Top 10: May 27

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By Christian Hoffmann &
Bernd S. Kamps

27 May


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Randolph HE, Barreiro LB. Herd Immunity: Understanding COVID-19. Immunity Volume 52, ISSUE 5, P737-741, 2020. Full-text:

Overview on the basic concepts of herd immunity and its implications. There is no straightforward, ethical path to reach herd immunity, as the societal consequences of achieving it are devastating. Instead, an emphasis should be placed on policies that protect the most vulnerable groups in the hopes that herd immunity will eventually be achieved as a “byproduct” of such measures, although not the primary objective itself.


Honigsbaum M. Revisiting the 1957 and 1968 influenza pandemics. Lancet May 25, 2020. Full-text:

Were people really more stoic in 1918, 1957, and 1968? Or were there other factors that might account for the dampened social and emotional responses to these pandemics? And what should historians make of functionalist and, arguably, selective readings of history that seek to draw moral lessons from the past? This intelligent article has some interesting thoughts on these issues.



Hou YJ, Okuda K, Edwards CE, et al. SARS-CoV-2 Reverse Genetics Reveals a Variable Infection Gradient in the Respiratory Tract. Cell, May 26, 2020. Full-text:

This study quantitated differences in ACE2 receptor expression and SARS-CoV-2 infectivity in the nose (high) vs the peripheral lung (low). If the nasal cavity is the initial site mediating seeding of the lung via aspiration, these studies argue for the widespread use of masks to prevent aerosol, large droplet, and/or mechanical exposure to the nasal passages.



Wu J, Liu X, Liu J, et al. Coronavirus Disease 2019 Test Results After Clinical Recovery and Hospital Discharge Among Patients in China. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(5):e209759. Full-text:

In this cross-sectional study, 10 of 60 patients previously diagnosed with and treated for COVID-19 had RT-PCR test results positive for SARS-CoV-2 from 4 to 24 days after index hospital discharge. In total, 6/10 patients had positive anal swab results. However, the infectivity remains unclear, as infectious viruses have not been isolated from stool samples. Positive results were presumed to be persistent viral shedding rather than reinfection.



Lechien JR, Chiesa-Estomba CM, Hans S, et al. Loss of Smell and Taste in 2013 European Patients With Mild to Moderate COVID-19. Annals Int Med 2020, May 26. Full-text:

The largest study to date, analysing these important symptoms. Of 2,013 patients, 1,754 patients (87%) reported loss of smell, whereas 1,136 (56%) reported taste dysfunction. Most patients had loss of smell after other general and otolaryngologic symptoms. Mean duration of olfactory dysfunction was 8.4 days. The prevalence of self-reported smell and taste dysfunction was higher than previously reported and may be characterized by different clinical forms. Anosmia may not be related to nasal obstruction or inflammation. Of note, only two thirds of patients reporting olfactory symptoms and who had objective olfactory testing had abnormal results.


Kuo CL, Pilling LC, Atkins JL, et al. APOE e4 genotype predicts severe COVID-19 in the UK Biobank community cohort. The Journals of Gerontology: May 26, 2020. Full-text:

The authors investigated the association between different ApoEe4 alleles and COVID-19 severity, using the UK Biobank data. ApoEe4e4 homozygotes were more likely to be COVID-19 test positives (OR = 2.31, 95% CI: 1.65 to 3.24) compared to e3e3 homozygotes. The ApoEe4e4 allele increased risks of severe COVID-19 infection, independent of pre-existing dementia, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. This interesting observation needs to be confirmed (and explained).



Lupo-Stanghellini MT, Messina C, Marktel S, et al. Following-up allogeneic transplantation recipients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lancet Haematol. 2020 May 22:S2352-3026(20)30176-9. PubMed: Full-text:

The authors describe their way of taking care of the most vulnerable patient groups using telemedicine. They contacted 236/465 adult patients who received an allogeneic transplantation. Physicians felt confident about the management of patients using teleconsultations, and patients—reassured that they were not left alone while in quarantine—provided positive feedback on this approach.


Gartshteyn Y, Askanase AD, Schmidt NM, et al. COVID-19 and systemic lupus erythematosus: a case series. Published: May 26, 2020. Full-text:

Of 18 SLE patients with COVID-19, most recovered. Previous intake of immunosuppressants before admission to hospital did not seem to influence the severity of infection.


Junejo M, Girometti N, McOwan A. HIV postexposure prophylaxis during COVID-19. May 25, 2020. Full-text:

Weekly prescriptions of PEP at a large center in London dropped from a peak of 54 (from Feb 17–23, 2020) to four (from March 30–April 5, 2020) during lockdown. The most obvious explanation for this decline is that individuals are engaging in less condomless sex during lockdown. However, this might also reflect people’s reluctance to travel during this period, which would mean that individuals are not accessing the PEP they require.

Comment of the copy-editor: “And might also mean, that if they have less desire to travel, are hooking up less, and perhaps less sex is happening.”



Ju B, Zhang Q, Ge J, et al. Human neutralizing antibodies elicited by SARS-CoV-2 infection. Nature. 2020 May 26. PubMed: Full-text:

As long as all other therapies fail or have only modest effects, antibodies are the hope for the near future. Isolation and characterization of 206 RBD-specific monoclonal antibodies were derived from single B cells of eight SARS-CoV-2 infected individuals. Some antibodies showed potent anti-SARS-CoV-2 neutralization activity that correlates with their competitive capacity with ACE2 for RBD binding. Surprisingly, neither the anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies nor the infected plasma cross-reacted with SARS-CoV or MERS-CoV RBDs, although substantial plasma cross-reactivity to their trimeric Spike proteins was found.