COVID-19 2021 Resources

Following declarations from the US Department of Health and Human Services and World Health Organization ending the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, the IARS COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) concluded its review of the scientific literature about SARS-CoV-2 in August. The SAB has reviewed more than 3,100 journal articles and published 1,076 article reviews over the past 42 months. It has been an enormous commitment from the SAB, and the IARS owes our dedicated physician volunteers a huge debt of gratitude for their unwavering participation in this initiative.


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The material on this website is provided for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice. New knowledge is added daily and may change over time. Opinions expressed should not be construed as representing IARS policy or recommendations. References and links to third parties do not constitute an endorsement or warranty by IARS.


December 20, 2021:

  • Bleeding Complications in Patients With Perioperative COVID-19 Infection Undergoing Cardiac Surgery: A Single-Center Matched Case-Control Study. 12/15/21. Chiariello GA. J Cardiothorac Vasc Anesth.
    The purpose of this study was to investigate a possible significant correlation between perioperative COVID-19 infection and hemorrhagic complications compared to non-COVID-19 patients who underwent on-pump, open-heart cardiac surgery from February 2020 to March 2021. Among them, 23 consecutive patients had perioperative diagnoses of COVID-19 infection (study group). These patients were compared with 46 corresponding matched controls (control group). The study group demonstrated markedly higher bleeding complications in the short and long term. In the study group, patients showed a significantly higher incidence of bleeding complications (48% v 2%, p = 0.0001) and cases of surgical reexploration for bleeding (35% v 2%, p = 0.0001), a higher incidence of severe postoperative thrombocytopenia (39% v 6%, p = 0.0007), and a higher need of blood components transfusions (74% v 30%, p = 0.0006). Chest tubes blood loss and surgical hemostasis time were markedly prolonged (p = 0.02 and p = 0.003, respectively).
    SAB Comment: These data have implications for CT surgeons, CT anesthesia and intensivists but may also possibly be worth noting for other surgical teams.
  • Disorders of Consciousness Associated With COVID-19: A Prospective, Multimodal Study of Recovery and Brain Connectivity. 12/4/21. Fischer D. Neurology.
    Disorders of consciousness (DoC) in severe COVID-19 disease carry a serious if not ominous prognosis. This prospective, longitudinal, multimodal study screened 1,105 consecutive patients admitted to MGH/Brigham’s critical care units during a 9-month period ending in March 2021 to clarify short and long-term outcomes of DoC unexplained by sedation. Only 12 patients satisfied study criteria which included scheduled advanced MRI studies to assess functional and structural brain injury. All 8 survivors regained consciousness, 50% within a week after sedation and 75% regained normal cognition and had minimal disability at 6 months. Eighty-two percent of patients demonstrated microhemorrhages and/or leukoencephalopathy on imaging, findings which did not correlate with severity of DoC and point towards a multifactorial etiology that includes, sedation, hypoxia and inflammation. Despite obvious limitations, this study adds a measure of optimism to an arena of tragic outcomes.
  • Effect of High-Flow Oxygen Therapy vs Conventional Oxygen Therapy on Invasive Mechanical Ventilation and Clinical Recovery in Patients With Severe COVID-19: A Randomized Clinical Trial. 12/7/21. Ospina-Tascón GA. JAMA.
    This prospective, randomized, controlled, open-label trial from 3 hospitals in Colombia compared the 28-day need for intubation and the time to clinical recovery in 99 severely ill COVID-19 pneumonia patients treated with high-flow nasal cannula to those outcomes in 100 similar patients treated with standard modalities of nasal cannula and mask oxygen. Intubation was necessary in 34% of the patients randomized to high-flow oxygen therapy and in 51% randomized to conventional oxygen therapy. The median time to clinical recovery was 11 days in patients randomized to high-flow oxygen therapy vs 14 days in those randomized to conventional oxygen therapy.
  • Incidence of venous thromboembolic events in COVID-19 patients after hospital discharge: A systematic review and meta-analysis. 12/13/2021. Zuin M. Thromb Res.
    This systematic review and meta-analysis reviews the incidence of venous thromboembolism (VTE) after hospital discharge with COVID-19 patients. The 11 papers meeting inclusion criteria included 18,949 patients. The mean length of follow-up was 61.7 days (range 21-180 days). The cumulative post-discharge rate of VTE in COVID-19 patients ranged between 0.2 and 14.8 with a pooled incidence of post COVID-19 VTE in 1.8% of cases. The incidence of VTE events was directly affected by age (p = 0.03) and male gender (p = 0.04) and inversely correlated with the length of follow-up period (p = 0.012). Conversely, no associations were identified with cancer (p = 0.14), VTE history (p = 0.82), ICU admission (p = 0.55) and mean length of hospitalization (p = 0.68).
    SAB Comment: These data are derived from multiple studies with varying periods of follow up and methods of detecting VTE with a wide heterogeneity in the incidence of VTE. Nevertheless, this systematic review does summarize the existing data well.
  • Lenzilumab in hospitalised patients with COVID-19 pneumonia (LIVE-AIR): a phase 3, randomised, placebo-controlled trial. 12/5/2021. Temesgen Z. Lancet Respir Med.
    Hospitalised adult patients with COVID-19 pneumonia not requiring invasive mechanical ventilation were recruited during an 8 month period ending in January 2021 from 29 sites in the USA and Brazil and were randomly assigned (1:1) to receive three intravenous doses of lenzilumab (n=236) or placebo (n=243) delivered 8 h apart. The primary study endpoint – survival without invasive mechanical ventilation to day 28 – and was achieved in 198 (84%) patients who received lenzilumab and in 190 (78%) in the placebo group and the likelihood of survival was greater in the lenzilumab group (hazard ratio 1·54; 95% CI 1·02–2·32; p=0·040). Added value beyond primary outcome remains unknown, but side effects were comparable to placebo.
  • Risks of myocarditis, pericarditis, and cardiac arrhythmias associated with COVID-19 vaccination or SARS-CoV-2 infection. 12/15/2021. Patone M. Nat Med.
    An exhaustive review from the United Kingdom discussing cardiac complications of myocarditis, pericarditis and arrhythmias after COVID-19 SARS-CoV-2 mRNA immunizations. The data is evaluated by the cardiac cause of death, age, sex and numerous other contributing factors. Overall the statistics demonstrate the risk of death from vaccination related cardiac complications was rare, 1574 fatalities in 32,095,748 recipients who received two doses of immunization.
The material on this website is provided for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice. New knowledge is added daily and may change over time. Opinions expressed should not be construed as representing IARS policy or recommendations. References and links to third parties do not constitute an endorsement or warranty by IARS.


December 13, 2021:

  • A Higher Antibody Response Is Generated With a 6- to 7-Week (vs Standard) Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) Vaccine Dosing Interval. 12/1/2021. Grunau B. Clin Infect Dis.
    This retrospective cohort study on 186 paramedics in Canada looked at antibody levels generated by the mRNA vaccines when the interval between the two doses was extended. A dosing interval of 6–7 weeks compared with a standard dosing interval (<4 weeks) resulted in significantly higher anti-spike antibodies (p<0.0001) detected in the blood of vaccinated individuals. There was no difference in the results with the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccines. These data may inform ongoing international COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
    SAB Comment: Though interesting, this paper may not provide enough information to act on the bump in antibodies caused by delaying the second dose of mRNA vaccine. Understanding risks of the delay, population COVID dynamics, and actual real-life protection are also needed.
  • BNT162b2 Vaccine Booster and Mortality Due to Covid-19. 12/8/21. Arbel R. N Engl J Med.
    This report comes from the records of 843,308 Clalit Health (providing 50% of Israeli healthcare) patients older than 50 years with 2 doses of BNT162b2 for at least 5 months. During the study from 8/6/2021 – 9/29/2021, as patients received a third dose, they were compared to those having only 2 doses, with a primary outcome of mortality and a secondary outcome of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2. At the end of the study, 90% of patients had received a third dose. For the primary outcome the relative risk of mortality after the third dose was 0.10, a 90% lower mortality rate.
  • Efficacy of Early Treatment with Favipiravir on Disease Progression among High Risk COVID-19 Patients: A Randomized, Open-Label Clinical Trial. 12/1/2021. Chuah CH. Clin Infect Dis.
    An attempt by an Iranian team to assess an antiviral originally from Japan. This is a purine nucleic acid analog and a RNA polymerase inhibitor, known also as T-705 and used for resistant influenza infections in multiple countries, including China and Russia but not available in the US. Based on 9 studies reporting on 827 patients, the authors failed to identify any significant advantage of favipiravir over routine care when multiple outcomes were assessed, including viral clearance, ICU admission and mortality.
  • HSV-1 reactivation is associated with an increased risk of mortality and pneumonia in critically ill COVID-19 patients. 12/7/21. Meyer A. Crit Care.
    This French prospective, observational study examined Herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) reactivation in 153 severe COVID-19 patients. Outcomes were mortality, hospital-acquired pneumonia, ventilator-associated pneumonia (HAP/VAP) and bloodstream infection (BSI). HSV-1 respiratory and blood samples were collected in patients admitted for 48 hours or more (Feb-2020 to Feb-2021). HSV-1 reactivation occurred in 40/153 (26.1%) of patients. Respiratory samples were positive in 19/61 (31.1%) and/or blood samples positive in 36/146 (24.7%). HSV-1 reactivation in critically ill COVID-19 patients was associated with marked increased risk of day-60 mortality (57.5% with versus 33.6% without, p=0.001) and with HAP and VAP (p=.037), but not BSI.
    SAB Comment: This and other smaller studies document HSV-1 reactivation during COVID and non-COVID ARDS. To date, no study has determined worsening outcomes because of HSV-1 reactivation producing further lung injury or whether reactivation is an “epiphenomenon” resulting from disease-induced immunosuppression (e.g., lymphopenia, etc.) and not further lung injury. Also, thus far, only poorly powered studies have failed to show that initiation of antivirals improve outcomes. Much research remains in this area of viral reactivation in ARDS.
  • Odds of Testing Positive for SARS-CoV-2 Following Receipt of 3 vs 2 Doses of the BNT162b2 mRNA Vaccine. 11/30/2021. Patalon T. JAMA Intern Med.
    The effect of a third dose of BNT162b2 (Pfizer-BioNTech) was studied in a retrospective cohort of 306710 patients older than 40 and at least 5 months post a second dose in a database of 28% of the Israeli population. From 8/1-10/4/21 the incidence of positive PCR (500232 tests in total) was compared between those who had 2 doses (6.6% positive) and those who had 3 (1.8% positive). The reduction of positive tests increased with the time interval after the third dose (0.7% at 28-65 days) and the overall reduction in the odds of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 was 86%. After 14 days, the odds of hospitalization among those who received a booster dose were 92% to 97% lower than those who had received just 2 doses.

December 6, 2021:

  • A randomized controlled study of convalescent plasma for individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 pneumonia. 11/17/2021. Bar KJ. J Clin Invest.
    In this small U. of Pennsylvania randomized controlled study 80 adults with confirmed COVID-19 pneumonia were enrolled at median day 6 of symptoms and day 1 of hospitalization; 60% were anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody seronegative. Participants had a median of 3 comorbidities or risk factors for severe COVID-19. Convalescent plasma (CP) conferred significant benefit by clinical severity score and 28-day mortality (26% vs 5%), however all other pre-specified outcome measures showed weak evidence towards benefit of CP. Authors suggest that selected patients may benefit from CP if administered early.
  • Aspirin in patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 (RECOVERY): a randomised, controlled, open-label, platform trial. 11/20/21. RECOVERY Collaborative Group. Lancet.
    A randomized platform trial (RECOVERY) evaluating aspirin 150 mg with usual care (7351 patients), versus usual care alone (7541 patients), was carried out between 11/01/2020 and 3/21/2021 in multiple hospitals worldwide. The primary outcome was 28 day mortality, which was 17% in both groups. Hospital discharge in 28 days was 75% in the aspirin group and 74% in the control group (p=0.0062). A 0.6% reduction of thrombotic events in the aspirin group was cancelled out by an identical increase in major bleeding events.
    SAB Comment: There is little information on the value of aspirin as a therapy for COVID-19. Although the authors support further study for patients who are not hospitalized, it is clearly stated this trial does not support the addition of 150 mg of aspirin to the usual treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
  • Dexamethasone in hospitalised coronavirus-19 patients not on intensive respiratory support. 11/26/21. Crothers K. Eur Respir J.
    This real-world observational study from US Veterans Administration hospitals found that, in patients not requiring high levels of oxygen support, dexamethasone treatment produced no mortality benefit, and in patients on room air, dexamethasone treatment appeared to cause harm. The authors compared the 90-day mortality of patients on room air treated with dexamethasone (n=3124) to those on room air not treated with dexamethasone (n=6006) and found that, after propensity score weighting, dexamethasone-treated patients had a 76% increase in 90-day mortality. The same comparison in patients supported with oxygen by nasal cannula showed that dexamethasone treated patients (n=4383) did not have a statistically significant improvement in 90-day mortality over nasal cannula supported patients not treated with dexamethasone (n=1437).
    SAB Comment: The higher mortality in patients not on oxygen treated with dexamethasone confirms guidelines issued by the NIH and others.
  • Do the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Antidepressants Fluoxetine and Fluvoxamine Reduce Mortality Among Patients With COVID-19?. 11/15/2021. Hoertel N. JAMA Netw Open.
    An invited commentary which analyzes the mechanisms of action of SSRI antidepressants’ effectiveness as anti-inflammatory agents and inhibitors of viral infection at the cellular level. SSRI’s are functional inhibitors of acid sphingomyelinase (FIASMA), along with hydroxycine, amitriptyline, some statins and mucolytics. The author considers the Acid Sphingo-Myelinase (ASM)-ceramide system of crucial importance as a treatment target in COVID-19 and thoroughly analyses research and evidence behind that statement.
    SAB Comment: This comment provides scientific pre-clinical background to a retrospective cohort study analyzing how patients on SSRI antidepressant may have better outcomes following SARS-CoV-2 infection.
  • Effect of Prone Positioning on Clinical Outcomes of Non-Intubated Subjects with COVID-19: A Comparative Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. 11/10/2021. Beran A. Respir Care.
    To better understand the effects of awake prone positioning in hospitalized COVID-19 patients, these authors performed a meta-analysis of 5 randomized controlled trials and 9 observational studies that included control groups. This study looked at mortality and the need for intubation, and included 1495 patients and 1829 controls through August, 2021. There was a significant reduction in the mortality rate in the APP group (risk ratio 0.68, p=0.008) without a significant effect on intubations. However, APP showed a significant reduction in the need for intubation when subgroup analysis was restricted to RCTs (RR 0.83, P=0.02).
  • Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). 11/18/21.
    This website provides Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) Guidelines on the Treatment and Management of patients with COVID-19. The IDSA frequently updates the site with their carefully considered and well-organized distillation of current knowledge. In particular, their Summary Table titled, “Overview of COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines” is particularly concise and informative. This IDSA guideline link will be placed in the IARS Published Guidelines and Reviews web page for future reference.
  • Intermediate-to-therapeutic versus prophylactic anticoagulation for coagulopathy in hospitalized COVID-19 patients: a systemic review and meta-analysis. 11/25/2021. Zhang S. Thromb J.
    This is a meta analysis that compares 1) prophylactic and 2) intermediate to therapeutic doses of anticoagulation for hospitalized COVID-19 patients. By examining the data from 42 studies (6 of which were randomized controlled trials) with 28,055 in-hospital COVID-19 patients, they conclude that there is no benefit for the higher doses of anticoagulation as the mortality was not improved and the bleeding risk was increased. This was also true for just the ICU patients. This is the largest review to date and offers the most up to date information that is summarized in the infographic.
  • Omicron Variant Patient Profile in South Africa. 12/6/21. SAMRC.
    Readers interested in following the progress of the Omicron variant in South Africa, where it was first identified on November 24, 2021, are directed to the website of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC). This site provides access to a developing patient profile of the impact of the Omicron surge on hospitalization and outcomes here.
  • Prostacyclin in Mechanically Ventilated Patients with COVID-19 and Severe Endotheliopathy: A Multicenter, Randomized, Clinical Trial. 11/23/2021. Johansson PI. Am J Respir Crit Care Med.
    This Danish multicenter, randomized, trial examined 72-hour infusions of prostacyclin (1 ng/kg/min, n=41) or placebo (n=39) in mechanically ventilated Covid-19 patients having thrombomodulin plasma levels >4ng/ml. The main outcome of days alive without MV on day 28 was 16.0 days (SD 12) versus 5.0 days (SD 10), [95% CI -21.0 to 5.0], P=0.07) in prostacyclin and placebo groups. 28-day mortality was 21.9% versus 43.6, P=0.056). Incidence of serious adverse events within 7 days were 2.4% vs. 12.8% (P=0.10). Though all outcomes were not significantly different, adequately powered prostacyclin trials attempting to “deactivate” endothelium and restore vascular integrity may be warranted.
    Clinical trial registration available at, ID: NCT04420741.
  • The removal of airborne SARS-CoV-2 and other microbial bioaerosols by air filtration on COVID-19 surge units. 10/30/21. Conway Morris A. Clin Infect Dis.
    A British COVID-19 surge ward and an ICU surge unit that were ventilated with 2-4 air changes/hour at baseline were equipped with HEPA filtration + UV sterilization units that circulated 5-10 room-volumes/hour. Air sampling was done using National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health BC 251 two-stage cyclone aerosol samplers and analyzed for SARS-CoV-2 with PCR testing. On the ward, sampling revealed SARS-CoV-2 by PCR on most days during the two weeks without operation of the HEPA/UV units, however none during daily sampling during the week with the unit operating. In contrast to the ward, in the ICU limited evidence of airborne SARS-CoV-2 was found with the filter off, and only a single sample was positive with the filter on. Ten other pathogens that were detected at baseline were also nearly absent during filtration. The authors conclude that air HEPA/UV filtration and sterilization may reduce the risk of COVID-19 and other disease transmission in hospitals.

November 22, 2021:

November 8, 2021:

  • A randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial of bamlanivimab and etesevimab together in high-risk ambulatory patients with COVID-19 and validation of the prognostic value of persistently high viral load. 10/31/21. Dougan M. Clin Infect Dis.
    This Phase 3 portion of the industry-funded BLAZE-1 trial characterized the effect of bamlanivimab (700mg) with etesevimab (1400mg) infusion at this lower dose on overall patient clinical status and virologic outcomes in ambulatory patients 12 years or older, with mild-to-moderate COVID-19, and 1 or more risk factors for progressing to severe COVID-19 and/or hospitalization. Of 769 patients, the difference in hospitalization and/or death within 29 days for those receiving these monoclonal antibodies vs. placebo was 0.8% vs. 5.8% respectively. All 4 recorded deaths were in the placebo group. Persistently high viral load at Day 7, previously observed and considered a predictor of progression to a more serious form of COVID-19, was corroborated in this phase of the trial.
    SAB Comment: In February, 2021, the FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the doses used in this study, in mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients (12 years of age and older weighing at least 40 kg). In September this EUA was extended to include post-exposure prophylaxis. This EUA excludes states with resistance to these drugs over 5% (see FDA release for the most recent authorized areas).
  • Assessment of Cognitive Function in Patients After COVID-19 Infection. 10/22/2021. Becker JH. JAMA Netw Open.
    Research letter reporting on a cross-sectional observational cohort study of 740 patients complaining of “brain fog” several months after being diagnosed with COVID-19 as either inpatient, outpatient, or Emergency Department visitor over a 13-month period ending in May 2021. Cognitive function was tested counting frequency of impairment on each of 4 neuropsychological assessment tools. Processing speed and executive functioning topped the list of impairments and a correlation with severity of illness and age was highlighted as well as parallel features with patients recovering from influenza.
  • Association Between COVID-19 Diagnosis and In-Hospital Mortality in Patients Hospitalized With ST-Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction. 10/29/21. Saad M. JAMA.
    This is an outcome study of propensity matched cohorts (80,449 patients) with STEMI pre-admission and during admission prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic (time periods January-December 2019 and 2020 with final follow up in January 2021). Pre-admission STEMI mortality 15.2% +’ve COVID Vs. 11.2% -ve COVID(p=.007); in-hospital developed STEMI mortality 78.5% +’ve COVID Vs. 46.1% -“veCOVID (p<.001). Mortality was the highest in 50-75-year-old Hispanic men. Pre-admission STEMI appears to have similar rates of interventional treatment in both time periods but the 2020 STEMI cohort was treated with fibrinolytics with fewer invasive interventions. The accompanying editorial provides context and adds an interesting perspective.
  • Brain MRI and neuropsychological findings at long-term follow-up after COVID-19 hospitalisation: an observational cohort study. 10/28/2021. Hellgren L. BMJ Open.
    Observational cohort study from southern Sweden attempting to correlate neurocognitive dysfunction in 158 COVID-19 survivors exhibiting signs of higher cerebral dysfunction with brain MRI abnormalities. White matter changes observed in 35 symptomatic patients did not always correlate with severity of illness. A small sample size and lacking both baseline data and a control population prohibit the authors from drawing specific conclusions from their results and represent important limitations of this study.
  • Early Treatment for Covid-19 with SARS-CoV-2 Neutralizing Antibody Sotrovimab. 10/27/21. Gupta A. N Engl J Med.
    This is an interim analysis of COMET-ICE, a multicenter, double-blinded, randomized, phase 3 trial for COVID-19 outpatients with symptoms less than or equal to 5 days with an additional comorbidity, which were treated with Sotrovimab 500 mg IV (n = 291) or placebo (n = 292). An interim analysis revealed that 1% of the treated group as compared to 7% in the placebo group had disease progression leading to hospitalization or death (relative risk reduction 85%). The authors noted low adverse events and retained activity against variants of concern, including the alpha, beta, gamma, delta, and lambda variants. The drug can address the unmet needs of patients who have vaccine breakthrough, are unvaccinated, or are immunocompromised and may not respond to a vaccine.
    SAB Comment: The drug is promising for COVID-19. It acts against the non-receptor-binding motif, unlike current authorized COVID-19 monoclonal antibodies, which act on the receptor-binding motif.
  • Effect of 12 mg vs 6 mg of Dexamethasone on the Number of Days Alive Without Life Support in Adults With COVID-19 and Severe Hypoxemia: The COVID STEROID 2 Randomized Trial. 10/21/2021. COVID STEROID 2 Trial Group. JAMA.
    In this international, blinded, randomized clinical trial including 1000 adults with COVID-19 and severe hypoxemia, treatment with 12 mg/d of dexamethasone compared with 6 mg/d of dexamethasone did not result in significantly more days alive without life support at 28 days. Treatment with 12 mg/d of dexamethasone resulted in 22.0 days alive without life support at 28 days compared with 20.5 days in those receiving 6 mg/d of dexamethasone. None of the analyzed secondary outcomes (including mortality) were statistically significant. The number of patients with serious adverse reactions (ie, septic shock, invasive fungal infection, and clinically important gastrointestinal bleeding) appeared similar between the groups. This trial took place between August 2020 and May 2021 in Europe and India. The trial may have been underpowered to identify a significant difference.
  • Effect of early treatment with fluvoxamine on risk of emergency care and hospitalisation among patients with COVID-19: the TOGETHER randomised, platform clinical trial. 10/22/2021. Reis G. Lancet Global Hlth.
    The TOGETHER study, a placebo-controlled, randomized, adaptive platform study, aimed to assess the efficacy of fluvoxamine (SSRI) vs. placebo (N = 741 vs. N = 756) in preventing hospitalization or transfers for COVID-19 patients. The authors stated that patients were transferred to a hospital at a lower rate with early prescription of fluvoxamine compare with the placebo (11% vs. 16%, RR 0.68 and probability of superiority). The authors claimed there was a role for this repurposed drub with patients with symptoms greater than 7 days with an additional comorbidity and the unvaccinated as well as low resource centers.
    SAB Comment: Since the study was conducted in different circumstances there is a need to reproduce to prove the validity of the drug.
  • Elastomeric Respirators for COVID-19 and the Next Respiratory Virus Pandemic: Essential Design Elements. 10/19/21. Bowdle TA. Anesthesiology.
    Although healthcare workers have relied primarily on disposable filtering facepiece respirators (such as N95) during the COVID-19 pandemic, reusable elastomeric respirators (typically used for industrial purposes) have potential advantages for the COVID-19 and future respiratory virus pandemics. These advantages include improved fit, better inspiratory filtration and less waste. However, currently available elastomeric respirators were not designed primarily for healthcare or pandemic use and require further development to improve their suitability for this application. This article explores the advantages of elastomeric respirators, and the adaptations needed (such as eliminating the expiratory valve) to make them useful for healthcare providers. Table 1 (Respiratory Protection Terminology) and good photos provide an excellent background for understanding respirators.
  • Investigating Lipid-Modulating Agents for Prevention or Treatment of COVID-19: JACC State-of-the-Art Review. 10/15/2021. Talasaz AH. J Am Coll Cardiol.
    Following up on several successful retrospective cohort studies suggesting a benefit of statins in COVID-19, this systematic summary of 40 ongoing US and WHO registered randomized controlled trials focuses on evolving trends, underlying mechanism of action, value and side effects of statins (17 trials), omega-3 fatty acids (14 trials), fibrates (3 trials), niacin (3 trials) and the cholesteryl ester transfer protein inhibitor dalcetrapib (1 trial). Despite its lack of definitive results, this review contributes substantially to our understanding and appreciation of the potential role lipid modulating agents in COVID-19 may play and opens new horizons for research and clinical practice.
  • Neurological complications after first dose of COVID-19 vaccines and SARS-CoV-2 infection. 10/26/2021. Patone M. Nat Med.
    This self controlled case series examined 32 million people in the UK for neurological complications leading to hospital admission in the 28 days after vaccine administration and compared the incidence to those testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection. There were 3.8 excess cases of Guillain Barré syndrome per million people among Astra-Zeneca vaccine recipients not seen in the Pfizer cohort. Compared to baseline, a higher incidence of Bell’s palsy and myasthenic syndrome was seen in all vaccine recipients, with higher numbers of hemorrhagic strokes seen in only one of two populations examined. Individuals who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 were 4-times more likely to develop Guillain-Barré syndrome as well as multiple other neurological complications, demonstrating a clear risk differential between vaccination and infection in this UK population.
    SAB Comment: This study did not identify cases of post-vaccination cerebral venous thrombosis with and without Vaccine Induced Immune Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia.
  • Pre-admission anticoagulant therapy and mortality in hospitalized COVID-19 patients: A retrospective cohort study. 10/23/2021. van Haaps TF. Thromb Res.
    This Dutch retrospective cohort study of over 3000 patients included 1072 who were on anticoagulant or antiplatelet therapy before admission to hospital for COVID-19, and their matched controls. They, like most previous investigators, found no difference in all-cause 21-day mortality or ICU admission between the groups.
  • The immunology of asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection: what are the key questions? 10/20/21. Boyton RJ. Nat Rev Immunol.
    This article is a well-referenced analysis of the often-contradictory data regarding SARS-CoV-2 asymptomatic infection (AI). Prevalence of AI vs. symptomatic infection (SI) vary widely from 20-80% of total cases, higher in younger populations. In Wuhan, even without symptoms, one-third had computer tomography lung changes. The immune basis of AI vs. SI remains unclear: viral and neutralizing antibody titers appear equivalent. AI viral-shedding is shorter and antibody titers decline more rapidly. AI is not “benign”; up to 19% result in “long COVID.” AI-adaptive immunity appears strong and primes immune memory. Additionally, silent viral carriage can result in future variants of concern.

October 25, 2021:

  • Efficacy and Safety of Therapeutic-Dose Heparin vs Standard Prophylactic or Intermediate-Dose Heparins for Thromboprophylaxis in High-risk Hospitalized Patients With COVID-19: The HEP-COVID Randomized Clinical Trial. 10/7/21. Spyropoulos AC. JAMA Intern Med.
    This multicenter US study of 253 hospitalized adults with COVID-19 and evidence of coagulopathy reinforces findings in previous publications. After randomizing those with a D-dimer greater than 4x the upper limit of normal or a sepsis-induced coagulopathy score of greater than 4, to (1) standard prophylactic or intermediate-dose low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) or unfractionated heparin or (2) therapeutic-dose LMWH throughout hospitalization, the primary efficacy outcome of venous thromboembolism, arterial thromboembolism, or all-cause mortality was significantly reduced with therapeutic-dose anticoagulation in the non–ICU patients only (29 vs. 42%).
  • Anticoagulant Therapy in Patients Hospitalized With COVID-19. 10/7/21. Wahid L. JAMA Intern Med.
    This well-written accompanying editorial to the previous article discusses these findings along with those from several other major related studies, and points out coagulation management issues, such as antiplatelet therapy and extended prophylaxis, which remain unanswered.
  • Effect of Antithrombotic Therapy on Clinical Outcomes in Outpatients With Clinically Stable Symptomatic COVID-19: The ACTIV-4B Randomized Clinical Trial. 10/11/21. Connors JM. JAMA.
    Dosing strategy for inpatient COVID-19 patients remains controversial and anticoagulation benefits for stable outpatients has not been established. The ACTIV-4B was designed as minimal contact, adaptive, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study to compare anticoagulant and antiplatelet therapy among 7,000 symptomatic but stable outpatients without comorbidities. Random 1:1:1:1 allocation ratio was applied to aspirin 81mg QD (164); prophylactic apixaban 2.5mg BID; therapeutic apixaban 5mg BID (164); or placebo (164) for 45 days. Primary endpoint composite was for all-cause mortality, symptomatic venous or arterial thromboembolism, MI, stroke or hospital admission for CV or pulmonary cause. The trial was terminated by the monitoring board for lower event rate than predicted and no therapeutic difference was noted.
  • Antithrombotic Therapy for Outpatients With COVID-19: Implications for Clinical Practice and Future Research. 10/11/21. Berwanger O. JAMA.
    This editorial review provides a comparison of multiple studies on antithrombotic therapy for inpatients and outpatients with specific review of the ACTIV-4B trial. The discussion provides insight into the studies and suggests the use of aspirin or apixaban for symptomatic but stable outpatients is not justified. Additional comments support the importance of appropriately structured and controlled clinical trials despite the difficulties associated with such studies during a pandemic.
  • Bacterial Superinfection Pneumonia in Patients Mechanically Ventilated for COVID-19 Pneumonia. 8/17/21. Pickens CO. ATS.
    This Northwestern University single-center study examined the prevalence and etiology of bacterial superinfection (bacterial infection in addition to SARS-CoV-2) in severe SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia at intubation and subsequent ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP). All patients had bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) analyzed by quantitative cultures and multiplex PCR. In 179 patients, initial superinfection was detected in 21%; 44.4% developed 1 or more VAP episode(s). Initial VAP pathogens were usually CAP-type and not requiring broad spectrum coverage. Clinical criteria could not distinguish patients with or without superinfections. BAL-based management resulted in significantly reduced antibiotic use. Current guidelines, which advocate empirical antibiotics in severe SARS, results in antibiotic overuse at intubation. Forty-four percent VAPs suggests widespread under-recognition yet overtreatment with unnecessarily broad antibiotics.

October 18, 2021:

  • Administration of Monoclonal Antibody for COVID-19 in Patient Homes. 10/14/21. Malani AN. JAMA Netw Open.
    In this research letter, during the spring 2021 COVID-19 surge with peak counts of 1,300 cases per day, a Michigan healthcare system introduced successful in-home IV administration of monoclonal antibodies by paramedics to 144 high-risk COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms. This resulted in decompression of hospital facilities with only 8 patients requiring hospital admissions and no intubations or mortalities. Triage was accomplished by 3 nurses and prime risk factors were obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
  • Beneficial Effect of Prone Positioning During Venovenous Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation for Coronavirus Disease 2019. 9/28/2021. Zaaqoq AM. Crit Care Med.
    In this paper the authors attempt to determine if prone positioning has a survival benefit in patients with Covid-19 who are placed on venovenous ECMO. This is an observational report involving 232 patients from 72 participating institutions in multiple countries. During ECMO, 67 (29%) of these Covid-19 patients were placed at times in the prone position. Survival to hospital discharge was 33% in the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation prone group versus 22% in the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation supine group suggesting a benefit. This report seems to be the largest reporting in this specific patient population and suggests the need for a RCT.
  • Clinical Characteristics of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Adults: A Systematic Review. 9/22/21. Patel P. JAMA Netw Open.
    Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Adults (MIS-A) is exceedingly rare. These CDC authors identified 221 patients aged 18 and older, 122 of which were previously included in the CDC Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) database which included 18–21-year-olds. In MIS-A, median age was 21; 70% male, 36% non-Hispanic Black, 58% without comorbidity, and most with a previous symptomatic COVID-19 like illness. Most present febrile and hypotensive, with half exhibiting cardiac dysfunction, dyspnea and diarrhea and 7% died. MIS-A is a serious hyperinflammatory condition that presents approximately 4 weeks after onset of COVID-19 with extrapulmonary multiorgan dysfunction.
    SAB Comment: A conundrum presented by this paper is that the authors, themselves members of the CDC, changed the CDC definition of MIS-C from less than 21 years of age to less than 18 years of age. It could be argued that the division of MIS into MIS-C and MIS-A at a particular age is in fact arbitrary, and that MIS is a continuum of one pathologic process: a delayed inflammatory response to SARS-CoV-2, whose manifestations change with age under the influence of a changing immunomodulatory milieu.
  • Effectiveness of mRNA BNT162b2 COVID-19 vaccine up to 6 months in a large integrated health system in the USA: a retrospective cohort study. 10/4/21. Tartof S. Lancet.
    This US retrospective study differentiates the effect of the delta variant from waning immunity for the BNT162b2 (Pfizer) vaccine as a cause of increased breakthrough infections 6 months after full vaccination. Individuals (n = 1,043,289) had an overall vaccine effectiveness of 88% during the first month after full vaccination, which declined to 47% after 5 months. Effectiveness against hospital admission was 87% after one month of full vaccination, and 88% after 5 months. A significant difference in waning between variant types was not observed. Real-world variant-specific vaccine effectiveness suggested that reductions in Pfizer vaccine effectiveness rather than the delta variant escaping vaccine protection was the primary cause of vaccine breakthrough infections.
  • External validation of prognostic scores for COVID-19: a multicenter cohort study of patients hospitalized in Greater Paris University Hospitals. 9/29/21. Lombardi Y. Intensive Care Med.
    This retrospective study of 14,343 consecutive COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Paris facilities between 1/2020 and 4/2021 analyzed the efficacy of 32 published prognostic scores for predicting 30-day mortality, or need for ICU admission in addition to mortality. Areas under the receiver operating characteristic curves (AUC) were computed for each of the prognostic scores using the data for the Paris patients. Accuracy was defined as an AUC of 0.8. With AUCs of 0.79 for 30-day mortality, the 4C Mortality Score and the ABCS stand out. They performed as well in this cohort as in their initial validation cohort, and in secondary analyses during the first epidemic wave, subsequent waves, and in younger and older patients. A separate table summarizes data for the 7 best prognostic scores. For those clinicians needing to apply a prognostic instrument, the tables and supplemental material are a treasure trove of information.
  • Myocarditis after Covid-19 Vaccination in a Large Health Care Organization. 10/6/2021. Witberg G. New Engl J.
    In this retrospective Israeli study, 54 cases of myocarditis were diagnosed following at least one dose of Pfizer vaccine 12/20/20-5/24/21 out of 2.5 million vaccinated single health care organization members 16 years or older. (~2 per 100,000) Myocarditis was mild in 76% and intermediate in 22% with only 1 case of cardiogenic shock leading to ECMO. Males 16-29 yrs. old were most at risk. No deaths were attributed to myocarditis after a median follow up of 83 days. 83% of this cohort had no co-morbidities. These figures represent a higher incidence than estimated by the CDC.
    SAB Comment: In a separate Israeli study published in the same NEJM edition, investigators calculated the measured vs. expected incidence of myocarditis in individuals vaccinated by May 31, 2020. “The incidence of myocarditis, although low, increased after the receipt of the BNT162b2 vaccine, particularly after the second dose among young male recipients. The clinical presentation of myocarditis after vaccination was usually mild.” As compared with the expected incidence based on historical data, the standardized incidence ratio was 5.34 and was highest after the 2nd dose in males between ages 16 and 19 years.
  • One-year sustained cellular and humoral immunities of COVID-19 convalescents. 10/5/2021. Zhang J. Clin Infect Dis.
    Immunoglobulin and cellular immune protection to SARS-CoV-2 was studied in Chinese COVID convalescents at 6 months (n=81) and 12 months (n=74). Disease severity ranged from asymptomatic to severe. Neutralizing Antibody (Nab), IgG, and IgM were assessed by both ELISA and MCLIA assays, and T-cell immunity to spike, membrane, and nucleocapsid proteins was individually assayed. IgG and IgM levels waned between 6 and 12 months however Nab against live virus measured at both 6 and 12 months were present in 56 of 57 convalescents at 12 months; over half had equal or increased levels. 92% showed T-cell responses at 12 months. The magnitude of immunoglobulin and cellular responses correlated with disease severity.
  • Platelets Contribute to Disease Severity in COVID-19. 9/19/21. Barrett TJ. J Thromb Haemost.
    Platelet count and mean volume (MPV) were reviewed retrospectively in 3915 COVID-19 positive patients from March to June 2020. Immature platelet fraction (IPF) was followed in an additional 427 patients. Low platelet count, immaturity, and large size were associated with increased severity of disease and mortality. Additionally, autopsy specimens were obtained, and platelet RNA sequencing was carried out in 8 patients. Interestingly, there was evidence of replicating SARS-CoV-2 within a lung megakaryocyte. The authors found evidence that SARS-CoV-2 interacts with megakaryocytes to produce large immature hyperreactive platelets. The authors are investigating platelet-directed therapy.
    SAB Comment: This strength of paper lies in the availability of platelet immature fraction and platelet volume from routine lab testing. These data highlight the role of platelets in the immunothrombosis of COVID-19 and raise excellent further questions for therapeutics.
  • REGEN-COV Antibody Combination and Outcomes in Outpatients with Covid-19. 9/29/21. Weinrich D. NEJM.
    This report represents the phase 3 portion of Regeneron’s adaptive trial to demonstrate the efficacy of a combination of two monoclonal antibodies (imdevimab and casirivimab) in outpatients with COVID-19 and risk factors for severe disease in comparison to placebo. The phase 1-2 portion of this trial published one year ago showed a reduction of viral load and medical visits in 275 symptomatic patients. This phase compared 3 larger groups of patients, each receiving the antibody combination in two different doses or placebo. A highly significant relative risk reduction of 71% for hospitalization or death over placebo and a 4-day reduction in resolution of symptoms underlined the value of this treatment modality. In addition, the authors conclude that effectiveness does not depend on baseline serum antibody status.
  • Tocilizumab administration for the treatment of hospitalized patients with COVID-19: A systematic review and meta-analysis. 10/4/21. Kyriakopoulos C. Respirology.
    This well-written review includes 52 studies (nine randomized controlled trials [RCTs] and 43 observational) with a total of 27,004 patients. In both RCTs and observational studies, the use of tocilizumab was associated with a reduction in mortality; 11% in RCTs and 31% in observational studies. The need for mechanical ventilation was reduced by 19% in RCTs. Both RCTs and observational studies showed a benefit from tocilizumab on the composite endpoint of mortality or need for mechanical ventilation. Tocilizumab improved mortality both in ICU and non-ICU patients.
  • Tocilizumab and remdesivir in hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia: a randomized clinical trial. 10/5/21. Rosas IO. Intensive Care Med.
    In this randomized controlled trial of patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia, 434 were randomly assigned to tocilizumab plus remdesivir and 215 to placebo plus remdesivir. Of the 649 patients, 88.2% received corticosteroids. The median time from randomization to hospital discharge or “ready for discharge” was 14 days with tocilizumab plus remdesivir and 14 days with placebo plus remdesivir. Although large platform trials showed a survival benefit of tocilizumab in patients with severe COVID-19 and declining respiratory status, this trial did not confirm treatment benefit of tocilizumab in combination with remdesivir.
    SAB Comment: Although the use of tocilizumab along with steroids is recommended in a number of major guidelines (WHO, NIH, IDSA), this industry-sponsored RCT fails to confirm its effectiveness when used with steroids and the antiviral, remdesivir.
  • Waning of BNT162b2 Vaccine Protection against SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Qatar. 10/6/21. Chemaitelly H. N Engl J Med.
    To determine BNT152b vaccine (Pfizer) protection over time, these investigators followed all vaccinated Qatari patients from January 1 to September 5, 2021. Eighty percent of the population had received two doses of vaccine by September 7, PCR testing is robust (5% of the population is tested weekly), all PCR samples are genetically sequenced for variants, and centralized, coordinated data collection on all patients was routine. Vaccine effectiveness at one month after the second dose was maximum at 77.5%. Effectiveness against all breakthrough infections declined gradually thereafter, with the decline accelerating after the fourth month to reach approximately 20% in months 5 through 7. Variant-specific effectiveness waned in the same pattern. Effectiveness against severe, critical, or fatal COVID-19 reached 96% or higher in the first 2 months after the second dose and persisted at approximately this level for 6 months.
    SAB Comment: This study from Qatar, and the similar study below from California, are the real-life documentation of waning effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine, which had been suspected from lab studies documenting waning immune humoral response ( Note that the vaccine shows continued effectiveness against severe disease, and that the effectiveness over time is similar for SARS-CoV-2 variants.

October 4, 2021:

  • Antibody and cellular therapies for treatment of covid-19: a living systematic review and network meta-analysis. 9/24/21. Siemieniuk RA. BMJ.
    This updatable meta-analysis from the World Health Organization and British Medical Journal collaboration reviews the results of 47 randomized trials (selected for quality from 1050) dating to July 2021. It evaluates research on monoclonal antibodies, polyclonal antibodies, convalescent plasma, intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg), umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells, peripheral blood nonhematopoietic enriched stem cells, anti-SARS-CoV-2 IVIg, and therapeutic plasma exchange. The authors’ current conclusions are that in patients with nonsevere COVID-19, the antiviral monoclonal antibodies casirivimab-imdevimab (Regeneron) probably reduce risk of hospitalization, and that bamlanivimab, bamlanivimab-etesevimab (Lilly), and sotrovimab (GlaxoSmithKline) may reduce risk of hospitalization. None of the other interventions reviewed appear to have any impact when given to patients with nonsevere COVID-19, and none of the monoclonal antibodies or other therapies appear to have any impact when given to patients with severe covid-19 with the exception that casirivimab-imdevimab may reduce the risk of mortality in patients with severe COVID-19 who do not have detectable antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.
    SAB Comment: Our policy has been to refrain from including nonpeer reviewed preprints in our newsletter. While this review article includes 10 such preprints among the 47 studies considered, we believe that those studies have essentially undergone peer review by the authors of this systematic review.
  • Antifungal prophylaxis for prevention of COVID-19-associated pulmonary aspergillosis in critically ill patients: an observational study. 9/16/21. Hatzl S. Crit Care.
    This retrospective, observational study reviewed the clinical course of all 132 consecutive patients admitted between September 1, 2020, and May 1, 2021, 75 of whom received antifungal prophylaxis (98% posaconazole). Antifungal prophylaxis was recommended in this medical center, but ordering it was left up to the discretion of individual intensivists. The authors noted that COVID-19-associated pulmonary aspergillosis (CAPA) was diagnosed in 17.5% of patients who did not receive antifungal prophylaxis, versus only in 1.4% of those receiving prophylaxis. They also noted that despite the efficacy shown for antifungal prophylaxis against aspergillosis infection in these patients, this prophylaxis did not have a significant impact on overall survival.
  • Clinical Characteristics of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Adults: A Systematic Review. 9/22/2021. Patel P. JAMA Netw Open.
    These CDC authors provide an improved description of Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in adults (MIS-A). Of 221 patients identified, the median age was 21, 70% male, 36% non-Hispanic Black, 58% without comorbidity, 68% – previously (medium 28 days) symptomatic with a COVID-19–like illness. Most (96%) present febrile, 60% hypotensive, 54% cardiac dysfunction, 52% SOB, 52% diarrhea; multiorgan (medium five) involvement, hospital stay 8 days. 57% required ICU, 47% respiratory support and 7% died. 98% current/past SARS-CoV-2 laboratory findings; 86% lymphopenia. Ten patients presented with Kawasaki disease. Conclusion: MIS-A presents approximately 4 weeks after acute COVID-19 with extrapulmonary multiorgan dysfunction.
  • Comparative Effectiveness of Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) Vaccines in Preventing COVID-19 Hospitalizations Among Adults Without Immunocompromising Conditions – United States, March-August 2021. 9/23/21. Self WH. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep.
    This CDC study compared the real-life vaccine effectiveness (VE) against hospitalization of patients who had the three vaccines which were approved in the US. The vaccination status of 1,682 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 was compared with the vaccination status of 2,007 control patients admitted without COVID-19 during March to August 2021. VE against COVID-19 hospitalization was slightly lower for the Pfizer vaccine (88%) than the Moderna vaccine (93%), with this difference driven by a decline in VE after 120 days for the Pfizer but not for the Moderna vaccine. The Janssen (Johnson and Johnson) VE was 71%.
    SAB Comment: As viral variants were not determined in this study, and time since vaccination is increasing, the VE of various vaccines may be changing. Note that in the first week of May 2021, 1.6% of all COVID-19 infections in the US were thought to be caused by Delta, whereas in the last week of September, 99% of US cases were Delta.
  • Convalescent plasma for COVID-19: a meta-analysis, trial sequential analysis, and meta-regression. 9/28/2021. Snow TAC. Br J Anaesth.
    Authors identified 17 randomized controlled trials that recruited 15,587 patients with 8,027 (51.5%) allocated to receive convalescent plasma (CP). “In patients with COVID-19, there was no clear mortality benefit associated with CP treatment. In patients with mild disease, CP did not prevent either the need for mechanical ventilation or ICU admission.” Meta-regression did not reveal association with titre of CP, timing of administration, or risk of death and treatment effect (P>0.05). Risk of bias was high in most studies. Authors state that it is unknown whether early high-titre CP could benefit high-risk patients, or those with worsening illness who lack endogenous anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies.
  • Myocarditis With COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines. 8/10/21. Bozkurt B. Circulation.
    This report summarizes the available information regarding myocarditis occurring after mRNA vaccination against SARS-CoV-2. The CDC reports an incidence of 12.6 per million of those between ages 12 and 39, mostly men. The FDA will add a warning label to both mRNA vaccines. Case definition, symptoms, treatment, and course are presented, as well as a chart listing published cases. Rapid resolution usually occurred. The mechanism of development is unclear, but proposed mechanisms are discussed. It includes an illustration of the risk-benefit which favors vaccination for all people older than 12.
  • Remdesivir plus standard of care versus standard of care alone for the treatment of patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 (DisCoVeRy): a phase 3, randomised, controlled, open-label trial. 9/17/21. Ader F. Lancet Infect Dis.
    DisCoVeRy is a phase 3, open-label, adaptive, multicenter, randomized, controlled trial conducted in 48 sites in Europe, studying 857 COVID-19 patients. Four hundred twenty-nine patients were admitted with mild to moderate symptoms (WHO scale of more than 3 and less than 6), had symptoms for more than 7 days, and who were on oxygen prescription were treated with remdesivir, while 428 patients were treated with standard care. Outcome were measured at days 3 through 29. No clinical benefit regarding viral clearance, mortality, morbidity or recovery was noted with remdesivir.

September 27, 2021:

  • Effectiveness of the BNT162b2 mRNA COVID-19 vaccine in pregnancy. 9/8/21. Dagan N. Nat Med.
    A pre-Delta, observational study from researchers in Tel Aviv and at Harvard investigating the BNT162b2 messenger RNA vaccine during pregnancy in Israeli women older than 16 years found the vaccine to be of comparable effectiveness to the general population and that it reduced the infection rate by nearly 50% (see data in Figure 1) when compared to the unvaccinated pregnant control group. It should be noted there were no deaths in either group and only 1 severe infection in the unvaccinated group. The authors hypothesize the vaccination is safe and might provide protection in newborns, although they offered no evidence.
  • Efficacy and safety of baricitinib for the treatment of hospitalised adults with COVID-19 (COV-BARRIER): a randomised, double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled phase 3 trial. 9/4/21. Marconi VC. Lancet Respir Med.
    This oral Janus kinase inhibitor with anti-cytokine properties and potential antiviral effectiveness has been studied extensively in hospitalized patients with COVID-19. Sponsored by Pfizer, the COV-BARRIER trial enrolled 1525 participants from 101 centers in 12 countries between June 2020 and January 2021. While its ability to reduce disease progression was not significant, 28-day all-cause mortality was reduced by 5% (from 13% to 8%) in the baricitinib group compared to the placebo population (HR 0.57) which translates in one additional death prevented per 20 baricitinib-treated patients. An accompanying editorial highlights the effectiveness and safety of JAK inhibitors in combination with steroids and remdesivir. It also provides plausible explanations for the observed differences in the results of this trial (COV-BARRIER) and the ACCT-2 trial of baricitinib.
  • Fostamatinib for the treatment of hospitalized adults with COVID-19: A randomized trial. 9/1/21. Strich JR. Clin Infect Dis.
    Fostamatinib is an oral tyrosine kinase inhibitor that is FDA-approved for the treatment of chronic idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. Its active metabolite inhibits both the release of proinflammatory cytokines and platelet mediated thrombus formation provoked by anti-spike immune complexes. In this NIH-led pilot study, fostamatinib was given to 30 patients with advanced COVID-19 requiring oxygen and receiving remdesivir and corticosteroids. Compared to the placebo group, lung injury appeared to resolve more quickly, serious side effects were significantly reduced, and several biomarkers improved significantly. Larger confirmatory trials are needed to establish the drug’s role in advanced SARS-CoV-2 infections.
  • Protection of BNT162b2 Vaccine Booster against Covid-19 in Israel. 9/15/21. Bar-On YM. N Engl J Med.
    More than 1.1 million (1,137,804) fully vaccinated Israelis older than 60 years were studied during the rollout of a program to provide 3rd shots of the Pfizer vaccine during the Delta surge. Data was analyzed from 5 million person-days at risk in the nonbooster group compared with 10 million person-days in the booster group. “At least 12 days after the booster dose, the rate of confirmed infection was lower in the booster group than in the nonbooster group by a factor of 11.3 (95% confidence interval [CI], 10.4 to 12.3); the rate of severe illness (cases diagnosed Aug 10-26, 2021) was lower by a factor of 19.5 (95% CI, 12.9 to 29.5).” A second analysis showed that the reduction after 12 days post 3rd shot was 5.4 times greater than the reduction after 4 to 6 days post-3rd shot. (95% CI, 4.8 to 6.1). A bar graph shows clearly that it takes 2-3 weeks for additional protection to peak.
  • Safety and Efficacy of the BNT162b2 mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine through 6 Months. 9/15/2021. Thomas SJ. N Engl J Med.
    Additional data from the ongoing randomized, placebo controlled study of 44,165 participants over 16 years of age and 2264 participants 12 to 15 years of age who received 2 doses of two 30-μg doses, 21 days apart, of BNT162b2 or placebo, before Delta dominance. Vaccine efficacy was 91.3% (95% confidence interval [CI], 89.0 – 93.2), with a decline of 6% every 2 months. Vaccine efficacy against severe disease was 96.7% (95% CI, 80.3 – 99.9). Few participants had serious adverse events or adverse events that led to trial withdrawal. Expected reactions such as site pain, fatigue, and mild fever occurred after second doses more often if there was no evidence of previous exposure to SARS-CoV-2, and after the first dose in those with previous exposure. There was no difference in mortality, and no deaths were attributed to the vaccine. Results were consistent regardless of ethnicity/race, co-morbidities, sex, age and region.
  • Safety and immunogenicity of SARS-CoV-2 variant mRNA vaccine boosters in healthy adults: an interim analysis. 9/16/21. Choi A. Nat Med.
    In an open-label ongoing phase 2a study, Moderna examined whether their current vaccine (mRNA-1273) booster 6 months after the second dose, shows decreased neutralization vs. three Beta-variant vaccines. Interim analysis of 4 booster groups (n = 20/group) is: Pre-booster dose: neutralizing antibodies against wild-type D614G waned vs. peak titers 1-month post-primary series. Neutralization titers against Beta, Gamma and Delta VOCs were low/undetectable. Both the mRNA-1273 booster and variant-modified boosters were safe. Both boosters increased neutralization titers against wild-type D614G vs. peak titers 1 month after the primary series, and importantly, against VOCs; both were equivalent or superior to titers measured post-primary series against wild-type virus.
  • SARS-CoV-2 Neutralization with BNT162b2 Vaccine Dose 3. 9/15/21. Falsey AR. N Engl J Med.
    This research letter discusses what amounts to a pilot study looking at neutralizing antibody responses in a small group of subjects who received a third Pfizer vaccine dose, providing data that may be used to argue for a booster. Increases were greater in participants older than 65 years compared with adults younger than 55. Increases were greater to Beta and Delta variants than to wild type.
  • Spontaneous Abortion Following COVID-19 Vaccination During Pregnancy. 9/8/21. Kharbanda EO. JAMA.
    In this Research Letter of 105,446 pregnancies with 13,160 spontaneous abortions, vaccination for COVID-19 did not increase the risk for spontaneous abortion as compared to unvaccinated pregnancies.
  • Surveillance for Adverse Events After COVID-19 mRNA Vaccination. 9/3/21. Klein NP. JAMA.
    This is a Vaccine Safety Datalink study from 8 participating US health plans. “In this interim analysis of surveillance data from 6.2 million persons who received 11.8 million doses of an mRNA vaccine, event rates for 23 serious health outcomes were not significantly higher for individuals 1 to 21 days after vaccination compared with similar individuals at 22 to 42 days after vaccination,…although CIs were wide for some rate ratio estimates and additional follow-up is ongoing.” Outcomes included MI, Bell palsy, cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, Guillain-Barré, myocarditis, pericarditis, PE, CVA, and thrombosis with thrombocytopenia. Follow-up is expected for at least 2 years.

September 20, 2021:

  • Convalescent plasma for hospitalized patients with COVID-19: an open-label, randomized controlled trial. 9/10/2021. Bégin P. Nat Med.
    This open-label, randomized controlled trial of O2-requiring Covid patients examined convalescent plasma antibody profiles on intubation/death by day 30. The trial was terminated for futility. Intubation/death occurred in 199/614 (32.4%) patients in the plasma arm and 86/307 (28.0%) in the standard arm (P= 0.18). The plasma arm had more serious adverse events (33.4% versus 26.4%; P= 0.034). Each log increase in viral neutralization or antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity reduced the potential harmful effects of plasma. IgG against the full transmembrane spike protein, containing both relevant and irrelevant Ig’s increased harmful effects. Convalescent plasma qualitative antibody profiles, not total anti-spike IgG, may strongly influence clinical effects.
  • Early treatment of COVID-19 with anakinra guided by soluble urokinase plasminogen receptor plasma levels: a double-blind, randomized controlled phase 3 trial. 9/4/21. Kyriazopoulou E. Nat Med.
    From December 2020 to March 2021, 594 COVID-19 positive patients at 30 study sites underwent a phase 3 double-blinded randomized controlled trial evaluating the efficacy and safety of early initiation of anakinra treatment on the WHO clinical progression scale (WHO-CPS) at day 28. The study patients (405 anakinra and 189 placebo) all had a soluble urokinase plasminogen activator receptor (suPAR) titer >6ng/ml, which is an early predictor of severe respiratory failure. At 28 days, the odds ratio of having a worse clinical status on the WHO-CPS was 0.36 in the anakinra group. The study includes consideration of CRP, neutrophil to lymphocyte ratio, ferritin, AST and IL-6 levels as well as SOFA scores.
  • Evolution of COVID-19 symptoms during the first 12 months after illness onset. 9/2/2021. Wynberg E. Clin Infect Dis.
    342 Dutch Covid-19 patients were followed with a monthly symptom questionnaire from May 2020 to May 2021. At 12 weeks 87% of 98 with severe or critical illness had at least 1 symptom compared with 64% of 145 with moderate disease and 31% of 99 with mild disease. 12 months post illness onset 41% of all participants continued to report >1 symptom. Recovery was slower in females and those with BMI >30 kg/m2.
  • High-Flow Nasal Cannula and COVID-19: A Clinical Review. 9/15/21. Crimi C. Respir Care.
    This review is a succinct and thorough description of the value of high flow nasal cannula (HFNC) for moderate-to-severe acute hypoxemic respiratory failure. The published studies on the use of HFNC during the pandemic are reviewed, and ongoing randomized clinical trials are described. Evidence to date finds HFNC (generally 50-60 l/min) to be a valuable and feasible treatment option for patients with COVID-19 pneumonia, with clinical advantages (i.e., it is simple, well tolerated, available outside the ICU, and likely effective at reducing intubations). The current evidence shows that HFNC is no worse than conventional oxygen delivery devices or NIV in terms of dispersion of patient-generated bioaerosols.
  • Investigation of the optimal method of oxygen administration with simultaneous use of a surgical mask: a randomized control study. 9/7/21. Matsui Y. J Anesth.
    In this small (n=24) healthy volunteer study, three methods to deliver supplemental oxygen along with surgical masking were assessed by oxygen reserve index* (ORi) and end-tidal oxygen (EtO2). The goal was to determine the best method to limit aerosol dispersal while transporting patients, using 4 L/M supplemental O2 for consistency. A surgical mask over nasal cannula provided the best results of the 3 methods tested, resulting in an ORi of 0.50 and EtO2 of 33%. The other tested methods were oxygen mask over surgical mask and oxygen mask under surgical mask.
    *SAB Comment: ORi is a relatively new method using multi-wavelength co-oximetry. Incorporated within some pulse oximeters, it provides a noninvasive method to assess changes in the moderately hyperoxic range, (PaO2100-200 mmHg) one within which SpO2 is insensitive. With decreasing PaO2, ORi will decline before SpO2.
  • Machine Learning Prediction of Death in Critically Ill Patients With Coronavirus Disease 2019. 9/3/21. Churpek MM. Crit Care Explor.
    This observational study (67 US ICUs, N=5075, March-June 2020) addressed the variable mortality of ICU/COVID-19 patients with a machine learning tool ~eXtreme Gradient Boosting (XGBM) on 28-day mortality. XGBM had the highest discrimination and calibration of all the machine learning models tested including, SOFA Score, NEWS and CURB-65. It is a simple bedside tool that provides pertinent information for goals of care discussions, triage decisions and for prognostic clinical trials. The area under the receiver operating curve was 0.81 (CI 79-85) with a discrimination power X 10 fold. Mortality was 36.4% at day 28 from day of ICU admission. Age, number of ICU beds, creatinine, and lactate were important contributions to mortality.
  • Results of the CAPSID randomized trial for high-dose convalescent plasma in severe COVID-19 patients. 8/31/2021. Körper S. J Clin Invest.
    This RCT from Germany, randomized 105 COVID-19 hospitalized adults with COVID-19 requiring respiratory support or intensive care treatment to standard care with or without convalescent plasma from August 2020 to December 2020. Demographic profiles and other COVID-19 treatments were similar for the two groups. The transfusion of 3 U of convalescent plasma over 5 days did not change mortality, respiratory recovery or discharge from the ICU or hospital. However, the authors note that those patients who received transfusions with higher levels of neutralizing antibodies had improved outcomes.
  • SARS-CoV-2 B.1.617.2 Delta variant replication and immune evasion. 9/6/2021. Mlcochova P. Nature.
    A short but complex Nature article demonstrating the Delta variant is less prone to neutralization by antibodies induced by current vaccinations. The authors conclude new techniques of vaccination are necessary to effectively control the Delta variety although the impact on health (death) from this variant is not presented.
  • The effect of immunosuppressants on the prognosis of SARS-CoV-2 infection. 9/3/21. Ward D. Eur Respir J.
    This retrospective Danish study found that pre-COVID-19 exposure to corticosteroids increased the risk of ICU admission and death in patients who developed PCR-positive COVID-19. The authors analyzed 36,737 cases of COVID-19, of which 527 were exposed to immunosuppressants within the 120 days preceding a positive PCR. For patients exposed to systemic glucocorticoids (at least 7.5mg prednisone equivalent per day), compared to unexposed patients, the adjusted risk ratio for ICU admission was 1.76 and of death was 2.38. Exposure to other immunosuppressants, including selective immunosuppressants, interleukin inhibitors, tumor necrosis factor inhibitors, calcineurin inhibitors, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, was not associated with an increased risk of hospitalization, ICU admission nor death.
    SAB Comment: This information may be useful to providers prescribing immunosuppressive drugs during the pandemic. Though the use of steroids is associated with worse COVID-19 disease, this study is not designed to determine if reducing steroid dose is helpful.
  • The use of head helmets to deliver noninvasive ventilatory support: a comprehensive review of technical aspects and clinical findings. 9/9/21. Coppadoro A. Crit Care.
    Helmets have been in use since the early 2000s albeit mostly in a few countries, particularly Italy. Their use has increased with the COVID-19 epidemic. This excellent, brief review notes that helmet therapy can be safely and effectively used to provide NIV (non-invasive ventilation) during hypoxemic respiratory failure, improving oxygenation better than standard oxygen mask treatment and possibly leading to superior patient-centered outcomes than other NIV interfaces. The authors point out issues related to helmet NPPV (non-invasive positive-pressure ventilation) including slow helmet pressurization, reduced CO2 washout and patient–ventilator asynchrony. They state, however, that helmet NPPV is superior to face mask NPPV for patients with ARDS, can be successfully used to treat hypoxemia and is an excellent mode for immunocompromised patients. Helmet NPPV is, however, inferior in patients with COPD exacerbations.

September 13, 2021:

  • 1-year outcomes in hospital survivors with COVID-19: a longitudinal cohort study. 8/28/21. Huang L. Lancet.
    This extensive study reports the condition at 12 months of a cohort of 1,307 COVID-19 patients discharged January-May 2020 from a single hospital in China. Patients in nursing or care homes, immobile or with osteoarthritis, and with psychiatric disorders or dementia were excluded from the study. A review of the report of their condition at 6 months appears in Newsletter 51. Intensive evaluations included multiple standardized questionnaires, physical exam, blood tests, pulmonary evaluation, use of healthcare resources and work status. Patients with at least one persistent symptom decreased from 68% at 6 months to 49% at 12 months. The most common problem, fatigue and muscle weakness decreased from 52% to 20%. The proportion with dyspnea and anxiety or depression worsened slightly. Of those who were employed prior to hospitalization, 88% had returned to work. Outcome with regard to severity of initial disease, males vs. females and patients vs. matched community controls is characterized.
  • Awake prone positioning for COVID-19 acute hypoxaemic respiratory failure: a randomised, controlled, multinational, open-label meta-trial. 8/23/21. Ehrmann S. Lancet Respir Med.
    In this multicenter, international, randomized, open-label meta-trial, awake prone positioning (APP) decreased the incidence of intubation in patients with acute severe hypoxemic respiratory failure due to COVID-19 supported with high-flow nasal cannula. From April 2020 through January 2021, 1,121 patients from six countries were randomized to APP as long as possible, or to standard care. The number needed to treat with APP to prevent one intubation was 14. Though not designed to evaluate the duration of APP on outcomes (median daily duration was 5 hours), patients achieving longer durations had better outcomes. Adverse effects were mild, infrequent, and occurred at similar rates between the APP and standard care groups.
    SAB Comment: This is the first large, randomized study of APP, commonly used empirically during the pandemic. The results reinforce the safety and utility of APP for averting intubations. Other randomized studies are underway, as discussed in the accompanying Comment.
  • COVID-19 Vaccination-Associated Myocarditis in Adolescents. 8/14/21. Jain SS. Pediatrics.
    This article reviews the clinical presentation and early prognosis of the rare complication of acute myocarditis following COVID-19 vaccination in adolescents. The authors pool data from 63 patients from 16 US institutions. Using cardiac MR imaging, the authors are able to characterize this entity with exquisite detail in the figures. The authors demonstrate the favorable short-term outcomes of this subset. This article represents some of the largest dataset examining this particular entity in this age group.
  • Early Convalescent Plasma for High-Risk Outpatients with Covid-19. 8/18/21. Korley FK. N Engl J Med.
    While prior studies using convalescent plasma have failed to demonstrate improved outcomes over placebo for inpatients, this randomized study examined its use in outpatients. Patients older than 50 years old were initially seen in the emergency room and diagnosed with COVID-19. Five hundred and eleven patients from 48 hospitals in 21 states in the US were included in this blinded study funded by the NIH, 257 received convalescent plasma and 254 received placebo. The primary outcome was disease progression defined by either hospital admission, seeking emergency or urgent care, or death. The study showed no significant difference between the two groups (i.e., those receiving convalescent plasma and those that did not).
  • Effectiveness of COVID-19 Vaccines in Preventing SARS-CoV-2 Infection Among Frontline Workers Before and During B.1.617.2 (Delta) Variant Predominance – Eight U.S. Locations, December 2020-August 2021. 8/26/21. Fowlkes A. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep.
    Data from the prospective frontline worker HEROES-RECOVER Cohorts showed that from 12/24/20-4/10/21 the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were ~90% effective in preventing symptomatic and asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection. Adjusted efficacy was 80%. The estimate was 85% among participants for whom less than 120 days had elapsed since full vaccination and 73% among those for whom 150 or more days had elapsed. Once Delta became the predominant variant, adjusted efficacy decreased from 91% to 66%. However, this trend should be interpreted with caution as effectiveness might also have declined due to greater time since vaccination. In addition, there were few weeks of observation and low numbers of infections.
  • Hospital admission and emergency care attendance risk for SARS-CoV-2 delta (B.1.617.2) compared with alpha (B.1.1.7) variants of concern: a cohort study. 8/27/21. Twohig KA. Lancet Infect Dis.
    All English National Health System patients diagnosed with COVID-19 by PCR from March 29 – May 23, 2021, and found by whole-genome sequencing to have alpha or delta variants, were studied. Delta grew from 0.1% to 45.8% during the study. The adjusted risk (aHR) of an emergency care visit or hospital admission within 14 days of a first positive test was 1.45 in those with delta (n=8,682) compared with alpha (n=34,656). For hospital admission, aHR for delta vs. alpha was 2.26. Median age was 31 years old; 74% were unvaccinated in both variant groups. Patients seen in emergency care or admitted on the day of their first COVID-positive test were excluded to reduce bias of screening tests at the time of presentation for non-COVID related illness.
  • Safety of the BNT162b2 mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine in a Nationwide Setting. 8/25/21. Barda N. N Engl J Med.
    This Israeli study compared the occurrence of adverse events in 884,828 recipients of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to a like number of controls matched for risks on the day of vaccination. Vaccine recipients and controls were followed for 21 days after each injection. Vaccination was not associated with an elevated risk of most of the adverse events examined. Vaccination was associated with an elevated risk of myocarditis (risk ratio, 3.24 but absolute event rate only 2.23 per 100,000), lymphadenopathy (risk ratio, 2.43), appendicitis (risk ratio, 1.40), and herpes zoster infection (risk ratio, 1.43). From a second set of data, they showed that actual SARS-CoV-2 infection was associated with a substantially increased risk of myocarditis (risk ratio, 18.28) and with additional serious adverse events, including pericarditis, arrhythmia, deep-vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, myocardial infarction, intracranial hemorrhage, and thrombocytopenia.
    SAB Comment: To make meaning of a comparison of adverse events associated with vaccination to those associated with COVID-19 infection, one must assume a cumulative incidence level. The accompanying editorial adds context and assumes that, “given the current state of the global pandemic, however, the risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 appears to be inevitable.”

August 30, 2021:

  • An outbreak caused by the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant (B.1.617.2) in a secondary care hospital in Finland, May 2021. 7/29/21. Hetemäki I. Eurosurveillance.
    Authors describe a Delta variant outbreak that originated from one inpatient. It spread within the hospital and to three primary care facilities. Fifty-eight patients and 45 healthcare workers became infected; 18 elderly patients admitted with other conditions died following infection. Among infected individuals, 19% were fully vaccinated, 47% had 1 dose and 34% were unvaccinated. Over 90% of vaccinations were with BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine. Both symptomatic and asymptomatic infections were found among vaccinated healthcare workers, and secondary transmission occurred from patients with symptomatic infections despite use of PPE. Presymptomatic and asymptomatic individuals also infected others. Authors recommend FFP2/3 respirators (~N95 or higher grade) while treating COVID-19 patients.
    SAB Comment: The above report, based upon careful contact tracing, highlights the value of universal masking with respirators of FFP2 of N95-level or greater when caring for COVID-19 patients.
  • Association of in-hospital use of ACE-I/ARB and COVID-19 outcomes in African American population. 8/19/2021. Li S. J Clin Invest.
    A retrospective analysis of over 6200 COVID-19-positive patients admitted to one NY hospital system 2/24/20-5/31/20 was analyzed to determine whether use of ACE-I/ARB (N=1,138) was associated with COVID-19 in-hospital mortality in African Americans (AA) compared with non-AA population. In a multivariate logistic regression model ACE-I/ARB use was independently associated with reduced risk of in-hospital mortality in the entire population (OR, 0.66) however the benefit was greater in the AA population (OR 0.44) (N=1,621), than in the non-AA population (OR 0.75). When analyzing each medication class separately, ARB in-hospital use was significantly associated with reduced in-hospital mortality in the AA population (OR, 0.196), while ACE-I use was not associated with impact on mortality in any population. Authors hypothesize that this is due to a higher ACE D-allele prevalence in the AA population. The benefit of ACE-I/ARB and difference in AA population was only seen with adjustment for confounding risk factors. However a major shortcoming is that all patients were not followed out – data included all COVID patients admitted within the study period yet nearly 9% of patients were still hospitalized at the end of the study.
  • COVID-19 Vaccine Safety in Adolescents Aged 12-17 Years – United States, December 14, 2020-July 16, 2021. 8/5/21. Hause AM. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep.
    A statistical analysis of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in children 12 years or older in the US demonstrated its safety. Reactions to the vaccine are uncommon and mostly mild. Myocarditis is one rare but severe reaction more common in boys after the second vaccination and that resulted in no deaths.
  • Durability of mRNA-1273 vaccine–induced antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 variants. 8/12/21. Pegu A. Science.
    The authors assess the impact of SARS-CoV-2 variants B.1.1.7 (Alpha), B.1.351 (Beta), P.1 (Gamma), B.1.429 (Epsilon), B.1.526 (Iota), and B.1.617.2 (Delta) on binding, neutralizing, and ACE2-competing antibodies elicited by the Moderna mRNA-1273 vaccine over seven months. Cross-reactive neutralizing responses were rare after a single dose. At the peak of response to the second vaccine dose, all individuals had responses to all variants. Binding and functional antibodies against variants persisted in most subjects, albeit at low levels, for 6 months after the primary series of the mRNA-1273 vaccine. Across all assays, B.1.351 had the lowest antibody recognition. The authors believe that these data complement ongoing studies to inform the potential need for additional boost vaccinations.
  • Effect of anakinra on mortality in patients with COVID-19: a systematic review and patient-level meta-analysis. 8/16/2021. Kyriazopoulou E. Lancet Rheumatol.
    Aggregate data on 1,185 patients from 9 international studies (8 observational, 1 randomized controlled study) were analyzed. In the individual patient-level meta-analysis (N=895 from 6 studies), after adjusting for age, comorbidities, baseline PaO2/FiO2 ratio, CRP concentrations, and lymphopenia, 28-day mortality was significantly lower in patients treated with anakinra (38 [11%] of 342) than standard of care with or without placebo (137 [25%] of 553; adjusted OR 0.32), and lowest if CRP >100 mg/L (OR 0.28). However the survival benefit of anakinra was significant when given without dexamethasone (OR 0.23), but not with dexamethasone co-administration; in those breathing spontaneously (OR 0.3) but not those invasively ventilated. Anakinra may be useful in spontaneously ventilating patients with a contraindication to steroids or for those with CRP >100. Larger randomized trials are needed to clarify the role of anakinra in COVID-19.
  • SARS-CoV-2 infection and venous thromboembolism after surgery: an international prospective cohort study. 8/24/21. COVIDSurg Collaborative. Anaesthesia.
    This is a planned sub-study and analysis from a prospective, international, multicenter cohort study of patients undergoing all surgical procedures during October 2020 to determine incidence of postoperative venous thromboembolism (VTE) in patients without and with history of SARS-CoV-2 (before [more than 7 weeks]; recent [1-6 weeks]; peri-operative [7 days before to 30 days after]). Primary outcome measure VTE (PE or DVT) was within 30 days. No information on VTE prophylaxis pre- or post-operatively was available. VTE was independently associated with postoperative mortality (5.4%). In patients with SARS-CoV-2 mortality without VTE was 7.4%; with VTE was 40.8%. Recent and peri-operative SARS-CoV-2 infection may be an independent risk factor for postoperative VTE, and increased awareness and surveillance should be considered.
  • SARS-CoV-2 variant prediction and antiviral drug design are enabled by RBD in vitro evolution. 8/16/2021. Zahradník J. Nature Microbiology.
    Following increasing rounds of in vitro binding to ever-decreasing amounts of ACE-2, the Receptor Binding Domain (RBD) sequence underwent mutation “evolution”. The progressive mutations mimicked the evolutionary path of amino acid substitutions that emerged with Alpha, Beta and Gamma variants! Also, the mutations correlated with the successive higher ACE-2 affinity of pandemic-emergent VOC. Additional evolving mutations had 1,000-fold increased binding and were more infectious. The high-affinity variant “RBD-62” administered before or after infection, inhibited hamster SARS-CoV-2 disease. The cryo-electron microscopy structure of RBD-62/ACE2 complex, provides a basis for future drug and vaccine development and in silico evaluation of antibodies.

August 16, 2021:

  • SAB Comment: The following two studies on vaccine-induced immune thrombocytopenia (VITT) provide two different views of a complex therapeutic question that remains unresolved. What is the appropriate dose (therapeutic versus prophylactic) and timing of anticoagulant therapy in the treatment of COVID-19 and what is the incidence of VITT in the general population stratified by age and sex following vaccination?
    • Clinical Features of Vaccine-Induced Immune Thrombocytopenia and Thrombosis. 8/11/21. Pavord S. N Engl J Med.
      A study of 294 patients presenting to UK hospitals (03/22-06/06 2021) found incidence of vaccine-induced immune thrombocytopenia and thrombosis (VITT) following ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (AstraZeneca) vaccination among individuals younger than 50 years at least 1:50,000 which is consistent with previous reports. The study details diagnosis, patient demographics and common timeline for vaccination to symptomatology. Useful tables detail definition criteria (definite, probable, possible, unlikely) and clinicopathological findings. Age stratification notes incidence in older than 60 years at least 1/100,000. The authors conclude “The high mortality associated with VITT was highest among patients with a low platelet count and intracranial hemorrhage. Treatment remains uncertain, but identification of prognostic markers may help guide effective management.”
    • Cerebral venous thrombosis after vaccination against COVID-19 in the UK: a multicentre cohort study. 8/9/21. Perry RJ. Lancet.
      Investigators studied 95 patients from 43 UK hospitals with image-confirmed cerebral venous thrombosis following vaccination for COVID-19 looking for vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT), which was defined as acute thrombosis accompanied by D-dimer greater than 2,000 along with a minimum platelet count less than 150,000. Seventy-six (80%) of 95 patients were investigated for anti-PF4 antibodies, a reliable marker for VITT. Seventy in 96 had VITT, all following AstraZeneca vaccine. Of 26 without VITT, 21 had received AstraZeneca vaccines, and four had received Pfizer vaccines. VITT patients were younger (mean 47 vs. 57), more likely to have multiple venous thromboses (14% vs. 0) or hemorrhages (33% vs. 14%), and more disabled at discharge compared with non-VITT patients. Mortality was 29% in the VITT cohort vs. 4% in the non-VITT cohort. One non-VITT patient had serious extra-cerebral thrombosis. Non-heparin anticoagulant and intravenous immunoglobulin treatments were associated with an improved outcome. Diagnosis criteria are proposed.
  • Persistent Endotheliopathy in the Pathogenesis of Long COVID Syndrome. 8/10/21. Fogarty H. J Thromb Haemost.
    Findings of pulmonary endotheliopathy and microvascular immunothrombosis have been highlighted in autopsies in acute COVID, but their contributions to Long-COVID are unknown. Long-COVID patients (n=50, age 50 + 17 years, medium post-COVID =68 days) showed that prothrombic markers (endogenous thrombin potential, peak thrombin, etc.) and endothelial activation markers (VWF:Ag, Factor VIII, etc.) and plasma soluble thrombomodulin were significantly elevated vs. controls (nonhospitalized asymptomatic, n=17, mean age 47 ± 12 years), especially in elderly, hospitalized and patients with co-morbidities. Typical acute phase markers (e.g., CRP, neutrophil counts, IL-6) were normal. Endotheliopathy assays (e.g., VWF) correlated inversely with the 6-Minute Walk Test.
  • Surviving Covid-19 with Heparin? 8/4/21. Ten Cate H. N Engl J Med.
    This editorial attempts to reconcile the differences in outcomes of the two studies below between critically ill and moderately ill COVID-19 patients who received heparin at therapeutic vs. thromboprophylactic doses. It is fairly clear that therapeutic anticoagulation does not provide increased benefit over thromboprophylaxis for critically ill patients; however, the degree of benefit of full anticoagulation over prophylaxis for patients with moderate disease remains an open question.
  • Therapeutic Anticoagulation with Heparin in Critically Ill Patients with Covid-19. 8/5/21. REMAP-CAP Investigators. N Engl J Med.
    This randomized study of 1098 patients was stopped early because “In critically ill patients with COVID-19…therapeutic-dose anticoagulation with heparin did not result in a greater probability of survival to hospital discharge or a greater number of days free of cardiovascular or respiratory organ support than did usual-care pharmacologic thromboprophylaxis.” Major bleeding occurred in 3.8% of patients receiving therapeutic-dose anticoagulation vs. 2.3% receiving usual-care thromboprophylaxis. These data are the result of harmonized protocols of 3 international adaptive platform trials (REMAP-CAP, ACTIV-4A, and ATTACC). A limitation is that the majority of patients were in the UK where usual care changed from low-dose to intermediate dose prophylaxis during the study period, April-December 2020.
  • Therapeutic Anticoagulation with Heparin in Noncritically Ill Patients with Covid-19. 8/5/21. ATTACC Investigators. N Engl J Med.
    This companion study reports outcomes following initial treatment with therapeutic vs. prophylactic heparin anticoagulation for 2,219 COVID-19 patients with moderate disease. Survival until hospital discharge without receipt of organ support during the first 21 days was 76.4% (801/1048) for those in usual-care thromboprophylaxis vs. 80.2% (939/1171) for those in the therapeutic anticoagulation group. Neither age, level of respiratory support at enrollment, nor thromboprophylaxis dose affected outcomes. The final posterior probability for superiority of therapeutic-dose anticoagulation vs. usual-care thromboprophylaxis was 97.3% in the high d-dimer cohort, 92.9% in the low d-dimer cohort, and 97.3% in the cohort with an unknown d-dimer level. A table summarizes secondary outcomes, including major bleeding in 1.9% receiving therapeutic dose vs. 0.9% receiving thromboprophylaxis.

August 9, 2021:

  • Characterisation of in-hospital complications associated with COVID-19 using the ISARIC WHO Clinical Characterisation Protocol UK: a prospective, multicentre cohort study. 7/18/2021. Drake TM. Lancet.
    Utilizing the ISARIC WHO CCP-UK protocol, a plan for evaluating severe emerging infections, 80,388 patients from 302 health care facilities in 4 countries were followed prospectively from January-August 2020 for acute complications occurring during SARS CoV-2 infection. Data was collected at 1,3,9 and 28 days after admission. Pre-existing comorbidity was present in 81% and 49.7% had complications: renal (24%), respiratory (18%), systemic (coagulopathy and sepsis) (18%), cardiovascular (12%), and neurological (4%). The large number of participants allowed for, among other observations, the effect of individual complications on outcome, the increased impact of complications in younger victims, and the incidence of decreased self-care ability. It is accompanied by an editorial.
  • Covid-19 Breakthrough Infections in Vaccinated Health Care Workers. 7/28/21. Bergwerk M. N Engl J Med.
    At the largest Israeli medical center, healthcare workers with COVID-19 exposure or symptoms underwent extensive evaluations from 1/20/21 – 4/28/21 to investigate infectivity and breakthrough infections. Breakthrough cases with neutralizing antibody (nAb) titers within a week before documented infection were matched with 4-5 uninfected controls. Among 1,497 healthcare workers fully vaccinated with BNT162b2 for whom RT-PCR data were available, 39 SARS-CoV-2 breakthrough infections were documented (0.4%). Eighty-five percent were B.1.1.7. (Alpha). Most were asymptomatic or mild, yet 19 had persistent symptoms at 6 weeks. nAb titers during the peri-infection period were lower in patients than in controls (ratio, 0.36). Higher nAb levels were associated with lower viral load. No secondary infections were documented. In all 37 patients for whom the suspected source of infection was identified, it was an unvaccinated person, mostly household members.
  • Dexamethasone and tocilizumab treatment considerably reduces the value of C-reactive protein and procalcitonin to detect secondary bacterial infections in COVID-19 patients. 8/6/21. Kooistra EJ. Crit Care.
    This prospective observational study from a single Dutch medical center compares the established predictive value of inflammatory biomarkers C-reactive protein (CRP) and procalcitonin (PCT) in identifying secondary bacterial infections in severe COVID-19 patients admitted between March and April 2020. A second patient cohort was treated in their ICU after August 2020 which received dexamethasone with or without a single dose of tocilizumab 8mg/kg IV. Results showed marked blunting of the CRP and PCT response during and a rebound after cessation of immunosuppression which could be falsely interpreted as a signal of secondary infection, while the blunted response may mask ongoing secondary infection.
  • Drug-induced phospholipidosis confounds drug repurposing for SARS-CoV-2. 7/30/21. Tummino TA. Science.
    Many drugs are reported to have in vitro activity against SARS-Co-V-2. Some of these “repurposed” drugs including hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin and amiodarone are already in trials. This investigation discovered a shared mechanism of many “repurposed” drugs: phospholipidosis, which is a phospholipid storage disorder induced by cationic amphiphilic drugs. For all 23 drugs tested, development of intracellular phospholipidosis correlated with antiviral “efficacy.” Conversely, drugs active against the same targets that did not induce phospholipidosis were not antiviral. Phospholipidosis does not reflect specific target-based activities, but is a toxic confound. Early detection of phospholipidosis could eliminate screening artifacts, steering focus on molecules with real potential. The accompanying editorial points out that that “mechanism-informed” strategy for drug repurposing can work (e.g., remdesivir) and may result in clinically useful results. Conversely, repurposing drugs based on hypothesis-free cellular screens “has not yet yielded any effective treatments for COVID-19, nor for any disease.” These latter mass screenings are not shortcuts, but rather costly, scientific “dead-ends.”
  • Effectiveness of Covid-19 Vaccines against the B.1.617.2 (Delta) Variant. 7/21/21. Bernal JL. N Engl J Med.
    British investigators used a test-negative case-control design to estimate the effectiveness of vaccination against symptomatic disease caused by the delta variant or the predominant alpha variant (B.1.1.7) over the period that the delta variant began circulating. With the Pfizer vaccine, the effectiveness of two doses was 93.7% among persons with the alpha variant (N=14,837) and 88.0% among those with the delta variant (N=4,272). Data ran up to 5/16/21. With the AstraZeneca vaccine, the effectiveness of two doses was 74.5% among persons with the alpha variant and 67.0% among those with the delta variant. Effectiveness was only 31% for alpha and 49% for delta after just one dose of either vaccine.
  • Efficacy and safety of remdesivir in hospitalised COVID-19 patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis. 7/31/21. Angamo MT. Infection.
    This is a meticulous review of pooled data taken from 4 RCTs and 3 controlled observational trials covering a 12-month span starting December 2019 comparing remdesivir treatment to placebo or standard care. Remdesivir significantly accelerated recovery at day 7 (21%) and day 14 (29%), lowered the incidence of high oxygen flow therapy by 27% and mechanical ventilation by 47%, and decreased mortality on day 14 by 39% but not on day 28. Serious adverse effects were less common in the remdesivir group and the authors conclude that remdesivir treatment is effective and safe early in SARS-CoV-2 infections.
  • Endothelium-associated biomarkers mid-regional proadrenomedullin and C-terminal proendothelin-1 have good ability to predict 28-day mortality in critically ill patients with SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia: A prospective cohort study. 8/3/21. van Oers JAH. J Crit Care.
    This observational cohort study assessed baseline levels of two inflammatory markers, midregional proadrenomedullin (MR-proADM) and C-terminal proendothelin-1 (CT-proET-1) as predictors of 28-day mortality in 105 critically ill COVID-19 pneumonia patients. The area under the curve for prediction of 28-day mortality for MR-proADM and CT-proET-1 were 0.84 and 0.79 respectively. An MR-proADM level of d≥1.57 nmol/L or a CT-proET-1 level of ≥ 111 pmol/L at baseline were significant predictors for 28-day mortality (HR 6.80 and HR 3.72 respectively) and were significantly better predictors than other, more common, inflammatory markers.
  • Immunogenicity and reactogenicity of heterologous ChAdOx1 nCoV-19/mRNA vaccination. 7/26/21. Schmidt T. Nature Med.
    Heterologous priming with a single dose of the AstraZeneca ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 adeno vector vaccine followed by boosting with either the Pfizer or the Moderna mRNA vaccine is currently recommended in Germany. This study compares multiple aspects of immune response (spike-specific IgG, neutralizing antibodies, spike-specific CD4 T cells, and spike-specific CD8 T cell levels) in subjects receiving this heterologous regimen to the responses in subjects receiving two-dose homologous regimens with AstraZeneca vaccine or with an mRNA vaccine. All regimens were similarly well tolerated. Immune response levels were significantly higher with the heterologous regimens than after a two-dose AstraZeneca regimen and higher or comparable in magnitude to homologous mRNA vaccine regimens.
    SAB Comment: Heterologous vaccine strategies were initially pioneered in HIV and Ebola. Currently, at least 5 EU countries have recommended it as a means of producing fewer side effects than a two-dose AstraZeneca regimen.

July 26, 2021:

July 19, 2021:

July 9, 2021:

  • Age and Acute Ischemic Stroke Outcome in North American Patients With COVID-19. 7/5/2021. Dmytriw AA. J Am Heart Assoc.
    This is a detailed prospective database analysis of 126 patients with COVID-19 who suffered acute ischemic strokes (AIS) and were treated at 19 stroke centers in the US and Canada between March and September 2020. The study looked at 3 separate age groups and corroborates earlier observations of better outcomes and lower rates of mortality among patients under 55 years of age with AIS and COVID-19 and adds the observation of a higher incidence of large vessel occlusion in this cohort. In addition, using multivariable binary logistic regression models, the study finds that the risk of poor outcomes, including death, increases with every year of age.
  • Efficacy and safety of remdesivir in COVID-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2: a systematic review and meta-analysis. 6/25/21. Singh S. BMJ Open.
    Investigators reviewed and analyzed 4/52 RCTs with a total of 7324 patients to evaluate the efficacy of remdesivir for COVID-19 patients. The results indicated that there is no benefit with mortality rate. A benefit favoring remdesivir over control does exist in terms of rates of clinical improvement and faster time to clinical improvement. No difference was shown in respiratory failure in two (flawed) studies. All outcomes except mortality were influenced by two studies which were riddled with high risk of bias and low quality evidence. In a cost to benefit analysis, remdesivir has a limited role in poor countries.
  • Risk factors for long covid in previously hospitalised children using the ISARIC Global follow-up protocol: A prospective cohort study. 7/2/21. Osmanov IM. Eur Respir J.
    This is a study of 518 COVID-19 infected children admitted to a pediatric hospital in Moscow and followed for 5-12 months — the largest follow-up pediatric study to date. Parents were interviewed using an internationally designed and accepted protocol. Average age was 10.4 years (<1-18 years range) and near equal distribution between sexes. Long COVID was found in 24.3% of children. Fatigue and sleep disturbance were the most common complaints followed by loss of smell. Symptoms declined over time. Risk factors for persistent symptoms were patients older than 6 years old and a history of allergic disease. Psycho-social issues were uncommon and no deaths were reported.

June 28, 2021:

  • Awake prone positioning in patients with hypoxemic respiratory failure due to COVID-19: the PROFLO multicenter randomized clinical trial. 6/15/21. Rosén J. Crit Care.
    In this small, randomized, controlled study from Sweden, the efficacy of awake prone positioning (APP) was evaluated in 75 patients with COVID-19 in moderate to severe respiratory failure. Compared with standard care, implementation of a 16 hour/day protocol for APP increased the duration of prone positioning but did not affect the rate of intubation. The study was halted early due to futility. When secondary outcomes were analyzed, the only difference between groups was a reduction of pressure sores in the APP group.
    SAB Comment: Though small, this is a well-designed prospective and randomized trial of APP in COVID-19 patients and confirms retrospective studies that question the efficacy of APP.
  • Mild SARS-CoV-2 Infections and Neutralizing Antibody Titers. 6/23/2021. Bonfante F. Pediatrics.
    In this prospective Italian study of 70 children and 82 parents in 57 family clusters with asymptomatic or mild COVID-19, anti-nucleocapsid-spike protein IgG/IgM was confirmed and neutralizing antibody levels (nAbs) were quantified by the Plaque Reduction Neutralizing Test for 7-8 months post-infection. nAbs declined less and levels were higher in children and than in parents. Children <3 developed the highest, longest lasting nAb levels, 4.5 times higher than in parents 1-2 months post infection and 7.9 times higher at 3-6 months. In this cohort, nAb levels correlated with viral loads but not with disease severity. Findings and implications for vaccination policy are discussed in an accompanying editorial.
  • Mortality after surgery with SARS-CoV-2 infection in England: a population-wide epidemiological study. 6/21/21. Abbott TEF. IBr J Anaesth.
    This retrospective British NHS database study addresses surgical mortality associated with SARS-CoV-2 from 1/1/2020 to 2/28/2021. Of 2.5 million surgeries, 1.0% of patients died and 1.1% of patients were infected. The mortality was 21% in patients with SARS-CoV-2 and 0.8% in those uninfected (OR 5.7). With elective surgery, 1% were infected, and mortality was 7.1%, compared to 0.1% (OR 25.8). Emergency procedure mortalities were 25.1% compared to 3.4% (OR 5.5). Statistics include data for procedure types and disease severity, and demonstrate the safety of elective procedures, with precautions, in healthy patients with no SARS-CoV-2 history. The authors estimate about one-half of 4.5 million expected surgical procedures were postponed.
  • Taskforce report on the diagnosis and clinical management of COVID-19 associated pulmonary aspergillosis. 6/23/21. Verweij PE. Intensive Care Med.
    This is a thorough and lengthy review by an international group of 28 experts prompted by the relatively high incidence of COVID-associated pulmonary aspergillosis (CAPA) seen in severely ill COVID-19 patients. The prevalence of CAPA varied between 0 and 33%. Bronchoscopy and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) remain the cornerstone of CAPA diagnosis. Most patients diagnosed with CAPA lack traditional host factors, but pre-existing structural lung disease and immunomodulating therapy may predispose to CAPA risk. Computed tomography seems to be of limited value to rule CAPA in or out, and serum biomarkers are negative in 85% of patients. As the mortality of CAPA is around 50%, antifungal therapy is recommended for BAL-positive patients, while the authors recommend against routinely stopping concomitant corticosteroid or IL-6 blocking therapy in CAPA patients.
  • The SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine breakthrough infection phenotype includes significant symptoms, live virus shedding, and viral genetic diversity. 6/12/21. Pollett SD. Clin Infect Dis.
    This pilot report from the US Military Health System examined 24 PCR confirmed infections more than 14 days after full Pfizer (92%) and Moderna (8%) vaccination. Sixty-seven percent had no co-morbidities, 63% were health care workers, and 71% were White. Five were asymptomatic, and none required hospitalization; however, symptoms lasted up to 2 weeks and were reported as severe in 3. Viral cultures and complete genomic sequencing were performed in many cases. Strains included wild type as well as variants of concern. Some were shedding live virus 7 days after symptom onset. Authors recommend larger, prospective studies of vaccine breakthrough infections.
    SAB Comment: The CDC recently reported 4,115 cases from 47 states of breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated individuals who were hospitalized or died (mortality 18%) as of 6/21/21. Seventy-six percent were older than 65 years. Twenty-six percent of hospital admissions were not initiated for COVID-19. One hundred forty-two in 750 fatalities (19%) were not attributed to COVID-19. “The number of COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough infections reported to CDC likely are an undercount of all SARS-CoV-2 infections among fully vaccinated persons. National surveillance relies on passive and voluntary reporting, and data might not be complete or representative.”
  • Three Doses of an mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine in Solid-Organ Transplant Recipients. 6/23/21. Kamar N. N Engl J Med.
    This letter documents the humoral antibody response to 3 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTec vaccine in 101 solid organ transplant recipients 97 months post transplant, none of whom have become infected. The second dose was given 30 days after the first, and the third, 60 days after the second. Titers for spike protein antibodies were obtained before the first, second and third doses and one month after the third dose. Before the second dose, only 4 patients had antibodies, increasing to 40% before the third dose. After the third dose, 68% had antibodies. 33 patients (who were older, with a higher degree of immunosuppressive and a lower GFR) presumably remained at risk for infection.
    SAB Comment: Besides antibodies, the immune system has redundant lines of defense including T-cells (e.g., cellular immunity) that may be protective though not easily assessed. We await further “real world” studies on actual numbers and severity of infections in solid organ transplant patients, regardless of antibody levels.
  • Tofacitinib in Patients Hospitalized with Covid-19 Pneumonia. 6/16/21. Guimarães PO. N Engl J Med.
    This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled and industry-sponsored trial (“STOP COVID”) involving 289 hospitalized patients with Covid-19 pneumonia in Brazil showed tofacitinib superior to placebo in reducing the incidence of death or respiratory failure (18 vs 29% – HR 0.63). Overall mortality was 2.8% in the tofacitinib group vs. 5.5% for placebo. Standard therapy (antivirals, glucocorticoids, anticoagulation) was comparable between groups, as were adverse events. This study corroborates the findings of the NIH funded ACTT-2 trial and the value of JAK inhibition for the treatment of Covid-19 pneumonia in patients who are not yet receiving invasive mechanical ventilation.
    SAB Comment: NIH COVID-19 treatment guidelines recommend against the use of JAK inhibitors other than baricitinib for the treatment of COVID-19, except in a clinical trial.
  • Underlying Medical Conditions Associated With Severe COVID-19 Illness Among Children. 6/7/21. Kompaniyets L. JAMA Netw Open.
    A data rich CDC review studying 43,465 children 18 years old and younger hospitalized with COVID-19 infection through January 2021. After a complete description on data retrieval and analysis, results revealed children with diabetes, obesity and those with cardiac anomalies were more commonly hospitalized than previously healthy children. Overall children with any chronic disease were hospitalized 3 times more frequently. Asthma was a risk for severe infection. Children younger than 2 years old and born prematurely were prone to hospitalization. Finally, Hispanic and Black children suffered severe infection more frequently than Whites.
  • Variants of concern are overrepresented among post-vaccination breakthrough infections of SARS-CoV-2 in Washington State. 6/24/21. McEwen AE. Clin Infect Dis.
    In an effort to determine mRNA vaccine efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOC), the University of Washington performed genetic sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on all positive PCR samples between February 23 and April 27, 2021. Of the 5,174 unvaccinated cases, 68% were VOC compared to 100% of the 20 breakthrough cases in vaccinated patients. Most breakthrough cases were symptomatic (~80%) but none were hospitalized. No single VOC was significantly more common in the breakthrough cases compared with unvaccinated cases. This is consistent with previous reports that mRNA vaccines provide excellent protection to all current strains of the virus, though there is a rare VOC breakthrough.
    SAB Comment: As the pandemic continues, more VOC that could be a problem even for vaccinated people may evolve. This emphasizes the importance of the current vaccination effort and world-wide control of the pandemic.

June 14, 2021:

  • Association between previous anticoagulant use and mortality among hospitalized patients with COVID-19. 6/3/21. Gülcü O. J Thromb Thrombolysis.
    This article from Turkey reviews 5575 patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19. They examined the use of prehospitalization anticoagulation (n= 451) with direct oral anticoagulants (n=383) or warfarin (n=68). After propensity scoring, this study found that previous use of oral anticoagulation was associated with lower mortality in patients hospitalized due to COVID-19 (adjusted hazard ratio 0.62, p=0.030). These data add to the conflicting data examining prehospital anticoagulation in COVID-19.
  • Closed-Loop Versus Conventional Mechanical Ventilation in COVID-19 ARDS. 6/8/21. Wendel Garcia PD. J Intensive Care Med.
    Closed-Loop (C-Loop) is an automated/autopilot ventilation mode which integrates key patient respiratory parameters into automatic ventilator adjustments that provide a high degree of lung protective ventilation (LPV) and result in a reduced frequency of hypoxemic episodes. This randomized, prospective study compares ventilator support for COVID-19 ARDS patients using either C-Loop (n= 23) or conventional mechanical ventilation (Con-V, n= 17). The C-Loop group showed a statistically significant improvement in the dynamic mechanical power necessary, higher total lung compliance and PF ratio and lowered VD/ VT, PEEP, and Fio2 while maintaining adequate PaO2. This suggests that C-Loop ventilation may decrease the risk of ventilator induced lung injury while reducing the number of necessary human ventilator adjustments. The paper describes an impressive tool with a convincing radar graph for its practical utility but provides limited outcome data.
    SAB Comment: This is a small, futuristic, innovative, and intriguing pilot study of the feasibility of an automated ventilator-adjustment device to better provide lung protective ventilation.
  • Further Evidence Supporting the Use of Prophylactic Anticoagulation in Hospitalized Patients With COVID-19. 6/11/21. Dicks AB. JAMA Netw Open.
    This editorial provides a succinct review of current understanding regarding anticoagulation for COVID-19 patients. It accompanies a retrospective report in the same journal that looked at 60-day mortality in addition to in-hospital outcomes for patients treated with either prophylactic or therapeutic anticoagulation during the first wave in the US. Although randomized controlled studies are still lacking, evidence suggests that only prophylactic anticoagulation is associated with reduced 60-day mortality. (Adjusted hazard ratio 0.71 for prophylactic vs 0.92 for therapeutic dosing).
  • Hospitalization of Adolescents Aged 12-17 Years with Laboratory-Confirmed COVID-19 – COVID-NET, 14 States, March 1, 2020-April 24, 2021. 6/10/21. Havers FP. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep.
    In the US, “Most COVID-19-associated hospitalizations occur in adults, but severe disease occurs in all age groups, including adolescents aged 12–17 years. COVID-19 adolescent hospitalization rates from COVID-NET peaked at 2.1 per 100,000 in early January 2021, declined to 0.6 in mid-March, and rose to 1.3 in April. Among hospitalized adolescents, nearly one third required intensive care unit admission, and 5% required invasive mechanical ventilation; no associated deaths occurred. Recent increased hospitalization rates in spring 2021 and potential for severe disease reinforce the importance of continued COVID-19 prevention measures, including vaccination and correct and consistent mask wearing among persons not fully vaccinated or when required.” –MMWR Summary
  • Rehabilitation post-COVID-19: cross-sectional observations using the Stanford Hall remote assessment tool. 5/27/21. O’Sullivan O. BMJ Mil Health.
    These authors report the development and use (April to Nov 2020) of a video teleconferencing tool to evaluate rehabilitation needs for patients with ongoing post-COVID-19 symptoms and included patients with COVID syndromes who never had a confirmatory COVID-19 viral test. They found that the initial severity of symptoms did not predict the level of ongoing disability. They conclude that post-COVID-19 symptoms should be considered in all patients, regardless of the acute illness severity and whether they have had laboratory confirmation. They find that a significant proportion of patients require assessment and management, with symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue, and mood disorders impacting activities of daily living and return to work.
  • The year in review: mechanical ventilation during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. 5/7/21. Kallet R. Respiratory Care.
    This thoughtful, well-written, and thorough narrative review of COVID-19 ARDS (C-ARDS) includes 201 references and covers the evolution of best respiratory care practices to date. The overarching question is whether C-ARDS is significantly different from ARDS. Longstanding debates regarding phenotypes and taxonomy are discussed. The evolution of C-ARDS management and physiologic evidence for respiratory care are presented. Topics include phenotypic differences, mechanisms of hypoxia, noninvasive ventilation, timing of intubation, ventilation practices, PEEP, pathologic and radiologic findings, self-inflicted lung injury, lung mechanics, and cross infection. The author concludes that from a respiratory management perspective, C-ARDS differs little from ARDS of other etiologies.
  • Therapeutic versus prophylactic anticoagulation for patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 and elevated D-dimer concentration (ACTION): an open-label, multicentre, randomised, controlled trial. 6/7/21. Lopes RD. Lancet.
    This trial from Brazil, randomized, hospitalized patients with COVID-19 between either therapeutic anticoagulation or prophylaxis. The therapeutic arm was oral rivaroxaban (20 mg or 15 mg daily) for stable patients (94%), or initial subcutaneous enoxaparin (1 mg/kg twice per day) or intravenous unfractionated heparin for clinically unstable patients, followed by rivaroxaban to day 30. Prophylactic anticoagulation was standard in-hospital enoxaparin or unfractionated heparin. No difference was found in the mortality between the two arms with increased bleeding in the therapeutic arm. This article suggests that the use of therapeutic-dose rivaroxaban should be avoided in these patients in the absence of an evidence-based indication for oral anticoagulation.

June 4, 2021:

  • COVID-19 Vaccine Breakthrough Infections Reported to CDC – United States, January 1-April 30, 2021. 5/27/21. CDC COVID-19 Vaccine Breakthrough Case Investigations Team. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep.
    In this brief weekly report, the CDC provides an important glimpse into the post-vaccination scenario in the US. During the 4 months ending April 30, 2021, a total of 10,262 breakthrough infections have been reported. Of those, 63% were female, median age 58 years, of which 27% were asymptomatic, 10% hospitalized and 2% died. By the end of the study, although 100 million individuals had been vaccinated in the US, SARS-CoV-2 transmission was still in full swing with 355,000 new cases daily. Variants were detected at a similar rate among vaccinated and non-vaccinated patients. Underreporting of asymptomatic cases and limited RNA sequencing represent current and future limitations to these statistics. Notably, beginning May 1, 2021, the CDC transitioned from monitoring all reported COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough infections to investigating only those among patients who are hospitalized. Monthly reports and additional information on vaccination breakthrough initiatives by the CDC can be found here.
  • Immune response to SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern in vaccinated individuals. 5/26/2021. Becker M. Nat Commun.
    Authors examined the antibody (Ab) response to the Pfizer vaccine in serum and saliva as well as neutralizing Abs to the UK, S. Africa, Mink, and LA SARS-CoV-2 variants. Subjects were either post-vaccine (n=22), post infection + vaccine (n=26), or neither previously infected or vaccinated (n=45). IgG response is strongest in previously infected individuals post-vaccine. For the UK, Mink, and LA variants, antibody response to vaccine was nearly identical for vaccinated and previously infected individuals compared with wild-type variant. However IgG response to the S. African variant was varied and reduced immunity in both groups. The second dose of the vaccine was an important contributor to evidence of protection.
  • Implications of early respiratory support strategies on disease progression in critical COVID-19: a matched subanalysis of the prospective RISC-19-ICU cohort. 5/26/21. Wendel Garcia PD. Crit Care.
    Propensity matching was performed on an initial group of 1,421 COVID-19 ARDS patients from the large European RISC-19-ICU cohort resulting in propensity matched patients in cohorts treated initially in the ICU with standard O2 therapy (SOT) (n=85), high-flow oxygen therapy (HFNC) (n=87), non-invasive ventilation (NIV) (n=87) and invasive mechanical ventilation (IMV) (n=92). The ICU intubation rate was lower in patients initially supported with HFNC and NIV compared to those who received SOT. Compared to the other respiratory support strategies, NIV was associated with a higher overall ICU mortality (SOT: 18%, HFNC: 20%, NIV: 37%, IMV: 25%, p = 0.016). The authors recommend a closely observed trial of HFNC for ICU patients not immediately requiring IMV.
    SAB Comment: This retrospective analysis may best be thought of as a recommendation to perform an RCT to support or challenge these conclusions.
  • Risk factors for illness severity among pregnant women with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection – Surveillance for Emerging Threats to Mothers and Babies Network, 22 state, local, and territorial health departments, March 29, 2020 -March 5, 2021. 5/22/2021. Galang RR. Clin Infect Dis.
    This public health SET-NET protocol evaluation of 7950 pregnant women with SARS-CoV-2 reported from 22 states and cities between March 2020 and March 2021, sought to identify factors associated with more severe illness. Using NIH and WHO illness categories, patients with moderate, severe and critical disease were compared to those categorized as asymptomatic or mild. Similar to the general population, increasing age and chronic health conditions were associated with more severe disease, as were obesity (RR 1.36), chronic lung disease (1.37), chronic HTN (1.45) and pre-gestational DM (1.66). Comment: Missing data in reports confounds interpretation of the results.
  • Safety, Immunogenicity, and Efficacy of the BNT162b2 Covid-19 Vaccine in Adolescents. 5/27/21. Frenck RW Jr. N Engl J Med.
    The BNT162b2 COVID-19 RNA vaccine (Manufacturer: Pfizer, Inc., and BioNTech) was proven effective with few side effects in 12-15 year old recipients (n=1131) who received 2 injections 21 days apart versus controls (n=1129). Among participants without evidence of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection, no COVID-19 cases with an onset of 7 or more days after dose 2 were noted among BNT162b2 recipients, and 16 cases occurred among placebo recipients. The observed vaccine efficacy was 100% (95% CI, 75.3 to 100).
  • The characteristics and outcomes of critically Ill patients with COVID-19 who received systemic thrombolysis for presumed pulmonary embolism: an observational study. 5/9/21. So M. J Thromb Thrombolysis.
    This article reviews the clinical outcome of the use of systemic tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) for suspected pulmonary embolism (PE) in 57 critically ill COVID-19 patients from 5 hospitals in NYC during March and April 2020. All of the patients were suspected to have pulmonary embolization based upon echocardiography (16%) or clinical findings but were too unstable to have CT confirmation. Forty-nine percent demonstrated short-term improvement with tPA. However, 89% died in the hospital.
    SAB Comment: This study is the largest cohort reported that we have seen for this problem, and demonstrates the poor outcomes of patients suspected of PE with or without tPA.

May 24, 2021:

  • A SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody with extensive Spike binding coverage and modified for optimal therapeutic outcomes. 5/11/21. Guo Y. Nature.
    The current monoclonal antibodies (mAb) from Regeneron and Lilly are based on the Hunan strain Spike sequence present prior to the emergence of mutants. Chinese scientists now report the development of a mAb called P4A1 that inhibits the Spike Receptor Binding Motif of the Spike Receptor-Binding Domain and acts against wild type and mutant Spike proteins. Also, P4A1 was engineered for safety, to extend its half-life and to reduce risk for Antibody-Dependent Enhancement of infection. In a rhesus monkey COVID model, a single infusion resulted in complete viral clearance. These data suggest P4A1’s potential against SARS-CoV-2 related diseases.
  • Convalescent plasma in patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 (RECOVERY): a randomised controlled, open-label, platform trial. 5/17/21. RECOVERY Collaborative Group. Lancet.
    In this randomized open-label study, 5795 hospitalized patients received high-titer convalescent plasma (CP) plus usual care and 5763 received usual care alone in 177 UK National Health Service hospitals. Ninety-two percent received corticosteroids. The study was halted prematurely, as there were no significant differences between groups in all-cause 28-day mortality (24%), progression to invasive ventilation (12-13%), renal replacement therapy (4%) or the proportion discharged from hospital within 28 days (66%). Mean age was 63, nearly 2/3 were male, and 77% were white. Median number of days since symptom onset was 9. Only 5% required mechanical ventilation at randomization. A well-written editorial reviewing this study and findings of other studies of CP can be found here.
    SAB Comment: The RECOVERY trial includes the largest randomized study thus far of CP therapy for COVID-19. Although some retrospective observational studies of CP were encouraging, randomized controlled studies have not confirmed benefit. Questions remain about whether the average timing of CP therapy in this study was beyond the window of potential efficacy and whether selected patients may benefit from CP, particularly those with immune deficiencies.
  • Coronavirus Disease 2019-Associated PICU Admissions: A Report From the Society of Critical Care Medicine Discovery Network Viral Infection and Respiratory Illness Universal Study Registry. 5/9/21. Tripathi S. Pediatr Crit Care Med.
    A country-wide study from the Society of Critical Care Medicine reporting on COVID-19 infected children admitted to intensive care over an 11-month period with and without associated MIS-C. Age, gender and race were similar between groups. The low numbers enrolled provide evidence that the disease incidence of either variety is low in children. MIS-C resulted in longer-lasting severe illness, but the overall mortality of 3.8% was low and similar between groups.
  • Functional Outcomes and Their Association With Physical Performance in Mechanically Ventilated Coronavirus Disease 2019 Survivors at 3 Months Following Hospital Discharge: A Cohort Study. 5/10/2021. van Gassel RJJ. Crit Care Med.
    These authors evaluated 46 previously ventilated ICU patients 3 months after hospital discharge (of the 52 who survived 3 months) with a 6-minute walk test (6MWT), complete PFTs, muscle strength testing, and a chest CT scan which was used to analyze skeletal muscle architecture. The 6MWT was below 80% of predicted in 48% of patients. Patients with impaired physical performance had more muscle weakness, lower lung diffusing capacity, and higher intermuscular adipose tissue area. Reduced lung diffusing capacity and increased intermuscular adipose tissue were independently associated with physical performance. Repeat PFTs 7 months after discharge in 28 of these patients showed substantial improvement in diffusion capacity (4% of these 28 patients were normal at 3 months improved to 48% normal at 7 months).
  • Immunogenicity of COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines in Pregnant and Lactating Women. 5/13/21. Collier AY. JAMA.
    This excellent cohort report of the immunologic response to mRNA vaccination in pregnant (30), lactating (16), nonpregnant (57), and post SARS-CoV-2 pregnant (22) and nonpregnant women (6) demonstrates its effectiveness in pregnancy and potential for newborn protection. At 2 to 8 weeks post second dose, both neutralizing antibodies and cellular responses were measured in maternal serum, cord blood, and breast milk. Vaccination-produced neutralizing antibody titers higher than those from infection. Antibodies were detected in both cord blood and breast milk. Neutralizing antibody titers to variants were reduced, but cellular responses were preserved. A very useful glossary of immunological assays is included.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug use and outcomes of COVID-19 in the ISARIC Clinical Characterisation Protocol UK cohort: a matched, prospective cohort study. 5/17/21. Drake TM. Lancet Rheumatol.
    This prospective, multicenter cohort study shows convincingly that patients who take NSAIDs before and in the early stages of a SARS-CoV-2 infection are not at a higher risk of dying or experiencing more severe disease. Using a proven data mining protocol, 72,179 hospitalized patients in 255 hospitals in the UK, with confirmed COVID-19, were enrolled and analyzed. Of those patients, 4,211 or 5.8% used NSAIDS (but not aspirin) before their illness. Propensity score matching resulted in balanced, well matched treatment groups and matched odds ratios for mortality, ICU admission, invasive ventilation, acute kidney injury, among others, showed no statistical difference. The authors urge policy makers to review advice issued early in the course of the pandemic regarding the use of NSAIDs and disease severity.

May 10, 2021:

  • 3-month, 6-month, 9-month, and 12-month respiratory outcomes in patients following COVID-19-related hospitalisation: a prospective study. 5/8/21. Wu X. Lancet Respir Med.
    This is a prospective, longitudinal cohort study from China of 83 severe COVID-19 patients (admitted February and March 2020, so none received glucocorticoids) who did not require IMV, yet still had 29-day hospital stays. Patients with HTN, DM, CVD, cancer, any pulmonary disease or tobacco use had been excluded. At 3-, 6-, 9- and 12-months post admission, they underwent pulmonary function testing, documenting abnormalities with gradual improvement even after 9 months. Radiological abnormalities (24%) and DLCO less than 80% of predicted (33%) persisted at 12 months despite near normal lung volumes, 6M walk and dyspnea assessment.
    SAB Comment: These results indicate that even previously healthy patients who have recovered from COVID-19 may warrant pulmonary evaluation and consideration of timing regarding elective surgery.
  • A molecular single-cell lung atlas of lethal COVID-19. 4/29/2021. Melms JC. Nature.
    Single-nucleus RNA-sequencing of 19 Covid-19 and 7 control decedents’ lungs was performed after rapid autopsies. Highly inflamed Covid-19 lungs showed activated monocyte-derived macrophages, alveolar macrophages but impaired T cell responses. Monocyte/macrophage-derived IL-1β and epithelial cell-derived IL-6 were unique features of SARS-CoV-2 infection vs other viral/bacterial pneumonias. Transition failure from alveolar type-2 cells to type 1 alveolar cells impaired lung regeneration. They identified expansion of recently described CTHRC1+ pathological fibroblasts contributing to rapid pulmonary fibrosis in COVID-19. This atlas identifies a road map of pathological proteins and cell interactions useful for putative drug targets to disrupt deleterious circuits.
  • Impact and effectiveness of mRNA BNT162b2 vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 infections and COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations, and deaths following a nationwide vaccination campaign in Israel: an observational study using national surveillance data. 5/8/21. Haas EJ. Lancet.
    This is a prospective, longitudinal cohort study of 83 severe COVID-19 patients (admitted February and March). This data-rich study demonstrates graphically and convincingly the effectiveness of 2 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against a range of SARS-CoV-2 outcomes in Israel using surveillance data from the first 4 months of the vaccination campaign which began in December 2020. By April 3, 2021, 72% of 6.5 million people over age 16 had been vaccinated and the incidence rate dropped from 91.5 in unvaccinated individuals to 3.1 per 100,000 person-days in those fully vaccinated. Effectiveness against critical illness and death was 97.5% and 96.7% respectively. Widespread testing revealed effectiveness of the vaccine against the predominant B.1.1.7. (British) variant. Aspects of the Israeli health care system, concomitant lockdown measures as well as cultural and ethnic influences vis-à-vis the goal of achieving herd immunity are discussed. The Israeli Ministry of Health and Pfizer collaborated on this project.
  • Mortality after In-Hospital Cardiac Arrest in Patients with COVID-19: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. 5/8/21. Ippolito M. Resuscitation.
    This is a well-performed meta-analysis of resuscitation (CPR) following in-hospital cardiac arrest, confirming bleak survival statistics. The article includes an interesting debate regarding universal do not resuscitate orders for COVID-19 arrest resuscitation and comparison with ICU resuscitation of comparably ill patients without COVID-19. The authors suggest further discussion and data analysis is necessary following improved results for in-hospital cardiac arrest (IHCA) over time. Conclusion: Although one of three COVID-19 patients undergoing IHCA may achieve return of spontaneous circulation, 90% are not expected to survive 30 days or to hospital discharge.

May 7, 2021:

  • Association of Maternal SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Pregnancy With Neonatal Outcomes. 4/29/21. Norman M. JAMA.
    To determine the outcome in newborn infants of mothers testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 in pregnancy, this prospective cohort study looked at the outcomes of 88,159 infants born in Sweden during the first 10 months of the pandemic. After matching infants by maternal characteristics, the 2,323 infants of SARS-CoV-2-positive mothers were found to have more respiratory problems (2.8% vs 2.0%, OR 1.42), mostly explained by a more preterm birth. Mortality, breastfeeding rates at discharge, length of stay in neonatal care, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, meconium aspiration, pneumonia, sepsis, and hypoglycemia did not differ significantly between the two groups. Twenty-one (0.9%) of the 2,323 infants of SARS-CoV-2-positive mothers had positive PCR tests, most with no morbidity and none with pneumonia. View a pertinent accompanying editorial here.
  • Effectiveness of the BNT162b2 Covid-19 Vaccine against the B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 Variants. 5/5/21. Abu-Raddad LJ. New Engl J.
    This letter to the editor reports effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against UK and S. African variants that represented 50% and 44.5% of infections, respectively, in the Qatari research cohort community at the time of study. Estimated vaccine effectiveness against any documented B.1.1.7 variant infection was 89.5% (95% CI 85.9-92.3) and 75% against B.1.351 (CI (70.5–78.9) at 14 or more days after second doses in nearly 400,000 people. Effectiveness against severe, or fatal disease due to any SARS-CoV-2 variant was 97.4% (95% CI, 92.2-99.5). Although effectiveness against the B.1.351 variant was ~20% below previous reports from the clinical trial or real-world conditions in Israel and the US, protection from hospitalization or death was >90%. Effectiveness was found to be significantly improved after second dose.
  • SARS-CoV-2 vaccine and thrombosis: Expert opinions. 5/4/21. Elalamy I. Thromb Haemost.
    This article reviews the status of 4 COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca) with respect to thrombosis from an international viewpoint. Not only is it current and timely, but reviews:
    1. What is known about the pathophysiology;
    2. Goes over the risk/benefit ratio of vaccination;
    3. What to do if there is a concern for thrombosis after vaccination; and
    4. What not to do.

    Overall, this comprehensive article focuses on clinically relevant issues in a concrete fashion.

  • Tocilizumab in patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 (RECOVERY): a randomised, controlled, open-label, platform trial. 5/2/21. RECOVERY Collaborative Group. Lancet.
    This long-awaited trial assessing the effectiveness of tocilizumab differentiated itself from several earlier attempts in two important aspects:
    1. It enrolled 4,116 of 21,550 adults at 131 sites in the UK as part of the RECOVERY trial between April 23, 2020 and January 24, 2021 and is therefore adequately powered and statistically sound.
    2. It demonstrated a small but significant benefit across a spectrum of disease severity and various degrees of respiratory support. Results included an improvement in mortality from 35% to 31% (rate ratio 0·85; 95% CI 0·76–0·94; p=0·0028) and an impressive drop in median time to being discharged from more than 28 days to 19 days.

    In addition, patients who were not receiving invasive mechanical ventilation at randomization were less likely to progress to invasive mechanical ventilation or death. An accompanying editorial that addresses the still unacceptably high mortality figures and the urgent need for additional therapies can be found here.

  • Trends in Patient Characteristics and COVID-19 In-Hospital Mortality in the United States During the COVID-19 Pandemic. 5/3/21. Roth GA. JAMA Netw Open.
    This analysis of mortality trends in the US among 20,736 patients in 107 hospitals in 31 states comes from the American Heart Association COVID-19 cardiovascular disease registry. In comparison with March/April patients, the odds ratio of mortality decreased approximately one-third later in the year, after adjusting for age, sex, medical history, and COVID-19 severity. ICU length of stay, use of mechanical ventilation, and mortality in age groups over 50 decreased, although mortality remained highly associated with age. Use of corticosteroids and remdesivir increased. Reasons and other independent risk factors are discussed.

May 3, 2021:

  • Hospital-Level Variation in Death for Critically Ill Patients with COVID-19. 4/23/21. Churpek MM. Am J Respir Crit Care Med.
    This multicenter cohort study utilized the STOP-COVID database to explore the wide variation in published mortality rates for critically ill COVID-19 patients. Data were evaluated on 4019 adult ICU patients admitted to 70 US hospitals between March-June 2020. Thirty-eight percent of patients died within 28 days, with an unadjusted interhospital mortality range of 12-91% (OR 2.06). After mixed-effect regression adjustment for patient- and hospital-level domains, the interhospital range attenuated to 32-44% (OR 1.22). In individual patients, acute physiology contributed 49%, demographics, comorbidities and socioeconomic status 32%, hospital strain and quality 17%, and treatments 3% to mortality risk. The authors emphasized that lower socioeconomic status of the community served by the hospital (characterized by a high percentage of patients who traveled more than 45 min to get to work) is an important contributor to interhospital variability, suggesting that COVID-19 exacerbates disparities in US healthcare. Individual mortality is also impacted by hospital ICU-bed capacity and strain, but treatments had the least impact on outcome variability. [Readers should note that the study reflects an early stage of the pandemic, prior to the positive evidence of steroid therapy on outcome in ventilated patients.]
  • Preliminary Findings of mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine Safety in Pregnant Persons. 4/21/21. Shimabukuro TT. N Engl J Med.
    Early results of mRNA COVID-19 vaccination of pregnant women between 12/14/2020 and 2/28/2021 were obtained from v-safe after-vaccination health checker, v-safe pregnancy registry (patients enrolled by identification through v-safe participation), and VAERS, the vaccine adverse event reporting system. Comparison was to nonpregnant v-safe participants and historical pregnancy outcome statistics. The 35,691 pregnant v-safe participants (94% healthcare workers) reported reactions to vaccination similar to those who were not pregnant. In the registry, 827 pregnancies were completed, 86% with a live birth, and 9% with preterm births. There were 104 spontaneous abortions among the 92 preconception and 1132 first trimester participants. These frequencies are comparable to historical rates. The most common VAERS pregnancy report was spontaneous abortion, reported in 46 patients out of at least 35,691 (0.16%), a rate far lower than published, probably because of underreporting. Although more longitudinal follow-up is necessary, no problems regarding the administration of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy were revealed.
  • Vaccine Breakthrough Infections with SARS-CoV-2 Variants. 4/21/2021. Hacisuleyman E. N Engl J Med.
    In this brief scientific report, authors describe 2 cases of women fully vaccinated with the mRNA vaccines (1 Pfizer, 1 Moderna) who nonetheless developed SARS-CoV-2 infection within a few weeks of vaccination. Both had evidence of vaccine efficacy (neutralizing Abs to the wild type spike protein). Complete genomic sequencing revealed somewhat unique variants. In one, the variant was related to, but not identical to, the B.1.1.7 (UK) variant along with elements of the B.156 (NY) variant. Both patients had mild disease.

April 26, 2021:

April 23, 2021:

April 21, 2021:

April 19, 2021:

  • Inhaled budesonide in the treatment of early COVID-19 (STOIC): a phase 2, open-label, randomised controlled trial. 4/12/21. Ramakrishnan S. Lancet Respir Med.
    This is a prospective, randomized, open-label, phase-2, parallel-group, age-stratified, 146-patient UK study from July 16 to December 2, 2020 testing inhaled budesonide within 7 days of early symptom development versus standard care. Participants were self-monitored (temperature, pulse oximetry), contacted daily to record symptoms (O2 saturation and temperature), and intermittently self-collected nasopharyngeal swab specimens for analysis. Primary endpoints compared urgent care and emergency room visits and hospitalizations for worsening symptoms, which occurred in 1% of budesonide treated participants, and 14% of the usual care treated group. The study was terminated early with positive results for budesonide inhalant use. Authors concluded that budesonide was effective in treating early COVID-19 infection, could be applicable to global healthcare systems, and that further validation was required.
  • Editorial: Early treatment with inhaled budesonide to prevent clinical deterioration in patients with COVID-19. 4/12/21. Agusti A. Lancet Respir Med.
    This editorial, accompanying the article above, gives perspective to the study and discusses the implications of terminating the study early. The rationale for and use of budesonide (and potentially other inhaled corticosteroids) encourages further trials to confirm the value of this readily available therapy, with significant implications for a cost-effective and easily accessible disease mitigation strategy that could be used globally.
  • Sensitivity of infectious SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 variants to neutralizing antibodies. 3/27/2021. Planas D. Nat Med.
    These investigators examined SARS-CoV-2 antibodies present in noses and sera from infected individuals or vaccinees, for potency vs. authentic mutants B.1.1.7 (UK) and B.1.351 (S-Africa) and the common D614G (US). They utilized a new “S-Fuse” neutralization assay: reporter cells become fluorescence positive overnight. Vaccinee nasal antibodies were rarely detected. Sera from 54/58 individuals at 9 months, neutralized UK and US. However, against S-Africa, sera had a 6-fold reduction; 40% lacked activity. Only 6-weeks post full Pfizer mRNA vaccination (n=19), sera already showed 14-fold reductions against S-Africa compared to US. Thus, the S-Africa strain may pose ongoing risks even in immunized individuals.

April 16, 2021:

  • Exponential increase in neutralizing and spike specific antibodies following vaccination of COVID-19 convalescent plasma donors. 4/8/2021. Vickers MA. Transfusion.
    In this small (n=11) case series measuring spike-specific antibody levels following Pfizer or Moderna vaccination of individuals who had recovered from COVID-19, all showed dramatic increases (~50 fold) and had at least a 20-fold increase in the IC50 neutralizing antibody titer based on plaque reduction neutralization testing (PRNT). These levels were not observed by the authors in people who had not had the virus prior to being vaccinated. The possibility of recruiting individuals who had recovered from SARS-CoV-2 infection and received a single vaccine dose to donate convalescent plasma is raised.
  • Integrative respiratory follow-up of severe COVID-19 reveals common functional and lung imaging sequelae. 4/11/2021. Froidure A. Respir Med.
    Researchers from Belgium evaluated 126 survivors of severe and critical COVID-19 with pulmonary function tests (PFTs), high resolution CT scans (HRCT) and clinical evaluation three months after discharge. At follow-up, 25% of patients complained of dyspnea and 35% of fatigue; lung diffusion capacity (DLCO) was decreased in 45%; 17% had HRCT abnormalities affecting more than 5% of their lung parenchyma while signs of fibrosis were found in 21%. The number of days in ICU were related to the extent of persisting lesions on HRCT, while intubation was associated with signs of fibrosis at follow-up (P = 0.0005). The severity of lung imaging or PFT changes were not predictive of fatigue and dyspnea.
  • Provisional Mortality Data – United States, 2020. 4/8/2021. Ahmad FB. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep.
    The estimated age-adjusted death rate in the US increased by 15.9% from 2019 to 2020, representing the first increase since 2017. COVID-19 caused or contributed to 377,883 or 11.3% of total death and ranked third behind heart disease (21%) and cancer (17%). When sorted by age, race, ethnicity and sex, this report by the CDC’s National Vital Statistics System found age-adjusted death rates to be highest in the over 85-year old population, the non-Hispanic Black and the non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native people. Males died at 33% higher rate from COVID than females.
    These provisional data are the result of a streamlined reporting mechanism which provides expanded mortality data for 2020 with a mere 4 month (prior 11 month) delay.
  • The Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology (SOAP) COVID-19 Registry: An analysis of outcomes among pregnant women delivering during the initial SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in the United States. 4/8/2021. Katz D. Anesth Analg.
    This study initiated by the Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology (SOAP), involved consecutive patients and controls at 14 institutions in the US from March-May 2020. There were 964 controls and 490 COVID parturients, 64% of whom had asymptomatic disease. COVID parturients were more likely to have C-section (OR1.6) and pre-term labor (OR2.1). They were less likely to receive neuraxial anesthesia for labor, and more likely to have GA for C-section due to respiratory failure.
  • Use of low-molecular weight heparin, transfusion and mortality in COVID-19 patients not requiring ventilation. 4/12/21. Grandone E. J Thromb Thrombolysis.
    Prior data has been conflicting with the utility of prophylactic low-molecular weight heparin (LMWH) with COVID-19. This group from Padua retrospectively examined the mortality of 264 non-ventilated inpatients with COVID-19 with respect to the prophylactic use of LMWH enoxaparin. One hundred fifty-six patients (87.7%) received standard LMWH prophylaxis during hospitalization. LMWH was significantly and independently associated with a reduction in mortality in these patients, (OR 0.31, 95% CI 0.13–0.85), as compared to patients who did not receive anticoagulation. Although transfusion or bleeding complications were not higher in these patients, the number of transfusions were significantly and independently associated with mortality. The median fatalities age was 80.5 years. These data suggest that COVID-19 patients who do not require ventilation benefit from prophylactic doses of LMWH.

April 12, 2021:

  • 6-month neurological and psychiatric outcomes in 236 379 survivors of COVID-19: a retrospective cohort study using electronic health records. 4/6/21. Taquet M. Lancet Psychiatry.
    This study provides a rich source of data covering a multitude of neurological and psychiatric symptoms in the wake of COVID-19. Using anonymized records from 62, mostly US healthcare organizations, from 3 patient cohorts, one with COVID-19 and two with other contemporaneous illnesses, the authors identify a COVID-specific incidence of neurologic and psychiatric diagnoses of 34% overall, with 13% receiving their first such diagnosis. They convincingly show a link to severity of illness with an incidence of 46% among all patients admitted to ICUs and to a diagnosis of delirium and encephalopathy where the overall incidence rose to 62%. The long-term impact of prolonged recovery due to neurological or psychiatric sequelae of COVID-19 represents a global public health challenge.
  • Antibody responses to the BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine in individuals previously infected with SARS-CoV-2. 4/1/2021. Ebinger J. Nature Medicine.
    The response to the Pfizer vaccine in individuals previously infected with SARS-CoV-2 was compared to that in individuals not previously infected. Spike-specific IgG antibody (Ab) levels and an assay for ACE2 binding inhibition as a surrogate for Ab neutralization were measured. Previously infected individuals (n=35) had a more robust neutralization response to vaccine dose #1 than naïve individuals (n=228), however after the second dose of vaccine the IgG levels and neutralization responses were similar between groups. Symptoms after dose #1 for those with prior infection more resembled those after dose #2 for naïve individuals (more severe). Authors question whether previously infected individuals need 2 vaccine doses. The question of whether previously infected individuals require 2 Pfizer vaccine doses to achieve equivalent protection from re-infection is raised, and will require further real-world study.
  • Secondary Bacterial Pneumonias and Bloodstream Infections in Patients Hospitalized with COVID-19. 4/6/21. Adelman MW. Ann Am Thorac Soc.
    These authors examined the secondary bacterial pneumonias and bloodstream infections (BSI) in 774 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 from February to May 2020. The most common bacteria grown was Staphylococcus aureus. Mortality did not differ between intubated patients with an identified bacterial respiratory pathogen and those without. Overall, mortality was 50% in patients with BSI versus 13.8% without (p<0.0001). These results suggest that hospitalization and central lines are more important than are COVID-19-specific effects in conferring susceptibility to specific pathogens. BSIs in their cohort were also largely related to risk factors, especially central lines, and pathogens associated with hospitalization and did not appear significantly different from the non-COVID data.
  • Trends in Geographic and Temporal Distribution of US Children With Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome During the COVID-19 Pandemic. 4/6/21. Belay ED. JAMA Pediatr.
    A Center for Disease Control study of patients younger than 21 years old presenting with multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children demonstrating that, although rare (1733 patients countrywide), the presenting symptoms were constant including a rash and conjunctival hyperemia. Half of the affected patients progressed to hypotension and intensive care. These patients tended to be the older of the age range. Most patients were either Hispanic or Black with a median age of 9. The good news was a mortality of only 1.4%.

April 7, 2021:

  • Association between pre-existing respiratory disease and its treatment, and severe COVID-19: a population cohort study. 4/4/21. Aveyard P. Lancet Respir Med.
    This retrospective review of medical records from late January through April 2020 of 8,256,161 people registered in 1205 primary care practices in the English NHS showed that people with some respiratory diseases were at an increased risk of hospitalization or death due to COVID-19 compared with those without these diseases with hazard ratios for hospitalization or death respectively as follows: asthma 1·18, 0.99; severe asthma 1·29, 1.08; COPD 1·54, 1.54; bronchiectasis 1·34, 1.12; sarcoidosis 1·36, 1.41; idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis 1·59, 1.47; and lung cancer 2·24, 1.77. The study also provides evidence that the use of inhaled corticosteroids is not associated with a substantially increased risk of severe COVID-19, but nor does it appear to be associated with reduced risk.
  • Mortality and Readmission Rates Among Patients With COVID-19 After Discharge From Acute Care Setting With Supplemental Oxygen. 4/1/21. Banerjee J. JAMA Netw Open.
    A retrospective study of 621 adult COVID-19 pneumonia patients (65% male) who were discharged from inpatient care (76%) or ED (24%) from 2 large urban public hospitals with a carefully executed, patient-focused discharge and follow-up plan showed excellent outcomes. 76% were insured by Medicaid and 84% were Spanish-speaking. Interventions included pre-discharge patient education, non-automated daily telephone contact 7 days/week until not needed, facility-dispensed equipment (pulse oximeter, O2 tank, concentrator), and vendor support. All-cause mortality was low – 1.3% (95% CI, 0.6%-2.5%) with none outside hospital, and 30-day hospital readmission rate was 8.5% (95% CI, 6.2%-10.7%). Median follow-up time was 26 days. Readmission rates were lower than the overall post-acute care 30-day readmission rate (15.2%) for California Dept. of Health Care Services patients in 2020, and compare favorably to privately insured pre-COVID patients in an earlier, referenced report.
  • New Decade, Old Debate: Blocking the Cytokine Pathways in Infection-Induced Cytokine Cascade. 3/31/21. Rizvi MS. Crit Care Explor.
    Providing deep perspective, this narrative review summarizes literature beginning in 1994 evaluating the efficacy and safety of anticytokine therapy for dysregulated immune responses to infectious pathogens. The longstanding idea of neutralizing “cytokine storm” induced by bacterial sepsis and/or ARDS, using cytokine pathway inhibitors or nonpharmacologic cytokine removal has a “grim history.” Severe COVID-19 causes less cytokine release than either condition; however, anticytokine therapy is being used. Discussions include potential reasons for failure, such as the complexity and variation of cytokine cascades, and future directions.
  • The role of antirheumatics in patients with COVID-19. 4/5/21. Nissen CB. Lancet Rheumatol.
    This review, written by an international panel of rheumatologists, nicely summarizes current knowledge of COVID-19 therapy targeting the immune system. Topics include evidence for potentially useful immune modulators (steroids and baricitinib), those under active investigation (tocilizumab, colchicine and anakinra), undergoing early trials (TNF blockade, anti-complement therapy and intravenous immunoglobin) and disproven treatments (hydroxychloroquine). Authors stress that the timing, dosing and interaction of these therapies is incompletely understood, and the hope that studies now underway will provide more clarity.
  • Toxicity of herbal medications suggested as treatment for COVID-19: A narrative review. 4/5/21. DiPietro MA. J Am Coll Emerg Physicians Open.
    The lack of a proven COVID-19 remedy has led to a host of recommendations promoting the use of various plant-based therapeutics, particularly traditional Chinese medicines. Authored by two emergency medicine physicians, this well-researched review of the major characteristics and toxicities of herbal preparations currently in use and sometimes recommended as treatments for COVID-19 provides valuable information on the symptomatology of “toxidromes” caused by mismanagement or overdoses of potentially toxic extracts including oleander and Datura species.

April 2, 2021:

  • ABCDEF Bundle and Supportive ICU Practices for Patients With Coronavirus Disease 2019 Infection: An International Point Prevalence Study. 3/31/21. Liu K. Crit Care Explor.
    This is an international, 2-day (June 3 and July 1) survey on the compliance of nutrition, sleep hours and ABCDEF Bundles for 262 COVID-19 patients in 212 ICUs. The authors reported that 47.3% of patients were on mechanical ventilation and 4.6% were on ECMO. Each element of the ABCDEF Bundle was implemented at alarmingly low percentages (16% to 52% compliance), while nutritionally recommended protein was provided to only 50% of ICU patients. Because these supportive measures are known to prevent ICU patients from developing the physical, cognitive and mental disabilities of post-intensive care syndrome, authors strongly suggest that efforts be made to adhere to all evidence-based gold standards of the ABCDEF Bundles including protein supplements and avoiding sleep deprivation in ICU patients.
  • Association Between Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone System Inhibitors and Clinical Outcomes in Patients With COVID-19: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. 3/31/2021. Baral R. JAMA Netw Open.
    This is a meta-analysis of 52 studies involving approximately 100,000 COVID-19 patients, 26% of whom were taking ACE inhibitors or angiotensin blockers. Of those with hypertension, 42% were taking these medications. The risk of mortality was decreased (OR .57) as was that of severe adverse events (OR .68) in those on ACE inhibitors or AR blockers. Similar odds ratios were found in patients with hypertension. The authors state previous studies have shown only a lack of adverse outcomes in those on these medications.
  • Escape of SARS-CoV-2 501Y.V2 from neutralization by convalescent plasma. 3/29/21. Cele S. Nature.
    Using a live virus-neutralizing assay, investigators tested the effectiveness of convalescent plasma collected from donors during the first (original) and second (S. African variant) waves of COVID-19 against both types of virus. First-wave plasma was effective against first-wave virus, however showed a 15-fold decrease in effectiveness against S. African variant virus. Second-wave plasma was effective against the then-predominant variant strain and, although it demonstrated a 2.3 fold decrease in activity against the original strain, it was still effective. This provides preliminary evidence that vaccines based on variant-of-concern sequences could retain effective activity against other SARS-CoV-2 lineages.
  • Functional status of mechanically ventilated COVID-19 survivors at ICU and hospital discharge. 4/1/2021. Musheyev B. J Intensive Care.
    This retrospective single hospital study from New York investigated the functional status of 118 COVID-19 invasive mechanical ventilation (IMV) survivors at ICU and hospital discharge. Mental status, mobility and activities of daily living were assessed near discharge, and showed that half needed discharge oxygen, and most were not functionally independent (22% used cane or walker, 49% needed durable medical equipment, and 14% went to a rehabilitation facility). Worse functional status at hospital discharge was associated with longer IMV duration, older age, male sex and a higher number of comorbidities.
    SAB Comment: This functional status impairment after invasive ventilation with COVID-19 should be compared to that of invasive ventilation from other causes (not detailed in the article).
  • Post-covid syndrome in individuals admitted to hospital with covid-19: retrospective cohort study. 4/1/21. Ayoubkhani D. BMJ.
    This is a study of post-COVID syndrome in 47,000+ hospitalized COVID-19 patients individually matched to United Kingdom NHS controls. Patients were discharged by 8/31/2020 and followed for a mean of 140 days, with the study ending on 9/30/2020. The readmission rate was 29% (3.5 times that of controls), and mortality was 12% (7.7 times that of controls). New respiratory disease was 27% more frequent than controls. The risk of diabetes increased 1.5 times, and that of a major cardiovascular event by three times. Younger and ethnic minority patients had greater relative risk than those over age 70. There is an accompanying editorial expressing a need for adjustment of the NHS patient follow-up practices.
  • Pulmonary Rehabilitation in Patients Recovering from COVID-19. 3/30/2021. Zampogna E. Respiration.
    This is an observational study reviewing the improvement in 140 previously severely ill hospitalized patients (mean acute care LOS, 47 days; 46% had required mechanical ventilation) who were then admitted to an in-patient pulmonary rehab center. Details of the specific interventions are provided. Patients’ physical status was assessed upon admission to rehab and upon discharge using the Short Physical Performance Battery for lower extremity function, the Barthel Index for general motor function and the six minute walk test. All measures improved for all patients. There was no control group, and rehab LOS average was not noted.

March 29, 2021:

March 26, 2021:

  • CHA2DS2-VASc score and modified CHA2DS2-VASc score can predict mortality and intensive care unit hospitalization in COVID-19 patients. 3/17/21. Gunduz R. J Thromb Thrombolysis.
    This manuscript examined 1000 Turkish patients admitted with COVID-19 and calculated the CHAD2DS2-VASc score for each patient. They found that this simple score (previously used to assess risk of thromboembolization with atrial fibrillation) was significantly correlated with mortality and the need for ICU admission. The sensitivity and specificity of the original score were 81.7% and 83.9%, respectively. For the modified score sensitivity and specificity were 85.4% and 84.1%. The potential strength of these data lie in the simplicity of the score and the ease of obtaining it.
    SAB Comment: These retrospective data would need to be investigated in a prospective fashion before being applied.
  • Incidence and mortality due to thromboembolic events during the COVID-19 pandemic: Multi-sourced population-based health records cohort study. 3/12/21. Aktaa S. Thromb Res.
    This unique dataset examined the thromboembolic events (TE) in the United Kingdom during a 3-year period. As expected, TE increased with the COVID-19 pandemic and the mortality of TE with COVID-19 was increased as compared to pre-COVID-19. However, the rates of TE deaths in the community also increased. These data suggest that some patients may have avoided the hospital evaluation and that the outpatient evaluation and treatment of patients with COVID-19 may need further investigation.
  • Post-acute COVID-19 syndrome. 3/23/21. Nalbandian A. Nat Med.
    This comprehensive review of current literature divides post-acute COVID-19 into 2 categories: subacute, lasting 4-12 weeks, and chronic, lasting over 12 weeks. Concise discussions cover post-acute epidemiology, prevention and management of thromboemboli, pulmonary, cardiovascular, neurologic, renal, endocrine, and inflammatory complications as well as race/ethnicity factors, organ system involvement and potential interdisciplinary clinic management, findings from studies of post-acute COVID-19 prevalence, and active research. The need to include rehabilitation in multidisciplinary clinics is reinforced. Links to prominent patient advocacy groups are provided.
  • Predictors of clinical deterioration in patients with suspected COVID-19 managed in a ‘virtual hospital’ setting: a cohort study. 3/24/21. Francis NA. BMJ Open.
    The authors actively followed up on 900 UK COVID-19 patients to determine rates of overnight hospitalization or death over a median period of 21 days from outpatient diagnosis (n=455) or hospital discharge (n=445). 76 patients (8.4%) experienced clinical deterioration. 15 previously hospitalized patients and 3 never-hospitalized patients died, and 58 others required COVID-related hospitalization. Of 35 clinical and laboratory features examined, including O2 saturation, the only predictors of clinical deterioration were increased age (OR 1.04 per year of age), severe renal insufficiency (OR 9.1 for eGFR <30), a history of cancer (OR 2.9), or mental health problems (OR 1.76).
  • Racial and Ethnic Disparities in COVID-19 Incidence by Age, Sex, and Period Among Persons Aged <25 Years – 16 U.S. Jurisdictions, January 1-December 31, 2020. 3/18/21. Van Dyke ME. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep.
    This is a data-rich CDC report on nearly 700,000 COVID-19 cases in young people from jurisdictions representing 23% of the US population. (Included cases represent 77% of total cases due to absent ethnicity data in the remainder.) Incidences among multiple minorities ranged from 0.77 to 4.57 relative to non-Hispanic Whites and disparities evolved during 2020. Large disparities January–April generally decreased May–December, primarily due to higher incidence among Whites. Children <10 rarely tested positive, however incidence increased stepwise from ages 10-24. The largest persistent disparities involved Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, and Hispanics. Ethnic minorities often live in multigenerational homes and include essential workers unable to shelter at home. Equitable and timely access to testing, prevention, and vaccination is urged.
  • Recent Randomized Trials of Antithrombotic Therapy for Patients With COVID-19: JACC State-of-the-Art Review. 3/20/2021. Talasaz AH. J Am Coll Cardiol.
    This manuscript summarizes the worldwide RCTs for antithrombotic therapy for COVID-19 including anticoagulation, fibrinolytics, antiplatelets and investigational agents with antithrombotic properties. The citations are brief and straight to the point and highlight the breadth of these trials. This article covers the present state of the data and points to the way forward.

March 24, 2021:

March 22, 2021:

  • Changes in Stress and Workplace Shortages Reported by U.S. Critical Care Physicians Treating Coronavirus Disease 2019 Patients. 3/17/21. Gray BM. Crit Care Med.
    This article discusses questionnaire responses from 1356 (57%) of polled critical care attending physicians who reported stress graded moderate-high by 67.6% in spring 2020 and 50.7% in fall 2020. Staff shortages were reported by 48.3% in spring with nearly no decrease (46.5%) by fall. Medication and equipment shortages largely improved by fall. However, PPE often remained in short supply; N95 respirator supply was short for 42.5% despite altered practices. Physical and emotional exhaustion rates were high. Elevated patient mortality rates, potential risk of SARS-CoV-2 exposure to personal contacts, risk of personal exposure, patient isolation from their families, and ethical challenges were among the most important drivers.
    SAB Comment: For interested readers, detailed results are available in the PDF available via a link in the article or here ( We await updated studies following vaccination of most hospital workers and elderly persons that will likely show further evolution of the incidence of stress in ICU physicians and its drivers.
  • Expert consensus statements for the management of COVID-19-related acute respiratory failure using a Delphi method. 3/17/21. Nasa P. Crit Care.
    This article discusses the Delphi structured communication process used with 39 international experts, which yielded strong suggestions for use of systemic corticosteroids for critical COVID-19. The suggestions include awake self-proning to improve oxygenation and high flow nasal oxygen to potentially reduce tracheal intubation; non-invasive ventilation for patients with mixed hypoxemic-hypercapnic respiratory failure; tracheal intubation for poor mentation, hemodynamic instability or severe hypoxemia; closed suction systems; lung protective ventilation; prone ventilation (for 16–24 h per day) to improve oxygenation; neuromuscular blocking agents for patient-ventilator desynchrony; avoiding delay in extubation for the risk of reintubation; and similar timing of tracheostomy as in non-COVID-19 patients. There was no agreement on positive end-expiratory pressure titration or the choice of personal protective equipment.

March 17, 2021:

  • Antibody Resistance of SARS-CoV-2 Variants B.1.351 and B.1.1.7. 3/8/21. Wang P. Nature.
    These investigators report that the “UK variant” (B.1.1.7) remains sensitive to both convalescent plasma and serum collected from vaccinated individuals during Moderna phase I trials (both collected Spring 2020), but refractory to neutralization by most monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) to the spike N-terminal domain (NTD), and relatively resistant to a few mAbs to the receptor-binding domain (RBD). The “South African variant” (B.1.351), containing the E484K mutation is more resistant to neutralization by convalescent plasma (9.4x) and serum from vaccinated individuals (10.3-12.4x). The virus is refractory to most NTD mAbs and multiple individual mAbs to the RBD. This study reinforces concerns about emergent variants and the need for vaccines and mAbs that target them.
  • Increased mortality in community-tested cases of SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.7. 3/8/21. Davies NG. Nature.
    The B.1.1.7 “UK” variant is known to be more infectious. This British study shows it is more lethal. B.1.1.7 is identified with PCR, as the S gene is not amplified: S gene target failure = SGTF. Based on 4,945 deaths within 28 days of community testing of 1,146,534 patients with known SGTF status, authors estimate that the associated adjusted hazard of death is significantly increased across age groups. For example, in 55-69 year old subjects, estimated absolute risk of death within 28 days after a positive test in the community for males increased from 0.6% to 0.9% (95% CI 0.8–1.0%); for females it increased from 0.18% to 0.28% (0.25–0.31%).
    SAB Comment: In a separate retrospective British study with similar results ~55,000 adults >30 years old with the B.1.1.7 variant were matched with an equivalent number of controls. It was highlighted in our Newsletter Issue 68, and can be found here.
  • Long-term survival of critically ill patients stratified by pandemic triage categories: a retrospective cohort study. 3/12/2021. Darvall JN. Chest.
    Australian study designed to evaluate accuracy/effectiveness of current triage (low, medium and high priority) criteria based on age, pre-existing co-morbidities and SOFA score with long-term survival at 5 and 10 years post discharge. Victoria hospital registry data (2007-2018; 23 ICU’s) linked with death registries to correlate predictive survival accuracy; 126,687 ICU admissions. Long-term survival for low and high priority admissions was similar. Triage score was unable to discriminate ICU utilization/cost when mortality factored with LOS and resource utilization. Survivor QALY’s/long term care not evaluated. “Future ICU triage research should focus on stratifying long-term survival outcomes for patients, accounting for a more detailed combination of premorbid functional status, comorbidities, and organ dysfunction severity scoring.”
  • Reinfection Rates among Patients who Previously Tested Positive for COVID-19: a Retrospective Cohort Study. 3/15/21. Sheehan MM. Clin Infect Dis.
    In a retrospective cohort study, PCR testing in the Cleveland Clinic Health System from March 2020 to February 2021 was analyzed to detect repeat SARS-CoV-2 infection. Of 8,845 individuals with initially positive PCR tests, 62 had reinfections, defined as a positive PCR test at least 90 days following the first positive PCR. Half were asymptomatic, few were hospitalized, and none required intensive care. Protection offered against reinfection was 82%. Risk of reinfection declined with time after initial infection. The authors suggest that the protection afforded by infection with SARS-CoV-2 is adequate to delay vaccination of these people, if vaccine is in short supply.
    SAB Comment: A negative PCR test after the first infection was not part of their definition of reinfection therefore, the authors acknowledge that persistent shedding of virus could account for some reinfections.
  • α1-Antitrypsin: Key Player or Bystander in Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome? 3/15/2021. Hogan G. Anesthesiology.
    This is a detailed review of α1-Antitrypsin (AAT), a serine protease inhibitor with a half-life of 4-5 days. AAT plays a vital role in conserving the balance between levels of pulmonary proteases and antiproteases, reduces inflammation, and modulates innate immune function and bacterial clearance. Investigators have demonstrated a therapeutic effect for sepsis, and potential benefit in models of endotoxin-induced acute lung injury, ventilator-induced lung injury, and lung transplantation. Authors discuss its potential as a novel treatment for ARDS and COVID ARDS.

March 15, 2021:

  • Attributes and predictors of long COVID. 3/11/21. Sudre CH. Nat Med.
    This letter addresses cases of so-called “long COVID” that are rising. These authors examine prevalence and early predictive risk factors. Starting when they were pre-symptomatic, individuals prospectively self-reported symptoms between 3/2020-9/2020 using the COVID Symptom Study app. In 558/4,182 (13.3%) incident cases, symptoms lasted ≥4 weeks; 189 (4.5%) for ≥8 weeks and 95 (2.3%) for ≥12 weeks. Symptoms of fatigue, headache, dyspnea and anosmia increased with age, BMI and female sex. Experiencing >5 symptoms in week 1 predicted long COVID (odds ratio = 3.53 (2.76–4.50)). A simple model identifies at-risk individuals with early symptom patterns for trials of prevention or treatment and plan education and rehabilitation.
  • Body Mass Index and Risk for COVID-19-Related Hospitalization, Intensive Care Unit Admission, Invasive Mechanical Ventilation, and Death – United States, March-December 2020. 3/11/2021. Kompaniyets L. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep.
    From March-December 2020, the authors evaluated the association between body mass index (BMI) and risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes in 148,494 adults who were diagnosed with COVID-19 during an emergency department or inpatient visit at 238 US hospitals. Of those patients, 28.3% were overweight and 50.8% were obese. Authors conclude that being overweight and obesity are risk factors for hospitalization, ICU admission, and death among patients aged ≥65 years. There was a downslope for death in patients with BMIs of  23.7 to 25.9; an upswing was similar for patients with a median age of 55 years at the dynamic point. The authors discuss the clinical and public health implications of higher BMI, the need for COVID-19 illness management, vaccine prioritization and policies to increase access to nutrition and physical activities to help address the increases in obesity severity.
  • COVID-19 Associated Pulmonary Aspergillosis in Mechanically Ventilated Patients. 3/11/2021. Permpalung N. Clin Infect Dis.
    Of 396 mechanically ventilated patients, 39 developed probable or possible COVID-19 associated pulmonary aspergillosis (CAPA). Compared to people without CAPA (controls), people with CAPA had significantly lower median BMI (26.6 vs 29.9, p=0.04), but more underlying pulmonary vascular disorders, which included pulmonary hypertension and chronic pulmonary emboli (41% vs 21.6%, p=0.010), liver disease (35.9% vs 18.2%, p=0.018), coagulopathy (51.3% vs 33.1%, p=0.033), solid tumors (25.6% vs 10.9%, p=0.017), and multiple myeloma (5.1% vs 0.3%, p=0.027). People with CAPA were intubated twice as long as those without, but there was no significant mortality difference between the two groups.
  • Difficult Airway Management in Adult COVID-19 Patients: Statement by the Society of Airway Management. 3/12/2021. Foley LJ. Anesth Analg.
    This statement represents recommendations by the Society for Airway Management task force for the difficult airway management of adults with COVID-19 with the goal to optimize successful airway management while minimizing the risk of clinician exposure. Extensive discussion of almost all aspects of difficult intubations is summarized by three pages of tables, which outline, among other things, an emphasis on preparedness, proper PPE, awake intubation, extubation, equipment and drugs.
  • Severe covid-19 pneumonia: pathogenesis and clinical management. 3/11/21. Attaway AH. BMJ.
    The authors reviewed COVID-19 publications from 1/2020 to 2/2021 and collated the conclusions into a succinct review of major topics descriptive of the disease and its treatment. Concise overviews by topic include mechanism of infection, immunology, pulmonary injury, treatment, outcomes, etc. A table summarizes results of 27 studies regarding respiratory support including high flow nasal cannula, non-invasive ventilation, and invasive mechanical ventilation. Long-term morbidity is also discussed.

March 12, 2021:

  • Association between ABO blood types and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), genetic associations, and underlying molecular mechanisms: a literature review of 23 studies. 3/9/21. Zhang Y. Ann Hematol.
    International reports generally agree that blood type O is a protective factor. Most, but not all, report that the blood type conferring greatest risk for infection is A. One of the largest retrospective cohort studies indicated risk ratios for infection of 0.87, 1.09, 1.06, and 1.15 for O, A, B, and AB individuals, respectively. Although some report no correlation between blood type and COVID-19 severity or mortality, most studies found that types A and AB had higher risk of severe illness or death, while type O was protective against severe outcomes or death. Potential molecular mechanisms are discussed.
  • Association of State-Issued Mask Mandates and Allowing On-Premises Restaurant Dining with County-Level COVID-19 Case and Death Growth Rates — United States, March 1–December 31, 2020. 3/5/21. Guy GP. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep.
    During March 1-December 31, 2020, state-issued mask mandates applied in 2,313 (73.6%) of the 3,142 U.S. counties. Mandating masks was associated with a decrease in daily COVID-19 case and death growth rates within 20 days of implementation. During the study period, states allowed restaurants to reopen for on-premises dining in 3,076 (97.9%) U.S. counties. This was associated with an increase in daily COVID-19 case growth rates 41–100 days after implementation and an increase in daily death growth rates 61–100 days after implementation. The study did not distinguish between indoor and outdoor on-premises dining.
  • Risk of mortality in patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern 202012/1: matched cohort study. 3/10/21. Challen R. BMJ.
    The authors gauged the mortality and future healthcare needs resulting from the new COVID-19 infection variant, B.1.1.7 (VOC-202012/1, from southeast UK in late 2020). The absence of the S gene was found to be a proxy for the B.1.1.7 variant. Patients with this variant were matched for age, sex, ethnicity, and region, with patients with the prior common variants to produce 54,906 pairs. The mortality hazard ratio associated with infection with VOC-202012/1 compared with infection with previously circulating variants was 1.64 in patients who tested positive for COVID-19 in the community. In this comparatively low-risk group, this represents an increase in deaths from 2.5 to 4.1 per 1,000 detected cases.
  • Timing of surgery following SARS-CoV-2 infection: an international prospective cohort study. 3/10/21. COVIDSurg Collaborative. Anaesthesia.
    This prospective cohort study included 140,000 patients undergoing surgery in 1647 hospitals in 116 countries during October 2020. Thirty-one hundred twenty-seven patients with SARS-CoV-2 diagnosed, 0-2, 3-4, 5-6, and >7 weeks prior to surgery were compared with those without SARS-CoV-2. Mortality was increased in all SARS-CoV-2 groups except the >7-week group, as were pulmonary complications. Patients with symptoms lasting >7 weeks also had increased mortality. Mortality in all patients from 0-6 weeks was increased from 1.5% up to 4%. Even asymptomatic patients in the 0-6 week group had increased mortality. Deferring elective surgery for seven weeks, and even longer in the presence of ongoing symptoms is recommended. The report explains statistical methods and includes many graphs.
  • Transpulmonary pressure measurements and lung mechanics in patients with early ARDS and SARS-CoV-2. 3/7/21. Baedorf Kassis E. J Crit Care.
    To further explore respiratory mechanics in COVID-ARDS, this cohort study from Boston analyzed 40 ventilated patients with chest wall and transpulmonary pressures measured using esophageal pressure monitoring. Lung and respiratory system compliance varied widely over the entire cohort. Elevated basal pleural pressures correlated with increased BMI. Respiratory system and lung mechanics were similar to known existing ARDS cohorts. The wide range of respiratory system mechanics illustrates the inherent heterogeneity that is consistent with typical and COVID-19 ARDS. This information reinforces the practice of treating patients individually, rather than trying to treat with general algorithms.
    SAB Comment: Esophageal pressure monitoring, not usually part of routine ventilator care, provides an indirect measurement of intrapleural pressure, which allows one to determine the compliance/elastance of the chest wall separately from transpulmonary pressure.

March 10, 2021:

March 8, 2021:

March 3, 2021:

  • Acute covid-19 and multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children. 3/2/21. Rubens JH. BMJ.
    This is a clinical summary of children with acute COVID-19 and the associated multiple inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). A small proportion of children go on to develop severe acute COVID-19 disease and require hospitalization because of respiratory compromise or complications of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Clinicians should consider MIS-C in children presenting with fever and abdominal symptoms, particularly if they develop conjunctivitis or rash, and refer to a pediatric emergency department for evaluation. MIS-C can have overlapping symptomatology with disease processes that require prompt treatment, such as sepsis, toxic shock syndrome, myocarditis, and meningitis.
  • Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome: Contemporary Management and Novel Approaches during COVID-19. 2/4/21. Williams GW. Anesthesiology.
    This is a concise yet comprehensive review of 25 years of ARDS intervention trials, primarily supported through the US ARDS and the Prevention and Early Treatment of Acute Lung Injury (PETAL) Networks and the RECOVERY trial in the UK. Although outcomes and understanding of ARDS has improved significantly, not all interventions studied resulted in clinical benefit and some were potentially harmful. In addition to the discussion, figures and a table nicely summarize findings from pre-COVID-19 and recent reports.
  • Development of Severe COVID-19 Adaptive Risk Predictor (SCARP), a Calculator to Predict Severe Disease or Death in Hospitalized Patients With COVID-19. 3/1/21. Wongvibulsin S. Ann Intern Med.
    This article presents a simple web-based calculator for the risk of developing severe disease (requiring high-flow nasal oxygen, non-invasive or mechanical ventilation) or of death in the following day or in the following week. The input values include only the worst O2 saturation, and highest O2 flow rate in the last 6 hours and in the last 24 hours, plus, for milder cases, the absolute neutrophil and lymphocyte count. Development was facilitated by a machine learning tool used to analyze 105 parameters from 3294 patients hospitalized from May to December in Baltimore area hospitals. The final calculator requiring only the above few measures showed an area under the curve (AUC) of 0.89 for one-day predictions and 0.83-0.87 for one-week predictions.
  • “Silent” Presentation of Hypoxemia and Cardiorespiratory Compensation in COVID-19. 2/4/21. Bickler PE. Anesthesiology.
    This well-written review discusses variability in the human response to hypoxemia from any cause, based upon longstanding research in both normal subjects and patients with pathologic conditions. The theory that COVID-19 is unique in its ability to cause hypoxemia without dyspnea (so-called “happy hypoxia”) is refuted, and the physiologic basis for this somewhat surprising condition is explained. When oxygen concentration falls, the most important compensatory mechanism to preserve oxygen delivery is augmentation of cardiac output. If cardiac reserve is compromised, patients experiencing profound hypoxemia are at increased risk for hypoxic organ damage and death.

March 1, 2021:

  • Interleukin-6 Receptor Antagonists in Critically Ill Patients with Covid-19. 2/25/21. The REMAP-CAP Investigators. New Engl J.
    Focusing on therapeutic success for COVID-19 patients requiring organ support measures, 895 patients were randomly assigned to receive one of two IL-6 receptor antagonists and were compared to a 402-patient control group receiving standard care, including glucocorticoids and antivirals. Tocilizumab was given to 366 patients starting in April, and sarilumab, available only since June, to 49 patients. Statistical criteria for efficacy were met in October 2020 and demonstrated significant therapeutic benefit for the primary outcome, expressed in more organ-support free days and lower in-hospital mortality. Both drugs also improved secondary outcomes, including 90-day survival, time to ICU and hospital discharge, among others. Authors link the success of IL-6 antagonists in this series to their use in the sickest patients while organ dysfunction is still reversible.

February 26, 2021:

February 24, 2021:

  • D-dimer and Death in Critically Ill Patients With Coronavirus Disease 2019. 2/16/21. Short SAP. Crit Care Med.
    This is a study of 68 hospitals across America demonstrating that D-dimers, the result of cross-linked fibrin degradation, correlates to the prognosis of death. In a population of 3418 studied with an average age of 62 years, the majority males and significant numbers with hypertension and diabetes mellitus, the risk of death increased with level of D-dimer elevation as measured during the first 2 days of ICU admission. Patients were followed as close as possible to 90 days with an overall mortality of 39.6%. Most patients who died, 34.5% of all patients, did so in the first 28 days. The authors are careful to state this study is not intended to make recommendations for anticoagulation but only as a risk stratification for mortality.
  • Oral Complications of ICU Patients with COVID-19: Case-Series and Review of Two Hundred Ten Cases. 2/9/21. Hocková B. J Clin Med.
    Oral complications are common in long-term ICU COVID-19 patients requiring prolonged prone positioning and mechanical ventilation. This three patient case series and accompanying literature review of 210 cases suggests not only traumatic complications associated with positioning and mechanical ventilation (report re: intubation versus tracheostomy) but also use of antibiotics, antivirals and steroids plus difficulties associated with performing effective oral toilet as causative factors. Authors recommend a multidisciplinary approach in severe cases including dermatology, oral surgery and dentistry to study causation and routine monitoring and management of at-risk patients.

February 22, 2021:

February 19, 2021:

  • Early initiation of prophylactic anticoagulation for prevention of coronavirus disease 2019 mortality in patients admitted to hospital in the United States: cohort study. 2/12/21. Rentsch CT. BMJ.
    Of 4297 patients admitted to the Veterans’ Administration system with COVID-19, 3627 (84.4%) received prophylactic anticoagulation within 24 hours of admission. Early initiation of prophylactic anticoagulation compared with no anticoagulation among patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 was associated with a 27% decreased risk of 30-day mortality. Receipt of prophylactic anticoagulation was not associated with increased risk of bleeding that required transfusion. These findings provide strong real-world evidence to support guidelines recommending the use of prophylactic anticoagulation as initial treatment for patients with COVID-19 on hospital admission.
  • High-flow nasal oxygen in patients with COVID-19-associated acute respiratory failure. 2/12/2021. Mellado-Artigas R. Crit Care.
    In this multicenter, observational, retrospective, non-randomized study, authors noted: the beneficial impact of high-flow nasal oxygen (HFNO) on the outcome for ventilator-free days, ICU stay and in-hospital mortality on day 28 or 60. Two groups were selected by an extensive statistical tool and reduced to 61 patients to compare HFNO vs mechanical ventilation (MV). HFNO was associated with an increase in ventilator-free days by 8 days and a reduction in ICU length of stay by 8.2 days. A significant (15% vs. 21%) difference in hospital mortality between groups. Patients in MV group were sicker than HFNO.
  • Medium-term impact of COVID-19 on pulmonary function, functional capacity and quality of life. 2/12/2021. Anastasio F. Eur Respir J.
    After a median of 135 days, 260 (68.6%) of 379 patients had on average one persistent symptom. Patients who developed pneumonia during COVID-19 showed lower SpO2 at rest (p<0.001), SpO2 during 6-min walking test (p<0.001), total lung capacity (p<0.001), airway occlusion pressure after 0.1 s [P0.1] (p=0.02), P0.1/maximal inspiratory pressure [MIP] ratio (p=0.005) and higher Borg category-ratio scale (p=0.006) and modified Medical Research Council breathlessness scale (p=0.003), compared to patients without pneumonia. SpO2/FiO2 ratio and pneumonia severity index during SARS-COV-2 pneumonia were directly associated with mid-term alteration of partial oxygen saturation at rest (p<0.001), SpO2 during 6-min walking test (p<0.001), residual volume (p<0.001), total lung capacity (respectively p<0.001 and p=0.003) and forced vital capacity (respectively p=0.004, p=0.03).
  • Should Remdesivir Be Used for the Treatment of Patients With COVID-19? Rapid, Living Practice Points From the American College of Physicians (Version 2). 2/9/21. Qaseem A. Ann Intern Med.
    This clinical guideline updates the 10/5/2020 version, based on a U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs Evidence Synthesis Program review through 12/7/2020. Target patients include all hospitalized, non-pregnant, adults with COVID-19. Current evidence suggests an overall modest net benefit of remdesivir for patients who require oxygen but not invasive mechanical ventilation (IMV) or ECMO at initiation, and suggests that 5-day treatment may be as effective as 10 days, without increased harm. Recovery is modestly better and more rapid and serious adverse events are modestly reduced. Mortality is slightly reduced. Evidence quality was low-moderate in all RCTs.
    1. Begin 5 days of remdesivir for hospitalized patients requiring oxygen but not IMV or ECMO.
    2. Extend remdesivir to 10 days if IMV or ECMO is initiated during the 5-day course.

    SAB Comment: A NEJM study published 12/11/20, titled, Baricitinib plus Remdesivir for Hospitalized Adults with Covid-19, and highlighted in our newsletter issue 47, indicates that dual therapy with remdesivir and the anti-inflammatory baricitinib was found to be superior to remdesivir alone.

  • Six-Month Survival After Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation for Severe COVID-19. 2/12/21. Biancari F. J Cardiothorac Vasc Anesth.
    An international study done early in the pandemic of 132 COVID-19 patients defined the conditions for optimal survival at 6 months after ECMO. Ninety-two percent of the patients received venovenous canulation. A Ph >7.23 and age under 60 years resulted in survival over 50% while an 80% overall mortality was noted in severely acidotic, older patients. Sixty-three percent of the 70 deaths reported occurred during ECMO.
  • Static compliance of the respiratory system in COVID-19 related ARDS: an international multicenter study. 2/9/21. Vandenbunder B. Crit Care.
    This multicenter, prospective observational study in 21 ICUs in France and Belgium in early Spring compared respiratory mechanics in 372 ventilated COVID-19 patients on Day 1 and Day 14 (when possible) in an effort to predict outcome at 28 days. The mean respiratory system compliance (Crs) on day 1 was 38 +/- 13 ml/cmH2O, with a monomodal distribution, similar to ARDS of other causes. Crs decreased between Day 1 to Day 14 but the decrease was not associated with Day 28 outcome. Higher compliance values on Day 1 were not associated with faster weaning of mechanical ventilation nor with improved survival.
    SAB Comment: Despite reporting a median compliance of 38 ml/cm H2O, we treat individuals according to their own specific physiology that may not reflect the median. As recommended in multiple guidelines, respiratory therapy should be tailored at an individual level.
  • Thrombotic complications in 2928 patients with COVID-19 treated in intensive care: a systematic review. 2/15/21. Jenner WJ. J Thromb Thrombolysis.
    This is a systematic review of ICU patients with COVID-19. The article reviewed 28 studies with 2,928 patients. The incidence of thrombotic events was 34%, but studies employing systematic screening reported a significantly higher incidence of venous thrombosis compared to those relying on clinical suspicion alone (56.3% vs. 11.0%, p < 0.001) despite anticoagulant thromboprophylaxis. Consideration should be given to systematic screening and increased dose anticoagulant thromboprophylaxis in patients with COVID-19 in the ICU.
    SAB Comment: Two limitations of the review include that the prophylaxis and the screening protocols were not uniform.

February 12, 2021:

  • Association of chronic anticoagulant and antiplatelet use on disease severity in SARS-COV-2 infected patients. 2/2/21. Ho G. J Thromb Thrombolysis.
    This article reviews data from Kaiser Permanente Northern California, which covers 4.4 million patients, and examined the records of the 28,076 patients with confirmed positive SARS-CoV-2 infection. 1% were prescribed anticoagulants within 3 months prior to diagnosis and 3% were taking antiplatelet agents. Neither was associated with a reduced risk of hospitalization, venous thromboembolism, emergency department visit, ICU stay, invasive ventilation or death. Based upon these data, authors do not recommend broad institution of anticoagulation or antiplatelet therapy for patients testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection.
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation in the Prone Position in the Operating Room or in the Intensive Care Unit: A Systematic Review. 2/1/21. Anez C. Anesth Analg.
    The discussion section in this article provides an excellent, practical “how-to,” including diagrams, for prone CPR and defibrillation. This review is based on 52 selected pre-COVID-19 articles including case reports of 14 intubated patients (13 during surgery). The data presented confirms that CPR in the prone position is a reasonable alternative to supine CPR when the latter cannot be immediately implemented, and the airway is already secured. Defibrillation in the prone position is also possible.
  • Mortality and renal outcomes of patients with severe COVID-19 treated in a provisional intensive care unit. 1/21/21. Hittesdorf E. J Crit Care.
    This study involves 116 COVID-19 patients who required mechanical ventilation and were cared for in an OR-ICU. The patients were followed for 90 days for mortality and renal outcomes. 30.2% died (n=35). Mortality among 45 patients receiving continuous replacement therapy (CRRT) was 40% (n=18) vs. 23.4% (n=17) in 71 patients who did not receive CRRT. The stage of AKI did not affect mortality compared with no AKI. However, those with stage 3 were more likely to require CRRT and to die during hospitalization. Only two survivors required dialysis at 90 days and outcomes did not differ from those cared for in a regular ICU.
  • Occurrence and Timing of Subsequent Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 Reverse-transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction Positivity Among Initially Negative Patients. 2/5/2021. Long DR. Clin Infect Dis.
    The authors compared the occurrence of a discordant result of RT- PCR in two health systems. They assessed the conversion rate to a new positive in less than 7 days. They noted the conversion rate was at 3.5% (4.1% UW, 2.8% Stanford). Retesting was done based on clinical symptoms of patients. These observations suggest that false-negative RT-PCR results do occur, but at a lower frequency. Neither team was able to calculate a true clinical sensitivity or false-negative proportion due to the lack of a gold-standard.
  • Perspectives of Ketamine Use in COVID-19 Patients. 1/1/21. Weinbroum A. J Korean Med Sci.
    This article is a brief review from Israel of the use of ketamine sedation in the context of COVID-19. It includes the rationale, practical aspects and potential benefits such as evidence of reduced IL-6 and CRP following infusion. Advantages include minimal hemodynamic suppression, bronchodilation, and lack of respiratory depression during spontaneous or assisted ventilation. Authors also discuss a potentially lower incidence compared with other sedatives of psychological complications including acute anxiety and post-traumatic stress and depression following illness.
  • Rapid decline of neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 among infected healthcare workers. 2/8/21. Marot S. Nature Communications.
    Serological testing is used to identify individuals who are immunized and potentially “protected” against re-infection. From 28 January to 21 March 2020, 26 healthcare workers from Pitié-Salpêtrière University Hospital in France were enrolled in this study. Healthcare workers with mild COVID-19 were tested three weeks (D21), two months (M2) and three months (M3) after the onset of symptoms. All healthcare workers displayed seroconversion at D21 after symptom onset, and elicited a neutralizing antibodies response to SARS-CoV-2 correlated with the anti-receptor binding domain antibody levels. However, this neutralizing activity declines, and may even be completely lost, in association with a decrease in systemic IgA antibody levels from 2 months after disease onset.
  • SAB Comment: The SAB policy is to only review articles that have undergone peer review for inclusion on this website. We are making an exception for the following two studies due to their therapeutic implications for COVID-19 patients. Final versions of these studies will be presented as they become available.
    • ATTACC, ACTIV-4a & REMAP-CAP multiplatform RCT: Results of interim analysis. 1/28/21. NHLBI.
      This is new, exciting RCT data for decreasing morbidity and mortality for COVID-19 with therapeutic anticoagulation. This interim data from NHLBI examines 3 international trials, suggesting decreased morbidity and mortality for COVID-19 patients with therapeutic anticoagulation for patients not in the ICU.
    • Inhaled budesonide in the treatment of early COVID-19 illness: a randomised controlled trial. 2/8/21. Ramakrishnan S. medRxiv.
      This open label trial from Oxford, UK, convincingly showed that a steroid inhaler used twice daily within 7 days of onset of mild COVID-19 significantly improves outcome measured primarily in hospitalization and secondarily in days to recovery from symptoms, fever and low oxygen saturation. Statistically, the difference in proportions was 0.131, 95% CI (0.043, 0.218), p=0.004, indicating a relative risk reduction of 90% for patients using the budesonide inhaler compared to usual care.
      SAB Comment: This study has not yet been peer reviewed, was partially funded by Astra Zeneca and was halted early due to the December surge in COVID-19 cases in the study area. However, the authors plead convincingly that this ubiquitous treatment modality can influence the course of illness and possibly avoid prolonged recovery from SARS-CoV-2.

February 10, 2021:

  • Autoantibodies May Drive COVID-19 Blood Clots. 2/2/2021. Hampton T. JAMA.
    This is a commentary and discussion of the potential role of autoantibodies in COVID-19 thrombosis. In a recent study of 172 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, 52% had at least 1 anti-phospholipid (aPL) antibody. Antibody levels were associated with severity of respiratory disease, kidney dysfunction, and immune hyperactivity. They promote thrombosis in animal models via release of neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs). Neutrophils from healthy people over-produced NETs when cultured with autoantibodies from COVID-19 patients, as seen with aPL antibodies from patients with antiphospholipid syndrome (associated with bacterial and viral infections). Strategies to reduce NET levels may prove beneficial in COVID-19.
  • Azithromycin in patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 (RECOVERY): a randomised, controlled, open-label, platform trial. 2/5/21. RECOVERY Collaborative Group. Lancet.
    As part of the British RECOVERY trial which includes 176 hospitals, 2582 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 were randomized to receive azithromycin 500 mg daily for 10 days and compared to 5181 patients receiving standard care. The 28-day all-cause mortality for both patient groups was 22% indicating that azithromycin has no benefit for COVID-19 and should be used for antimicrobial indications only.
    SAB Comment: The Randomised Evaluation of COVID-19 Therapy (RECOVERY) trial is an investigator-initiated, individually randomized, controlled, open-label, adaptive platform trial to evaluate the effects of potential treatments in patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19. After completing work on azithromycin, dexamethasone, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir–ritonavir, convalescent plasma, and tocilizumab, study into the effects of REGN-COV2 (a combination of two monoclonal antibodies directed against SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein), aspirin, and colchicine are still underway.
  • Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation in patients with severe respiratory failure from COVID-19. 2/2/21. Shaefi S. Intensive Care Med.
    This article reports the results of a study on the use of V-V ECMO in selected COVID-19 patients treated in experienced centers with mortality reduction (66.8% survival at 60 days). The study represents ECMO patients admitted across all participating ICUs during the trial period (190/5122). The article includes detailed analysis and an interesting use of an emulation cohort to support conclusions, eliminate confounders and immortal time bias and provide comparator between ECMO and non-ECMO patients to provide a non-ECMO control group lacking in prior studies. The author emphasizes the importance of early initiation in carefully selected patients treated in experienced centers to maximize outcomes.
  • Global absence and targeting of protective immune states in severe COVID-19. 1/25/21. Combes A. Nature.
    This fascinating study shows that immune response to COVID-19 is complex and differs between severe systemic effects in some patients and milder symptoms in others. Authors exposed the differences by studying whole blood analysis identifying individual cellular elements and expression in samples of severe and mild disease. Examination of serum in mild disease shows production of interferon-stimulated genes which blunt overproduction of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies which in severe disease are higher and associated with lower viral titers than seen in mild disease. The authors make research suggestions to study modification of this response.
  • Occurrence and Timing of Subsequent Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 Reverse-transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction Positivity Among Initially Negative Patients. 2/5/21. Long DR. Clin Infect Dis.
    The authors compared the occurrence of a discordant result of RT- PCR in two health systems. They assessed the conversion rate to a new positive in less than 7 days. They noted the conversion rate was at 3.5% (4.1% at the University of Washington, 2.8% at Stanford). Retesting was done based on clinical symptoms of patients. These observations suggest that false-negative RT-PCR results do occur, but at a low frequency. Neither team was able to calculate a true clinical sensitivity or false-negative proportion due to the lack of a gold-standard.
  • Transmission of COVID-19 in 282 clusters in Catalonia, Spain: a cohort study. 2/2/21. Marks M. Lancet Infect Dis.
    In an attempt to identify variables that affect the transmission dynamics of SARS-CoV-2, these investigators from Spain analyzed contact tracing data associated with a randomized control trial. Quantitative RT-PCR and clinical data was analyzed on 282 adult, non-hospitalized index cases with a total of 753 contacts. The viral load of the index case was the leading determinant of the risk of PCR positivity among contacts and viral load significantly influenced the risk of developing the symptomatic disease in a dose-dependent manner. No association of risk of transmission was found with reported mask usage by contacts, with the age or sex of the index case, or with the presence of respiratory symptoms in the index case.

February 8, 2021:

  • A rapid review of the pathoetiology, presentation, and management of delirium in adults with COVID-19. 12/25/20. Hawkins M. J Psychosomatic Res.
    In this in-depth literature review of delirium in COVID-19, the authors initially identified 10,000 publications and after removing duplicates and screening abstracts, 229 studies were included in the review. This review serves as a source of reference for intensivists dealing with various aspects of diagnosing and treating delirium. After reviewing current information on prevalence, symptoms and etiology, prevention and management are highlighted in a summarizing table. In the absence of randomized clinical trials on this topic, the discussion is limited to reporting diverse empirical management with and without pharmacological intervention, stressing the fact that delirium can be a core symptom at presentation and may be under-recognized and under-diagnosed.
  • Assessment of Maternal and Neonatal Cord Blood SARS-CoV-2 Antibodies and Placental Transfer Ratios. 1/29/21. Flannery DD. JAMA Pediatr.
    This data rich article is from a single institution describing a study in which 6% of 1714 women became infected with COVID-19 during pregnancy. This multi-ethnic/race study revealed that of the 83 women infected, 72 (87%) passed igG antibodies to the fetus offering neonatal protection from infection.
    SAB Comment: Maternal infections during pregnancy (HIV) can alter IgG transfer to the fetus. Reference: Immunohorizons. 2018 Jan 1; 2(1): 14–25.
  • Evolution of antibody immunity to SARS-CoV-2. 1/18/21. Gaebler C. Nature.
    SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody levels eventually decrease post-illness or vaccination. It is unknown how well memory B cells produce antibodies many months later. Eighty-seven individuals were assessed at 1.3- and 6.2-months post-infection. As expected, IgM, and IgG anti-SARS-CoV-2 spike protein receptor binding domain (RBD) antibody titers decreased significantly. Functionally, plasma viral killing activity decreased fivefold. However, at 6.2 months, memory B-cells remained unchanged and continued evolving antibodies showing antibody sequence changes with increased potency and resistance to RBD mutation. Following up on known stool SARS-CoV-2 persistence, the authors related ongoing memory B-cell evolution to lingering antigen immunoreactivity shown in intestinal biopsies 4 months post-infection.
  • SARS-CoV-2 infects and replicates in cells of the human endocrine and exocrine pancreas. 2/4/21. Müller JA. Nat Metab.
    These investigators show that SARS-CoV-2 can cause diabetes in the absence of autoantibodies and other pancreatic disorders by directly infecting human exocrine (enzyme-producing) and endocrine (hormone-producing) pancreatic cells. Beta-cells (insulin-producing) express ACE-2, and TMPRSS2 allowing entry and then viral replication, inhibitable by remdesivir. The reduction in insulin-secretory granules in beta-cells results in reduced glucose-stimulated insulin secretion. The nucleocapsid protein was detected in four post-mortems in exocrine cells, beta-cells and in close proximity to the islets of Langerhans. These data suggest that SARS-CoV-2 targeting the pancreas leads to endocrine dysregulation (hyperglycemia, DKA, new onset Type-1 diabetes) and pancreatitis (up to 33%).
  • SARS-CoV-2 viral load is associated with increased disease severity and mortality. 10/30/20. Fajnzylber J. Nature Communications.
    The authors quantified SARS-CoV-2 viral load from participants with a diverse range of COVID-19 disease severity, including those requiring hospitalization, outpatients with mild disease, and individuals with resolved infection. Amongst participants hospitalized with COVID-19, the authors report that a higher prevalence of detectable SARS-CoV-2 plasma viral load is associated with worse respiratory disease severity, lower absolute lymphocyte counts, and increased markers of inflammation. Forty-four percent of those on a ventilator had detectable viremia compared to 19% of those receiving supplemental oxygen by nasal cannula and 0% of individuals not requiring supplemental oxygen. Compared to individuals who were discharged from the hospital, those who eventually died had significantly higher levels of plasma viremia at the time of initial sampling.
  • The Association of Preinfection Daily Oral Anticoagulation Use and All-Cause in Hospital Mortality From Novel Coronavirus 2019 at 21 Days: A Retrospective Cohort Study. 2/1/21. Harrison RF. Crit Care Explor.
    Of 1027 patients 60 years old or older admitted for COVID-19, the 28 who were on warfarin upon admission did not have a significantly different mortality at 28 days than the 894 patients who were on no anticoagulation. However, the 104 patients taking a direct oral anticoagulant had improved mortality (14.4% vs 23.8%; odds ratio, 0.57) prior to adjustment and after controlling for age, gender, and comorbidities. They had a mortality odds ratio of 0.44 when compared to patients on no oral anticoagulant on admission. No statistical difference was noted between the groups in the prevalence of bleeding events. The authors recommend an RCT to better evaluate this possible effect.
  • The effect of early treatment with ivermectin on viral load, symptoms and humoral response in patients with non-severe COVID-19: A pilot, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial. 1/19/21. Chaccour C. eClin Med.
    Ivermectin has been shown to inhibit SARS-CoV-2 replication in vitro. This 24-patient pilot randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was launched in Spain to determine whether a single 400mcg/kg dose of ivermectin could provide a public health benefit by limiting viral spread when administered early to young patients attending the emergency room with symptoms compatible with COVID-19 and with no more than 72 h of fever or cough. No difference in the proportion of PCR positives were found but a marked reduction of self-reported anosmia/hyposmia, a reduction of cough and a tendency to lower viral loads and lower IgG titers was noted. A significantly faster recovery from anosmia (76 v 158 days) is among the results and – along with multiple retrospective studies showing favorable outcomes – calls for further investigations into the potential benefits of this widely available drug.

February 3, 2021:

  • Association of Serum Mannose With Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome Risk and Survival. 1/27/2021. Wei Y. JAMA Netw Open.
    This two-phase study initially used Mendelian randomization to analyze gene variations in an historical population of 1630 ICU patients at risk for ARDS and found that genes for high mannose level were associated with a lower risk for, and better outcome from, ARDS. They used that outcome to then compare risk and outcomes in a different population of 83 patients with ARDS and 83 matched at-risk patients in the ICU without ARDS and found a protective association of higher mannose levels with a reduction of ARDS risk (OR, 0.67) and, within the ARDS group, a lower 60-day mortality (OR, 0.36). The authors note that these findings could inform prevention and clinical intervention in ARDS.
  • Efficacy and Safety of the mRNA-1273 SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine. 12/31/20. Baden LR. NEJM.
    This phase 3 randomized, observer-blinded, placebo-controlled trial was conducted at 99 centers across the US. Persons at high risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection or its complications (with locations or circumstances that put them at an appreciable risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, a high risk of severe COVID-19, or both) were randomly assigned in a 1:1 ratio to receive two intramuscular injections of mRNA-1273 (Moderna) (100 μg) or placebo 28 days apart. Site-selection and enrollment processes were adjusted to increase the number of persons from racial and ethnic minorities in the trial. The mRNA-1273 vaccine showed 94.1% efficacy at preventing COVID-19 illness, including severe disease. All the severe COVID-19 cases were in the placebo group. Aside from transient local and systemic reactions, no safety concerns were identified.
  • Safety and Efficacy of the BNT162b2 mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine. 12/31/20. Polack FP. NEJM.
    In this ongoing multinational, placebo-controlled, observer-blinded, pivotal efficacy trial, the authors randomly assigned persons 16 years of age or older in a 1:1 ratio to receive two doses, 21 days apart, of either placebo or the BNT162b2 (BioNTech-Pfizer) vaccine candidate. Forty-three thousand four hundred forty-eight (43,448) individuals received injections. Eight patients who received the vaccine developed COVID-19 compared to 162 patients who received placebo, i.e., the vaccine was 95% effective. None of the eight vaccinated patients who developed COVID-19 required hospitalization. The safety profile included short-term, mild-to-moderate pain at the injection site, fatigue, and headache. Although the vaccine can be stored for up to 5 days at standard refrigerator temperatures once ready for use, very cold temperatures are required for shipping and longer storage.

February 1, 2021:

January 27, 2021:

  • Development and validation of the ISARIC 4C Deterioration model for adults hospitalised with COVID-19: a prospective cohort study. 1/11/21. Gupta R. Lancet Resp Med.
    ISARIC4C is a global initiative with the purpose of preventing illness and death from infectious disease outbreaks. This article presents information on development and validation of a multivariable logistic regression model for in-hospital clinical deterioration (defined as any requirement of ventilatory support or critical care, or death) among consecutively hospitalized adults with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 prospectively recruited to ISARIC4C study across 260 hospitals in England, Scotland, and Wales. The authors contend that the 4C Deterioration model, designed to be used on admission, has strong potential for clinical utility and generalizability to predict clinical deterioration and inform decision-making among adults hospitalized with COVID-19. The Mortality and Deterioration calculator can be accessed with the following link:
    SAB Comment: While the SAB does not endorse management strategies or interventions, its members believe this manuscript and accompanying calculator to evaluate risk of disease progression or death MAY be useful in supplementing case management decisions.
  • Improving clinical management of COVID-19: the role of prediction models. 1/11/21. Wynants L. Lancet Resp Med.
    This is an editorial indicating that the main clinical advantage of the ISARIC4C predictive model is that required patient specific data is available from daily routine care and may help inform stratification of patients on the basis of clinical severity. In combination, the 4C Deterioration and Mortality models could be utilized in creating an evidence-based clinical pathway for patients with COVID-19. Validated predictive models may improve clinical management and resource utilization.

January 25, 2021:

  • Circuits between infected macrophages and T cells in SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia. 1/11/21. Grant RA. Nature.
    In this basic science article, using flow cytometry and transcriptomic profiling these investigators compared bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) samples from 88 patients with SARS-CoV-2 respiratory failure to 211 patients with non-SARS-CoV-2 failure. In 10 SARS-CoV-2 BALs they analyzed single-cell RNA-seq. In SARS-CoV-2, the alveolar space was enriched in T cells (CD4+ and CD8+) and monocytes; only 31% had neutrophilia. Transcriptomes suggested that SARS-CoV-2 directly infects alveolar macrophages (AM), which produce T-cell chemo-attractants. T-cells then produce interferon-gamma. Feedback to AM promotes further T-cell activation. In contrast to non-SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV-2 causes a slowly unfolding, spatially limited alveolitis. Infected AM and T cells form a positive feedback circuit.
  • Neutralizing antibody titres in SARS-CoV-2 infections. 1/4/21. Lau E. Nature Communications.
    SARS-CoV-2 infection elicits effective neutralizing antibody titers in most individuals. Using plaque reduction neutralization (PRNT) assays, a “gold-standard,” kinetics of virus neutralizing antibody responses were examined from a cohort of 195 infections collected days 0 to 209 after symptom onset. Of 115 sera collected ≥61 days after onset of illness tested, 99.1% remained seropositive for both 90% (PRNT90) and 50% (PRNT50) neutralization endpoints. Investigators estimated it takes at least 372, 416 and 133 days for PRNT50 titers to drop to the detection limit for severe, mild, and asymptomatic patients, respectively. Results were uninfluenced by age or corticosteroid use.

January 22, 2021:

  • Renin-angiotensin system inhibitors in hospitalised patients with COVID-19. 1/10/21. Williams B. Lancet Respir Med.
    This editorial provides a commentary on the ACEI/ARB controversy. While highlighting the REPLACE COVID trial which examined the impact of continuing or withdrawing chronic ACEIs or ARB treatment in 152 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 across 20 international centers which resulted in no difference in outcome, it stresses the global collaboration, scale and speed with which investigators conducted observational cohort studies with similar results which made this small RCT’s results convincing. In addition, the authors refer to the larger BRACE CORONA RCT with identical yet unpublished results and refer to recent literature showing that there is no increase in ACE2 expression caused by ACEIs and ARBs in pulmonary or renal tissue.
  • The Association of Low Molecular Weight Heparin Use and In-hospital Mortality Among Patients Hospitalized with COVID-19. 1/4/21. Shen L. Cardiovasc Drugs Ther.
    This paper examines 525 COVID-19 hospitalized patients from Wuhan. Twenty-three percent were treated with low molecular weight heparin (LMWH). These patients were likely to be older, have more co-morbidities and had more severe COVID-19 parameters. Compared with non-LMWH group, LMWH group had a higher unadjusted in-hospital mortality rate (21.70% vs. 11.10%; p = 0.004), but a lower adjusted mortality risk (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 0.20; 95% CI, 0.09–0.46). These retrospective data suggest that LMWH use was associated with lower all-cause in-hospital mortality. The survival benefit was particularly significant among more severely ill patients.
    SAB Comment: This retrospective study suggests benefits of LMWH on mortality and contributes to the ongoing debates about the use of anticoagulants in these patients. This further highlights the need for the upcoming RCTs.
  • Thromboembolic complications in critically ill COVID-19 patients are associated with impaired fibrinolysis. 12/8/20. Kruse JM. Crit Care.
    While this review only has 40 ICU COVID-19 patients, the data suggest that a severe decrease in clot breakdown is a cause of the coagulopathy associated with COVID-19. Maximum lysis, especially following stimulation of the extrinsic coagulation system using rotational thromboelastometry (ROTEM), was inversely associated with an enhanced risk of thromboembolic complications. Combining values for maximum lysis with D-dimer concentrations revealed high sensitivity and specificity of thromboembolic risk prediction (area under curve of 0.92).
  • Venous thromboembolism and major bleeding in patients with COVID-19: A nationwide population-based cohort study. 1/5/21. Dalager-Pedersen M. Clin Infect Dis.
    This review from 6 Danish hospitals examines 30-day VTE and bleeding risks in 9,460 PCR+ patients for SARS-CoV-2, 226,510 SARS-CoV-2 negative patients and 16,281 patients with influenza. One thousand five hundred and forty of the COVID-19 patients were hospitalized. Overall 30-day risk for VTE was 0.4% (40/9,460) among COVID-19 positive patients compared with 0.3% (649/226,510) for COVID-19 negative patients and 1.0% (158/16,281) among influenza patients. Among hospitalized patients, risks for VTE were 1.5% (23/1,540) in COVID-19 positive patients compared with 1.8% (483/26,131) in COVID-19 negative patients and 1.5% (147/9,599) in hospitalized influenza patients. No differences were noted in major bleeding events. In this nationwide survey, the data demonstrate a low rate of VTE and bleeding for outpatients with SARS-CoV-2.

January 19, 2021:

  • Duration and key determinants of infectious virus shedding in hospitalized patients with coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19). 1/12/21. van Kampen JJA. Nat Commun.
    The CDC currently uses a minimum disease duration of 10 days in their symptom-based strategy as the statistically estimated likelihood of recovering a replication-competent virus approaches zero after ten days of symptoms. In a study of 129 hospitalized patients, duration and key determinants of infectious SARS-CoV-2 shedding in patients with severe and critical COVID-19 was assessed. Median time for infectious virus shedding was 8 days post-symptom onset; ≤5% probability for isolating infectious SARS-CoV-2 when duration of symptoms was ≥ 15.2 days. Median viral load was significantly higher in culture + samples than culture – samples. Probability of isolating infectious virus was < 5% when neutralizing antibody titer was 1:80 or higher. Detection of subgenomic RNAs outlasted detection of infectious virus. Based on their findings, a longer disease duration could be considered for severely-ill patients.
  • Lung ultrasound score predicts outcomes in COVID-19 patients admitted to the emergency department. 1/11/21. de Alencar JCG. Ann Intensive Care.
    Lung ultrasound (LUS) was performed in the emergency department (ED) on 180 patients who were PCR positive for COVID-19. The protocol involved the examination of 12 lung regions, was performed at bedside by experienced ED physicians, and typically required five minutes. LUS scores correlated with findings from chest commuted tomography (CT) (when performed) and predicted the estimated extent of parenchymal involvement, death, endotracheal intubation, and ICU admission. The authors believe that LUS is more sensitive than chest radiography, requires less resource and infection risk than CT, and could be used as an effective evaluation tool, particularly in resource-constrained settings.
  • Persistent Post-COVID-19 Inflammatory Interstitial Lung Disease: An Observational Study of Corticosteroid Treatment. 1/12/21. Myall KJ. Ann Am Thorac Soc.
    This is a well-written narrative following 837 COVID-19 patients seen between February and May 2020 in metropolitan London, UK hospitals. Four weeks after discharge, 39% had not returned to baseline and underwent further study. Thirty patients with persistent respiratory symptoms and interstitial lung disease received an initial maximal dose of prednisolone 0.5mg/kg with rapid weaning over a 3-week period which improved diffusion capacity by 31.6% and FVC by 9.6% which resulted in symptomatic and radiological improvement. This preliminary data requires further study into the natural history and potential treatment for patients with persistent inflammatory interstitial lung disease following SARS-CoV2 infection.
  • Stability of SARS-CoV-2 on critical personal protective equipment. 1/13/21. Kasloff SB. Nature Scientific Reports.
    Persistence of viable virus was measured on eight PPE materials. Viable SARS-CoV-2 persisted for 21 days on plastic, 14 days on stainless steel, 7 days on nitrile gloves and 4 days on chemical resistant gloves, though at significantly reduced levels compared to the initial inoculum. Viable SARS-CoV-2 was nearly undetectable, but could still be recovered from N-95 and N-100 materials for up to 21 days. On 100% cotton, the virus underwent rapid degradation and was not detectable within 24 hours. These findings underline the importance of appropriate handling of contaminated PPE and a potential advantage of cotton.
    SAB Comment: Many of the results in this study differ from other often-quoted reports. This is not surprising as experimental conditions including contaminating load, medium, ambient temperature and humidity have a large influence on the time viruses remain viable and vary among studies.
  • Ventilator-associated pneumonia in critically ill patients with COVID-19. 1/12/21. Maes M. Crit Care.
    This retrospective observational study from the UK studied ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) in mechanically ventilated COVID-19 (n=81) and non-COVID-19 (n=144) patients at a single hospital. All patients were studied between March and August 2020, and VAP was defined by the European Center for Disease Control using clinical and microbiological criteria. COVID-19 was associated with an increased risk of VAP (28 per 1,000 ventilator days) compared with non-COVID-19 patients (13 per 1,000 ventilator days). Although the distribution of organisms causing VAP was similar between the two groups, aspergillosis was only found in COVID-19 patients (n=3, none on steroids), though one patient without COVID-19 was borderline positive and met clinical criteria.

January 15, 2021:

  • COVID-19, Personal Protective Equipment, and Human Performance. 1/6/21. Ruskin KJ. Anesthesiology.
    This article addresses the issue of the varieties of PPE worn by healthcare workers. The authors discuss how various varieties of PPE may cause increased work of breathing, reduced field of vision, communication mishaps, thermoregulation derangements, limitations of physical dexterity and mental, physical, and psychological fatigue and stress which lead to decreased human performance. These effects are not individual weaknesses. Here the authors suggest some helpful remedies to address the physiologic and psychologic challenges imposed by non-standardized PPE. There is a need for a new, standardized, integrated design for PPE to improve the safety of patients and healthcare workers.
  • Early corticosteroids are associated with lower mortality in critically ill patients with COVID-19: a cohort study. 1/5/21. Monedero P. Crit Care.
    This is a prospective, multicenter, observational, cohort study in 882 critically ill adult patients with COVID-19 admitted to 36 critical care units in Spain. Beginning in early March to the end of June 2020, patients receiving corticosteroids within 48 hours of ICU admission had a lower mortality compared to those receiving steroids later (30 vs. 40% – HR 0.71) or not at all. Patients treated early did better overall with shorter ICU stays, fewer ventilator days and a lower incidence of organ dysfunction. Higher dosages were found to be more effective. Corticosteroid administration occurred on average 12 days after symptom onset. The authors recommend corticosteroids as early as day 7 provided inflammatory markers are elevated.
  • Facial Pressure Injuries from Prone Positioning in the COVID-19 Era. 1/3/21. Shearer SC. Laryngoscope.
    This study highlights the high frequency (48%) of facial pressure injuries associated with intubated COVID-19 patients placed in the prone position at a single US institution. Most of these patients were continuously in the prone position. Of 143 intubated ICU patients proned for an average of 123 hours, cheek and ear injuries accounted for the majority of damage, with the likelihood of injury increasing as proning times increased. A particular problem seemed to be pressure caused by commercial endotracheal tube fasteners. Suggestions for reducing these injuries are made. The study did not address injuries to the eye or elsewhere on the body.
  • Prone Positioning in Moderate to Severe Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome Due to COVID-19: A Cohort Study and Analysis of Physiology. 12/31/2020. Shelhamer MC. J Intensive Care Med.
    This retrospective cohort study from an overwhelmed hospital in the Bronx supports prone positioning as an intervention to increase survival and improve physiologic parameters in patients on mechanical ventilation with moderate to severe ARDS due to COVID-19. Of 261 patients who qualified for prone positioning by specific criteria, 62 received proning from a specially developed team for at least 16 hours per day, and outcomes were compared to those not proned (n=199). The proned group had 40% less mortality, with a mortality benefit (number needed to treat) of 8.

January 13, 2021:

  • 6-month consequences of COVID-19 in patients discharged from hospital: a cohort study. 1/8/21. Huang C. Lancet.
    175-199 days after symptom onset, 1733 of 2469 discharged Wuhan COVID-19 patients (median age 57) completed questionnaires to evaluate symptoms and quality of life along with physical examinations, a 6-min walking test, and blood tests. Reduced 6-min walk, fatigue, pulmonary abnormalities, and anxiety or depression were prevalent. 73% of men and 81% of women reported at least one symptom (76% overall). Most common were fatigue or muscle weakness (63%), sleep difficulties (26%), and anxiety or depression (23%). Symptoms were positively correlated with previous COVID-19 illness severity.
    SAB Comment: Many with mobility or neurologic issues were excluded, therefore accurate percentages may be higher.
  • Early High-Titer Plasma Therapy to Prevent Severe Covid-19 in Older Adults. 1/6/21. Libster R. N Engl J Med.
    This article describes an Argentine randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of convalescent plasma (CP) with IgG titers >1:1000 against SARS-CoV-2 within 72 hours following the onset of mild COVID-19. CP reduced disease progression in adult patients older than 75 years or 65-74 years old with co-morbidities. Severe respiratory disease developed in 13/80 patients (16%) who received 250 ml of CP and 25/80 (31%) who received 250 ml normal saline (relative risk, 0.52). Benefit was more frequent following units with higher IgG titers, indicating a dose-dependent effect. Deaths were 2/80 in the CP group vs. 4/80 in the placebo group.
  • Impact of cardiovascular disease and risk factors on fatal outcomes in patients with COVID-19 according to age: a systematic review and meta-analysis. 12/18/20. Bae S. Heart.
    This is a retrospective meta-analysis to investigate the impact of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and associated risk factors (hypertension, diabetes) on age-related mortality in COVID-19 patients. Fifty-one studies, including 48,171 patients were included, along with PRISMA diagrams and tables. Unsurprisingly, CVD, hypertension and diabetes increased mortality across all groups. However, when present in younger ages, the odds ratio of mortality compared with same age patients without the risk factors was disproportionately higher than the same age ratio in the elderly. While young patients had lower prevalence rates of cardiovascular comorbidities than elderly patients, relative risk of fatal outcome in young patients with hypertension, diabetes and CVD was higher than in elderly patients.
  • SARS-CoV-2 Transmission From People Without COVID-19 Symptoms. 1/7/21. Johansson MA. JAMA Netw Open.
    A decision analytical model was used including multiple scenarios for the infectious period and the proportion of transmission from individuals who never have COVID-19 symptoms. Baseline assumptions were taken from meta-analyses and included an incubation period of a median of 5 days. In the various analyses peak infectiousness was varied between 3 and 7 days. Under a broad range of values for each of these assumptions, at least 50% of new SARS-CoV-2 infections were estimated to have originated from exposure to individuals who were asymptomatic at the time of transmission (combining those who never develop symptoms with those who are pre-symptomatic).
    SAB Comment: This highlights the importance of mask-wearing and social distancing even as vaccines are rolled out.

January 11, 2021:

  • Antibody Status and Incidence of SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Health Care Workers. 12/28/20. Lumley SF. N Engl J Med.
    This is an original article from 4 Oxford University Hospitals that followed its employees for SARS-CoV-2 infection. Testing was performed every 2 weeks or if symptomatic. 10% of 12,541 staff tested positive from March through November 2020. Polymerase chain reaction assays of both anti-spike IgG and anti-nucleocapsid IgG demonstrated that healthcare workers who tested positive suffered mild disease and were afforded immunity for the length of the study, 31 weeks.
  • Promising Therapy for Heart Failure in Patients with Severe COVID-19: Calming the Cytokine Storm. 1/6/2021. Peng X. Cardiovasc Drugs Ther.
    This detailed and well referenced review covers key mechanistic links between Covid-19 cytokine-storm, subsequent myocardial injury and progression to heart failure (HF). Heightened release of cytokines may result in myocardial damage through direct injury, general inflammation, thrombosis, hypoxemia and downregulation of ACE2 on cardiomyocytes and vascular endothelium. Key inflammatory cytokines include TNFa and IL-1b; both produce accumulation of interstitial collagen fibers and IL-6 which can induce cardiomyocyte hypertrophy and diastolic dysfunction. HF therapies may include cytokine inhibitors, corticosteroids, type-I and -III interferons, but their timing needs investigation. Current guidance suggests maintaining or starting ACEIs and ARBs; benefits may outweigh risks.
  • SARS-CoV-2 Variant – United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. 12/21/20. WHO.
    UK scientists sequenced a SARS-CoV-2 variant (VUI 202012/01) now representing >50% of isolates in South East England. The variant shows 14 mutations resulting in amino acid changes and three deletions. Significant mutations in the receptor binding domain are N501Y and P681H. A deletion at position 69/70 affects the Spike (S)-gene. The variant increases transmissibility between 40-70%, adding 0.4 to R0 bringing it to 1.5-1.7. Investigations are ongoing to determine if this variant will change symptom severity, antibody responses or vaccine efficacy. Most PCRs target multiple sequences and therefore the impact of the variant on diagnostics is not anticipated to be significant.
    SAB Comment: In order to understand the epidemiology of any variant, widespread and frequent genetic sequencing of viral testing samples is needed. Currently, the US lags far behind the UK in this regard, sequencing ~1% of samples vs. >10% in the UK. Therefore, relatively little is known about the spread of the “UK variant” in the US.

January 8, 2021:

January 6, 2021:

  • Corticosteroid use in COVID-19 patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis on clinical outcomes. 12/15/20. van Paassen J. Crit Care.
    This well-conducted systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate safety and effectiveness of corticosteroids in COVID-19 included 44 studies and 20,197 patients collected between December 1, 2019 and October 1, 2020. Primary outcomes were short-term mortality and viral clearance (based on RT-PCR in respiratory specimens). Secondary outcomes were need for mechanical ventilation, other oxygen therapy, length of hospital stay and secondary infections. Non-peer reviewed and pre-published manuscripts were excluded from analysis. Findings from observational studies and RCTs confirm beneficial effect of corticosteroids on short-term mortality and reduction in mechanical ventilation. A possible signal of delayed viral clearance and an increase in secondary infections was noted. Optimal timing, dose and duration of corticosteroids, in relation to safety, remain subjects for further investigation.
  • Corticosteroids for Patients With Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) With Different Disease Severity: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. 12/10/20. Pasin L. J Cardiothorac Vasc Anesth.
    In this meta-analysis of 5 studies involving treatment with steroids of 7,692 COVID patients, the authors note that the effect of corticosteroids therapy on survival with COVID patient varies with different respiratory support. The use of corticosteroids may be detrimental to patients who do not require oxygen support (NNH/number needed to harm=29) and increases mortality. Its effectiveness for mechanically ventilated patients was (NNT/number needed to treat=19). The majority of COVID-19 patients not requiring oxygen/mechanical ventilation will have a better survival benefit without steroids.
  • COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Treatment of Moderate and Severe Cases of SARS-CoV-2 Infection: A Multicenter Interventional Study. 12/7/20. Alsharidah S. Int J Infect Dis.
    SAB Comment: This is a non-randomized observational study from Kuwait. Research is needed to determine patient groups that benefit.
    One hundred and thirty-five patients with moderate-severe COVID-19 disease who received 2 units of convalescent plasma (CP) within 3 days of hospital admission had an earlier and higher rate of clinical improvement compared with 233 control patients. Moderate disease was found in 86.5% of CP group (n=89) who had a time to clinical improvement of 7 days versus 68% of controls with time to clinical improvement of 8 days (p=0·006). Severe disease was found in 61% of CP group (n=46) with time to clinical improvement of 7 days vs. 35% of controls with time to clinical improvement of 15.5 days (p=0·003). Overall 30-day mortality was 18% CP group vs. 39% controls. Moderate disease patients had a significantly lower mortality following CP (11% vs. 30%, p= 0.001).
  • Factors Associated With Severe SARS-CoV-2 Infection. 12/16/20. Ouldali N. Pediatrics.
    This 60-hospital French national study used an established meningitis surveillance network to study demographics of COVID-19 pediatric patients. Data collection was from February 15-June 1, with 397 children and included an estimated 38.5% of the total cases in France. The primary outcome was the proportion of patients with disease progression, and secondary outcomes were defined by age groups. The median age was 16 months. Three percent of children (4/135) <90 days old developed severe disease. MIS-C increased with age. There was severe disease overall in 11% (23/306). Of the 6 mortalities only one was entirely due to COVID-19. Findings suggested that the rate of severe forms was the lowest in very young children and was the highest for children ≥ 10 years.
  • Masking the 6 Minutes-Walking-Test in the COVID-19 Era. 12/14/20. Salles-Rojas A. Ann Am Thorac Soc.
    A small study of 77 COVID-19 pneumonia survivors who each performed the 6-Minute Walking Test twice, once with a surgical or an N-95 mask and once without a mask. No differences were observed between wearing or not wearing a mask in the meters walked, SpO2, HR, dyspnea or fatigue.
  • Variation in US Hospital Mortality Rates for Patients Admitted With COVID-19 During the First 6 Months of the Pandemic. 12/22/20. Asch DA. JAMA Intern Med.
    This cohort study from a US-managed health company evaluated outcomes for 38,517 adults with COVID-19 admitted to 955 US hospitals during two time periods (January to April and May to June). The primary outcome was the hospitals’ risk-standardized event rate (RSER) of 30-day in-hospital mortality or referral to hospice, adjusted for patient-level characteristics. RSERs declined from 16.6% to 9.3%. Individual hospitals did better when the prevalence of COVID-19 in their surrounding communities was lower. The article speculates on possible causes for this improvement, including fewer overwhelmed hospitals, improved knowledge and medical care, and possibly smaller infective inoculums as mask-wearing became more common.

January 4, 2021:

  • Genetic mechanisms of critical illness in Covid-19. 12/11/20. Pairo-Castineira E. Nature.
    Oriented towards research, this genome-wide association study (GWAS) examined 2,244 critical COVID-19 patients in 208 UK ICUs to uncover gene variants that are severity markers and potential treatment targets. GWAS findings implicated antiviral restriction enzyme activators (OAS1/OAS2/OAS3), high tyrosine kinase-2 (TYK2), dipeptidyl peptidase- 9 (DPP9) and low interferon receptor gene IFNAR2. Mendelian randomization techniques implicated as “causal” low IFNAR2 and high TYK2 expression. Lung tissue transcriptome-wide association implicated high monocyte/macrophage chemotactic receptor CCR2. These gene alterations implicating early anti-viral defense (IFNAR2, OAS) and late inflammation (DPP9, TYK2, CCR2) can be evaluated in clinical trials using licensed drugs (interferons, JAK inhibitors, CCR2 inhibitors, etc.).