By Nancy Lapid
(Reuters) – Following is an overview of some of the latest research on the new coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Some blood types are less likely to receive COVID-19
A large study adds to the evidence that people with type O or Rhâ negative blood may be at slightly lower risk than the new coronavirus. Among 225,556 Canadians tested for the virus, the risk of being diagnosed with COVID-19 was 12% lower, and the risk of severe COVID-19 or death was 13% lower in people with blood type O compared to those with A, AB or B, researchers reported Tuesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine. People of any blood type who are Rh-negative have also been somewhat protected, especially if they have O-negative blood. People in these blood types may have developed antibodies that can recognize certain aspects of the new virus, co-author Dr. Joel Ray of St. Michael̵
Vitamin D does not help in severe cases of COVID-19
Low levels of vitamin D are associated with a higher risk of severe COVID-19, but high levels of vitamin D do not solve the problem. Increasing vitamin D levels in critically ill patients has not shortened their hospital stay or reduced their chances of being transferred to intensive care, requiring mechanical ventilation or dying, doctors in Brazil have found. They randomly gave 240 patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19, or a single high dose of vitamin D3, or placebo. Only 6.7% of patients in the vitamin D group had “deficient” nutrient levels, compared with 51.5% of patients in the placebo group, but there was no difference in results, according to a report published on medRxiv before the peer review. The same was true when the researchers focused on 116 patients with vitamin D deficiency before treatment. The authors say theirs is the first randomized study of its kind to show that vitamin D supplements “are ineffective in improving hospital stays or other clinical outcomes among hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19.” (https://bit.ly/3mfqOeH)
Identified triggers of COVID-19 “cytokine storm”
A form of inflammatory cell death called panoptosis causes a storm of cytokines or inflammatory proteins that cause critical illness in COVID-19, the researchers said. During panoptosis, “cells throw away their contents instead of packing them,” as happens during routine cell death, Tirumala-Devi Caneganti of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital told Reuters. Neighboring cells see the debris, including cytokines, as a sign of danger and react by releasing more cytokines, allowing the cytokine storm to build, Caneganti said. Her team identified synergies between two cytokines, TNF-alpha and IFN-gamma, as the cause of panoptosis in COVID-19. Mice given TNF-alpha and IFN-gamma developed symptoms and organ damage to COVID-19 and died quickly, Caneganti said. Treatment with antibodies that neutralize the two cytokines protected the mice from death, not only from COVID-19 but also from other life-threatening diseases, including cytokine storms such as sepsis, according to her team at Cell. Attempts are needed to test these treatments in humans, Caneganti said. (https://bit.ly/375VBEa)
COVID-19 survivors benefit from home health care
COVID-19 survivors benefit from home health care after being discharged from hospital, new data show. Researchers from a visiting nurse in New York, the University of Pennsylvania and Vilanova University studied 1,409 patients who received home health care, almost half of whom were under the age of 65. When they were discharged, 80% still had shortness of breath reported anxiety or confusion and more than 80% needed help walking, getting dressed and bathing. After 32 days of home health care, an average of 94% no longer need the service. Most are not fully recovered, but most symptoms are significantly improved, as is patients’ ability to perform daily activities. Only 10% need to be rehospitalized, researchers said in the Annals of Internal Medicine on Tuesday. “Only 11% of COVID-19 survivors nationwide are discharged from hospital with qualified home health services,” said co-author Margaret MacDonald of a visiting nurse in New York. This study “suggests that HHC is underused in the recovery of hospitalized patients with COVID-19.” (https://bit.ly/39kY7Jz)
Open https://tmsnrt.rs/3a5EyDh in an external browser for Reuters schedule for vaccines and treatments under development.
(Report by Nancy Lapid; Edited by Tiffany Wu)