Coronavirus Tidbits #196 6/12/22

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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.

New Post:

Dengue Vaccine Candidate Works Without Big Safety Risks

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/975354

This is a huge advance–will help Puerto Rico as well as SE Asia.

 

News 

COVID and smell loss: answers begin to emerge

A study published last month1 surveyed 616,318 people in the United States who have had COVID-19. It found that, compared with those who had been infected with the original virus, people who had contracted the Alpha variant – the first variant of concern to arise – were 50% as likely to have chemosensory disruption. This probability fell to 44% for the later Delta variant, and to 17% for the latest variant, Omicron.

But the news is not all good: a significant portion of people infected early in the pandemic still experience chemosensory effects. A 2021 study2 followed 100 people who had had mild cases of COVID-19 and 100 people who repeatedly tested negative. More than a year after their infections, 46% of those who had had COVID-19 still had smell problems; by contrast, just 10% of the control group had developed some smell loss, but for other reasons. Furthermore, 7% of those who had been infected still had total smell loss, or ‘anosmia’, at the end of the year. Given that more than 500 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed worldwide, tens of millions of people probably have lingering smell problems.

Scrambled nuclei

A clearer picture of how SARS-CoV-2 causes this disruption should help to create better therapies for the condition. Early in the pandemic, a study showed3 that the virus attacks cells in the nose, called sustentacular cells, that provide nutrients and support to odour-sensing neurons.

Since then, clues have emerged about what happens to the olfactory neurons after infection. Researchers including biochemist Stavros Lomvardas at Columbia University in New York City examined people who had died from COVID-19 and found that, although their neurons were intact, they had fewer membrane-embedded receptors for detecting odour molecules than usual4.

This was because the neurons’ nuclei had been scrambled. Normally, the chromosomes in these nuclei are organized into two compartments – a structure that enables the neurons to express specific odour receptors at high levels. But when the team looked at the autopsied neurons, “the nuclear architecture was unrecognizable,” Lomvardas says.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-01589-z

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Preliminary study links Covid in pregnancy to babies’ neurodevelopment

Researchers have a moving target when they look at Covid-19, and its impact on children born after maternal infection is no exception. A new JAMA Network Open study found more neurodevelopmental diagnoses in the first year of life in babies whose mothers had positive PCR tests compared to those who didn’t. Acknowledging the preliminary nature of their work, the authors also say they can’t ignore previous connections made between viral infections and autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, cerebral palsy, cognitive dysfunction, bipolar disorder, and anxiety and depression.

Here’s what they found analyzing health records for 7,772 infants born in 2020: About 6% of babies whose mothers had Covid were diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disorder – such as motor or speech delays – compared to 3% of babies whose mothers didn’t, after accounting for prematurity and demographic factors. The researchers, and a companion editorial, urge longer studies.

https://mailchi.mp/statnews/tk-tncyc6de8v-616896?e=5c09ee46b1

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Risk of COVID-related syndrome lower in kids after breakthrough Omicron

The risk of COVID-19-related multisystem inflammatory system in children (MIS-C) was significantly lower among vaccinated versus unvaccinated Danish children after infection with the Omicron variant rather than with previous strains, according to a research letter published yesterday in JAMA Pediatrics.

Jun 8 JAMA Pediatr research letter

https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2022/06/news-scan-jun-09-2022

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Moderna’s Vaccine boosts Omicron antibodies 8-fold

In a statement, Moderna said its Omicron-containing bilvalent (two-strain) vaccine met clinical end points, including a better antibody response 1 month after vaccination compared to its original vaccine. Like the original Moderna booster dose, the dose for the bivalent version was 50 micrograms.

The geometric mean titer (GMT), a measure of antibody response, was 2,372 for the bivalent vaccine against Omicron, compared with 1,473 for the original Moderna vaccine. The newer version boosted GMT against Omicron about eightfold higher than baseline levels.

The company said the bivalent vaccine was generally well tolerated, with side effects similar to its current booster dose. It also said it anticipates that antibody titers induced by the bivalent vaccine will be more durable against Omicron compared to its current booster shot. The results were from a small trial that had 439 participants.

Moderna said it plans on submitting the interim analysis and data to regulators to review in the weeks ahead. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) vaccine advisory group, the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) meets on Jun 28 to talk about if and how COVID-19 vaccines should be modified.

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Research finds that social isolation is directly associated with later dementia

by American Academy of Neurology

 JUNE 8, 2022

Social isolation is linked to lower brain volume in areas related to cognition and a higher risk of dementia, according to research published in the June 8, 2022, online issue of Neurology. The study found that social isolation was linked to a 26% increased risk of dementia, separately from risk factors like depression and loneliness.

“Social isolation is a serious yet underrecognized public health problem that is often associated with old age,” said study author Jianfeng Feng, Ph.D., of Fudan University in Shanghai, China. “In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, social isolation, or the state of being cut off from social networks, has intensified. It’s more important than ever to identify people who are socially isolated and provide resources to help them make connections in their community.”

The study looked at 462,619 people across the United Kingdom with an average age of 57 at the beginning of the study who were followed for nearly 12 years before the pandemic. Of those, 41,886, or 9% of people reported being socially isolated, and 29,036, or 6% of people felt lonely. During the study, 4,998 developed dementia.

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-06-social-isolation-dementia.html

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Pandemic politics: People in Republican counties were more likely to die from COVID-19, new analysis shows

Cumulative COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people, by county proportion of Republican presidential popular vote in the2020 election, January 1, 2020-October 31, 2021. Credit: Neil Jay Sehgal, University of Maryland

The partisan divide in the United States throughout the COVID-19 pandemic stretched beyond differences in attitudes about masking, social distancing and vaccines. According to a new study led by a University of Maryland researcher, it also is tied to a clear difference in mortality rates from the virus.

In the study, published today in Health Affairs, Neil Jay Sehgal, assistant professor of health policy and management in UMD’s School of Public Health, and co-authors from UMD and the University of California, Irvine Program in Public Health compared the number of COVID-19 deaths through October 2021 with counties’ voting behavior in the 2020 presidential election. Their analysis controlled for other characteristics likely to influence COVID-19 transmission and mortality such as age, race/ethnicity, chronic disease and access to health care.

They found that Republican counties (where 70% or more voted Republican) experienced nearly 73 more COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people compared to Democratic counties (where less than 30% voted Republican).

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-06-pandemic-politics-people-republican-counties.html

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Monkeypox:

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New guidance: “Social gatherings, safer sex, and monkeypox,” highlighting the risks of transmission in higher-risk situations.

Be clear, don’t ‘pussyfoot’

Being clear about that risk is one of the most important messages about monkeypox, according to New Jersey-based risk communication expert Peter Sandman, PhD.

“In the current outbreak, most patients so far are catching it from MSM. But it will almost inevitably spread from MSM, to others who have close contact (especially sexual contact) with MSM, to still others who have close contact (especially sexual contact) with those others,” Sandman said in an email.

“I would urge risk communicators to say all this-and I’d specifically urge them not to let fear of stigmatization deter them from doing so. Fear of stigmatization is an unacceptable reason to withhold or even to soft-pedal this information.

“Stigmatization of MSM is still a real social evil-but candid monkeypox risk communication won’t exacerbate that evil, and pussyfooting won’t ameliorate that evil. I think what’s masquerading as a fear of stigmatization is really a fear of being accused of stigmatization-and that’s an unacceptable reason for suppressing or downplaying important health information.”

Global total tops 1,100

The CDC said the United States now has 40 cases of monkeypox.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) today posted an epidemiological update on monkeypox, citing the global total as 1,176 confirmed cases from 24 countries as of Jun 8.

The ECDC said, “The EU outbreak sequences are a part of a distinct cluster from 2022 within the West African clade. There are two 2022 sequences from the US that are not part of this cluster, but still belong to the West African clade.”

The outbreak is concentrated in Europe, where 704 cases have been reported in 18 countries, mainly in the United Kingdom, Spain, and Portugal.

So far there have been no deaths, and most cases are occurring in young MSM.

https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2022/06/experts-aim-thread-needle-monkeypox-messaging-msm

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Monkeypox vaccination begins – can the global outbreaks be contained?

Some countries have begun to use smallpox vaccines to protect people exposed to the monkeypox virus. But researchers see challenges ahead.

As global monkeypox cases continue to rise, public-health officials and researchers are questioning whether the current outbreaks can be contained. The World Health Organization has said that the situation is unlikely to escalate into a full-blown pandemic. But more than 1,000 people have now been confirmed to have been infected with the virus in nearly 30 countries where outbreaks do not usually occur (see ‘Unusual spread’).

Countries including Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States have begun implementing a strategy called ‘ring vaccination’ to try to halt the spread of the virus. This involves administering smallpox vaccines – which are thought to be effective against monkeypox because the viruses are related – to people who are known to have been exposed through close contact with an infected person.

But there are unknowns and challenges that come with using this strategy for monkeypox, says Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Although the vaccines are considered to be safe and effective for use in people with smallpox infection, the vaccines have had limited testing against monkeypox. The strategy also relies on highly rigorous contact tracing, which might not be implemented in every country, and people must also agree to be inoculated with vaccines that can carry rare, but serious, side effects.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-01587-1

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Diagnostics:

still an incredible, negligent last of testing.

Drugs and Vaccines:

https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2022/06/hiv-may-predispose-post-vaccination-covid-requiring-extra-doses

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U.S. Wasted 11% of its COVID-19 Vaccines

two states discarded more than a quarter of their doses: Oklahoma, which tossed 28% of the nearly 4 million doses it received, and Alaska, which threw away almost 27% of its 1 million doses, according to the CDC data.

https://www.precisionvaccinations.com/2022/06/06/us-wasted-11-its-covid-19-vaccines

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Data show Paxlovid halves the risk of severe Omicron disease, death

A study of 4,737 COVID-19 patients in Israel conducted during the Omicron surge concludes that Pfizer’s antiviral drug Paxlovid roughly halves the risk of severe COVID-19 or death, according to findings published yesterday in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

They conclude, “In this real-world study, we show that treatment with Paxlovid in the first 5 days of SARS-CoV-2 infection is associated with markedly reduced risk of progression to severe COVID-19 or mortality, regardless of vaccination status for SARS-CoV-2.”
Jun 2 Clin Infect Dis study

https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2022/06/news-scan-jun-03-2022

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Devices and Masks:

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https://twitter.com/TheAngryEpi/status/1535722565200584706?s=20&t=AchZ3iYhLymU-YrAB8meOQ

Epidemiology/Infection control:

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Tips, general reading for public:

Ventilate.

Mask.

Vax.

Politics:

Covid:

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Elections:

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Dems:

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SCOTUS/Ginni Thomas:

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GOP:

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Fox:

Jan 6:

Guns:

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Florida:

Texas:

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Pennsylvania:

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Georgia:

Tennessee

LGBT:

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UK: 

Feel good du jour:

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https://twitter.com/buitengebieden/status/1531694206745513986?s=20&t=AchZ3iYhLymU-YrAB8meOQ

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Comic relief:

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https://twitter.com/buitengebieden/status/1531852010080849921?s=20&t=AchZ3iYhLymU-YrAB8meOQ

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https://twitter.com/buitengebieden/status/1535176658247897088?s=20&t=AchZ3iYhLymU-YrAB8meOQ

Perspective/Poem

Bits of beauty:

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