Coronavirus is detectable next to the beds of COVID-19 patients - but surface transmission is rare - Godz
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Coronavirus is detectable next to the beds of COVID-19 patients – but surface transmission is rare



While the coronavirus may be able to survive on beds, floors, and other surfaces near COVID patients, it’s unlikely to be passed to another person, a new study finds.

Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine swabbed surfaces in COVID patients’ rooms before, during, and after they were occupied – finding coronavirus in about 13 percent of samples.

None of the healthcare workers caring for patients in the study tested positive, despite frequently touching those surfaces. This suggests surface transmission is rare and PPE works.

The study also found a new link between the coronavirus and a type of microbe that might be linked with cardiovascular disease and severe COVID.

A UC San Diego researcher swabs the floor, looking for COVID samples

A researcher holds up a card indicating swab locations for the study

At the beginning of the pandemic, public health experts warned us to be wary of surface transmission – or, virus spread through particles that lingered on doorknobs, desks, and other common items.

‘Wash your hands’ became a common mantra. Hand sanitizers sold out. The New York City subway closed for overnight cleanings.

Now, however, we know that surface transmission is a rare phenomenon for the coronavirus. Instead, the virus usually spreads through the air – either through larger particles released when an infected person sneezes or coughs, or through smaller particles that can travel longer distances.

A new study adds to the evidence that surface transmission is rare – and provides novel insight into how the coronavirus shares space with bacteria.

Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine examined what the coronavirus does on surfaces by swabbing patients’ hospital rooms. The study was published Tuesday in the journal Microbiome.

The researchers collected almost a thousand samples – from 16 patients with confirmed COVID cases, ten healthcare workers caring for those patients, and hundreds of locations inside and outside the patients’ hospital rooms.

Those 16 patients stayed in the hospital for up to three weeks. Researchers collected samples before, during, and after their hospital stays.

Out of those surfaces they sampled, the researchers found that 13 percent of the sites had enough coronavirus present to be picked up by a PCR test.

Samples taken from the floor next to patients’ beds and directly outside their rooms were most likely to contain coronavirus – with prevalence rates of 39 percent and 29 percent, respectively.

For surfaces inside the patients’ rooms (excluding floors), the prevalence rate was 16 percent. These surfaces included ventilator buttons, keyboards, and door handles.

The surface samples had much lower concentrations of coronavirus than those samples actually taken from patients – using a classic nose swab and stool screenings.

These lower concentrations indicate that the coronavirus present on the hospital room surfaces was less likely to infect anyone compared to coronavirus particles that were sneezed out of a patient.

Floor locations near patients’ beds were more likely to be COVID-positive

Indeed, the study did not find any coronavirus infections that occurred through surface transmission.

No healthcare workers tested positive throughout the study, despite caring for COVID patients and collecting their samples. This suggests that personal protective equipment and safety training does reduce transmission risk for healthcare workers.

‘This is huge on so many levels,’ said Dr Daniel Sweeney, critical care and infectious disease physician at UC San Diego Health and senior author on the paper, in a statement. ‘We need to know if our personal protective equipment, PPE, is adequate, and fortunately we know now that things like masks, gloves, gowns and face shields really do work. This pandemic has been a global disaster, but it could’ve been even worse if our health care workers were getting infected, especially if we didn’t know why.’

In addition to the coronavirus itself, the researchers looked at microbes that were interacting with the virus.

The microbe Rothia was often found with the coronavirus, indicating that the bacteria and virus may have formed some kind of partnership

Microbes live inside the human body – many of them in our digestive systems – as well as outside the body. They can have a huge impact on the body’s ability to fight diseases.

The researchers looked at the genetic composition of all microbes found in their coronavirus samples.

‘Although it feels like we’ve been living with this virus for a long time, the study of the interactions between SARS-CoV-2 and other microbes is still new, and we still have a lot of questions,’ said Dr Sarah Allard, UC San Diego scientist and another lead author on the study.

‘The more we know about how a virus interacts with its environment, the better we can understand how it’s transmitted and how we might best disrupt transmission to prevent and treat the disease.’

Notably, Allard and her team often found the virus alongside a specific type of bacteria called Rothia. This bacteria was found more in COVID-positive samples than other, non-COVID samples.

The Rothia species is commonly found in the human mouth, though it can invade the digestive system, too.

The UC San Diego researchers found that this bacteria was associated with cardiovascular disease. Patients who had cardiovascular disease before getting COVID were also more likely to have Rothia in their samples.

‘Why that relationship?’ asked Allard. ‘Does the bacteria help the virus survive, or vice versa? Or is it just that these bacteria are associated with the underlying medical conditions that put patients at higher risk for severe COVID-19 in the first place? That’s an area for future research.’

While this study’s findings on surface transmission aren’t new, the microbes that have gotten friendly with coronavirus deserve more study. Through examining these virus-microbe partnerships, researchers can develop more successful COVID treatments for future patients.

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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Researchers launch study testing body sensor that will monitor COVID patients’ vital signs remotely




Researchers in Chicago have launched a pilot study looking at whether a wearable sensor can safely monitor COVID-19 patients at home.

The University of Illinois Health system has teamed up with PhysIQ, a digital medicine start-up to create artificial intelligence (AI) that people ill with COVID-19 could wear, which would track vital signs including oxygen levels and heart rates.

Doctors will be watching the signs remotely and can contact the patients if the system show that something is wrong, and tell them to get to a hospital. 

The team says the sensor will not only help prevent hospitals but from becoming overcrowded, will also prevent patients from not seeking care until it’s too late.

The University of Illinois Health system has teamed up with PhysIQ, a digital medicine start-up, to create wearable technology for COVID-19 patients (Courtesy of NBC5)

A sensor worn on the chest will track patients’ vital signs including oxygen levels and heart rates that is connected to a smartphone via Bluetooth (Courtesy of NBC5)

According to MIT Technology Review, each patient is given a kit to take home with them that includes a pulse oximeter, a sensor patch that has Bluetooth, and a paired smartphone. 

The patch, which is worn on the chest, uses an AI algorithm to determine a patient’s normal vital signs.

If a patient has oxygen levels or heart rate that differ from normal, the patch will send data to the smartphone, which will alert doctors.  

‘It’s an enormous benefit,’ Dr Terry Vanden Hoek, head of emergency medicine at University of Illinois Health told MIT Technology Review. 

‘You may be breathing faster, your activity level is falling, or your heart rate is different than the baseline. 

Doctors like Dr Terry Vanden Hoek (pictured) will be monitoring the data remotely and will contact patients if the alerts are abnormal and tell them to go to a hospital

A trained doctor can look at the alerts and contact the patient and tell them to get a physician’s office or a hospital, he explained.  

This is what happened with Angela Mitchell, 59, who tested positive for COVID-19 in July 2020 while working as a pharmacy technician at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago.

Mitchell told MIT Technology Review that she cold either quarantine at a hotel or she could isolate at home and be given the patch to be monitored 24/7, and she chose the latter. 

Two nights into isolation, she woke up unable to breathe. 

She went into the bathroom to try to take a shower but was sweating, dizzy and trying to catch her breath.

‘I was sitting in the bathroom literally holding on to the sink when my phone rang,’ Mitchell told MIT Technology Review.

The call was from clinicians at the hospital who had been remotely monitoring her vital signs via the patch she was wearing.

They told her she needed to get to an emergency room immediately. 

She delayed but then received another a call in the morning, telling her that if she didn’t get to a hospital, an ambulance would be called for her. 

Her husband drove to Northwestern Memorial in Chicago and, after she was admitted, doctors told her her oxygen levels had fallen to dangerously low levels.

She remained in the hospital for a week. 

‘I owe my life to this monitoring system,’ Mitchell told MIT Technology Review.

‘This device is being utilized in communities that are deprived of these opportunities. This can help everyone.’

The study is now recruiting about 1,700 participants from across Chicago, many of whom are at higher risk because they have underlying conditions – such as obesity or diabetes – or are people of color including African-American and Latino.

‘When you work in the emergency department it’s sad to see patients who waited too long to come in for help,’ Vanden Hoek told MIT Technology Review.

‘They would require intensive care on a ventilator. You couldn’t help but ask, ‘If we could have warned them four days before, could we have prevented all this?

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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COVID-19 vaccines ARE effective in cancer patients: Study finds 94% of patients developed antibodies




Cancer patients do develop COVID-19 antibodies after being fully vaccinated, a new study suggests.

Researchers from Montefiore Health System and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York found that 94 percent of patients with tumors developed antibodies after being vaccinated.

Even patients receiving stem cell transplants and other treatments that suppress the immune system had antibody positivity rates over 70 percent.

This finding is great news for many patients and their physicians who worried that the vaccines would not be effective for cancer patients. 

The teams says the findings provide evidence for why patients should definitely get vaccinated against coronavirus if a shot is available to them.

Out of 200 patients in a Bronx, New York study, 94% developed COVID antibodies after being vaccinated. Pictured: Acancer patient receives her vaccine while others talk and laugh in an oncology unit at James Graham Brown Cancer Center in Louisville, Kentucky, April 2021

Cancer patients taking stem cell treatments and other therapies had lower antibody responses, but still saw definite immune system buildup after being vaccinated

Cancer patients are among those most vulnerable to severe COVID-19.

Many of the treatments used to treat different forms of cancer can cause the immune system to lose its ability to fight off disease.

Elderly cancer patients and those who also suffer from other conditions – like lung disease or diabetes – are especially vulnerable because they have weak immune systems, or are immunocompromised.

In one May 2021 study, researchers estimated that about 90,000 American adults under age 65 are immunocompromised. – representing about three percent of the population.

Due to their weaker immune systems, many medical experts have worried that vaccines would not be effective for cancer patients.

So far, studies in this area have been limited because COVID-19 vaccine trials excluded patients with cancer diagnoses. 

Patients have not been able to get clear information on whether they should get vaccinated – or how the vaccines may impact their cancer treatment. 

The new study, published in the journal Cell, included 200 patients from the Bronx, New York, who got tested for COVID antibodies after they were fully vaccinated. 

The majority had an active cancer diagnosis, and 56 percent were on active chemotherapy, including 19 percent who had received chemotherapy within 48 hours of at least one vaccine dose.

All common cancer types were represented in the study.

Cancer patients built up immune responses to the coronavirus after being vaccinated

Out of those 200 patients, a whopping 94 percent tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies after vaccination – meaning they had successfully built up an immune response to the coronavirus.

Most of the patients had received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, while a few received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Those who had Pfizer and Moderna shots were slightly more likely to test positive for antibodies.

The researchers also found that antibody levels were higher when patients were tested with more time after their final vaccine dose – reflecting how antibody levels build up over time.

Patients had common mild side effects, such as sore arms and muscle aches.

‘The side effects from vaccination seen in these populations were not substantially worse than in other groups,’ said Dr Balazs Halmos, director of the Multidisciplinary Thoracic Oncology Program at Montefiore and a senior author on the study, in a statement

‘Not a single patient had to go to the emergency room or be admitted to the hospital because of side effects from the vaccines.’

Some of the cancer patients did have slightly lower antibody positivity rates such as those with blood cancers had a positivity rate of 85 percent, compared to 98 percent positivity for patients with solid tumors.

Patients receiving specific therapies that kill B cells and those who recently had bone marrow or stem cell transplants were also less likely to test positive for COVID antibodies. 

Still, these patients had positivity rates over 70 percent – higher than the researchers had expected.

The researchers also noted that there was no significant difference in vaccine effectiveness for patients of different racial/ethnic groups.



This study has been the largest so far looking at vaccine effectiveness in cancer patients – previous studies have examined smaller numbers of patients.

The findings suggest that cancer patients can – and should – get vaccinated without worrying about side effects, and they may be confident that their immune systems will respond to the shots.

‘We really need efforts to protect these vulnerable patients from infection,’ said Dr Amit Verma, director of the Division of Hemato-Oncology at Montefiore and another coauthor on the study. 

‘This study should help people feel reassured that these vaccines work very well, even in those receiving chemotherapy or immunotherapy.’

More research is needed to confirm this study’s findings and to examine the potential use of higher vaccine doses or booster shots for cancer patients.

Still, the study’s message is clear: ‘It’s important to stress how well these patient populations did with the vaccines,’ Verma said.

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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Respiratory illnesses rebounded from lows after Texas lifted mask mandate and reopened in March




Respiratory illnesses such as common colds, pneumonia and bronchitis all made rebounds after Texas made the controversial decision to lift its mask mandate and reopen a majority of businesses to full capacity earlier this year.

While there was no increase in COVID-19 cases after Gov Greg Abott’s decision in March 2021, other viruses that declined as people began to mask up saw comebacks.

Researchers from Houston Methodist Hospital discovered that the rhinovirus – the most common infection in humans – and enterovirus – which causes cold-like symptoms – both began to return to normal rates after severe declines during the pandemic.

Cases of one common form of influenza increased by 424 percent.

Health experts credit the sharp declines in the virus’, and their related symptoms, to people wearing masks and social distancing helping prevent their contagious spread.

Texas was among the first states to lift all COVID-19 restrictions when they did so at the start of March. Weekly cases have dropped by 60 percent since then, though other respiratory illnesses that saw sharp declines in 2020 seem to have made a return

After sharp declines at the start of the pandemic, cases of Rhinovirus and Enterovirus began to rise as Texas slowly reopened, and then spiked when all mandates were lifted

Cases of the yearly flu fell to longtime lows last flue season, but now are on their rise as mandates are reverted

‘This sharp resurgence we’re seeing of seasonal respiratory viruses in Houston is not surprising now that mask mandates have been lifted in Texas, and other precautions, such as social distancing and occupancy limits in stores, restaurants and events, have been removed,’ Dr Wesley Long, medical director of diagnostic microbiology at Houston Methodist hospital, said in a statement.

For the study, published on pre-print server, the team looked at data on respiratory pathogens in Houston.

They found that around the time the mask mandate was lifted capacity limits for restaurants and bars were relaxed corresponded with a rise in virus cases.

Results showed that cases of rhinovirus and enterovirus cases increased 85 percent from March to April, the first month without any mask requirements in the state.

Seasonal coronaviruses, which cause common colds and usually appear in the winter, rose by 211 percent over the same time period.  

But the most striking rise was in the share of parafluenza, a common virus that casus respiratory illnesses, which spiked in Houston by 424 percent from March to April.

Parafluenza cases rose by over 400% when Texas lifted masking and social distancing requirements in March

Parafluenza cases then increased by 189 percent from April to May. 

‘For more than a year, COVID-19 was the primary cause of respiratory illness in the U.S., but now as we relax restrictions, it is important for clinicians to consider other respiratory pathogens may be causing spikes in disease outside of their usual seasonal peaks,’ Long said. 

‘Reports of non-COVID respiratory viral illnesses surging after COVID restrictions are lifted has been reported in Australia and elsewhere, and we’re now starting to see it happen in the U.S.’ 

Cases of the flu declined by 99 percent during the pandemic according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Only 1,316 cases were recorded from September 2020 to January 2021, compared to over 130,000 in the same period a year before. 

Two common forms of the flu, H3N2 and the B/Yamagata lineage of the virus, have not been detected in year.

While they still could be circulating undetected, there is a chance that the strains may have gone extinct due to not being able to find viable hosts for a long period of time. 

Texas Gov Greg Abbott (Pictured) was criticized for his decision to lift COVID restrictions in March

Gov Abbot’s decision to lift mask mandates and fully open the state was met with derision from many. 

However, there have been no large increases in COVID-19 cases in the state since, and numbers have declined by more than 60 percent since the start of March.

‘With the medical advancements of vaccines and antibody therapeutic drugs, Texas now has the tools to protect Texans from the virus,’ Abbott said in a statement at the time. 

‘We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans by opening Texas 100 percent.

‘Make no mistake, COVID-19 has not disappeared, but it is clear from the recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalizations, and safe practices that Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed.’ 

The governor also recently banned the use of vaccine passports in his state. 

It seems that Texas may potentially be heading into another COVID surge in the near future, though, with the state posting massive increases in cases the past two days, including over 9,000 cases on Wednesday after recording less than 1,000 on Tuesday – a more than 1,000 percent increase in only two days. 

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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