In this section, you will find the latest relevant developments of the COVID-19 pandemic.
An Experimental Drug Protects Covid-19 Patients, Eli Lilly Claims
The pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly announced that their experimental monoclonal antibody treatment significantly reduced levels of the coronavirus in more than 450 newly infected patients and lowered the hospitalization rates. The detailed report is not yet available and the results have not been reviewed by independent reviewers.
Silicon Valley startup Visby’s portable COVID-19 test gets FDA approval
The Silicon Valley medical equipment startup, Visby Medical, has received Emergency Use Authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a portable PCR COVID-19 test kit. Traditionally, PCR testing uses a machine with the size of a large microwave. The company started working at shrinking that machine to a portable size, with the capacity to produce results in 30 minutes. The goal is to eventually get the test kit sold to consumers to use at home.
Study links rising stress, depression in US to pandemic-related losses, media consumption
A study published by researchers at University of California, Irvine, linked increasing depression and stress to not only pandemic-related losses–such as unemployment–but also media consumption. Prolonged exposure to pandemic-related news and conflicting information are one of the strong predictors of pandemic-related stress.
EU plans international coronavirus tracing network
The EU plans to create an international coronavirus tracing network to be launched in October. A number of EU member states consider the possibility to develop a cross-border effort to trace the coronavirus’ spreading. The app would notify users of risky encounters, aiming to avoid a spike in the contamination cases, expected for the next months in Europe. However, due to a lack of proven efficacy and anticipating problems regarding user’s date privacy, some countries (like France) are considering not to join the effort.
False positives from COVID-19 tests cause trouble
The quality of some PCR test kits and the value of the results are being questioned by some countries as many false positives results are being reported. The allegedly defective commercial test kits made in China – and exported to other countries – can be responsible for inaccurate statistics about the pandemic.
ASTRAZENECA PUTS VACCINE TRIAL ON HOLD AFTER PARTICIPANT FALLS ILL
On Sept 9th, Astra Zeneca announced to put on hold the controlled clinical trials of the ‘‘AstraZeneca Oxford coronavirus vaccine’’ after the discovery of the participant who fell ill. The UK drug maker stated that this was a routine action whenever this type of event occurred, in order to review the safety data.
TEAM OF SCIENTISTS SPOT ‘UNLIKELY’ PATTERNS IN RUSSIA VACCINE DATA
A team of 26 scientists have signed an open letter questioning the reliability of the data presented in the early-stage trial results of the Russian COVID-19 vaccine. The letter said that the Phase I/II trial results data showed multiple participants reporting identical antibody levels, which is probabilistically highly unlikely.
RESEARCHERS DRAW MORE LINKS BETWEEN VAPING, SMOKING, YOUNG PEOPLE, AND CORONAVIRUS
Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center published papers linking a risk for COVID-19 and a history of vaping and smoking. These observations confirm other published work and suggest that inquiring the vaping and smoking history may be important for evaluating the risk for COVID-19.
THE OTHER WAY THE VIRUS KILL: HUNGER
The pandemic has reinforced basic economics inequalities, but none of them is more defining than access to food. As the global economy is been deeply affected by the pandemic, the potentially life-threatening levels of food insecurity in the developing world are expected to nearly double this year according to United Nations Food Program. In this context hunger emerges as one of the biggest social problem due to COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 HAS SET GLOBAL HEALTH PROGRESS BACK DECADES ACCORDING TO GATES FOUNDATION
The massive effects of the coronavirus pandemic have halted and reversed global health progress, setting it back 25 years and exposing millions to the risk of deadly disease and poverty, a report by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation warned on Tuesday.
Why pregnant women face special risks from COVID-19
Although the effect of COVID-19 on pregnancy is still not completely clear due to incomplete data, the current cautious consensus among the experts is that the viral infection in pregnant women does not negatively affect fetal development. However, pregnant women are a high-risk group, more prone to serious symptoms of COVID-19 due to changes in hormones and the immune system.
Signs of depression and anxiety soar among US graduate students during pandemic
A survey conducted in 9 U.S. research universities recording responses from more than 15,000 graduate students showed that more students are suffering from depression this year during the pandemic compared to last year. Mental stress is particularly prevalent in low-income, Latins, and non-heterosexual students. Fields of study are associated with different mental health issues: depression is the most common in physical sciences students, and anxiety is the most common in biomedical research students. The lead author of the study urged universities to take the issue of student mental health seriously.
COVID-19 link to type 1 diabetes probed
A study suggests a possible coronavirus link to type 1 diabetes. Cases of type 1 diabetes among children may have risen during the peak of Britain’s COVID-19 outbreak. In type 1 diabetes – also known as juvenile diabetes – insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed, preventing the body from producing enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. The researchers said one explanation could be that the novel coronavirus might attack insulin-making cells in the pancreas.
Blood clots and lung injuries found in patients who have died of COVID-19
Post-mortem examinations of 10 patients who died of COVID-19 in a UK study showed that all patients had lung injuries, early scarring of the lungs, and kidney injuries. Nine of the ten patients also have blood clots (thrombosis) in at least one major organ, such as heart, lung, or kidney. These findings can potentially help medical workers treat the symptoms in COVID-19 patients.
Two more cases of reinfection: This time reported in Europe
Two more cases of reinfection with the coronavirus were reported in Europe on Tuesday, a day after a 33-year-old man in Hong Kong was confirmed to have been infected a second time. However, experts have reacted with caution to the new findings, as it remains to be seen if these are rare cases.
Flu Season Could Make Coronavirus Testing Delays Even Worse
In the fall season, the ascent of flu and other seasonal respiratory diseases could further burden the previous delay in coronavirus testing in the U.S., making it more likely for the infection to spread unnoticed. Usually, doctors do not test for influenza. Patients with hacks, fevers and weariness throughout the winter months are expected to be carrying this common infection. However, this year, with the coronavirus outbreak, doctors need to test for both infections in their patients, which will further stress the testing system.
CORONAVIRUS: ARE MUTATIONS MAKING IT MORE INFECTIOUS?
The coronavirus that is now threatening the world is subtly different from the one that first emerged in China. The crucial questions about this mutation are: does this make the virus more infectious – or lethal – in humans? And could it pose a threat to the success of a future vaccine?
BLACK AND HISPANIC CHILDREN ARE IMPACTED MORE SEVERELY BY CORONAVIRUS, RESEARCH SHOWS
A report from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released Friday found that Black and Hispanic children are more likely to be hospitalized due to coronavirus than White children, with higher case rates, hospitalizations and virus-related complications, according to research released this week.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER: LEARNING MORE ABOUT COVID-19 CAN REDUCE YOUR PANDEMIC STRESS
A recent study surveyed more than 500 adults between 20–79 years old in the U.S. to understand whether understanding the COVID-19 pandemic makes us more or less anxious. The study finds that the more people know about COVID-19, the less pandemic-related stress they have.
RUSSIA CLAIMS TO HAVE A VACCINE FOR COVID-19, BUT THIS CLAIM IS QUESTIONED BY VARIOUS EXPERTS
While numerous countries and research groups are working to produce a vaccine for Covid-19, the latest developments on the vaccine came from Russia: The Russian government claims to have stolen a march on dozens of global rivals in the race to produce a viable coronavirus vaccine, saying it would start the production of a vaccine next month and begin mass immunization by October.
GENETIC PROFILES MAY PREDICT COVID-19 RISK; NURSING HOME STAFF IN SPOTLIGHT
Genetic profiles may predict COVID-19 risk. Genetic differences affect the strength of infection and protection mechanisms, with some people having genes that predispose them to infection and others having genes that strengthen the body’s protective process.
African countries conduct over 8.3 mln COVID-19 tests amid rapid infection rate: Africa CDC
More than 8.3 million COVID-19 tests for COVID-19 have been conducted across countries in the Africa continent (Africa CDC). The Africa CDC director warned over rising COVID-19 test positivity rate, which stood at 10.5 percent as compared with the number of tests conducted so far.
COVID-19's impact on the heart: Two new studies suggest 'the plot thickening'
Two separate new studies, published in the journal JAMA Cardiology on Monday, demonstrates how COVID-19 may have a prolonged impact on heart health in those who have recovered from illness and may have caused cardiac infection in those who died.
There is no 'zero risk' in easing travel restrictions, WHO says
There is no “zero risk” strategy for countries easing international travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, and essential travel for emergencies should remain the priority, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
BRAZIL’S CORONAVIRUS CHAOS PROVIDES A GLOBAL LABORATORY FOR THE VACCINE RACE
The last clinical phase (Phase 3) tests require thousands of people to be tested. This means that the suitable areas to conduct this kind of study should have high disease transmission, as well as institutions that work with international scientific, regulatory, and ethical protocols to carry out the tests. For these reasons, Brazil has quickly become the place of choice for the Phase 3 vaccine tests for COVID-19. In return, Brazil expects to produce vaccines locally instead of importing them if the vaccines are proven effective.
OXFORD CORONAVIRUS VACCINE PRODUCES STRONG IMMUNE RESPONSE
Scientists at the Jenner Institute (Oxford University) and Oxford Vaccine Group published promising results of the Phase I/II trial of a coronavirus vaccine in The Lancet. The vaccine showed no early safety concerns and induced strong immune responses in humans.
NEW ASSAY IMPROVES DETECTION OF SARS-COV-2 ANTIBODIES
Researchers at the University of California Santa Cruz have developed a new assay for the detection of antibodies against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The assay provides real-time measurements of both total antibody levels and specific antibody isotopes, with complete quantitative results generated in less than 20 minutes.
EU LEADERS SEAL DEAL ON SPENDING AND €750BN COVID-19 RECOVERY PLANS
EU leaders have reached a historic agreement on a €750bn coronavirus pandemic recovery fund and their long-term spending plans following days of acrimonious debate at the bloc’s longest summit in nearly two decades.
CHINA DEMANDING NEGATIVE COVID-19 RESULTS AT AIRPORT
China announced that passengers of all flights arriving from abroad would have to provide negative COVID-19 test results as the country ramps up measures against the novel coronavirus. Foreign nationals arriving at China will have to apply for a health certification from Chinese embassies before flying to the country and provide “negative nucleic acid test results” declaring they were not suffering from the disease coronavirus-negative.
WHO REVIEWING REPORT URGING NEW GUIDANCE OVER SPREAD OF CORONAVIRUS
The World Health Organization (WHO) is reviewing a report urging it to update guidance on the novel coronavirus after more than 200 scientists, in a letter to the health agency, outlined evidence the virus can spread in tiny airborne particles. Those smaller particles (as opposed to larger droplets in coughs and sneezes) can linger in the air and infect people who breathe them in. How often airborne transmission happens still is unknown.
SCIENTISTS WARN OF POTENTIAL WAVE OF COVID-LINKED BRAIN DAMAGE
Scientists warned of a potential wave of coronavirus-related brain damage as new evidence suggested COVID-19 can lead to severe neurological complications, including inflammation, psychosis and delirium.
REMDESIVIR BECOMES THE FIRST COVID-19 TREATMENT APPROVED IN EUROPE
Remdesivir (brand name Veklury), a drug originally developed to treat the Ebola virus by the U.S. Pharma Gilead Sciences, becomes the first COVID-19 treatment approved in Europe with a one-year conditional marketing authorization from the European Commission. It is intended for adults and children over the age of 12 who require supplemental oxygen. Its high price has drawn criticism
VIRUS-TRACING APPS ARE RIFE WITH PROBLEMS. GOVERNMENTS ARE RUSHING TO FIX THEM
Virus tracing apps that many countries have quickly developed are dealing with security issues that expose users to risks like identity theft or oppressive government tracking. In some cases, the use or development of apps were abandoned.
APPLICATIONS OF DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY IN COVID-19 PANDEMIC PLANNING AND RESPONSE
An article published in Lancet emphasizes how digital technologies helped flatten the COVID-19 incidence curves in some countries. The integration of such technologies into policies facilitate planning, surveillance, testing, contact tracing, quarantine, and clinical management. Those are useful examples to replicate to reduce the number of cases in other countries.
COVID-19 NEUTRALIZING ANTIBODIES MIGHT ONLY LAST FOR 2–3 MONTHS
A publication in Nature Medicine measured levels of neutralizing antibodies in a small number (37) of asymptomatic individuals and compared them to symptomatic individuals. The results explain why “immunity passports” is a bad idea.
“SUPER SPREADER” EVENTS
As more data became available and economies are opening up, a lot of people started to wonder what events cause the most infection cases, which can also influence policymaking. This article compiled and analyzed recorded super spreader events.
FIRST APPROVED VACCINE IN CHINA (BUT FOR MILITARY USE ONLY)
CanSino Biologics received authorization for human trials after clinical trials proved it was safe and showed some efficacy. China’s Central Military Commission approved the use of the vaccine by the military on June 25 for a period of one year, CanSino said in a filing. The vaccine candidate was developed jointly by CanSino and a research institute at the Academy of Military Science (AMS).