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Infectious Diseases

17 October 2020

Coronavirus morning recap: Blood type, 'love hormone', and latest on vaccines

Scientists think blood type plays a role in coronavirus infection; could our ‘love hormone’ help with treating Covid-19; update on MMR vaccine, and latest from the WHO.

LATEST SCIENCE AND RESEARCH

READ | Covid infection: Scientists think blood type plays a role, and have identified which one is least at risk

People with blood type O are less likely to become infected with Covid-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, according to two new studies published in the journal Blood Advances.

They are also at lower risk of severe Covid-19 outcomes, such as organ failure, and even death.

Scientists have been investigating a potential link between blood type and vulnerability to Covid-19 for many months, and this latest evidence supports previous findings.

A preprint study published in March this year suggested that people with blood type A have a higher risk of acquiring Covid-19 compared with non-A blood groups, while another study published in June found that blood type O seemed to be more resistant against Covid-19 infection.

In this study, researchers analysed data from a Danish health registry that included more than 473 000 patients who were infected with Covid-19 between 27 February 2020 and 30 July 2020. After controlling for certain factors, they found fewer patients with blood type O, compared with patients with blood types A, B, and AB.

The researchers also point out that they did not find any significant difference in rate of infection between A, B, and AB blood types.

READ | Could our ‘love hormone’ help with treating Covid-19?

Researchers have conducted a study into oxytocin – commonly known as the love hormone – and if it could help treat Covid-19 infections.

Oxytocin is produced in the brain and can be secreted during the simple act of hugging – and is also commonly involved in sexual intimacy and childbirth.

Prior research has found that the hormone has great anti-inflammatory properties, and the study suggests that this may be able to prevent the “cytokine storm” in the early phase of the disease.

The study, published in the American Physiological Society's Physiological Genomics, highlighted that T-cells and the cytokine storm are important factors leading to the aggravation of Covid-19 cases.

The cytokine storm is an extreme reaction by the immune system where the body releases cytokines (proteins secreted by the immune system) as a defence, which then attack the body's own tissues as well.

In a news release, researchers state that a drug, carbetocin, has similar attributes to genes which are less likely to trigger cytokine storms in patients battling Covid-19.

READ | Covid-19: An MMR vaccine trial just started in SA - and latest research appears to be promising

While we await the outcome of clinical trials of Covid-19 vaccine candidates all over the world, existing vaccines could in the meantime help make the disease less deadly.

According to a recently published study, the mumps-measles-rubella (MMR) vaccine may help boost an individual’s immunity and even prevent Covid-19.

The research team was led by Dr Desiree Larenas-Linnemann from Medica Sur in Mexico City, which has been ranked as the leading hospital in the city since 2011.

Larenas-Linnemann and her team reported on their clinical observations of 255 volunteers who were vaccinated with the MMR vaccine at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Their findings were published in the September issue of Allergy, the European Journal of Allergy and Immunology.

For their study, researchers vaccinated 255 participants who were family members or caregivers of patients who had already contracted Covid-19, which meant they were already at extremely high risk of being infected.

A total of 36 of the participants ended up contracting Covid-19, but all with mild symptoms. Among the 36 participants, 13 were reported to have pre-existing conditions that are known to be a risk factor for severe disease.

CORONAVIRUS CASES LATEST

SA cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 700 203.

According to the latest update, 18 370 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 629 260 recoveries.

So far, more than 4.05 million tests have been conducted, with 24 179 new tests reported.

Global cases update:

For the latest global data, follow this interactive map from Johns Hopkins University & Medicine.

Early on Saturday morning, positive cases worldwide were more than 39.2 million, while deaths were more than 1.1 million.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 8.04 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 218 000.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Latest news:

READ | ‘False’: No decision – yet – to extend corona UIF payments into November, Nxesi says

There has been no decision, so far, to extend the Covid-19 Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) of the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) into November, employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi said in a brief but strongly-worded statement on Friday.

An article by Independent Online saying that such an extension, to 15 November, had already been announced, was "false", Nxesi said.

"Any decision on an extension would be made only after extensive engagement with government, Nedlac and the UIF itself."

That article has been removed, without any comment or correction, though a summary version was still available elsewhere on the Independent website.

Nxesi this week warned that the UIF's pockets are not bottomless, raising the possibility that the fund may have to turn to government to ask for money should the number of retrenchments in the economy exceed its ability to pay.

President Cyril Ramaphosa this week announced the extension of the special Covid-19 unemployment grant, of R350 per month, for those who receive no other form of assistance from the government, for another three months.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE REST OF THE WORLD 

Latest news:

READ | The WHO says healthy young people may not receive a Covid-19 vaccine until 2022

Young people may have to wait until 2022 to receive a coronavirus vaccine, the chief scientist at the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said Wednesday that she hoped a vaccine would be approved by 2021, but that it would likely be available in "limited quantities."

Health workers, the elderly, and other vulnerable groups would be vaccinated first — potentially leaving others to wait until 2022, she said.

"There will be a lot of guidance coming out, but I think an average person, a healthy young person might have to wait until 2022 to get a vaccine," she said.

"People tend to think that on the first of January or the first of April, I'm going to get the vaccine, and then things will be back to normal," Swaminathan said. "It's not going to work like that."

Guidelines for how to prioritise vaccines among different groups of people were published by the WHO's strategic advisory group of experts on immunisation (SAGE) in September. Swaminathan said the WHO was still working out exactly who should be vaccinated first.

HEALTH TIPS (as recommended by the NICD and WHO)

• Maintain physical distancing – stay at least one metre away from somebody who is coughing or sneezing

• Practise frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, as your hands touch many surfaces and could potentially transfer the virus

• Practise respiratory hygiene – cover your mouth with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Remember to dispose the tissue immediately after use.

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