COVID: Top 8 Newest Scientific Findings

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1. Could cough syrup make COVID worse?

In an elegant study in the journal Nature, researchers cloned 26 of the 29 COVID proteins and found their binding human counterpart protein. This resulted in 332 different COVID-human protein-protein interactions. Of these, 66 were druggable and could be blocked by current medications: 29 FDA-approved drugs, 12 in clinical trials, & 28 untested compounds.

Which drugs worked? Antipsychotics like haloperidol and cloperazine; anti-histamines; and antidepressants.

BUT, one medication actually increased viral infection:

Dextromethorphan, the active ingredient in OTC cough syrups like Robutussin, Dayquil/Nyquil, Theraflu, Mucinex DM, & Tylenol Cough & Cold.

We await definitive results.

CAVEAT: This study took place in a petri dish and has NOT yet been validated in the real world setting aka within the human body. Nonetheless, very interesting, and this warrants further study.

2. The influence of a tweet?

In a fascinating experiment, researchers at Johns Hopkins tracked the number of Google searches in the US for “buy, order, Amazon, eBay, or Walmart” in combination with “chloroquine” or “hydroxychloroquine”.

The results?

The first and largest spike in searches corresponded directly with Elon Musk’s tweet and Trump’s first televised endorsement, respectively. In specific, search queries skyrocketed by 50x-fold for chloroquine thereafter.

The study concludes: “These changes represent about 93,000 and 96,000 more searches than expected for chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, respectively, with 216,000 total searches for both drugs over approximately 14 days.”

3. Did individuals stop coming to the hospital for their heart attacks and strokes?

A new study reveals that the number of heart attack hospitalizations was down nearly 26% from Feb-March across 15 hospitals in northern Italy as compared to prior.

Another study found a decrease of approximately 39% in acute stroke evaluations in US hospitals compared to before.

Our hidden casualties?

4. Do school closures work?

A new study in the journal Science sought to find out.

Researchers discovered that children were three times less likely to get infected by COVID compared to adults. BUT when schools were open, children had three times as many contacts as adults. Thus, three times as many opportunities to become infected. So the risk evened out.

Takeaway: School closures do seem to play a role in slowing down transmission from child-to-child who then pass it onto parents/teachers/adults.

5. Should we all be wearing face shields? Could a simple and affordable face shield, if universally adopted, provide enough protection?

Scientists tested the theory in a simulation study.

The results?

Face shields were shown to reduce immediate viral exposure by 96% when worn by a simulated health care worker within 18 inches of a cough. However, when smaller cough particles were tested, the face shields only blocked 68% of cough particles.

The study concludes: “Smaller particles can remain airborne longer and flow around the face shield more easily to be inhaled. Thus, they cannot be used as a substitute for respiratory protection.”

Takeaway: Face shields are not good enough alone but in addition to masks they theoretically could give an added benefit.

6. Are two tests better than one?

A new study looked at 140 patients and found that a throat swab detected only 52% of positive cases. But when combined with an antibody test (IgM ELISA for the nucleocapsid antigen) the sensitivity dramatically improved to detect 98.6% of cases.

Takeaway: If you’re presenting later in the course of your symptoms (5+ days out), the antibody test in conjunction might detect COVID better than just a throat or nasal swab alone.

7. A new study in Boston tested all adults living in a homeless shelter.

The results?

Of the 408 individuals, 147 tested positive for COVID: 36%.

Of these individuals, 88% were asymptomatic, 7.5% had cough, 1.4% shortness of breath, and 0.7% fever.

8. How vulnerable are healthcare workers? A new study tells us.

A study simulated virus contamination using an adult manikin programmed to cough exhaled droplet particles during a live resuscitation with real-life doctors and nurses. The results?

Contaminated particles were found on all 8 healthcare providers: 8 on the hair, 6 on the neck, 4 on the shoe, and 1 on the ear. There were an average of ~102 participant-manikin physical contacts. See picture (Source: JAMA).


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Sources:

A SARS-CoV-2 protein interaction map reveals targets for drug repurposing
Profiling early humoral response to diagnose novel coronavirus disease
Efficacy of face shields against cough aerosol droplets from a cough simulator.
Reduced Rate of Hospital Admissions for ACS during Covid-19 Outbreak in Northern Italy
Internet Searches for Unproven COVID-19 Therapies in the United States
Collateral Effect of Covid-19 on Stroke Evaluation in the United States
Changes in contact patterns shape the dynamics of the COVID-19 outbreak in China
Exposure to a Surrogate Measure of Contamination From Simulated Patients by Emergency Department Personnel Wearing Personal Protective Equipment
Prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Residents of a Large Homeless Shelter in Boston

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