Sources and updates, April 16

  • Long COVID care access challenges: A new paper, published this week in JAMA Network Open, shares the results of a survey by the Urban Institute think tank. The researchers surveyed about 9,500 adults, including 800 with self-reported Long COVID, about their experiences accessing medical care. The long-haulers were more likely to report difficulties with accessing and paying for care, compared to adults who don’t have the condition. To address this issue, the healthcare system needs to develop clinical guidelines for Long COVID, train workers about it, address insurance barriers, and more, the researchers said.
  • PolyBio announces Long COVID research agenda: Speaking of Long COVID: the PolyBio Research Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to Long COVID, ME/CFS, and other chronic conditions, has announced several research projects that it’s supporting. The projects will evaluate potential biological mechanisms underlying Long COVID symptoms, such as virus persisting in different parts of the body, changes in T cell activity, microclots, and more. PolyBio has a great reputation for pushing ahead post-viral disease research, and I’m looking forward to seeing the results of these studies.
  • Bivalent boosters hold up against XBB variants: Another new study that caught my attention this week: researchers at the University of North Carolina and North Carolina state health department reported on how well the bivalent, Omicron-specific boosters worked, based on the agency’s surveillance data. The study examined data from September 2022 through February 2023, a period when the BQ and XBB subvariants were dominating coronavirus spread. North Carolina residents who received the bivalent boosters were significantly less likely to experience severe COVID-19 symptoms, the researchers found, but their protection started to wane within a month after receiving the shots.
  • Resources on indoor air quality in schools: Journalist’s Resource recently updated this list of research and resources for journalists interested in covering indoor air quality in K-12 schools. The update follows a CDC report showing that many public schools across the U.S. have failed to upgrade their ventilation, despite federal funding to do so (which I covered last week). School air quality is a topic that deserves more reporting, especially from local journalists who can dig into how their school districts are doing.
  • Arizona county starts monitoring for a fungus in wastewater: I’m always on the lookout for new uses of wastewater surveillance, and one promising application could be tracking Candida auris, a fungal pathogen that’s resistant to common drugs and spreads quickly in healthcare settings. The Arizona state health department and a lab at the University of Arizona recently launched a pilot program to track this fungus through Yuma County’s wastewater. Arizona and neighboring southwest states have been a hotbed for C. auris; if this pilot is successful, other states could start similar efforts.

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