Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Covid-19: New blood-based tests could identify people who’ve recovered from undetected Covid-19

Scientists are beginning to introduce a new set of Covid-19 tests that rely not on nasal or throat swabs but on blood samples. These tests can detect not only those who have recovered from the infection, but also those who were infected but never diagnosed, offering the opportunity to safely let people go back to work and to study the disease in more detail. STAT's Andrew Joseph has more here

Here's more of the latest: 

  • The U.S. Covid-19 case count has now surpassed that of any other country, with nearly 86,000 cases and 1,296 deaths.
  • Newly published studies suggest that pregnant women can pass the SARS-CoV-2 virus to their unborn infants in the womb, although it's unclear how frequently this happens and what risk this poses to the fetus. 
  • Despite the recent hype for the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential Covid-19 treatment, we don't have enough evidence to know whether the drug will work as an antiviral, writes STAT's Matthew Herper
  • Researchers in California are testing whether wearables with algorithms trained to pick up on temperature and heart rhythm changes can detect Covid-19 in infected individuals. 
  • In this week's episode of "The Readout LOUD" podcast, STAT's Adam Feuerstein, Damian Garde, and Rebecca Robbins discuss the celebrity status of NIH scientist Anthony Fauci and how real-world evidence could be mobilized in the fight against the new coronavirus. Listen here
  • A 27-year veteran of the CDC, Pierre Rollin argues in a new STAT First Opinion that the agency seems to be sitting on the sidelines of the ongoing outbreak instead of being at the forefront of the response efforts. 

Covid-19 hasn't yet hit India in a widespread way. But I saw more warnings there than in the U.S. 

Regular readers of Morning Rounds would have no doubt noticed my absence for the past couple of weeks as I was in India visiting family. While there, I couldn't help but notice that warnings, informational announcements, and public health measures to fight the new coronavirus were everywhere. From an automated phone message that plays every time before you make a call to grocery store staff taking your temperature and dispensing hand sanitizer before you pick up a cart or basket, India seemed to be taking many early steps to protect its 1.3 billion people against the impending virus. In contrast, despite the now nearly 86,000 cases here in the U.S., I was barely screened when I arrived back in Boston earlier this week and I haven't seen such frequent government PSAs about Covid-19. Read more about my experience here

Introducing STAT's Covid-19 tracker

STAT just launched a new Covid-19 tracker, which offers an up-to-date snapshot of the pandemic. You can find case count and mortality data globally, or click on individual countries to get a sense of how Covid-19 is impacting these nations. The tracker also shows changes over time, including the daily increase in cases and deaths. The data are drawn from the John Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering, the COVID Tracking Project, and from USAFacts. In some cases, hospitalization data were not available. STAT worked with Applied XL, a Newlab Venture Studio company, to create the dashboard and hopes to keep the tool updated based on datasets that may become available in the future and on reader input. Check out the tool and offer feedback here

Inside STAT: With masks dwindling, a Covid-19 crisis team looks for a way out

Brigham and Women's Hospital medical assistant Eileen Monagle, right, scans a staff member's ID badge to help track who receives personal protective equipment. (CRAIG F. WALKER/THE BOSTON GLOBE FOR STAT)

Like hundreds of other hospitals around the country, Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital is also acutely feeling the shortage of medical masks. Essential N95 masks not only protect the wearer from outside germs but can also protect others from anything the wearer might transmit. The Brigham's staff was facing an additional dilemma as a result of a recent discovery that two patients who came in for non-coronavirus procedures were then diagnosed with the infection. In the shuffle of placing them in the right ward, more than 100 workers had been exposed to these patients. But the mask shortage, combined with the new danger that exposed workers pose to other patients, mean that the hospital is working to figure out a new protocol for who ought to get an N95 mask and who has to make do with other equipment. Read more from STAT's Eric Boodman here

Increased screening leads to earlier and more autism diagnoses

A pair of studies from the CDC finds that rates of autism spectrum disorder are going up due to increased screening. In one analysis, CDC scientists found that in 2016, 84% of 4-year-olds with ASD had been screened at least once by age 3, up from 74% in 2014. Those born in 2012 were also more likely to have a diagnosis by the time they were 4, compared to those born in 2008, suggesting a trend toward diagnosis at an earlier age. 

At the same time, a second study found that autism diagnoses among 8-year-olds has also increased. In 2016, 1 in 54 children had an autism diagnosis, compared to 1 in 59 children with such a diagnosis in 2014. Boys were more than four times as likely as girls to be diagnosed with ASD, although girls with ASD were likelier to have an intellectual disability. 

Minority patients more likely than others to experience severe forms of depression

A new analysis that looked at the severity of depression among older adults finds that those from minority backgrounds are up to two times as likely to experience severe depression than white patients. Looking at data from more than 25,000 adults aged 50 and older enrolled in a clinical trial examining the effects of daily nutritional supplements against cancer and other conditions, scientists found that Black patients' scores on a questionnaire measuring depression were about 10% higher than white patients, indicating higher severity. Hispanic patients' scores were 23% higher than white patients' scores. Patients from minority groups were also between 1.5-2 times less likely to be able to derive pleasure from leisure activities that they previously found enjoyable and more likely to experience sadness. The findings only show an association, but the authors call for more research into what may be driving the link between race and the severity of depression. 

What to read around the web today

Thanks for reading! Have a good weekend, 


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Friday, March 27, 2020


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