Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

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Eight months later, what we know — and don't know — about Covid-19

As hard as it may be to believe, the world has been living with Covid-19 for around eight months now. In that time, there's a lot we have learned about the coronavirus that causes it, including how virus particles on the surface of objects — known as fomites — probably aren't a major route of transmission, and how people without symptoms can spread the virus, two facts that were unknown or disputed early on in the pandemic. But there's still a lot we have yet to learn about SARS-CoV-2. For instance, anecdotal reports suggest that this coronavirus, like other viruses, seems to offer some protection against reinfection, but we still don't know how long that protection lasts, nor do we know why certain people get really sick and others don't. Read more here on where our knowledge on Covid-19 currently stands — and where the gaps are.  

FDA clears saliva test for Covid-19, opening door to wider testing

Over the weekend, the FDA authorized the emergency use of a saliva test for Covid-19. Developed by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health, the test offers a less-invasive alternative to the current standard of nasal swabs for Covid-19 testing, while still being highly sensitive. The test doesn't rely on the kinds of chemical reagents that have led to shortages for other tests and samples can be processed in less than three hours. Yale plans to make the protocol behind the new test available to other labs across the country and is suggesting that the test be offered at $10 per sample, which would also make it relatively inexpensive. Making the test more widely available could be a game changer, as testing delays have plagued the U.S. response to the Covid-19 pandemic. “Rarely am I this enthusiastic,” former CMS administrator Andy Slavitt tweeted about the test. “They are turning testing from a bespoke suit to a low-cost commodity.”

Depression in mothers could influence development of young children

Children younger than five whose mothers have a history of depression are more likely to enter school with at least one developmental vulnerability, according to a new long-term study. Researchers evaluated data collected between 2005 to 2016 from nearly 10,000 children born in Manitoba, Canada, to mothers who had visited a doctor for depression, been hospitalized for it, or taken medication for it. This cohort of children was 17% more likely to enter school with a developmental vulnerability than children of mothers without depression. For instance, children of mothers with a history of maternal depression were 28% more likely to have difficulties with social competence, and were equally more likely to have trouble with emotional maturity or physical well-being. Although the vast majority of kids did not experience a vulnerability, the authors of a related editorial write that better screening mothers for depression and ensuring access to mental health care ought to be priorities. 

Inside STAT: What day is it? Watch how pandemic stress alters your perception of time


Have you, like so many others living through this pandemic, found yourself wondering how it could be August already only to later wonder how we still have four long months left in the year? It turns out that crises like the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing quarantine enhance what's known as time blindness. We get a lot of our sense of time from cues outside our home: For a typical workday, for instance, going to work at a certain time and leaving work to come home later in the day help define what eight hours feels like. But when working from home full time, not only are many of these cues lost, but many routines for going to work on time or keeping appointments are also lost — which all make it difficult to gauge how much time is passing. Learn more about time blindness — and how you can help counter its effects — in a new video from STAT's Hyacinth Empinado and Theresa Gaffney.

Lawmakers’ priorities for the National Science Foundation vary by political party

An analysis of more than 8,000 statements made about the National Science Foundation by members of the U.S. Congress between 1995 and early 2018 revealed that Democrats’ attitudes towards the agency were more focused on education and innovation than statements by Republican lawmakers, who were more fiscally minded. The foundation, an independent agency that funds 25% of federally-supported scientific research in the U.S., has seen its budget grow over the past 25 years, though the Trump administration has tried (unsuccessfully) to slash it. Here’s more:

  • Democrats: Statements tended to use words like “students” and “teacher,” as well as “technology,” “engineering,” and “innovation.” The focus on education and innovation grew stronger over the 22-year study period.

  • Republicans: Statements tended to reflect fiscal concerns, with words like “expenses.” Accountability became a major theme over time, marked by terms like “taxpayer” and “spending.”

  • Takeaways: Researchers seeking funding from the NSF may benefit from an understanding of Congress’s priorities for the agency — and how those priorities differ across party lines.  

Pregnant women likely to face barriers accessing opioid use disorder treatment

A 'secret shopper'-style study revealed that pregnant women are likely to face difficulty accessing treatment for opioid use disorder, even though treatment with buprenorphine and methadone could not only curb substance use but could also reduce the risk of preterm birth. In the study, researchers made 11,000 appointment requests for women to more than 6,300 clinicians. Those who were said to be pregnant were 17% less likely to be granted an appointment with a physician authorized to provide treatment with buprenorphine than those who weren't. One-third of opioid treatment programs granted appointments only when the patients agreed to pay cash, as did around 1 in 4 physicians with licenses to provide buprenorphine. One possible explanation: Only 1% of women's health physicians and 4% of family physicians are licensed to provide buprenorphine, which could disadvantage patients seeking help from these doctors. 

What to read around the web today

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Monday, August 17, 2020


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