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Long COVID: Virus Reservoir ‘Hiding’ In The Gut Could Be The Culprit

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Long COVID: Virus Reservoir ‘Hiding’ In The Gut Could Be The Culprit


The novel coronavirus could be playing hide and seek in the body, causing people to suffer long-term symptoms. This is what scientists are eager to validate in an effort to understand long COVID and come up with ways to deal with the condition. 

There appears to be mounting evidence to support the idea that virus reservoirs in the body, especially in the gut, could be the reason why some people continue to experience symptoms months after battling the infection.

Professor David R. Walt and his colleagues at Harvard Medical School announced earlier this month that they detected SARS-CoV-2 proteins in the blood of 65% of long COVID patients up to 12 months since their bout with the virus. The study may be small in scale, but it does provide compelling evidence to the idea that virus reservoirs could be causing the long-term illness. 

“The half-life of spike protein in the body is pretty short, so its presence indicates that there must be some kind of active viral reservoir,” Walt was quoted as saying by The Guardian on Tuesday. 

Spike protein was not detected in the blood of COVID patients who did not have long-term symptoms. This would suggest that the protein could be responsible for the lengthened manifestation of symptoms in long COVID patients. 

Previous research led scientists to uncover COVID virus genetic material in stool samples of patients, particularly kids with multisystem inflammatory syndrome. Treating the patients with a drug that reduced intestinal permeability caused the rapid clearance of the material in stools and improved their condition. Walt hypothesized that something similar could be happening in long COVID patients. 

Meanwhile, PolyBio Research Foundation microbiologist Dr. Amy Proal pointed out that it might be impossible for the spike protein to remain in the body for long periods without the virus.

Other researchers have been pinning the long-term symptoms on a phenomenon called “viral persistence,” wherein the virus remains in the body even after the initial infection. 

A previous study published in April reported that about 13% of former patients were still shedding viral RNA in their stools about four months after the infection. Additionally, nearly 4% continued to shed the same genetic material seven months later. The same people suffered gastrointestinal symptoms, including abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. 

“The question is whether or not continued presence of the virus in the gut or elsewhere may kind of tickle the immune system, and cause there to be persistent symptoms,” Stanford University in California’s Ami Bhatt, who was involved in the April study, said. 

Aside from the gut, researchers have also identified cases wherein the virus remained in the eyes, brain and heart. These organs serve as “anatomical sanctuaries” for the virus, so they can evade the immune system and continue to plague patients with long-term symptoms. 

Unfortunately, more research is needed to really determine what is causing the long-term symptoms. For the many people living with the condition since the early days of the pandemic, the cure could only come about once long COVID is fully understood. 





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How Does Climate Change Affect Spread Of Infectious Diseases?

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How Does Climate Change Affect Spread Of Infectious Diseases?


More than leaving lasting damage to the natural environment, climate change is also making human diseases worse, according to a study. 

Climate change is not a new problem. Since the initial connection between human activities and global warming in the late 1930s, the scientific community has been spreading information about the rapid changes the planet is experiencing due to man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

A groundbreaking study published in Nature Climate Change has revealed that climate change has worsened diseases triggered by viruses, bacteria, animals, fungi and plants.

Conducted by researchers at the Mānoa’s University of Hawaii, the study analyzed over 70,000 scientific papers for examples of direct links between known diseases and global warming. Out of the 375 diseases analyzed, the team found that 218 were affected by climate change.

Specifically, the team found that climate change-related hazards – like ice precipitation, humid environments, and warmer temperatures – could bring pathogens closer to people. This favors the proliferation of ticks, mosquitoes, fleas, birds, and mammals responsible for the spread of viruses and bacteria that cause Lyme disease, malaria, dengue, and the plague, to name a few.

The researchers also found that extreme weather events caused by climate change have resulted in the displacement and forced migration of thousands of people in the world’s most vulnerable parts, triggering more contact between humans and pathogens.

The changing weather is also pushing the pathogens to adapt and become stronger, while added stress from unsafe living conditions and lack of access to healthcare has made the human immune system weaker.

“Given the extensive and pervasive consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was truly scary to discover the massive health vulnerability resulting as a consequence of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Camilo Mora, a study lead author and geography professor in the College of Social Sciences.

The study also brought some positive news. For example, some pathogens and viruses that couldn’t survive in warmer weather got reduced.

But this hardly balances out how much worse certain diseases have gotten, making it unlikely for humans to adapt in time.

“The world will need to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change to reduce these risks,” the authors concluded.





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‘Forever Chemicals’ Found In Cookware, Cosmetics Linked To Liver Cancer: Study

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'Forever Chemicals' Found In Cookware, Cosmetics Linked To Liver Cancer: Study


Arecent study has revealed a concerning connection between the most prevalent type of liver cancer and some man-made chemicals found in industrial items, often known as “forever chemicals.”

It is reportedly the first study in humans to precisely relate liver cancer to “forever chemical” exposure. The term “forever chemicals” refer to polyfluoroalkyl compounds (PFAS), which can last in the environment for decades and have the potential to resist disintegration. They cause air pollution and can harm the organ tissues in exposed humans and animals, CTV News reported.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PFAS were first introduced in the 1930s as a revolutionary material used in the development of nonstick cookware like Teflon. They were quickly adapted to all kinds of products and packaging, from construction materials to cosmetics, that benefit from their liquid- and fire-resistant properties, New York Post reported.

In the current study, published in JHEP Reports, researchers analyzed the Multiethnic Cohort Study database, which contains data from a study of over 200,000 inhabitants of Hawaii and Los Angeles. The dataset was narrowed down to 100 participants and 50 of them suffered from liver cancer or nonviral hepatocellular carcinoma. Researchers searched for remnants of “forever” molecules in their blood and tissue samples before their diagnosis.

It showed the participants were exposed to a variety of PFAS, with perfluorooctane sulfate (PFOS) being the most prevalent one. In fact, compared to those with the least exposure to PFOS, those in the top 10% of exposure had a 4.5-fold increased risk of developing liver cancer.

PFAS compounds are used in a wide range of products. But recent findings have determined many adverse effects of PFAS, from hypothyroidism to low birth weight, according to New Atlas.

The lack of appropriate samples is partly the reason why there have been fewer human studies, according to research author Veronica Wendy Setiawan.

“When you are looking at an environmental exposure, you need samples from well before a diagnosis because it takes time for cancer to develop,” Setiawan said.

The research team also highlighted the potential effects of PFOS on the normal functioning of the liver. After analyzing the samples, they discovered evidence suggesting that PFOS may affect the liver’s natural processes for metabolizing glucose, bile acids and branched-chain amino acids.

A consequent condition known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, is caused by the accumulation of more fat in the liver when there is disruption of normal metabolic processes.

Those with NAFLD have a substantially higher risk of acquiring liver cancer. By 2030, 30% of adults in the U.S. are expected to be impacted by NAFLD, Medical Express reported.





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Are Diabetes Medications Safe? Possible Cancer-Causing Ingredient Found In Merck Drugs

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Are Diabetes Medications Safe? Possible Cancer-Causing Ingredient Found In Merck Drugs


Diabetes drugs are once again under the microscope as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found certain samples of sitagliptin contain nitrosamine – a possible cancer-causing ingredient – at levels above what is allowable by the agency.

Sitagliptin is used for the management of high blood sugar in individuals that have Type 2 diabetes, but it is not the first ingredient to raise a flag with the FDA over allowable levels that could cause cancer.

Several makes of the diabetes drugs metformin were previously recalled under the agency’s supervision, as well as a number of high blood pressure pills and Pfizer’s smoking cessation medication – Chantix – all due to a possible cancer-causing risk from an ingredient known as NDMA or N-Nitrosodimethylamine in levels higher than were allowed by the FDA.

Now Merck’s diabetes drugs Januvia, Janumet, and Steglujan, which contain sitagliptin with higher than allowable levels of nitrosamine, are being reviewed by the agency. The pills are still being permitted to be made to stave off a shortage of medication, Bloomberg reported.

In an email to the news outlet, Merck confirmed that it “recently detected a nitrosamine identified as NTTP in some batches of our sitagliptin-containing medicines,” adding that it is working with health officials globally to put in place quality control measures to ensure the drugs meet FDA interim limits.

The FDA said that it allows 37 nanograms per day of nitrosamine in a drug, but to avoid any shortages of the diabetes medications, it is allowing up to 246.7 nanograms daily. The agency did maintain that cancer risk with the allowable increase is minimal.

The FDA said, “It could be dangerous for patients with this condition to stop taking their sitagliptin without first talking to their health care professional.” It also “recommends prescribers continue to use sitagliptin when clinically appropriate to prevent a gap in patient treatment.”

Januvia is the third best-selling drug for Merck, followed by Janumet, with revenues of $3.3 billion and nearly $2 billion, respectively, in 2021 for the company, Bloomberg said.





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