Advancing the Science

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.

November 23, 2020

Mayo Clinic Research in the news — 11/23/2020

By Elizabeth Zimmermann

There were all sorts of different things in the news this week, but perhaps the most heartening was the news from Dr. Anthony Fauci and our own Gregory Poland, M.D., that Santa Claus and the elves are practicing safe behaviors and COVID-19 won't stop Christmas from arriving.  Read on for excerpts from this and other news stories covering a range of Mayo Clinic Research and researchers.

Fauci says Santa Claus has 'innate immunity', won't be spreading COVID-19 to anyone this Christmas

USA TODAY, 11/20/2020

… Dr. Greg Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group, declared he had just gotten off the phone with the North Pole when he spoke with USA TODAY Thursday. There had been two infections among the elves, but "none of them serious," he said.

"It was a good reminder to the elves about wearing the mask properly. They now do that. It’s mandatory in the North Pole," Poland said.

NOTE: You can learn more about Dr. Poland's conversation with folks at the North Pole, and what the other experts had to say by reading the whole article.

Mayo Clinic DNA study aims to unlock mystery surrounding COVID-19 outcomes

KARE 11, 11/17/2020

Why do some people experience no symptoms of COVID while others have life-threatening complications? A new study aims to find out.

The Mayo Clinic is expanding on a large genetic research study to help search for answers to one of the biggest questions surrounding COVID-19: Why do some people experience few, if any, symptoms, while others have life-threatening complications?

"I strongly believe that there are some people more susceptible to develop COVID than others," said Dr. Konstantinos N. Lazaridis, Principal Investigator of Tapestry, a DNA sequencing research study being conducted across all Mayo Clinic campuses.

NOTE: Learn more about the Tapestry study and Dr. Lazaridis' research.

New record for overdose deaths in La Crosse County, study shows increase in substance abuse

WKBT TV, 11/19/2020

… “Covid-19 is a respiratory illness. Therefore, young adults could be cautious while using marijuana, vaping, or smoking because they’re concerned or cautious that this could have adverse effects on their lungs,” said Pravesh Sharma, M.D., a psychiatrist at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, and the study’s lead author.

The survey also asked participants about how the pandemic has impacted their mental health.

Many of them said they feel more anxious and/or depressed.

Sharma said being socially distant doesn’t mean we need to be socially isolated, it’s important to make time to talk to your loved ones. …

Antibiotic use for infants linked to childhood autism, other health conditions, Mayo Clinic study finds

Becker's Hospital Review, 11/18/2020

Infants receiving antibiotics are more likely to develop major health conditions later in childhood, according to research published Nov. 15 in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.  

Top Mayo Clinic Vaccine Expert Concerned About COVID-19 Fatigue

KROC radio, 11/22/2020

"And if we don't get a hold of this virus, then we don't get to decide. The virus decides.”

NOTE: So says Gregory Poland, M.D., director of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group, featured in the video interview.

Voice Test used to help detect markers for COVID-19

KAAL TV, 11/18/2020

… In collaboration with  Mayo Clinic, a tech health company called Vocalis Health is using artificial intelligence to determine if a patient's voice can detect disease. …

"We identify in the voice what we call a voice bio marker. That can help us identify disease," said Dr. Amir Lerman, the Director of the Cardiovascular Research Center at Mayo Clinic.

Lerman said about seven years ago he started working with the tech company using the voice test to listen for red flags associated with diseases. Originally the focus was on respiratory infections, and then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. …

Monitoring Autoantibodies in AAV Helps Predict Remission, Relapse, Study Finds

ANCA Vasculitis News, 11/18/2020

Changes in autoantibodies that target the protein PR3 in people with ANCA-associated vasculitis (AAV) may help predict sustained remission following treatment, and eventual disease relapses, a study found.

The research also shows that the ALBIA method, which is becoming widely used in high-volume laboratories for the measurement of these antibodies, is feasible for serial monitoring of autoantibody levels.

Minnesota receiving drug to prevent COVID-19 hospitalizations

Star Tribune, 11/17/2020

The new COVID-19 drug bamlanivimab is for people with mild to moderate cases of the infectious disease.

Minnesota is beginning to receive limited supplies of a new COVID-19 therapy that could reduce the need for hospital stays and trips to the emergency room — a tantalizing promise as medical centers struggle with a surge of patients while the pandemic virus sidelines more health care workers. …

The Mayo Clinic is moving quickly to create a structure for safely providing the new treatment, said Dr. Andrew Badley, chairman of the COVID Research Task Force at the Rochester-based clinic. The plan includes an infusion center in Rochester and four other locations across southeastern Minnesota.

A large study showed that outpatients who were newly diagnosed with COVID-19 and received the therapy within 10 days ran a significantly lower risk of being hospitalized or going to an emergency room, Badley said. Whereas 6.3% of patients in the study who did not receive treatment needed hospital or ER care, and that was true for only 1.6% of patients who received the antibody. …

Some of the youngest Covid patients face uncertain futures as they struggle with long-term impacts

CNBC Make It, 11/19/2020

Cases are on the rise, but understanding of long-term effects of Covid still a black box

Those who test positive for Covid and have symptoms generally recover within two to four weeks, says Dr. Greg Vanichkachorn, an occupational medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic who is currently working to create a rehabilitation program specifically for Covid-19 patients struggling with lingering effects from the virus.

Those suffering from post-Covid syndrome, however, are still persistently experiencing symptoms on a daily basis four weeks after the acute infection phase, Vanichkachorn tells CNBC Make It. Most frequently, those lingering symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, headaches and “brain fog,” where patients find it difficult to concentrate. 

“We still don’t know yet how it’s going to affect [patients] long term,” Vanichkachorn says. …

Reports of two promising COVID-19 vaccines don’t mean we ‘magically,’ quickly return to normal

Washington Post, 11/21/2020

For many Americans chafing to return to normalcy, recent reports that at least two experimental covid-19 vaccines are highly effective come as welcome news in the midst of a frightening surge of infections and deaths. The first shots may be given in mid- to late December, but that doesn’t mean you can hug your friends, stop washing your hands or throw away your mask any time soon.

… Andrew Badley, an immunovirologist who chairs Mayo Clinic’s covid-19 task force, says the return of any normal activities depends on numerous factors, including how many people get vaccinated.

“The only possibility that life will return to normal by summer is if the majority of the population receives the vaccines by then and the early efficacy data is borne out in ongoing studies,” he says. He adds, however: “I think it is unlikely we will be able to vaccinate the majority of the population by then.”

NOTE: The article features more comments from Dr. Badley as well as several other experts.

Osteoporosis Drugs Don't Worsen COVID-19 Risk, May Help

Medscape, 11/17/2020

New observational data are the first to support recommendations to continue osteoporosis medications during the COVID-19 pandemic, and even suggest that some agents may protect against the virus. 

… Asked to comment on the findings, Matthew T. Drake, MD, PhD, told Medscape Medical News, "I would agree that there's no reason any of these medications should be stopped or discontinued since there's no evidence that they make the risk for infection worse."

"But how [some of them may] improve or reduce the infection risk in my mind is somewhat unclear...It's hard to come up with a unifying explanation," because those mentioned as potentially beneficial "are fairly different," he noted.

Drake, who is associate professor of medicine in the department of endocrinology at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, said he agreed with the study authors that denosumab's targeting of the RANK/RANKL system is a possible anti-COVID-19 mechanism for that drug, as that system is involved in immune response.   

NOTE: Dr. Drake's comments continue along with those of other experts.

Patient experience, human design thinking crucial for radiologists seeking normalcy amid pandemic

Radiology Business, 11/19/2020

Radiology practices hampered by COVID-19 must emphasize the patient experience and utilize “human design thinking” in order to return to normalcy, experts said this week.

After precipitous drops in imaging visits earlier this year, practices have deployed a variety of strategies—checking temperatures, spacing out appointments and requiring masks, just to name a few. And it’s beginning to pay off, with some radiology providers returning to pre-pandemic levels, according to a Monday report from RSNA News.

The radiology community, however, must make sure that it’s communicating these efforts to patients, so they know it is safe, Richard Sharpe, MD, a Mayo Clinic radiologist, told the website.

NOTE: Read the article for more from Dr. Sharpe, who is a member of the RSNA's COVID-19 Task Force.

In-hospital mortality down in acute MI, cardiac arrest, but disparities in care remain

Cardiology Today, 11/18/2020

Since 2012, in-hospital death among patients with acute MI and cardiac arrest fell, but procedural disparities and hospitalization characteristics remain, particularly among Black patients, a speaker reported.

“Racial disparities exist in all arenas of medicine, but it’s particularly concerning in patients presenting with acute myocardial infarction and with cardiac arrest,” Anna V. Subramaniam, MD, chief resident in internal medicine at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, said during a presentation at the virtual American Heart Association Scientific Sessions. “Early efforts made to examine disparities hypothesized that differences in access to care or socioeconomic status may be the culprits here, but differences in patient outcomes persisted, even after controlling for these factors, which suggests that there’s more complex prehospital and hospital-related components that might be contributing to the differences in outcomes.”

NOTE: Dr. Subramaniam's abstract from this presentation, as well as others presented by her and other Mayo Clinic colleagues, is available online in the AHA20 online planner.


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Tags: Amir Lerman, Andrew Badley, Anna Subramaniam, antibiotic, antibodies, anxiety, autism, cardiovascular medicine, clinical research, COVID-19, depression, DNA, Findings, genetic testing, Greg Vanichkachorn, Gregory Poland, heart attack, infection, infectious disease, Konstantinos Lazaridis, Matthew Drake, Mayo Clinic Health System, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, mental health, News, News of the Week, occupational medicine, osteoporosis, People, Pravesh Sharma, radiology, rehabilitation, Richard Sharpe, sudden cardiac arrest, vaccines, vaping, vasculitis

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