Nepal | October 21, 2020

COVID-19 increases risks for cancer patients; common cold antibodies no help vs coronavirus

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The following is a roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID19, the illness caused by the virus.

COVID19 increases risks for cancer patients

Cancer patients face poorer outcomes if they become infected with the new coronavirus, a new study shows.

However, undergoing recent cancer treatments did not make COVID19 outcomes worse, so cancer therapies should not be delayed, the research team advises in a report published on Friday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

A 3D printed coronavirus model is seen in front of the words “Coronavirus COVID-19, one million deaths” on display in this illustration taken on September 28, 2020. Photo: Reuters

The study involved nearly 23,000 patients with cancer who were tested for COVID19 at U.S. Veterans Affairs health facilities nationwide. Roughly 1,800 (7.8%) had tested positive, with no effect of age on the likelihood of infection. C

OVID19 rates were higher in patients with blood cancers (11%) than in those with solid tumors (8%). Compared to patients who tested negative for the virus, COVID19 patients had more hospitalizations, needed more intensive care, and needed more help with breathing. Death rates were 14% among cancer patients with COVID19 and 3% in those without the virus.

Across the country, African-American and Hispanic cancer patients had higher rates of COVID19 infection than white cancer patients – 15%, 11% and 6%, respectively.

They also had higher rates of hospitalization. The real prevalence of COVID19 among cancer patients remains uncertain, the researchers point out, because many have not been tested for the virus.

Common cold antibodies do not protect against COVID19

Your immune system may be able to produce antibodies that recognize and fight off the coronaviruses that cause common colds, but those antibodies are not likely to protect against the coronavirus that causes COVID19, new research shows.

At Rockefeller University in New York City, scientists studied blood samples collected and stored before the pandemic from people known to have had common colds in the past few months.

In test-tube experiments, they found that each sample contained antibodies that could recognize and neutralize, or disable, at least one common cold coronavirus – and most could recognize multiple such viruses.

But none of the samples had antibodies that could recognize and disable a virus that had been modified to look like the new coronavirus, carrying the spike protein that helps it infect healthy cells. In a report published ahead of peer review on Sunday on medRxiv, the researchers say that while there may be rare individuals with common cold antibodies that can also target the COVID19 virus, their new data suggest those antibodies are not going to have much of an effect for the population as a whole.

COVID19 neurological effects may reflect immune response

The new coronavirus might not be having major direct effects on the brain despite neurological issues that have been widely reported.

Researchers examined brains of 43 COVID19 patients who died in intensive care units, nursing homes, regular hospital wards, or at home.

They found coronavirus proteins in the brain stem, but “little involvement” of the frontal lobe – the part of the brain important for movement, language and higher level functioning.

They also saw increases in brain cells called astrocytes, signaling destruction of other nearby cells. Because critical illness itself can contribute to this finding, it is not clear that COVID19 is the direct cause. The presence of the virus was not associated with the severity of brain tissue changes, researchers said.

All of the brains showed signs of “neuroimmune activation,” meaning the immune system had been activated to respond to the infection in the brain. Patients’ neurological symptoms might be due to the body’s immune response, rather than to direct central nervous system damage from the virus, the authors reported in The Lancet Neurology. “We have started to define the immune reaction to SARS-CoV-2 virus in the brain,” co-author Markus Glatzel of University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in German told Reuters. “We think that the neuroimmune reaction may be a factor explaining some of the neurological symptoms seen in COVID19 patients.”


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