Coronavirus science | Week in review: Not like flu, role of blood type, and fake news



READ | Covid infection: Scientists think blood type plays a role, and have identified which one is least at risk

People with blood type O are less likely to become infected with Covid-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, according to two new studies published in the journal Blood Advances.

They are also at lower risk of severe Covid-19 outcomes, such as organ failure, and even death.

Scientists have been investigating a potential link between blood type and vulnerability to Covid-19 for many months, and this latest evidence supports previous findings.

A preprint study published in March this year suggested that people with blood type A have a higher risk of acquiring Covid-19 compared with non-A blood groups, while another study published in June found that blood type O seemed to be more resistant against Covid-19 infection.

In this study, researchers analysed data from a Danish health registry that included more than 473 000 patients who were infected with Covid-19 between 27 February 2020 and 30 July 2020. After controlling for certain factors, they found fewer patients with blood type O, compared with patients with blood types A, B, and AB.

The researchers also point out that they did not find any significant difference in rate of infection between A, B, and AB blood types.

READ | Scientists looked at susceptibility to fake news – here are the top 3 Covid-19 conspiracies

The Covid-19 pandemic has fuelled misinformation, fake news and conspiracy theories so much so that leading tech companies, like Google and Facebook, have had to work hard to prevent this.

Now an international study by researchers from the University of Cambridge in England, has identified some prominent conspiracy theories that have gained traction among five different countries' populations: the UK, the US, Ireland, Mexico and Spain.

Their findings reveal the top three conspiracy theories as the following:

- The Covid-19 virus was engineered in a Wuhan laboratory – this was deemed the most valid across the board. - The pandemic is "part of a plot to enforce global vaccination". - There is a 5G conspiracy that some wireless communications worsen Covid-19 symptoms.

The study was published this month in the Royal Society Open Science journal.

For the study, the research team gathered data from national samples in each of the five countries and asked participants to rate the reliability of various statements, including six popular myths about Covid-19.

READ | Just like the flu? No, hospitalised Covid-19 patients tend to be younger, and healthier

A new global network study, which included data of more than 34 000 Covid-19 patients from across three continents, has provided a better understanding of the profiles of hospitalised Covid-19 (the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2) patients.

The study was published this month by the Observational Health Data Sciences and Informatics (OHDSI) community (housed at the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Columbia University) and in the journal Nature Communications.

"Despite recent discourse around the supposed poor health and limited life expectancy of Covid-19 patients, we see Covid-19 patients to be in no worse health than those typically hospitalised with influenza,” said co-author Edward Burn, a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Statistics in Medicine (CSM), University of Oxford, UK, in a press statement by Columbia University.

"This further highlights the high rate of mortality among Covid-19 patients," he added.

The results show that patients hospitalised with Covid-19 were more typically male in the US and Spain – but more often female in South Korea.

The ages of patients varied, with the most common age groups in Spain and the US reported to be between 60 to 75.

READ | Covid-19: Does age matter? Not with your likelihood of being infected – study

Scientists from Hokkaido University, Japan, have discovered that the age of an individual does not indicate how likely they are to develop Covid-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2.

However, three factors are age-dependent: development of symptoms, progression of the disease, and mortality.

These results are based on the work of a team of scientists who used mathematical modelling to study Covid-19 susceptibility in patients from Japan, Spain, and Italy. Their results were published in the journal Scientific Reports this month.

The three countries were chosen based on well-recorded, publicly available data, the researchers stated in a news release by the university.

The data revealed that, as of May 2020, the mortality rate (number of deaths per 100 000) was 382.3 for Italy, 507.2 for Spain and 13.2 for Japan.

In spite of the wide disparity in mortality rates, the researchers explained that the age distribution of mortality (the proportional number of deaths per age group) was similar for these countries.

READ | Comorbidities and Covid-19: How pre-existing conditions significantly increase risk of death

Underlying medical conditions have been known to put individuals at risk of severe Covid-19 illness and death, but there are certain medical conditions that can particularly put patients at an increased risk of death, researchers from Penn State College of Medicine have found.

According to their international study, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, congestive heart failure, chronic kidney disease, strokes and cancer can increase a patient's risk of dying from Covid-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2.

The study was recently published in Plos One.

The research team conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 25 international studies and analysed data from more than 65 000 patients.

"We took an all-inclusive, global approach for this study by examining 11 chronic conditions and including patients from four continents: Asia, Europe, North America and Africa," Dr Paddy Ssentongo, a doctoral student in epidemiology at the College of Medicine and study co-author, said in a news release by Penn State University.


SA cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 703 793.

According to the latest update, 18 471 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 634 543 recoveries.

So far, nearly 4.55 million tests have been conducted, with 23 337 new tests reported.

Global cases update:

For the latest global data, follow this interactive map from Johns Hopkins University & Medicine.

Early on Monday morning, positive cases worldwide were almost 39.85 million, while deaths were more than 1.11 million.

The United States had the most cases in the world - almost 8.15 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 219 000.


Latest news:

HEALTH TIPS (as recommended by the NICD and WHO)

• Maintain physical distancing – stay at least one metre away from somebody who is coughing or sneezing

• Practise frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, as your hands touch many surfaces and could potentially transfer the virus

• Practise respiratory hygiene – cover your mouth with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Remember to dispose the tissue immediately after use.

Image credit: Getty Images

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