Coronavirus Tidbits #146 6/27/21

Announcements:

First, there is now a Resources Page here for the most commonly asked questions I'm getting.

Happy to continue to answer your questions/concerns as best I can, so don't be shy about that.

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My interview with Robert Herriman/Outbreak News Today on Mucormycosis:

What Is Behind The Deadly Rise In Mucormycosis Infections In India?

http://outbreaknewstoday.com/india-reports-surge-of-mucormycosis-cases-what-do-we-know-and-not-know-87358/

News 

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Top Chinese counterintelligence officer defected to USA, may have given info on Wuhan Lab to Biden admin

Dong Jingwei was vice minister of State Security in China and the defection to USA has made him the most influential Chinese official to do so.

Amidst the growing scrutiny over the possibility of leakage of Coronavirus from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, reports have now emerged about the defection of a top Chinese official to the United States.

In February this year, China’s top counter-intelligence official Dong Jingwei reportedly flew to the US from Hong Kong with his daughter. The development was confirmed by a former top Chinese Ministry official named Dr. Han Lianchao, who had defected to the States after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. A pro-democracy activist in the US, Dr. Han said that the defection of Dong was discussed by top Chinese and US officials during a meeting in Alaska in May.

According to him, the request to send Dong Jingwei back was turned down by State Secretary Anthony Blinken. Interestingly, the top law enforcement of China i.e. Central Political Legal Affairs Commission had posted on social media about Dong Jingwei’s supposed warning to ‘anti-China’ forces. It alleged that Dong had directed spies to look out for ‘insiders’ who ‘bankroll’ their actions behind the scenes.

Reportedly, the lab leak theory for Covid-19 was taken seriously by the Biden administration after Dong Jingwei defected to USA. It is believed that Dong may have handed over evidence on the Wuhan lab leak theory to the USA, which prompted the U-turn by President Joe Biden as he ordered a probe on the matter.

https://www.opindia.com/2021/06/chinese-counterintelligence-officer-defected-to-usa-with-wuhan-lab-info/

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Researchers find signs of inflammation in brains of people who died of COVID-19

The most comprehensive molecular study to date of the brains of people who died of COVID-19 turned up unmistakable signs of inflammation and impaired brain circuits.

Investigators at the Stanford School of Medicine and Saarland University in Germany report that what they saw looks a lot like what's observed in the brains of people who died of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

The findings may help explain why many COVID-19 patients report neurological problems. These complaints increase with the severity of infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. And they can persist as an aspect of "long COVID," a long-lasting disorder that sometimes arises following infection. About one-third of individuals hospitalized for COVID-19 report symptoms of fuzzy thinking, forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating and depression, said Tony Wyss-Coray, PhD, professor of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford.

Yet the researchers couldn't find any signs of SARS-CoV-2 in brain tissue they obtained from eight individuals who died of the disease. Brain samples from 14 people who died of other causes were used as controls for the study.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-06/sm-rfs062221.php

See also:

Brain imaging before and after COVID-19 in UK Biobank

data from 782 participants from the UK Biobank COVID-19 re-imaging study, with 394 participants having tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection between their two scans.

We identified significant effects of COVID-19 in the brain with a loss of grey matter in the left parahippocampal gyrus, the left lateral orbitofrontal cortex and the left insula...Our findings thus consistently relate to loss of grey matter in limbic cortical areas directly linked to the primary olfactory and gustatory system.

https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.06.11.21258690v2

 

Diagnostics:

still an incredible, negligent last of testing.

Drugs and Vaccines:

Pricing for liposomal Amphotericin B is unaffordable for many in India suffering from deadly Mucormycosis.

Patient-support groups are therefore forced to acquire the drug at three times the initial price quoted by the company last year...“Meanwhile, Gilead continues to earn billions of dollars each year from global HIV drug sales — the corporation reported $14.6 billion in sales from global HIV drugs in 2018 alone,”

https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/companies/gileads-hiv-drug-remains-costly-despite-the-companys-promise-to-slash-its-price/article28191147.ece

See this letter:

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Opinion: For now, stem cells for Covid-19 are mostly a shot in the dark -  Paul Knopfler

Some researchers, and a few charlatans, are turning to stem cells as a treatment for Covid-19. So far there's no solid proof that they work.

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Op-Ed: #COVID19 Booster Shots Can Wait

https://www.medpagetoday.com/opinion/second-opinions/93165

Thoughtful perspective from David Aronoff @Vanderbilt...but

WHO estimates COVID-19 boosters needed yearly for most vulnerable

https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/exclusive-who-estimates-covid-19-boosters-needed-yearly-most-vulnerable-2021-06-24/

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Ohio is giving up on financial incentives to boost vaccinations rates, as more than half of the state remains unvaccinated. (NBC News)

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Experts still recommend Vax for teens despite Myocarditis numbers--the benefits far outweigh the risks.

https://www.medpagetoday.com/special-reports/exclusives/93265

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Monoclonal antibodies

 the FDA recommends that health care providers use alternative authorized monoclonal antibody therapies and not use bamlanivimab and etesevimab administered together at this time.

The reason for this change is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified that the combined frequencies of the SARS-CoV-2 P.1/Gamma variant (Brazil) and the B.1.351/Beta variant (South Africa) throughout the United States now exceed 11% and are trending upward.

Furthermore, in vitro assays used to assess the susceptibility of viral variants to particular monoclonal antibodies suggest that Eli Lilly's bamlanivimab and etesevimab administered together are not active against either the P.1 or B.1.351 variants.

However, Regeneron's REGEN-COV and sotrovimab are alternative monoclonal antibody therapies that are currently authorized for the same use as bamlanivimab and etesevimab administered together.

And based on similar in vitro assay data currently available, REGEN-COV and sotrovimab are likely to retain activity against the P.1 or B.1.351 variants.

Devices:

Epidemiology/Infection control:

On ease and speed of Delta variant transmission:

"Officials and scientists are especially troubled by the apparent ease with which the delta variant, first detected in India, passes from person to person.

Video footage at a shopping mall and in a cafe shows the limo driver and people who became infected had only fleeting contact, which scientists say proves it is possible to catch the virus simply from sharing the same airspace as an infected person.

Some 900 customers visited one hairdresser during the period in which the virus may have been circulating, health officials said. At least three staff members and two clients have contracted the virus so far."

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Good overview on Delta by Kai Kupferschmidt:

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/06/delta-variant-triggers-dangerous-new-phase-pandemic

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Nearly all new COVID-related deaths in the U.S. are in people who haven't been vaccinated, as only 0.8% of deaths in May were among fully vaccinated individuals.

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Israel cases at 2-month high

As more transmissible variants keep all countries on edge, Israel yesterday reported 125 cases after seeing numbers plummet to the single digits earlier this month, according to Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper.

The head of the country's health ministry said 70% of cases involve the Delta variant, and that half of those are children, and that one-third of those cases are vaccinated. The illnesses are stemming from several local outbreaks, including one involving staff at a school.

https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2021/06/multiple-nations-battle-covid-19-surges-delta-variant-advances-israel

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More on Delta impact:

 

Delta is moderately resistant to vaccines, particularly in people who have received just a single dose. A Public Health England study published on 22 May found that a single dose of either AstraZeneca's or Pfizer's vaccine reduced a person’s risk of developing COVID-19 symptoms caused by the Delta variant by 33%, compared to 50% for the Alpha variant. A second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine boosted protection against Delta to 60% (compared to 66% against Alpha), while two doses of Pfizer’s jab were 88% effective (compared to 93% against Alpha).

Preliminary evidence from England and Scotland suggests that people infected with Delta are about twice as likely to end up in hospital, compared with those infected with Alpha.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-01696-3

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Only 21% of Americans worried about contracting COVID-19

But in general, most poll respondents said they were resuming pre-pandemic activities, including visiting family and friends, shopping for non-essential items, and dining in bars and restaurants.

Mask wearing, which has been mandated less and less, is also being dropped. In February, 65% of poll respondents said they wore a mask when gathering with anyone outside their households. Now only 37% say they do so.

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In 2020, U.S. life expectancy fell by more than a full year -- from 78.7 years to 77.4 years, a decline of 1.13 years for the total population, 0.68 years for Whites, 2.10 years for Blacks, and 3.05 years for Latinos

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Tips, general reading for public:

StayAtHome

Wash your hands.

Rinse and repeat.

Politics:

Eloquent few minutes on racism:

https://twitter.com/MeliMels99/status/1406355955605028870?s=20

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https://twitter.com/chipfranklin/status/1405537731862618120?s=20

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Mayo Physician Fired Over COVID Book

Remember--private employers can fire you w/o cause, or "at will."

https://www.medpagetoday.com/special-reports/exclusives/93266?

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Court ruling validates speech rights for health workers

https://healthjournalism.org/blog/2021/06/court-ruling-validates-speech-rights-for-health-workers/

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Feel good du jour:

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https://twitter.com/silverpebble/status/1406641817609641985?s=20

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Sweet article

Perspective/Poem

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Bits of beauty:

 

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