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Future of Medicine #16

  • COVID antibodies
  • Genetics and the plague
  • Expected TB spike
  • Visualizing droplets
Published every Wednesday


Many People Lack Protective Antibodies After COVID-19 Infection

Cut to a couple of days ago, when I came across this article in Nature — the first deep dive attempting to answer the question of just how protective those coronavirus antibodies are. And, at first blush at least, the news isn’t great.

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What a controversial face mask study says about science in the Covid-19 era

A high-profile dispute between researchers over the role of face masks in preventing Covid-19 is revealing the tensions in how science is conducted during a global pandemic. It’s also raising questions about the role of prestigious journals in elevating findings that may not hold up.

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National Institutes of Health

Cause of Common Autoinflammatory Disease May Have Protected Ancestors From Plague

Researchers have discovered that Mediterranean populations may be more susceptible to an autoinflammatory disease because of evolutionary pressure to survive the bubonic plague. The study, carried out by scientists at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health, determined that specific genomic variants that cause a disease called familial Mediterranean fever (FMF) may also confer increased resilience to the plague.

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Editor’s Note:

The genetic basis for diseases is a major focus of research, but can also be linked with evolution. Here the NIH reports on a study about current patients of familial Mediterranean fever and their ancestors fighting bubonic plague.

New York Times

Who Gets Lifesaving Care? Tennessee Changes Rules After Federal Complaint

Disability rights groups said a state policy on who would, and who wouldn’t, receive coronavirus treatment during a shortage was discriminatory.

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London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

TB cases and deaths predicted to spike due to COVID-19

The global COVID-19 pandemic could significantly increase the global burden of tuberculosis (TB) due to disruptions to health services, and delays to diagnosis and treatment, according to new estimates published in the European Respiratory Journal.

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Kaiser Family Foundation

Where are the COVID-19 Hotspots? Tracking State Outbreaks

There is growing concern about rising COVID-19 cases and other troubling trends in a subset of states that have reopened, and a few Governors and Mayors have either paused reopening or signaled their intention to do. Understanding in which states the pandemic is moving in the wrong, or right, direction, is critical but complex, as no single metric can tell the full story. For example, an increasing number of cases could be the result of more testing or the result of increasing transmission, or a combination of both.

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Editor’s Note:

The pandemic in the US has become one where the current status varies largely from state to state. Here KFF digs into the data to identify the places that are getting worse.


As world nears 10 million COVID-19 cases, doctors see hope in new treatments and lessons learned | The Japan Times

Dr. Gopi Patel recalls how powerless she felt when New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital overflowed with COVID-19 patients in March.

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Florida Atlantic University

Seeing is believing: Effectiveness of facemasks

Research from Florida Atlantic University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, just published in the journal Physics of Fluids , demonstrates through visualization of emulated coughs and sneezes, a method to assess the effectiveness of facemasks in obstructing droplets. The rationale behind the recommendation for using masks or other face coverings is to reduce the risk of cross-infection via the transmission of respiratory droplets from infected to healthy individuals.

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Editor’s Note:

This newsletter has seen repeated articles about the effectiveness of masks, something that can be hard to see. Here computer science researchers set up visualizations of what different types can do to stop the droplets from a simulated cough.

The Conversation

The US isn’t in a second wave of coronavirus – the first wave never ended

After sustained declines in the number of COVID-19 cases over recent months, restrictions are starting to ease across the United States. Numbers of new cases are falling or stable at low numbers in some states, but they are surging in many others. Overall, the U.S. is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of new cases a day, and by late June, had surpassed the peak rate of spread in early April.

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The Globe and Mail

Opinion: I donated my kidney to help a stranger. But what about the person I couldn’t help?

In the year since I donated, the pandemic has made it more important than ever for other Canadians to do the same. But it’s also made me rethink why people help another – and how I could have helped someone, but didn’t

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