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Study: Common cold may help prevent flu, perhaps COVID-19

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Sept. 4 (UPI) — The virus most often behind the common cold is capable of preventing the flu virus from infecting airways by jump-starting the body’s immune defenses, a study published Friday by The Lancet Microbe found.

Now, the researchers from Yale University, want to determine if rhinovirus, the most common cold-causing virus, offers similar protective effects against COVID-19.

In an analysis of more than 13,000 patients with symptoms of a respiratory infection, those who had rhinovirus were not simultaneously infected with the flu virus — even during months when both viruses were active.

The finding may help explain why an expected surge in cases of H1N1 swine flu, predicted for Europe in fall 2009, never occurred, the researchers said.

It’s possible that the H1N1 virus was unable to infect those who already had the common cold, which was widespread at the time, they said.

“Infection with the common cold virus protected cells from infection with a more dangerous virus, the influenza virus, and [this] occurred because the common cold activated the body’s general antiviral defenses,” study co-author Dr. Ellen F. Foxman told UPI.

“This may explain why the flu season, in winter, generally occurs after the common cold season, in autumn, and why very few people have both viruses at the same time,” said Foxman, an assistant professor of laboratory medicine at Yale School of Medicine.

Concern has risen over the potential overlap of the COVID-19 pandemic with the annual flu season in the United States.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently said that the level of new cases of the coronavirus across the country is “too high.”

If cases continue to rise as flu season approaches, Fauci said, people infected with either of the two viruses, or both, could overwhelm the U.S. healthcare system.

“There [have been] a few reports of influenza-COVID-19 co-infections earlier in the year, and many of us are quite concerned what an influenza epidemic added to the COVID-19 pandemic could do,” Dr. Tony Moody, an associate professor of pediatric infectious diseases and immunology at Duke University Medical Center, told UPI

“At this point, we don’t really know what the two diseases will look like, or if other respiratory viruses will help or hurt during the current pandemic,” said Moody, who was not part of the Yale research.

For this study, Foxman and her colleagues analyzed nasal and throat specimens collected from 13,707 people with evidence of a respiratory infection. Just over 7% of the specimens tested positive for the rhinovirus, while just under 7% had confirmed influenza A infection.

Only 12 people in the study population had evidence of both viruses simultaneously, the researchers found.

To test how the rhinovirus and the influenza virus interact, Foxman and her colleagues created human airway tissue with epithelial cells, which line the airways of the lung and are a chief target of respiratory viruses, grown from stem cells.

After the tissue had been exposed to rhinovirus, the influenza virus was unable to infect the tissue because the cells’ antiviral defenses were already turned on before the flu virus arrived, Foxman said.

The rhinovirus triggered production of the natural antiviral interferon in the cells. Interferon is part of the early immune system response to the invasion of pathogens, Foxman said.

The protective effect offered by this new interferon lasts for at least five days, she said.

The findings may allow researchers to better predict how respiratory viruses spread and find new ways to combat them in the absence of vaccines, the researchers said.

They emphasized, however, that whether the annual seasonal spread of the common cold virus will have a similar impact on COVID-19 remains unknown.

“Our results show that interactions between viruses can be an important driving force dictating how and when viruses spread through a population,” Foxman said.

“Since every virus is different, we still do not know how the common cold season will impact the spread of COVID-19, but we now know we should be looking out for these interactions.”



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Study: ‘Conscientious, agreeable’ people more likely to follow COVID-19 guidelines

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Oct. 8 (UPI) — People who are “careful and diligent” are 31% more likely to follow measures designed to contain the spread of COVID-19 than those who do not have these personality traits, according to an analysis published Thursday by the journal PLOS ONE.

Similarly, those who “have strong cooperative values and a preference for positive interpersonal relationships” are 17% more likely to comply with social distancing guidelines, the data showed.

Increasing understanding of what personality traits encourage — and discourage — compliance with COVID-19 guidelines such as social distancing and the wearing of face coverings in public can help governments determine the best way to implement health precautions, the researchers said.

“Governments are continuously trying to figure out how to maximize compliance with COVID-19 transmission mitigation behavioral guidelines, such as wearing masks, avoiding gatherings, washing hands, etc., and the truth is [that] there is no such a one-size-fits-all model,” study co-author Ahmed M. Nofal told UPI.

“We encourage governments to trigger people’s predispositions towards specific personality traits — for example, to boost citizens’ sense of belonging and obligation to their communities — which has been suggested to develop conscientiousness,” said Nofal, an assistant professor of entrepreneurship at the Emlyon Business School in France.

A study published last month, also in PLOS ONE, found that older adults in the United States were more likely to comply with social distancing measures.

Although that study also observed that the majority of Americans — 65% — were adhering to guidelines, a sizeable minority — 35% — were not.

For the new research, Nofal and his colleagues surveyed 8,548 Japanese adults aged 20 to 64 years on their compliance with measures designed to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The researchers also assessed respondents’ individual personalities using the Ten Item Personality Inventory, a tool designed to identify specific traits and characteristics based on a number of measures.

In addition to people who are careful and conscientious and more agreeable and cooperative, those more “open to experiences” — or who value “creativity, innovation and intellectual stimulation” — are 19% more likely to comply with measures designed to limit COVID-19 spread than others, the data showed.

Conversely, extraverts — those who are “assertive, dominant, energetic, active, talkative, impulsive and enthusiastic” — are 7% less likely to adhere to control measures than introverts, the researchers said.

“Assessing individuals’ personalities could also be very beneficial to identify people who tend to violate the transmission mitigation behavioral guidelines,” Nofal said.



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Depressed teens may struggle in school

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By about age 16, teens diagnosed with depression have substantially lower educational attainment, a new British study finds.

Targeted educational support might be of particular benefit to teens from poor backgrounds and boys, but all children with depression can benefit from such help, the study authors suggested.

For the study, the researchers used British health and education records to identify nearly 1,500 kids under 18 years of age with depression. Typically, their depression was diagnosed around age 15. Their educational attainment was compared with a group of young people who were not depressed.

Among students with a diagnosis of depression, 83% reached expected educational attainment at ages 6 to 7, but only 45% hit more advanced thresholds in English and math by age 15 to 16. Researchers said that’s much lower than the 53% who met the threshold locally and nationwide.

“Previous research has found that, in general, depression in childhood is linked to lower school performance,” said researcher Alice Wickersham, a doctoral student at NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre of King’s College London.

But young people who developed depression in secondary school typically showed a performance decline on the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) exams. The exams — taken by most pupils at about age 15 to 16 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland — dovetailed with the time of diagnosis for many young people.

The pattern appeared to be consistent across different genders, ethnicities and economic groups, Wickersham said in a research center news release.

“While it’s important to emphasize that this won’t be the case for all teenagers with depression, it does mean that many may find themselves at a disadvantage for this pivotal educational milestone,” Wickersham said.

“It highlights the need to pay close attention to teenagers who are showing early signs of depression. For example, by offering them extra educational support in the lead up to their GCSEs, and working with them to develop a plan for completing their compulsory education,” she added.

Researcher Dr. Johnny Downs, senior lecturer in child and adolescent psychiatry at King’s College London, said the findings have two key policy implications.

“It demonstrates just how powerful depression can be in reducing young people’s chances at fulfilling their potential, and provides a strong justification for how mental health and educational services need to work to detect and support young people prior to critical academic milestones,” he said.

The findings were published online Oct. 8 in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

More information

For more about teens and depression, head to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.

Copyright 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.



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Study: New bedside test means faster diagnosis, treatment of COVID-19

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Oct. 8 (UPI) — A rapid, bedside test for COVID-19 delivers results in less than two hours, meaning that appropriate treatment can be initiated earlier for those already hospitalized because of their symptoms, according to a study published Thursday by The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

The standard COVID-19 test uses polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, technology, which amplifies small samples of DNA in order to identify the presence of virus in samples taken from an infected person’s nose or throat.

The PCR test requires samples to be sent to a centralized lab within the hospital for processing, typically takes more than 20 hours to produce results, the researchers said.

The enhanced speed of the bedside, or “point-of-care” tests, also means patients infected with the new coronavirus can be isolated earlier, reducing the risk for transmission to other patients and healthcare workers.

“Our findings are the first to suggest the clinical benefits of molecular point-of-care COVID-19 testing in hospitals, demonstrating reduced delays, bed moves and time in assessment areas, which all lead to better infection control,” study co-author Dr. Tristan William Clark, of Southampton General Hospital in England, said in a statement.

“We believe that [these] molecular [tests] should be urgently integrated … to reduce coronavirus transmission within hospitals to prevent the next wave of the pandemic overwhelming health services around the world,” Clark said.

Since the start of the global pandemic in March, healthcare systems worldwide have relied on PCR testing of patient samples in centralized hospital laboratories, an approach that is accurate, but also lengthy and resource intensive, according to Clark and his colleagues.

The longer time it takes to generate results with PCR testing means that patients often wait in mixed assessment rooms to be admitted to the correct COVID-19 or non-COVID ward, increasing the possibility of transmission, the researchers said.

However, with point-of-care tests, nasal and throat swab samples are collected and placed into small cartridges for analysis. Unlike PCR tests, which require specially trained lab personnel, the bedside tests can be performed by healthcare workers in the emergency room or other assessment area, they said.

For this study, Clark and his colleagues evaluated the QIA-stat-Dx point-of-care testing platform, manufactured by Dutch firm Qiagen, in 1,054 adults with COVID-19 symptoms being assessed in the acute medical unit and emergency department of Southampton General Hospital between March 20 and April 29.

Nose and throat swabs were taken from all patients and tested for COVID-19 infection, with 499 patients evaluated using the QIA-stat-Dx, while the rest were assessed using only PCR testing. All test results were confirmed using the standard PCR approach as well, the researchers said.

Among those tested with QIA-stat-Dx, 197, or 39%, were found to be positive for COVID-19, while 155, or 28%, of those evaluated by only PCR were positive for the virus, the data showed.

The point-of-care test produced results in roughly 1.7 hours on average, while PCR evaluation took approximately 21.3 hours per patient, according to the researchers.

After testing, patients were transferred to definitive COVID-positive or negative wards, a process that took eight hours in the QIA-stat-Dx group and 28.8 hours in the PCR-only group, the researchers said.

With the bedside testing, approximately 14% of patients were transferred directly to the correct ward immediately and bypassed the assessment area, they said.

In addition, the point-of-care test was found to be more than 99% accurate at correctly identifying those positive for the virus, according to the researchers.

Most of the patients found to have COVID-19 in the study were recruited into a separate clinical trial evaluating treatments for the virus, with those evaluated with QIA-stat-Dx enrolled in the second study two days faster, on average, than those assessed by PCR only, the researchers said.

“Recruiting patients into clinical trials remains an international priority throughout this pandemic and is vital to accelerating the search for effective treatments,” Clark said.

“This is especially true when researchers are investigating the potential of antivirals, which have to be administered at early disease stages to have the greatest benefit,” he said.



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