Sources and updates, September 3

  • CDC respiratory virus updates: The CDC has a new webpage dedicated to “updates on the respiratory illness season.” So far, it just includes summaries of the agency’s two reports on new variant BA.2.86. Going forward, the page will be updated weekly with further information on COVID-19, flu, RSV, and other viruses spreading this fall and winter.
  • Potential biomarker for Long COVID brain fog: A new paper, published this week in Nature by a coalition of researchers in the U.K., connects blood clot issues during acute COVID-19 to cognitive symptoms later on. The researchers found that some patients had low levels of two specific proteins connected to blood clots, based on blood samples taken early in their infections; the same patients were likely to experience brain fog and similar symptoms. If these results are replicated in other studies, the proteins could be used as biomarkers (i.e. medical indicators) of Long COVID symptoms, potentially a big step for research and treatments.
  • Long COVID research presented at Keystone Symposia event: Speaking of Long COVID research: scientists gathered to discuss this condition at a conference last week in New Mexico. The conference was hosted by Keystone Symposia, an organization that convenes meetings on important life sciences topics. Highlights from the event included a presentation showing changes to muscle tissue during post-exertional malaise, along with presentations from the Patient-Led Research Collaborative, the National Institutes of Health, Resia Pretorius from Stellenbosch University in South Africa, Akiko Iwasaki from Yale University, and more. I look forward to seeing papers expanding on the talks that occurred at this meeting.
  • COVID-19’s impact on Native Americans: Another notable paper from this week examined COVID-19’s disproportionate impacts on Native Americans in New Mexico. Researchers at the University of New Mexico Hospital analyzed patient outcomes in early pandemic waves, from spring 2020 through winter 2021. Compared to white and Hispanic patients, Native Americans were more likely to experience severe COVID-19 outcomes such as more time spent in the hospital and going on a ventilator. “Self-reported AI/AN race/ethnicity emerged as the highest risk factor for severe COVID-19,” the researchers reported, suggesting that this vulnerable group of people deserves additional safety resources.
  • COVID-19 burden for cancer patients: One more study to highlight: researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital examined COVID-19 mortality among cancer patients during the first two years of the pandemic, using data from the CDC. People with cancer were more likely to die of COVID-19 during the winter Omicron wave in 2021-2022, compared to the surge during the prior winter (with 18% higher deaths). Meanwhile, deaths among the general population went down from the first to the second winters. Like the study above, this paper suggests that greater protections are needed for vulnerable people during times of high COVID-19 spread. (For example: we could keep masks in healthcare settings!)

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