Air Pollution Compounds SARS-CoV-2, Daily Aspirin Reduces Death Risk, NYC Cases Linked To Europe: COVID-19 Updates

October 30, 2020 I Acuity score predicts outcomes, elderly population at highest risk for COVID-19 death in care homes, Black Hispanics suffering worst outcomes, death rates drop by half in England, healthcare workers and their families account for a sixth of hospital admissions, and the pandemic will profoundly affect births and gender roles. Plus: Diabetic kidney disease cells resemble COVID-19 damaged kidneys, one third of patients given EEG have frontal lobe abnormalities, most people develop strong antibodies that last months, recovered individuals may be asymptomatic carriers, many COVID-19 patients have vitamin D deficiency, and vaccine tracker provides real-time updates.


Research News

More than 90% of people with mild to moderate COVID-19 produce a strong antibody response and maintain those antibodies for at least five months, according to new research from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. These findings were based on over 30,000 participants who were screened at Mount Sinai between March and October using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The research team then recalled 121 plasma donors at a variety of titer levels (with the vast majority having moderate to high titers of anti-spike antibodies) for repeat testing at three and five months after symptom onset. These follow-up tests revealed that a moderate level of antibody was retained by most people at 5 months post-symptom onset. This study is published in Science. DOI:10.1126/science.abd7728

Healthcare workers and their families account for 17%, or 1 in 6, of hospital admissions for COVID-19 in the working age population (18-65 years old), according to new research published in The BMJ. UK researchers based their findings on Scottish workforce data from 158,445 healthcare workers, 229,905 household members, and the general population from March to June. They found that when compared to other adults of working age, healthcare workers and their households accounted for 17% of all COVID-19 related hospital admissions, even though they only represent 11% of the working age population. DOI:10.1136/bmj.m3582

National Institutes of Health (NIH) researchers have discovered that coronaviruses use lysosomes to exit infected cells, and that they stay completely intact. This research, published in Cell, shows that coronavirus de-acidifies lysosomes which significantly weakens the activity of their destructive enzymes. With this discovery, the team aims to find ways to disrupt this pathway to prevent lysosomes from delivering viruses to the outside of the cell, or in other terms, re-acidify lysosomes to restore their normal function so they can fight SARS-CoV-2. They have already identified one enzyme inhibitor that may block coronaviruses from leaving the infected cell. DOI:10.1016/j.cell.2020.10.039

Nearly 17% of recovered COVID-19 patients could still be asymptomatic carriers of the virus, finds a new study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. The study included 131 patients who met criteria for discontinuing quarantine at least two weeks before their follow-up visit. These criteria, specified by the World Health Organization (WHO), were no fever without fever-reducing medications for three days, improvement in any symptoms related to COVID-19, be more than seven days past onset of symptoms, and test negative for SARS-CoV-2 twice at least 24 hours apart with RT-PCR testing. In these patients, a new RT-PCR test was administered at the time of post-acute care admission and 22 patients tested positive again (16.7%). Researchers also found that persistence of sore throat and rhinitis were associated with those SARS-CoV-2 positive patients. DOI:10.1016/j.amepre.2020.08.014

New research conducted by the Stroke Research Group at the University of Cambridge finds that stroke occurs in 14 out of every 1,000 COVID-19 patients admitted to the hospital. The study, published in the International Journal of Stroke, analyzed 61 studies with more than 100,000 patients admitted to the hospital with COVID-19. Among those stroke victims, the most common was acute ischemic stroke which occurred in 12 out of every 1,000 cases. Age (average 4.8 years older), pre-existing conditions (particularly high blood pressure), and severity of infection were all found to be risk factors of developing stroke with SARS-CoV-2. The researchers attribute COVID-19 associated strokes to blood coagulation, inflammation in blood vessel linings, and over-reaction of the immune system triggering ‘cytokine storm’. DOI:10.1177/1747493020972922

University of California, Irvine researchers in partnership with the Orange County Health Care Agency have found that 11.5% of Orange County residents have antibodies for COVID-19, compared to the previous estimates of less than 2%. Researchers tested a representative sample of OC residents for this study, call the actOC project. Rates were highest among Latino and low-income residents (17% and 15%, respectively). The study confirms the concerns over inequalities during this pandemic and researchers recommend improved strategies for testing access to all communities. The team plans to follow up with a subset of 200 people who have SARS-CoV-2 antibodies every two weeks for four months to look at their immune response over time. This study is published on the pre-print server site MedRxiv. DOI:10.1101/2020.10.07.20208660

New research led at NYU Grossman School of Medicine traces the origins of New York City’s SARS-CoV-2 outbreak and shows that the virus first appeared in late February and closely matches strains from Europe or other states in the U.S. rather than those from China. The study, published in Genome Research, collected viral genetic information on 864 nasal swabs from COVID-19 positive individuals in New York between March 12 and May 10. The researchers then compared the gene sequences of the virus from those samples to the original strain isolated last winter from Wuhan, China patients. This revealed not only that these strains did not closely match those from China, but that the virus stemmed from at least 109 different sources rather than from a single infected person. Authors of the study also noted that 95% of New Yorkers with COVID-19 had a strain with a mutation, making it easier to transmit to others. DOI:10.1101/gr.266676.120

A new AI-based score, called the COVID-19 Acuity Score (CoVA), predicts which patients are most likely to develop complications and require hospitalization. A team of experts from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) along with machine learning designed this score based on input from information on 9,381 adult patients treated at MGH’s clinics and emergency department between March and May 2020. The model was then tested in another 2,205 patients and demonstrated accuracy in predicting which patients would require hospitalization, experience critical disease or death. The top five predictors for CoVA were age, diastolic blood pressure, blood oxygen saturation, COVID-19 testing status and respiratory rate. This study is published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases. DOI:10.1093/infdis/jiaa663

Research from the University of Georgia has discovered a link between cognitive disorders and risk of developing severe COVID-19. The study, published in Brain, Behavior and Immunity, analyzed data from UK Biobank, a long-term study of more than 500,000 participants investigating connections between genetic predisposition and environmental exposure to development of disease. They focused on nearly 1,000 diseases and two specific genes, ACE2 and TPMPRSS2, to compare health profiles of COVID-19 patients with those testing negative and looking for commonalities between those COVID-19 patients. The most significant associations were cognitive disorders and Type 2 diabetes, although the mechanisms behind these connections to COVID-19 are not known. DOI:10.1016/j.bbi.2020.10.019

Individuals who exercise regularly experience less anxiety and depression and these active individuals increased their exercise habits during the middle of the pandemic, a survey has found conducted by researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Survey participants were members of a Norwegian fitness training organization, and the researchers aimed to find connections between mental health and sleep quality, as well as look at changes in exercise habits as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. They found improved mental health in those who were physically active, but surprisingly increasing exercise habits did not affect quality of sleep. Individuals with anxiety and depression, despite their level of exercise, consistently slept less. While exercise improved mental health, some active participants still suffered from anxiety and depression which led to poorer quality of sleep. These findings are published in Sleep Medicine. DOI:10.1016/j.sleep.2020.08.030

Older adults (70 years old and over) have the highest risk of dying from COVID-19 by living in a care home or with someone who is of working age (younger than 66 years old), according to new research published in The Lancet Healthy Longevity. This observational study used data from the cause-of-death register in Sweden to identify COVID-19 mortality or mortality from other causes among people over 70 years old living in Stockholm. They found that those in care homes were four times more likely to die from COVID-19 when compared to those living independently and living with someone of working age was associated with a 60% increase in COVID-19 mortality when compared to living with another older adult (over 66 years old). The researchers suggest further analysis on the impacts of living arrangements on SARS-CoV-2 transmission and how it affects the elderly population. DOI:10.1016/S1473-3099(20)30773-8

New research led by Boston Medical Center shows that Black Hispanic individuals suffer the most severe outcomes from COVID-19. The study, published in the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, analyzed data reported to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between April and May with a cohort of 78,323 people. Hispanic Black individuals had the highest rate of comorbidities and hospitalizations, 51% and 45% respectively. All Hispanic individuals were more likely to be hospitalized and die from COVID-19, however Black Hispanics fared the worst. DOI:10.1007/s10903-020-01111-5

Death rates from severe COVID-19 have dropped by half in England when compared to the peak of the pandemic, new research has discovered. A research team led by University of Exeter analyzed over 21,000 hospital admissions and found this significant drop between March and the end of June. One of the researchers emphasizes that despite this encouraging finding, a quarter of admissions to the intensive care unit were still dying at its lowest point and controlling the spread of COVID-19 is still crucial. These findings are published in Critical Care Medicine. DOI:10.1097/CCM.0000000000004747

One-third of COVID-19 patients given an electroencephalogram (EEG) had abnormal neuroimaging in the frontal lobe of the brain, new research finds led at Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh. The researchers collected more than 80 studies focusing on EEG abnormalities and analyzed the data to provide a clearer view of how COVID-19 affects the brain. The most common findings were slowing or unusual electric discharge in the frontal lobe and some of the alterations found in COVID-19 patients indicated damage that may not be repairable after recovery. The authors of the study pointed out the location of the frontal lobe being directly next to the entry point of the virus, in the nose. They also noted that the average age of those affected was 61 years old and two-thirds were male. This study is published in Seizure: European Journal of Epilepsy. DOI:10.1016/j.seizure.2020.10.014

Coronaviruses were found to mimic over 150 proteins, including many that control blood coagulation or activate immune proteins that increase inflammation, a new study has found. This research, led at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and published in Cell Systems, used supercomputers to search for viral mimics with a program resembling 3D facial recognition software. More than 7,000 viruses and over 4,000 hosts across Earth’s ecosystems were scanned and 6 million instances of viral mimicry were uncovered, including coronaviruses – which were particularly good at it. DOI:10.1016/j.cels.2020.09.006

Research published in BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health suggests that high vitamin A, E and D intake may be linked to fewer respiratory complaints in adults. The researchers of this study looked at information provided by 6,115 participants in the 2008-2016 National Diet and Nutrition Survey Rolling Program (NDNS RP), which randomly selects adults living across the UK to complete diet diaries on food and drink consumption. Those who reported higher intake of vitamin A and E from diet and supplements and vitamin D through supplements were associated with lower prevalence of respiratory complaints. The authors believe these findings warrant further investigation in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. DOI:10.1136/bmjnph-2020-000150

Over 80% of COVID-19 patients have vitamin D deficiency, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. The researchers examined 216 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Spain, and additionally found that those with vitamin D deficiency also had elevated levels of inflammatory markers, such as ferritin and D-dimer, in their blood. This study is one of many indicating the potential benefits of vitamin D on the immune system. DOI:10.1210/clinem/dgaa733

A new study, published in Cardiovascular Research, estimates that exposure to air pollution increases deaths from COVID-19 by 15% worldwide. The researchers used epidemiology data from previous studies on air pollution and SARS-CoV-2, combined with satellite data showing global exposure to particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5), to create a model that calculates COVID-19 deaths that could be attributed to long-term exposure of PM2.5. Researchers explained that the virus and PM2.5 both enter the body through the lungs and migrate to blood and blood vessels, causing inflammation and damage to the vessels. When there is both long-term exposure to air pollution and COVID-19 infection present, the two compound each other. The authors also noted that it is likely that particulate matter plays a role in ‘super-spreading events’. DOI:10.1093/cvr/cvaa288

T-cells from recovered COVID-19 patients have potential to protect those with compromised immune systems, new research led at Children’s National Hospital has found. The study, published in Blood, successfully multiplied donor T-cells while maintaining their ability to target viral proteins. This suggests that adoptive immunotherapy using SARS-CoV-2 fighting T-cells from convalescent donors may be effective at protecting and treating vulnerable patients who are unable to receive a vaccine due to their underlying conditions. DOI:10.1182/blood.2020008488

Researchers at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have shown the cardiac impact of COVID-19 through ultrasounds. The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, looked at transthoracic electrocardiographic (TTE) and electrocardiographic (ECG) scans from 305 hospitalized adult patients with COVID-19 between March and May 2020 (median age 63 years old). 190 (62.6%) of those patients had evidence of myocardial injury – 118 patients had heart damage upon admission and 72 patients developed cardiac injury during hospitalization. Patients with myocardial injury had more EKG and TTE abnormalities and higher inflammatory biomarkers than those patients without cardiac injury. Furthermore, researchers looked at troponin levels in these patients and 31.7% showed troponin elevation who also had myocardial injury and EKG abnormalities, giving these patients the worse prognosis. Researchers added that follow-up for these patients will be critical. DOI:10.1016/j.jacc.2020.08.069

Hospitalizations for acute and chronic conditions have decreased significantly since the beginning of the pandemic, a retrospective study published in JAMA Internal Medicine has found. The research team looked at admissions to four NYU Langone Health hospitals between March 1 and May 9 in the years 2018, 2019, and 2020, excluding any admissions for COVID-19. They found a sharp decrease in non-COVID-19 hospitalizations (3,657) compared to 2018 (5,368) and 2019 (6,411) during that same time period. Potential causes for this decline include patient avoidance or loss of health insurance, however this data could suggest prior overuse of hospitalization or improvements in patient lifestyle and self-management. DOI:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.3978

A UK cohort study, called COVID-19 Social Study, aims to monitor depressive symptoms and severity among at-risk groups during the pandemic. This ongoing study was established on March 21 and data analysis was conducted in May 2020 comprising over 50,000 adults. 33.3% of participants from this sample were in the lowest socioeconomic position (SEP), 22.1% were classified as essential workers, and 12% were Black, Asian, or of a racial minority. Based on participant responses, researchers found that those with low SEP were the most at-risk to experience severe depressive symptoms, as well as those participants with psychosocial and health-related risk factors. These findings are published in JAMA Network Open. DOI:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.26064

Daily low-dose aspirin use may reduce risk of death and complications from SARS-CoV-2 infection, a new study led by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) has found. The study, which is published in the journal Anesthesia and Analgesia, examined medical records of 412 hospitalized COVID-19 patients (average age of 55) and about 25% were taking a daily lose-dose aspirin to manage cardiovascular disease. Researchers found that aspirin use was associated with a 44% reduction in requiring mechanical ventilation, 43% reduction in the risk of ICU admission, and 47% decrease in the risk of death from COVID-19 when compared to those patients not taking aspirin. The authors note that the blood thinning effects of aspirin likely contributed to these risk reductions and that a larger randomized clinical trial is needed to confirm this promising finding. DOI:10.1213/ANE.0000000000005292

A team of researchers at Duke University have developed a lab-grown lung model that mimics the air sacs of human lungs. This model has allowed them to observe how SARS-CoV-2 infection attacks the lung cells on a molecular level. Dubbed mini-lungs, these lung organoids are purely human without any helper cells that would interfere with accurate findings. The team plans to next examine a new strain of SARS-CoV-2, called D614G, that has emerged in Italy. A description of this development and early experiments with COVID-19 are published in the journal Cell Stem Cell. DOI:10.1016/j.stem.2020.10.005

The COVID-19 pandemic will profoundly affect birthrates, marriage, gender roles and relationships for years to come, say scientists who analyzed 90 research studies and provided their insight in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Authors predict a decrease in planned pregnancies, marriage postponement, and a shift toward socially conservative gender norms. Women scholars are publishing substantially less research when compared to one year ago, while men have shown increased productivity, as women take on more childcare and schooling responsibilities. The authors also provide insight from an evolutionary perspective on how that has molded our response to the pandemic and how it will shape our future. DOI:10.1073/pnas.2009787117

A study conducted at Tongji Hospital of Huazhong University of Science and Technology enrolled over 35,000 individuals who had no known history of COVID-19 to screen for antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. Participants were over 18 years old (median age 36) and the serological tests screened for IgM and IgG antibodies. Overall, researchers of this study found a seropositivity rate of 3.9%. This rate was highest among those living in urban districts, in women compared to men, and significantly higher in participants over the age of 60 years old (9.2%). The study points out several limitations to these findings, such as few participants over the age of 60 and the possibility that low levels of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies may be undetected in population-based studies. This research is published in JAMA Network Open. DOI:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.25717

Diabetic kidney cells behave similarly to kidney cells in COVID-19 patients with kidney damage, potentially making diabetes and SARS-CoV-2 a deadly combination. A new study, published in Kidney International, looked at molecular processes in biopsies from healthy kidney donors and patients with diabetic kidney disease, as well as kidney cells in urine samples from COVID-19 patients with kidney damage. Machine learning was used to identify biological connections between genes and functionally related groups of genes (or modules). Several modules were present in both the COVID-19 patients’ kidney cells and the cells from diabetic kidney disease patients. This finding suggests that cells from diabetic kidney patients may be more vulnerable to COVID-19 and the two together may exacerbate each other’s effects. The study did not, however, look at gene expression in kidney cells from patients with both diabetes and COVID-19 and the researchers suggest further investigation. DOI:10.1016/j.kint.2020.09.015

New mathematical modeling shows the optimal timing for antiviral therapies to reduce duration of viral shedding and intensity of inflammatory response from COVID-19. The study, published in Science Advances, details how the mathematical model was formulated based on four datasets of SARS-CoV-2 viral shedding and viral load from 25 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in four different countries. The researchers then applied their model to the small molecule drugs remdesivir and selinexor, broadly neutralizing antibodies, and cellular immunotherapy. They found that optimal timing for these therapies was after peak viral load, or onset of symptoms, to reduce duration of viral shedding and intensity of immune responses. However, administering a potent dose of these therapies before peak viral load, when pre-symptomatic, provides the greatest suppression of viral “area under the curve” (AUC). Authors did warn that a potent antiviral agent administered during this frame of time could cause drug resistance. DOI:10.1126/sciadv.abc7112

A global survey with 7,754 respondents shows that the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown drastically affected quality of sleep, mental health, and exercise habits negatively. Researchers from this survey also found that these effects were even worse for those with obesity. Individuals with obesity experienced the highest incidence of weight gain (one-third) and largest toll on their mental health. Overall, participants reported less exercise, poor quality of sleep, and much higher anxiety levels, however, healthy eating increased due to less dining out. Of the more than 7,000 respondents, the majority were from the United States and half from Louisiana, but the authors report that the responses were largely the same across the globe despite this. This survey study is published in Obesity. DOI:10.1002/oby.23066

Patients with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, respiratory or cardiovascular conditions, have a much greater risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19 infection. Additionally, risk factors for those with chronic conditions, like substance abuse, social isolation and poor diet, have increased during the pandemic. This study, published in Frontiers in Public Health, reviewed literature of this synergistic impact on individuals with chronic diseases and COVID-19 in low and middle-income countries. The authors compared this COVID-19 ‘syndemic’ to a ‘synergistic epidemic’, which is a term coined to describe the relationship between the HIV/AIDS epidemic and substance abuse and violence. This research was conducted by the University of New South Wales and public health researchers in Nepal, Brazil and India. DOI:10.3389/fpubh.2020.00508

COVID-19 infection may pose increased risk for the development of Parkinson’s disease (PD), according to a new commentary published in the Trends of Neurosciences. Three cases were explored of patients who developed Parkinson’s-like symptoms following SARS-CoV-2 infection and had no family history of the disease or any known early symptoms. Based on evidence from those three case studies, researchers pinpointed three possible ways COVID-19 infection could trigger the onset of PD: loss of dopamine, inflammation triggered in the brain, and an increase in alpha-synuclein. The authors note that long-term studies are needed to confirm this possible relationship. DOI:10.1016/j.tins.2020.10.009

New research suggests that diabetes and low albumin levels may reduce the effectiveness of dexamethasone. The team of scientists determined how serum albumin transports dexamethasone and that low levels of albumin, a result of diabetes and high blood sugar levels or other drug interactions, can decrease the drugs ability to calm a hyperactive immune system in severe COVID-19 patients. To get a better understanding of serum albumin’s role in COVID-19, researchers analyzed 373 patients from a Wuhan, China hospital and found that those who died had lower albumin levels and higher levels of blood sugar than survivors, aligning with the researchers’ conclusions. These findings can be found in the journal IUCrJ. DOI:10.1107/S2052252520012944

A new COVID-19 antibody testing method developed by University of Michigan (U-M) scientists, called “lab on a chip”, can identify COVID-19 antibodies faster and more efficiently than the current ELISA technology. U-M researchers along with Hackensack Meridian Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI) have demonstrated that this device takes only 15 minutes with just a finger prick’s worth of blood to detect the presence and amount of neutralizing antibodies. This new tool could have particular value for the validation of convalescent plasma as a treatment for COVID-19. These findings are published in Biosensors and Bioelectronics. DOI:10.1016/j.bios.2020.112572

Asymptomatic children with COVID-19 may carry less viral load than symptomatic children, a new study finds that is published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology. The study included 339 asymptomatic and 478 symptomatic children (0-17 years old) that were matched by age groups from nine children’s hospitals across the US and Canada. All children were screened using a PCR test. The analysis revealed that even when looking at asymptomatic patients with the highest viral loads (children with diabetes or those in recent close contact with an infected person), the median viral loads were still significantly lower than in the symptomatic group. The authors raise the question of timing and test sensitivity, noting that the PCR test may have missed the peak of the virus in asymptomatic children and that the levels of the virus would have not been detected using a rapid antigen test for many of the asymptomatic children. DOI:10.1128/JCM.02593-20

A new study, published in Neurology, shows that immune response may be the underlying cause of neural damage in COVID-19 patients, not the virus itself. This study from the University of Gothenburg examined cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples from six hospitalized COVID-19 patients that showed signs of brain impairment. The samples were analyzed for biomarkers that reflect the brain’s response to the virus, and every patient exhibited markedly elevated levels of neopterin and beta-2-microglobulin (inflammation markers), suggesting substantial brain immune cell activation. In contrast, no impact was observed on markers for damage to the blood-brain barrier, local antibody productions or raised white blood-cell count, indicating that the virus was likely not present in the CSF samples. DOI:10.1212/WNL.0000000000010977

Anxiety related to COVID-19 may be triggering body image issues in both men and women, according to new research led at Anglia Ruskin University. The study, published in Personality and Individual Differences, involved 506 adults in the UK with an average age of 34 and found that COVID-19 related anxiety led to body dissatisfaction in both men and women. Among female participants, feelings of COVID-19 related stress were associated with a greater desire for thinness, and among male participants, a greater desire for muscularity. These findings may be due to perceived pressures to conform to stereotypical gender roles and messaging about self-improvement. DOI:10.1016/j.paid.2020.110426

New research led at NYU Grossman School of Medicine shows that New York death rates from COVID-19 are declining. The study, published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, analyzed 5,263 patient records of COVID-19 patients at NYU Langone hospitals between March 1 and August 8. Then, using a range of risk factors and indicators for disease severity, they developed a model that predicted probability of death from the virus. Researchers found that by mid-August the death rate of those hospitalized COVID-19 patients had dropped from 27 percentage points (in March) to about 3 percentage points. The researchers credit this decline to several factors, including a shift in the population contracting the virus toward those who are more resilient, more informed health care providers and improved treatments. DOI:10.12788/jhm.3552 | 10.12788/jhm.3552


Industry News

Emulate, Inc. announced that it has entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the FDA to enable agency-wide studies at FDA to use Organs-on-Chips technology to better understand COVID-19 and evaluate safety of potential vaccines. The CRADA studies will use the Human Emulation System from Emulate - comprised of Organ-Chips, instrumentation and software apps – which is able to recreate the natural physiology of human tissues and organs in several research areas. These research areas include a Lung-Chip, Brain-Chip, Intestine-Chip and Liver-Chip. The Lung-Chip will be used to evaluate COVID-19 vaccines and understand the human immune response against SARS-CoV-2. Press Release

Results of the COVID-19 Host Genetics Initiative (HGI) study were presented at the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) 2020 Virtual Meeting. The COVID-19 HGI was formed in March 2020 as a way to bring the international human genetics community together and generate, share, and analyze data related to COVID-19. By June 2020, the HGI included 190 studies from 46 countries and more than 1,100 researchers. The results of the latest meta-analyses are available on the initiative’s website. Press Release

McGill University researchers have developed a vaccine tracker that provides real-time updates on progress in developing a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. The online tracker offers weekly updates on more than 50 vaccines currently in human trials, and the team is working on building a comprehensive database detailing the characteristics of each vaccine in development around the globe. A color-coded map updates the number of vaccine candidates, registered trials, and highest trial stage for each country, all while allowing users to submit questions about the vaccines underway. Press Release

A real-time tracking system, called the System for Opioid Overdose Surveillance (SOS), shows a 15% rise in suspected opioid overdose deaths across Michigan since the beginning of the pandemic. This system also indicated a rise in first responders’ use of naloxone by 29% in late spring and summer, after an initial dip in the early months of the COVID-19 outbreak when efforts were focused on the virus. The rise in opioid overdose deaths also correlated with the Michigan counties hit the hardest by COVID-19. Press Release

A new model using an artificial intelligence-based algorithm predicts acute kidney injury (AKI) requiring dialysis in COVID-19 patients. Using data from more than 3,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai trained a model based on machine learning to predict AKI that requires dialysis. This model demonstrated high accuracy and features that were important for prediction, including blood levels of creatinine and potassium, age, heart rate, and oxygen saturation. This research is being presented online during the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) Kidney Week 2020 Reimagined. Press Release

NCI Serological Sciences Network for COVID-19 (SeroNet) has granted $2 million to fund a new methodology development from UMass Medical School that uses a storytelling approach to increase Black and Hispanic representation in COVID-19 immunology studies. Researchers hope to identify barriers, engage and listen to community members that are underrepresented – potentially due to lack of trust, inability to take time off work, and the expenses and time related to traveling to a study clinic. Through this storytelling method, they aim to connect to these community members by hearing and seeing individuals like themselves that emphasize the importance of study involvement. Press Release

Researchers out of Virginia Tech have received a Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to examine how digital information impacts decision-making and behaviors related to COVID-19. To determine this, the researchers will conduct a survey among 400 participants in five major cities around the United States (New York, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta and Washington, DC) and track response differences in risk perceptions, preferences and behaviors to compare them across locations. Major goals of this survey research are to examine how hypothetical contexts affect a person’s decision-making, specifically related to potential vaccine effectiveness and availability, and how the quantity and quality of COVID-19 related digital information shapes behaviors and risk perceptions. Press Release

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