Wednesday, February 23, 2022 | Kaiser Health News

In A First, Scientists Capture Electrical Signals From A Dying Brain

The new results were gained in a coincidental EEG procedure during which the patient suffered a heart attack. The results may prompt a rethink about death process, and even impact organ harvesting practices. Obesity, human gene regulation, an RSV vaccine, and more are also in the news.

Press Association:
First Ever Recording Of Dying Brain May Shed Light On Our Final Moments

Scientists may be closer to answering an age-old question about what happens to the human brain as we die. Neuroscientists accidentally recorded a dying brain while they were using electroencephalography (EEG) to detect and treat seizures in an 87-year-old man and the patient suffered a heart attack. It was the first time ever that scientists had recorded the activity of a dying human brain. The rhythmic brain wave patterns which were recorded during the man’s time of death were observed to be similar to those occurring during dreaming, memory recall and meditation. (2/23)

Obesity: What Does Immunity Have To Do With It? New Findings May Represent A Promising Approach For Obesity Treatment And Its Complications 

As organisms grow, older cells can undergo a phenomenon called senescence. This process defines a cell state where cells permanently stop dividing but do not die. Senescent cells secrete toxic pro-inflammatory factors contributing to the development of many diseases. Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have shown that obesity in experimental models led to senescence of macrophages, an immune cell subtype within fat or adipose tissue. (Boston University School of Medicine, 2/22)

Moderna Begins Late-Stage Study Of RSV Vaccine Using MRNA Technology

Moderna Inc said on Tuesday it had begun a late-stage study of its vaccine for Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) based on the same technology used to develop its COVID-19 shots. The only approved product using messenger RNA (mRNA)is COVID-19 vaccine, but Moderna and rival Pfizer are rushing to tap the potential of the technology to target diseases such as shingles and cancer. Moderna is developing a vaccine for flu using mRNA technology and said on Friday it would develop three more shots, including one for viral infection shingles. (2/23)

VA Study Finds Most Dental Antibiotic Prophylaxis Prescriptions Improper

Another study of antibiotic prescribing by Veterans’ Affairs (VA) dentists found that five of every six prescriptions for antibiotic prophylaxis were inconsistent with guidelines, researchers reported today in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology. The cross-sectional study of visits to VA dentists from 2015 through 2019 examined all antibiotics prescribed within 7 days of a visit in the absence of an oral infection. In the primary analysis, antibiotic prophylaxis was considered appropriate only if it was associated with a visit that involved manipulation of gingival tissue and if the patient had a cardiac condition at the highest risk of an adverse outcome from infective endocarditis according to guidelines. (2/22)

Study Shows Vaccine Protections Weaker Against Omicron

New research also shows that though omicron caused higher rates of infection, hospitalization, and death for fully-vaccinated people, shots did provide significant protection against severe cases needing hospital stays. Other studies show reinfections with the new BA.2 omicron subvariant are possible but rare.

3 COVID Vaccine Doses 99% Effective Against Omicron, Delta Hospitalization

Three doses of the Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccine were more effective against infection with the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant than against Omicron but were highly protective against hospitalization with either subtype, according to a study yesterday in Nature Medicine. A team led by Kaiser Permanente Southern California researchers conducted a test-negative case-control study among 26,683 COVID-19 cases caused by the Delta or Omicron variants in December 2021. Of all cases, 16% were Delta, and 84% were Omicron. The incidence of Omicron infections in Southern California increased from 1.2% to 94.1% from Dec 6 to 31. (Van Beusekom, 2/22)

The Washington Post:
Covid Vaccine Protection Was Much Weaker Against Omicron, Data Shows

While coronavirus shots still provided protection during the omicron wave, the shield of coverage they offered was weaker than during other surges, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The change resulted in much higher rates of infection, hospitalization and death for fully vaccinated adults and even for people who had received boosters. The decline in protection continued a pattern driven by coronavirus vaccines’ reduced effectiveness over time, combined with the increasing contagiousness of the delta and omicron waves. (Keating and Ahmed, 2/22)

Study Highlights Rare BA.2 Subvariant Reinfections After Omicron COVID-19

Infection with the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron BA.2 subvariant shortly after an initial infection with the Omicron BA.1 subvariant—the original Omicron strain—is rare, occurring mostly in young, unvaccinated people with mild symptoms, according to a non–peer-reviewed Danish study. In the study, published today on the medRxiv preprint server, researchers at the Statens Serum Institut in Denmark analyzed the subgenomic and genomic RNA of viruses responsible for a randomly selected group of 263 paired samples from more than 1.8 million COVID-19 patients. The study period was Nov 22, 2021, when Omicron was first identified in that country, to Feb 11, 2022. The BA.2 variant now accounts for most COVID-19 cases in Denmark. (2/22)

Reinfections With Omicron Subvariants Are Rare, Danish Study Finds

Getting infected twice with two different Omicron coronavirus subvariants is possible, but rarely happens, a Danish study has found. In Denmark, a more infectious sublineage of the Omicron coronavirus variant known as BA.2 has quickly dethroned the “original” BA.1 variant, which is the most common worldwide, but it has remained unclear whether a person could get infected by both variants. A new study, led by researchers at Denmark’s top infectious disease authority, Statens Serum Institut (SSI), shows that people infected with BA.1 can get infected with BA.2 shortly afterwards, but that it is a rare occurrence. (2/23)

Also —

COVID-19 Patient ZIP Codes May Affect Disease Severity

A pooled cross-sectional study in the Annals of Internal Medicine finds that COVID-19 patients’ ZIP codes may affect clinical outcomes, with patients from high-vulnerability neighborhoods more likely to be hospitalized for infections. The study is based on data from 2,309 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 at 38 Michigan hospitals. Medical history was compared with patients’ social vulnerability index (SVI), which takes into account the local area’s average income, education level, household density to percentage of households led by single parents, and homes in which English is the not the primary language. (2/22)

Fox News:
Relatives Of Patients With Severe COVID-19 More Likely To Experience PTSD: Study

Family members of patients hospitalized in the intensive care unit (ICU) for COVID-19 were more likely to have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than those of patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) from another illness, according to researchers. In a study published in JAMA Network, a team of French authors conducted a prospective cohort study in 23 ICUs in France from January to June 2020 – and a final follow-up in October 2020. (Musto, 2/22)

Very Small Blood Clot Risk After First AstraZeneca COVID Shot – UK Studies

A large study into rare blood clots linked with AstraZeneca’s (AZN.L) COVID-19 vaccine found between just one and three cases per million, and only after the first dose, shedding fresh light on the side-effects from the shot. Researchers have sought to analyse any link between COVID-19 vaccines and rare blood clots in the brain, arteries or veins – sometimes accompanied by low platelets, reports of which led many nations last year to pause use of the AstraZeneca shot, which was developed with Oxford University. (Aripaka, 2/22)

US Researchers Confirm SARS-CoV-2 Alpha, Delta Variants In Deer

A new preprint study describes detection of both Alpha and Delta SARS-CoV-2 variants in white-tailed deer in Pennsylvania—the first known detections of those strains in deer—with 18 of 93 nasal swab samples (19.3%) testing positive, adding to growing evidence that deer are a reservoir for the virus in the United States. The study was published on medRxiv and has not been peer-reviewed. (2/22)

On long covid —

People With Covid-19 May Face Long-Term Cardiovascular Complications, Study Says 

As the Covid-19 pandemic enters its third year, scientists are finding that the coronavirus has far-reaching effects on health beyond the acute phase of illness. One recent study has found that people with Covid-19 are at an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases for at least a year after recovery. The study, published this month in the journal Nature Medicine, used data from US Department of Veterans Affairs national health care databases to follow over 153,000 veterans with a history of Covid-19 infection for up to a year after their recovery. Compared with those who were never infected, people who had a coronavirus infection were more likely to have symptoms including inflammatory heart disease, heart failure, dysrhythmia, heart attacks, strokes and clotting in the long term. (Ahmed, 2/22)

The Washington Post:
Five Months Post-Covid, Nicole Murphy’s Heart Rate Is Still Doing Strange Things

Five months after being infected with the coronavirus, Nicole Murphy’s pulse rate is going berserk. Normally in the 70s, which is ideal, it has been jumping to 160, 170 and sometimes 210 beats per minute even when she is at rest — putting her at risk of a heart attack, heart failure or stroke. No one seems to be able to pinpoint why. She’s only 44, never had heart issues, and when a cardiologist near her hometown of Wellsville, Ohio, ran all of the standard tests, “he literally threw up his hands when he saw the results,” she recalled. Her blood pressure was perfect, there were no signs of clogged arteries, and her heart was expanding and contracting well. (Eunjung Cha, 2/21)

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