COVID-19 Roundup: CDC Forms Public-Private Team to Monitor Virus Changes; Blood Pressure Meds Don't Increase Risk; and NIH Study to Focus on Kids

CDC Launches ‘Genomics’ Group to Share COVID-19 Sequencing Data Nationwide

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched a consortium of public and private institutions to share research on how the coronavirus mutates and spreads.

The project is designed to help public health officials monitor important changes in the virus and use this information to guide contact tracing, public health mitigation efforts, and infection control strategies. The “national genomics consortium,” the CDC states, will help also help provide crucial data to identify “diagnostic and therapeutic targets.”

The campaign will also “advance public health research in the areas of transmission dynamics, host response, and evolution of the virus.”

The consortium will be made up of public and private laboratories, universities, corporations, and health agencies.

“The U.S. is the world’s leader in advanced rapid genome sequencing,” CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, said in a news release. “This coordinated effort across our public, private, clinical, and academic public health laboratories will play a vital role in understanding the transmission, evolution, and treatment of COVID-19. I am confident that our finest, most skilled minds are working together to help us save lives today and tomorrow.”

Blood Pressure Meds Do Not Increase COVID-19 Risks, Studies Say

A study’s findings amount to welcome news for millions of U.S. adults with high blood pressure who regularly take drugs to control their hypertension. The new research indicates that these medicines — including ACE inhibitors, ARBs, beta blockers and other commonly used blood pressure drugs — do not increase the risk of getting infected with COVID-19 or getting seriously ill from the coronavirus.

Since the start of the pandemic, unsubstantiated reports emerged about these drugs possibly having some effect — positive or negative — on COVID-19 symptoms. The new research was published this month in the New England Journal of Medicine, and similar findings from China were published last week in JAMA cardiology.

The study reviewed the cases of 5,894 coronavirus patients, with 1,002 of them (17 percent) suffering severe illness. A history of hypertension was present in 4,357 patients (34.6 percent), among them 2,573 (59 percent) had a positive test and 634 of these patients (24.6 percent) had severe illness. There was no association between any single medication category for treating hypertension and an increased likelihood of a positive test, researchers said. None of the medications examined were linked to a higher risk of severe illness.

“We found no substantial increase in the likelihood of a positive test for COVID-19 or in the risk of severe COVID-19 among patients who tested positive in association with five common classes of anti-hypertensive medications,” the study’s authors concluded.

U.S.-Funded Study to Focus on Rate of Infection in Kids, Family Members

A new study that has begun enrolling participants will help determine what percentage of children infected with COVID-19, develop coronavirus. The study is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

The study HEROS, which stands for “Human Epidemiology and Response to SARS-CoV-2,” also will help pinpoint the rate of COVID-19 infection in children and their family members in the U.S. The study will examine whether COVID-19 rates differ between children who have asthma or other allergic conditions and children who do not.

“One interesting feature of this novel coronavirus pandemic is that very few children have become sick with COVID-19 compared to adults,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “Is this because children are resistant to infection with SARS-CoV-2, or because they are infected but do not develop symptoms? The HEROS study will help us begin to answer these and other key questions.”

The HEROS study will enroll 6,000 people from 2,000 U.S. families which are already participating in NIH-funded pediatric research studies in 11 cities. Study participants will include both healthy children and children with asthma or other allergic conditions. The study team will follow these children and their families for six months to determine who gets infected with COVID-19.

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