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Infectious Diseases

Updated 21 September 2020

Coronavirus research recap: Role of bacteria, substance abuse risks, and factor V

Recap of the latest coronavirus research and science: The interaction between Covid-19 and bacteria; the risk for people with substance use disorders; and what is factor V?

LATEST SCIENCE AND RESEARCH

READ | Could interaction between Covid-19 and pre-existing bacteria explain severity in the obese?

Previous research has established that people with obesity and diabetes are more at risk for severe Covid-19 and a possibly fatal outcome.

Now, a new article published in eLife points towards the interaction of the body’s microbiota with Covid-19 in the lungs as a potential reason.

The researchers looked extensively at the mechanisms that link Covid-19, obesity and diabetes and cause those groups of people to experience more severe symptoms, often requiring hospitalisation and breathing assistance.

"There is rapidly emerging evidence highlighting obesity and type 2 diabetes as key risk factors linked to severity of Covid-19 infections in all ethnic groups, but the detailed underlying connections with these risk factors remain largely unknown," author Philipp Scherer, Professor at the Department of Internal Medicine, and Director of the Touchstone Diabetes Center, at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, US, stated in a news release.

"There is a paradox that people with obesity and diabetes are generally known to recover better from lung conditions than others. So, what is it about Covid-19 that makes this group of people more susceptible?"

READ | People with substance use disorders are more susceptible to severe Covid-19

A new study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), found that people with substance use disorders (SUDs) are more susceptible to Covid-19 and its complications.

The findings, published in Molecular Psychiatry, were based on an analysis of millions of US patients’ non-identifiable electronic health records (EHR).

The types of SUDs investigated were tobacco, alcohol, opioid, cannabis, and cocaine.

According to the study lead author, Dr Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and colleagues, findings indicate that healthcare providers should closely monitor patients with SUDs, and, more importantly, develop action plans to help protect them from infection and severe outcomes.

The research team used a study population of over 73 million patients, of whom over 7.5 million had been diagnosed with an SUD at some point in their lives.

The records indicated that just over 12 000 patients were diagnosed with Covid-19, and around 1 880 had both an SUD and a Covid-19 diagnosis on record.

READ | Do ordinary eyeglasses offer protection against Covid-19?

Eyeglasses keep you from tripping over footstools and walking into walls, but they also might have a side benefit to spark envy among those with 20/20 vision.

People who wear glasses every day might be less susceptible to Covid-19 infection, a Chinese study reports.

Only about 6% of 276 patients hospitalized for Covid-19 at Suizhou Zengdu Hospital in China needed to wear glasses daily due to their nearsightedness. But the proportion of nearsighted people in Hubei province, where the hospital is located, is much higher - around 32%, according to the study.

Eyeglasses might foil Covid-19 infection because they "prevent or discourage wearers from touching their eyes, thus avoiding transferring the virus from the hands to the eyes," Dr Yiping Wei, of the Second Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University, and colleagues speculated.

Eye protection also could potentially reduce the risk of virus-laden airborne droplets contacting the eyes, the study authors said in the report published online September 16 in JAMA Ophthalmology.

However, eyeglass wearers who did contract Covid-19 fell just as sick as those with normal vision, the findings showed.

"Although this is an observational study and you cannot infer anything definitive from it, there is a suggestion that eye protection of any sort may decrease your risk of getting infected," said Dr Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, in Baltimore.

READ | Elevated blood clotting factor linked to worse Covid-19 outcomes

Most people now know that Covid-19 can cause blood clots, potentially leading to paralysis, stroke, heart attack and death.

While it's not clear precisely how SARS-CoV-2 causes clots, a new study suggests that the amount of a particular protein - called factor V - in a patient's blood may have something to do with it.

In March, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital obtained a blood sample from a patient with severe Covid-19 and noticed something unusual. The patient's blood had significantly above-normal levels of factor V.

Researchers then studied more than 100 patients treated in the intensive care unit for Covid-19.

High levels of factor V were found across the group, and nearly half of the patients had above-normal levels. When researchers compared the samples to historical records, more than 1 in 10 patients had higher factor V levels than had been seen before at the hospital.

"Aside from Covid-19, I've never seen anything else cause markedly elevated factor V, and I've been doing this for 25 years," study co-author Dr Elizabeth Van Cott said in a hospital news release. She is a pathology investigator at Mass General and a pathology professor at Harvard Medical School.

The study found that patients with elevated factor V were more likely to have blood clots in the lungs, called pulmonary embolism, and deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or clots in the veins.

CORONAVIRUS CASES LATEST

SA cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 661 211.

According to the latest update, 15 953 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 590 071 recoveries.

So far, more than 4 million tests have been conducted, with 16 884 new tests reported.

Global cases update:

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

Late on Sunday night, positive cases worldwide were over 30 million, while deaths were more than 958 000.

The United States had the most cases in the world - almost 7 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 199 000.

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.

Image credit: Getty Images