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Intestinal bacteria associated with the severity of the disease, immune response; high mental health charges observed in intensive care units

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.

Intestinal bacteria associated with the severity of COVID-19, immune response

Microscopic organisms living in our gut can affect the severity of COVID-19 and the body’s immune response to it, and could report prolonged symptoms, researchers said Monday in the journal Gut. They found that intestinal microorganisms in patients with COVID-19 were very different from those in uninfected individuals. “Patients with COVID do not have some good bacteria that are known to regulate our immune system,”

; said Dr. Siew Ng of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The presence of an unusual range of intestinal bacteria or “dysbiosis” continues after the virus disappears and may play a role in the long-term symptoms that afflict some patients, she said. Her team has developed an oral formula of live bacteria known as probiotics and a special capsule to protect organisms until they reach the intestines. “Compared to standard-care patients, our pilot clinical study showed that more COVID patients who received our microbiome immunity formula achieved complete resolution of symptoms,” said Ng, adding that those who did received, had significantly reduced markers of inflammation in the blood, increased favorable bacteria in their stools and they developed neutralizing antibodies against the virus. (https://bit.ly/3q9u1hb)

The pandemic affects the mental health of workers in the intensive care unit

Nearly half of the staff working in intensive care units in England have severe anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, and some feel they would be better off dying, researchers said Wednesday in Occupational Medicine. The study was conducted in June and July – before Britain began experiencing its final jump in hospitalizations. Among more than 700 health workers in nine intensive care units, 45% reached the threshold of probable clinical significance for at least one of the four serious mental disorders: major depression (6%), PTSD (40%), severe anxiety (11%), or drinking problem (7%). More than one in eight reported frequent self-harm or suicidal thoughts in the previous two weeks. Poor mental health among intensive care staff caring for seriously ill and dying patients with COVID-19 not only impairs their quality of life, but also likely impairs their ability to work effectively, the researchers said. The findings show an urgent need for mental health services to be immediately accessible to all health professionals. (https://bit.ly/2LN5SOQ; https://reut.rs/38GlzAn)

Cooling vests help COVID-19 nurses to tolerate PPE

Small studies have shown that nurses in COVID-19 wards who wear cooling vests under their personal protective equipment (PPE) feel less stressed. Seventeen nurses wore a lightweight cooling vest under PPE on one day and PPE on another day. On both days, the participants swallowed an electronic capsule, which provides continuous reading of the basic body temperature. The vests led to a slight improvement in body temperature, but a much greater improvement in the feeling of being too hot, the researchers reported in the journal Temperature. Only 18% of nurses reported thermal discomfort and 35% reported a slightly warm thermal sensation at the end of the day with the vest. This compared to 81% and 94%, respectively, on the day without the vest. “PPE is known to cause heat stress, which increases fatigue and sensory dissatisfaction, and is known to impair effective decision-making,” said study co-author Tees Eisvogels of Radbud University Medical Center in the Netherlands. CoolOver vests, manufactured by Dutch company Inuteq, are easy to disinfect and reactivate in the refrigerator, he said, and can extend work tolerance time and improve the recovery of clinicians involved in COVID-19 care. (https://bit.ly/2K9sXe5)

Diabetes adds to COVID-19 the risks for black patients

Black patients with type 1 diabetes (T1D) who become infected with the new coronavirus face a particularly high risk of a life-threatening complication of diabetes known as ketoacidosis, new data show. T1D usually develops in children or young adults and requires daily insulin to survive. The researchers studied 180 patients across the United States with T1D and COVID-19, including 31% who were black and 26% who were Hispanic. Black patients are almost four times more likely to develop diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) than white patients, the researchers reported in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Spaniards had a slightly higher risk than white patients. Blacks and Spaniards are significantly less likely to use new diabetes technology, such as continuous glucose monitoring and insulin pumps, and have significantly poorer blood sugar control than white patients. This suggests that the higher risk is likely due to structural and systemic inequalities, Dr. Osagi Ebekozien of the non-profit Boston T1D told Reuters. Particularly during a pandemic, healthcare providers should examine patients with T1D for socioeconomic factors that increase the risk of DKA such as food insecurity, insulin availability and access to diabetes supplies, the researchers said. (http://bit.ly/3hWJZs8)

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(Report by Nancy Lapid and Megan Brooks; Edited by Bill Bercrot)

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