Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

The latest episode of STAT's "Readout LOUD" podcast is out, diving into the ups and downs with Moderna's Covid-19 candidate vaccine this week. Listen here! 🔈

The world may also be overestimating the power of Covid-19 vaccines

(Hyacinth Empinado/STAT)

The idea of a Covid-19 vaccine might seem like an injection that would prevent any future infections, but the vaccines currently in development may not be such a cure-all. Instead of the one-and-done model of vaccines such as for measles, the candidates that are being tested are likely to be more like seasonal flu vaccines, working to minimize the risk of infection and severity of symptoms. Although this may not seem ideal, experts say it's much-needed progress. “If we push the disease from pneumonia to a common cold, then I think that’s a huge step forward,” Vincent Munster, a virologist at NIAID, tells STAT's Helen Branswell. Read more here

Here's what else you need to know about the pandemic: 
  • Telemedicine is surging in popularity during the pandemic, and new figures from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts show just how striking the trend is. The insurance provider went from receiving roughly 200 claims daily in February for telehealth visits to more than 38,000 such claims a day now. It's growth that, based on pre-Covid-19 trends, company president and CEO Andrew Dreyfus says would "otherwise have taken years." 
  • In a new First Opinion, STAT social media editor Alexander Spinelli writes about how getting an antibody test after being sick with Covid-19 offered little comfort on whether he'd be immune to future infection. "What I learned gave me some peace of mind, but also underlined how many questions the science still can’t answer yet," he writes. 
  • The Smithsonian Science Education, the WHO, and a global network of national academies of science, medicine, and engineering from 140 countries launched a guide for youth ages 8-17 to better understand the current pandemic. The resource walks students through the science behind Covid-19 as well as ways to stay physically and emotionally healthy. 

Covid-19 wards may not always be source of infection for health care workers, studies suggest

Two studies in health care workers shine a light on how community spread and lack of protection in non-Covid-19 wards could trigger infection. In one study, researchers found that around 1% of the nearly 9,700 health care workers in one Wuhan hospital tested positive for Covid-19 in January and early February this year. Younger nurses working in non-Covid-19 wards had higher infection rates than older physicians who were the main coronavirus care providers. The authors suggest that a lack of knowledge about possibly asymptomatic patients could have meant that nurses elsewhere in the hospital weren't adequately protected.

In another study, scientists similarly found that around 1% of more than 9,700 health care workers at two hospitals in the Netherlands were infected with Covid-19. Only 3% of those who tested positive said they had been around a patient with known infection, which the authors attributed to community transmission before Covid-19 was widely recognized in the country. 

Poll finds partisan divide in how people view reopening the economy

A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll finds a partisan divide in how Americans view the steps their states are taking to reopen businesses and other parts of routine life. Here's more from the poll, which surveyed around 1,200 adults between May 13 and May 18: 

  • Easing restrictions: Almost a third of Republicans surveyed say their state is moving too slowly to ease restrictions, compared to 9% of Democrats. Conversely, 39% of Democrats think restrictions are being eased too quickly, compared to 13% of Republicans. 
  • Summer activities: 75% of Republicans surveyed said it's likely they'll go to a barber or salon, attend gatherings of 10 or more, or eat in restaurants in the next three months. Around 40% of Democrats said the same. A minority of both groups expect to travel by plane or stay in a hotel over the summer. 
  • Coronavirus response: Overall, slightly more people disapprove of President Trump's coronavirus response than approve of it. And 1 in 6 voters, citing poor leadership, say Trump's handling of the crisis will affect their vote in the next election. 

Inside STAT: AI startup transcribes and annotates doctor visits for patients

Efforts using AI to transcribe doctors' office visits have traditionally been for the benefit of physicians: A computer program helps to cut down on time they spend documenting a patient visit. Now Abridge, a new startup launched by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, is focused on making it easier for patients to remember the visits. UPMC has recently begun incorporating the technology into telemedicine visits for primary care and cardiology, after which patients are given a recording and transcription of the visit. The AI used in the program highlights diagnoses, symptoms, and prescriptions for the patient's benefit. STAT Plus subscribers can read more from STAT's Casey Ross here.  

Mental health problems may be prevalent among law enforcement, analysis finds

A large analysis of studies on police officers finds that more than a quarter of those in law enforcement consume alcohol at dangerous levels, and demonstrate other behaviors to cause concern about mental health status. Researchers looked at 67 studies that, overall, included data from more than 272,000 police officers from 24 countries. Around 26% of officers screened positive for hazardous drinking, and around 14% met criteria for PTSD or depression. Around 10% of officers also seemed to have suicidal thoughts or anxiety disorder, while around 1 in 20 were found to be drinking at levels to be considered alcohol-dependent. Some caveats: Despite the large group, the vast majority of studies were from Western countries and contained data from male officers with a median age of 39, so the findings may not be generalizable to other demographics among law enforcement.

Study says disease elimination of human African trypanosomiasis within reach

Human African trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness, is on the brink of being eliminated as a public health problem, according to a new study. The WHO in 2012 placed the illness, which is caused by tsetse flies, on its list of neglected tropical diseases to be brought down to manageable levels by 2020. In the new study, researchers note that there were fewer than 1,000 cases of the disease in 2018, down from around 2,100 cases in 2016. The transmission area where chances of infection are moderate or higher has also shrunk by 90% to within striking distance of the goal. More than half of the current transmission risk area is within one country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the meantime, eight other countries — including Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Rwanda — have made enough progress to request official validation of elimination status. Public officials should now set their sights on the 2030 goal on eliminating transmission of the disease, the authors write.

What to read around the web today

  • The haunting of Girlstown. Vox/Epic Magazine
  • Prominent scientists denounce end to coronavirus grants. The New York Times
  • Coronavirus threatens autistic people living in group homes. Spectrum
  • Virus accelerates across Latin America, India, Pakistan. Associated Press
  • Scientists baffled by decision to stop a pioneering coronavirus testing project. Nature

Thanks for reading! Wishing everyone a safe holiday weekend — including to those celebrating Eid tomorrow. We'll be back on Tuesday, 


Have a news tip or comment?

Email Me

Friday, May 22, 2020


Facebook   Twitter   YouTube   Instagram

1 Exchange Pl, Suite 201, Boston, MA 02109
©2020, All Rights Reserved.
I no longer wish to receive STAT emails
Update Email Preferences | Contact Us
5cP.gif?contact_status=<<Contact Status>>