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May 18, 2020

Mayo Clinic Research in the News — Week in Review 5/18/2020

By Elizabeth Zimmermann

Mayo Clinic researchers continue to share both their expertise and their research findings in regional, national and international news. Collected here are links and snippets from some of the stories from around the world. They connect Mayo Clinic research and international efforts to understand and reduce the devastating effects of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19.

Mayo specialists looking at use of experimental drugs, convalescent plasma for COVID-19 treatment

By Emily Pyrek, La Crosse Tribune, 5/15/2020

At Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse, infectious disease specialist Dr. Raj Palraj and Dr. Joseph Poterucha, principal investigator for covid convalescent plasma for Mayo Clinic, have been collaborating with Mayo Clinic Rochester to identify the best course of care for each COVID-19 patient who is treated at the La Crosse hospital. …

COVID-19 patients given any of the experimental drugs are screened prior to administration, and monitored for the duration of use. The course of treatment, Poterucha and Palraj say, will be tailored to the specific patient. Whether plasma or drugs prove more productive, they say, will also likely be individualized.


Data on first 5,000 coronavirus patients to receive plasma shows promise

Mark Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 5/15/2020

More than 11,000 COVID-19 patients across the U.S. have been treated with plasma from survivors of the disease, and Friday scientists studying the treatment released their first official safety results.

Reporting on the first 5,000 patients, doctors and researchers at Mayo Clinic, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Michigan State University said the number of severe adverse events within four hours of receiving the plasma was less than 1%. 

Their paper, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, found "no signal of toxicity" and concluded "the mortality rate does not appear excessive."


Blood plasma appears safe for COVID-19 patients in early trial results

By Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times, 5/15/2020

… For now, the new results should be interpreted with caution because they have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal or thoroughly reviewed by independent scientists.

“It’s a long way away from showing that this thing is going to be a game changer,” said Dr. Michael Joyner of the Mayo Clinic, who is leading the trial.

“It’s a first step to prove that it’s safe, and it sets the stage for efficacy trials,” he added. “But we were very pleased.” …


Minnesota hospitals brace for COVID-19 peak

State health officials unveil new dashboard metrics that could result in new stay-at-home or other restrictions if COVID-19 spreads wildly. 

By Jeremy Olson, Star Tribune, 5/14/2020

Modeling by the U and the Health Department generally predicted that these restrictions only delayed the peak, but Mayo Clinic’s chief executive on Thursday said his organization’s unpublished modeling predicted a “flattening” of the peak.

“Mayo Clinic’s predictive modeling shows that the anticipated COVID-19 very high peak has been diminished, and we will experience varied levels of infection rates in the coming months until an effective vaccine is available,” wrote Dr. Gianrico Farrugia. “Based upon this data, we support the incremental reopening of public spaces in our communities.”


Convalescent Plasma Is Safe to Treat Covid-19, National Study Shows

By Amy Dockser Marcus, The Wall Street Journal, 5/14/2020

A team of researchers at Mayo Clinic, Michigan State University and Johns Hopkins University examined health outcomes of 5,000 hospitalized patients around the U.S. who received convalescent plasma treatment, and found the transfusions resulted in few serious side effects and there wasn’t an excessive mortality rate.

The study, posted Thursday on a public server called Medrxiv, hasn’t undergone peer review or publication in a scientific journal. Researchers found serious adverse events occurred in fewer than 1% of the treated patients, and the mortality rate seven days after transfusion was 14.9%.


The evolution of cardiac care in the wake of COVID-19 

— Cardiac Rhythm News, 5/13/2020

David E Albert, founder and chief medical officer of AliveCor, considers the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the  monitoring and of management of arrhythmias

…At AliveCor, we’ve been working on QTc monitoring for a long time. We published our first QTc article in 2016. For the last three years we have collaborated with The Mayo Clinic on the development of a mobile QTc assessment solution based on a Deep Neural Network AI trained on millions of 12-lead ECGs. In 2018 we reached another important milestone in our work with Mayo Clinic on LQTS. In an abstract published at the Heart Rhythm Scientific Sessions conference in Boston, investigators from Mayo Clinic presented research showing that AI using deep neural networks can successfully identify patients with congenital LQTS, despite having a normal QTc on their ECG. 


FDA Issues Emergency Use Authorization for Eko’s ECG-based Low Ejection Fraction Screening Algorithm, Designed to Improve Detection of Heart Failure During COVID-19 Pandemic

— Baytown Sun, via Business Wire, 5/13/2020

… It is known that patients with cardiovascular disease have a much greater risk of death from COVID-19 than those with normal hearts. Patients with pre-existing cardiovascular disease are estimated by the American College of Cardiology to have a 10.5% case fatality rate due to COVID-19, significantly higher than those without such conditions. COVID-19 infection may also directly cause heart muscle weakness. The Emergency Use Authorization allows healthcare providers to use Eko’s AI algorithm to analyze a standard 12-lead ECG, an easily accessible and painless test to assess the risk of a weakened heart pump. …

“Given the danger COVID-19 poses to patients with a weak heart pump, it’s important that we rapidly identify these individuals early and monitor them closely. By embedding the heart failure screening AI into a quick, widely available, and safe test using existing medical devices, we can detect heart failure early and start appropriate treatments,” said Dr. Paul Friedman, Chair of the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, Mayo Clinic. “Additionally, for people with COVID-19, we may be able to identify when the virus causes the development of a weak heart pump quickly, safely, and easily using these AI tools.”


Rochester scientists develop first-of-its-kind antibody test to detect protective immunity

By Sean Baker, MedCity Beat, 5/12/2020

Dr. Stephen Russell, CEO and co-founder of Vyriad, said the test’s ability to pick up on the specific antibodies capable of blocking re-infection may make it the “gold standard” for determining protective immunity.

The results and methodology of the study have since been submitted to the FDA in accordance with regulatory requirements for Covid-19 Emergency Use Authorization. Russell said there have also been discussions with Mayo Clinic, where he also employed as a researcher, about the possibility of the institution using Vyriad’s serology assay.


COVID-19 Antibiotic Overuse Puts Stewardship Efforts at Risk

By Ryan Basen, MedPage Today, 5/12/2020

Many COVID-19 patients are getting antibiotics even when the drugs are unlikely to help, raising concerns about patient safety and antibiotic resistance, experts told MedPage Today.

That practice pairs with a recent GAO report highlighting the minimal progress of a major federal initiative to combat antibiotic resistance before the pandemic. …

Other guidance on antibiotic stewardship during COVID-19 includes a guideline from Benedikt Huttner, MD, of Geneva University and colleagues, and a flagging system deployed by researchers at the Mayo Clinic.


Study: CDC non-test isolation recommendation may fall short

— Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota, 5/12/2020

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) non-test strategy for releasing COVID-19 patients from isolation may send patients back into the community too early, resulting in more community spread, researchers from the Mayo Clinic wrote yesterday in a letter to the Journal of Infection.

They note that the CDC has two strategies for determining when a COVID-19 patient can leave isolation, a non–test-based one that relies on symptom improvement and days since symptoms began, and a testing one based on symptom improvement and two negative tests conducted more than 24 hours apart.

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Tags: antibacterial resistance, antibodies, artificial intelligence, cardiology, cardiovascular medicine, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, clinical trials, COVID-19, Gianrico Farrugia, heart failure, infectious disease, Joseph Poterucha, Mayo Clinic Health System, Michael Joyner, News, Paul Friedman, plasma, Progress Updates, public health, Raj Palraj, research, Stephen Russell, University of Minnesota

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