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August 28, 2020

Mayo Clinic Research in the news — COVID, COVID, COVID

By Elizabeth Zimmermann

There has been a lot of discussion surrounding convalescent plasma in the last week. A few articles are listed here, an internet search will give you dozens more.

In addition to convalescent plasma, our researchers are working on tests, vaccines, social and population health issues relating to COVID-19. Recent news articles highlighting Mayo Clinic Research and researchers are excerpted and linked below.

Convalescent plasma news

COVID-19 plasma therapy, backed by Mayo research, will reach more patients, by Glenn Howatt, Star Tribune, 8/24/2020

More COVID-19 patients are expected to receive convalescent plasma therapy since the Trump administration issued an emergency authorization Sunday, backed by research from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

"This makes it simpler for hospitals to get access to convalescent plasma," said Dr. R. Scott Wright, a coordinator of Mayo's national plasma program.

The treatment involves a transfusion of blood plasma from someone who has recovered from the new coronavirus into a newly infected patient with the hope that the antibodies in the plasma will prevent complications and speed recovery.


Mayo Clinic doctors detail research into plasma treatment for COVID, video interview with Cynthia McFadden on Today.com (NBC), 8/24/2020


Convalescent plasma treatment for covid-19 has been oversold by the US, by Jessica Hamzelou, NewScientist, 8/25/2020

Blood plasma donated by people who have recovered from COVID-19 will be used as a treatment for the infection in the US. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted an emergency use authorisation for the treatment on 23 August, but the evidence that it works is lacking. ...

Several studies are under way to test convalescent plasma for covid-19. The largest has been run by the Mayo Clinic in the US – about 71,000 people have received treatment across 2780 hospitals over the past five months as part of a programme that enables access to experimental therapies.


COVID-19 Therapy Controversy, by Roland Pease, BBC, 8/27/2020

This week Science in Action examines the evidence around the Trump Administration’s emergency use authorisation of convalescent plasma therapy for the treatment of Covid-19. Donald Trump described its US-wide roll-out as ‘historic’ but the majority of scientists and doctors disagree, questioning the scientific basis for the government’s decision. Roland Pease talks to Mayo Clinic’s Michael Joyner, the leader of the convalescent plasma therapy study on which the action was based. ...


On other COVID-19 related research, expertise

Mayo Clinic study shows stable humidity could slow spread of COVID-19, Lincoln News Now, 8/24/2020

With many schools reopening across the country, districts are deciding not to run their heating, ventilation and air conditioning, or HVAC, systems out of fear of spreading the novel coronavirus, instead choosing to run large fans throughout their schools.

A study from the Mayo Clinic has shown, however, that’s not the best idea for classrooms to fight infectious diseases. 

The study proved keeping the relative humidity in classrooms between 40% and 60% could reduce the infectious capacity of respiratory diseases to survive on surfaces, or spread between classmates as aerosols.


NYT: Doctors Enter College Football’s Politics, but Maybe Just for Show

… And a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic who advised the Big 12 and Conference U.S.A. to soldier on with football said in a podcast that any conference that did not play because of myocarditis concerns was relying on “wimpy, wobbly, weak” evidence.

… That schism may help explain why Dr. Michael Ackerman, a cardiovascular genomics research professor at the Mayo Clinic, ended up on a Zoom call earlier this month with Big 12 presidents, athletic directors and their medical advisory group, and then a day later on a similar call for Conference U.S.A.


One College’s Pop-Up COVID Test: Stop and ‘Smell the Roses’ (Or the Coffee), by Ann Bauer, Kaiser Health News, 8/24/2020

If all goes according to plan, Penn State University students who opt for an on-campus experience this fall will start in-person classes on Aug. 24 under the banner of a “Mask Up or Pack Up” campaign.

By returning to campus, students are agreeing to wear masks, adhere to social distancing practices and submit to random testing for COVID-19.

But “Mask Up or Pack Up” also offers a less traditional, more proactive approach to virus containment: the smell test.

... Several other studies have linked the loss of smell to the virus. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic reported in June that patients with COVID-19 were 27 times more likely to lose their sense of smell than people without the virus, while less than three times as likely to report fever and/or chills. Another analysis of medical records by Mayo researchers suggested that routine screening for those changes “could contribute to improved case detection in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”


AHA News: Researchers Explore How COVID-19 Affects Heart Health in Black Women, via U.S. News & World Report, 8/25/2020

Nearly six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, two things have become clear: The virus profoundly impacts people with heart disease and disproportionately impacts Black people. But the many manifestations of these disparities remain unclear, particularly for one group regularly left out of medical research.

... Black women may also be more exposed to contagion, said Dr. LaPrincess Brewer, assistant professor of medicine in the Mayo Clinic's department of cardiovascular medicine in Rochester, Minn. "They are more likely to hold service sector jobs that increase their risk of exposure to COVID-19. They are more likely to serve as heads of household."


Mayo Clinic study finds uptick in chest pain searches online amid COVID-19, even as ED visits for heart problems drops, by Tina Reed, Fierce Healthcare, 8/26/2020

One of the big concerns reported in emergency departments across the country in the weeks and months after the COVID-19 pandemic began was around just how much their volumes dropped.

The big question: Just what happened to all the heart attacks? 

Mayo Clinic researchers may lend more evidence that patients were trying to avoid a trip to the emergency room. In a study published this week in JMIR Cardio, the researchers found a correlation between online searches for chest pain symptoms and reports of fewer people going to the emergency department with acute heart problems.


What should we tell kids before sending them back to school? A Mayo Clinic pediatrician weighs in, by Sean Baker, Med City Beat, 8/25/2020

When children return to the classroom this fall (in districts that are offering in-person instruction), they will be going back to an environment much different than the one they left in March, when the pandemic began to take hold of every aspect of American life. Masks will cover their smiles. Social distancing will prevent them from sitting in tight circles. Remembering to wash their hands will become as important as memorizing Shakespeare.

That is because if schools are to remain open, they will need students to adjust to a new set of expectations, ones that require them to rethink their own individual behaviors as well as how they interact with one another.

For parents, this means having conversations with your children — about what they can expect, how they can stay safe, and what they should do when their bodies do not feel right. To help navigate these discussions, we spoke with Dr. Angela Mattke, a pediatrician at Mayo Clinic Children’s Center. Below are some recommendations she offered on how you can prepare kids for a school year that will be anything but normal.


Why is COVID-19 killing more men? A new study provides clues. by Abby Haglage, Yahoo Life, 8/27/2020

A new study in the journal Nature published Wednesday suggests that differences in gender may account for why men are more likely to contract COVID-19 and are 2.4 times more likely to die from it, and is calling on the scientific community to continue study of the data.

... Dr. Gregory Poland, an immunologist and director of the Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group, says the research is too limited so far to make any conclusions, saying instead to “consider these hints.” However, he says it does align with what’s already known about gender and disease. “It’s consistent with what we know about virtually every vaccine that has been studied. Women respond better to vaccines,” Poland tells Yahoo Life. “Women do better with infectious diseases, whether it’s cold or influenza.” ...


Experts see progress on a COVID-19 vaccine, but worry about who gets it first and how it gets to them, by Elizabeth Weise and Karen Weintraub, USA Today, 8/26/2020

A coronavirus vaccine or even several could be ready in a few months, so experts are beginning to worry about howto get it into people's arms.

“Vaccines don’t save lives. Vaccinations save lives,” said Daniel Salmon, director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

... This may not be one-and-done either, said Dr. Greg Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group.

Just as the common cold and flu mutate a little each year, coronavirus could do the same. Funding new vaccine development that can fill the void in case of viral mutation/recombination will be critical, said Poland, editor-in-chief of the journal Vaccine. ...


More research on virus sought, by Li Yan, China Daily, 8/25/2020

Experts call for increased international unity to learn about long-term maladies

As the long-term effects of COVID-19 begin to surface, experts are calling for more research and global collaboration as well as a better mechanism to monitor recovered patients and greater public education initiatives to reduce unnecessary fear or speculation.

According to the journal Science, the list of lingering maladies from COVID-19 is longer and more varied than most doctors could have imagined. They include fatigue, shortness of breath, muddled thoughts, a persistent loss of sense of smell and damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys and brain.

The Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit medical research center based in the United States, said most people who have COVID-19 recover completely within a few weeks, but some, even those who had mild versions of the disease, continue to experience symptoms.

Gregory Poland, a COVID-19 expert at the clinic, said the virus is "wicked" and "has a number of mysteries involved compared to the usual respiratory virus." This includes the emerging idea of COVID-19"long-haulers," a term used to describe people who develop long-term and ongoing complications.

Read more from Dr. Poland and others in the rest of the article online.

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Mayo Clinic's COVID-19 mini site includes news, research findings, information on clinical trials and more.

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Tags: Angela Mattke, cardiology, COVID-19, emergency department, Findings, genomics, Gregory Poland, health disparities, immunization, infection control, infectious disease, LaPrincess Brewer, Michael Ackerman, News, plasma, Progress Updates, R. Scott Wright, research, vaccines, women's health

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