COVID-19 Roundup: Those with Antibodies Show 'Substantial Immunity'; PTSD After Severe Illness; and More on Pre-existing Conditions

NIH Study: Those Who Test Positive for COVID Antibodies Appear to have ‘Substantial Immunity’

People who test positive for COVID-19 antibodies — or evidence of a prior infection — appear to be well protected against being re-infected with the coronavirus, at least for a few months, according to a major new study from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

NCI researchers partnered with two healthcare data analytics companies, HealthVerity and Aetion, and five commercial laboratories for the study, which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

NCI Director Norman E. Sharpless, M.D., who was one of the coauthors on the study, explains that cancer research is the focus of the NCI, but it undertook this research at the request of Congress. This study’s aim is to better understand to what degree antibodies protect people from reinfection with COVID-19.

The researchers obtained antibody test results for more than 3 million people who had a coronavirus antibody test between Jan. 1 and Aug. 23, 2020. This represents more than 50 percent of the commercial COVID-19 antibody tests performed in the U.S. at that time. Nearly 12 percent of these tests were antibody positive.

“The data from this study suggest that people who have a positive result from a commercial antibody test appear to have substantial immunity … which means they may be at lower risk for future infection,” said Lynne Penberthy, M.D., M.P.H., associate director of NCI’s Surveillance Research Program, who led the study.

But Dr. Penberthy emphasizes that additional research is needed to “understand how long this protection lasts, who may have limited protection, and how patient characteristics, such as comorbid conditions, may impact protection.”

But she adds: “We are nevertheless encouraged by this early finding.”

Researchers Find PTSD in Patients Who Recover from Severe COVID-19

In a study of 381 patients in Italy, researchers found that 30 percent of severe COVID-19 patients suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, according to a research paper published in JAMA Psychiatry.

PTSD was diagnosed in 30 percent, or 115 patients. Additionally, 17 percent of the 381 patients went through depressive episodes, and another 7 percent were diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.

More than half of the patients with PTSD (55 percent) were women. They also reported higher rates of a history of psychiatric disorders (34.8 percent) and delirium or agitation during acute illness (16.5 percent).

The 381 patients had been admitted to the emergency department with the coronavirus, and later recovered. They had been referred to a for “a post-recovery health check” in Rome, Italy between April and October of 2020.

Researchers concede that the study had limitations, including “the relatively small sample size.” Moreover, this was “a single-center study that lacked a control group of patients attending the emergency department for other reasons,” the study states.

Further studies are needed to tailor therapeutic interventions and prevention strategies for PTSD in patients that suffer severe COVID-19 illness, the study concludes.

COVID-19 Hospitals Attributed to 4 Cardiometabolic Pre-Existing Conditions

Four pre-existing cardiometabolic conditions were factors in nearly two-thirds of COVID-19 U.S. hospitalizations reviewed as part of a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Tufts University researchers created a model to estimate that 575,419, or 64 percent, of 906,849 total hospitalizations through Nov. 18 were attributed to obesity (30 percent); hypertension, or high blood pressure (26 percent); diabetes (21 percent); and heart failure (12 percent).

Cardiometabolic disorders represent a group of interrelated risk factors, primarily hypertension, elevated blood sugar, dyslipidemia, obesity and elevated triglycerides. Dyslipidemia refers to unhealthy levels of one or more types of lipid (fat) in the blood.

The researchers also considered the impact of age, with diabetes representing about 29 percent of hospitalizations among COVID patients over 65 years old — but just 8 percent among patients 50 or younger. Obesity was linked to patients in most age groups.

Black Americans hospitalized with COVID-19 are more likely to suffer from obesity, hypertension, diabetes and heart failure, compared to white adults, according to a study

“Our findings highlight the urgent need for trials to understand whether improving cardiometabolic health will reduce hospitalizations, morbidity, and healthcare strains from COVID‐19,” researchers said.

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