Top Infectious Disease News of the Week—April 12, 2020

Stay up-to-date on the latest infectious disease news by checking out our top 5 articles of the week.

#5: Early Report on Remdesivir: Is There a Benefit for Severe COVID-19?

Remdesivir could benefit some patients with severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) according to early experience from its off-label, compassionate-use program. This is according to a new report published in NEJM, which may only be weeks ahead of more controlled trial results.

"Although data from several ongoing randomized, controlled trials will soon provide more informative evidence regarding the safety and efficacy of remdesivir for COVID-19, the outcomes observed in this compassionate-use program are the best currently available data," advised lead author John Grein, MD, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and colleagues.

"We are still on track to provide data for remdesivir in the coming weeks," Chris Ridley, senior director, media relations for Gilead Sciences, told Contagion® on March 31st.

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#4: FDA Grants Emergency Use Authorization for 2 New COVID Antibody Tests

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for 2 new tests that can detect antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), while Abbott Laboratories announced the launch of its own serology test.

The approvals were granted to Chembio Diagnostic Systems for its DPP COVID-19 System, and to Ortho Clinical Diagnostics for its VITROS® Immunodiagnostic Products Anti-SARS-CoV-2 Total Reagent Pack and Calibrators. These 2 tools join Cellex's antibody test, which was approved via EUA earlier this month.

Although there is some debate over the timeline of antibody detection, the FDA determined that the benefits outweigh the risks of potential false positives or negatives.

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#3: Newly Isolated H16N3 Avian Influenza Viruses Show Future Zoonotic Potential

In the wake of SARS-CoV-2 likely transmitting from an animal source to humans prior to the onset of a global pandemic, the need for close monitoring of emerging viruses with the potential for future zoonosis has never been more necessary.

Avian influenza virus subtype H16N3 was first isolated in 1975, and can now be found around the world. The H16 subtype avian influenza virus was first identified in 2005, and the greatest prevalence is found in the Netherlands and Norway. The exact zoonotic potential of the avian viral strain, however, remains poorly understood.

The investigators of a new study published in Transboundary and Emerging Diseases conducted avian influenza surveillance in wild bird gatherings in western China between 2017 through 2019, isolating and exploring the biological characteristics of 2 different H16N3 subtype influenza viruses.

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#2: An Overview of Clinical Trials for COVID-19

There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). A variety of clinical trials have been initiated in order to establish evidence around investigational drugs and to identify a vaccine candidate.

This list will be updated as clinical trials continue enrolling. The following clinical trials for COVID-19 have been posted on clinicaltrials.gov.

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#1: Does Loss of Smell Require COVID-19 Precautions?

The loss of smell or taste could occur with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in absence of other symptoms, according to case reports in the US and abroad. This could heighten the risk of exposure for unknowing contacts and add to presenting conditions that could warrant testing for the novel coronavirus.

A report from Norway described that the daughter-in-law of an elderly patient with COVID-19 experienced loss of smell approximately 1 week after she had been in close contact with him, before his hospitalization. Her husband also developed loss of taste shortly after. Both individuals subsequently tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA without developing other symptoms, and both experienced return of these senses after approximately 10 and 16 days, respectively.

"National and international health authorities should consider whether isolated disturbances of smell and/or taste are a sufficient basis for testing for COVID-19 and/or isolation to limit spread of the infection," the report concluded.

In a report from France, a patient with loss of smell who subsequently tested positive for the virus was found on CT scan with confirming MRI to have bilateral inflammatory obstruction of the olfactory clefts, with no anomalies of the olfactory bulbs and tracts.

This obstructive inflammation of olfactory clefts, the report indicated, "severely impaired the olfactory function by preventing odorant molecules from reaching the olfactory epithelium."

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