Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Coronavirus around the world

6 Months in, and the “Worst is Yet to Come”

A man protects his son

The "worst is yet to come" with COVID-19—and our "divided world" is accelerating its spread, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference yesterday marking 6 months since the first case was announced in China.

A look back at GHN headlines reveals how the virus snowballed into a tragic pandemic—from the first inkling that this could be the big one, to the resignation that the virus would cause the world’s wealthiest countries to buckle:

COVID-19: Could gut bacteria be involved?

Gut bacteria

The authors of a recent paper ask what role gut bacteria might play in COVID-19. They outline strands of existing evidence and conclude that a link between the two is plausible, but that more research is necessary.

Scientists have implicated gut bacteria in a number of conditions. From type 2 diabetes to depression, researchers have observed relationships between a wide range of disease states and the organisms that live in our gastrointestinal tract.

Steroid Sparks Hope and Skepticism

dexametazona

Preliminary results showing that a cheap steroid reduces the risk of death among gravely ill COIVD-19 patients is inspiring hope and skepticism.

The finding has not been peer-reviewed, but University of Oxford researchers announced the steroid dexamethasone—when given to patients on ventilators for up to 10 days—cut the risk of death by a third, CNN reports.

The risk of death for patients on oxygen but not on ventilators was reduced by a fifth, but the steroid made no difference among patients who didn’t require either.

But:

1 in 5 at Greater Risk of Severe COVID-19

severe illness-covid

An estimated 22% of people globally—1.7 billion—have at least one condition that puts them at a greater risk of developing severe COVID-19 if infected, according to a new study in The Lancet Global Health.

The most prevalent conditions in those aged 50+: chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, and diabetes.

"Not everyone with a condition will progress to a hospital," first author Andrew Clark of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told The New York Times.

Beijing's War on Fresh Outbreak

beijing-coronavirus-line

Beijing has gone into "war-mode" to stomp out a fresh spike in COVID-19 cases with aggressive testing, security checkpoints, school closures, and temperature checks, Reuters reports.

The city reported 79 cases over the last few days, after nearly 2 infection-free months. The latest cluster has been traced to Beijing’s Xinfadi food market—20X the size of the Wuhan seafood market where the novel coronavirus first emerged.

Polio Vaccine—A Temporary Solution?

poliovaccine

Could existing polio vaccines be used to fight coronavirus?

Researchers—including Robert Gallo, who helped discover HIV—are seeking funding to test their theory, making their case in Science this week.

They argue that live attenuated vaccines can trigger "interferon and other innate immunity mechanisms" to provide protection against unrelated pathogens.

In theory, a live polio vaccine then could possibly buy the body time to develop the right antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, NBC reports.

WHO Walks Back Claim Asymptomatic Transmission is Rare

who

A backpedaling WHO clarified its Monday statement that asymptomatic COVID-19 transmission appears to be rare, NPR's Goats and Soda reports.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for health emergencies, said yesterday that she was responding to a journalist's question and "wasn't stating a policy of WHO or anything like that."

What she meant, she said, is that she hasn't seen evidence of widespread transmission from asymptomatic individuals. The existing data is spotty because "so-called silent spreaders" are tough to pinpoint.

WHO Says Asymptomatic Spread “Rare,” Sparking Debate

Maria Van Kerkhove

The WHO called into question the extent that asymptomatic people are spreading COVID-19, launching a global debate, The Hill reports.

"From the data we have, it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual," said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19, citing unpublished data from detailed contact tracing reports at a briefing yesterday. She suggested that the focus should be on following symptomatic cases.

More Evidence the Shutdowns Were Necessary

palm tree

Shutdowns potentially blocked 530 million COVID-19 infections in 6 countries including the US and China, The Washington Post reports, citing a study preview Nature published today.

Restrictions including stay-at-home orders and business closures prevented ~285 million cases in China and ~60 million in the US alone, according to University of California, Berkeley researchers.

Red Flags Raised on Research

red flags raised

Two top medical journals are reviewing major studies they published on potential COVID-19 treatments (including hydroxychloroquine) after questions about their data surfaced yesterday, Science reports.

The papers in The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine shared a common source: A little-known company called Surgisphere.

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