A Head Full of Coronavirus Research, Part 72

By December 3, 2020Commentary

The state of Minnesota has been strangely silent on any possible untoward consequences of the excessive responses to the epidemic.  Now we get a release, required I believe, on overdose deaths in the first half of 2020.  Oh look, up by over 50% during the epidemic (some tricky accounting in the report, they refer to up only 31%, but they include January when overdoses were actually down, and February when they were pretty flat), and up the most among young adults.  Everyone of those deaths costs far more total years of life than 40 frail 85 year-olds dying of CV-19.  But yes of course, we are all in this together, well, maybe some of us aren’t anymore because we are no longer above ground.  Just remember, only CV-19 deaths count.  And since the state has admitted that it is slow-rolling the reporting of deaths other than CV-19 deaths, these overdose deaths are a likely undercount.  (Mn. Report)

Another cross-reactive T cell study.  (Cell Article)   The authors looked at the strength of response among seasonal coronavirus prompted T cells to CV-19.  Memory helper T cells cross-reactive to CV-19 were found in virtually all unexposed individuals, but the response was weak and not likely to provide substantial protection, according to the authors.

This paper also looks at cross-reactivity, but in B cells.  (Medrxiv Paper)   As are all these papers, full of immune system complexities, but basically, children were found to be more likely to have substantial populations of memory B cells, likely derived from seasonal coronavirus infections, which were cross-reactive to CV-19, than were adults, which would be one explanation for lower infection risk and less disease severity among children.  The researchers also were looking at general patterns of immune response to both pathogens and vaccination at different ages and across several common infectious agents.

Schools in Florida have been relatively open for in-person education and this paper examined infection rates among staff and students.  (Medrxiv Paper)   The study period was August 10 to November 14.  There were a little over 10,000 student cases and 4500 staff cases in this period.  There are obviously many more students than staff so the rates were actually higher among staff.  High schoolers accounted for a disproportionate number of student cases.  According to the author, cases were higher among students and staff in districts without mask mandates, but we aren’t given enough data to assess the validity of this finding.  For example, school cases were closely related to community cases, but we are given no detailed analysis on this interaction with mask mandates.

When you clamp down hard on a widely transmitted pathogen, you better be watching to see if you drive evolution of the bugger to a more lethal strain.  According to this study, we are seeing emergence of some mutations associated with worse disease.  (Medrxiv Paper)   The authors looked at over 150,000 genomes to see if certain variants were associated with adjusted disease severity.  They found that at least 17 single nucleotide variations were associated with over twice the risk of severe disease and that variants associated with severe disease were not uncommon.

As with many things in this epidemic, there has been conflicting evidence on the potential beneficial effect of vitamin D.  This paper presented a meta-review of other studies.  (Medrxiv Paper)  Based on the eleven studies included in the review, the authors concluded that vitamin D deficiency was significantly correlated with likelihood of infection, severity of disease, and death.  So seriously, take vitamin D and eat vitamin D-rich foods, unless you have some contraindication.

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