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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

In the race for a Covid-19 vaccine, slow starters could still win out

(Maria Fabrizio for STAT)

The vaccines from Moderna, AstraZeneca-Oxford, and Pfizer-BioNTech may be leading the race to a Covid-19 vaccine right now, but as the classic Aesop fable of the hare and the tortoise showed us, the slower companies may very well win the race. Merck and Sanofi are currently trailing the other three teams as well middle-of-the-pack Novavax, but the deep vaccine development experience held by Merck and Sanofi could mean that they quickly make up any gaps in the coming months, experts say. Moderna, for instance, has never brought a vaccine through the licensure process even as it attempts to do so now with a high-stakes Covid-19 vaccine. “Would you rather have … a company that has done scaled-up manufacturing under strict regulations and has substantial muscle memory of doing that?” one vaccine expert shares with STAT's Helen Branswell. Read more

Benzodiazepines to now carry FDA's most serious warning

The FDA is requiring manufacturers of benzodiazepines, a class of psychoactive drugs, to include a boxed warning about the drugs' risks for addition, misuse, and withdrawal reactions. A boxed warning is the FDA's most serious type of warning that could be placed on a drug label. The FDA shared that it had reviewed adverse events reported to the agency in addition to databases with information after these drugs — colloquially known as "benzos" — had been on the market. The drugs were often prescribed for long periods of time, the agency found, and were widely misused, especially with other substances including alcohol or prescription opioids. The FDA had previously warned against taking benzos with opioid or cough medications as well as against withholding opioid use disorder treatment for those taking benzos. 

Covid-19, insurance emerge as crucial health issues for battleground state voters

The economic impact of Covid-19 and preserving health insurance for those with preexisting conditions are the most pressing health issues for voters in battleground U.S. states, according to a new Commonwealth Fund poll. Here's more: 

  • The poll: Nearly 7,500 people in 10 battleground states — including Michigan and Pennsylvania — were surveyed between mid-August and mid-September. 
  • The issues: Equal proportions of voters — around 40% — said preserving insurance for those with preexisting conditions and addressing public health needs as a result of the pandemic were the most important health issues. Lowering health costs was another important issue. 
  • The candidates: The majority of voters in nine states — except Ohio — said Democratic nominee Joe Biden would be more likely to better handle the pandemic and its economic costs. Majorities in all 10 states said Biden would also be likelier to safeguard health insurance. 

Inside STAT: Could copper surfaces help prevent infections in hospitals?

The Covid-19 pandemic is highlighting an issue that hospitals have long struggled with, which is keeping hospitalized patients from getting further sick. Now, a growing chorus of researchers is suggesting a way out of this problem: resurfacing stainless steel surfaces with copper to prevent the spread of pathogens and the more than 2 million hospital-acquired infections that occur in the U.S. every year. Copper's antimicrobial properties have been known for a while, and in the early days of the pandemic, some researchers showed that while SARS-CoV-2 sticks around on stainless steel for several days, the virus can't survive past a few hours on copper. STAT contributor Andrew Zaleski has more here

Lack of oral hygiene could increase the chance of ventilator-associated pneumonia

The findings of a new study suggest that oral hygiene — or a lack of it — could influence which patients develop a complication known as ventilator-associated pneumonia after being placed on a mechanical ventilator. Being on one of these machines allows oral bacteria to enter the lungs, and poor oral hygiene likely increases this risk. Looking at data from nearly 9,300 Medicaid patients who had been on a ventilator for at least 48 hours, the study from oral health company DentaQuest found that an oral hygiene checkup in the previous year reduced the likelihood of VAP. Specifically, those who had a preventive dental visit in the three years prior to the study were 22% less likely to develop VAP. Black patients and men were more likely to develop VAP. As Covid-19 has resulted in a surge in patients being placed on ventilators, and the findings underscore the importance of regular oral health checkups, the report states. 

The case of a man who died after eating too much licorice

A newly published report details the case of a 54-year-old man who died of a sudden cardiac arrest as a result of irregular heartbeats after what seems to be eating too much licorice. The patient — who had no previous history of chest pains or heart failure — had a poor diet that included one or two large bags of licorice-flavored candy daily in the three weeks leading up to his death, according to the report. Several of the symptoms that the patient had — including low blood potassium levels — seemed consistent with the toxic effects of consuming a lot of licorice, which is used as a sweetener but also has a history of being used as medicine. The overconsumption of licorice seemed to have led to high blood pressure, which in turn may have triggered the cardiac arrest. 

What to read around the web today

  • Covid-19 vaccines could end up with bias built right in. Wired
  • Drugmakers still haven't started testing their coronavirus vaccines in children. Business Insider
  • The core lesson of the Covid-19 heart debate. The Atlantic
  • Google Maps adds an overlay of Covid-19 case trends. The Verge
  • ‘I just want this suffering to be over.’ Brazilians flock to Covid-19 vaccine trials. Science

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Shraddha

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Thursday, September 24, 2020

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