The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review.
Common health issues increase risk for severe COVID-19
Common conditions that put people at risk for serious illnesses like diabetes, heart attack and stroke also put them at risk for critical illness and death from COVID-19, researchers have found.
When the conditions - high blood sugar, high blood pressure, obesity, and high cholesterol - occur together, they are collectively known as metabolic syndrome. Using data on hospitalized COVID-19 patients in 26 countries, researchers compared 5,069 adults with at least three of the conditions and 23,917 without metabolic syndrome. Those with metabolic syndrome had significantly increased odds of a potentially fatal lung condition called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and death, the researchers reported on Wednesday in JAMA Network Open. "With each metabolic syndrome criterion added from 1 to 4 criteria, the risk of ARDS significantly increased," regardless of age, sex, race, ethnicity, and other illnesses, researchers said.
"If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, mild obesity and pre-diabetes or diabetes and are hospitalized with COVID-19, you have a one-in-four chance of developing ARDS, which is significant," study leader Dr. Joshua Denson of Tulane University School of Medicine said in a statement. Metabolic syndrome was significantly more common among patients in U.S. hospitals (18.8%) than in other countries (8%), leading the researchers to suggest that one reason the United States leads the world in COVID-19 deaths could be its high rates of metabolic syndrome, obesity and diabetes.
Sudden food aversion in toddlers can be clue to COVID-19
In toddlers, one clue to a diagnosis of COVID-19 may be a sudden complete or nearly complete avoidance of solid foods due to alterations in the child's sense of smell and taste, doctors in California suggest.
In a report published on Tuesday in Pediatrics, they describe two small children, both younger than 18 months, who suddenly developed an aversion to solid food around the time they were diagnosed with COVID-19. When they did eat, they gagged or spit up the food immediately afterward. One toddler also became acutely sensitive to the smell of any fragrant products at the same time as the food aversion, another sign of an impaired sense of smell. Six to eight months after diagnosis, both toddlers had started to tolerate some solid food, but neither had fully resumed their baseline intake.
"This delayed and variable clinical course in our patients is consistent with recent studies in adults" showing that COVID-19-related problems with smell and taste "can wax and wane, and one-third of patients may have persistent symptoms," the doctors said. They said they hope to see more data from other pediatricians to add to their findings. But based on their limited data, they said food aversion in young, preverbal children "should be a trigger to test for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 infection."
Antibody drugs might harm some COVID-19 patients
The efficacy and safety of Eli Lilly and Co's monoclonal antibody drug bamlanivimab for COVID-19 pneumonia may differ depending on whether the patient's immune system is already producing its own antibodies, a new analysis suggests.
Researchers re-analyzed data from a randomized trial in which 163 hospitalized COVID-19 patients had received bamlanivimab. Roughly half of those patients did not have their own antibodies against the virus at the start of the study, and these patients appear to have been more likely to have recovered faster. In patients who did already have their own antibodies, however, bamlanivimab was linked to higher risks for death, organ failure, or serious adverse events compared to a placebo, the researchers reported on Monday in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Re-analyzes of trial data are less reliable than if the trial had been designed to answer the question in the first place. Still, this analysis provides "two main messages," said Dr. Jens Lundgren of the University of Copenhagen. Monoclonal antibodies may be helpful in hospitalized COVID-19 patients without their own antibodies, but they "may be harmful" when the patient's immune system is responding, Lundgren said. The US Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency use authorization to several monoclonal antibodies that neutralize SARS-CoV-2, including bamlanivimab, which is given together with Lilly's etesevimab.