It's possible existing systems to surveil influenza around the world showed indicators of an outbreak of covid before it was properly understood early in the pandemic. Meanwhile, Zenger News reports on a promising new blood test based on the KRAS gene that could change early cancer detection.
CIDRAP: Influenza Surveillance Systems May Have Caught Initial COVID-19 Activity
An increased number of cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) that tested negative for influenza were present in global influenza surveillance networks early in the COVID-19 pandemic, an average of 13.3 weeks before the first reported COVID-19 peaks in 16 of the 28 countries included in a study published today in PLOS Medicine. (7/20)
The New York Times: Virologists Try To Keep Up With Faster Coronavirus Evolution
“Viruses like SARS-CoV-2 are always evolving, and it’s a near certainty that new mutants will emerge in any given six-month time frame,” said Jesse Bloom of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle. “But as long as these mutants are descendants or close relatives of BA.2 or BA.4/BA.5, then a vaccine booster based on BA.4/BA.5, as the F.D.A. has recommended, should be a much better match to them than the current vaccine, even if it’s not a perfect match.” (Hassan, 7/20)
CIDRAP: Unvaccinated Police, Firefighters Report Low Trust In COVID-19 Vaccines
Although unvaccinated police officers and firefighters are more likely to develop COVID-19, they are less likely to trust that the vaccines are effective and safe, according to a US study published yesterday in JAMA Network Open. University of Miami researchers led the study of 1,415 police officers and firefighters from Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, Oregon, Texas, and Utah participating in two studies from January to September 2021. Participants worked at least 20 hours a week in roles requiring them to come within 3 feet of others. (7/20)
In news on other health research —
Zenger News: 'Holy Grail' Blood Test Can Diagnose Cancer Years Before Symptoms
A blood test that can diagnose any type of cancer years before symptoms appear could be on the horizon. Scientists have discovered a protein released in the early stages of the disease when tumors are most curable. It is produced by a gene named KRAS – the most frequent mutation across all tumors including lung, bowel and pancreatic. (Kitanovska, 7/20)
NPR: Gun Violence Costs Stretch Beyond The Loss Of Life, Two New Studies Find
Researchers of two new studies using federal health care and hospital data underscore that the repercussions from firearm deaths and injuries are deeper, wider and far costlier than previously known. (Westervelt, 7/21)
Stat: Eggs Survive Decades Without Aging. Now, Scientists May Know Why
In a high-stakes evolutionary gambit, female mammals are born with a finite supply of immature eggs. Propagating future generations depends on this reserve of pre-egg cells, or “primordial oocytes,” staying alive and out of the way of harmful, mutation-causing molecules — sometimes for decades — so they can give rise to mature eggs capable of producing healthy offspring. (Molteni, 7/20)
Stat: How Does The Brain Decide What Memories Are Good And Bad?
In a new study, scientists took a key step toward unraveling how our brain assigns positive or negative emotions to our experiences. (Wosen, 7/20)
A story of parents’ own drug-development efforts for their child —
KHN: Parents Become Drug Developers To Save Their Children’s Lives
Maggie Carmichael wasn’t developing like other kids. As a toddler, she wasn’t walking and had a limited vocabulary for her age. She was diagnosed with PMM2-CDG, potentially fatal gene mutations that cause abnormal enzyme activity — and affect fewer than 1,000 people worldwide. Her parents, Holly and Dan Carmichael, raised $250,000 for scientists to screen existing drugs to find a potential treatment, and in a single-patient trial with Maggie as the test subject, one drug showed promising results. The young girl stopped face-planting when crawling, she began using a walker instead of her wheelchair, and her lexicon expanded. (Whitlock, 7/21)
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‘This too shall pass away’ this famous Persian adage seems to be defeating us again and again in the case of COVID-19. Despite every effort