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April 20, 2020

Mayo Clinic Research in the news: Week in review 4/20/2020

By Elizabeth Zimmermann

Many of us have passed another week of "stay at home" but others are on the front lines of patient care and COVID-19 research.

How does it spread? Why do some people contract more serious cases, or develop more antibodies? How many people have been exposed? These are just a few of the questions Mayo Clinic researchers are pursuing answers for. The following are some of the news stories discussing Mayo Clinic Research and sharing expert opinions from Mayo Clinic researchers over the last week.

Contact tracing 2.0: Mayo Clinic method saves time in ‘race against clock’ 

By Dave Orrick, Pioneer Press, 4/19/2020

The Mayo Clinic has developed a technology-enhanced method of tracing and isolating those infected and exposed to the coronavirus that might match the bug’s greatest asset: speed. “The time pressure with COVID is like nothing we typically experience,” said Dr. Laura E. Breeher, director of occupational health at Mayo and the head of a team that developed the technique, a souped-up version of traditional contact tracing. “As soon as we get a positive test result, we are literally racing against the clock, so we had to remove inefficiencies.”

Mayo Clinic researching why COVID-19 impacts some patients worse than others

By Tim Blotz, KMSP TV, 4/18/2020

One of the mysteries of COVID-19 is why it strikes some patients harder than others. At Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, researchers are already creating databases to capture the progress of the disease in individual patients. The chair of the COVID Task Force at Mayo, Doctor Andrew Badley says there is long-term research, too.

The Promise and Peril of Antibody Testing for COVID-19

By Jennifer Abbasi, JAMA Network, 4/17/2020

... However, a substantial number of the new commercial COVID-19 antibody tests aren’t ELISA-based. They’re lateral flow assays, which provide a simple positive or negative result, with no quantitative information. These kits are cheap and easy to use and, depending on how they’re employed, may be helpful for disease surveillance, Elitza Theel, PhD, director of the Mayo Clinic Infectious Diseases Serology Laboratory in Rochester, Minnesota, said in an interview.

Coronavirus Research: What Does That Study Actually Mean?

By Rachael Vasquez, Wisconsin Public Radio 4/17/2020

New studies are coming out on the coronavirus all the time, but how do you know when to put stock in them, and how to understand what their findings really mean? We ask an infectious disease specialist from Mayo Clinic.

Why coronavirus can make some severely ill and others hardly at all

New data reveals dramatically stark sex disparities.

By Dr. Delaram J. Taghipour, ABC News, 4/16/2020

COVID-19 does not impact us all the same. In fact, a growing body of evidence finds that the virus seems to hit men harder than women. ...

“COVID-19 appears to follow the trend of previous infections with SARS and MERS [in that] men are affected more often than women," said Veena Taneja, an associate professor of immunology at The Mayo Clinic. ...

Taneja of the Mayo Clinic has studied differences in the immune systems of men and women and found significant differences in other diseases. She said the differences can be due to a number of factors.

“Occupational hazards that affect the immune system and lungs are more common in men, and then there are sex hormones which affect the immune system differently,” she said.

Family of New York woman blames hydroxychloroquine combo for fatal heart attack 

By Heidi Przybyla, NBC News, 4/16/2020

 … The fanfare around the untested drug combination raised alarms among U.S. cardiologists. In an interview with NBC News last week, cardiologist Michael Ackerman of the Mayo Clinic warned physicians may be prescribing the drugs without pre-screening the cardiac health of patients.

Ligia’s story, Ackerman said Tuesday, showed the concerns were real.

“We knew that there would be either unawareness of, disregard to, or disrespect for the drug-induced cardiac effects, he said, and that even “well-intended efforts to treat COVID-19 could in fact cause the patient’s sudden death.”

“Unfortunately, we may have been proven correct already,” he said.

Coronavirus Antibody Tests Could Help Us Get Back To Normal — Or They Could Be The Next Testing Crisis

By Stephanie M. Lee and Dan Vergano, BuzzFeed News, 4/15-16/2020

As the world fights to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control, new blood tests that identify people with possible immunity are being touted as a key tool to return life to normal. But almost none of the dozens of tests that hospitals and clinics across the US are now rushing to obtain are being verified for accuracy by regulators. … Sorting through the tests is a challenge, said Elitza Theel, director of the Mayo Clinic’s infectious diseases serology laboratory in Rochester, Minnesota. “We don’t know how well most of those perform,” she said. The Mayo Clinic considered five antibody tests before settling on two, based on the results of internal validation tests run on patient samples. (It did not disclose which tests it was using, or which ones ultimately failed their validation screen.) That process took three to four weeks before the clinic started to test patients this month. That’s much faster than the 8 to 10 months it typically takes to evaluate and implement a new test, Theel said.

Explainer: What Are Coronavirus Antibody Tests? 

— Reuters, New York Times, 4/15/2020

… Labs across the country are developing antibody tests that could be widely available within weeks, said Dr. Elitza Theel, director of the Infectious Diseases Serology Laboratory at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. … An ELISA test for IgG antibodies being developed at Mayo Clinic correctly identifies who has coronavirus antibodies more than 95% of the time, Theel said.

VIDEO: Mayo Clinic talks about Serologic tests and who gets them first 

— KAAL TV, 4/15/2020

Mayo Clinic is underway with Serology tests that may be the key to reopening the state and lifting restrictions.  Mayo Clinic's health expert from their Department of Laboratory Medicine, Dr. William Morice, goes in-depth with Betsy Singer.

When U.S. Re-Opens, Will Those Exposed to Coronavirus Have Lasting Immunity?

By Dennis Thompson, HealthDay, 4/14/2020 (also available En Español)

Once you've had COVID-19 and recovered, are you now immune from the virus?

That's the critical question that will help shape how the United States re-opens for business in the coming months.

Unfortunately, there's still no clear answer.

… But there's also reason to question the potential for lasting immunity against COVID-19, said Dr. Greg Poland, director of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minn. The novel coronavirus behind COVID-19 belongs to a family of viruses that has a very uneven track record with the human immune system, Poland noted. "With the four seasonal beta coronaviruses that circulate and cause all the upper respiratory infections you see in your practice, those people lose immunity in months to a year or two," Poland said. That's why people fall prey to the common cold again and again.

Mayo Clinic develops blood test to aid in COVID-19 vaccine, treatment 

By Kevin Millard, WXOW TV, 4/14/2020

The race for a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 is ongoing and Mayo Clinic is rolling out a new blood test hoping to get a step closer to the vaccine. "The test we're talking about is a blood test called a serologic test," said Dr. William Morice, Mayo Clinic Laboratory Medicine Chair. "Which tests for whether or not someone has been exposed to the SARS-COV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease and has generated an immune response."

Why does coronavirus make some sick and not others? The science behind immune reactions 

By Amanda Morris, Arizona Republic, 4/14/2020

While most people with COVID-19 experience mild symptoms akin to a bad cold, or no symptoms at all, some patients experience severe symptoms that can lead to death. Older people and those with underlying health conditions are more at risk for severe complications from the disease, but young, otherwise healthy people have also fallen victim … One reason could be an immune system overreaction in some patients that essentially causes the body to attack itself, according to Mayo Clinic immunologist Jessica Lancaster. "There has to be a very delicate balance to it," she said. "While it's helpful to recruit all your immune cells to the site of infection, at the same time, if you go too far, then the normal function of the organ starts to suffer, and that can be very disastrous."

Accuracy of COVID-19 tests coming to market uncertain 

By Joe Carlson, Star Tribune, 4/12/2020

Mayo Clinic researchers warned Thursday [4/9/2020]  that inaccurate test results may drive a “second wave” of infections involving people who spread the virus after a test falsely indicates they don’t have it. Asked how well the new tests work, Mayo Clinic internist and biostatistician Dr. Colin West said: “The most honest answer is, we don’t really know. At least outside of some very controlled lab environments, the data on how many false negatives or false positives these tests might yield has not been disseminated.”


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Tags: Andrew Badley, antibodies, basic science, biomedical research, cardiology, Colin West, COVID-19, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Elitza Theel, Gregory Poland, immune system, immunity, infectious disease, Jessica Lancaster, Laura Breeher, Mayo Clinic Laboratories, Michael Ackerman, News, News of the Week, vaccines, Veena Taneja, virology, William Morice

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