Top 10: January 9

Copy-editor: Rob Camp


Leung K, Shum MH, Leung GM, Lam TT, Wu JT. Early transmissibility assessment of the N501Y mutant strains of SARS-CoV-2 in the United Kingdom, October to November 2020. Euro Surveill. 2021 Jan;26(1). PubMed: Full-text:

Two new severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) lineages carrying the amino acid substitution N501Y in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the spike protein have spread rapidly in the United Kingdom (UK) during late autumn 2020. Tommy Lam, Joseph Wu, Kathy Leung and colleagues explain that 501Y Variant 2 (also named B.1.1.7, 20B/501Y.V1 and VOC-202012/01) is estimated to present an R0 1.75 times higher than 501N, meaning it is 75% more transmissible compared with the 501N strain.


du Plessis L, McCrone JT, Zarebski AE, et al. Establishment and lineage dynamics of the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic in the UK. Science 2021, published 8 January. Full-text:

In early 2020, pre-lockdown, high travel volumes and few restrictions on international arrivals led to the establishment and co-circulation of >1000 identifiable UK transmission lineages, jointly contributing to accelerated epidemic growth that quickly exceeded national contact tracing capacity. The authors reveal the fine-scale genetic lineage structure of this early epidemic through analysis of 50,887 SARS-CoV-2 genomes, including 26,181 from the UK sampled throughout the country’s first wave of infection.


Yang DD, Ouldali N, Gajdos V, et al. Common pediatric respiratory infectious diseases may serve as an early predictor for SARS-CoV-2 new wave of infections. Clin Infect Dis. 2020 Sep 7:ciaa1359. PubMed: Full-text:

Lockdowns lead to a decrease in the common cold, bronchiolitis, acute otitis media, and acute gastroenteritis (AGE) in children. Having found that, François Angoulvant, David Yang and colleagues were curious to know what would happen after the end of the lockdown and analyzed a total of 908.887 pediatric emergency visits from 6 academic hospitals over the last three years. As expected, two weeks after the lockdown, observed values reached expected values for the common cold, bronchiolitis, and acute asthma exacerbation. There was one surprise, though: there was no increase in AGE after the end of lockdown. The authors suggest continued regular handwashing and the use of alcohol-based sanitizers as an explanation for this finding. They conclude that the positive lessons learned from SARS-CoV-2, especially handwashing and social distancing, should not be forgotten after the pandemic.



Lauring AS, Hodcroft EB. Genetic Variants of SARS-CoV-2—What Do They Mean? JAMA 2021, published 6 January. Full-text:

The emergence of the new “UK variant”—lineage B.1.1.7—has raised widespread concern. Adam Lauring and Emma Hodcroft explain virus evolution and the genomic epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2. They conclude that it is possible that mutations in spike that are “good” for the virus right now could also make it less fit in the context of population-level immunity in the future. Defining these dynamics, and their potential influence on vaccine effectiveness, will require large-scale monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 evolution and host immunity for a long time to come.



Oude Munnink BB, Sikkema RS, Nieuwenhuijse DF, et al. Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 on mink farms between humans and mink and back to humans. Science. 2021 Jan 8;371(6525):172-177. PubMed: Full-text:

We know that humans can infect animals with SARS-CoV-2, for example, cats and dogs, hamsters and rabbits. Here, Oude Munnink and colleagues show that that mink-to-human transmission also occurred. See also the perspective by Zhou P, Shi ZL. SARS-CoV-2 spillover events. Science. 2021 Jan 8;371(6525):120-122. PubMed: Full-text:



Davidson BL, Tapson VF, Irwin RS, French CL, Elliott CG, Levi M. Commentary: Pharyngeal Antisepsis to Reduce COVID-19 Pneumonia. Am J Med. 2020 Dec 15:S0002-9343(20)31114-1. PubMed: Full-text:

Might “washing your throat” with a pharyngeal antisepsis before sleeping, when healthy adults of all ages aspirate material from above the larynx, help protect individuals against COVID-19 pneumonia? Find out why Bruce Davidson et al think it may.



Callaway E. Could new COVID variants undermine vaccines? Labs scramble to find out. Nature 2021, published 8 January. Full-text:

Researchers race to determine why variants identified in Britain and South Africa spread so quickly and whether they’ll compromise vaccines.




Watson J, Richter A, Deeks J. Testing for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. BMJ 2020. PubMed: Full-text:

Everything you always wanted to know about pre-test probability, test sensitivity and test specificity* (*But Were Afraid to Ask). Jessica Watson and Alex Richter have prepared an interactive page where you can define any of these values. Get a feel for it.



Alschuler L, Chiasson AM, Horwitz R, et al. Integrative medicine considerations for convalescence from mild-to-moderate COVID-19 disease. Explore (NY). 2020 Dec 23:S1550-8307(20)30417-1. PubMed: Full-text:

Could convalescence from mild-to-moderate (MtoM) COVID-19 disease be supported by integrative medicine (IM) strategies? Lise Alschuler et al. suggest adoption of an anti-inflammatory diet, supplementation with vitamin D, glutathione, melatonin, cordyceps, astragalus and garlic have potential utility. If you are also interested in osteopathic manipulation, qigong, breathing exercises and aerobic exercise, you should read this paper with 146 references.



Rubin EJ, Baden LR, Barocas JA, Morrissey S. Planning for the SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine Rollout. Audio interview (26:52). N Engl J Med 2021; 384:e13. Access:

The editors discuss how health care organizations are planning vaccine rollout and uptake both among their staff and in their communities.



If you read French, read Larousserie D et al. Covid-19 : l’efficacité des vaccins mise au défi des nouveaux variants du virus. Le Monde 2021, pubished 8 January. Full-text :

Des chercheurs américains ont montré en laboratoire qu’une mutation présente dans le variant sud-africain du SARS-CoV-2 affaiblissait sensiblement le pouvoir des anticorps de patients contaminés par la souche dominante. Des variants déjà retrouvés en France.



If you read German, read Beyer S. US-Philosophin zum Angriff aufs Kapitol: »Er ist ein Faschist« – Der Spiegel 2021, published 8 January. Full-text:

Wodurch ist denn der Begriff des Faschismus definiert? Gehen wir es mal durch: Unterstützung paramilitärischer Gruppen. Angriffe auf den freien Journalismus. Dämonisierung von politischen Gegnern und Intellektuellen im Allgemeinen. Die Nostalgie für eine mythische, meist ländliche, jedenfalls nicht urbane Vergangenheit. Die Idee, dass einige Volksgruppen echt national sind und andere nicht. Der Versuch, eine unabhängige Justiz zu unterminieren. Die Propagandatechnik, eine Lüge so oft zu wiederholen, dass sie irgendwann für wahr gehalten wird. All das hat er getan! Somit ist er ein Faschist.

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