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The Impact of COVID-19 on the Human Heart

Reporters: Justin D. Pearlman, MD, PhD, FACC and Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

The Voice of Dr. Pearlman:

 

 

Editorial

September 22/29, 2020

The COVID-19 Pandemic and the JAMA Network

In 13 Viewpoints in this issue,214 JAMA Network editors reflect on the clinical, public health, operational, and workforce issues related to COVID-19 in each of their specialties. Questions and concerns they identify in their clinical communities include the following:

  • Benefits and harms of treatments and identifying mortality risk markers beyond age and comorbidities

  • Cardiovascular consequences of COVID-19 infection, including risks to those with comorbid hypertension and risks for myocardial injury

  • Risk for direct central nervous system invasion and COVID-19 encephalitis and for long-term neuropsychiatric manifestations in a post–COVID-19 syndrome

  • Risks related to SARS-CoV-2 infection for patients with compromised immunity, such as those receiving treatment for cancer

  • Challenges unique to patients with acute kidney injury and chronic kidney disease

  • Risks of viral transmission from aerosol-generating procedures, including most minimally invasive surgeries, and the need for eye protection as well as personal protective equipment as part of universal precautions

  • The prevalence and pathophysiology of skin findings in patients with COVID-19, determining if they are primary or secondary cutaneous manifestations of infection, and how best to manage them

  • The prevalence and significance of eye findings in patients with COVID-19 and the risk of transmission and infection through ocular surfaces

  • The role of anticoagulation for managing the endotheliopathy and coagulopathy characteristic of the infection in some patients

  • Developmental effects on children of the loss of family routines, finances, older loved ones, school and education, and social-based activities and milestone events

  • Effects of the pandemic, mitigation efforts, and economic downturn on the mental health of patients and frontline clinicians

  • Seasonality of transmission as the pandemic enters its third season

  • How to implement reliable seroprevalence surveys to document progression of the pandemic and effects of public health measures

  • Effects of the pandemic on access to care and the rise of telehealth

  • Consequences of COVID-19 for clinical capabilities, such as workforce availability in several specialties, delays in performing procedures and operations, and implications for medical education and resident recruitment.

Additional important questions that require careful observation and research include

  • Randomized evaluations of treatment: what is effective and safe, and what timing of which drug will reduce morbidity and mortality? Will a combination of therapies be more effective than any single drug?
  • Randomized evaluations of preventive interventions, including convalescent plasma, monoclonal antibodies, and vaccines. Which are effective and safe enough to prevent COVID-19 at a population level?
  • How can COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics be distributed and paid for in ways that are fair and equitable?
  • Is immunity complete or partial, permanent or temporary, what is its mechanism, and how best is it measured? Can the virus mutate around host defenses?
  • How important are preadolescent children to the spread of infection to older family members and adult communities, and what are the implications for parent, caregiver, and teacher personal risk and disease transmission?
  • Is SARS-CoV-2 like influenza (continually circulating without or with seasonality), measles (transmissible but containable beneath threshold limits), or smallpox and polio (eradicable, or nearly so)?
  • Has the pandemic fundamentally altered the way health care is financed and delivered? By shining a spotlight on health inequities, can the pandemic motivate changes in health care finance, organization, and delivery to reduce those inequities?
  • Cardiology and COVID-19

Cardiology and COVID-19 – Original Article

Bonow  RO, O’Gara  PT, Yancy  CW.  Cardiology and COVID-19.   JAMA. Published online September 22, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.15088
Article Google Scholar

The initial reports on the epidemiology of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) emanating from Wuhan, China, offered an ominous forewarning of the risks of severe complications in elderly patients and those with underlying cardiovascular disease, including the development of acute respiratory distress syndrome, cardiogenic shock, thromboembolic events, and death. These observations have been confirmed subsequently in numerous reports from around the globe, including studies from Europe and the US. The mechanisms responsible for this vulnerability have not been fully elucidated, but there are several possibilities. Some of these adverse consequences could reflect the basic fragility of older individuals with chronic conditions subjected to the stress of severe pneumonia similar to influenza infections. In addition, development of type 2 myocardial infarction related to increased myocardial oxygen demand in the setting of hypoxia may be a predominant concern, and among patients with chronic coronary artery disease, an episode of acute systemic inflammation might also contribute to plaque instability, thus precipitating acute coronary syndromes, as has also been reported during influenza outbreaks.

However, in the brief timeline of the current pandemic, numerous publications highlighting the constellation of observed cardiovascular consequences have emphasized certain distinctions that appear unique to COVID-19.1 Although the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) gains entry via the upper respiratory tract, its affinity and selective binding to the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor, which is abundant in the endothelium of arteries and veins as well as in the respiratory tract epithelium, create a scenario in which COVID-19 is as much a vascular infection as it is a respiratory infection with the potential for serious vascular-related complications. This may explain why hypertension is one of the cardiovascular conditions associated with adverse outcomes. In the early stages of the pandemic, the involvement of the ACE2 receptor as the target for viral entry into cells created concerns regarding the initiation or continuation of treatment with ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor antagonists in patients with hypertension, left ventricular dysfunction, or other cardiac conditions. Subsequently, many studies have shown that these drugs do not increase susceptibility to infection or increase disease severity in those who contract the disease,2 thus supporting recommendations from academic societies that these drugs should not be discontinued in patients who develop COVID-19 infections.

Thrombosis, arterial or venous, is a hallmark of severe COVID-19 infections, related both to vascular injury and the prothrombotic cytokines released during the intense systemic inflammatory and immune responses.3 This sets the stage for serious thrombotic complications including acute coronary syndromes, ischemic strokes, pulmonary embolism, and ischemic damage to multiple other organ systems. Such events can complicate the course of any patient with COVID-19 but would be particularly devasting to individuals with preexisting cardiovascular disease.

Another unique aspect of COVID-19 infections that is not encountered by patients with influenza is myocardial injury, manifested by elevated levels of circulating troponin, creatinine kinase-MB, and myoglobin. Hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19 infections and consequent evidence of myocardial injury have a high risk of in-hospital mortality.4 Troponin elevations are most concerning, and when accompanied by elevations of brain natriuretic peptide, the risk is further accentuated. Although myocardial injury could reflect a COVID-19–related acute coronary event, most patients with troponin elevations who undergo angiography do not have epicardial coronary artery obstruction. Rather, those with myocardial injury have a high incidence of acute respiratory distress syndrome, elevation of D-dimer levels, and markedly elevated inflammatory biomarkers such as C-reactive protein and procalcitonin, suggesting that the combination of hypoxia, microvascular thrombosis, and systemic inflammation contributes to myocardial injury. Myocarditis is a candidate explanation for myocardial injury but has been difficult to confirm consistently. However, features of myocarditis have been reported in case reports5 based on clinical presentation and results of noninvasive imaging, but thus far confirmation of myocarditis based on myocardial biopsy or autopsy examinations has been a rare finding.6 Instead, myocardial tissue samples more typically show vascular or perivascular inflammation (endothelialitis) without leukocytic infiltration or myocyte damage.

There remain important unknowns regarding the intermediate and long-term sequelae of COVID-19 infection among hospital survivors. In an autopsy series of patients who died from confirmed COVID-19 without clinical or histological evidence of fulminant myocarditis,7 viral RNA was identified in myocardial tissue in 24 of 39 cases, with viral load of more than 1000 copies/μg of RNA in 16 cases. A cytokine response panel demonstrated upregulation of 6 proinflammatory genes (tumor necrosis factor, interferon γ, CCL4, and interleukin 6, 8, and 18) in the 16 myocardial samples with the high viral RNA levels.

Whether a subclinical viral load and associated cytokine response such as this in survivors of COVID-19 could translate into subsequent myocardial dysfunction and clinical heart failure require further investigation. However, the results of a recent biomarker and cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR) imaging study provide evidence to support this concern.6 Among 100 patients who were studied by CMR after recovery from confirmed COVID-19 infection, of whom 67 did not require hospitalization during the acute phase, left ventricular volume was greater and ejection fraction was lower than that of a control group. Furthermore, 78 patients had abnormal myocardial tissue characterization by CMR, with elevated T1 and T2 signals and myocardial hyperenhancement consistent with myocardial edema and inflammation, and 71 patients had elevated levels of high-sensitivity troponin T. Three patients with the most severe CMR abnormalities underwent myocardial biopsy, with evidence of active lymphocytic infiltration.6 It is noteworthy that all 100 patients in this series had negative COVID-19 test results at the time of CMR study (median, 71 days; interquartile range [IQR], 64-92 days after acute infection). The results of these relatively small series should be interpreted cautiously until confirmed by larger series with longer follow-up and with confirmed clinical outcomes. But the findings do underscore the uncertainty regarding the long-term cardiovascular consequences of COVID-19 in patients who have ostensibly recovered. Of note, a randomized clinical trial of anticoagulation to reduce the risk of thrombotic complications in the posthospital phase of COVID-19 infection is under development through the National Institutes of Health’s set of ACTIV (Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines) initiatives.

In addition, the indirect effects of COVID-19 have become a major concern. Multiple observations during the COVID-19 pandemic confirm a sudden and inexplicable decline in rates of hospital admissions for ST–segment elevation myocardial infarction and other acute coronary syndromes beginning in March and April 2020. This has been a universal experience, with similar findings reported from multiple countries around the world in single-center observations, multicenter registries, and national databases. A concerning increase in out-of-hospital cardiac arrests has also been reported.8 These data suggest that COVID-19 has influenced health care–seeking behavior resulting in fewer presentations of acute coronary syndromes in emergency departments and more out-of-hospital events. Failure to seek appropriate emergency cardiac care could contribute to the observations of increased number of deaths and cardiac arrests, more than the anticipated average during this period8,9 with worse outcomes among those who ultimately do seek care.10 Recent data suggest that admission rates for myocardial infarction may be returning to baseline,10 but outcomes will improve only if patients seek care promptly and hospital systems are not overwhelmed by COVID-19 surges.

Given the ongoing activity of COVID-19, very clear messaging to the public and patients should include the following: heed the warning signs of heart attack, act promptly to initiate emergency medical services, and seek immediate care in hospitals, which have taken every step needed to be safe places. And especially, the messaging should continuously underscore the most important considerations that have been extant since this crisis began—wear a mask and practice physical distancing. In the meantime, the generation of rigorous evidence to inform best practices for diagnosis and management of COVID-19–related cardiovascular disease is a global imperative.

Corresponding Author: Robert O. Bonow, MD, MS, Division of Cardiology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, 676 N St Clair St, Ste 600, Chicago, IL 60611 (r-bonow@northwestern.edu)

SOURCE

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2770858

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COVID concern in Cardiology: Asymptomatic patients who have been previously infected demonstrating evidence on MRI of scarring or myocarditis

Reporters: Justin D. Pearlman, MD, PhD, FACC and Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

 

The Voice of Dr. Justin D. Pearlman, MD, PhD, FACC

Indeed, many viruses can cause inflammation and weakening of the heart.

So far there is no established action to take for prevention, and management is based on clinical manifestations of heart failure: shortness of breath, particularly if worse laying flat or worse with exertion, leg swelling (edema), blood tests showing elevated brain natriuretic peptide (BNP or proBNP, a marker of heart muscle strain), and a basic metabolic panel that may show “pre-renal azotemia” (elevation of BUN and Creatinine, typically in a ratio >20:1) and/or hyponatremia (sodium concentration below 135 mEq/dL). If any of the above are suspected, it is reasonable to get transthoracic echocardiography for systolic and diastolic function. If either systolic or diastolic function by ultrasound show significant impairment not improved by usual therapy (diuretic, ACEI/ARB/ARNI, blocker, aldosterone inhibitor e.g. spironolactone) then an MRI scar map may be considered (MRI scar maps show retention of gadolinium contrast agent by injured heart muscle, first demonstrated by Dr. Justin Pearlman during angiogenesis research MRI studies).

There is no controversy in the above, the controversy is a rush to expanded referral for cardiac MRI without clear clinical evidence of heart impairment, at a stage when there is no established therapy for possible detection of myocarditis (cardiac inflammation). General unproven measures for inflammation may include taking ginger and tumeric supplements if well tolerated by the stomach, drinking 2 cups/day of Rooibos Tea if well tolerated by the liver.

Canakinumab was recommended by one research group to treat inflammation and risk to the heart if the blood test hsCRP is elevated (in addition to potential weakening of muscle, inflammation activates complement, makes atherosclerosis lesions unstable, and thus may elevate risk of heart attack, stroke, renal failure or limb loss from blocked blood delivery). The canakinumab studies were published in NEJM and LANCET with claims of significant improvement in outcomes, but that was not approved by FDA or confirmed by other groups, even though it has biologic plausibility. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-67361732247-X/fulltext

 

Some Heart Societies Agree on Cautions for COVID-Myocarditis Screening

— Official response has been modest, though

Such evidence of myocardial injury and inflammation on CMR turned up in a German study among people who recovered from largely mild or moderate cases of COVID-19 compared with healthy controls and risk factor-matched controls.

Then an Ohio State University study showed CMR findings suggestive of myocarditis in 15% of collegiate athletes after asymptomatic or mild SARS-CoV-2 infection.

But an open letter from some 50 medical professionals across disciplines emphasized that “prevalence, clinical significance and long-term implications” of such findings aren’t known. The letter called on the 18 professional societies to which it was sent on Tuesday to release clear guidance against CMR screening in the general population to look for post-COVID heart damage in the absence of symptoms.

The Society for Cardiac Magnetic Resonance quickly responded with a brief statement from its chief executive officer, Chiara Bucciarelli-Ducci, MD, PhD, agreeing that routine CMR in asymptomatic patients after COVID-19 “is currently not justified… and it should not be encouraged.”

She referred clinicians to the multisociety guidelines on clinical indications of CMR when deciding whether to scan COVID-19 patients. “While CMR is an excellent imaging tool for diagnosing myocarditis in patients with suspected disease, we do not recommend its use in patients without symptoms,” she added.

The American Heart Association didn’t put out any written statement but offered spokesperson Manesh Patel, MD, chair of its Diagnostic and Interventional Cath Committee.

“The American Heart Association’s position on this is that in general we agree that routine cardiac MRI should not be conducted unless in the course of a study” for COVID-19 patients, he said. “There’s a lot of evolving information around people with COVID, and certainly asymptomatic status, whether it’s recent or prior, it’s not clearly known what the MRI findings will mean or what the long-term implications are without both a control group and an understanding around population.”

The ACC opted against taking a stand. It provided MedPage Today with the following statement from ACC President Athena Poppas, MD:

“We appreciate the authors’ concerns about the potential mischaracterization of the long-term impact of myocarditis after a COVID-19 diagnosis and the need for well-designed clinical trials and careful, long term follow-up. The pandemic is requiring everyone make real-time decisions on how to best care for heart disease patients who may be impacted by COVID-19. The ACC is committed to helping synthesize and provide the most up-to-date, high quality information possible to the cardiovascular care team. We will continue to review and assess the scientific data surrounding cardiac health and COVID-19 and issue guidance to help our care team.”

While the open letter noted that some post-COVID patients have been asking for CMR, Walsh noted that primary care would likely see the brunt of any such influx. She personally has not had any patients ask to be screened.

SOURCE

https://www.medpagetoday.com/infectiousdisease/covid19/88704?xid=nl_covidupdate_2020-09-21

Effect of interleukin-1β inhibition with canakinumab on incident lung cancer in patients with atherosclerosis: exploratory results from a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial

Summary

Background

Inflammation in the tumour microenvironment mediated by interleukin 1β is hypothesised to have a major role in cancer invasiveness, progression, and metastases. We did an additional analysis in the Canakinumab Anti-inflammatory Thrombosis Outcomes Study (CANTOS), a randomised trial of the role of interleukin-1β inhibition in atherosclerosis, with the aim of establishing whether inhibition of a major product of the Nod-like receptor protein 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome with canakinumab might alter cancer incidence.

Methods

We did a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of canakinumab in 10 061 patients with atherosclerosis who had had a myocardial infarction, were free of previously diagnosed cancer, and had concentrations of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) of 2 mg/L or greater. To assess dose–response effects, patients were randomly assigned by computer-generated codes to three canakinumab doses (50 mg, 150 mg, and 300 mg, subcutaneously every 3 months) or placebo. Participants were followed up for incident cancer diagnoses, which were adjudicated by an oncology endpoint committee masked to drug or dose allocation. Analysis was by intention to treat. The trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.govNCT01327846. The trial is closed (the last patient visit was in June, 2017).

Findings

Baseline concentrations of hsCRP (median 6·0 mg/L vs 4·2 mg/L; p<0·0001) and interleukin 6 (3·2 vs 2·6 ng/L; p<0·0001) were significantly higher among participants subsequently diagnosed with lung cancer than among those not diagnosed with cancer. During median follow-up of 3·7 years, compared with placebo, canakinumab was associated with dose-dependent reductions in concentrations of hsCRP of 26–41% and of interleukin 6 of 25–43% (p<0·0001 for all comparisons). Total cancer mortality (n=196) was significantly lower in the pooled canakinumab group than in the placebo group (p=0·0007 for trend across groups), but was significantly lower than placebo only in the 300 mg group individually (hazard ratio [HR] 0·49 [95% CI 0·31–0·75]; p=0·0009). Incident lung cancer (n=129) was significantly less frequent in the 150 mg (HR 0·61 [95% CI 0·39–0·97]; p=0·034) and 300 mg groups (HR 0·33 [95% CI 0·18–0·59]; p<0·0001; p<0·0001 for trend across groups). Lung cancer mortality was significantly less common in the canakinumab 300 mg group than in the placebo group (HR 0·23 [95% CI 0·10–0·54]; p=0·0002) and in the pooled canakinumab population than in the placebo group (p=0·0002 for trend across groups). Fatal infections or sepsis were significantly more common in the canakinumab groups than in the placebo group. All-cause mortality did not differ significantly between the canakinumab and placebo groups (HR 0·94 [95% CI 0·83–1·06]; p=0·31).

Interpretation

Our hypothesis-generating data suggest the possibility that anti-inflammatory therapy with canakinumab targeting the interleukin-1β innate immunity pathway could significantly reduce incident lung cancer and lung cancer mortality. Replication of these data in formal settings of cancer screening and treatment is required.

Funding

Novartis Pharmaceuticals.

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Coronavirus damages the Human Heart Muscle: Disrupting Sarcomeres and Displacing DNA

Reporters: Justin D. Pearlman, MD, PhD, FACC and Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

 

‘Carnage’ in a lab dish shows how the coronavirus may damage the heart

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Is SARS-COV2 Hijacking the Complement and Coagulation Systems?

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD

In a recent Nature Medicine paper “Immune complement and coagulation dysfunction in adverse outcomes of SARS-CoV-2 infection” Ramlall et al. demonstrate, in a retrospective study, that a significant number of patients presenting SARS-CoV2 complications had prior incidences of macular degeneration and coagulation disorders and these previous indications are risk factors for COVID-related complications.

 

Abstract

Understanding the pathophysiology of SARS-CoV-2 infection is critical for therapeutic and public health strategies. Viral–host interactions can guide discovery of disease regulators, and protein structure function analysis points to several immune pathways, including complement and coagulation, as targets of coronaviruses. To determine whether conditions associated with dysregulated complement or coagulation systems impact disease, we performed a retrospective observational study and found that history of macular degeneration (a proxy for complement-activation disorders) and history of coagulation disorders (thrombocytopenia, thrombosis and hemorrhage) are risk factors for SARS-CoV-2-associated morbidity and mortality—effects that are independent of age, sex or history of smoking. Transcriptional profiling of nasopharyngeal swabs demonstrated that in addition to type-I interferon and interleukin-6-dependent inflammatory responses, infection results in robust engagement of the complement and coagulation pathways. Finally, in a candidate-driven genetic association study of severe SARS-CoV-2 disease, we identified putative complement and coagulation-associated loci including missense, eQTL and sQTL variants of critical complement and coagulation regulators. In addition to providing evidence that complement function modulates SARS-CoV-2 infection outcome, the data point to putative transcriptional genetic markers of susceptibility. The results highlight the value of using a multimodal analytical approach to reveal determinants and predictors of immunity, susceptibility and clinical outcome associated with infection.

Introduction

As part of a separate study, the authors mapped over 140 cellular proteins that are structurally mimicked by coronaviruses (CoVs) and identified complement and coagulation pathways as targets of this strategy across all CoV strains4. The complement system is a critical defense against pathogens, including viruses5 and when dysregulated (by germline variants or acquired through age-related effects or excessive tissue damage) can contribute to pathologies mediated by inflammation5,6,7.

“So, virally encoded structural mimics of complement and coagulation factors may contribute to CoV-associated immune-mediated pathology and indicate sensitivities in antiviral defenses.”

 

Methods and Results

  • Between 1 February 2020 and 25 April 2020, 11,116 patients presented to New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center with suspected SARS-CoV-2 infection, of which 6,398 tested positive
  • Electronic health records (EHRs) were used to define sex, age and smoking history status as well as histories of macular degeneration, coagulatory disorders (thrombocytopenia, thrombosis and hemorrhage), hypertension, type 2 diabetes (T2D), coronary artery disease (CAD) and obesity (see Methods). A Python algorithm was used to analyze all confounders.
  • identified 88 patients with history of macular degeneration, 4 with complement deficiency disorders and 1,179 with coagulatory disorders).
  • observed a 35% mortality rate among patients that were put on mechanical ventilation and that 31% of deceased patients had been on mechanical respiration.
  • patients with AMD (a proxy for complement activation disorders) and coagulation disorders (thrombocytopenia, thrombosis and hemorrhage) were at significantly increased risk of adverse clinical outcomes (including mechanical respiration and death) following SARS-CoV-2 infection
  • 650 NP swabs from control and SARS-CoV-2-infected patients who presented to Weill-Cornell Medical Center were evaluated by RNA-Seq. Gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) of Hallmark gene sets found that SARS-CoV-2 infection (as defined by presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA and stratified into ‘positive’, ‘low’, ‘medium’ or ‘high’ based on viral load; induces genes related to pathways with known immune modulatory functions (Fig. 2a). Moreover, among the most enriched gene sets, SARS-CoV-2 infection induces robust activation of the complement cascade (false discovery rate (FDR) P < 0.001), with increasing enrichment and significance with viral load (FDR P < 0.0001).
  • KEGG Pathway Analysis revealed KEGG_Complement_and_Coagulation_Cascades’, ‘GO_Coagulation’ and ‘Reactome_initial_triggering_of_complement’ to be significantly enriched in expression profiles of SARS-CoV-2-infected samples
  • conducted a candidate-driven study to evaluate whether genetic variation within a 60-Kb window around 102 genes with known roles in regulating complement or coagulation cascades (2,888 genetic variants fulfill this criteria of the 805,426 profiled in the UK Biobank) is associated with poor SARS-CoV-2 clinical outcome
  • identified 11 loci representing seven genes with study-wide significance. A variant of coagulation factor III (F3), variant rs72729504, was found to be associated with increased risk of adverse clinical outcome associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection. The analysis also identified that four variants previously reported to be associated with AMD (rs45574833, rs61821114, rs61821041 and rs12064775)15predispose carriers to hospitalization following SARS-CoV-2 infection

As authors state:

“Among the implications, the data warrant heightened public health awareness for the most vulnerable individuals and further investigation into an existing menu of complement and coagulation targeting therapies that were recently shown to be beneficial in a small cohort of patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection.” 26,27.

 

References

Ramlall, V., Thangaraj, P.M., Meydan, C. et al. Immune complement and coagulation dysfunction in adverse outcomes of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Nat Med (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-020-1021-2

 

4.

Lasso, G., Honig, B. & Shapira, S. D. A sweep of earth’s virome reveals host-guided viral protein structural mimicry; with implications for human disease. Preprint at bioRxiv https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.06.18.159467 (2020).

 

SUMMARY

Viruses deploy an array of genetically encoded strategies to coopt host machinery and support viral replicative cycles. Molecular mimicry, manifested by structural similarity between viral and endogenous host proteins, allow viruses to harness or disrupt cellular functions including nucleic acid metabolism and modulation of immune responses. Here, we use protein structure similarity to scan for virally encoded structure mimics across thousands of catalogued viruses and hosts spanning broad ecological niches and taxonomic range, including bacteria, plants and fungi, invertebrates and vertebrates. Our survey identified over 6,000,000 instances of structural mimicry, the vast majority of which (>70%) cannot be discerned through protein sequence. The results point to molecular mimicry as a pervasive strategy employed by viruses and indicate that the protein structure space used by a given virus is dictated by the host proteome. Interrogation of proteins mimicked by human-infecting viruses points to broad diversification of cellular pathways targeted via structural mimicry, identifies biological processes that may underly autoimmune disorders, and reveals virally encoded mimics that may be leveraged to engineer synthetic metabolic circuits or may serve as targets for therapeutics. Moreover, the manner and degree to which viruses exploit molecular mimicry varies by genome size and nucleic acid type, with ssRNA viruses circumventing limitations of their small genomes by mimicking human proteins to a greater extent than their large dsDNA counterparts. Finally, we identified over 140 cellular proteins that are mimicked by CoV, providing clues about cellular processes driving the pathogenesis of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

 

26.

Risitano, A. M. Complement as a target in COVID-19?. Nat. Rev. Immunol. 20, 343–344 (2020).

 

27.

Mastaglio, S. et al. The first case of COVID-19 treated with the complement C3 inhibitor AMY-101. Clin. Immunol. 215, 108450 (2020).

 

28.

Polubriaginof, F. C. G. et al. Challenges with quality of race and ethnicity data in observational databases. J. Am. Med. Inf. Assoc. 26, 730–736 (2019).

 

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A Series of Recently Published Papers Report the Development of SARS-CoV2 Neutralizing Antibodies and Passive Immunity toward COVID19

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

 

Passive Immunity and Treatment of Infectious Diseases

The ability of one person to pass on immunity to another person (passive immunity) is one of the chief methods we develop immunity to many antigens.  For instance, maternal antibodies are passed to the offspring in the neonatal setting as well as in a mother’s milk during breast feeding.  In the clinical setting this is achieved by transferring antibodies from one patient who has been exposed to an antigen (like a virus) to the another individual.   However, the process of purifying the most efficacious antibody as well as its mass production is limiting due to its complexity and cost and can be prohibitively long delay during a pandemic outbreak, when therapies are few and needed immediately.  Regardless, the benefits of developing neutralizing antibodies to confer passive immunity versus development of a vaccine are evident, as the former takes considerable less time than development of a safe and effective vaccine.  For a good review on the development and use of neutralizing antibodies and the use of passive immunity to treat infectious diseases please read the following review:

Margaret A. Keller1,* and E. Richard Stiehm. Passive Immunity in Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Diseases. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2000 Oct; 13(4): 602–614. doi: 10.1128/cmr.13.4.602-614.2000

ABSTRACT

Antibodies have been used for over a century in the prevention and treatment of infectious disease. They are used most commonly for the prevention of measles, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, tetanus, varicella, rabies, and vaccinia. Although their use in the treatment of bacterial infection has largely been supplanted by antibiotics, antibodies remain a critical component of the treatment of diptheria, tetanus, and botulism. High-dose intravenous immunoglobulin can be used to treat certain viral infections in immunocompromised patients (e.g., cytomegalovirus, parvovirus B19, and enterovirus infections). Antibodies may also be of value in toxic shock syndrome, Ebola virus, and refractory staphylococcal infections. Palivizumab, the first monoclonal antibody licensed (in 1998) for an infectious disease, can prevent respiratory syncytial virus infection in high-risk infants. The development and use of additional monoclonal antibodies to key epitopes of microbial pathogens may further define protective humoral responses and lead to new approaches for the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases.

TABLE 1

Summary of the efficacy of antibody in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases

Infection
Bacterial infections
 Respiratory infections (streptococcus, Streptococcus pneumoniaeNeisseria meningitisHaemophilus influenzae)
 Diphtheria
 Pertussis
 Tetanus
 Other clostridial infections
  C. botulinum
  C. difficile
 Staphylococcal infections
  Toxic shock syndrome
  Antibiotic resistance
  S. epidermidis in newborns
 Invasive streptococcal disease (toxic shock syndrome)
 High-risk newborns
 Shock, intensive care, and trauma
Pseudomonas infection
  Cystic Fibrosis
  Burns
Viral diseases
 Hepatitis A
 Hepatitis B
 Hepatitis C
 HIV infection
 RSV infection
 Herpesvirus infections
  CMV
  EBV
  HSV
  VZV
 Parvovirus infection
 Enterovirus infection
  In newborns
 Ebola
 Rabies
 Measles
 Rubella
 Mumps
 Tick-borne encephalitis
 Vaccinia

Go to:

A Great Explanation of Active versus Passive Immunity by Dr. John Campbell, one of the pioneers in the field of immunology:Antibodies have been used for over a century in the prevention and treatment of infectious disease. They are used most commonly for the prevention of measles, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, tetanus, varicella, rabies, and vaccinia. Although their use in the treatment of bacterial infection has largely been supplanted by antibiotics, antibodies remain a critical component of the treatment of diptheria, tetanus, and botulism. High-dose intravenous immunoglobulin can be used to treat certain viral infections in immunocompromised patients (e.g., cytomegalovirus, parvovirus B19, and enterovirus infections). Antibodies may also be of value in toxic shock syndrome, Ebola virus, and refractory staphylococcal infections. Palivizumab, the first monoclonal antibody licensed (in 1998) for an infectious disease, can prevent respiratory syncytial virus infection in high-risk infants. The development and use of additional monoclonal antibodies to key epitopes of microbial pathogens may further define protective humoral responses and lead to new approaches for the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases.

 

However, developing successful neutralizing antibodies can still be difficult but with the latest monoclonal antibody technology, as highlighted by the following papers, this process has made much more efficient.  In addition, it is not feasable to isolate antibodies from the plasma of covalescent patients in a scale that is needed for a worldwide outbreak.

A good explanation of the need can be found is Dr. Irina Robu’s post Race to develop antibody drugs for COVID-19 where:

When fighting off foreign invaders, our bodies make antibodies precisely produced for the task. The reason vaccines offer such long-lasting protection is they train the immune system to identify a pathogen, so immune cells remember and are ready to attack the virus when it appears. Monoclonal antibodies for coronavirus would take the place of the ones our bodies might produce to fight the disease. The manufactured antibodies would be infused into the body to either tamp down an existing infection, or to protect someone who has been exposed to the virus. However, these drugs are synthetic versions of the convalescent plasma treatments that rely on antibodies from people who have recovered from infection. But the engineered versions are easier to scale because they’re manufactured in rats, rather than from plasma donors.

The following papers represent the latest published work on development of therapeutic and prophylactic neutralizing antibodies to the coronavirus SARS-CoV2

1.  Cross-neutralization of SARS-CoV-2 by a human monoclonal SARS-CoV antibody.

Pinto, D., Park, Y., Beltramello, M. et al. Cross-neutralization of SARS-CoV-2 by a human monoclonal SARS-CoV antibody. Nature (2020).                                                                            https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2349-y

Abstract

SARS-CoV-2 is a newly emerged coronavirus responsible for the current COVID-19 pandemic that has resulted in more than 3.7 million infections and 260,000 deaths as of 6 May 20201,2. Vaccine and therapeutic discovery efforts are paramount to curb the pandemic spread of this zoonotic virus. The SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) glycoprotein promotes entry into host cells and is the main target of neutralizing antibodies. Here we describe multiple monoclonal antibodies targeting SARS-CoV-2 S identified from memory B cells of an individual who was infected with SARS-CoV in 2003. One antibody, named S309, potently neutralizes SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV pseudoviruses as well as authentic SARS-CoV-2 by engaging the S receptor-binding domain. Using cryo-electron microscopy and binding assays, we show that S309 recognizes a glycan-containing epitope that is conserved within the sarbecovirus subgenus, without competing with receptor attachment. Antibody cocktails including S309 along with other antibodies identified here further enhanced SARS-CoV-2 neutralization and may limit the emergence of neutralization-escape mutants. These results pave the way for using S309- and S309-containing antibody cocktails for prophylaxis in individuals at high risk of exposure or as a post-exposure therapy to limit or treat severe disease.

 

2.  Potent neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 identified by high-throughput single-cell sequencing of convalescent patients’ B cells

Yunlong Cao et al.  Potent neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 identified by high-throughput single-cell sequencing of convalescent patients’ B cells. Cell (2020).

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2020.05.025

Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic urgently needs therapeutic and prophylactic interventions. Here we report the rapid identification of SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies by high-throughput single-cell RNA and VDJ sequencing of antigen-enriched B cells from 60 convalescent patients. From 8,558 antigen-binding IgG1+ clonotypes, 14 potent neutralizing antibodies were identified with the most potent one, BD-368-2, exhibiting an IC50 of 1.2 ng/mL and 15 ng/mL against pseudotyped and authentic SARS-CoV-2, respectively. BD-368-2 also displayed strong therapeutic and prophylactic efficacy in SARS-CoV-2-infected hACE2-transgenic mice. Additionally, the 3.8Å Cryo-EM structure of a neutralizing antibody in complex with the spike-ectodomain trimer revealed the antibody’s epitope overlaps with the ACE2 binding site. Moreover, we demonstrated that SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies could be directly selected based on similarities of their predicted CDR3H structures to those of SARS-CoV neutralizing antibodies. Altogether, we showed that human neutralizing antibodies could be efficiently discovered by high-throughput single B-cell sequencing in response to pandemic infectious diseases.

3. A human monoclonal antibody blocking SARS-CoV-2 infection

Wang, C., Li, W., Drabek, D. et al. A human monoclonal antibody blocking SARS-CoV-2 infection. Nat Commun 11, 2251 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-16256-y

Abstract

The emergence of the novel human coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 in Wuhan, China has caused a worldwide epidemic of respiratory disease (COVID-19). Vaccines and targeted therapeutics for treatment of this disease are currently lacking. Here we report a human monoclonal antibody that neutralizes SARS-CoV-2 (and SARS-CoV) in cell culture. This cross-neutralizing antibody targets a communal epitope on these viruses and may offer potential for prevention and treatment of COVID-19.

Extra References on Development of Neutralizing antibodies for COVID19 {Sars-CoV2} published this year (2020)  [1-4]

  1. Fan P, Chi X, Liu G, Zhang G, Chen Z, Liu Y, Fang T, Li J, Banadyga L, He S et al: Potent neutralizing monoclonal antibodies against Ebola virus isolated from vaccinated donors. mAbs 2020, 12(1):1742457.
  2. Dussupt V, Sankhala RS, Gromowski GD, Donofrio G, De La Barrera RA, Larocca RA, Zaky W, Mendez-Rivera L, Choe M, Davidson E et al: Potent Zika and dengue cross-neutralizing antibodies induced by Zika vaccination in a dengue-experienced donor. Nature medicine 2020, 26(2):228-235.
  3. Young CL, Lyons AC, Hsu WW, Vanlandingham DL, Park SL, Bilyeu AN, Ayers VB, Hettenbach SM, Zelenka AM, Cool KR et al: Protection of swine by potent neutralizing anti-Japanese encephalitis virus monoclonal antibodies derived from vaccination. Antiviral research 2020, 174:104675.
  4. Sautto GA, Kirchenbaum GA, Abreu RB, Ecker JW, Pierce SR, Kleanthous H, Ross TM: A Computationally Optimized Broadly Reactive Antigen Subtype-Specific Influenza Vaccine Strategy Elicits Unique Potent Broadly Neutralizing Antibodies against Hemagglutinin. J Immunol 2020, 204(2):375-385.

 

For More Articles on COVID-19 Please see Our Coronavirus Portal on this Open Access Scientific Journal at:

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/coronavirus-portal/

and the following Articles on  Immunity at

Race to develop antibody drugs for COVID-19
Bispecific and Trispecific Engagers: NK-T Cells and Cancer Therapy
Issues Need to be Resolved With ImmunoModulatory Therapies: NK cells, mAbs, and adoptive T cells
Antibody-bound Viral Antigens

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Powerful AI Tools Being Developed for the COVID-19 Fight

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

 

Source: https://www.ibm.com/blogs/research/2020/04/ai-powered-technologies-accelerate-discovery-covid-19/

IBM Releases Novel AI-Powered Technologies to Help Health and Research Community Accelerate the Discovery of Medical Insights and Treatments for COVID-19

April 3, 2020 | Written by: 

IBM Research has been actively developing new cloud and AI-powered technologies that can help researchers across a variety of scientific disciplines accelerate the process of discovery. As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, we continue to ask how these technologies and our scientific knowledge can help in the global battle against coronavirus.

Today, we are making available multiple novel, free resources from across IBM to help healthcare researchers, doctors and scientists around the world accelerate COVID-19 drug discovery: from gathering insights, to applying the latest virus genomic information and identifying potential targets for treatments, to creating new drug molecule candidates.

Though some of the resources are still in exploratory stages, IBM is making them available to qualifying researchers at no charge to aid the international scientific investigation of COVID-19.

Today’s announcement follows our recent leadership in launching the U.S. COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, which is harnessing massive computing power in the effort to help confront the coronavirus.

Streamlining the Search for Information

Healthcare agencies and governments around the world have quickly amassed medical and other relevant data about the pandemic. And, there are already vast troves of medical research that could prove relevant to COVID-19. Yet, as with any large volume of disparate data sources, it is difficult to efficiently aggregate and analyze that data in ways that can yield scientific insights.

To help researchers access structured and unstructured data quickly, we are offering a cloud-based AI research resource that has been trained on a corpus of thousands of scientific papers contained in the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19), prepared by the White House and a coalition of research groups, and licensed databases from the DrugBankClinicaltrials.gov and GenBank. This tool uses our advanced AI and allows researchers to pose specific queries to the collections of papers and to extract critical COVID-19 knowledge quickly. Please note, access to this resource will be granted only to qualified researchers. To learn more and request access, please click here.

Aiding the Hunt for Treatments

The traditional drug discovery pipeline relies on a library of compounds that are screened, improved, and tested to determine safety and efficacy. In dealing with new pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2, there is the potential to enhance the compound libraries with additional novel compounds. To help address this need, IBM Research has recently created a new, AI-generative framework which can rapidly identify novel peptides, proteins, drug candidates and materials.

We have applied this AI technology against three COVID-19 targets to identify 3,000 new small molecules as potential COVID-19 therapeutic candidates. IBM is releasing these molecules under an open license, and researchers can study them via a new interactive molecular explorer tool to understand their characteristics and relationship to COVID-19 and identify candidates that might have desirable properties to be further pursued in drug development.

To streamline efforts to identify new treatments for COVID-19, we are also making the IBM Functional Genomics Platform available for free for the duration of the pandemic. Built to discover the molecular features in viral and bacterial genomes, this cloud-based repository and research tool includes genes, proteins and other molecular targets from sequenced viral and bacterial organisms in one place with connections pre-computed to help accelerate discovery of molecular targets required for drug design, test development and treatment.

Select IBM collaborators from government agencies, academic institutions and other organizations already use this platform for bacterial genomic study. And now, those working on COVID-19 can request the IBM Functional Genomics Platform interface to explore the genomic features of the virus. Access to the IBM Functional Genomics Platform will be prioritized for those conducting COVID-19 research. To learn more and request access, please click here.

Drug and Disease Information

Clinicians and healthcare professionals on the frontlines of care will also have free access to hundreds of pieces of evidence-based, curated COVID-19 and infectious disease content from IBM Micromedex and EBSCO DynaMed. Using these two rich decision support solutions, users will have access to drug and disease information in a single and comprehensive search. Clinicians can also provide patients with consumer-friendly patient education handouts with relevant, actionable medical information. IBM Micromedex is one of the largest online reference databases for medication information and is used by more than 4,500 hospitals and health systems worldwide. EBSCO DynaMed provides peer-reviewed clinical content, including systematic literature reviews in 28 specialties for comprehensive disease topics, health conditions and abnormal findings, to highly focused topics on evaluation, differential diagnosis and management.

The scientific community is working hard to make important new discoveries relevant to the treatment of COVID-19, and we’re hopeful that releasing these novel tools will help accelerate this global effort. This work also outlines our long-term vision for the future of accelerated discovery, where multi-disciplinary scientists and clinicians work together to rapidly and effectively create next generation therapeutics, aided by novel AI-powered technologies.

Learn more about IBM’s response to COVID-19: IBM.com/COVID19.

Source: https://www.ibm.com/blogs/research/2020/04/ai-powered-technologies-accelerate-discovery-covid-19/

DiA Imaging Analysis Receives Grant to Accelerate Global Access to its AI Ultrasound Solutions in the Fight Against COVID-19

Source: https://www.grantnews.com/news-articles/?rkey=20200512UN05506&filter=12337

Grant will allow company to accelerate access to its AI solutions and use of ultrasound in COVID-19 emergency settings

TEL AVIV, IsraelMay 12, 2020 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ — DiA Imaging Analysis, a leading provider of AI based ultrasound analysis solutions, today announced that it has received a government grant from the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA) to develop solutions for ultrasound imaging analysis of COVID-19 patients using Artificial Intelligence (AI).Using ultrasound in point of care emergency settings has gained momentum since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. In these settings, which include makeshift hospital COVID-19 departments and triage “tents,” portable ultrasound offers clinicians diagnostic decision support, with the added advantage of being easier to disinfect and eliminating the need to transport patients from one room to another.However, analyzing ultrasound images is a process that it is still mostly done visually, leading to a growing market need for automated solutions and decision support.As the leading provider of AI solutions for ultrasound analysis and backed by Connecticut Innovations, DiA makes ultrasound analysis smarter and accessible to both new and expert ultrasound users with various levels of experience. The company’s flagship LVivo Cardio Toolbox for AI-based cardiac ultrasound analysis enables clinicians to automatically generate objective clinical analysis, with increased accuracy and efficiency to support decisions about patient treatment and care.

The IIA grant provides a budget of millions NIS to increase access to DiA’s solutions for users in Israel and globally, and accelerate R&D with a focus on new AI solutions for COVID-19 patient management. DiA solutions are vendor-neutral and platform agnostic, as well as powered to run in low processing, mobile environments like handheld ultrasound.Recent data highlights the importance of looking at the heart during the progression of COVID-19, with one study citing 20% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 showing signs of heart damage and increased mortality rates in those patients. DiA’s LVivo cardiac analysis solutions automatically generate objective, quantified cardiac ultrasound results to enable point-of-care clinicians to assess cardiac function on the spot, near patients’ bedside.

According to Dr. Ami Applebaum, the Chairman of the Board of the IIA, “The purpose of IIA’s call was to bring solutions to global markets for fighting COVID-19, with an emphasis on relevancy, fast time to market and collaborations promising continuity of the Israeli economy. DiA meets these requirements with AI innovation for ultrasound.”DiA has received several FDA/CE clearances and established distribution partnerships with industry leading companies including GE Healthcare, IBM Watson and Konica Minolta, currently serving thousands of end users worldwide.”We see growing use of ultrasound in point of care settings, and an urgent need for automated, objective solutions that provide decision support in real time,” said Hila Goldman-Aslan, CEO and Co-founder of DiA Imaging Analysis, “Our AI solutions meet this need by immediately helping clinicians on the frontlines to quickly and easily assess COVID-19 patients’ hearts to help guide care delivery.”

About DiA Imaging Analysis:
DiA Imaging Analysis provides advanced AI-based ultrasound analysis technology that makes ultrasound accessible to all. DiA’s automated tools deliver fast and accurate clinical indications to support the decision-making process and offer better patient care. DiA’s AI-based technology uses advanced pattern recognition and machine-learning algorithms to automatically imitate the way the human eye detects image borders and identifies motion. Using DiA’s tools provides automated and objective AI tools, helps reduce variability among users, and increases efficiency. It allows clinicians with various levels of experience to quickly and easily analyze ultrasound images.

For additional information, please visit http://www.dia-analysis.com.

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via Dr. Giordano Featured in Forbes Article on COVID-19 Antibody Tests in Italy and USA

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US Responses to Coronavirus Outbreak Expose Many Flaws in Our Medical System


US Responses to Coronavirus Outbreak Expose Many Flaws in Our Medical System

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

The  coronavirus pandemic has affected almost every country in every continent however, after months of the novel advent of novel COVID-19 cases, it has become apparent that the varied clinical responses in this epidemic (and outcomes) have laid bare some of the strong and weak aspects in, both our worldwide capabilities to respond to infectious outbreaks in a global coordinated response and in individual countries’ response to their localized epidemics.

 

Some nations, like Israel, have initiated a coordinated government-private-health system wide action plan and have shown success in limiting both new cases and COVID-19 related deaths.  After the initial Wuhan China outbreak, China closed borders and the government initiated health related procedures including the building of new hospitals. As of writing today, Wuhan has experienced no new cases of COVID-19 for two straight days.

 

However, the response in the US has been perplexing and has highlighted some glaring problems that have been augmented in this crisis, in the view of this writer.    In my view, which has been formulated after social discussion with members in the field ,these issues can be centered on three major areas of deficiencies in the United States that have hindered a rapid and successful response to this current crisis and potential future crises of this nature.

 

 

  1. The mistrust or misunderstanding of science in the United States
  2. Lack of communication and connection between patients and those involved in the healthcare industry
  3. Socio-geographical inequalities within the US healthcare system

 

1. The mistrust or misunderstanding of science in the United States

 

For the past decade, anyone involved in science, whether directly as active bench scientists, regulatory scientists, scientists involved in science and health policy, or environmental scientists can attest to the constant pressure to not only defend their profession but also to defend the entire scientific process and community from an onslaught of misinformation, mistrust and anxiety toward the field of science.  This can be seen in many of the editorials in scientific publications including the journal Science and Scientific American (as shown below)

 

Stepping Away from Microscopes, Thousands Protest War on Science

Boston rally coincides with annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference and is a precursor to the March for Science in Washington, D.C.

byLauren McCauley, staff writer

Responding to the troubling suppression of science under the Trump administration, thousands of scientists, allies, and frontline communities are holding a rally in Boston’s Copley Square on Sunday.

#standupforscience Tweets

 

“Science serves the common good,” reads the call to action. “It protects the health of our communities, the safety of our families, the education of our children, the foundation of our economy and jobs, and the future we all want to live in and preserve for coming generations.”

It continues: 

But it’s under attack—both science itself, and the unalienable rights that scientists help uphold and protect. 

From the muzzling of scientists and government agencies, to the immigration ban, the deletion of scientific data, and the de-funding of public science, the erosion of our institutions of science is a dangerous direction for our country. Real people and communities bear the brunt of these actions.

The rally was planned to coincide with the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference, which draws thousands of science professionals, and is a precursor to the March for Science in Washington, D.C. and in cities around the world on April 22.

 

Source: https://www.commondreams.org/news/2017/02/19/stepping-away-microscopes-thousands-protest-war-science

https://images.app.goo.gl/UXizCsX4g5wZjVtz9

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/85438fbe-278d-11e7-928e-3624539060e8

 

 

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) also had marches for public awareness of science and meaningful science policy at their annual conference in Washington, D.C. in 2017 (see here for free recordings of some talks including Joe Biden’s announcement of the Cancer Moonshot program) and also sponsored events such as the Rally for Medical Research.  This patient advocacy effort is led by the cancer clinicians and scientific researchers to rally public support for cancer research for the benefit of those affected by the disease.

Source: https://leadingdiscoveries.aacr.org/cancer-patients-front-and-center/

 

 

     However, some feel that scientists are being too sensitive and that science policy and science-based decision making may not be under that much of a threat in this country. Yet even as some people think that there is no actual war on science and on scientists they realize that the public is not engaged in science and may not be sympathetic to the scientific process or trust scientists’ opinions. 

 

   

From Scientific American: Is There Really a War on Science? People who oppose vaccines, GMOs and climate change evidence may be more anxious than antagonistic

 

Certainly, opponents of genetically modified crops, vaccinations that are required for children and climate science have become louder and more organized in recent times. But opponents typically live in separate camps and protest single issues, not science as a whole, said science historian and philosopher Roberta Millstein of the University of California, Davis. She spoke at a standing-room only panel session at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting, held in Washington, D.C. All the speakers advocated for a scientifically informed citizenry and public policy, and most discouraged broadly applied battle-themed rhetoric.

 

Source: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-there-really-a-war-on-science/

 

      In general, it appears to be a major misunderstanding by the public of the scientific process, and principles of scientific discovery, which may be the fault of miscommunication by scientists or agendas which have the goals of subverting or misdirecting public policy decisions from scientific discourse and investigation.

 

This can lead to an information vacuum, which, in this age of rapid social media communication,

can quickly perpetuate misinformation.

 

This perpetuation of misinformation was very evident in a Twitter feed discussion with Dr. Eric Topol, M.D. (cardiologist and Founder and Director of the Scripps Research Translational  Institute) on the US President’s tweet on the use of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine based on President Trump referencing a single study in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents.  The Twitter thread became a sort of “scientific journal club” with input from international scientists discussing and critiquing the results in the paper.  

 

Please note that when we scientists CRITIQUE a paper it does not mean CRITICIZE it.  A critique is merely an in depth analysis of the results and conclusions with an open discussion on the paper.  This is part of the normal peer review process.

 

Below is the original Tweet by Dr. Eric Topol as well as the ensuing tweet thread

 

https://twitter.com/EricTopol/status/1241442247133900801?s=20

 

Within the tweet thread it was discussed some of the limitations or study design flaws of the referenced paper leading the scientists in this impromptu discussion that the study could not reasonably conclude that hydroxychloroquine was not a reliable therapeutic for this coronavirus strain.

 

The lesson: The public has to realize CRITIQUE does not mean CRITICISM.

 

Scientific discourse has to occur to allow for the proper critique of results.  When this is allowed science becomes better, more robust, and we protect ourselves from maybe heading down an incorrect path, which may have major impacts on a clinical outcome, in this case.

 

 

2.  Lack of communication and connection between patients and those involved in the healthcare industry

 

In normal times, it is imperative for the patient-physician relationship to be intact in order for the physician to be able to communicate proper information to their patient during and after therapy/care.  In these critical times, this relationship and good communication skills becomes even more important.

 

Recently, I have had multiple communications, either through Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets with cancer patients, cancer advocacy groups, and cancer survivorship forums concerning their risks of getting infected with the coronavirus and how they should handle various aspects of their therapy, whether they were currently undergoing therapy or just about to start chemotherapy.  This made me realize that there were a huge subset of patients who were not receiving all the information and support they needed; namely patients who are immunocompromised.

 

These are patients represent

  1. cancer patient undergoing/or about to start chemotherapy
  2. Patients taking immunosuppressive drugs: organ transplant recipients, patients with autoimmune diseases, multiple sclerosis patients
  3. Patients with immunodeficiency disorders

 

These concerns prompted me to write a posting curating the guidance from National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated cancer centers to cancer patients concerning their risk to COVID19 (which can be found here).

 

Surprisingly, there were only 14 of the 51 US NCI Cancer Centers which had posted guidance (either there own or from organizations like NCI or the National Cancer Coalition Network (NCCN).  Most of the guidance to patients had stemmed from a paper written by Dr. Markham of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle Washington, the first major US city which was impacted by COVID19.

 

Also I was surprised at the reactions to this posting, with patients and oncologists enthusiastic to discuss concerns around the coronavirus problem.  This led to having additional contact with patients and oncologists who, as I was surprised, are not having these conversations with each other or are totally confused on courses of action during this pandemic.  There was a true need for each party, both patients/caregivers and physicians/oncologists to be able to communicate with each other and disseminate good information.

 

Last night there was a Tweet conversation on Twitter #OTChat sponsored by @OncologyTimes.  A few tweets are included below

https://twitter.com/OncologyTimes/status/1242611841613864960?s=20

https://twitter.com/OncologyTimes/status/1242616756658753538?s=20

https://twitter.com/OncologyTimes/status/1242615906846547978?s=20

 

The Lesson:  Rapid Communication of Vital Information in times of stress is crucial in maintaining a good patient/physician relationship and preventing Misinformation.

 

3.  Socio-geographical Inequalities in the US Healthcare System

It has become very clear that the US healthcare system is fractioned and multiple inequalities (based on race, sex, geography, socio-economic status, age) exist across the whole healthcare system.  These inequalities are exacerbated in times of stress, especially when access to care is limited.

 

An example:

 

On May 12, 2015, an Amtrak Northeast Regional train from Washington, D.C. bound for New York City derailed and wrecked on the Northeast Corridor in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Of 238 passengers and 5 crew on board, 8 were killed and over 200 injured, 11 critically. The train was traveling at 102 mph (164 km/h) in a 50 mph (80 km/h) zone of curved tracks when it derailed.[3]

Some of the passengers had to be extricated from the wrecked cars. Many of the passengers and local residents helped first responders during the rescue operation. Five local hospitals treated the injured. The derailment disrupted train service for several days. 

(Source Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_Philadelphia_train_derailment)

What was not reported was the difficulties that first responders, namely paramedics had in finding an emergency room capable of taking on the massive load of patients.  In the years prior to this accident, several hospitals, due to monetary reasons, had to close their emergency rooms or reduce them in size. In addition only two in Philadelphia were capable of accepting gun shot victims (Temple University Hospital was the closest to the derailment but one of the emergency rooms which would accept gun shot victims. This was important as Temple University ER, being in North Philadelphia, is usually very busy on any given night.  The stress to the local health system revealed how one disaster could easily overburden many hospitals.

 

Over the past decade many hospitals, especially rural hospitals, have been shuttered or consolidated into bigger health systems.  The graphic below shows this

From Bloomberg: US Hospital Closings Leave Patients with Nowhere to go

 

 

https://images.app.goo.gl/JdZ6UtaG3Ra3EA3J8

 

Note the huge swath of hospital closures in the midwest, especially in rural areas.  This has become an ongoing problem as the health care system deals with rising costs.

 

Lesson:  Epidemic Stresses an already stressed out US healthcare system

 

Please see our Coronavirus Portal at

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/coronavirus-portal/

 

for more up-to-date scientific, clinical information as well as persona stories, videos, interviews and economic impact analyses

and @pharma_BI

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