli Lilly and Co., helps prevent COVID-19 in nursing homes. The study involved 299 residents and 666 members of staff. For the residents, bamlanivimab reduced the risk of COVID-19 by 80% during a SARS-CoV-2 outbreak.
However, when the researchers analyzed data from the residents and staff together, they found that the drug reduced the risk of developing COVID-19 symptoms by 57%. Compared with a placebo, bamlanivimab was also associated with a lower risk of COVID-19 mortality and lower viral loads.
The results are encouraging, but as vaccine rollouts focus on older adults, the need for drugs of this type will be reduced. By the time the FDA provide a new emergency use authorization, relatively few nursing home residents and staff should be left unvaccinated.
01/22/2021 08:53 GMT — How some people in US are receiving surprise doses of COVID-19 vaccine
If COVID-19 vaccines thaw or the seal has been punctured, they will perish without use. If shots remain at the end of the shift, healthcare workers will sometimes offer them to people who happen to be near the clinic at closing time.
However, officials believe that as the rollout continues to ramp up and more people become eligible for the shot, fewer and fewer of these leftover doses will be available.
01/21/2021 09:49 GMT — New SARS-CoV-2 variants may impact vaccine effectiveness
A study, which appears on the preprint server bioRxiv, concludes that the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNtech vaccines may be less effective against some of the new SARS-CoV-2 variants. However, the study has not yet gone through the peer-review process.
01/21/2021 09:11 GMT — Some states report running out of vaccine
As the United States ramps up its COVID-19 vaccine rollout, certain regions are reporting difficulties meeting demand. Some states are running out of vaccines and tens of thousands of appointments to receive the first dose have been cancelled.
01/20/2021 10:09 GMT — SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7 detected in 60 countries
According to new data from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the B.1.1.7 variant that scientists in the United Kingdom first reported at the end of 2020 is now present in 60 countries across the globe. Last week, this number stood at 50 countries.
Data from the U.K. suggest that B.1.1.7 is able to spread more easily from person to person.
The WHO also state that 23 countries have reported cases of infection with a variant that they refer to as 501Y.V2, which was first identified in South Africa. A further set of variants have emerged in Brazil. At the moment, it is not clear whether these variants can spread more easily between people, and the WHO call for more research.
01/20/2021 09:00 GMT — First wave of COVID-19 linked to spike in cardiovascular deaths
According to a new study, in the United States, cardiovascular deaths that were not directly due to COVID-19 surged early in the pandemic. The postponement of procedures, the extra strain on services, and patients’ avoidance of hospitals may partly explain the increase.
01/20/2021 08:58 GMT — Has the pandemic shifted traditional gender roles in child care?
A recent study investigated how the pandemic has influenced traditional gender roles in child care. The researchers found that child care responsibilities tended to fall to women during the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. The findings appear in theJournal of Applied Psychology.
Overall, the researchers found that couples working alternating days generally had the best outcomes, with both husbands and wives in this category experiencing the most sleep and the lowest psychological distress. The scientists compared this with couples trying to work in ‘mini-shifts’ or having one parent attempting to do all the child care.
01/19/2021 10:37 GMT — WHO chief warns of ‘catastrophic moral failure’
Speaking on Monday, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus decried the inequity in global vaccine distribution. He said that it is “not right” that young and healthy people in wealthy countries should receive vaccinations before older people and healthcare workers in poorer countries.
01/19/2021 09:16 GMT — Vaccines and COVID-19: The latest hopeful research
In a recent Special Feature, Medical News Today investigate the latest COVID-19 vaccine research. The author also asks whether currently available vaccines will be effective against the SARS-CoV-2 variants that scientists have identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil.
01/19/2021 09:13 GMT — Almost 1 in 3 people treated for COVID-19 in hospitals readmitted after discharge
A recent study tracked 47,780 COVID-19 patients for almost 5 months following hospital discharge. They compared the outcomes of this group with those of matched individuals who had been admitted for reasons unrelated to COVID-19. The people who had received hospital treatment for COVID-19 were 3.5 times more likely to be readmitted.
The group treated for COVID-19 were also 7.7 times more likely to die than those treated for other reasons. The results of the study appear on the preprint server MedRxiv. Older adults and people who were not white had the greatest risk of readmission and death.
The authors conclude: “Individuals discharged from hospital following COVID-19 face elevated rates of multiorgan dysfunction, compared with background levels, and the increase in risk is neither confined to the elderly nor uniform across ethnicities.”
01/18/2021 09:04 GMT — UK sets lofty vaccination goals
According to officials in the United Kingdom, they aim to give every adult in the country, which is more than 51 million people, at least one vaccine dose by September. According to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, “If we can do it faster than that, great, but that’s the road map.”Find more live vaccine updates here.
01/18/2021 09:00 GMT — SARS-CoV-2 in neurons may damage brain tissue
According to a recent study that involved brain organoids, genetically engineered mice, and human autopsies, SARS-CoV-2 may infect nerve cells and impede blood flow in the central nervous system. The results appear in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.
Co-senior author Dr. Kaya Bilguvar explains, “Altogether, our study provides [a] clear demonstration that neurons can become a target of SARS-CoV-2 infection, with devastating consequences of localized ischemia in the brain and cell death.”
01/18/2021 08:58 GMT — Most hospitalized COVID-19 patients still have symptoms after 6 months
A recent study showed that more than three-quarters of a cohort of COVID-19 patients still had at least one symptom 6 months after being discharged from the hospital. Dubbed “long COVID,” common symptoms include fatigue, coughing, muscle aches, chest pain, heart palpitations, and rashes.
The results appear in the journal The Lancet. Corresponding author Prof. Bin Cao explains that “because COVID-19 is such a new disease, we are only beginning to understand some of its long-term effects on patients’ health.” He continues:
“Our analysis indicates that most patients continue to live with at least some of the effects of the virus after leaving hospital and highlights a need for postdischarge care, particularly for those who experience severe infections.”
01/15/2021 14:39 GMT — How do viral vector vaccines work?
Read the full article on viral vector vaccines here.
01/15/2021 12:02 GMT — Brazilian variant detected in UK
According to scientists, a new variant they believe to have first appeared in Brazil is already in the United Kingdom. Although the variant is distinct from those first spotted in the U.K. and South Africa, it shares certain mutations.
“The Brazilian variant has three key mutations in the spike receptor binding domain (RBD) that largely mirror some of the mutations we are worried about it in the South African variant, hence the concern,” explains Prof. Ravi Gupta, a professor of microbiology at the University of Cambridge in the U.K.
“The SARS-CoV-2 RBD is one of the main targets for our immune defences and also the region targeted by vaccines and changes within this region are therefore worrisome. Vaccines are still likely to be effective as a control measure if coverage rates are high and transmission is limited as far as possible.”
01/15/2021 09:04 GMT — Acute brain dysfunction in ICU patients
A recent study finds that in COVID-19 patients admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU), episodes of brain dysfunction are more common and prolonged than those normally associated with severe respiratory failure. The study appears in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.
01/15/2021 09:00 GMT — COVID-19: Gut bacteria may influence severity
The authors of a recent study conclude that an individual’s gut microbiome might affect how their body responds to a SARS-CoV-2 infection. More specifically, gut bacteria might influence both the short- and long-term effects of the infection. The results appear in the journal Gut.
Overall, the authors conclude: “Associations between gut microbiota composition, levels of cytokines, and inflammatory markers in patients with COVID-19 suggest that the gut microbiome is involved in the magnitude of COVID-19 severity, possibly via modulating host immune responses.”
The scientists also believe that gut bacteria could play a role in the development of long COVID.
01/13/2021 09:02 GMT — Large-scale study to test interferon beta
Researchers are still working hard to identify and trial drugs that can reduce the severity of COVID-19. One such drug is interferon beta. Scientists in the United Kingdom are embarking on a large-scale study to find out if it can prevent severe COVID-19 symptoms from emerging.
The experimental treatment is an inhaled version of interferon beta, which biotech company Synairgen developed at Southampton University Hospital in the U.K.
Interferon beta is one of the first cytokines to be released during an infection. The protein is the primary driver of the immune response in the lung. SARS-CoV-2 suppresses the release of interferon beta, and the researchers believe that by inhaling the cytokine into the lungs, it will produce a stronger immune response against the virus.
Last year, a smaller study involving 101 people produced encouraging results.
As the authors concluded, “Patients who received [interferon beta] had greater odds of improvement and recovered more rapidly from SARS-CoV-2 infection than patients who received placebo, providing a strong rationale for further trials.”
The scientists say that they should be able to complete the study by the summer.
01/12/2021 12:35 GMT —Russia to conduct clinical trial for “Sputnik-Light” vaccine
On Monday, Russian authorities declared that, in order to ensure COVID-19 vaccine doses reach enough people, they will test out a one-dose regimen of Sputnik V.
Sputnik V is a COVID-19 vaccine developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, which was first approved for provisional use in Russia last fall.
The experimental one-dose regimen is dubbed “Sputnik-Light,” and researchers are set to test it in 150 volunteers.
In the meantime, Russia will continue to roll out the two-dose Sputnik V vaccination regimen.
Russian officials have hinted that if the trial of Sputnik-Light is successful, they may make the modified vaccine available for export.
According to Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which funds the new trial, “‘Sputnik-Light’ can serve as an effective temporary solution for many countries, which are experiencing a peak of coronavirus infection.”
01/12/2021 10:45 GMT —Immunity against SARS-CoV-2 may last at least 8 months
In a new study published in Science, researchers found that immune responses that can fight off SARS-CoV-2 have persisted for more than 8 months after people recovered from COVID-19.
The team from La Jolla Institute in California, led by Prof. Alessandro Sette and Prof. Shane Crotty, analyzed 254 blood samples from 188 individuals who recovered from COVID-19. Of these, 43 samples were taken at least 6 months after the infection with the virus.
The researchers found antibodies, T cells, and memory B cells specific to SARS-CoV-2 to varying degrees, suggesting immunity to severe COVID-19 in most study participants. However, there was variation, and some of the volunteers did not have significant levels of immunity.
This may be why some people can develop COVID-19 more than once.
01/12/2021 10:11 GMT —Gorillas in San Diego Zoo have COVID-19
After tigers, lions, cats, dogs, and mink, gorillas are the latest animals to contract SARS-CoV-2 outside of lab studies. A press release from the San Diego Zoo, in California, suggests that the virus likely passed to the gorillas from a staff member with an asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection.
After two members of the gorilla troop at the zoo started coughing last week, testing of fecal samples confirmed the presence of SARS-CoV-2.
“Aside from some congestion and coughing, the gorillas are doing well,” Lisa Peterson, the executive director of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, said. “The troop remains quarantined together and are eating and drinking. We are hopeful for a full recovery.”
01/11/2021 17:52 GMT — Is there a link between COVID-19 and long-term neurological problems?
Researchers studying the effects of past viral illnesses, including the 1918 flu, on cognitive function suggest that COVID-19 may have long-lasting effects on the brain. However, more research is necessary to draw any conclusions.
Writing in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, Dr. Gabriel A. de Erausquin from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and collaborators share their perspective on what data from past viral infections may mean for people who recover from COVID-19.
The scientists suggest a link between a person’s risk for neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and mental health problems, and infection with respiratory viruses. Among the viruses, they cite H1N1, which caused the 1918 flu pandemic, and the SARS-CoV virus, which caused the 2003 SARS epidemic.
Like the new coronavirus, these respiratory viruses are able to infect cells in the brain. The scientists suggest that even people who have had an asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection may be at increased risk of lasting effects on the brain.
Scientists will need to run longer-term studies to see whether they can confirm this theory.
01/08/2021 09:12 GMT — Pfizer study shows vaccine effective against new variant
Scientists recently identified two new strains of SARS-CoV-2 — one of which had been discovered in the United Kingdom and the other in South Africa. A new study concludes that the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine should be effective against the U.K. variant.
01/08/2021 08:54 GMT — Travelers to England will need to present negative COVID-19 test
From next week, individuals traveling to England by boat, plane, or train will need to present a negative COVID-19 test on arrival. This change brings England in line with a number of other countries. Some people will be exempt, including haulers and children under 11.
According to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, “We already have significant measures in place to prevent imported cases of COVID-19, but with new strains of the virus developing internationally, we must take further precautions.”
Britain is also extending the existing ban on visitors from South Africa. The restrictions now include all South African countries.
On Wednesday, the European Union approved the Moderna vaccine. The rollout is likely to begin next week. According to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, “With the Moderna vaccine, the second one now authorized in the European Union, we will have a further 160 million doses. And more vaccines will come.”
01/07/2021 08:33 GMT — Study finds new evidence of SARS-CoV-2 damaging brain blood vessels
In a recent study, scientists did not find SARS-CoV-2 in the brains of people with the infection. However, in the post-mortem brains of patients who tested positive for COVID-19, they found blood vessel damage caused by inflammation. The results appear in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“We were completely surprised. Originally, we expected to see damage that is caused by a lack of oxygen,” says senior author Dr. Avindra Nath. “Instead, we saw multifocal areas of damage that is usually associated with strokes and neuroinflammatory diseases.”
Dr. Nath plans to continue investigating: “In the future, we plan to study how COVID-19 harms the brain’s blood vessels and whether that produces some of the short- and long-term symptoms we see in patients.”
01/06/2021 08:50 GMT — Los Angeles hospitals under pressure
On Monday, health officials in Los Angeles, CA, asked first responders not to bring patients who cannot be resuscitated into hospitals. The facilities are short on both beds and staff due to the high volume of COVID-19 patients. At some hospitals, ambulances are waiting hours to unload patients.
On Monday, the state of California reported 72,911 COVID-19 cases, which is the highest number since the beginning of the pandemic.
Yesterday evening, the United Kingdom’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, announced the U.K.’s third lockdown. Although the U.K. government decided to let pupils return to school on Monday, they reversed the decision that evening. Learning will move online, while people should work from home where possible.
Johnson said the decision is due to the rise of a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, first identified in the U.K. This variant may be more transmissible, although it does not appear to increase the risk of worse disease.
For many experts, this move is unsurprising and arrived too late. Dr. Julian W Tang, honorary associate professor and clinical virologist at the University of Leicester, says:
“We sort of predicted the likely need for this post-Xmas and New Year lockdown because we knew that many people would still try to meet up over the festive season — and we cannot really blame the new variant virus for all of this.”
He continues, “Yet this brief freedom will have long-term costs for business and education — and people’s health, both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19-related.”
In his televised statement, Johnson said, “The weeks ahead will be the hardest yet, but I really do believe that we are entering the last phase of the struggle, because with every jab that goes into our arms, we are tilting the odds against [COVID-19] and in favor of the British people.”
Talking about the latest U-turn, Dr. Catherine Carroll-Meehan, Head of School of Education and Sociology, University of Portsmouth, says, “Closing schools is the right decision. What families, children, and schools need is some certainty. It is a shame that the government do not take decisions in a more certain and timely manner.”
The new lockdown will continue until mid-February.
01/05/2021 09:00 GMT — Is it ethical to continue COVID-19 vaccine trials?
The recent authorization of two COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use in the United States poses an ethical dilemma for researchers conducting ongoing clinical trials. In particular, what is their responsibility toward participants who received placebo injections? The authors of a recent opinion piece address this difficult question.
04/01/2021 09:04 GMT — COVID-19 pandemic 2020: The search for a vaccine
Since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, scientists all over the world have joined the race to develop a safe, effective vaccine. In a new feature, Medical News Today outline how the search for a vaccine progressed throughout 2020.
04/01/2021 08:55 GMT — UK begin rolling out AstraZeneca vaccine
This morning, officials in the United Kingdom began rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine designed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca. Brian Pinker, 82, was the first person to receive the shot. This is the second vaccine currently being rolled out in the U.K., following the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
12/23/2020 11:26 GMT —Taiwan responds to first case of community transmission since April
On Tuesday, Taiwan saw its first domestic case of COVID-19. President Tsai Ing-wen called for calm, asking people to follow the health authorities’ increased physical distancing measures.
Taiwanese authorities have been quick to trace how the SARS-CoV-2 virus reemerged in the country. An airline pilot who had flown between the United States and Taiwan has drawn criticism for not disclosing his symptoms or movements to Taiwanese authorities. He subsequently received a positive test result for COVID-19.
A close contact of his then received a COVID-19 diagnosis, making this the first case of domestic community transmission since April 12.
So far, 170 people identified through contact tracing have had a negative COVID-19 test result, with three people still awaiting their results.
Taiwan’s authorities introduced strict containment measures in response to the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 earlier this year. So far, the country has seen seven deaths and fewer than 800 cases of COVID-19.
12/22/2020 14:20 GMT — MNT Video: How to celebrate winter holidays safely
12/22/2020 12:05 GMT — European Commission grant authorization for BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine
The European Medicines Agency have recently recommended a conditional marketing authorization for Cominarty, the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, for use in people aged 16 years and above.
The European Commission (EC) have granted this authorization, making the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine the first one to be administered across the entire European Union.
President of the EC Ursula von der Leyen said: “Today, we add an important chapter to a European success story. We approved the first safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19. More vaccines will come soon.”
Read the full story here and more about vaccine updates here.
12/22/2020 11:10 GMT — First COVID-19 cases detected in Antarctica
Antarctica is no longer the only continent free of COVID-19. At the General Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme research base, operated by the Chilean Army, 36 Chilean adults tested positive for the new coronavirus.
Of them, 26 are members of the Chilean Army, and 10 are maintenance workers. The army relieved them of their duties after they tested positive, and evacuated them to the city of Punta Arenas in Chile. They are reportedly self-isolating and in good condition.
12/21/2020 09:31 GMT — Transport ties to UK severed
Scientists in the United Kingdom have identified a new, more infectious variant of SARS-CoV-2. In response, the U.K.’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined new restrictions on Saturday. Consequently, a number of countries have restricted travel to and from the U.K.
So far, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, Belgium, Israel, and Canada have shut down travel ties.
According to experts, the SARS-CoV-2 variant does not cause more severe disease and should not interfere with vaccines. However, it appears to spread more easily.
As the U.K. prepares to leave the European Union in the next few days, the new travel restrictions will add to the already growing chaos.
12/21/2020 09:05 GMT — US authorizes Moderna vaccine
The FDA have given the Moderna vaccine emergency use authorization (EUA), making it the second vaccine with EUA in the U.S. Already, the U.S. has agreed to purchase 200 million doses. Officials expect that healthcare professionals will give the first shots this morning.
12/18/2020 10:20 GMT — Johnson & Johnson announce phase 3 clinical trial
Johnson & Johnson recently announced a multicountry phase 3 clinical trial of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate. The company have already enrolled around 45,000 participants and, if the vaccine proves safe and effective, they will look for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in February 2021.
12/18/2020 09:14 GMT — Moderna vaccine nears approval
In a meeting yesterday, Food and Drink Administration (FDA) advisors endorsed the emergency use of Moderna’s vaccine. One expert abstained, but the remaining 20 experts voted that the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine outweighed the risks in people aged over 18. The FDA are expected to grant emergency use authorization by the end of the week.
12/18/2020 09:09 GMT — NICE publish guidelines on vitamin D and COVID-19
Yesterday, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) released a review of recent studies on vitamin D and COVID-19. Overall, they conclude that there is “not enough evidence to support taking vitamin D solely to prevent or treat COVID-19.”
The review was conducted in collaboration with Public Health England and the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition.
The experts reviewed data from both observational studies and randomized controlled trials. They conclude that “It was not possible to determine a direct relationship between vitamin D and COVID-19 based on the available evidence.”
However, because the primary source of vitamin D is sunlight, they advise taking the vitamin during the autumn and winter.
The report also recommends that researchers continue investigating the relationship between COVID-19 and vitamin D in high-quality randomized controlled trials. NICE will continue to review research as it is conducted.
Dr. Alison Tedstone, the chief nutritionist at Public Health England, advises that “everyone, particularly the elderly, those who don’t get outside, and those with dark skin, takes a vitamin D supplement containing 10 micrograms [400 international units] every day.”
12/17/2020 09:33 GMT — Guidance on mandatory vaccines for employees in the US
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have issued guidance for companies that are considering making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory. They explain that employers must be prepared to exempt employees with disabilities and religious objections.
12/17/2020 09:14 GMT — What is the protective value of different face masks?
A recent study assessed how effective various medical and consumer-grade masks are at protecting the wearer from exposure to particles similar in size to SARS-CoV-2. The results of the study appear in the journalJAMA Internal Medicine.
The scientists found that the most effective consumer-grade mask was a washed two-layer woven nylon mask, while the least effective was a three-layer woven cotton mask.
Overall, co-first author Dr. Phillip Clapp explains that “the fitted filtration efficiencies of many consumer-grade masks were nearly equivalent to or better than surgical masks.”
12/16/2020 09:17 GMT — Vaccine developed by British American Tobacco approved for human trials in US
This week, the U.S. health regulator approved a vaccine developed by British American Tobacco (BAT) for human trials. The vaccine, developed by BAT’s biotech subsidiary, Kentucky BioProcessing, derives from tobacco leaves. Enrollment for the study is likely to begin shortly. BAT expect clinical trials to start in late June 2021.
12/16/2020 09:09 GMT — BMJ editors question UK lockdown easing for Christmas
In a rare move, the editors of BMJ have penned a joint article. They criticize the government of the United Kingdom’s decision to ease COVID-19 measures around the Christmas period. The authors are concerned that the move will overwhelm the National Health Service (NHS).
In the article, which is only the second joint editorial in 100 years of the journal’s existence, the authors explain that “The planned relaxation of restrictions over Christmas will boost [case] numbers further as the NHS also struggles with the additional demands of winter.”
They worry that the U.K. public “will see the lifting of restrictions over Christmas as permission to drop their guard.” Beyond the impact on the public, the editors are concerned about NHS staff; they write:
“Of particular concern is the effect on staff, many of whom have already worked through the hardest 9 months of their professional lives. Levels of burnout and sickness absence are likely to exceed those already experienced.”
12/15/2020 14:49 GMT — Moderna vaccine draws closer to emergency use authorization
According to Food and Drug Administration’s reviewers, the Moderna vaccine is 95% effective. Importantly, the group did not raise any safety concerns. The FDA released the data in a 54-page document earlier today. The organization will discuss the findings in a vaccine panel meeting on Thursday.
12/15/2020 10:18 GMT — New SARS-CoV-2 variant identified in England
Yesterday, the United Kingdom’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, announced that scientists had identified a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 in England. He explained that it was particularly prevalent in the South, which had recently experienced a sharp rise in cases.
Local authorities have recorded at least 60 COVID-19 cases that involve the new variant, Hancock reported, adding that there was “nothing to suggest” that the variant caused more severe disease or could limit the effects of vaccines.
During a press conference, Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty explained: “There are many variants. It just happens that this one has quite a few more mutations than some of the other variants, so that’s the reason why we’ve taken it particularly seriously.”
He continued, “But there’s nothing to suggest that the symptoms are different, that the testing is different, or that the clinical outcome is different for this variant.”
In an interview with the BBC, Prof. Alan McNally, an expert in microbial genomics at the University of Birmingham, said:
“Let’s not be hysterical. It doesn’t mean it’s more transmissible or more infectious or dangerous. It is something to keep an eye on. Huge efforts are ongoing at characterizing the variant and understanding its emergence. It is important to keep a calm and rational perspective on the strain, as this is normal virus evolution and we expect new variants to come and go and emerge over time.”
Dr. Zania Stamataki, a viral immunologist at the same institution, provided added insight: “The emergence of different coronavirus strains a year after SARS-CoV-2 first jumped to humans is neither cause for panic nor unexpected. […] This virus doesn’t mutate as fast as influenza and, although we need to keep it under surveillance, it will not be a major undertaking to update the new vaccines when necessary in the future.”
12/15/2020 08:57 GMT — Long COVID and periods: The impact on female well-being
A number of people with long COVID have reported an impact on their menstrual cycles. In a new feature, Medical News Today spoke with two medical experts and six individuals who have been experiencing these disruptive changes to their menstrual cycles.
12/14/2020 15:24 GMT — First New York healthcare worker receives vaccine
Today, Sandra Lindsay became the first healthcare worker to receive the Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in New York. The intensive care unit nurse received the vaccine at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, one of the epicenters of COVID-19 earlier this year.
12/14/2020 09:27 GMT — FDA issue emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine
On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The FDA concluded that the “potential benefits [of the vaccine] outweigh the known and potential risks […].” The first shipments of the vaccine left FedEx and UPS facilities in Tennessee and Kentucky yesterday.
12/14/2020 09:05 GMT — One-third of patients may experience ‘long COVID’
A new study finds that 32% of people who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 were still experiencing at least one symptom 6 weeks after their tests. The most common of these symptoms were fatigue, shortness of breath, and a loss of taste or smell.
12/11/2020 09:31 GMT — Study hints that supplements may reduce COVID-19 risk in females
A recent study found small but significant decreases in the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection among females who took multivitamins, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, or probiotics. The study has not yet been through the peer review process and appears on the preprint server MedRxiv.
Although the results seem hopeful, Naveed Sattar, a professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the research, adds some perspective:
“These are interesting results, but due to the way the study has been conducted, these data absolutely cannot tell us that taking such supplements ‘protects’ against infection [resulting in] COVID-19.”
The scientists were surprised that the effect was only significant in females. They theorize that this might be because females have more robust immune systems. Alternately, they might be more likely to wear masks or wash their hands than males.
Prof. Seif Shaheen, from Queen Mary University of London, adds further context: “A major concern is that these findings may be confounded by socioeconomic status, given that individuals of higher status are more likely to take supplements and are also less likely to become infected with SARS-CoV-2.”
12/11/2020 08:59 GMT — FDA experts recommend Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine
Yesterday, a panel of experts who advise the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended that the organization should give the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine emergency approval. The committee voted 17–4 that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks for people aged 16 years and older.
12/10/2020 09:18 GMT — Two allergic reactions to COVID-19 vaccine reported in UK on first day of roll-out
Yesterday, the United Kingdom began rolling out the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. According to the head of Britain’s medicine regulator, two people had allergic reactions shortly after receiving it. Both have since recovered.
12/10/2020 09:07 GMT — COVID-19: Once hospitalized, Black patients are less likely to die
Research shows that in the United States, some populations, including people who are Black, are more likely to develop COVID-19. After controlling for underlying conditions and average neighborhood income, a new study shows that once Black patients are hospitalized, they are less likely to die of the disease than white patients.
If confirmed, these findings support the idea that structural determinants of health account for a disproportionately higher rate of out-of-hospital COVID-19 deaths in in Black and Hispanic communities.
12/10/2020 09:03 GMT — Smartphone-based device could detect SARS-CoV-2
Scientists are developing a portable device that gives rapid, accurate test results with the help of a regular smartphone camera. By estimating the number of virus particles in samples, the device could also determine an infection’s progress.
Yesterday, The Lancet published the results of phase 3 clinical trials investigating AstraZeneca’s so-called Oxford vaccine. The study involved people in the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa. Overall, the results show that the vaccine candidate protects against the symptomatic disease in 70% of cases.
12/09/2020 09:15 GMT — COVID-19 case on cruise ship
After an 83-year-old passenger tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship departing from Singapore had to return to dock. The crew had to confine all passengers to their cabins.
Each passenger required polymerase chain reaction testing for SARS-CoV-2 before joining the “cruise-to-nowhere.” Despite this safety measure, one passenger reported to the onboard medical center with diarrhea and tested positive for the virus.
People in close contact with the individual had also had to undergo testing, but no one else acquired the infection. All passengers will also undergo further testing before they are allowed to leave the terminal.
12/09/2020 09:07 GMT — Pfizer vaccine closer to authorization in US
Recently, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their vaccine candidate was 95% effective against COVID-19. They are currently working with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to secure approval for emergency use. This week, the FDA released documents declaring no issues with safety or efficacy.
12/08/2020 09:46 GMT — UK begins mass vaccinations
Today, the United Kingdom became the first Western nation to start mass vaccinations. Health Secretary Matt Hancock called the day “V-day.” In Coventry, 90-year-old Margaret Keenan became the first person to receive the vaccine outside of clinical trials.
12/08/2020 09:30 GMT — Fauci voices concerns about Christmas period
Yesterday, in an interview with CNN, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned of another surge in cases after the Christmas and New Year holidays. He had voiced concerns before Thanksgiving and explains that over the upcoming holidays, the problem will be “compounded because it’s a longer holiday.”
He also advised that “We’re at a very critical time. […] We’ve got to not walk away from the facts and the data. This is tough going for all of us.” President-elect Joe Biden has asked Dr. Fauci to be his COVID chief medical advisor.
12/07/2020 09:54 GMT — South Korea experiences new wave of COVID-19 cases
Despite their initial success at controlling the pandemic, South Korea is experiencing increasing numbers of cases. As of Sunday, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency report that there are 8,311 people in quarantine, which is the highest number to date.
12/07/2020 09:51 GMT — ‘Clear, balanced information’ important for vaccine uptake
In a recent editorial, David Phizackerley, the deputy editor of the journal Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, argues that clear and balanced information on the efficacy and safety of the COVID-19 vaccines is important for ensuring their broad uptake.
Find more detail in our live vaccine updates article.
12/07/2020 09:46 GMT — Adapted yellow fever vaccine may protect against COVID-19
A recent study concludes that a genetically altered yellow fever vaccine is highly effective in preventing SARS-CoV-2 infection in animals. If it passes clinical trials, the new vaccine would have some advantages over other SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. For instance, it provided protection after just one shot.
Find more detail in our live vaccine updates article.
12/04/2020 10:15 GMT — Three former presidents willing to take the vaccine publicly
In an effort to boost public confidence, three former presidents — George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama — have all publicly stated that they would be prepared to take the COVID-19 vaccine once it receives approval.
12/04/2020 09:40 GMT — Dr. Fauci apologizes for claiming UK rushed decision
Earlier this week, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, sparked controversy when he claimed that the United Kingdom had not acted as carefully as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when it licensed its first COVID-19 vaccine. Yesterday, he apologized and said he has “great faith” in the U.K. regulators.
12/04/2020 09:28 GMT — Link between air pollution and COVID-19 spikes identified
The authors of a recent study conclude that temperature inversions and Saharan dust storms may be contributing to localized peaks of COVID-19. The research appears in the journal Earth Systems and Environment.
12/03/2020 09:31 GMT — Russia plans large-scale COVID-19 vaccination plan
On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a large-scale vaccination program that will begin next week. Doctors and teachers will be first in line for the vaccine. Some experts are concerned as the Sputnik V vaccine is yet to complete advanced clinical trials for safety.
12/03/2020 09:16 GMT — AstraZeneca’s US vaccine trial results due early 2021
Yesterday, the chief adviser for the United States government’s Operation Warp Speed program announced that results from AstraZeneca’s U.S. vaccine trials could be available early next year. If the results are encouraging, they will likely file for an emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
12/03/2020 08:53 GMT — Do SARS-CoV-2 mutations affect its transmissibility?
A recent study analyzed samples of the SARS-CoV-2 genome from 46,723 people in 99 countries. The authors conclude that no currently identified mutation of SARS-CoV-2 appears to make the virus better at transmitting. The results appear in the journalNature Communications.
12/02/2020 08:57 GMT — UK licenses vaccine against COVID-19
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) in the United Kingdom have authorized the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for emergency use. The U.K. has already purchased 40 million doses of the vaccine, and the first 10 million doses should arrive this month.
Find more details in our live vaccine updates article.
12/02/2020 08:52 GMT — Developing an equation to predict transmission rates
In a recent study, scientists developed an equation that can help determine the likely number of people who would likely contract SARS-CoV-2 from a single person with the virus at different types of events. They also investigated which interventions would be most effective in the different scenarios.
12/02/2020 08:49 GMT — The FDA move toward vaccine approval
On Tuesday, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn said it was possible that the FDA would approve Pfizer’s experimental vaccine before the end of the year. However, in the ABC News interview, he explained that “it’s hard to predict. […] We need everything to fall into place.”
Read more about the vaccine push in the United States here.
12/01/2020 11:49 GMT — Recommendations for vaccine allocation due
Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet to make their recommendations on who will receive the first COVID-19 vaccines. The panel consists of independent experts and one consumer representative.
According to the New York Times, the members will likely recommend that healthcare staff and residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities will receive the first batches of vaccines, once the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) grant emergency use approval.
12/01/2020 11:49 GMT —A photo captures the strain on ICU patients and health workers
A photo taken on Thanksgiving inside a COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, TX, shows Chief of Staff Dr. Joseph Varon in full personal protective equipment hugging a patient.
Photographer Go Nakamura took the photo for Getty Images while documenting the work of healthcare professionals and the reality of being in an ICU with COVID-19.
Dr. Varon has been working for more than 250 consecutive days. He found the COVID-19 patient out of his hospital bed, in tears, looking for help. He was asking for his wife.
“I was feeling sad, just like him, and I was just recollecting all the patients that I have had to do similar things with,” Dr. Varon explains. “I would go into their rooms, sit on their beds, and chat with them because they truly need somebody.”
11/30/2020 14:57 GMT — Moderna apply for approval for mRNA vaccine candidate in the US and Europe
Today, Moderna announced the completion of their phase 3 clinical trial primary efficacy analysis. The vaccine candidate is 94.1% effective against COVID-19 and 100% effective against severe COVID-19. The company will apply today for emergency use approval in the United States.
In addition, it will also apply to the European Medicines Agency for conditional marketing authorization.
In a press release, Moderna highlighted that 196 people enrolled in their 30,000-participant trial have now had COVID-19. Of them, 11 were in the group that had received the vaccine.
There were 30 cases of severe COVID-19, all in the placebo group. One person in this group died.
The 196 cases of COVID-19 in the study occurred among diverse participants, including older adults and those from minority ethnic groups.
The company stressed that they will submit the results of the study to a peer reviewed journal.
11/30/2020 12:55 GMT — Tuberculosis vaccine may help protect against COVID-19
A retrospective, observational study has found that the BCG vaccination — which aims to prevent tuberculosis — may protect against infection with the novel coronavirus.
The study found that among 6,201 healthcare workers, those who had had the BCG vaccination were less likely to have antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus in their blood and less likely to report having experienced COVID-19 symptoms compared with those who had not had the vaccine.
11/27/2020 17:30 GMT — High blood sugar levels may predict COVID-19 death risk
New research finds that high blood sugar levels correlate with a higher risk of COVID-19 mortality, even in people who do not have a history of diabetes.
The new study — which appears in the journal Annals of Medicine — found that 41.1% of those who died from COVID-19 had very high blood sugar levels.
The risk of dying from COVID-19 rose proportionately with blood sugar levels, and the association was independent of diabetes status.
“Early glycemic control may be a suitable therapeutic option to reduce the poor outcomes in hospitalized, hyperglycemic COVID-19 patients with or without a previous diabetes diagnosis,” write the study authors.
11/27/2020 11:20 GMT — Antibleeding drug may effectively treat COVID-19
Researchers at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, led a new study showing that the antibleeding drug aprotinin (Trasylol) can stop the new coronavirus from entering healthy host cells.
The scientists conducted experiments in various types of human cell, using different concentrations of the drug, and in three different strains of the virus.
As the researchers point out, what is significant is that the drug was effective at a dose that people can realistically take — i.e., a therapeutic dose.
Senior study author Prof. Jindrich Cinatl, from the Institute for Medical Virology at University Hospital Frankfurt, says, “Our findings show that aprotinin is effective against SARS-CoV-2 in concentrations that can be achieved in patients.”
“In aprotinin, we have a drug candidate for the treatment of COVID-19 that is already approved for other indications and could readily be tested in patients.”
11/26/2020 10:26 GMT — Scientists in the Netherlands plan ‘human challenge’ vaccine study
Scientists from Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) in the Netherlands are hoping to deliberately transmit SARS-CoV-2 to participants to test vaccine efficacy. Already, 240 people have stepped forward to participate in the “human challenge” trial.
11/26/2020 09:03 GMT — Many parents want to celebrate Thanksgiving with others despite risk
A new poll shows that, despite the risks, 61% of parents who usually meet with extended family at Thanksgiving intend to meet them in person this year. The report was published by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, at the University of Michigan.
11/26/2020 08:50 GMT — COVID-19 has produced ‘alarming’ increase in loneliness
A recent survey shows that the COVID-19 pandemic is having a troubling effect on the psychological health of young adults in the United States. In the survey of 1,008 people aged 18–35, 80% of participants reported “significant depressive symptoms” during the pandemic.
The results of the study appear in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. “These young adults are the future of our nation’s social fabric,” says Dr. Viviana Horigian, the lead author of the study. “They need to be given access to psychological help, coupled with the development and dissemination of brief online contact-based interventions that encourage healthy lifestyles.”
11/25/2020 15:15 GMT — MNT Video update: Thanksgiving and mental health
11/25/2020 08:56 GMT — NIH promise to boost COVID-19 testing in ‘underserved and vulnerable populations’
According to a news release from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), they are providing additional funding to “enable and enhance COVID-19 testing of populations disproportionately affected by the disease.” This includes people from marginalized ethnic backgrounds, older adults, people who are incarcerated, and people who are homeless.
11/25/2020 08:51 GMT — Officials urge people to stay home at Thanksgiving
As COVID-19 case numbers reach record highs in the United States, health experts and politicians across the country are urging people to stay home this Thanksgiving. In the last month, more than half of U.S. governors have imposed or brought back statewide measures.
On Tuesday, more than 87,000 people were being treated in hospitalsfor COVID-19, which is an all-time record. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams asked people to understand “the severity of the moment. […] We just need you, the American people, to hold on a little bit longer.”
In his weekly COVID briefing, California’s top health official, Dr. Mark Ghaly, urged people to say “no” to family gatherings. He wrote, “Saying ‘no’ to people you love is never easy, […] but knowing how and when to say ‘no’ is the first step to protecting your health and the health of the people you care about.”
11/24/2020 09:35 GMT — US government plans to start distributing Regeneron’s antibody combination
According to U.S. officials, the government will soon begin distributing Regeneron’s antibody therapy for COVID-19. The move comes following emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The combination of two monoclonal antibodies, called REGN-COV2, helps treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults and children.
11/24/2020 09:23 GMT — Despite warnings, many people in the US plan to travel for Thanksgiving
On Sunday, despite increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases, more than 1 million passengers passed through airport security in the United States. The American Automobile Association predict that 45–50 million people will use the highways during Thanksgiving 2020, down from 55 million in 2019.
11/23/2020 11:44 GMT — What explains Africa’s successful response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
In an opinion piece, written for MNT, Prof. Agnes Binagwaho, M.D., MPEd, Ph.D. — vice-chancellor of the University of Global Health Equity in Kigali, Rwanda — and her research associate Kedest Mathewos explain why African countries fared much better than their Western counterparts in the fight against COVID-19.
According to a press release, the experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca prevents 70.4% of people from developing COVID-19. Although this is lower than the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, using a different dosing regimen might increase the figure to 90%.
The recent announcement is based on data from 24,000 participants in the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa. Importantly, the Oxford vaccine is cheaper to produce and easier to store and transport than the Moderna and Pfizer offerings.
The trial involved two dosing regimens. One consisted of two full doses, which provided 62% protection. The other involved one half dose followed by one full dose, which provided 90% protection. Prof. Andrew Pollard, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and the chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, explains:
“These findings show that we have an effective vaccine that will save many lives. Excitingly, we’ve found that one of our dosing regimens may be around 90% effective, and if this dosing [regimen] is used, more people could be vaccinated with planned vaccine supply.”
Dr. Stephen Griffin, an associate professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds, U.K., says:
“This is yet more excellent news and should be considered tremendously exciting. The Oxford vaccine, as for the others we’ve heard about recently, is capable of generating 90% protection against COVID-19. Given the favorable stability seen for this vaccine, it has great potential to be delivered across the globe, achieving huge public health benefits.”
11/23/2020 09:49 GMT — Black, Hispanic people account for half of hospital deaths
According to a recent analysis, in the first 6 months of 2020, 53% of deaths from COVID-19 in 88 hospitals across the United States were Black or Hispanic patients. The analysis results appear in the journal Circulation.
11/20/2020 09:19 GMT — UK may ease rules for Christmas
Currently, the United Kingdom is in the midst of a 4-week lockdown. According to U.K. health minister Matt Hancock, the lockdown is having the desired effect and case numbers are plateauing. He hopes that restrictions might be partially eased in time for Christmas.
Hancock explained that “There are encouraging signs that the number of cases is starting to flatten. […] It, of course, won’t be like a normal Christmas, there will have to be rules in place, but we hope that they’ll allow for a bit more of that normal Christmas.”
11/20/2020 09:16 GMT — WHO release statement regarding remdesivir
In an article, which appears in BMJ, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend “against the use of remdesivir in hospitalized patients with COVID-19.” This change in stance is a response to results from the WHO SOLIDARITY trial. The results first appeared on the preprint server medRxiv on October 15.
The authors of the study, which investigated a number of COVID-19 interventions, conclude that “[r]emdesivir, [h]ydroxychloroquine, [l]opinavir, and [I]nterferon regimens appeared to have little or no effect on hospitalized COVID-19, as indicated by overall mortality, initiation of ventilation, and duration of hospital stay.”
The authors of the recent BMJ update explain that, although they could not categorically state that remdesivir affords no benefit, “there is no evidence based on currently available data that it does improve patient-important outcomes.”
In a press release, Pfizer and BioNTech have announced the results from their phase 3 clinical trial: their vaccine is 95% effective. These results build on preliminary results announced last week. According to the press release, “[e]fficacy was consistent across age, gender, race, and ethnicity demographics” and in people over 65.
The researchers enrolled 43,000 participants in the study and identified no significant safety concerns. The mRNA vaccine candidate is called BNT162.
According to the press release, “[t]he companies expect to produce, globally, up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021.”
11/19/2020 09:11 GMT — In-person teaching ceases in New York City
Due to a surge in case numbers in New York City, the city’s public school system has halted in-classroom teaching. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the changes yesterday on Twitter, explaining that “[w]e must fight back the second wave of COVID-19.”
11/19/2020 08:55 GMT — Arthritis drug may improve COVID-19 survival in older adults
A drug used to treat arthritis shows promising initial results for treating COVID-19 in older adults. A small study found that COVID-19 patients taking baricitinib were less likely to need mechanical ventilation and more likely to survive than individuals who were not taking the drug.
The study, which appears in the journal Science Advances, involved just 83 patients with an average age of 81. To confirm the findings, scientists are already conducting larger randomized controlled trials.