To paraphrase Claude Rains in the movie Casablanca, “I’m shocked, shocked to learn that … “
During the COVID-19 pandemic months of March 2020 to September 2020, U.S. alcohol retail store sales increased compared to usual trends while food services and drinking places sales decreased markedly during the same period, according to a new study at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. These results indicate an increase in home drinking in the U.S. The findings are published online in the journal Alcohol.
The researchers used alcohol retail store sales data of beer, wine, and liquor store (BWLS) purchases from January 1992 to September 2020 from the Monthly Retail Trade Survey, which provides sales estimates at retail and food services. Alcohol sales changes in the U.S. throughout the COVID-19 pandemic were used as an indicator of at-home drinking. Calculating variations in monthly sales enabled the authors to show annual differences in monthly BWLS sales between consecutive years from 1992 to 2020.
A new Cleveland Clinic-led study has identified mechanisms by which COVID-19 can lead to Alzheimer’s disease-like dementia. The findings, published in Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy, indicate an overlap between COVID-19 and brain changes common in Alzheimer’s, and may help inform risk management and therapeutic strategies for COVID-19-associated cognitive impairment.
Reports of neurological complications in COVID-19 patients and “long-hauler” patients whose symptoms persist after the infection clears are becoming more common, suggesting that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) may have lasting effects on brain function. However, it is not yet well understood how the virus leads to neurological issues.
“While some studies suggest that SARS-CoV-2 infects brain cells directly, others found no evidence of the virus in the brain,” says Feixiong Cheng, Ph.D., assistant staff in Cleveland Clinic’s Genomic Medicine Institute and lead author on the study. “Identifying how COVID-19 and neurological problems are linked will be critical for developing effective preventive and therapeutic strategies to address the surge in neurocognitive impairments that we expect to see in the near future.”
In the study, the researchers harnessed artificial intelligence using existing datasets of patients with Alzheimer’s and COVID-19. They measured the proximity between SARS-CoV-2 host genes/proteins and those associated with several neurological diseases where closer proximity suggests related or shared disease pathways. The researchers also analyzed the genetic factors that enabled SARS-COV-2 to infect brain tissues and cells.
Vaccine negativity and reluctance didn’t just emerge during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a recent study published in the Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness journal, authors from Loyola University Maryland and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health explored the appearance of negative dominance – a concept in which negative messages outweigh positive, solution-oriented messages in audiences’ perceptions – in the context of COVID-19 vaccine-related information and activity online.
Prior research has looked at media coverage to identify vaccine concerns among the public and its impact on vaccine-related beliefs and behaviors, the spread of misinformation and fake news on the Internet, and the role of social media in aiding vaccine hesitancy, among others. Surprisingly, however, research to date has yet to explicitly explore negative dominance of vaccine-related information online using more recently developed tools for analyzing big data.
In a new study from University of California San Diego School of Medicine, researchers have confirmed that patients taking statin medications had a 41 percent lower risk of in-hospital death from COVID-19. The findings were published July 15, 2021 in PLOS ONE and expand upon prior research conducted at UC San Diego Health in 2020.
Statins are commonly used to reduce blood cholesterol levels by blocking liver enzymes responsible for making cholesterol. They are widely prescribed: The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 93 percent of patients who use a cholesterol-lowering drug use a statin.
“When faced with this virus at the beginning of the pandemic, there was a lot of speculation surrounding certain medications that affect the body’s ACE2 receptor, including statins, and whether they may influence COVID-19 risk,” said Lori Daniels, MD, lead study author, professor and director of the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at UC San Diego Health.
“At the time, we thought that statins may inhibit SARS-CoV-2 infection through their known anti-inflammatory effects and binding capabilities, which could potentially stop progression of the virus.”
A year after the first U.S. coronavirus deaths, UCLA sociologist Patrick Heuveline reports on the dramatic impact
As a demographer — someone who studies how human populations grow and change — UCLA professor of sociology Patrick Heuveline typically spends time each year traveling around the world, talking to people about their hopes for their families and their dreams for the future.
“Demography is obviously all about numbers — but at its core, it’s about people’s lives,” he said.
A big part of understanding demographics is understanding mortality, which is why in 2020 Heuveline’s research took on a grim new reality. He began tracking worldwide COVID-19 deaths and interpreting what those numbers mean to overall life expectancy.
April marks a somber milestone in the pandemic: one year since the U.S. recorded its first COVID-19–related deaths. As of the end of March, more than 2.8 million around the world, including more than 550,000 Americans, have died of causes related to COVID-19.
Months after recovering from mild cases of COVID-19, people still have immune cells in their body pumping out antibodies against the virus that causes COVID-19, according to a study from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Such cells could persist for a lifetime, churning out antibodies all the while.
The findings, published May 24 in the journal Nature, suggest that mild cases of COVID-19 leave those infected with lasting antibody protection and that repeated bouts of illness are likely to be uncommon.
“Last fall, there were reports that antibodies wane quickly after infection with the virus that causes COVID-19, and mainstream media interpreted that to mean that immunity was not long-lived,” said senior author Ali Ellebedy, PhD, an associate professor of pathology & immunology, of medicine and of molecular microbiology. “But that’s a misinterpretation of the data. It’s normal for antibody levels to go down after acute infection, but they don’t go down to zero; they plateau. Here, we found antibody-producing cells in people 11 months after first symptoms. These cells will live and produce antibodies for the rest of people’s lives. That’s strong evidence for long-lasting immunity.”
In a worldwide study of 2,100 pregnant women, those who contracted COVID-19 during pregnancy were 20 times more likely to die than those who did not contract the virus, according to the University of Washington (UW).
UW Medicine and University of Oxford doctors led this first-of-its-kind study, published today in JAMA Pediatrics. The investigation involved more than 100 researchers and pregnant women from 43 maternity hospitals in 18 low-, middle- and high-income nations; 220 of the women received care in the United States, 40 at UW Medicine. The research was conducted between April and August of 2020.
The study is unique because each woman affected by COVID-19 was compared with two uninfected pregnant women who gave birth during the same span in the same hospital.
Aside from an increased risk of death, women and their newborns were also more likely to experience preterm birth, preeclampsia and admission to the ICU and/or intubation. Of the mothers who tested positive for the disease, 11.5% of their babies also tested positive, the study found.
Although antibodies induced by SARS-CoV-2 infection are largely protective, they do not completely protect against reinfection in young people, as evidenced through a longitudinal, prospective study of more than 3,000 young, healthy members of the US Marines Corps conducted by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the Naval Medical Research Center, published April 15 in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.
“Our findings indicate that reinfection by SARS-CoV-2 in health young adults is common” says Stuart Sealfon, MD, the Sara B. and Seth M. Glickenhaus Professor of Neurology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and senior author of the paper. “Despite a prior COVID-19 infection, young people can catch the virus again and may still transmit it to others. This is an important point to know and remember as vaccine rollouts continue. Young people should get the vaccine whenever possible, since vaccination is necessary to boost immune responses, prevent reinfection, and reduce transmission.”
The study, conducted between May and November 2020, revealed that around 10 percent (19 out of 189) of participants who were previously infected with SARS-CoV-s (seropositive) became reinfected, compared with new infections in 50 percent (1.079 out of 2,247) of participants who had not been previously infected (seronegative). While seronegative study participants had a five times greater risk of infection than seropositive participants, the study showed that seropositive people are still at risk of reinfection.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, many families found themselves suddenly isolated together at home. A year later, new research has linked this period with a variety of large, detrimental effects on individuals’ and families’ well-being and functioning.
The study — led by Penn State researchers — found that in the first months of the pandemic, parents reported that their children were experiencing much higher levels of “internalizing” problems like depression and anxiety, and “externalizing” problems such as disruptive and aggressive behavior, than before the pandemic. Parents also reported that they themselves were experiencing much higher levels of depression and lower levels of coparenting quality with their partners.
Mark Feinberg, research professor of health and human development at Penn State, said the results — recently published in the journal Family Process — give insight into just how devastating periods of family and social stress can be for parents and children, and how important a good coparenting relationship can be for family well-being.
“Stress in general — whether daily hassles or acute, crisis-driven stress — typically leads to greater conflict and hostility in family relationships,” Feinberg said. “If parents can support each other in these situations, the evidence from past research indicates that they will be able to be more patient and more supportive with their children, rather than becoming more harsh and angry.”
New research found patients hospitalized with COVID-19 had a higher risk of stroke, compared with patients who had similar infectious conditions such as influenza and sepsis in prior studies. Those who had an ischemic stroke were more likely to be older, male, Black race, or have high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes or an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation) compared with other COVID-19 patients, according to late-breaking science presented today at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2021. The meeting was held virtually, March 17-19, 2021 and is a world premier meeting for researchers and clinicians dedicated to the science of stroke and brain health.
For this analysis, researchers accessed the American Heart Association’s COVID-19 Cardiovascular Disease Registry to investigate stroke risk among patients hospitalized for COVID-19, their demographic characteristics, medical histories and in-hospital survival. The COVID-19 Registry data pulled for this study included more than 20,000 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 across the U.S. between January and November 2020.
“These findings suggest that COVID-19 may increase the risk for stroke, though the exact mechanism for this is still unknown,” said lead study author Saate S. Shakil, M.D., a cardiology fellow at the University of Washington in Seattle. “As the pandemic continues, we are finding that coronavirus is not just a respiratory illness, but a vascular disease that can affect many organ systems.”
Two hundred eighty-one people (1.4%) in the COVID-19 CVD Registry had a stroke confirmed by diagnostic imaging during hospitalization. Of these, 148 patients (52.7%) experienced ischemic stroke; 7 patients (2.5%) had transient ischemic attack (TIA); and 127 patients (45.2%) experienced a bleeding stroke or unspecified type of stroke.
I am writing this to update you on my COVID shot situation. I got my first shot on February 11th. You can read about it in detail here . Actually, there was much more to that one as I had to walk my way through icy Chicago winter weather conditions to get to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, just over a mile from my apartment.
On Wednesday, morning, March third, I retraced my steps on a relatively balmy – 40 degree day. Much more pleasant walk.
I arrived around 10:00 AM for my shot and as occurred the first time, went right in. There was a huge lit up screen on the wall that read – 338 shots had been administered that morning.
The actual procedure lasted only minutes and I left to go to the OBSERVATION AREA two floors down to wait 15 minutes to confirm that there were no immediate ill effects.
As there weren’t, I left and decided to treat myself to a Starbucks cappuccino for the walk home.
This is Friday morning. I am happy to report that I experienced zero ill effects from the second shot – Not even a sore shoulder. Friends and neighbors have told me that they had a stronger reaction to the second jab than the first, including fatigue, headaches and soreness on the site. Lucky me.
I feel good about getting inoculated and I hope that you will, too. The Wall Street Journal had a wonderful positive article last month about us reaching Herd Immunity by April because of the sharp drop in cases, hospitalization and deaths in the past weeks.
Here are just a couple of paragraphs from the Journal:
“In large part because natural immunity from prior infection is far more common than can be measured by testing. Testing has been capturing only from 10% to 25% of infections, depending on when during the pandemic someone got the virus. Applying a time-weighted case capture average of 1 in 6.5 to the cumulative 28 million confirmed cases would mean about 55% of Americans have natural immunity.
“Now add people getting vaccinated. As of this week, 15% of Americans have received the vaccine, and the figure is rising fast. Former Food and Drug Commissioner Scott Gottlieb estimates 250 million doses will have been delivered to some 150 million people by the end of March.”
Superspreading events have distinguished the COVID-19 pandemic from the early outbreak of the disease. Now, research from Harvard University, Tulane University, MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital finds that a critical factor in these and other transmission events is the propensity of certain individuals to exhale large numbers of small respiratory droplets. The researchers found that age, obesity and COVID-19 infection all correlate with a propensity to breathe out more respiratory droplets.
Understanding the source and variance of respiratory droplet generation may lead to effective approaches to reducing COVID-19 infection and transmission.
Patients with dementia were at a significantly increased risk for COVID-19 — and the risk was higher still for African Americans with dementia, according to a study led by Case Western Reserve University researchers.
Reviewing electronic health records of 61.9 million adults in the United States, researchers found the risk of contracting COVID-19 was twice as high for patients with dementia than for those without it — while among those with dementia, African Americans had close to three times the risk of being infected with COVID-19 as Caucasians did.
In addition, patients with dementia who contracted COVID-19 had significantly worse outcomes in terms of hospitalizations and deaths than those who had COVID-19 but not dementia.
The study was published Feb. 9 by the peer-reviewed Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association and highlights the need to protect people with dementia — particularly African Americans — as part of the strategy to control the pandemic.
Masks help protect the people wearing them from getting or spreading SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, but now researchers from the National Institutes of Health have added evidence for yet another potential benefit for wearers: The humidity created inside the mask may help combat respiratory diseases such as COVID-19.
The study, led by researchers in the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), found that face masks substantially increase the humidity in the air that the mask-wearer breathes in. This higher level of humidity in inhaled air, the researchers suggest, could help explain why wearing masks has been linked to lower disease severity in people infected with SARS-CoV-2, because hydration of the respiratory tract is known to benefit the immune system. The study published in the Biophysical Journal.
“We found that face masks strongly increase the humidity in inhaled air and propose that the resulting hydration of the respiratory tract could be responsible for the documented finding that links lower COVID-19 disease severity to wearing a mask,” said the study’s lead author, Adriaan Bax, Ph.D., NIH Distinguished Investigator. “High levels of humidity have been shown to mitigate severity of the flu, and it may be applicable to severity of COVID-19 through a similar mechanism.”
I know I don’t have to repeat myself about the value of exercise (movement), especially during this isolating pandemic we are experiencing. But, I found this infographic and I thought it might be useful to you.
Considering the greater good by social distancing during a pandemic turns out to have an attractive personal benefit: A new study has found that staying away from others also reduces an individual person’s chances of contracting COVID-19. Social distancing is not just for the benefit of others.
Researchers presented study participants with virtual behavior scenarios of various public settings – a grocery store, a crowded beach, a crosswalk – and asked them to place themselves or fictional people in those contexts based on their social distancing preferences.