Sources and updates, September 17

  • Public comments to the CDC about infection control measures: The People’s CDC, a public health communication and advocacy organization that seeks to fill gaps left by the federal CDC, has published a database of comments about the importance of infection control measures in healthcare settings. These comments were sent to the CDC’s Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC), as the committee considers changing the agency’s guidance to be more lenient about preventing infections in healthcare settings. As the CDC has not published comments publicly itself, the People’s CDC “asked people to forward us their comments to HICPAC, and created the People’s Register.” For more details about HICPAC, see this post.
  • Recommendations for masks, nasal sprays, other tools: In response to last week’s post discussing how nasal sprays may be used to reduce COVID-19 risk, a reader shared this video from RTHM Health, a telehealth clinic focused on Long COVID and related complex chronic diseases. “This video has a section with a good overview of different sprays and the strength of evidence for each one,” the reader wrote. The video also includes recommendations for high-quality reusable masks and respirators, along with other COVID-19 safety tools.
  • Wastewater surveillance for flu, RSV: A new study, published this week in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, discusses how wastewater surveillance can complement other methods of monitoring the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Researchers at Wisconsin’s state health department, the CDC, and other collaborators tracked flu and RSV in three Wisconsin cities’ sewage during last winter’s respiratory virus season. They found that wastewater trends “often preceded a rise” in emergency department visits for these viruses. This study follows other research that has shown wastewater surveillance can be a predictive tool for many diseases, not just COVID-19.
  • Better understanding coronavirus interactions with human cells: Another recent study, published in the journal Viruses, discusses how SARS-CoV-2 interacts with the proteins in human cells as it replicates. The research team (based at the University of California Riverside) identified a specific cellular process that the virus’ N protein hijacks and uses to copy its genetic material, leading to more coronavirus in the body. These findings could be used to develop new antiviral treatments that target this cellular process, both for COVID-19 and other similar diseases, the researchers said in a press release.
  • Limitations of prior immunity to COVID-19: One more recent paper that caught my attention: researchers at the University of Geneva in Switzerland studied how prior infection and/or vaccination can impact COVID-19 risk, based on about 50,000 cases and associated contact tracing data from the city of Geneva. The researchers found that both a recent infection and vaccination reduced the risk of getting infected from a close contact sick with COVID-19. But both types of immunity faded within a few months, leading people to remain vulnerable in the long-term. This study suggests that vaccines alone are not sufficient to control the spread of COVID-19; masks, ventilation improvements, and other interventions are needed, the authors argue.
  • NIH tests universal flu vaccine: Speaking of vaccines: the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (or NIAID, one of the National Institutes of Health) announced this week that it’s starting a new trial for a universal flu vaccine. This vaccine, developed by NIAID researchers, can prompt the body to make antibodies against a wide variety of flu strains rather than focusing on one variant. The vaccine has done well in animal studies and is now ready for a phase one clinical trial. NIAID plans to test the vaccine in 24 volunteers, and will follow them closely through immune system testing to see how the vaccine performs.

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