Top 10: December 25

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In Memoriam

Normile D, Huihui B, Hicks L, et al. Ones we’ve lost. Science. 2020 Dec 18;370(6523):1398-1401. PubMed: Full-text:



Wurtzer S, Marechal V, Mouchel JM, et al. Evaluation of lockdown effect on SARS-CoV-2 dynamics through viral genome quantification in waste water, Greater Paris, France, 5 March to 23 April 2020. Euro Surveill. 2020 Dec;25(50). PubMed: Full-text:

Management of epidemics requires careful monitoring of the infected population because exceptional measures such as lockdowns rely on this kind of information. Here, Laurent Moulin and colleagues from Eau de Paris report the analysis of raw waste water (WW) collected at the inlets of waste water treatment plants (WWTPs). They demonstrate that a quantitative detection of SARS-CoV-2 in WW reflected the circulation of the virus in the human population in Greater Paris.



Kemp SA, Collier DA, Datir R, et al. Neutralising antibodies drive Spike mediated SARS-CoV-2 evasion. medRxiv 2020, posted 19 December. Full-text:

In immune suppressed individuals, treatment with convalescent plasma might lead to the emergence of a mutated SARS-CoV-2 strain. Here, Ravindra Gupta from the Cambridge Institute for Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Diseases report the case of a repeated evolutionary response by SARS-CoV-2 against antibody therapy during the course of a persistent and eventually fatal infection in an immunocompromised host. The authors describe a 69-70 deletion in the spike protein which was twice as infectious in a lentivirus model. The 69-70 deletion is also present in the new UK strain B.1.1.7.

Read also Kupferschmidt K. Mutant coronavirus in the United Kingdom sets off alarms, but its importance remains unclear. Nature 2020, published 20 December. Full-text:


Kupferschmidt K. U.K. variant puts spotlight on immunocompromised patients’ role in the COVID-19 pandemic. Nature 2020, published 23 December. Full-text:



Brown M. Flay your fart: viral clip calls on public to alter speech to curb Covid. The Guardian 2020, published 21 December. Full-text:

A retired PR consultant and translator has produced a video suggesting the government is to ban certain sounds and letters of the alphabet because they increase the transmission of Covid-19. Instead of “please take care”, we should say “flease nake lare”, the skit says.



Lumley SF, O’Donnell D, Stoesser NE, et al. Antibody Status and Incidence of SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Health Care Workers. N Engl J Med 2020, published 23 December. Full-text:

Christmas 2020 – good news for people with SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. In this longitudinal cohort study, there were no symptomatic infections in 1.265workers with anti-spike antibodies. Two anti-spike–seropositive health care workers had a positive PCR test (0.13 per 10,000 days at risk), and both workers were asymptomatic when tested. The authors conclude that the presence of anti-spike or anti-nucleocapsid IgG antibodies are associated with a substantially reduced risk of SARS-CoV-2 reinfection in the ensuing 6 months.



Zhang LK, Sun Y, Zeng H, et al. Calcium channel blocker amlodipine besylate therapy is associated with reduced case fatality rate of COVID-19 patients with hypertension. Cell Discov. 2020 Dec 22;6(1):96. PubMed: Full-text:

Might antihypertensive treatment with amlidopine be associated with a decreased case fatality rate of SARS-CoV-2 infection? Gengfu Xiao and Lei-Ke Zhang from Wuhan Institute of Virology, Center for Biosafety Mega-Science, report 96 patients who had only hypertension as a comorbidity. 19 patients received amlodipine besylate, 14 received nifedipine, 8 received ARBs/ACEIs, 45 had no drug information, and 10 had no antihypertension drug treatment. The numbers are too small to draw any conclusions.


Esparza TJ, Martin NP, Anderson GP, Goldman ER, Brody DL. High affinity nanobodies block SARS-CoV-2 spike receptor binding domain interaction with human angiotensin converting enzyme. Sci Rep. 2020 Dec 22;10(1):22370. PubMed: Full-text:

Nanobodies are 12–15 kDa single-domain antibody fragments that can be delivered by inhalation and are amenable to relatively inexpensive large scale production. Here, David Brody, Thomas Esparza and colleagues describe the nanobody candidate NIH-CoVnb-112 which binds to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein RBD and blocks spike protein interaction with the ACE2 receptor. They are optimistic about the possibility that low-cost, stable, and safe nanobody-based therapeutics will be developed for inhaled use in the home and outside of formal healthcare environments.


Severe COVID

Jiang Y, Abudurexiti S, An MM, et al. Risk factors associated with 28-day all-cause mortality in older severe COVID-19 patients in Wuhan, China: a retrospective observational study. Sci Rep 10, 22369 (2020).

Studies about risk factors for increased COVID-19 mortality abound. In this retrospective study from Wuhan including 281 older patients with severe COVID-19 categorized into two age groups (60–79 years and ≥ 80 years), LDH had the highest predictive value for 28-day all-cause mortality.




Copy-editor: Rob Camp


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