MT Weekly: COVID-19 Testing Accuracy, Organ Failure, Plasma Therapy
MedTruth is reporting on the coronavirus. Here’s a summary of the most important developments this week — medical research, regulation, legislation and legal actions.
Staying informed starts here.
COVID-19 Can Infect Kidneys and Other Organs
Research + Findings
A pair of studies performed independently have detected SARS-CoV-2 in multiple organs, including the lungs, throat, heart, liver, brain and kidneys. The development indicates that COVID-19 is more much more than a respiratory illness.
One study, published in a letter written in the New England Journal of Medicine, comes from Germany. The study, involving a series of autopsies of COVID-19 patients, found the virus had replicated in a number of organs but was especially prolific in the kidneys.
The finding that COVID-19 infects non-respiratory organs was also demonstrated in a Hong Kong study published in Nature Medicine. Researchers found that the virus could even replicate in stool and the intestines.
If the virus makes a multi-organ attack, it may explain the incidences of stroke in young patients and blood clots in dialysis patients. The development sheds light on why patients with pre-existing conditions are particularly at risk.
Cleveland Clinic Raises Doubts About COVID-19 Testing Accuracy
Research + Findings
On Sunday, CNN’s chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta questioned the accuracy of 46 diagnostic rt-PCR tests. Gupta posited the FDA acted with haste in an effort to make tests available, leaving gaps in credibility. None of the tests had been properly vetted by the agency.
Dr. Gary Procop, an infectious disease pathologist at Cleveland Clinic, led a team of researchers who analyzed five of the rt-PCR tests to determine the number of false negatives and missed positives. Procop’s team found that the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s test had a 0% miss-rate for the virus, and tests from Cepheid and Roche missed 5% or fewer of positive cases.
The Abbott ID Now test, lauded for its fast results and compact size, displayed a 15% miss-rate. Another study found Abbott ID Now test could miss as many as 25% of positive COVID cases.
In response, clinicians have asked the FDA to begin requesting a more thorough manufacturer review of COVID-19 testing kits to ensure that the devices are accurate.
Study Suggests Hydroxychloroquine May Cause Cardiac Arrest
Research + Findings
The coronavirus treatment heavily pushed by President Donald Trump may be not only ineffective against the virus but also dangerous to patients.
A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association looking at 1,438 patients in New York, 88.2% of cases in the New York Metropolitan region, found no statistically significant reduction in mortality with the use of hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin or both. Even more concerning, the combination of the two drugs was found to double the risk of cardiac arrest.
The finding comes following last month’s warnings from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health about the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients.
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert and adviser to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CNN: “I’d be surprised if there were many patients and their families or doctors who would want to pursue using hydroxychloroquine.”
Texas Study Finds Success Treating COVID Patients With Antibody-Rich Plasma
Research + Findings
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is coordinating with America’s Blood Centers to execute the collection of convalescent plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients after a prospective study in Houston, Texas generated positive results for an experimental treatment.
A recent study, conducted at Houston Methodist, indicated convalescent plasma transfusion may be a safe and effective treatment. In the study, 19 out of 25 patients with severe COVID showed some improvement in their symptoms when plasma therapy was added in conjunction with other baseline treatments.
Convalescent plasma is believed to contain antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. Eleven patients in the study — who also received oxygen, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral treatments — were discharged from the hospital following the experimental plasma treatment.
The study results, though not yet peer-reviewed, were published on May 13, 2020, and have been submitted to a medical journal. Despite the small number of patients in the study, the FDA has encouraged donations to stockpile plasma while researchers conduct more in-depth studies. Currently, there is no treatment for COVID-19.
White House Task Force Recommends Nursing Home Testing
On Monday, the Associated Press reported that the White House released recommendations to have nursing home residents and staff extensively tested. Dr. Deborah Birx, the task force coordinator for the White House, called on governors, stating, “We really believe that all 1 million nursing home residents need to be tested within the next two weeks, as well as the staff.”
Much of the scrutiny in nursing homes has focused on a lack of responsiveness and transparency in crisis. Charlene Harrington, a professor emeritus of nursing at the University of California, San Francisco, told the AP: “If they had [prioritized nursing home safety] to begin with, we would’ve picked up cases early and we wouldn’t have so many deaths.”
Nursing home staff members, meanwhile, have enthusiastically requested testing materials, noting that “silent spreaders” are making controlling COVID-19 in nursing homes nearly impossible. Throughout the crisis, nursing homes have complained of inadequate staffing numbers, personal protective equipment and testing materials.
By MedTruth Editors