Top 10: January 4

Copy-editor: Rob Camp


Maeda JM, NkengasongJN. The puzzle of the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa. Science 2021, published 1 January. Full-text:

As of 22 November 2020, the continent of Africa, comprising 1,3 billion people, had recorded two million cases of COVID-19 and 50.000 deaths, representing ∼ 3.6% of total global cases. Why? Justin Maeda and John Nkengasong comment on a paper we previously presented on 13 November: Uyoga S, Adetifa IMO, Karanja HK, et al. Seroprevalence of anti–SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibodies in Kenyan blood donors. Science 2020, published 11 November. Full-text: | In April-June 2020, the crude prevalence of anti–SARS-CoV-2 IgG among blood donors in Kenya was 5.6% (174/3098). It was highest in urban counties, Mombasa (8.0%), Nairobi (7.3%) and Kisumu (5.5%). Of note, Kenya had reported only 341 deaths by the end of that period. The authors conclude that the sharp contrast between the reported COVID-19 cases and deaths suggests that the disease might be attenuated in Africa.



Sun K, Gu L, Ma L, Duan Y. Atlas of ACE2 gene expression reveals novel insights into transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Heliyon 2020, published 25 December. Full-text:

Could cats and dogs serve as intermediate hosts of SARS-CoV-2 infection? Here, Kun Sun from Shenzhen, China, describe the conservation of ACE2 and its expression pattern among various mammalian species that are close to human beings. Let’s keep an eye on cats and dogs.



Storm N, McKay LGA, Downs SN, et al. Rapid and complete inactivation of SARS-CoV-2 by ultraviolet-C irradiation. Sci Rep. 2020 Dec 30;10(1):22421. PubMed: Full-text:

SARS-CoV-2 is able to survive on surfaces for extended periods of time. Although contact with surfaces contaminated with droplets generated by infected persons through exhaling, talking, coughing and sneezing is not the major driver of SARS-CoV-2 transmission (the main driver is speaking to and coughing, shouting and sneezing at people), it would be useful to inactivate SARS-CoV-2 on contaminated surfaces. Here, Anthony Griffiths, Nadia Storm and colleagues describe the almost instantaneous inactivation of SARS-CoV-2 in both wet and dry format using radiation generated by a commercially available ultraviolet (UV)-C light source at 254 nm.



CDC 20201231. Interim considerations: preparing for the potential management of anaphylaxis after COVID-19 vaccination. Vaccines & Immunizations 2020, last reviewed: December 31, 2020. Full-text:

Anaphylaxis has been reported following COVID-19 vaccination. The incidence of anaphylaxis associated with the Pfizer SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine appears to be approximately 10 times as high as the incidence reported with all previous vaccines, at approximately 1 in 100,000, as compared 1 in 1,000,000 (Castells 2020). The CDC recommends that appropriate medical treatment for severe allergic reactions must be immediately available in the event that an acute anaphylactic reaction occurs following administration of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. In particular, persons without contraindications to vaccination who receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine be observed after vaccination for the following time periods:

  • 30 minutes: Persons with a history of an immediate allergic reaction of any severity to a vaccine or injectable therapy and persons with a history of anaphylaxis due to any cause.
  • 15 minutes: All other persons



Barclay RA, Akhrymuk I, Patnaik A, et al. Hydrogel particles improve detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA from multiple sample types. Sci Rep. 2020 Dec 30;10(1):22425. PubMed: Full-text:

To improve detection of SARS-CoV-2 when used with CDC-recommended assays, researchers from Ceres Nanosciences developed affinity-capture hydrogel particles (Nanotrap particles) that capture and concentrate the virus prior to RNA purification. A 5-min Nanotrap particle capture step substantially increases the sensitivity of SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR assays when used in conjunction with either commercial RNA extraction kits or a simple heat and detergent extraction method in both saliva and transport medium samples. Furthermore, the authors identified viral RNA in several diagnostic remnant samples that previously had tested negative for SARS-CoV-2.


Severe COVID

Park J, Kim H, Kim SY, et al. In-depth blood proteome profiling analysis revealed distinct functional characteristics of plasma proteins between severe and non-severe COVID-19 patients. Sci Rep. 2020 Dec 29;10(1):22418. PubMed: Full-text:

The authors found 76 previously unreported proteins which could be novel prognostic biomarker candidates. Their plasma proteome signatures highlighted the role of neutrophil activation, complement activation, platelet function, and T cell suppression as well as pro-inflammatory factors upstream and downstream of interleukin-6, interleukin-1B, and tumor necrosis factor.


Collateral Effects

Kosten TR, Petrakis IL. The Hidden Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic. JAMA Psychiatry. 2020 Dec 30. PubMed: Full-text:

An unexpected tragedy of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is increased opioid and fentanyl overdoses, since many factors could have helped in reducing opioid use disorder (OUD) and overdoses during the pandemic. Follow Thomas Kosten and Ismene Petrakis on this short trip through drug addiction and society’s response.



If you read French, read Mazaurette M. Au lit, les hommes aussi font leur âge. Le Monde 2021, published 2 January. Full-text :

Le mythe d’une éternelle jeunesse sexuelle flatte l’ego masculin mais invisibilise les effets du vieillissement, explique la chroniqueuse de La Matinale Maïa Mazaurette, qui observe que tout se passe comme si seules les femmes subissaient les assauts du temps.



If you read German, read Böhm A. Reiche zuerst. Die Zeit 2020, published 29 December. Full-text:

Reiche Länder teilen seit Monaten den größten Teil der Vakzinen unter sich auf. Regierungen wohlhabender Staaten, die 14 Prozent der Weltbevölkerung repräsentieren, haben sich schon jetzt über die Hälfte aller Impfstoffdosen gesichert, die bereits in der Produktion sind oder demnächst auf den Markt kommen.

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