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Mayo Clinic Medical Science Blog – an eclectic collection of research- and research education-related stories: feature stories, mini news bites, learning opportunities, profiles and more from Mayo Clinic.

August 21, 2020

Mayo Clinic Research in the news — 8/21/2020

By Elizabeth Zimmermann

A wide range of Mayo Clinic expertise was highlighted in the past week, with local, national and international media outlets quoting researchers and referring to Mayo Clinic research findings. Following are a selection of these news articles, with a brief excerpt and link to the full story on the appropriate websites. For ease of review, these are divided into two sections, COVID-19 and other topics in health and health care delivery research.

COVID-19 related news

NatureEvidence lags behind excitement over blood plasma as a coronavirus treatment, by Heidi Ledford

US President Donald Trump has called on COVID-19 survivors to donate their blood plasma as a treatment for the disease, saying that “it’s had tremendous response so far”. Meanwhile, rumours have been swirling that US drug regulators are grappling with whether to give the plasma to more people by authorizing it as an emergency therapy. But researchers and clinicians around the world are concerned that a push to distribute blood plasma could undermine the clinical trials needed to determine whether it actually works against COVID-19.

Although some US hospitals already offer the treatment in special cases, an emergency-use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would make it easier to obtain and administer convalescent plasma — the yellow liquid that remains after cells are removed from blood. ...

Although there have been few data on whether convalescent plasma definitely improves outcomes for people with other diseases, it was logical to test the treatment against COVID-19 when the outbreak began. But researchers have struggled to nail down its effectiveness in the middle of the pandemic, says Michael Joyner, an anaesthesiologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.  

USA TodayOpinion: Continued silence by Big Ten makes football cancellation look worse by minute, by Chad Leistikow

On Tuesday, the Southeastern Conference outlined protocols for having fans in attendance for college football games this fall. Face coverings over the nose and mouth required when entering/exiting/moving around the stadium and when social-distancing isn’t feasible.

On Tuesday, North Carolina coach Mack Brown offered a positive outlook for Atlantic Coast Conference football, saying that coronavirus test results were coming back within 24 hours.

On Tuesday, the Big Ten Conference … remained quiet. ...

What medical data was used to make the fall decision? The Pac-12 has been forthcoming; the Big Ten has not, as other leagues planning to play cite medical advice for pushing forward. The Big 12 leaned on Mayo Clinic cardiologist Michael Ackerman, who said it would be “a scientific foul” to conclude that COVID-19 leads to myocarditis in 18- to 24-year-old athletes.

Christian Science Monitor, Herd community: There’s more to cows than we thought, say scientists, by Eva Botkin-Kowacki

It’s lunchtime at Unity Farm Sanctuary, and all the residents are munching away. In the “Forever Friends” pen, Audrey and Pal gently jostle heads to share the trough. When Pal nudges Audrey’s face out of her way, she stops and licks his ear and his neck as if to say, ‘That’s OK. I still love you,’ before placing her head back in the haystack.

That may seem strange – especially when social distancing is the behavior du jour – but Audrey and Pal are cattle. And the licking is a way of showing affection and bonding among bovine. ...

The cows are also offering solace to sanctuary co-founder and facilities manager John Halamka during the pandemic. Dr. Halamka is the president of the Mayo Clinic Platform, a digital health care initiative, and he says that after a long day of virtual meetings, spending time with the animals is calming.  “In the time of COVID there’s a lot of conflict. There’s worry about resources, there’s worry about societal stability, there’s lots of tension,” he says. “There’s no question that in a time of uncertainty, coming together human-to-human, or human-to-animal, is therapeutic to everyone.”  

New York TimesWhy Pooled Testing for the Coronavirus Isn’t Working in America, by Katherine J. Wu

Earlier this summer, Trump administration officials hailed a new strategy for catching coronavirus infections: pooled testing.

The decades-old approach combines samples from multiple people to save time and precious testing supplies. Federal health officials like Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and Adm. Brett Giroir said pooling would allow for constant surveillance of large sectors of the community, and said they hoped it would be up and running nationwide by the time students returned to school.

But now, when the nation desperately needs more coronavirus tests to get a handle on the virus’s spread, this efficient approach has become worthless in many places, in part because there are simply too many cases to catch.

Pooled testing only works when the vast majority of batches test negative. If the proportion of positives is too high, more pools come up positive — requiring each individual sample to then be retested, wasting precious chemicals. ...

“There’s been a lot of concerns about all the challenges,” said Dr. Bobbi Pritt, director of the clinical parasitology laboratory at Mayo Clinic, which processes tens of thousands of coronavirus tests each week, but has yet to roll out pooling. Experts disagree, for instance, on the cutoff at which pooling stops being useful. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s coronavirus test, which is used by most public health laboratories in the United States, stipulates that pooling shouldn’t be used when positivity rates exceed 10 percent. But at Mayo Clinic, “we’d have to start to question it once prevalence goes above 2 percent, definitely above 5 percent,” Dr. Pritt said.

CBS NewsIt's safe to go to the ER during the pandemic – "just be smart about it," doctor says, by Nicole Brown

Anyone with a medical emergency should seek treatment, even though coronavirus cases remain high in parts of the country, emergency care physician Dr. Ron Elfenbein said on CBSN Monday. Emergency departments, in general, "do a very good job" of sanitizing and keeping the risk of exposure to a minimum, he said. 

"If you have something that you consider to be an emergency, definitely go seek care for it," said Elfenbein, who practices in Maryland. "The emergency rooms, by and large, are safe and secure." ...

In April, as the outbreak in the New York City area hit its peak, U.S. emergency room visits fell around 40%, according to the CDC. Another study by researchers at Yale University and the Mayo Clinic showed that in the first four months of 2020, visits to emergency departments in five states — Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and North Carolina — fell between 42% and 64%.

The GuardianFlu and Covid: winter could bring 'double-barrel' outbreak to US, experts say, by Jessica Glenza

Public health experts, researchers and manufacturers warn the coming flu season could bring a “double-barrel” respiratory disease outbreak in the United States, just as fall and winter are expected to exacerbate the spread of Covid-19.

At the same time, researchers said the strategies currently used to prevent Covid-19 transmission – namely, hand-washing, mask-wearing and social distancing – could also help lessen flu outbreaks, if Americans are willing to practice them. ...

When community spread of Covid-19 began in the United States in March, widespread shutdowns shaved “four to six weeks” off the flu season in 2020, said Dr Richard Kennedy, co-director of the Mayo Clinic’s vaccine research lab. That was “probably as a direct result of the social distancing and the mask-wearing and the shutdown,” said Kennedy. A similar phenomenon is taking place in the southern hemisphere, where winter flu season is now tapering off. Countries such as Chile have seen historically low influenza transmission.

Arizona ABC 15Scientists say MMR vaccine could protect against COVID-19, by Jessica Peres

Researchers around the world are trying to learn as much as possible about COVID-19, while reaching for a vaccine, cure or other treatment. Some recent studies are looking at vaccines we already have in our arsenal.

"It has been known for years that some vaccines can offer protection against diseases that they're not targeting against. Probably the best example is the BCG vaccine, which is used to try to prevent tuberculosis. It can prevent people from acquiring malaria," said Andrew Badley, the Chair of the Mayo Clinic COVID Research Task Force.

Bemidji PioneerMayo survey: Why are people so weird about masks? by Paul John Scott

As one of the most personal interventions ever imposed in the name of public health, mandatory masking defies our expectations about people and rules.

Among the law-breaking marauders who marred nonviolent protests this summer with looting and destruction, adherence to local masking orders was widespread. ...

"I think a lot of people think that it should be a personal choice and you can't make me," said Pamela Sinicrope of the Mayo Clinic Behavioral Health Research Program. "Other people have to figure how to get a mask, what kind of mask to get, how to wear it. And then there's this thing with masks that you're wearing a mask to protect other people, not yourself. That's kind of a complicated idea."

WYTV, Geneva College selected for Mayo Clinic COVID-19 research study, by WYTV Staff

Geneva College is one of two campus communities nationwide selected for a Mayo Clinic research study screening for COVID-19 antibodies. …

The research study is to shed statistical light on how COVID-19 impacts college and university communities. This serological test will also screen for Influenza A and B, RSV and season coronaviruses other than COVID-19.

News beyond COVID-19

CBS BaltimoreHigh Blood Pressure In Pregnancy Linked With ‘More Bothersome’ Hot Flashes During Menopause, Study Finds, by Jacqueline Howard

High blood pressure or hypertension during pregnancy appears to be associated with having “more bothersome” menopausal symptoms — such as hot flashes, sleep disturbances and psychological symptoms — later in life, according to a new study.

The study, published in the journal Menopause on Wednesday, also suggests that women with a history of hypertension during pregnancy who use hormone therapy are more likely to report more bothersome symptoms than women with no such history.

Overall, high blood pressure during pregnancy and severe menopausal symptoms are both risk factors for cardiovascular disease in women, said Dr. Stephanie Faubion, director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Women’s Health and medical director for the North American Menopause Society. Yet just because they are linked does not mean one actually causes the other.

Neurology TodayBlood Tests for Tau in Alzheimer's Disease Appear Promising in Several New Trials, by Thomas R. Collins

A series of new studies point to the promise of phosphorylated tau in the blood for detecting Alzheimer's disease (AD) reliably and early, researchers said at the virtual Alzheimer's Association International Conference.

The findings, taken collectively, have sparked excitement in the field about the possibility of a cheaper, less invasive way to test for the disease, which so far has been detectable in patients who are still alive only in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) with a spinal tap or with costly PET imaging. ...

“These results are really exciting and, I think, a turning point for the field with regards to the development of a blood based-biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of Alzheimer's disease,” said Michelle Mielke, PhD, professor of epidemiology and neurology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, who was not involved with the studies.  

BBCHow do you fix healthcare's medical waste problem? by Hope Ngo

Coronavirus has made medical waste more visible than ever, but the environmental footprint of healthcare goes much further – and reducing it could save lives. ...

There is certainly a way to go. In 2018, a survey conducted across four Mayo Clinic locations across the United States found that single-use plastics made up at least 20% of medical waste generated in US hospitals; 57% of those surveyed didn’t know which items in operating theatres could be recycled, 39% said they either sometimes or never recycled, and that 48% had “a lack of knowledge” about recycling.

Radiology BusinessRadiologists make significantly more mistakes on the night shift than their daytime counterparts, by Marty Stempniak

Radiologists working late hours overnight make “significantly” more errors than their daytime-shift counterparts, according to a new analysis published Tuesday.

Mistakes actually increased during the back-half of the night shift at a rate of roughly 3.7% of cases compared to 2.5% during the earlier portion, Mayo Clinic imaging experts reported in Radiology. Previous studies have noted these trends among residents, but this new analysis targeted board-certified docs and warrants attention from practice leaders, experts advised.

“The error rate was higher despite lower work intensity during night assignments and despite having work schedules exceeding Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education guidelines to promote rest,” Anika Patel, with the Department of Radiology at Mayo’s Phoenix location, and colleagues wrote Aug. 18.

HealioProgression uncommon among untreated children with intermittent exotropia, by Kate Burba

Stereoacuity deterioration or progression to constant exotropia was uncommon among children with intermittent exotropia who did not undergo surgical treatment, according to a study from the journal, Ophthalmology.

Brian G. Mohney, MD, department of ophthalmology at the Mayo Clinic, and colleagues wrote that intermittent exotropia (IXT), “which occurs in nearly 1% of children in the United States and up to 4% of children in Asia, generally manifests more frequently with distance viewing, illness or fatigue. Although common, there are minimal data regarding the natural history of this disorder.”

STATHow do you separate scientifically sound stem cell therapies from scams? by Natalya Ortolano

For patients who’ve run out of other options, experimental, unproven therapies like stem cell treatments offer new hope. But how do you sort the scientifically legitimate from the dangerous? ...

The Mayo Clinic Regenerative Medicine Consult Service helps patients and providers learn about available regenerative therapies and stem cell clinical trials relevant to their condition. Patients can make an in-person appointment, or, more often, call…Shane Shapiro, the medical director of the regenerative medicine therapeutics program at Mayo Clinic stressed to STAT that the goal of the clinic is not to help the patient find a stem cell therapy, but the best therapy for their condition. And many do end up with options, the same study of the visitors found. “More often than not, when we have an informed discussion with the patient, we’re able to show them there are still treatments that are available to them … and sometimes [the] treatments that patients may be hunting for may not be the best option for them,” Shapiro said.

TCTMDWhen a Pacemaker Lead Complicates Transcatheter Tricuspid Replacement: New Insights, by Yael L. Maxwell

For patients with transvenous pacemaker leads, transcatheter tricuspid valve replacement (TTVR) can be performed safely with a low risk for periprocedural complications, according to a new observational study. ...

Lead author Jason H. Anderson, MD (Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN), told TCTMD that they designed their study to give some guidance to operators, because until now “it's basically been a case-by-case scenario where each case is just determined by the implanting physician and the team taking care of that patient.” Although longer follow-up is essential to understand whether patients with transvenous pacing leads who undergo TTVR are at risk for accelerated valve dysfunction, “there is no obvious reason for concern on the basis of the evidence in this preliminary experience,” the researchers write.

St. Mary’s UniversityPitel solves complex puzzles in genetic research at Mayo Clinic, by Deb Nahrgang

Working in genetic research at Mayo Clinic, Beth (Schubert) Pitel ’06 solves complex puzzles, which could ultimately improve patient care or even save lives. Pitel became part of a research team using genetic testing to understand why young children were suddenly dying about 15 years ago in an Amish community. The deaths had baffled medical examiners and brought heartbreak to the Amish community. Some of her most recent research was covered by CNN.

Estado de MinasTerapia celular: pesquisadores descobrem novas células para tratamento de diabetes, Jéssica Mayara

“Este produto celular é um tecido humano derivado de células-tronco, que contém células alfa produtoras de glucagon, um elemento chave na prevenção da hipoglicemia em pacientes com diabetes. Quando essas células, derivadas de células-tronco, são transplantadas para modelos animais, elas são capazes de protegê-los da hipoglicemia. Essas células têm também potencial agregado quando combinadas com células beta derivadas de células-tronco”, explica o pesquisador da Mayo Clinic e autor do estudo, Quinn Peterson.


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Tags: About, Alzheimer's disease, Andrew Badley, blood pressure, Bobbi Pritt, Brian Mohney, cardiology, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19, diabetes, emergency department, epidemiology, Findings, genetics, hereditary diseases, immunity, immunization, infectious disease, influenza, Jason H. Anderson, John Halamka, menopause, Michael Ackerman, Michael Joyner, Michelle Mielke, neurology, News, News of the Week, ophthalmology, pediatric research, plasma, Richard Kennedy, stem cell research, stem cells, Stephanie Faubion, vaccines, women's health

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