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Bats Should Not Be Blamed for COVID, Say Israeli Researchers
More than two-and-a-half years after COVID-19 was first discovered and blamed on bats in China, researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU) have declared that this correlation between the pandemic and flying mammals “was not based on sufficient compelling scientific proof and caused unnecessary stress and confusion worldwide. Bats have a highly effective immune system that enables them to deal relatively easily with viruses considered lethal for other mammals.”
“The comprehensive study we’ve conducted raises serious doubts regarding the possibility of bats being the origin of the COVID-19 outbreak. The findings give rise to the opposite perspective, according to which we must study in-depth the immunological anti-viral capabilities of bats and thus obtain new and effective means of coping in humanity’s struggle against a contagious disease, aging and cancer,” the researchers concluded.
Trauma, Time and Mental Health — New Study Unpacks Pandemic Phenomenon
Did you lose track of time during the early days of the pandemic? If so, you’re not alone. A new study says a majority of Americans experienced time distortions at the beginning of the pandemic, which are common during traumatic times.
Researchers say those who lost their time sense could be at greater risk for mental health disorders — such as depression and anxiety — and screening for time distortions could help get treatment to those who need it.
In a study published in the journal Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of 5,661 U.S. adults about their mental health in March-April and September-October 2020. Participants answered questions about their experiences with the coronavirus, their history of stressful life events and their financial and life stressors related to the virus.
The pandemic was “an unprecedented, protracted collective trauma,” the researchers write. Though more research is needed, they conclude that time distortion is probably associated with mental health symptoms in the pandemic.
New Omicron Boosters Are Now Available, but It’s Unclear How Effective They Will Be
The U.S. authorized the first major makeover of the COVID-19 vaccines this week in an effort to stem an expected tide of infections and hospitalizations this fall.
But it’s unclear how much protection the new booster shots will provide. The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cleared the shots without any data from clinical trials that are testing the reformulated doses in humans.
The new boosters, authorized for people ages 12 and older, target the highly contagious and immune-evasive Omicron BA.5 subvariant that has caused a wave of breakthrough infections over the summer. The shots also target the original strain of the virus that first emerged in Wuhan, China, in 2019.
Deaths and hospitalizations have climbed since April among the elderly, the most-vaccinated age group in America, as Omicron has continued to mutate into more and more transmissible subvariants that dodge the protection of the original vaccines, according to Heather Scobie, a CDC epidemiologist.
COVID Pandemic Has Brought a Life-Threatening Infection Spike in Hospitals, Raising Serious Concerns
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a life-threatening infection of a superbug spiked in hospitals, raising a big concern.
Since 2010, laboratory-identified cases of MRSA infection have been significantly decreasing. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the United States, hospitals have experienced an increase in the number of MRSA infections. The hospital overload has resulted in higher healthcare-associated infections.
During the fourth quarter of 2020, the national MRSA bacteremia standardized infection ratio was 34% higher than that of 2019. Several states reported even greater increases in 2020, such as Arizona with an 80% increase and New Jersey with a 99% increase.
China Approves World’s First Inhaled COVID Vaccine for Emergency Use
China has become the first country to green-light an inhaled COVID-19 vaccine, paving the way for the potential use of the needle-free product in the country, where suppressing the spread of COVID-19 remains a top priority.
The product, known as Convidecia Air, delivers a vaccine dose through a puff of air from a nebulizer that is then inhaled by mouth. CanSino’s injected Convidecia COVID-19 vaccine is already in use in China and has been approved in a handful of other countries.
Meet Mary Wakefield, the Nurse Administrator Tasked With Revamping the CDC
It’s been a rough couple of years for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Facing a barrage of criticism for repeatedly mishandling its response to the COVID-19 pandemic and more recently monkeypox, the agency has acknowledged it failed and needs to change.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky has tapped Mary Wakefield — an Obama administration veteran and nurse — to helm a major revamp of the sprawling agency and its multibillion-dollar budget. Making the changes will require winning over wary career CDC scientists, combative members of Congress, and a general public that in many cases have stopped looking to the agency for guidance.
Wakefield will have to navigate rough waters in the wake of a series of missteps by the agency. The CDC botched the COVID testing rollout early in the pandemic, issued confusing guidance on prevention measures such as masking and quarantining and has been slow to release scientific findings on the fast-moving coronavirus.
Could High-Dose Folic Acid Raise COVID Risks?
Folic acid, a B vitamin that’s used widely to fortify foods and lower the risk of birth defects, may carry a hidden risk for those who have to take huge quantities of it: A new study shows those folks were more likely to get COVID-19 and to die from it.
“We examined whether COVID-19 diagnosis and death were related to the large doses of folic acid — five times the safe upper limit — prescribed to patients for a variety of medically approved indications,” said study co-author Dr. Ralph Green, an expert on B vitamins from the University of California, Davis. “We found that the risk of becoming infected and dying from COVID-19 was significantly greater in the group treated with folic acid.”
Some patients taking methotrexate, a drug used to treat some cancers and autoimmune diseases, also take folic acid to help reduce side effects from the folate-inhibiting drug. Interestingly, the study found that methotrexate countered any increased COVID risk for those patients.
Green said he was first motivated to investigate the link between folic acid supplementation and COVID by studies published last year in Nature Communications. That research suggested that SARS-CoV-2 uses a host’s folate to replicate. That means the virus may be sensitive to both folate and folate inhibitors like methotrexate.
Anger at Plans to Roll Back COVID Vaccines to Under-11s in England
The decision to reduce the number of children who are offered COVID jabs has prompted an outcry from parent groups and academics.
The U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said children who had not turned five by the end of last month would not be offered vaccination. The agency said the offer of COVID jabs to healthy five to 11-year-olds was always meant to be temporary.
UKHSA’s Green Book, which provides information on the vaccine rollout for public health professionals, states: “Subject to further clarification, on-going eligibility in 2022/23, after the one off-program, is expected to be for children in the academic years where children are aged 11 or 12 years.”
Adam Finn, professor of pediatrics at the University of Bristol, and a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), pointed out that in the U.K., the proportion of parents who had chosen to have their young children immunized had been small, despite the offer being open.
The COVID Pandemic May Be Making Other Diseases Worse
There was severe liver inflammation in kids in April, monkeypox in May, polio in July and “tomato flu” in August. Each appears to be the result of an unusual manifestation or proliferation of a virus scientists have studied for decades. So why are they a problem now?
“Viruses have been doing strange things since the COVID pandemic started,” Sarah Pitt, a principal lecturer in the University of Brighton’s school of applied sciences, wrote in a recent article about a freaky tomato-shaped rash in India. Turns out, it wasn’t an exotic new pathogen, but Coxsackie A16, a common cause of hand, foot and mouth disease.
“You’ve got the best part of 100 million to half a billion people in the world who are very changed in their capacity to respond to viruses,” microbiologist Brendan Crabb, who is director of Melbourne’s Burnet Institute, told me over Zoom. “There’s no way that can mean business as normal for microbial ecology.”
Crabb sees at least three potential consequences for the immune dysfunction left in COVID’s wake:
Pfizer, BioNTech Seek to Revoke CureVac’s Patent Infringement Claims
Pfizer (PFE.N) and its German partner BioNTech have filed proceedings at the High Court of England and Wales, seeking a judgment that their COVID-19 vaccine, based on mRNA technology, does not infringe on CureVac’s European patents, according to a regulatory filing on Friday.
In July, CureVac filed a patent lawsuit against BioNTech over its use of mRNA technology, seeking fair compensation from the company and two subsidiaries for infringement of its intellectual property rights.
Pfizer and BioNTech later filed a complaint with a U.S. district court, seeking a judgment that they did not infringe U.S. patents held by CureVac.
Pfizer and BioNTech are also facing patent infringement lawsuits from other companies. Last month, rival mRNA vaccine maker Moderna filed a patent lawsuit against the companies related to their COVID-19 shot.
Britain Approves Pfizer/BioNTech’s Updated COVID Booster Vaccine
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said the decision was based on data from a clinical trial that showed a booster dose with the bivalent Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine triggers a strong immune response against both the Omicron and the original strain.
The Biden Administration Is Gambling That a Little-Studied Vaccine Can Stop Monkeypox
Since monkeypox began its unprecedented spread through the nation in May, more than 352,600 people in the U.S. have placed their trust in a vaccine that has never undergone trials to evaluate how well it fights the virus in humans.
The vaccine was designed to prevent smallpox, a related virus, and studies conducted by its Danish manufacturer have shown it works against monkeypox too, in animals.
Much less is known about how it works in people. But the Biden administration is gambling not only that it will work, but also that it can stop another debilitating, communicable disease from becoming endemic in the U.S., as it has been for decades in parts of Africa.