Medium Elemental: The first documented case of Covid-19 in the United States was reported half a year ago, days before early warnings from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that a “very serious public health threat” loomed. Yet health officials had only a rough idea of how the novel coronavirus spread, who the disease affected most, and how to best combat transmission and provide treatment. Public messaging on the seriousness of the virus was at times conflicting and confusing, including the early advice not to wear masks. Six months later, scientists have a firm handle on how the virus spreads and what should be done to get the pandemic under control. Here are nine things we know about Covid-19 now that we didn’t know then.
CDC Study: Older adults and those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and obesity are at higher risk for severe COVID-19–associated illness. The median model-based estimate of the prevalence of any of five underlying medical conditions associated with increased risk for severe COVID-19–associated illness among U.S. adults was 47.2% among 3,142 U.S. counties. The estimated number of persons with these conditions followed population distributions, but prevalence was higher in more rural counties.
The Straits Times: Dogs with a few days of training are capable of identifying people infected with the coronavirus, according to a study by a German veterinary university. Eight dogs from Germany’s armed forces were trained for only a week and were able to accurately identify the virus with a 94 per cent success rate, according to a pilot project led by the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover. Researchers challenged the dogs to sniff out Covid-19 in the saliva of more than 1,000 healthy and infected people.
Reuters: British scientists analysing data from a widely-used COVID-19 symptom-tracking app have found there are six distinct types of the disease, each distinguished by a cluster of symptoms. A King’s College London team found that the six types also correlated with levels of severity of infection, and with the likelihood of a patient needing help with breathing – such as oxygen or ventilator treatment – if they are hospitalised.
Forbes: The results from two new drug trials have failed to find evidence that hydroxychloroquine works to treat Covid-19. And a new peer review by one of Europe’s top doctors has found the study conducted by French professor Raoult–advocate of hydroxychloroquine–was “irresponsible”. It appears that Europe is turning its back on the drug’s champion.
STAT News: Amid a wave of research into potential Covid-19 therapies, a new analysis warns that some trials are being run by universities and companies in Europe that either have no track record filing any trial results with a European database or have failed to do so in the past. As a result, there is a risk that past performance might undermine the ongoing search for safe and effective treatments, according to the advocacy group that conducted the analysis.
Reuters: The following is a brief roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.
Scientific American: In some people, anosmia is the first or an early symptom, and for some the only symptom, of COVID-19. It is therefore tempting to look to anosmia as diagnostic. Indeed, right now, with the novel coronavirus raging across the country and world, a sudden loss of smell, especially in a city with large infection rates, is more likely associated with COVID-19 than anything else. Olfactory dysfunction is now listed as one of the key symptoms of the disease, and physicians are offered guidance for testing olfactory function.
PNAS.org: Our analysis reveals that the difference with and without mandated face covering represents the determinant in shaping the trends of the pandemic. This protective measure significantly reduces the number of infections.
STAT News: When a person is infected with the novel coronavirus, the deadliest symptoms often show up in the lungs. The reason is now well-understood: The virus enters through ACE2, an enzyme that is commonly found on the surface of lung cells and that, ordinarily, helps tamp down inflammation. When it’s interrupted, inflammatory forces run amok.