Introducing: On Our Radar
Hi, HealthDesk subscribers. We’re launching a new special feature today called On Our Radar. In On Our Radar, our in-house public health experts identify and contextualize 3 new or upcoming academic articles that are relevant, and likely to become more relevant, to the news and fact-checking communities. This week’s articles are specific to COVID-19. Take a look and let us know what you think:
1. Oh deer… more animal-to-human Covid transmission?
Article: Highly divergent white-tailed deer SARS-CoV-2 with potential deer-to-human transmission (BioRxiv, preprint)
The first article is still in preprint form, meaning it has not yet been peer reviewed or formally published, and therefore must be reviewed with caution. The study found that a human COVID-19 infection likely stemmed from a white-tailed deer in Canada. To come to this conclusion, 32 Canadian government researchers and academics tested 300 dead white-tailed deer in Ontario between November and December 2021 who were already killed by hunters and being tested for other diseases.
They found that 12 of the deer had been infected with a COVID-19 virus with a set of mutations not previously observed among COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) lineages. They then compared this variant against the set of variants in Canada’s standard genomic sampling of all COVID-19 cases specific to the time and place, and found that a person who had close contact with white-tailed deer in Ontario was infected with the same COVID-19 variant.
Over the course of the pandemic, there have been a number of animal to human transmission cases from minks and from hamsters – both of which were being farmed or were domesticated. However, there have been few documented cases of animal to human transmission of COVID-19 among other animals, especially animals in the wild. This study raises questions about the potential for COVID-19 to mutate in animals and jump back to humans, and warrants more surveillance of COVID-19 and other viruses in animals and humans side by side.
2. Closing the case on Ivermectin
Article: Effect of Early Treatment with Ivermectin among Patients with Covid-19 (NEJM)
This second article is long-awaited: it is the largest randomized, double-blind trial conducted on the efficacy of Ivermectin in treating COVID-19. For context, randomization, double blinding, and sample size all make a study more rigorous by making it less likely that the results are due to chance. The study included about 1,400 COVID-19-positive patients in Brazil who’d had symptoms of COVID-19 for up to one week and had at least one risk factor for disease worsening, such as diabetes, lung disease, or smoking. Those patients were then randomly assigned to either receive one dose of ivermectin based on their weight for three days or a placebo.
Study authors found that ivermectin did not lower the incidence of medical hospitalization from COVID-19 or lower prolonged emergency department observation among patients with an early diagnosis of COVID-19. This study is important as it provides strong evidence that Ivermectin is not an effective COVID-19 treatment, which will hopefully reduce the amount of people taking ivermectin and provide more room for researchers to study other potential treatments.
3. Kids can be covid long-haulers too
Article: Long-term outcomes of pediatric infections: from traditional infectious diseases to long Covid (Future Microbiology)
In this article, authors analyze recent evidence on pediatric long Covid from a pediatric post-Covid unit in Rome, Italy. The article begins by outlines literature on long Covid in children (though from mostly European countries), provides evidence from personal real-world clinical practice in Rome on pediatric long Covid, and explains the mechanisms by which long Covid occurs.
Practitioners have observed an increasing number of families seeking care for children affected by persistent symptoms following COVID-19, with the biggest symptoms being the persistence of severe fatigue after even mild physical or mental activities. In many cases, the researchers report, symptoms are “so severe that they prevent children from returning to normal pre-COVID-19 activities, including school.”
Authors conclude that though there is a higher rate of long Covid in adults, there is growing evidence that children can be affected by long-term COVID-19 outcomes and “post-Covid condition” (also known as long Covid). Older children are more likely to be impacted, and though most children recover within the first six months, not all do.
This study raises important concerns about how children are impacted by a COVID-19 infection long-term, which is necessary to consider when thinking about childhood vaccination, school re-openings, and ensuring that children are being properly diagnosed and not dismissed.
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