Oxygen level while walking identifies at-risk patients; cancer patients should get vaccine priority

By Nancy Lapid
(Reuters) - The following is a roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
The oxygen content when walking identifies risk patients
According to a new study, it can be helpful to measure blood oxygen levels in patients while walking, if this level is normal while sitting. Low blood oxygen levels or hypoxia contribute to shortness of breath and worsen the disease in patients with COVID-19. At 10 hospitals in the Chicago area, doctors examined 531 COVID-19 patients whose blood oxygen levels were normal at rest. About one in four developed hypoxia when they got up and left. These individuals were almost five times more likely to need basic oxygen support and almost eight times more likely to need advanced oxygen therapy than those who had constant blood oxygen levels while walking. The decrease in blood oxygen levels while walking could be detected an average of 12 hours before patients needed additional oxygen. The so-called ambulatory hypoxia "can serve as an early, non-invasive physiological marker of the likelihood of developing moderate to severe illness and help clinicians screen patients and initiate earlier interventions," the researchers suggested in an article published on medRxiv on Thursday Peer review. (https://bit.ly/3mC8n3e)
Cancer patients should be vaccinated as a priority
Cancer patients who receive COVID-19 are at high risk for poor outcomes and should be considered for priority access to coronavirus vaccines, according to COVID-19 and the American Association for Cancer Research's Cancer Task Force. The task force reviewed the available data on the death rate of cancer patients who developed COVID-19 and based its recommendation on 28 publications. Her position paper was published in Cancer Discovery magazine on Saturday. In a separate Italian study, it was reiterated that fear of infection should not be a reason to delay cancer treatment. Among nearly 60,000 cancer patients treated in Italy earlier this year, less than 1% developed COVID-19, they reported in JAMA Oncology on Thursday. Early reports from China indicated a much higher risk of developing COVID-19 in patients receiving cancer therapy, said Dr. Carlo Aschele from Ospedale Sant'Andrea in La Spezia told Reuters. "In Italy, oncologists and patients alike were frightened and expected large numbers of infections and deaths, especially in patients receiving chemotherapy or immunotherapy," he said. The reassuring results will allow oncologists and patients to make informed decisions about treating antitumors during this pandemic, he added. (https://bit.ly/2Jce4ao; https://bit.ly/3nFhRvF)
EU regulators advise caution with vaccines and treatments in pregnant women
The European Medicines Agency said Monday that the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE should only be administered "on a case-by-case basis" during pregnancy as there is not yet enough data on the potential risks to pregnant women . The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had already recognized the problem on their website. It is recommended that "Getting vaccinated is a personal choice for pregnant people." Data on COVID-19 treatments in pregnant women is also missing, according to an article published Wednesday in The Lancet Global Health. Researchers who checked the clinical trial registries found that out of 722 COVID-19 treatment studies, 538 (75%) specifically excluded pregnant women. "Without explicit and proactive efforts to recruit and retain pregnant women in therapeutic trials for COVID-19, expectant mothers will suffer from fewer medical options because we do not include them in clinical trials," said Co- Author Dr. Melanie Taylor of The World Health Organization and CDC said in a statement. "There is a very real possibility that the treatment (for COVID-19) could be approved ... with no evidence-based guidance on its use in pregnant women." (https://bit.ly/3h7hO9C; https://bit.ly/3rki4qD; https://reut.rs/3nFLnBI)
Low risk of reinfection for those who test positive for antibodies
A study of more than three million people shows that people with COVID-19 antibodies have a significantly lower risk of future infection with the new coronavirus. Working with HealthVerity and Action, a health data analytics company, and commercial laboratories Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp, researchers at the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) had access to results from more than 50% of commercial COVID-19 antibody tests performed in the US States were carried out until August. Overall, 11.6% of the tests were antibody positive. When examining subjects who returned to the labs for repeated tests, the researchers found that people who were antibody-positive on the first test were about 10 times less likely to have signs of re-infection than people with a negative first test. "This finding suggests that people with a positive antibody test result ... have significant immunity to SARS-CoV-2 and have a lower risk of future infections," said Dr. Norman Sharpless from the NCI. His team's report was published on medRxiv on the Sunday before the assessment. (https://bit.ly/2LTk8FD)
Open https://tmsnrt.rs/3a5EyDh in an external browser for a Reuters graphic on vaccines and treatments in development.
(Reporting by Nancy Lapid and Marilynn Larkin; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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