News from Bioethics.com

Immigration Status, Housing, and Food-Service Work Explain Covid-19’s Burden on Latinos

1 month 4 weeks

(STAT News) – A new analysis of one state’s Covid-19 data lays bare some of the reasons behind the disproportionate burden of Covid-19 infections on people of color, pinpointing in particular factors that heightened risks for Latino residents. Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health tallied confirmed Covid-19 cases in all 351 Massachusetts cities and towns and determined that the biggest predictor of infection was being a recent immigrant to the U.S., followed by living in a household with a large number of people and working in the food-service industry. But that was true only for Latinos, not Black people.

Another COVID Mystery: Patients Survive Ventilator, But Linger in a Coma

1 month 4 weeks

(Kaiser Health News) – After the removal, it typically takes hours, maybe a day, for the patient to return to consciousness. The body needs that time to clear the drugs that keep the patient sedated and comfortable — able to tolerate intubation and mechanical ventilation. But doctors across the U.S. and in other countries have noted a troubling phenomenon associated with some COVID cases: Even after extubation, some patients remain unconscious for days, weeks or longer. There’s no official term for the problem, but it’s being called a “prolonged” or “persistent” coma or unresponsiveness.

They Cared for Some of New York’s Most Vulnerable Communities. Then 12 Died.

1 month 4 weeks

(Kaiser Health News) – The U.S. relies on immigrant labor — from doctors to nurses to health aides — to keep its health system afloat. And now immigrant health workers are dying at high rates during the pandemic. Lost on the Frontline, a joint project by KHN and The Guardian, has found that nearly one-third of health care workers who were confirmed to have died of COVID-19 were born outside the U.S. However, immigrants account for just 14% of the U.S. population and 18% of its health care force.

What if the First Coronavirus Vaccines Aren’t the Best?

1 month 4 weeks

(New York Times) – The New York Times has confirmed that at least 88 candidates are under active preclinical investigation in laboratories across the world, with 67 of them slated to begin clinical trials before the end of 2021. Those trials may begin after millions of people have already received the first wave of vaccines. It will take months to see if any of them are safe and effective. Nevertheless, the scientists developing them say their designs may be able to prompt more powerful immune responses, or be much cheaper to produce, or both — making them the slow and steady winners of the race against the coronavirus.

How ‘Elite Controllers’ Tame HIV Without Drugs

1 month 4 weeks

(Science) – A tiny fraction of the 38 million HIV-infected people in the world have what seems like a superpower. Without the help of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, they keep the AIDS virus at undetectable levels in their blood, sometimes for many years, even though they still have HIV genes woven into their chromosomes. Now, the most in-depth genomic analysis of these rare individuals, who account for less than 0.5% of all HIV infections, reveals a clue to their success, which scientists hope will ultimately lead to new strategies to corral the virus in others.

A Dilemma for ‘Long-Haulers’: Many Can’t Prove They Ever Had Covid-19

1 month 4 weeks

(STAT News) – As the coronavirus pandemic rolls on, an unknown number of seemingly recovered patients are experiencing what is being called post-Covid syndrome — weeks or months of profound fatigue, fevers, problems with concentration and memory, dizzy spells, hair loss, and many other troubling symptoms. Among these “long-haulers,” as they have become known, a significant number face a very specific challenge: convincing others they had Covid-19 in the first place.

Many People of Color, Immigrants Among 1,080 US Health Workers Lost to COVID

1 month 4 weeks

(Kaiser Health News) – More than 1,000 front-line health care workers reportedly have died of COVID-19, according to Lost on the Frontline, an ongoing investigation by The Guardian and KHN to track and memorialize every U.S. health care worker who dies from the coronavirus. Earlier this month, the organizations published a major interactive database. It is the most comprehensive accounting of U.S. health care workers’ deaths in the country. The virus has taken a disproportionate toll on communities of color and immigrants — and health workers haven’t been spared.

Why Does the Coronavirus Hit Men Harder? A New Clue

1 month 4 weeks

(New York Times) – The coronavirus may infect anyone, young or old, but older men are up to twice as likely to become severely sick and to die as women of the same age. Why? The first study to look at immune response by sex has turned up a clue: Men produce a weaker immune response to the virus than do women, the researchers concluded. The findings, published on Wednesday in Nature, suggest that men, particularly those over age 60, may need to depend more on vaccines to protect against the infection.

Two European Patients Reinfected with Coronavirus

1 month 4 weeks

(Medscape) – Two European patients are confirmed to have been re-infected with the coronavirus, raising concerns about people’s immunity to the virus as the world struggles to tame the pandemic. The cases, in Belgium and the Netherlands, follow a report this week by researchers in Hong Kong about a man there who had been re-infected with a different strain of the virus four and a half months after being declared recovered – the first such re-infection to be documented.

More Mixed Results for Remdesivir: Moderate COVID-19 Patient

1 month 4 weeks

(Medscape) – A 5-day course of remdesivir (Veklury) is associated with statistically significant improvement among patients hospitalized with moderate COVID-19 in comparison with standard care, a company-sponsored randomized trial shows. However, experts said the clinical benefit of the drug for these patients is ambiguous, given the small difference between trial groups.

Elder Abuse

2 months 12 hours

(Harper’s Magazine) – In some states, the vast majority of COVID-19 deaths were in homes: 64 percent in Massachusetts, 68 percent in Pennsylvania, 77 percent in Minnesota. In New Jersey, one in every ten people housed in nursing homes or assisted-living centers died. This was a helpless population, helpless because so often confined in a state of neglect and squalor. But despite or perhaps because of their conditions, they were worth a lot of money. In effect, they were being harvested for profit.

Colleges Weigh Transparency Versus Privacy When It Comes to Covid-19 Data

2 months 13 hours

(Wall Street Journal) – The issue of how to report outbreaks exploded at UNC last week, with the four clusters contributing to 130 student Covid-19 cases in its then-weekly update of test results. The total spurred pushback from students and led the administration to shutter dorms, move all undergraduate classes online, and expand its data-sharing policies to daily reports and cluster-specific case counts.

Some People Can Get the Pandemic Virus Twice, a Study Suggests. That Is No Reason to Panic

2 months 13 hours

(Science) – Scientists have found the first solid evidence that people can be reinfected with the virus that causes COVID-19. A new study shows a 33-year-old man who was treated at the hospital for a mild case in March harbored the virus again when he was tested at the Hong Kong airport after returning from Europe on 15 August, less than 5 months later. He had no symptoms this time. Researchers had sequenced the virus, SARS-CoV-2, from the first infection; they did so again after the patient’s second diagnosis and found numerous differences between the two, bolstering the case that the patient had been infected a second time.

Four Scenarios on How We Might Develop Immunity to Covid-19

2 months 13 hours

(STAT News) – As the world wearies of trying to suppress the SARS-CoV-2 virus, many of us are wondering what the future will look like as we try to learn to live with it. Will it always have the capacity to make us so sick? Will our immune systems learn — and remember — how to cope with the new threat? Will vaccines be protective and long-lasting?

New US Virus Cases Fall as Masks Gain Favor But Testing Lags

2 months 13 hours

(Associated Press) – The number of Americans newly diagnosed with the coronavirus is falling — a development experts say most likely reflects more mask-wearing but also insufficient testing — even as the disease continues to claim nearly 1,000 lives in the U.S. each day. About 43,000 new cases are being reported daily across the country, down 21% from early August, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. While the U.S., India and Brazil still have the highest numbers of new cases in the world, the downward trend is encouraging.

Eradication of Polio in Africa Is ‘Great Day’ WHO Director General Says

2 months 13 hours

(CNN) – Polio has been declared eradicated from Africa, the World Health Organization said Tuesday. “Today we come together to rejoice over a historic public health success, the certification of wild poliovirus eradication in the African region,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, said during a livestreamed event. “The end of wild polio in Africa is a great day,” said Tedros, who is also the chair of the polio oversight board. “Your success is the success of the world. None of us could have done this alone.”

The Uneven Scramble for Coronavirus Vaccines–by the Numbers

2 months 1 day

(Nature) – Wealthy countries have struck deals to buy more than two billion doses of coronavirus vaccine in a scramble that could leave limited supplies in the coming year. Meanwhile, an international effort to acquire vaccines for low- and middle-income countries is struggling to gain traction.

Hong Kong Researchers Report First Documented Coronavirus Re-Infection

2 months 1 day

(Reuters) – A Hong Kong man who recovered from COVID-19 was infected again four-and-a-half months later in the first documented instance of human re-infection, researchers at the University of Hong Kong said on Monday. The findings indicate the disease, which has killed more than 800,000 people worldwide, may continue to spread amongst the global population despite herd immunity, they said.

Russia Vaccine Roll-Out Plan Prompts Virus Mutation Worries

2 months 4 days

(Reuters) – Russia’s plan to roll-out its “Sputnik-V” COVID-19 vaccine even before full trials show how well it works is prompting concern among virus experts, who warn a partially effective shot may encourage the novel coronavirus to mutate. Viruses, including the pandemic SARS-CoV-2, are known for their ability to mutate all the time – and often this has little or no impact on the risk posed to people.

Utah Sets Pandemic Safeguards for People with Disabilities

2 months 5 days

(ABC News) – Utah became the fifth state Thursday to overhaul crisis guidelines that could have deprived people with disabilities of doctors’ care if hospitals become overwhelmed during the coronavirus pandemic. The changes approved by federal officials settle a complaint from disability advocates and set a new standard for other states, said Roger Severino, director of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

An ‘Unprecedented’ Effort to Stop the Coronavirus in Nursing Homes

2 months 5 days

(New York Times) – Although nursing home residents make up just 1.2 percent of the United States population, they account for about 40 percent of Covid-19 deaths. But this time, the nursing home was not defenseless. Heartland was the first facility to participate in a large clinical trial of a drug that might protect residents from the infection in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Facing High Costs at Home, Americans Seek Fertility Help Abroad

2 months 5 days

(Undark Magazine) – As fertility rates fall around the world, including in the U.S., the Murillos and many other hopeful parents are part of a different trend: the fast-growing and lucrative globalization of fertility treatments, also known as “reproductive travel” or “fertility tourism.” Although a handful of states require insurance companies to cover such treatments, most don’t. That means patients still need to pay out of pocket for common services like in vitro fertilization (IVF) — where a woman’s eggs are fertilized by a man’s sperm outside of her body and then implanted as an embryo — which can run into tens of thousands of dollars. Estimates vary on just how many Americans respond to that high cost by looking abroad.

Should We Infect People with Covid-19 for Vaccine Research?

2 months 5 days

(BBC Focus) – The race for a COVID-19 vaccine is hotting up. There are currently over 150 candidate vaccines in development around the world, with around 30 being tested on humans. But for some scientists, the progress isn’t fast enough. There are growing calls for so-called ‘human challenge studies’, which would deliberately infect volunteers with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, with the aim of speeding up vaccine development by, according to one paper, as much as several months, potentially saving thousands of lives. This would be a big ethical leap from current vaccine trials.

Nepal Health Facility Births Decline by Half During Covid-19 Lockdown: Study

2 months 5 days

(Human Rights Watch) – In Nepal, decades of progress in maternal and newborn health is now in jeopardy, according to new research published in the Lancet. The study, which looked at nine hospitals, found the number of births in these facilities fell by more than half during Nepal’s four-month lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19. The rate of neonatal deaths more than tripled, from 13 to 40 per 1,000 live births. Still births and pre-term births also increased. Disadvantaged ethnic groups, such as Madhesis, suffered greater declines in access to clinical services.

How Feds Decide on Remdesivir Shipments to States Remains Mysterious

2 months 6 days

(NPR) – One of the few treatment options for patients seriously ill with COVID-19 is the antiviral drug remdesivir. Authorized by the Food and Drug Administration in May for emergency use in the pandemic, remdesivir is in short supply. The federal government has taken on the responsibility for deciding where vials of the medicine should go. Between July 6 and July 19, the federal Department of Health and Human Services allocated shipments of remdesivir to 31 states.

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