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Morning Rounds Elizabeth Cooney

Is there a Tamiflu coming for Covid-19?

Even with vaccines that can prevent most Covid-19 cases and drugs that can ease its most serious symptoms, there’s still a massive unticked box on doctors’ pandemic wishlist: a Tamiflu for Covid-19. It would be a pill, with tolerable side effects and a low price tag. And it would work just as well as those antibody treatments that require an hourlong intravenous infusion, but it would come in a handy packet patients could take home. As simple as that sounds, the process of actually developing new antiviral treatments is overwhelmingly complicated, even outside of a pandemic. The common cold is often caused by a coronavirus, too, and there’s famously no cure for that. “It’s just a damn long pathway,” NIH Director Francis Collins tells STAT’s Damian Garde. Read more.

In Montana, disparities in Covid infections and deaths are stark 

Last year in Montana, American Indian or Alaska Native people were more than twice as likely as white people to become infected with Covid-19 and nearly four times as likely to die from their infection, a new report says. Public health experts point to the same underlying causes of disparities that affect people of color elsewhere in the country: They are more likely to live in shared housing, be essential workers, not have internet access to work remotely, have limited access to health care, and have risk factors for Covid-19 such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and smoking cigarettes. In more heartening Montana news, on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation  orders to stay at home and wear masks in public were linked to a 33% drop in new Covid cases last fall.

Here’s a silver lining: Veterans report post-traumatic growth during the pandemic

Given their previous line of work, it’s not surprising that veterans are more likely to experience PTSD and think about suicide than the civilian population. But a new study that surveyed veterans about the pandemic early last year and followed up a year later reveals a happier twist in the story. While 13% of veterans said they had Covid-related PTSD symptoms and 8% considered suicide, many more — 43% — said the pandemic brought positive psychological side effects. Among those whose answers added up to PTSD, more than 70% reported positive changes, tied to a 40% lower likelihood of contemplating suicide. Their appreciation of life was greater, their interpersonal relationships were closer, and their sense of personal strength was higher.

Inside STAT: ‘It shouldn’t be this hard’ for foreign-trained clinicians to work in the U.S.

 (adobe)

When Lubab al-Quraishi and his family arrived in the U.S. in 2014, he thought it wouldn’t take long for him to qualify to work as a physician. He was wrong. American laws make it difficult for foreign physicians to apply for licenses to practice medicine. The high cost makes it even harder. An executive order in New Jersey gave him a temporary license, but it expired in February. “Letting me and other foreign-trained health care professionals work at close to the level of our foreign qualifications to help fight a pandemic that has so far killed more than 550,000 Americans and then taking away those licenses makes me feel like we are disposable, to be relied upon during the pandemic and then tossed aside like a used N-95 mask,” he writes in a new STAT First Opinion. Read more.

A call to action for diversity in the scientific workforce

It would take decades for the proportion of Ph.D.s in science to grow enough to reflect African American, Latinx, and Indigenous peoples in the U.S. population, but there are steps that can taken now to improve diversity, academic leaders say in a new commentary. They call for long-term federal initiatives, but also urge NIH — the major funder of biomedical research — to act now by using grants to address financial barriers faced by underrepresented scientists, close the current funding gap they face in grants, and expand funding for businesses that employ them. “The lack of diversity in the scientific and health professions — a longstanding manifestation of racism — can no longer be ignored, excused or attributed to uncontrollable factors,” they write.

New brain models prompt ethical questions

The need for new therapies for brain diseases is indisputably great, but so are the barriers to research and the ethical dilemmas about how to overcome them. Because it’s so challenging to get inside the brain, scientists have turned to animal models to learn how human brains work and how to treat disorders. Newer models — brain organoids, human cells transplanted into animal brains, and human cells injected into animal embryos — raise profound ethical questions. Here are two: What if animals develop what look like distressing human symptoms? What if animals acquire attributes that seem distinctively human — or threats to human dignity? A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine doesn’t have answers, but offers guidelines and calls for public discussion plus oversight mechanisms already in place.

Covid-19 cases in the U.S.

Cases yesterday: 79,878
Deaths yesterday
: 1,000

What to read around the web today

  • Has Italy been vaccinating the wrong people? Its daily coronavirus death tolls suggest so. Washington Post
  • Opinion: Biden made a promise to scientists. He can still keep it. New York Times
  • When births go horribly wrong, Florida protects doctors and forces families to pay the price. ProPublica
  • This sticker absorbs sweat—and might diagnose cystic fibrosis. Wired
  • Japanese doctors perform world's first living donor lung transplant to a Covid-19 patient. CNN

Thanks for reading! More on Monday,

 

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