From wildfires to common cold antibodies, here is what increases COVID risk

Here is a compilation of a few of these discoveries that could help understand the spread of the novel coronavirus and prevent it

Amid the race for the invention of a vaccine against COVID-19, various studies have led to discoveries that would help combat the novel coronavirus better.

Here is a compilation of a few of these discoveries that could help understand the spread of the virus and prevent it.

Mouthwash may help nullify coronavirus, finds study

Certain mouthwashes and oral antiseptics may inactivate human coronaviruses, and help reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19, according to a study.

The findings, published in the Journal of Medical Virology, indicate that some of these products might be useful for reducing the viral load, or the amount of the virus in the mouth after infection.

The researchers from the Penn State College of Medicine in the US tested several oral and nasopharyngeal rinses in a laboratory setting for their ability to inactivate human coronaviruses, which are similar in structure to SARS-CoV-2.

The products evaluated include a 1 per cent solution of baby shampoo, a neti pot, peroxide sore-mouth cleansers, and mouthwashes. The team found that several of the nasal and oral rinses had a strong ability to neutralise human coronavirus, which suggests that these products may have the potential to reduce the amount of virus spread by people who are COVID-19-positive.

“While we wait for a vaccine to be developed, methods to reduce transmission are needed,” said Craig Meyers, a professor at Penn State College of Medicine.

“The products we tested are readily available and often already part of people’s daily routines,” Meyers said.

The researchers treated solutions containing a strain of human coronavirus, which served as a readily available and genetically similar alternative for SARS-CoV-2, with the baby shampoo solutions, various peroxide antiseptic rinses and various brands of mouthwash.

The researchers allowed the solutions to interact with the virus for 30 seconds, one minute and two minutes, before diluting the solutions to prevent further virus inactivation.

To measure how much virus was inactivated, the researchers placed the diluted solutions in contact with cultured human cells. They counted how many cells remained alive after a few days of exposure to the viral solution and used that number to calculate the amount of human coronavirus that was inactivated as a result of exposure to the mouthwash or oral rinse that was tested.

The 1 per cent baby shampoo solution, which is often used by head and neck doctors to rinse the sinuses, inactivated greater than 99.9 per cent of human coronavirus after a two-minute contact time. Several of the mouthwash and gargle products also were effective at inactivating the infectious virus, the researchers said.

Wildfires may trigger rapid spread of COVID-19: Report

A paper published in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences found that wildfires may have stirred a rapid spread in cases of COVID-19 and related deaths in San Francisco.

The study revealed that between March and September, an increase in smoke particles, other wildfire pollutants and carbon monoxide levels corresponded to increases in daily COVID-19 diagnoses and total COVID-19 deaths, according to Reuters.

Co-author of the study, Sultan Ayoub Meo of King Saud University in Saudi Arabia told Reuters that air pollution provides a means for viruses to move around the environment.

These tiny pollution particles, along with the microorganisms they carry, “can easily be inhaled deep into the lungs and cause infections,” according to Meo. “Carbon monoxide is a highly toxic gas which can damage our lungs, resulting as a triggering factor for an increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths in the wildfire region,” Reuters quoted Sultan Ayoub Meo as saying.

The results indicated that “the wildfire allied pollutants, particulate matter PM-2.5µm and CO have a positive association with an increased number of SARS-COV-2 daily cases, cumulative cases and cumulative deaths in San Francisco”.

Common cold antibodies may prevent body from responding to COVID-19

According to a few researchers, a phenomenon called “antigenic sin” may be the reason behind a few COVID-19 patients becoming critically ill.

The new virus shares a few features with coronaviruses that cause common colds. The body’s immune response can include antibodies that previously learned to recognise and attack those older viruses.

This can, in turn, detract from the body’s ability to fight COVID-19, because the common cold antibodies do not reliably attack the new virus, according to the report.

In severely-ill COVID-19 patients, the immune response directed at other coronaviruses is higher than in mildly ill patients, researchers said, according to Reuters.

This situation – when the body reacts to a new invader based on its “memory” of previous invaders – has been witnessed before and is called “original antigenic sin”.

“New vaccines must be able to prompt an immune response against this new virus, and not merely boost immune responses toward common cold viruses,” Reuters quoted co-author Gijsbert van Nierop of Erasmus Medical Center in The Netherlands, as saying.

Bowel disease drug that suppresses immunity does not increase risk for COVID-19: Study

People with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) do not increase their risk for contracting COVID-19 by taking immunosuppressive drugs to control their symptoms, according to a study published in the medical journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases on Thursday.

The research was conducted involving more than 5,300 patients with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

“After weighing other known risk factors for COVID-19, including age, race, and other medical issues, we found that immunosuppressive therapy was not associated with an increased risk of COVID-19,” Reuters quoted study co-author Dr. Kristin Burke of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School as saying.

“Amongst the people with IBD that got COVID-19, we also found that the use of immunosuppressive medications did not increase the risk of getting the severe disease, which we defined as a disease requiring hospitalisation, intensive care unit stay, or death,” the study noted.

However, higher age and obesity were risk factors for severity in COVID-19 in these patients too.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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