- COVID-19 Selected Studies of Note
Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

Office of Research & Development

print icon sign up for VA Research updates

COVID-19 Selected Studies of Note

| Go to VA Research on COVID-19 |

Vaccines protect against hospitalization from COVID-19 Delta variant
COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are highly effective at preventing infection against the Delta variant, according to a report by VA researchers and colleagues. Researchers looked at infection rates at five VA medical centers between February and August 2021. They found that mRNA vaccines were 87% effective, including during periods of widespread circulation of the COVID-19 Delta variant. Vaccines were 80% effective at preventing COVID-19-related hospitalization in people aged 65 or older. They were 95% effective at prevention hospitalization for patients 18 to 64. The results suggest that all eligible persons should receive COVID-19 vaccination to prevent hospitalization, according to the researchers. (CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Sept. 10, 2021)

Immunologic resilience grades could help predict COVID-19 severity
A team with the South Texas Veterans Health Care System and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio published findings on an idea they call “immunologic resilience” that can help predict which COVID-19 patients will advance to severe disease. The research team developed “immune health grades” for more than 500 VA patients with COVID-19, based on measures of infection-fighting T cells and the expression of certain genes. The team found the metric to be “highly prognostic.” Using biomarkers to track immunologic resilience could help predict resistance not only to COViD-19, but also to other diseases such as influenza or HIV, according to the researchers. The work is part of a broader partnership between VA and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the NIH agency led by Dr. Anthony Fauci. (Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Sept. 7, 2021)

COVID-19 pandemic has not increased suicide risk in Veterans
The COVID-19 pandemic has not increased suicidal behavior among Veterans, according to a VA National Center for PTSD study. Many scholars warned that hardships and isolation caused by the pandemic could create a “perfect storm” of suicide risk among vulnerable populations. Researchers surveyed more than 3,000 Veterans in November 2019, and again in November 2020. They found that rates of suicidal thoughts actually decreased by almost 3% during the pandemic. The number of suicide attempts did not increase during the study period. However, Veterans who contracted COVID-19 were more than twice as likely to report suicidal thoughts than they were before infection. The results suggest that the resiliency of Veterans and increased social support may be protective against suicide risk during a health crisis, according to the researchers. More research is needed into how the physical and social effects of COVID-19 infection may affect suicide, they say. (JAMA Psychiatry, Aug. 25, 2021)

Smoking, alcohol use tied to lower mortality risk in COVID-19 patients
Risk factors for death differ in COVID-19 infected and uninfected patients, found a Durham VA and Duke University study. Researchers compared mortality rates between Veterans with and without COVID-19 who had similar risk factors. They looked at outcomes of more than 340,000 male Veterans tested for COVID-19 between March and September 2020. Of those, 7% tested positive. Older age and obesity both increased the chance of death in patients with COVID-19 beyond the risk in similar patients not infected. Surprisingly, COVID-19 patients who smoked or had alcohol use disorder had lower mortality risk than patients who did not smoke or had alcohol use disorder. Both smoking and alcohol use disorder increased mortality risk in patients without COVID-19. More study is needed on why normally harmful behaviors might be associated with better mortality outcomes in COVID-19 patients, say the researchers. (International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Aug. 11, 2021)

Equal access to VA COVID-19 testing among racial groups
Minority Veterans have had equal or greater access than White Veterans to COVID-19 testing from VA during the pandemic, found a VA Greater Los Angeles study. Researchers looked at data on the nearly 1 million Veterans who sought care through VA for COVID-19 symptoms or exposure in 2020. Early in the pandemic, Hispanic, Black, and other non-White minorities were more likely than White patients to receive COVID-19 tests. As the pandemic continued, testing was similar in VA among all racial and ethnic groups. As periodic testing shortages continue, it is important to ensure that groups that may have increased COVID-19 exposure risk continue to have equal access to testing, say the researchers. (Preventive Medicine Reports, July 22, 2021)

COVID-19 vaccines highly effective
Vaccines are highly effective at preventing COVID-19 infection, found a VA Pittsburgh study. Researchers looked at data on more than 54,000 VA patients who tested positive for COVID-19 between December 2020 and March 2021, and over 54,000 controls who did not test positive. Results showed that either of the two mRNA vaccines available in the United States were 97% effective seven days after the second dose. Among patients who tested positive, 18% had been vaccinated. Vaccine effectiveness remained above 95% regardless of age, sex, race, or other health conditions. The results show that can prevent COVID-19 infection in high-risk populations in a real-world setting, say the researchers. (Annals of Internal Medicine, July 20, 2021)

Nasal swab COVID-19 test less sensitive, easier than sinus swab
Nasal swabs are less sensitive than deeper sinus swabs at detecting the virus that causes COVID-19 but are still highly accurate, found a study by a VA researcher. The “gold standard” for detecting SARS-CoV-2 is a nasopharyngeal swab, which takes a sample from the back of the sinuses through the nose. Researchers reviewed studies of how effective this type of COVID-19 test was compared with nasal swabs taken from the nostrils. They found that nasal swabs were 82% to 88% effective at detecting the virus, compared with 98% for nasopharyngeal swabs. However, nasal swabs are quicker to perform and require less protective equipment. The lower sensitivity of nasal swabs is balanced by the ability to screen more patients and the easier procedure, conclude the researchers. (PLoS One, July 20, 2021)

Remdesivir linked to longer hospital stays for COVID-19 patients
Remdesivir treatment was associated with longer hospital stays for COVID-19 patients, in a study by Iowa City VA researchers. Previous studies suggested that the drug remdesivir can reduce recovery time for COVID-19 patients. Researchers looked at data on nearly 6,000 Veterans treated for COVID-19 at VA medical centers. Of those, 40% received remdesivir. Patients given remdesivir had longer median hospital stays than patients not treated with the drug. Remdesivir did not appear to reduce patients’ 30-day risk of death. Because the treatment lasts several days, remdesivir may increase the need for hospital beds for COVID-19 patients while not improving survival, say the researchers. (JAMA Network Open, July 1, 2021

No benefit for COVID-19 patients from hydroxychloroquine
Hydroxychloroquine does not appear to offer any benefit to hospitalized COVID-19 patients, found a large VA study. Researchers looked at data on more than 64,000 VA patients tested for COVID-19. More than 7,000 positive cases were found, of which nearly 3,000 required hospitalization. Of those, 657 Veterans were prescribed hydroxychloroquine. The data show no apparent benefit for the patients given hydroxychloroquine, either alone or combined with azithromycin. Those given both hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin had an increased risk of intubation. The results show that hydroxychloroquine does not improve survival for COVID-19 patients, concluded the researchers. (American Journal of Epidemiology, June 24, 2021)

Convalescent plasma treatment did not affect COVID-19 mortality
Convalescent plasma treatment did not reduce mortality in patients with non-severe COVID-19, in a study of VA patients. Convalescent plasma is a treatment using the blood from a person who has recovered from COVID-19. Scientists hypothesized that transferring antibodies to the new patients could improve recovery. Out of nearly 5,000 VA patients admitted for non-severe COVID-19 between May and November of 2020, about 8% received convalescent plasma. Thirty-day mortality for the convalescent plasma patients was 6.5%, compared with 6.2% in other patients. The results show no meaningful differences between patients treated or not treated with convalescent plasma for non-severe COVID-19, according to the researchers. (Journal of Infectious Disease, June 21, 2021)

Social and behavioral risk factors did not increase COVID-19 mortality risk in Veterans
Social and behavioral risk factors were not associated with death from COVID-19 in VA patients, in a study of more than 27,000 Veterans. Researchers looked at data on Veterans with a positive COVID-19 test between March and September of 2020. They found that Veterans with risk factors traditionally associated with barriers to care had no higher risk of dying from COVID-19 than patients without those risk factors. Social risk factors including housing problems and financial hardship. Behavioral risk factors included tobacco, alcohol, and drug use. The results show that an integrated health system such as VA can transcend social vulnerabilities that often lead to health care disparities, according to the researchers. (JAMA Network Open, June 9, 2021)

Diabetes linked to worse COVID-19 outcomes
Diabetes is linked to worse outcomes from COVID-19 infection, according to a VA Puget Sound study. Researchers looked at outcomes form nearly 36,000 VA patients who tested positive for COVID-19. Patients with diabetes had greater odds of hospitalization, intensive care unit admission, and death than patients without diabetes. Prior use of the diabetes medication sulfonylurea was linked to increased odds of hospitalization. Prior insulin use was linked to increased odds of both hospitalization and death. Statin use was associated with lower chance of death, and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) were associated with lower odds of hospitalization. The results show that diabetes increases the danger posed by COVID-19. (BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care, June 2021)

COVID-19 vaccines largely effective in inflammatory bowel disease patients taking immunosuppressants
Vaccination against COVID-19 proved mostly effective in patients with inflammatory bowel disease, found a Michael J Crescenz VA Medical Center study. Clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines mostly excluded patients taking immunosuppressive medication. The researchers studied outcomes for nearly 15,000 patients taking medication for inflammatory bowel disease. Full vaccination—meaning patients were at least a week past the second vaccine dose—showed 80% effectiveness against COVID-19. Unvaccinated patients in this population had a much higher rate of COVID-19 infection than vaccinated patients. Partial vaccination did not significantly reduce the hazard of infection. The results could help increase patient and provider willingness to vaccinate immunosuppressed patients, say the researchers. (Gastroenterology, May 25, 2021)

Lower job-person fit leads to more health care worker burnout during the pandemic
Health care workers with lower job-person fit were more likely to feel burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic, found a VA study. Job-person fit was defined as how well worker expectations met workplace realities. Researchers surveyed 147 health care workers in the summer of 2020. Of those, 43% reported burnout. Those who felt better about being recognized or appreciated for their work and who felt that their goals and values aligned with organization goals and values were less likely to feel burnout. Addressing job-person fit may be key to reducing burnout during health crises, according to the researchers. (Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, May 14, 2021)

Potential replacement materials for N95 mask filters
Several commercially available materials could be potential replacements for filters used in N95 masks, found a study by VA Puget Sound researchers and colleagues, but downsides exist. Researchers tested 14 filter materials in a 3-D printed face mask. Several materials proved effective at blocking virus transmission. Disinfection by dry heat did not reduce the materials’ ability to block virus transmission. Ten cycles of vaporized hydrogen peroxide for disinfection significantly reduced filter efficiency. While multiple filter materials appeared to be effective potential replacements for N95 filters, they did show reduced efficiency and increased breathing resistance, compared with traditional N95 filters. (Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, May 14, 2021)

COVID-19 ‘long-haulers’ face increased risk of death and many other health problems
A large VA study showed that people who have had COVID-19 are at heightened risk of both death and many other health problems. In the largest post-acute COVID-19 study to date, VA Saint Louis Health Care System researchers characterized many potential long-term consequences of COVID-19. The researchers looked at outcomes on more than 73,000 VA patients who survived COVID-19 and close to 5 million who did not contract the disease. The COVID-19 group had a higher risk of dying six months after diagnosis. People who have recovered from COVID-19 also are at increased risk of health problems affecting virtually every organ system in the body, not just the lungs. About 8% to 10% of people affected by COVID-19 will likely have long-term effects, according to the researchers. (Nature, April 22, 2021)

Vaccines led to significantly lower COVID-19 infection in nursing homes
Positive COVID-19 tests declined in VA and community nursing homes following the start of vaccine availability, found two studies by VA researchers. Results showed that COVID-19 vaccines accelerated the rate of decline of infections and death in this population. As of January 2021, 82% of VA community living center residents had received at least the first vaccine shot. The number of positive tests dropped among all residents in the fourth week after vaccination, even though some residents refused the vaccine. One week after their first vaccine clinics, non-VA nursing homes had 2.5 fewer new COVID-19 infection per 100 at-risk residents, compared with facilities with later vaccinations. After seven weeks, early vaccination facilities had 5.2 fewer infections and five fewer hospitalizations or deaths per 100 residents. The results show that vaccines are an effective way to stop the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes, say the researchers. (Journal of the American Geriatric Society, April 16, 2021; article 1, article 2)

Using genetics, researchers identify potential drugs for early treatment of COVID-19
A study using genetics suggests researchers should prioritize clinical trials of existing drugs that target two proteins to manage COVID-19 in its early stages. Researchers studied the genomes of more than 7,500 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and more than a million controls. They found that two proteins, ACE2 and IFNAR2, are likely involved in COVID-19 hospitalization. IFNAR2 is the target for approved drugs used to treat multiple sclerosis. A drug developed prior to the pandemic to treat severe respiratory illness targets ACE2. The researchers suggest that clinical trials should examine existing drugs such as these known to act on these two proteins for possible new treatments for COVID-19. (Nature Medicine, April 9, 2021)

How COVID-19 guidance was translated into clinical practice
Medical facilities rapidly implemented treatment recommendations for clinical practice in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study by VA Boston researchers, but recommendations did not always agree with guideline-issuing organizations. After the initial pandemic peak, organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention generally recommended COVID-19 patients be referred to clinical trials. Individual facilities favored offering specific treatments, most commonly hydroxychloroquine, remdesivir, and interleukin-6 inhibitors. Recommendation to clinical trials was mostly limited to academic medical centers with easier access to research studies. Understanding how and why evidence is translated into clinical care is critical to improve processes for emerging diseases, say the researcher. (Open Forum Infectious Disease, April 7, 2021)

COVIDVax risk model could save lives with vaccination prioritization
Researchers with the VA Puget Sound Healthcare System developed a model called COVIDVax to estimate COVID-19 risk and guide vaccine prioritization. To develop the model, the researchers used data from more than 7.5 million VA patients to predict COVID-19-related death. COVIDVax was highly accurate at predicting which patients were at greatest risk of dying from COVID-19. Using this model to prioritize vaccination was estimated to be able to prevent 64% of deaths that would occur by the time 50% of all VA enrollees are vaccinated. Prioritizing vaccination based on COVIDVax should prevent a large number of deaths, concluded the researchers. (JAMA Network Open, April 1, 2021)

Veteran suicide risk during the pandemic
Researchers from several VA offices studied the COVID-19-related factors that protected against and increased risk of suicidal thoughts of Veterans during the pandemic. They studied data on more than 3,000 Veterans with pre-existing psychiatric conditions before and after the pandemic began. Pre-pandemic purpose in life and higher income appeared to be protective against suicidal thoughts.COVID-19 infection, pre-pandemic psychosocial difficulties, and increased psychiatric symptoms increased risk of suicidal thoughts during the pandemic. Among Veterans infected with COVID-19, older Veterans and those with low feelings of purpose in life were at greatest risk of suicidal thoughts. Interventions to help enhance purpose in life may help lower suicide risk during the pandemic, according to the researchers. (Journal of Psychiatric Research, March 16, 2021)

Most adult COVID-19 patients develop antibodies
Most adults with COVID-19 develop antibodies that stay in the body after infection, according to a review by VA Portland researchers. The researchers surveyed studies published on COVID-19 in 2020. They found that most adults had detectable levels of antibodies after infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Levels of IgM, short term antibodies that protect from initial infection, peak at about 20 days after infection and then decline. IgG—longer-term antibodies—levels peak about 25 days after symptom onset and remain detectable for at least 120 days. Some evidence suggests that older age, greater COVID-19 severity, and presence of symptoms may be linked to higher antibody levels. Some adults do not develop antibodies for unclear reasons. (Annals of Internal Medicine, March 16, 2021)

Increasing physical distance in schools not linked to fewer COVID-19 cases
Maintaining three feet versus six feet of physical distance between students did not affect COVID-19 cases, found a study by VA Boston researchers and colleagues. Researchers looked at COVID-19 infection data for nearly 540,000 students and more than 99,000 staff attending in-person school in the Massachusetts public school system. They found that infection rate was similar in districts with policies requiring three feet of physical distance, compared with districts requiring six feet. Increasing physical distance is not necessary to prevent COVID-19 cases in schools, concluded the researchers, provided that universal mask mandates and other precautions are implemented. (Clinical Infectious Diseases, March 10, 2021)

Anticoagulants could lower COVID-19 mortality risk
Anticoagulation medication could lower the risk of death from COVID-19, according to a study by VA researcher and colleagues. The study looked at data on more than 4,000 patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Most of the patients were given medication to prevent blood clots. Results show that patients given the medication had a 27% lower risk of dying from COVID-19 within 30 days of hospitalization, compared with patients not receiving anticoagulants. Anticoagulant use was not associated with serious bleeding events. The findings provide strong evidence for the use of anticoagulants as an initial treatment for COVID-19, say the researchers. (BMJ, Feb. 11, 2021)

Potential new medication for treating COVID-19
A team led by a Jesse Brown VA Medical Center researcher created a potential new medication to treat COVID-19. The virus behind COVID-19 binds with an enzyme in the body called ACE2, which allows it to enter human cells. The researchers designed a peptide (a chain of amino acids) that blocks ACE2 from binding with the spike proteins on the outside of the virus. They gave the new peptide to mice with symptoms that mimic COVID-19 as a nasal spray. The spray reduced fever, protected the lungs, and improved heart function and the mice’s movement. The results could lead to an important new treatment for COVID-19, according to the researchers. (Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology, Jan. 11, 2021)

COVID-19 protein can enter the brain
A study by VA Puget Sound and University of Washington researchers showed that the virus causing COVID-19 may be able to enter the brain. Researchers found that the spike proteins, protrusions on the surface of the virus, can cross the blood-brain barrier and enter the brains of mice. The blood-brain barrier is a border of cells that usually prevents harmful compounds from moving from the blood to the central nervous system. The fact that the spike proteins can cross this barrier on their own suggests that the full virus may be able enter the brain as well. The results add to the understanding of how COVID-19 can affect the central nervous system, and could help scientists develop treatments to counter its damaging effects. (Nature Neuroscience, Dec. 26, 2020)

COVID-19 patients at higher risk of death, health problems than those with flu
COVID-19 patients are at much higher risk of health problems and death than those with the flu, showed a study by St. Louis VA and Washington University researchers. Researchers looked at VA data on more than 3,000 COVID-19 patients and more than 12,000 flu patients. COVID-19 patients were five times more likely to die than flu patients. COVID-19 patients were also four times more likely to require breathing machines and almost 2.5 times more likely to be treated in the intensive care unit. COVID-19 patients were hospitalized for an average of three days longer than flu patients. Compared with flu patients, COVID-19 patients were also at higher risk of developing diabetes, acute kidney damage, and other medical conditions. (BMJ, Dec. 15, 2020)

First 10-days after hospitalization high-risk for COVID-19 patients
COVID-19 patients are at the highest risk of ending up back in the hospital or dying in the first 10 days after leaving the hospital, according to a VA Ann Arbor and University of Michigan study. In the first 10 days after leaving the hospital, COVID-19 patients had a 40% to 60% higher risk of returning to the hospital or dying, compared with patients with heart failure or pneumonia. Risk of readmission or death after 60 days was lower in COVID-19 patients than in patients with these two conditions. The results highlight a need for “special vigilance” in the first days after hospital discharge, say the researchers. (JAMA, Dec. 14, 2020)

Nurses at higher risk of COVID-19 than other health care workers
Nurses are more likely than other health care workers to test positive for the virus causing COVID-19, found a study including an Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital researcher. Researchers looked at COVID-19 test data for more than 6,500 health care workers. Nearly 2,000 of those were nurses. About 5% tested positive for the virus. Nurses had nearly twice the odds of testing positive, compared with other health care workers. Administrators who worked in hospitals but did not interact with patients were the least likely to test positive. Nurses who saw patients receiving high-flow oxygen therapy had a 45% higher risk of contracting the virus, and those treating patients receiving kidney dialysis had 57% higher odds, compared with other nurses. The results show that health care workers who spend more time around COVID-19 patients, such as nurses, are at increased risk from the virus, say the researchers. (Open Forum Infectious Disease, Dec. 9, 2020)

Race-based COVID-19 disparities
African American and Hispanic populations have higher rates of COVID-19 infection and death compared with other ethnic groups, according to a VA Portland review. Researchers reviewed 37 studies on COVID-19 data. They found that African American and Hispanic patients had disproportionately higher rates of virus infection, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19, compared with white patients. While these groups had a higher proportion of deaths from COVID-19, they did not show a higher risk of death in confirmed COVID-19 cases. Asian patients had similar COVID-19 rates as white patients. Not enough data exist on other racial groups to draw conclusions. The higher COVID-19 rates appear to be due to differences in health care access and exposure risk rather than any biological disposition, according to the researchers. (Annals of Internal Medicine, Dec. 1, 2020)

VACO Index can accurately predict COVID-19 mortality risk from health data
The VA COVID-19 (VACO) Index can accurately predict risk of COVID-19 mortality using demographic and health data, according to a VA study. Researchers used VA medical administrative data to develop a tool to assess who is at highest risk of dying from COVID-19 within 30 days of infection. The VACO Index takes into account demographics such as age, sex, and race/ethnicity, as well as pre-existing medical conditions. To validate this measure, the researchers assessed more than 13,000 people who tested positive for COVID-19. Older age, multiple health conditions, and a history of heart attack or peripheral vascular disease were all associated with increased risk of death from COVID-19. The Index accurately predicted higher likelihood of death. The VACO Index could provide a timely, quantifiable, and individualized risk estimate of COVID-19 mortality risk, say the researchers, which will aid in social distancing and treatment decisions. (PLoS One, Nov. 11, 2020

Face coverings negatively impact communication
Face coverings negatively impact communication, especially for people with hearing loss, according to a study by a researcher affiliated with the VA’s National Center for Rehabilitation Auditory Research, along with colleagues from the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. The researchers surveyed 463 people in the U.K., including many with hearing loss. The study found that face coverings negatively impacted hearing and understanding, as well as engagement and feelings of connection. These effects were felt by both speakers and listeners. All respondents reported being affected, but people with hearing loss were significantly more impacted than those without, especially when communicating with doctors, pharmacists and nurses. Face coverings increased anxiety and stress, and made communication more fatiguing, frustrating, and embarrassing. The researchers say three main factors are involved: face coverings limit sound transmission, making speech harder to hear; they hide the mouth and lips, making it impossible to lip-read; and they cover the lower half of the face, making it much more difficult to read emotions and social cues. The researchers concluded that communication-friendly face coverings need to be developed as face coverings continue to be required for public health needs. Health care providers also need to ensure they are addressing the communication needs of their patients, say the researchers. (International Journal of Audiology, November 2020)

Elevated immune response leads to more severe COVID-19
Elevated immune response is associated with more severe COVID-19 and death, found a review led by a Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center researcher. The review analyzed 16 previous studies. Researchers found that COVID-19 patients with higher levels of interleukins, proteins secreted by the immune system, were more likely to have worse symptoms or die, compared with patients with lower levels. Conversely, high levels of a different type of immune proteins (CD4 and CD8) were linked to better prognosis in COVID-19 patients. The results suggest that medications that block interleukin production could be a useful treatment for COVID-19, say the researchers. A number of interleukin blockers are already being tested as possible treatments. (Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome, November–December 2020)

COVID-19 has five times higher in-hospital death rate than flu
Patients with COVID-19 hospitalized in the Veterans Health Administration had a more than five times higher risk of death than patients hospitalized with the flu, found a CDC study including VA researchers. Researchers looked at electronic health records data from nearly 4,000 patients with COVID-19 and more than 5,000 with influenza. Those hospitalized for COVID-19 had a much higher death rate. COVID-19 also carries a significantly higher risk of both respiratory and non-respiratory complications, compared with flu. Risk of COVID-19 complications was higher in Black and Hispanic patients, compared with white patients. (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Oct. 23, 2020)

Testing for virus presence after COVID-19 infection
Researchers from the San Francisco VA and University of California San Francisco studied how long it took health care workers with COVID-19 to test negative after initial infection. They tested 12 employees with reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). RT-PCR measures the amount of a specific type of RNA (genetic material). It can be used to test for the presence of the virus that causes COVID-19. The time between initial COVID-19 infection and a negative test ranged from seven to 57 days. The average time was 34.5 days. Understanding this time range could help institutions make decisions on when it is safe for employees to return to work, say the researchers. (Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Aug. 13, 2020)

Blood pressure medications not linked to worse COVID-19
Common blood pressure drugs are not linked to worse COVID-19 outcomes, according to a review by VA Portland researchers. Researchers reviewed 17 studies on how angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs) interact with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Both types of drugs are used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure. Evidence suggests that taking ACE inhibitors or ARBS does not lead to more severe COVID-19. The drugs also were not linked to positive SARS-CoV-2 test results. The researchers found four studies looking at ACE inhibitors or as COVID-19 treatments, but results from these studies are not yet available. (Annals of Internal Medicine, Aug. 4, 2020)

COVID-19 fever screening criteria lack accuracy in older patients
A new approach to temperature screening for COVID-19 is needed in nursing homes, according to a Providence VA Medical Center study. Current guidance for COVID-19 screening in nursing homes includes checking for fever, defined as at least 38°C. However, many older patients may not reach this temperature threshold even when infected. Researchers studied SARS-CoV-2 screening data on more than 7,000 residents of VA community living centers. They found that, while SARS-CoV-2 positive patients did show rising temperatures, only 27% met the fever threshold of 38°C. Repeated temperature measurement with a patient-specific baseline could improve screening efforts in older patients, conclude the researchers. (Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, July 2020)

Universal COVID-19 testing needed in community living centers
VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System researchers discovered the benefit of universal COVID-19 testing and daily screening for all staff and residents in community living centers. After identifying two cases of COVID-19 testing, all staff members and residents were administered RT-PCR testing. They found 14 of 19 residents who tested positive showed no symptoms of infection. Half of the eight staff members who tested positive were also asymptomatic. The researchers concluded that universal and repeated lab-based testing for the virus was an effective strategy to curb the spread of COVID-19. (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 29, 2020)

Questions about the R&D website? Email the Web Team.

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.