Individual Studies Suggest Pfizer’s Paxlovid May Treat COVID-19
Although research is being conducted on Long COVID or Long COVID-19, whose symptoms continue for weeks and months after initial infection, there are very few ongoing clinical trials on treatments. Anecdotally, there has been what appears to be a successful treatment for Long Covid using Pfizer’s antiviral regimen Paxlovid. Read on for more details.
The Case for Testing Pfizer’s Paxlovid for Long COVID
Two cases, including one where a researcher tested Pfizer’s antiviral regimen Paxlovid on herself, suggest it would be worth running a more thorough trial to determine if the therapy would effectively treat Long COVID. Currently, Pfizer doesn’t have any ongoing Long COVID studies. Although the cases aren’t enough to support taking the drug to treat Long COVID, it could be viewed as “hypothesis-generating” and provide grounds for testing more systematically.
Reuters notes that fewer than 20 clinical studies are being conducted on Long COVID, and only five or six of them are beyond the earliest stages.
One of the cases involved a previously healthy and vaccinated 47-year-old woman infected with COVID-19 in the summer of 2021. Most of the worst symptoms passed within 48 hours, but severe fatigue, brain fog, exhaustion after exercise, insomnia, racing heartbeat and body aches continued severe enough that she couldn’t work. She was likely reinfected six months later, and many of the acute symptoms returned. Her physician prescribed Paxlovid. After about three days, she appeared to return to normal.
The self-prescribed case was Lavanya Visvabharathy, 37, an immunologist at Northwestern medicine’s Long Covid clinic. She was infected in December 2021, with initially mild symptoms, but chronic fatigue, headaches and sleep problems went on for four months. She continued to test positive, with indications of viral persistence. She decided to try Paxlovid. After about five days, the fatigue and insomnia improved, and after two weeks, the fatigue ended.
A large tracking study out of Stanford University found that Long COVID might be associated with harboring the virus in feces. The study found that about half of infected patients shed traces of the virus in their waste for a week after infection. Also, about 4% shed viral RNA for seven months. The RNA in feces also was associated with gastric upsets. They suspect the virus might infect the GI tract, where it remains.
Sinovac’s Omicron-Specific Vaccine to Launch in Hong Kong
China’s Sinovac Biotech received approval to initiate clinical trials in Hong Kong of its Omicron-specific vaccine. The company reported preclinical studies that demonstrated the inactivated vaccine was safe and effective in laboratory animals. The company collected a sample of the Omicron strain in early December and “actively promoted development and preclinical research.” It filed with regulatory agencies for trials in February.
Covid Cases Climb, Hospitalizations Stay Low
Although COVID-19 hospitalizations have crept up a little bit, they are almost the lowest in the U.S. that they have been in 21 months. However, there are some signs of an overall rise in COVID-19 infections. Last week, Philadelphia reinstated an indoor mask mandate until rates drop. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention backpedaled and kept mask mandates on commercial airplane travel until at least May 3.
The seven-day average for new hospital admissions for COVID-19 across the U.S. is 1,464, compared to 1,425 the previous week. In mid-January, the seven-day average exceeded 21,000. In comparison, the daily average of positive tests is 35,967, an increase of 18% from two weeks previous. A question on the figure’s accuracy revolves around whether positive results seen from at-home tests are reported at all. And the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center also finds that testing generally varies significantly from region to region. For example, New Jersey tested 47 out of every 100,000 people last week, while California tested more than 1,400 out of every 100,000. It’s also doubtful, especially with spring allergy season in full bloom, if people with mild symptoms such as a cough and nasal congestion test at all or assume it’s allergies or a spring cold.
There are suggestions that we’re currently in a wave, similar to the one seen in March 2020 (which, to be fair, looked big then but small now), but the public is tired enough and accustomed to the rise and fall of the disease that people are pushing back against any further mandates.
The Question of Herd Immunity
Fairly early in the pandemic, there was a lot of discussion about how long it would take to achieve herd immunity, which was loosely defined as the point where enough of the population was either vaccinated or infected that the pandemic would fade. But the rise of more resistant variants tossed the entire discussion in the trash until some researchers and the media retrieved it and tried to redefine what herd immunity means.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, told CNN, “The concept of classical herd immunity may not apply to COVID-19.” And that “means we’re not going to be without SARS-CoV-2 in the population for a considerable period of time.”
Measles, which remains largely stable, is a case of classic herd immunity. Once infected or vaccinated, you’re pretty much protected for the rest of your life. That’s not the case with COVID-19 or even other coronaviruses. Fauci pointed out that we’ve seen five separate variants over a two-year period, Alpha, Beta, Delta, Omicron and Omicron BA.2.
Psychiatric Disorders Increase Risk of COVID-19 Reinfection
A study of 263,697 U.S. veterans published in JAMA Network Open suggests that a history of specific psychiatric disorders may increase the risk of fully vaccinated COVID-19 survivors to reinfection. The conditions included depression, posttraumatic stress, anxiety, adjustment disorders, substance use disorder, bipolar disorder, psychosis, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dissociation, and eating disorders. They found people with a history of these disorders had a 7% higher incidence of COVID-19 reinfection, with a 24% higher risk in patients 65 and older with substance abuse, 23% higher with psychotic disorders, 16% for bipolar disorder, and 14% for adjustment disorder, and 12% for anxiety. Certain other illnesses were also associated with an increased risk of reinfection: 23% for chronic kidney disease, 20% for HIV, 19% for cardiovascular diseases, 17% for COPD, and 13% for sleep apnea.
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