This Essential Mineral Linked To COVID-19 Recovery

An essential mineral in the body have been linked to recovery of COVID-19 patients.

An essential mineral in the body have been linked to recovery of COVID-19 patients.

The body’s levels of selenium could have an impact on COVID-19 patients’ recovery, a study suggests.

Selenium is an essential trace mineral, meaning our body can’t make it therefore it must be obtained from the diet.

Despite the body only needing tiny amounts of selenium, its effect on human health has been underestimated.

The trace element plays an important role in the immune system and protecting the body from infections as well as thyroid function, reproduction, and preventing DNA damage.

Selenium is found in foods such as brazil nuts, seafood, meats, eggs, cacao, milk, cottage cheese, alfalfa, couscous, whole wheat pasta, and mushrooms.

Past studies have shown that the severity of several viral diseases in humans and animals can be influenced by selenium levels.

In HIV patients, for instance, low selenium status has been associated with the virus’s development to AIDS.

Researchers looked into the possible effect of selenium levels on the recovery of patients with COVID-19 virus in China.

Selenium levels in food depend on selenium content in the soil where the food is grown.

Due to large geographical differences in the soil, China is known to have higher and lower selenium levels than in other countries.

Professor Margaret Rayman, study co-author, said:

“Given the history of viral infections associated with selenium deficiency, we wondered whether the appearance of COVID-19 in China could possibly be linked to the belt of selenium deficiency that runs from the north-east to the south-west of the country.”

After analysing data on different regions, the research team found that patients with high selenium intake had a much higher chance to overcome COVID-19 infection.

Enshi, a city in Hubei Province, is an example since the population consumes higher amounts of selenium than any other part of China.

When looking at the percentage of recovery from the virus, the cure rate in Enshi was three times greater than other cities in the country.

In contrast, Heilongjiang Province has one of the lowest selenium intakes in the world.

COVID-19 death rates for this area were five times larger than other parts of country.

Analyses of nails or hair can show long-term intake of selenium.

By measuring selenium concentration in patients’ hair, the team found that the COVID-19 cure rate was highly linked to selenium status (selenium that is potentially active in the body).

Ms Kate Bennett, study co-author, said:

“There is a significant link between selenium status and COVID-19 cure rate, however it is important not to overstate this finding; we have not been able to work with individual-level data and have not been able to take account of other possible factors such as age and underlying disease.”

Dr Ramy Saad, study co-author, commented:

 “The correlation we have identified is compelling, particularly given previous research on selenium and infectious diseases.

As such, a careful and thorough assessment of the role selenium may play in COVID-19 is certainly justified and may help to guide ongoing public-health decisions.”

The recommended daily intake for selenium is 55 micrograms per day and selenium intake of more than 400 micrograms per day can be toxic.

The study was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Zhang et al., 2020).

COVID-19 Symptoms Are Different In Older People

Older adults with COVID-19 infection found to display some unusual symptoms.

Older adults with COVID-19 infection found to display some unusual symptoms.

Shortness of breath, a continuous dry cough, and fever are the typical symptoms of coronavirus, but seniors might not have any of these.

Instead, they show different “atypical” signs of COVID-19, which could help healthcare providers to spot the disease in time.

Older adults, at the beginning of the infection, may behave unusually, as though they are not themselves.

Also, they may lose their appetite, sleep too much, feel dizzy, confused, uninterested, and occasionally, suddenly stop talking or pass out.

Dr. Camille Vaughan, section chief of geriatrics and gerontology at Emory University, said:

“With a lot of conditions, older adults don’t present in a typical way, and we’re seeing that with COVID-19 as well.”

Due to the aging process, the body appears to respond to infections and illnesses differently.

The immune response will weaken and the body’s temperature regulating system may work less efficiently in older individuals.

Professor Joseph Ouslander at Florida Atlantic University Schmidt College of Medicine, said:

“Underlying chronic illnesses can mask or interfere with signs of infection.

Some older people, whether from age-related changes or previous neurologic issues such as a stroke, may have altered cough reflexes.

Others with cognitive impairment may not be able to communicate their symptoms.”

Without knowing these factors, there is a chance that the initial signs of infection in older people are missed and they get worse.

There is also the risk of leaving home without knowing they are infected and spreading the disease.

Dr Quratulain Syed, a geriatrician in Atlanta, describes one of her patients who was a man in his 80s with diabetes, heart disease and moderate cognitive decline.

Within a few days the patient became completely lethargic and couldn’t walk, sometimes sneezing, but didn’t show any signs of cough or fever.

At hospital he tested positive for COVID-19 despite not showing the usual symptoms.

Dr Sam Torbati, medical director of the Ruth and Harry Roman Emergency Department at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said:

“They get weak and dehydrated and when they stand to walk, they collapse and injure themselves badly.

When we test them, we discover that what’s producing these changes is a central nervous system effect of coronavirus.”

Currently a small number of physicians are trying to collect more systematic data on COVID-19 symptoms exhibited in seniors.

Dr Sylvain Nguyen, a geriatrician at the University of Lausanne Hospital Center, in a paper to be published in the Swiss Medical Journal, provides a list of coronavirus’ common and uncommon symptoms in older patients.

The list includes lethargy, fatigue, painful swallowing, falls, low blood pressure, fainting, delirium, abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and loss of taste and smell.

The article is based on anecdotal evidence provided by physicians treating seniors with COVID-19.

The 3 Best Ways To Cope With COVID-19 Stress

Research into previous mass traumas reveals the best ways of coping with stress of COVID-19.

Research into previous mass traumas reveals the best ways of coping with stress of COVID-19.

Coping activities that increase the sense of control, coherence and connectedness are key to dealing with COVID-19 stress, new research concludes.

Typical coping activities include checking in with friends and loved ones, filtering news intake and planning daily activities.

All of these are ways of regaining control.

Planning daily activities, for example, helps reduce the sensation of drifting along without structure or purpose.

Other techniques that help regain control include making post-pandemic plans and journaling.

Feeling in control is one important way of coping, along with increasing coherence and connectedness, the researchers explain.

Increasing the sense of coherence means trying to make more sense of the world.

One way of doing this is to practice ‘acceptance-based coping’.

This involves using mindfulness to observe fears, anxieties and other emotional responses as they pass through the brain.

Finally, connectedness can be difficult to achieve given social distancing regulations.

However videoconferencing, telephone calls and social media can all help to keep in touch with others.

Even meditating by oneself, directing loving kindness towards the self can help increase the sense of connection to others.

Part of being compassionate towards the self is accepting that our own struggles are connected to others as we are going through the same thing together.

All these strategies have been found to help people deal with stress and bounce back.

These recommendations were inspired by research into how people dealt with other mass traumas, such as the 9/11 terror attacks.

Mr Craig Polizzi, the study’s first author, said:

“We also drew inspiration from our previous work with clients who have experienced traumas and how they have coped with traumatic events.”

People cope with traumas in different ways, so the strategies they use should be personalised, Mr Polizzi said:

“People are unique and the way they cope should be consistent with their needs and values.”

In the future, the research team hope to look at what psychological strategies people used to deal with the pandemic, along with their effectiveness.

Mr Polizzi said:

“It is also important to test the coping strategies we proposed in our article to see if people did use them to reduce distress during the pandemic, as well identify additional techniques individuals used to cope with stress to enhance recommendations for coping during future mass traumas.”

The study was published in the journal Clinical Neuropsychiatry (Polizzi et al., 2020).

COVID-19: Two Signs That Indicate A Strong Recovery

Two signs that reveal a COVID-19 patient has a higher chance of recovery.

Two signs that reveal a COVID-19 patient has a higher chance of recovery.

Sudden loss of smell and taste are symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 infection, the respiratory illness caused by the newly identified coronavirus.

Experts suggest that sensory loss tends to be seen in patients with mild to moderate infections, indicating that the rate of recovery is high.

Loss of smell and taste could also help health services to quickly verify which patients should be admitted to hospital for treatment.

Dr Carol Yan, the study’s first author, said:

“Based on our study, if you have smell and taste loss, you are more than 10 times more likely to have COVID-19 infection than other causes of infection.

The most common first sign of a COVID-19 infection remains fever, but fatigue and loss of smell and taste follow as other very common initial symptoms.

We know COVID-19 is an extremely contagious virus.

This study supports the need to be aware of smell and taste loss as early signs of COVID-19.”

The loss of smell and taste is not mild but complete, but patients’ sensory function returns to normal in less than four weeks from infection.

Yan and colleagues in their previous study showed that fever, fatigue, and loss of sensory function are common early symptoms of COVID-19 disease.

Dr Yan in his latest study said:

“Normosmia or the normal sense of smell is an independent predictor of admission in COVID-19 cases.

In previous research, we found that loss of olfactory function is a common early symptom, following fever and fatigue.

What’s notable in the new findings is that it appears that loss of smell may be a predictor that a SARS-CoV-2 infection will not be as severe, and less likely to require hospitalization.

If an infected person loses that sense, it seems more likely they will experience milder symptoms, barring other underlying risk factors.”

These risk factors are age, since the severity of the illness is much higher in older people, cardiovascular disease, lung disease, obesity, and diabetes.

The study found that hospitalised COVID-19 patients were less likely to lose their sense of taste, which is known as dysgeusia, or loss of smell, which is called anosmia.

About 27 percent of these patients reported dysgeusia or anosmia symptoms, whereas 67 percent of patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 infection exhibiting these two signs.

Dr Adam S. DeConde, study co-author, said:

“Patients who reported loss of smell were 10 times less likely to be admitted for COVID-19 compared to those without loss of smell.

Moreover, anosmia was not associated with any other measures typically related to the decision to admit, suggesting that it’s truly an independent factor and may serve as a marker for milder manifestations of Covid-19.”

It appears that if the virus settles in the upper airway and nose at the start then it will impact olfactory function.

This in turn could lead to less severe and sudden symptoms of the illness and so reduce the response of the immune system and the chance of lung failure.

Dr DeConde said:

“The site and dosage of the initial viral burden, along with the effectiveness of the host immune response, are all potentially important variables in determining the spread of the virus within a person and, ultimately, the clinical course of the infection.

This is a hypothesis, but it’s also similar to the concept underlying live vaccinations.

At low dosage and at a distant site of inoculation, the host can generate an immune response without severe infection.”

Loss of smell could be a clue to a localised strong immune response in the nasal passages causing the body’s defence system to activate less in other parts of the body.

The study was published in International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology (Yan et al., 2020).

How Sunlight Affects COVID-19

A natural effect that might make the virus slow its spread during summer.

A natural effect that might make the virus slow its spread during summer.

COVID-19 could be destroyed on surfaces within minutes by ultraviolet (UV) rays, a study by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) suggests.

The experiment shows that UV radiation present in sunlight can rapidly damage the virus.

However, the research has not yet been published as it needs to be reviewed by independent experts.

Outdoor daytime environments might lower transmission risk in summer as the pathogen is less stable at higher temperatures and humidity above 40 percent.

COVID-19 is new to scientists so it is not clear if the seasons would have a large impact on the virus.

Mr William Bryan, head of science and technology at the DHS, said:

“Our most striking observation to date is the powerful effect that solar light appears to have on killing the virus, both surfaces and in the air.

We’ve seen a similar effect with both temperature and humidity as well, where increasing the temperature and humidity or both is generally less favorable to the virus.”

The radiation produced by UV light has a sterilising effect on the virus which in turn destroys the genetic material in the virus and its reproduction.

But the question is what UV light wavelength and intensity were used in this experiment to understand if it has mimicked the natural sunlight conditions that occur during summer.

Dr Benjamin Neuman, chair of biological sciences at Texas A&M University-Texarkana, said:

“It would be good to know how the test was done, and how the results were measured.

Not that it would be done badly, just that there are several different ways to count viruses, depending on what aspect you are interested in studying.”

They found that on non-porous surfaces like stainless steel and door handles, when the humidity was 20 percent and the temperature between 21 and 24 degrees Celsius (70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit), the half-life for COVID-19 was 18 hours.

The half-life is the time required for the virus to reduce by half.

With increased relative humidity to 80 percent, the half-life reduced to six hours.

When sunlight was added to these humid conditions, the virus’s half-life dropped to only two minutes.

Mr Bryan said:

“Summer-like conditions will create an environment (where) transmission can be decreased.”

However, the virus would not be eliminated completely even though its spread will be reduced in these types of conditions, therefore social distancing guidelines should not be ignored.

Moreover, sitting in the sun cannot prevent any pathogen from replicating in the body when a person is already infected.

Mr Bryan said:

“It would be irresponsible for us to say that we feel that the summer is just going to totally kill the virus and then if it’s a free-for-all and that people ignore those guides.”

Previously, it has been shown that cold and dry environments are more suitable for the virus to spread than hot and humid conditions.

This might be one of the key reasons that the spread rate in southern hemispheric countries like Australia, is much lower than many other countries in the northern hemisphere.

One factor is that respiratory droplets stay in the air longer when the weather is cold.

In contrast, viruses in general deteriorate faster on a hot surface since the layer of fat that shields them will dry out quickly.

Despite the possibility that COVID-19 cases will slow down in summer, the US health authorities expect that the infection rate could rise again through fall and winter similar to the flu and other seasonal viruses.

The unpublished study conducted by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The Biggest Barrier To Beating COVID-19 Is Psychological

Why social distancing is so difficult when humans face danger.

Why social distancing is so difficult when humans face danger.

People tend to draw closer together when faced with danger.

This is what makes social distancing so difficult, new research explains.

The psychological problem could pose one of the biggest barriers to overcoming COVID-19.

Minimising social contact in public spaces is the only defence we currently have against the virus.

However, human nature is fundamentally social.

Professor Ophelia Deroy, study co-author, said:

“Hazardous conditions make us more — not less — social.

Coping with this contradiction is the biggest challenge we now face.”

Reviewing evidence from psychology, neuroscience and evolutionary biology, the study’s authors find that threatening situations make people more cooperative and socially supportive.

Dr Guillaume Dezecache, the study’s first author, explained:

“When people are afraid, they seek safety in numbers.

But in the present situation, this impulse increases the risk of infection for all of us.

This is the basic evolutionary conundrum that we describe.

After all, social contacts are not an ‘extra’, which we are at liberty to refuse.

They are part of what we call normal.”

One answer to this problem that many people have been exploiting is social media.

While before the pandemic social media was often seen as unsocial, now it can provide an effective alternative to physical contact.

Profesor Chris Frith, study co-author, said:

“Our innate inclinations are cooperative rather than egoistic.

But access to the Internet makes it possible for us to cope with the need for social distancing.”

Social media may only be partially effective, though, Professor Deroy said:

“How well, and for how long, our need for social contact can be satisfied by social media remains to be seen.”

Free access to the internet, then, is vital for public health, said Professor Deroy:

“This is an important message, given that the most vulnerable sections of society are often those who, owing to poverty, age and illness, have few social contacts.”

The study was published in the journal Current Biology (Dezecache et al., 2020).

A Potential COVID-19 Vaccine Developed By Scientists

The potential vaccine against coronavirus works in a similar way to flu shots.

The potential vaccine against coronavirus works in a similar way to flu shots.

A skin patch vaccine tested in mice has been found to neutralise the coronavirus, raising hopes for a potential vaccine in humans, experts say.

The fingertip-sized patch can combat the virus through a process that involves producing enough antibodies.

Dr Andrea Gambotto, study co- author, said:

“We had previous experience on SARS-CoV in 2003 and MERS-CoV in 2014.

These two viruses, which are closely related to SARS-CoV-2, teach us that a particular protein, called a spike protein, is important for inducing immunity against the virus.

We knew exactly where to fight this new virus.

That’s why it’s important to fund vaccine research. You never know where the next pandemic will come from.”

The researchers from the University of Pittsburgh call their vaccine candidate PittCoVacc short for Pittsburgh Coronavirus Vaccine.

The potential vaccine works in a similar way as current flu jabs, using a viral protein made in the lab to fight infection.

It comes in a fingertip-sized patch formed of tiny needles in order to improve the potency of the drug.

The needles deliver the spike protein into the skin as the immune response in this area of the body is very strong.

The needles are actually pieces of protein and sugar which are dissolved by the skin.

Professor Louis Falo, study co-author, said:

“We developed this to build on the original scratch method used to deliver the smallpox vaccine to the skin, but as a high-tech version that is more efficient and reproducible patient to patient.

And it’s actually pretty painless — it feels kind of like Velcro.”

If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves this new drug for human clinical trial then the researchers will start a phase 1 clinical trial to ensure its effectiveness and safety for people.

Professor Falo said:

“Testing in patients would typically require at least a year and probably longer.

This particular situation is different from anything we’ve ever seen, so we don’t know how long the clinical development process will take.

Recently announced revisions to the normal processes suggest we may be able to advance this faster.”

The study was published in the journal EBioMedicine (Kim et al., 2020).

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