Sponsored by   


Morning Rounds Elizabeth Cooney

With a seductive number, AstraZeneca study fueled hopes that eclipsed its vaccine data

A new paper released this week suggested that a Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University not only protected clinical trial participants from developing disease, but also may significantly reduce transmission of the virus that causes the disease. Media reports seized on a reference that a single dose of the vaccine cut positive test results by 67%, calling it the first evidence that a vaccine could prevent transmission. But the paper, not yet peer-reviewed, does not prove or even claim that — although it hints at the possibility. “The study showed a decrease in [viral] shedding, not ‘transmission,’” Emory’s Carlos del Rio told STAT. “The bottom line is, no, one cannot draw a conclusion or straight line.” STAT’s Matthew Herper and Helen Branswell explain.

Thanks to pandemic precautions, doctors see fewer cases of a polio-like condition in children

Many respiratory viruses that normally spike in the U.S. during the fall and winter are circulating at notably low levels right now, including EV-D68, the enterovirus believed to cause a rare, polio-like syndrome in children called acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM. Spikes in AFM in every even year since 2014 led expectations that 2020 would see a similar cluster. But then came masks, physical distancing, activity restrictions, and, in many communities, still-shuttered schools. The result: just 29 confirmed AFM cases in 2020, compared to 238 in 2018 and 153 in 2016, according to CDC data. So why has SARS-CoV-2 spread so much more easily? Two reasons: It’s a more infectious pathogen with a wider pool of never-exposed-before people to infect. STAT's Andrew Joseph has more.

Most cancer survivors face risk of worse Covid-19  because of their underlying conditions

Cancer survivors are already at high risk for more severe Covid-19. A new study says more than half may be at further risk because they have one underlying medical condition that also worsens Covid-19, and a quarter have more than one. The prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and obesity was 40% higher among cancer survivors than other people in the U.S. These conditions were more common after kidney, liver, and uterine cancers and rates were higher among Black survivors, people who hadn’t completed high school, and those with low income. “Now that safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines are available, cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, and their health-care providers should be prioritized in vaccine allocation,” the researchers write.

Inside STAT: Why some hospitals have scrambled for oxygen to treat Covid-19 patients

Normally, 1 out of 5 hospital patients may require oxygen to help them breathe, but that need has ballooned during the coronavirus pandemic. Yet the sudden demand for a much larger amount of oxygen is beyond some hospitals. It’s a frustratingly common problem at medical centers in and around Los Angeles, thanks to a mix of aging infrastructure and a run on extra storage tanks. Although oxygen itself may not be in short supply, complications in delivering it have posed challenges to hospitals that are already taxed. “When you’re talking about Covid, running out of oxygen would be your worst nightmare,” Mara Bryant of Adventist Health told STAT’s Ed Silverman. “Oxygen needs to flow regularly to be safe for patients.”

Emergency visits for mental health trend up with pandemic

Intuitively we know one of the coronavirus pandemic’s side effects is damage to mental health. New research measures the human impact, tracking increases in emergency department visits spurred by psychiatric crises, suicide attempts, overdoses, suspected child abuse, and intimate partner violence. All hospital emergency visits were down in March 2020, but the percentage of emergency visits for these causes was higher from March through October 2020 — coinciding with the pandemic’s emergence — compared to the year before. Overdoses increased the most. “These findings suggest that ED use and priorities for care seeking shifted during the Covid-19 pandemic, underscoring mental health, substance use, and violence risk screening and prevention needs during public health crises,” the authors note.

Using an Apple Watch to track Parkinson’s symptoms

Researchers at Apple, working with specialists who treat Parkinson’s disease, have designed a system that uses the Apple Watch to detect motor symptoms that are a hallmark of the neurological disease. By monitoring resting tremors and other involuntary movements in 225 people with Parkinson’s, the researchers were able to identify the characteristic “on” and “off” patterns of medication’s effects, they report in a new paper. The measurements also helped spot symptoms missed in regular care and identified changes after subjects underwent surgery for deep brain stimulation, they said. The tool helped pinpoint patients who slipped on medication adherence, as well as cases in which a patient might benefit from a modified medication regimen. STAT’s Mario Aguilar has more.

Covid-19 in the U.S.

Cases yesterday: 149,519
Deaths yesterday
: 3,169

What to read around the web today

  • Biden’s Covid-19 relief plan has a Medicaid expansion problem. Vox
  • 'Lay low and cool it': Fauci warns against Super Bowl parties becoming superspreaders. NPR
  • Anti-vaxxers misuse federal data to falsely claim Covid vaccines are dangerous. Vice
  • Opinion: Kids don't need Covid-19 vaccines to return to school. STAT
  • Merck anti-baldness drug Propecia has long trail of suicide reports, records show. Reuters

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Have a news tip or comment?

Email Me

Thursday, February 4, 2021


Facebook   Twitter   YouTube   Instagram

1 Exchange Pl, Suite 201, Boston, MA 02109
©2021, All Rights Reserved.
I no longer wish to receive STAT emails
Update Email Preferences | Contact Us