COVID and the brain: researchers zero in on how damage occurs

Authors: Michael Marshall

Growing evidence suggests that the coronavirus causes ‘brain fog’ and other neurological symptoms through multiple mechanisms.

How COVID-19 damages the brain is becoming clearer. New evidence suggests that the coronavirus’s assault on the brain could be multipronged: it might attack certain brain cells directly, reduce blood flow to brain tissue or trigger production of immune molecules that can harm brain cells.

Infection with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 can cause memory loss, strokes and other effects on the brain. The question, says Serena Spudich, a neurologist at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, is: “Can we intervene early to address these abnormalities so that people don’t have long-term problems?”

With so many people affected — neurological symptoms appeared in 80% of the people hospitalized with COVID-19 who were surveyed in one study1 — researchers hope that the growing evidence base will point the way to better treatments.

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Amid delta surge, confusion again reigns

Authors: Carissa Wolf, Douglas Moser, Roxana Popescu and Lenny Bernstein, The Washington Post

BOISE, IDAHO – Ben Lemons, an elementary school principal, received a coronavirus vaccine as soon as he could and tries to model safe practices for his students and staff. He masks up. In a state where relatively few have been immunized, he talks about why he got the shot.

The Shelley, Idaho, educator said he has been vigilant about social distancing and wearing a mask throughout the pandemic. Now, with the delta variant surging, he has become a little more vigilant. He feels safe taking his mask off if there’s a significant distance between him and other people. That’s as far as he’ll go in public.

“Everybody needs to go backward,” Lemons said.

After a couple of glorious months with diminished concern about the coronavirus, the delta variant has imposed a deja vu of risk-reward calculations on Americans, a throwback to the early months of the pandemic when every decision was preceded by a mental run through the positives and negatives.

Work? School? Grocery store? Family visit? Indoor restaurant? It’s all, once again, a mentally taxing exercise in fear vs. desire at a time when many hoped the pandemic would be receding into history.

This time, there are new variables to consider – most importantly, the widespread availability of highly effective vaccines. But while the coronavirus vaccines lighten the load by offering superb protection against severe disease and death, they are not perfect. Vaccinated people can become infected, although most should have a mild course of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.

And more than 130 million Americans have yet to receiveone dose of a coronavirus vaccine, including children under age 12.

William Tang of Newton, Mass., is confronting those limits. He, his wife and his young child hunkered down through the pandemic and diligently followed health guidelines. Now, he is watching case numbers rise, especially at an intended vacation destination. He is reassessing what they should do and where they can go.

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Ex-FDA head warns northern US may see COVID spike as schools reopen

Authors: Jackie Salo August 9, 2021 | 2:52pm | Updated

Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb warned that Northern US states could see COVID-19 cases rise as students return to the classroom.

Gottlieb said the states may not have outbreaks that rival Southern hotspots such as Florida, but they are still vulnerable to climbing case numbers.

“I think the Northern states are more impervious to the kind of spread we saw in the South, but they’re not completely impervious,” Gottlieb said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

“They have higher vaccination rates, there’s been more prior infection. But there’s still people who are vulnerable in those states.”

Gottlieb said the return to school may drive case numbers up everywhere.

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90% Of Patients Treated With Experimental Israeli COVID Drug Discharged Within 5 Days


Finally, it looks like the world might be on the verge of obtaining a therapeutic drug that’s actually effective at helping patients infected with COVID. But you probably won’t hear anything about this latest breakthrough from the American media, which covered the race for a vaccine with breathless enthusiasm.

According to a report in the Jerusalem Post, some 93% of 90 seriously ill coronavirus patients treated in several Greek hospitals with a new drug developed by a team at Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center were discharged in five days or fewer during the Phase II trial of the new therapeutic.

The Phase II trial confirmed the results of Phase I, which was conducted in Israel last winter. That trial found that 29 out of 30 patients in moderate to serious condition recover within days, while no cases of serious side effects have yet been detected.

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Violence at protests, distrust in government

Authors: by Chris Melore

AARHUS, Denmark — In an already divided nation, a new study finds COVID-19 is making a poor political situation even worse. Researchers conducting an international survey reveal the burden the coronavirus pandemic is placing on society is driving more people act violently at protests as well as creating even more antigovernment sentiment worldwide.

A team from the Peace Research Institute in Norway and the University of Aarhus polled 6,000 adults from the United States, Denmark, Italy, and Hungary during the pandemic. Researchers asked each person how COVID was affecting their health, financial well-being, relationships, and rights in society.

“The pandemic has disrupted our normal way of living, generating frustrations, unprecedented social exclusion, and a range of other concerns,” says Henrikas Bartusevičius Olso’s Peace Research Institute Oslo in a media release. “Our investigations show that the psychological toll of living through a pandemic also stoked antigovernment and antisystemic attitudes that led to political violence in a number of countries.”

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Austin warns of ‘catastrophe’ as Texas again becomes center of pandemic

With Covid-19 cases skyrocketing exponentially and intensive care unit capacity in hospitals dwindling to single digits, officials in the Austin area are warning of “catastrophe” as Texas again becomes an center of the pandemic.

Austin’s local governments issued an urgent message through their emergency notification system Saturday, imploring residents to stay home, mask up and get vaccinated.

The entreaty comes mere days after Austin Public Health elevated its risk-based guidance to stage 5, the highest possible tier.

“The situation is critical,” Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis county’s health authority, said in a statement. “Our hospitals are severely stressed and there is little we can do to alleviate their burden with the surging cases.”

The Texas trauma service area that includes Austin only has six available ICU beds, 499 available hospital beds and 313 available ventilators – a stunning dearth of resources for a population nearly 2.4 million strong.

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42 peer-reviewed studies that show masks are neither safe nor effective (it’s about subjugation and control not health – except for destroying it)


Links to Peer Reviewed Studies of the Effectiveness of Face Masks for COVID-19 Protection:

Masking: A Careful Review of the Evidence


Paul E. Alexander – February 11, 2021

The question on whether to wear a face mask or not during the Covid-19 pandemic remains emotional and contentious. Why? This question about the utility of face coverings (which has taken on a talisman-like life) is now overwrought with steep politicization regardless of political affiliation (e.g. republican or liberal/democrat). 

Importantly, the evidence just is and was not there to support mask use for asymptomatic people to stop viral spread during a pandemic. While the evidence may seem conflicted, the evidence (including the peer-reviewed evidence) actually does not support its use and leans heavily toward masks having no significant impact in stopping spread of the Covid virus. 

In fact, it is not unreasonable at this time to conclude that surgical and cloth masks, used as they currently are, have absolutely no impact on controlling the transmission of Covid-19 virus, and current evidence implies that face masks can be actually harmful. All this to say and as so comprehensively documented by Dr. Roger W. Koops in a recent American Institute of Economic Research (AIER) publication, there is no clear scientific evidence that masks (surgical or cloth) work to mitigate risk to the wearer or to those coming into contact with the wearer, as they are currently worn in everyday life and specifically as we refer to Covid-19. 

We present the evidence in full below. We also state that should adequate evidence emerge that supports the effectiveness of surgical and cloth masks in this Covid pandemic (or any similar type masks), then we will change our position and conclude otherwise. Our focus is on face masks for  Covid but we will touch gently on the issue of school closures and lockdowns, as these three issues remain the key public health policy catastrophes we have faced as global societies. 

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COVID-19 survivors may possess wide-ranging resistance to the disease

Authors: Rajee Suri

Recovered COVID-19 patients retain broad and effective longer-term immunity to the disease, suggests a recent Emory University study, which is the most comprehensive of its kind so far. The findings have implications for expanding understanding about human immune memory as well as future vaccine development for coronaviruses.

The longitudinal study, published recently on Cell Reports Medicine, looked at 254 patients with mostly mild to moderate symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 infection over a period for more than eight months (250 days) and found that their immune response to the virus remained durable and strong.

Emory Vaccine Center director Rafi Ahmed, PhD, and a lead author on the paper, says the findings are reassuring, especially given early reports during the pandemic that protective neutralizing antibodies did not last in COVID-19 patients.

“The study serves as a framework to define and predict long-lived immunity to SARS-CoV-2 after natural infection. We also saw indications in this phase that natural immunity could continue to persist,” Ahmed says. The research team will continue to evaluate this cohort over the next few years.

Researchers found that not only did the immune response increase with disease severity, but also with each decade of age regardless of disease severity, suggesting that there are additional unknown factors influencing age-related differences in COVID-19 responses. 

In following the patients for months, researchers got a more nuanced view of how the immune system responds to COVID-19 infection. The picture that emerges indicates that the body’s defense shield not only produces an array of neutralizing antibodies but activates certain T and B cells to establish immune memory, offering more sustained defenses against reinfection.

“We saw that antibody responses, especially IgG antibodies, were not only durable in the vast majority of patients but decayed at a slower rate than previously estimated, which suggests that patients are generating longer-lived plasma cells that can neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.”

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Covid-19 natural immunity compared to vaccine-induced immunity: The definitive summary


Updated Aug. 6 with CDC analysis of Kentucky (unvaccinated Kentuckians had “2.34 times the odds of reinfection compared with fully vaccinated) and national analysis in Israel (vaccinated Israelis were 6.72 times more likely to get infected after the shot than after natural infection). More below.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) became one of the latest high-profile figures to get sick with Covid-19, even though he’s fully vaccinated. In a statement Monday, Graham said it feels like he has “the flu,” but is “certain” he would be worse if he hadn’t been vaccinated.

While it’s impossible to know whether that’s the case, public health officials are grappling with the reality of an increasing number of fully-vaccinated Americans coming down with Covid-19 infections, getting hospitalized, and even dying of Covid. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) insists vaccination is still the best course for every eligible American. But many are asking if they have better immunity after they’re infected with the virus and recover, than if they’re vaccinated.

Increasingly, the answer within the data appears to be ”yes.”

Why does CDC seem to be “ignoring” natural immunity?

In fact, some medical experts have said they’re confounded by public health officials’ failure to factor natural and virus-acquired immunity into the Covid equation. Public and media narratives often press the necessity of “vaccination for all,” chiding states where vaccination rates are lowest. And they use vaccination rates and Covid case counts as inverse indicators of how safe it is in a particular state: high vaccination rate = high safety; high case counts = low safety (they claim).

Read: Covid-19 natural immunity vs. vaccine-induced immunity

However, vaccination rates alone tell little about a population’s true immune-status. And where high Covid case counts occur, it ultimately means a larger segment of that community ends up better-protected, vaccines aside. That’s according to virologists who point out that fighting off Covid, even without developing any symptoms, leaves people with what’s thought to be more robust and longer-lasting immunity than the vaccines confer.

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