The ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China, is seen in an illustration released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. January 29, 2020. Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM/CDC/Handout via REUTERS
The following is a roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.
People on meat-free diets had lower odds of contracting moderate to severe COVID-19, according to a six-country study published on Monday in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health. Plant-based diets were tied to a 73% lower risk of severe disease, researchers found in a survey of 2,884 healthcare providers who cared for COVID-19 patients. Combining those on a plant-based diet and people who also ate fish but no meat, researchers found 59% lower odds of severe disease. The study cannot prove that specific diets protected against severe COVID-19, and diet did not appear to lower the risk of becoming infected. But plant-based diets are rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals that are important for healthy immune systems, the researchers noted, and fish provide vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. Healthy eating, however, has been problematic during the pandemic, according to two presentations this week during a virtual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition. Consumption of healthy foods such as vegetables and whole grains declined, according to researchers who compared the diets of more than 2,000 Americans before and during the pandemic. In a separate study, researchers who collected dietary data in June 2020 for 3,916 U.S. adults found many had increased their consumption of unhealthy snacks, desserts and sugary drinks during the pandemic. "Individuals may need help to avoid making these dietary changes permanent," said Dr. Sohyun Park of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, coauthor of the latter study. (https://bit.ly/3g91dUc; https://bit.ly/3xfox8t; https://bit.ly/3zhcSYz)
A study of side effects from AstraZeneca's (AZN.L) COVID-19 vaccine in Scotland found only an association with a largely harmless bleeding condition and no link to the potentially deadly venous clotting in the brain, known as CVST, which has caused concern in Europe and led to pauses in its use. Researchers who tracked 5.4 million people in Scotland found roughly one additional case of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) per 100,000 people after the first AstraZeneca shot. ITP is a treatable condition of low platelet count and has not caused any deaths among the 1.7 million recipients of the vaccine in the study, the authors reported on Wednesday in Nature Medicine. Due to the rarity of CVST, the Scottish study may have been too small to allow for any conclusions, coauthor Aziz Sheikh of the University of Edinburgh told a media briefing. "The overall message is just the rarity of these outcomes," said Sheikh. "This is reassuring data." (https://go.nature.com/3crKglC; https://go.nature.com/356SUBI; https://reut.rs/3gkG48m)