Tulane Outbreak Daily | May 7, 2020

Upcoming Virtual Events:

  1. SARS-CoV-2 serological testing: What is it and what does it mean?
    May 13 @ 11:00 am – 12:00 pm EDT
    May 13 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm EDT
  3. EPA Expands Research on SARS-CoV-2 in the Environment
    May 27 @ 11:00 am – 12:00 pm CDT

Details for registration on our website

Featured Headlines

Readers, a series of articles on SARS-CoV-2 mutation and links to papers below. It would be great to hear your opinions in the comments. If you would prefer to comment without attribution, send me an email.

A team of researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS and the Duke Human Vaccine Institute and Department of Surgery has found 14 mutations to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, one of which they suspect might be more easily spread. In the interest of speedy dissemination of findings, the group has uploaded their paper to the bioRxiv preprint server rather than waiting for peer review at another journal. [Related pre-print study]

A study, published in the journal Virus Evolution, reports on the volution of Sars-CoV-2, reporting there are not distinct types of the virus. Dr Jonathan Stoye, Head of Division of Virology, The Francis Crick Institute, said: “In this rapidly moving pandemic, the dataset examined in this paper closed on the March 12 with 396 sequences compared to some newer, although unpublished, work which assess April 12 (6331 sequences) and April 19 (7666 sequences) for the Los Alamos± and UCL¥ studies. This means there will be additional genetic changes that have happened since the Glasgow analysis took place.”

The form of SARS-CoV-2 that spread like wildfire across Europe before taking over North America features a mutation that makes the virus more transmissible than the form that spread in the early days of the pandemic, according to new research.

Recent research had suggested more than one type of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is now circulating, with one strain being more aggressive and causing more serious illness than the other.

As if the pandemic weren’t bad enough, on April 30, a team led by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory released a paper that purportedly described “the emergence of a more transmissible form” of the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. This new form, the team wrote, “began spreading in Europe in early February.” Whenever it appeared in a new place, including the U.S., it rapidly rose to dominance. Its success, the team suggested, is likely due to a single mutation, which is now “of urgent concern.”

What’s Up with the Elevated Liver Biochemistries (LFT’s) in COVID-19? – FLARE

Elevated liver biochemistries (often called LFTs and generally encompassing AST, ALT, alkaline phosphatase, and total and direct bilirubin, +/- GGT) are common in patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Occasionally these elevations reach a threshold that triggers clinical concern. In tonight’s FLARE, we describe what is known about LFTs in COVID-19 as well as the clinical implications of elevated LFTs in this disease.

Black people in UK ‘nearly twice as likely to die’ – BBC

UK government data suggests black people twice as likely as whites to die, while other ethnic minority groups also worse affected

Sewage poses potential COVID-19 transmission risk, experts warn – Science Daily

Environmental biologists have warned that the potential spread of COVID-19 via sewage ‘must not be neglected’ in the battle to protect human health.

U.S. Coronavirus Testing Still Falls Short. How’s Your State Doing? – NPR

[4 minute audio at the link] To safely phase out social distancing measures, the U.S. needs more diagnostic testing for the coronavirus, experts say. But how much more?

2nd COVID-19 Wave: Most Americans Are Still Susceptible

Dr. Ali Khan, former director of the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says he is confident that a second wave will happen. That’s because, he says in an interview with NPR’s Morning Edition, the vast majority of people in the U.S. are likely still at risk of contracting the virus.

Hoping Llamas Will Become Coronavirus Heroes – NYT

Antibodies from Winter, a 4-year-old llama with great eyelashes, have neutralized coronavirus and other infections in lab experiments.

[Editor’s note: I was waiting for a published paper to post this story, and it turns out there is one] .[Related Study in Cell]

WHO says ‘there can be no going back to business as usual’ after coronavirus pandemic – CNBC

The World Health Organization warned world leaders Wednesday that there can be “no going back to business as usual” following the coronavirus pandemic, which has upended economies and wreaked havoc on nearly every country across the globe.

Structure of COVID-19 virus hints at key to high infection rate – Cornell University

A Cornell study of the structure of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, reveals a unique feature that could explain why it is so transmissible between people. The Cornell group also notes that – aside from primates – cats, ferrets and mink are the animal species apparently most susceptible to the human virus. [Related Study]

Anticoagulation Associated With Improved Outcomes in Hospitalized COVID-19 Patients – American College of Cardiology

Of 2,773 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, 786 (28%) received systemic anticoagulation during their hospital stay. The median length of stay was five days, while the median time from admission to anticoagulation initiation was two days and the median anticoagulation treatment was three days. Among patients who received anticoagulation, in-hospital mortality was 22.5% with a median survival of 21 days, compared with 22.8% and a median survival of 14 days among patients who did not receive anticoagulation. [Related Pre-Print Study]

SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater and rivers – Medical news.net

A new study published on the preprint server medRxiv* in May 2020 shows that while the virus causing COVID-19 may be present in wastewater and rivers, the biological agent is typically devoid of vitality and unable to cause active infection. This should provide some relief to public health authorities in their quest to contain the virus.[Related pre-print study]

COVID-19 could further destabilize Haiti, other fragile nations – CIDRAP

With different parts of the world at different stages of the pandemic, with variations even within countries, World Health Organization (WHO) officials today urged nations to take extra care in relaxing their distancing measures, and they raised concerns about COVID-19 spreading in countries like Haiti that are already struggling with humanitarian issues.

Editor’s note: Regarding the case counts below, please consider due to limited testing capabilities in some locations, the real number of cases could be considerably higher.

Official Reporting for May 7, 2020

WHO SITREP #107 ECDC Johns Hopkins
Confirmed Cases 3,588,773 3,713,796 3,784,085
Deaths 247,503 263,288 264,679


Total cases: 1,193,813
Total deaths: 70,802
(Numbers close out at 4 p.m. the day before reporting.)

Surveillance Headlines


Gainsville, Georgia: Gainesville has become hot spot for coronavirus cases in Georgia – CNN

Wisconsin: Wisconsin tests more than 4,000 for coronavirus, a single-day high – Local News


Brazil: Reports 615 deaths – the highest one-day tally ever in the southern hemisphere – BBC


Sweden: Coronavirus Approach Not A Model To Copy, Warns Goldman Sachs – Forbes


South Korea: What’s Behind South Korea’s COVID-19 Exceptionalism? – The Atlantic

Science and Tech

Researchers have rapidly reconstructed the SARS-CoV-2 virus using synthetic genomics – Front Line Genomics

Swiss and German researchers have developed a yeast-based synthetic genomics platform that can rapidly reconstruct diverse RNA viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the current COVID-19 pandemic. The study, published in Nature, has allowed researchers to gain insights into viral pathogenesis and vaccine development.

Bat-virus adaptation may explain species spillover, researchers say – Outbreak News Today

A University of Saskatchewan (USask) research team has uncovered how bats can carry the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus without getting sick–research that could shed light on how coronaviruses make the jump to humans and other animals.


Inactivated vaccine candidate protects macaques from SARS-CoV-2 infection – Eureka Alert

In mice, rats, and nonhuman primates, a newly developed SARS-CoV-2 virus vaccine candidate induced antibodies that neutralized several different SARS-CoV-2 strains. Critically, it did so without leading to a phenomenon known as antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE), which previous reports have raised as a concern.

Moderna shares surge after FDA approves coronavirus vaccine for phase 2 trial – CNBC

Moderna said it will begin phase 2 trials with 600 participants shortly and is finalizing plans for a phase 3 trial as early as this summer.


Published Research

Phylogenetic Analysis and Structural Modeling of SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein Reveals an Evolutionary Distinct and Proteolytically Sensitive Activation Loop – Journal of Molecular Biology

COVID-19 Illness and Heart Failure: A Missing Link? – JACC Heart Failure

An Epidemiologic Study of COVID-19 Patients in a State Psychiatric Hospital – High Penetrance Rate Despite Following Initial CDC Guidelines – Tulane/Psychiatryonline.org

The immune system of children: the key to understanding SARS-CoV-2 susceptibility? – The Lancet

Pre-Pub (not yet peer reviewed, should not be regarded as conclusive)

Association of Treatment Dose Anticoagulation with In-Hospital Survival Among Hospitalized Patients with COVID-19 – American College of Cardiology

Vitamin D deficiency as risk factor for severe COVID-19: a convergence of two pandemics – MedRxiv


Coping in Quarantine

Life in Quarantine – Wall Street Journal

Dispatches from WSJ reporters around the world about how people are living during the coronavirus pandemic.

CityLabs Map project update: Maps of Life Under Lockdown (new maps!)

Submit your own map here

How a Photographer in Australia color coordinates her family in lockdown – Instagram