Top 10: January 14

Copy-editor: Rob Camp


Vang KE, Krow-Lucal ER, James AE, et al. Participation in Fraternity and Sorority Activities and the Spread of COVID-19 Among Residential University Communities – Arkansas, August 21-September 5, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2021 Jan 8;70(1):20-23. PubMed: Full-text:

In the US, the start of the 2020–21 academic year was sometimes the beginning of local epidemics. Kristyn Vang et al. describe SARS-CoV-2 transmission by on- and off-campus congregate living settings and activities. Their analysis indicates that 91% of gatherings were associated with fraternity or sorority activities. Interestingly, at one university, women accounted for 70% of COVID-19 cases although they constituted only 54% of the university’s student body. Among linked gatherings, women accounted for 86% of cases. The authors speculate about possible explanations (involvement in gender-specific activities? sorority rush week?).



Kasloff SB, Leung A, Strong JE, et al. Stability of SARS-CoV-2 on critical personal protective equipment. Sci Rep 11, 984 (2021). Full-text:

Cotton provides the lowest environmental stability to SARS-CoV-2. When applied to 100% cotton fabric, the virus underwent rapid degradation and became undetectable by TCID50 assay within 24 h. However, viable SARS-CoV-2 was recovered after 21 days on plastic, 14 days on stainless steel, 7 days on nitrile gloves and 4 days on chemical resistant gloves.


Hwang SE, Chang JH, Bumjo O, Heo J. Possible Aerosol Transmission of COVID-19 Associated with an Outbreak in an Apartment in Seoul, South Korea, 2020. Int J Infect Dis. 2020 Dec 17:S1201-9712(20)32558-3. PubMed: Full-text:

Indoor aerosol aerosol transmission might be underappreciated. This is the suggestion by Jongho Heo, Seo Eun Hwang and colleague who investigated a cluster of 9 COVID-19 infections in an apartment building in Seoul, South Korea. The investigation found no other possible contact between the cases than the airborne infection through a single air duct in the bathroom. All infected cases (living from the 2nd to the 11th floor of the building) were found along two vertical lines of the building, and each line was connected through a single air duct in the bathroom for natural ventilation. The authors assume that the first infected person probably released the virus during a shower in the bathroom by coughing, breathing, singing, or flushing and that SARS-CoV-2 may have combined with water vapor and became aerosols in the humid environment.



Fuller JA, Hakim A, Victory KR, et al. Mitigation Policies and COVID-19–Associated Mortality — 37 European Countries, January 23–June 30, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. ePub: 12 January 2021. DOI:

European countries that implemented more stringent mitigation policies by the time they reached an early mortality threshold in spring 2020 (closure of non-essential businesses, restrictions on gatherings and movement, and stay-at-home orders) tended to report fewer COVID-19–associated deaths through the end of June. These countries have saved tens of thousands of lives relative to those countries that implemented similar policies, but later. These findings suggest that earlier implementation, even by just a few weeks (even one week!), may prevent widespread transmission and large numbers of deaths.



Sette A, Crotty S. Adaptive immunity to SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19. Cell 2021, published 12 January. Full-text:

In this review, Alessandro Sette and Shane Crotty describe how CD4+ T cells, CD8+ T cells, and neutralizing antibodies all contribute to the control of SARS-CoV-2, in both non-hospitalized and hospitalized cases of COVID-19. The authors discuss the specific functions and kinetics of these adaptive immune responses, as well as their interplay with innate immunity and implications for COVID-19 vaccines and immune memory against re-infection.


Legros V, Denolly S, Vogrig M, et al. A longitudinal study of SARS-CoV-2-infected patients reveals a high correlation between neutralizing antibodies and COVID-19 severity. Cell Mol Immunol (2021). Full-text:

In a cohort of 140 SARS-CoV-2 individuals with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection, nAb titers correlated strongly with disease severity and with anti-spike IgG levels. Patients from intensive care units exhibited high nAb titers; conversely, patients with milder disease symptoms had heterogeneous nAb titers, and asymptomatic or exclusively outpatient patients had no or low nAbs. nAb activity in SARS-CoV-2-infected patients displayed a relatively rapid decline after recovery compared to individuals infected with other coronaviruses.



Dolgin E. How COVID unlocked the power of RNA vaccines. Nature 2021, published 12 January. Full-text:

The technology could revolutionize efforts to immunize against HIV, malaria, influenza and more.


Mahase E. How the Oxford-AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine was made. BMJ 2021; 372. Full-text:

Andrew Pollard has been leading the Oxford vaccine clinical trials in the UK, Brazil, and South Africa. He tells how the Oxford vaccine came to be, how dosing was worked out, and whether it will stand up to the new variants.


Severe COVID

Supady A, Curtis JR, Abrams D, et al. Allocating scarce intensive care resources during the COVID-19 pandemic: practical challenges to theoretical frameworks. Lancet Respir Med 2021, published 12 January. Full-text:

In the coming weeks, available medical resources will not always meet the increased demand for life-saving intensive care. Alexander Supady, Randall Curtis and colleagues propose that triage committees could be involved in providing policies and guidance for clinicians to help ensure equity in the application of rationing under crisis standards of care.



Möhn N, Konen FF, Pul R, et al. Experience in Multiple Sclerosis Patients with COVID-19 and Disease-Modifying Therapies: A Review of 873 Published Cases. J Clin Med. 2020 Dec 16;9(12):4067. PubMed: Full-text:

Patients without disease modifying therapies (DMTs), with previous cardiovascular diseases, or with a severe degree of disability may be at a higher risk of severe COVID-19. In this review of 873 published cases, immunosuppressive therapy itself did not appear to be a substantial risk factor. The authors argue that it might be reasonable to assume that these therapies could be protective, either directly by mitigating the cytokine storm, or indirectly by reducing the disease activity of MS.



If you read Spanish, read Criado MA. Cuanto más leve es la infección por coronavirus, peor olfato. El País 2021, published 13 January. Full-text:

Un estudio europeo muestra que muchos de los casos menos graves sufren alucinaciones olfatorias.


Sastre A. ‘La peste’ se extiende por las villas miseria de Buenos Aires. El País 2021, published 11 January. Full-text:

Crece el temor a que la segunda ola de COVID-19 arrase con las barriadas más pobres de la capital, cuyos habitantes apenas han podido resistir a los estragos de la primera. Un recorrido por algunas de ellas.



If you read French, read Sénécat A. Covid-19 : comment établir ou écarter le lien entre le vaccin et un décès ? Le Monde 2021, published 13 January. Full-text :

Plusieurs articles évoquant la mort de personnes peu après une injection alimentent la défiance envers la vaccination. Comment sont analysés ces décès et que peut-on en conclure ?



If you read German, read Fischer L. Dieses mutierte Coronavirus könnte alles ändern. Die Zeit 2021, published 13 Januar. Full-text:

Die schneller übertragbare Corona-Variante B117 hat Deutschland erreicht. Sie könnte die Fallzahlen explodieren lassen. Warum wir die Mutante jetzt eindämmen müssten.

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