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Publications

Closing schools is not evidence based and harms children – BMJ

Some 8.8 million schoolchildren in the UK have experienced severe disruption to their education, with prolonged school closures and national exams cancelled for two consecutive years. School closures have been implemented internationally1 with insufficient evidence for their role in minimising covid-19 transmission and insufficient consideration of the harms to children.

https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.n521

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Publications

Bacteria were the real killers in 1918 flu pandemic – New Scientist (2008)

Medical and scientific experts now agree that bacteria, not influenza viruses, were the greatest cause of death during the 1918 flu pandemic.

…That pneumonia causes most deaths in an influenza outbreak is well known. Late 19th century physicians recognised pneumonia as the cause of death of most flu victims. While doctors limited fatalities in other 20th-century outbreaks with antibiotics such as penicillin, which was discovered in 1928, but did not see use in patients until 1942.

…McCullers’ research suggests that influenza kills cells in the respiratory tract, providing food and a home for invading bacteria. On top of this, an overstressed immune system makes it easier for the bacteria to get a foothold.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14458-bacteria-were-the-real-killers-in-1918-flu-pandemic/

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Publications

Clarifying the evidence on SARS-CoV-2 antigen rapid tests in public health responses to COVID-19 – The Lancet

Most people infected with SARS-CoV-2 are contagious for 4–8 days.7 Specimens are generally not found to contain culture-positive (potentially contagious) virus beyond day 9 after the onset of symptoms, with most transmission occurring before day 5. This timing fits with the observed patterns of virus transmission (usually 2 days before to 5 days after symptom onset), which led public health agencies to recommend a 10-day isolation period. The short window of transmissibility contrasts with a median 22–33 days of PCR positivity (longer with severe infections and somewhat shorter among asymptomatic individuals). This suggests that 50–75% of the time an individual is PCR positive, they are likely to be post-infectious.

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)00425-6/fulltext

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Publications

Use and abuse of mathematical models: an illustration from the 2001 foot and mouth disease epidemic in the United Kingdom – University of Edinburgh (2006)

Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is a major threat, not only to countries whose economies rely on agricultural exports, but also to industrialised countries that maintain a healthy domestic livestock industry by eliminating major infectious diseases from their livestock populations. Traditional methods of controlling diseases such as FMD require the rapid detection and slaughter of infected animals, and any susceptible animals with which they may have been in contact, either directly or indirectly. During the 2001 epidemic of FMD in the United Kingdom (UK), this approach was supplemented by a culling policy driven by unvalidated predictive models. The epidemic and its control resulted in the death of approximately ten million animals, public disgust with the magnitude of the slaughter, and political resolve to adopt alternative options, notably including vaccination, to control any future epidemics. The UK experience provides a salutary warning of how models can be abused in the interests of scientific opportunism.

https://www.research.ed.ac.uk/portal/en/publications/use-and-abuse-of-mathematical-models-an-illustration-from-the-2001-foot-and-mouth-disease-epidemic-in-the-united-kingdom(e368e2d3-1161-4e6e-97c8-5e33d44a9fb3).html

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Publications

Masks Can Be Detrimental to Babies’ Speech and Language Development – Scientific American

We wanted to know whether and when babies might discover the importance of a talker’s mouth. So, in one study in my lab, we showed videos of talking faces to babies of different ages and tracked their attention by using an eye-tracking device. We discovered that babies begin lip-reading at around 8 months of age. Crucially, the onset of lip-reading at this age corresponds with the onset of canonical babbling, suggesting that babies begin lip-reading because they become interested in speech and language. By lip-reading, babies now gain access to visual speech cues which, as Janet Werker and her colleagues at the University of British Columbia have shown, are clearly perceptible to them. So, the lip-reading now enables babies to see the visible speech cues that they need to figure out which face goes with which voice. Of course, babies cannot access visible speech cues if others are wearing masks.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/masks-can-be-detrimental-to-babies-speech-and-language-development/

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Publications

Evidence of early circulation of SARS-CoV-2 in France: findings from the population-based “CONSTANCES” cohort – European Journal of Epidemiology

Using serum samples routinely collected in 9144 adults from a French general population-based cohort, we identified 353 participants with a positive anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG test, among whom 13 were sampled between November 2019 and January 2020 and were confirmed by neutralizing antibodies testing. Investigations in 11 of these participants revealed experience of symptoms possibly related to a SARS-CoV-2 infection or situations at risk of potential SARS-CoV-2 exposure. This suggests early circulation of SARS-CoV-2 in Europe.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10654-020-00716-2

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Opinion Publications

Murder by Misinformation – Dr Janet Menage, BMJ

This is a BMJ Rapid Response letter by Dr Janet Menage, Wales, UK, in response to Covid-19: Social murder, they wrote-elected, unaccountable, and unrepentant, by Kamran Abbasi. You can find the full response in the link below.

From a medical perspective, it was clear early on in the crisis that disregarding clinical acumen in favour of blind obedience to abnormal ventilation measures, reliance on an unsuitable laboratory test for diagnosis and management, and abandoning the duty of care to elderly hospitalised patients and those awaiting diagnosis and treatment of serious diseases, would create severe problems down the line.
Doctors who had empirically found effective pharmaceutical remedies and preventative treatments were ignored, or worse, denigrated or silenced. Information regarding helpful dietary supplements was suppressed.

https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.n314/rr-8

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Publications

Coronavirus: no going back to normal – Institute for Government

Life after coronavirus will not feel like life before. It is best that governments acknowledge that and start planning now in order to capture the best that can come out of a very tough period while not raising expectations that life will suddenly snap back to an almost forgotten normal.

https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/publications/coronavirus-no-back-normal

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Publications

Merck Discontinues Development of SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 Vaccine Candidates; Continues Development of Two Investigational Therapeutic Candidates – Merck

In these studies, both V590 and V591 were generally well tolerated, but the immune responses were inferior to those seen following natural infection and those reported for other SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 vaccines. 

https://www.merck.com/news/merck-discontinues-development-of-sars-cov-2-covid-19-vaccine-candidates-continues-development-of-two-investigational-therapeutic-candidates/

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Publications

A First Literature Review: Lockdowns Only Had a Small Effect on COVID-19 – SSRN

How important were the economic lockdowns in the spring of 2020 in curbing the COVID-19 pandemic and how important was lockdown as compared to voluntary changes in behavior? In the spring, the overall social response to the COVID-19 pandemic consisted of a mix of voluntary and government mandated behavioral changes. Voluntary behavioral changes occurred on the basis of information, such as the number of people infected and the number of COVID-19-deaths, and on the basis of the signal value associated with the official lockdown combined with appeals to the population to change its behavior. Mandated behavioral changes took place as a result of the banning of certain activities deemed non-essential. Studies which differentiate between the two types of behavioral change find that, on average, mandated behavioral changes accounts for only 9% (median: 0%) of the total effect on the growth of the pandemic stemming from behavioral changes. The remaining 91% (median: 100%) of the effect was due to voluntary behavioral changes. This is excluding the effect of curfew and facemasks, which were not employed in all countries.

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3764553

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Publications

COVID-19 in children and the role of school settings in transmission – first update – ECDC

The return to school of children around mid-August 2020 coincided with a general relaxation of other NPI measures in many countries and does not appear to have been a driving force in the upsurge in cases observed in many EU Member States from October 2020.

https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications-data/children-and-school-settings-covid-19-transmission

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Publications

Prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Children and Their Parents in Southwest Germany – JAMA Pediatrics

The low seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in young children in this study may indicate that they do not play a key role in SARS-CoV-2 spreading during the current pandemic.

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2775656

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Publications

WHO Information Notice for IVD Users 2020/05 – WHO

Note: The WHO acknowledges the problems of false positives due to inappropriate cycle threshold used in PCR testing.

WHO guidance Diagnostic testing for SARS-CoV-2 states that careful interpretation of weak positive results is needed (1). The cycle threshold (Ct) needed to detect virus is inversely proportional to the patient’s viral load. Where test results do not correspond with the clinical presentation, a new specimen should be taken and retested using the same or different NAT technology.

WHO reminds IVD users that disease prevalence alters the predictive value of test results; as disease prevalence decreases, the risk of false positive increases (2). This means that the probability that a person who has a positive result (SARS-CoV-2 detected) is truly infected with SARS-CoV-2 decreases as prevalence decreases, irrespective of the claimed specificity.

Most PCR assays are indicated as an aid for diagnosis, therefore, health care providers must consider any result in combination with timing of sampling, specimen type, assay specifics, clinical observations, patient history, confirmed status of any contacts, and epidemiological information.

https://www.who.int/news/item/20-01-2021-who-information-notice-for-ivd-users-2020-05

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Publications

COVID-19 RNA Based Vaccines and the Risk of Prion Disease – Microbiol Infect Dis. 2021, Dr. J. Bart Classen

There is an old saying in medicine that “the cure may be worse than the disease.” The phrase can be applied to vaccines. In the current paper the concern is raised that the RNA based COVID vaccines have the potential to cause more disease than the epidemic of COVID-19. This paper focuses on a novel potential adverse event mechanism causing prion disease which could be even more common and debilitating than the viral infection the vaccine is designed to prevent. While this paper focuses on one potential adverse event there are multiple other potential fatal adverse events as discussed below.

https://scivisionpub.com/pdfs/covid19-rna-based-vaccines-and-the-risk-of-prion-disease-1503.pdf

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Publications

Annual deaths and mortality rates, 1938 to 2020 (provisional) – ONS

Number of deaths, crude and age-standardised mortality rates from 1938 to 2020. Age-standardised mortality rates start in 1942.

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/adhocs/12735annualdeathsandmortalityrates1938to2020provisional

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Publications

Fear of Terrorist Attack Could Trigger Mass Psychogenic Illness – U.S. Department of Homeland Security (2006)

A phenomenon in which social trauma or anxiety combines with a suspicious event to produce psychosomatic symptoms, such as nausea, difficulty breathing, and paralysis. If many individuals come to believe that the psychosomatic outbreak is connected to the cause of the trauma or anxiety, these symptoms can spread rapidly throughout a population.

In December 2005 a mysterious illness marked by headache, fever, faintness, and numbness in extremities occurred in 13 school children in the Shelkov region of Chechnya. Many believed the illness was caused by a Russian chemical weapons attack, which precipitated the rapid spread of similar symptoms throughout the region. Medical officials determined the episode was a case of psychosomatic contagion—mass psychogenic illness—brought on by anxiety over Russian military activities in the area. There is no evidence the illnesses were caused by chemical weapons.

https://file.wikileaks.org/file/dhs-mass-psychogenic-illness-2006.pdf

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Publications

Assessing Mandatory Stay‐at‐Home and Business Closure Effects on the Spread of COVID‐19 – Wiley Online Library

Background and Aims
The most restrictive non‐pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) for controlling the spread of COVID‐19 are mandatory stay‐at‐home and business closures. Given the consequences of these policies, it is important to assess their effects. We evaluate the effects on epidemic case growth of more restrictive NPIs (mrNPIs), above and beyond those of less restrictive NPIs (lrNPIs).

Methods
We first estimate COVID‐19 case growth in relation to any NPI implementation in subnational regions of 10 countries: England, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, and the US. Using first‐difference models with fixed effects, we isolate the effects of mrNPIs by subtracting the combined effects of lrNPIs and epidemic dynamics from all NPIs. We use case growth in Sweden and South Korea, two countries that did not implement mandatory stay‐at‐home and business closures, as comparison countries for the other 8 countries (16 total comparisons).

Results
Implementing any NPIs was associated with significant reductions in case growth in 9 out of 10 study countries, including South Korea and Sweden that implemented only lrNPIs (Spain had a non‐significant effect). After subtracting the epidemic and lrNPI effects, we find no clear, significant beneficial effect of mrNPIs on case growth in any country. In France, e.g., the effect of mrNPIs was +7% (95CI ‐5%‐19%) when compared with Sweden, and +13% (‐12%‐38%) when compared with South Korea (positive means pro‐contagion). The 95% confidence intervals excluded 30% declines in all 16 comparisons and 15% declines in 11/16 comparisons.

Conclusions
While small benefits cannot be excluded, we do not find significant benefits on case growth of more restrictive NPIs. Similar reductions in case growth may be achievable with less restrictive interventions.

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/eci.13484

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Publications

Corona children studies “Co-Ki”: First results of a Germany-wide registry on mouth and nose covering (mask) in children – Research Square

Narratives about complaints in children and adolescents caused by wearing a mask are accumulating. There is, to date, no registry for side effects of masks.

By 26.10.2020 the registry had been used by 20,353 people. In this publication we report the results from the parents, who entered data on a total of 25,930 children. The average wearing time of the mask was 270 minutes per day. Impairments caused by wearing the mask were reported by 68% of the parents. These included irritability (60%), headache (53%), difficulty concentrating (50%), less happiness (49%), reluctance to go to school/kindergarten (44%), malaise (42%) impaired learning (38%) and drowsiness or fatigue (37%).

https://www.researchsquare.com/article/rs-124394/v2

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Publications

Expected life loss due to Covid-19 suppression efforts – Prof Simon Wood, University of Edinburgh

[W]e require the current economic shock, which is much larger than 2008, to result in much smaller life loss than was associated with 2008. Otherwise we will lose more life to the economic effects of Covid-19 suppression efforts than were ever likely to have been lost to Covid-19 itself. Of course the consequences of the 2008 crisis were amplified by the policies adopted thereafter, and perhaps those consequences could have been substantially alleviated by a more enlightened approach. But the historical record from the UK does not suggest a willingness to vote for such an approach, even if any sort of credible plan for avoiding the economic life loss were actually to be proposed. The 1945 election was perhaps the exception, but it’s unclear that several months stuck at home on your sofa really leads to the same sort of cathartic re-evaluation of life’s priorities as storming the beaches of Normandy.

Source: Prof. Simon Wood, University of Edinburgh
Source: Prof. Simon Wood, University of Edinburgh

https://web.archive.org/web/20201101062720/https://www.maths.ed.ac.uk/~swood34/

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Publications

COVID-19 outpatients: early risk-stratified treatment with zinc plus low-dose hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin: a retrospective case series study – Science Direct

First COVID-19 outpatient study based on risk stratification and early antiviral treatment at the beginning of the disease.

Low-dose hydroxychloroquine combined with zinc and azithromycin was an effective therapeutic approach against COVID-19.

Significantly reduced hospitalisation rates in the treatment group.

Reduced mortality rates in the treatment group.

https://web.archive.org/web/20201117161908/https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0924857920304258