Some common-cold antibodies may help fight COVID-19; vaccine side effects could hamper mammograms

FILE PHOTO: The ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), is seen in an illustration released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. January 29, 2020. Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM/CDC/Handout via REUTERS.

By Nancy Lapid

(Reuters) – The following is a compilation of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Some cold antibodies could help fight COVID-19

Antibodies to the six coronaviruses that cause colds cannot “neutralize” the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, but antibodies to two of them could at least help the body ward off severe illness caused by the new virus, a small preliminary study suggests. German researchers studied 60 patients with COVID-19, including 25 who were hospitalized but did not have life-threatening illness, 19 who required intensive care, and 25 who were not sick enough to be hospitalized. The patients who required intensive care treatment all had significantly lower antibody levels to two seasonal coronaviruses, HCoV OC43 and HCoV HKU1, which are more closely related to the COVID-19 virus than the other human coronaviruses, according to the authors. While the observation does not prove that these antibodies are responsible, “it is noteworthy that the effect of HCoV OC43 and HKU1-specific antibody levels reached statistical significance in terms of the need for intensive medical therapy” in such a small study, the researchers said in a paper published Tuesday in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases. “Further studies should validate this finding and explore the potential to identify individuals at risk for severe disease progression before SARS-CoV-2 infection,” they said.

Vaccine side effects may affect mammograms

Routine mammograms should be performed either before the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine or four to six weeks after the second dose, the Society for Breast Imaging advises. Transient side effects of the vaccine may include swollen lymph nodes in the armpits, which could be misinterpreted as a possible sign of breast cancer during a mammogram. So-called axillary lymphadenopathy is typically seen in only 0.02%-0.04% of screening mammograms, according to society guidelines. In studies with Moderna’s (NASDAQ:MRNA) vaccine, the condition occurred in 11.6% of participants after the first dose and in 16% after the second dose. The researchers testing Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine did not routinely ask participants about tenderness in the armpits and lymph node swelling, but some people reported this side effect, which lasted an average of 10 days. More subtle effects on the lymph nodes, visible only on X-ray, are likely to last longer, the society said, although it is not yet clear what vaccine-induced lymph node changes would look like. “As more information becomes available on the frequency and appearance of axillary lymphadenopathy after COVID-19 vaccination, it may be appropriate to modify the duration of follow-up or recommendations for final assessment,” the society said.

Nursing home staff lag behind in COVID-19 vaccinations

Nursing home residents are among the most at risk for severe COVID-19 infection, but vaccinations appear to be lagging among the staff who care for them. As of mid-January, about 714,000 U.S. nursing home residents and 582,000 staff members had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers estimated. When nursing homes were grouped by state, the average percentage of vaccinated residents ranged from 68% to 100%, while the average percentage of vaccinated staff ranged from only 19% to 67%, the CDC said. In a commentary published Wednesday in JAMA, CDC researchers said that on average nationwide, no more than about one-third of nursing home staff had been vaccinated, which “is concerning because this population is at occupational risk for exposure to SARS-CoV-2.” They said barriers to staff vaccination, including shift work schedules and lack of paid sick leave for vaccination adverse events, need to be addressed. “Communication and outreach strategies are needed to improve vaccination coverage in this priority population,” they said.

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