A new Northwestern Medicine study shows antibodies generated by prior vaccinations or infections can actually “hurt” subsequent COVID-19 booster shots.
Northwestern Medicine investigators continue to study the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on health outcomes and society, from maternal vaccinations and antibody response to reducing burnout amongst healthcare workers and identifying novel therapeutic targets.
Targeting internal proteins instead of spike proteins may be a promising strategy for monoclonal antibody therapy to combat SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Northwestern Medicine investigators continue to investigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, from evaluating repurposed drugs in preventing severe disease to using sentinel surveillance to monitor SARS-CoV-2 transmission rates and studying the prevalence of “long COVID” in pediatric patients.
Northwestern Medicine investigators continue to study COVID-19, from comparing mortality rates between SARS-CoV-2 variants to examining the effectiveness of maternal vaccination in protecting infants and combating COVID-19 misinformation on social media.
Tobias Holden, a fourth-year student in the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), was lead author of a paper that used mathematical modeling to determine the impact of structural racism and health disparities on COVID-19 mortality rates in Illinois.
Metformin, a common, safe and inexpensive drug for type 2 diabetes, lowered the odds of emergency department visits, hospitalizations or death due to COVID-19 by over 40 percent, according to a new multi-site clinical trial.
Physicians and scientists from Northwestern Medicine and other institutions have banded together to combat COVID-19 misinformation and disinformation.
What do we know about the effectiveness of COVID-19 boosters, and how might they better protect us from new variants such as omicron? Alexis Demonbreun, PhD, assistant professor of Pharmacology, offers insight. She is the author of a new study that shows COVID-19 boosters seem to supercharge antibody response.
Judd Hultquist, PhD, talks about key variants of SARS-CoV-2 and how his lab is identifying and studying these variants.
As the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 is causing breakthrough infections in some vaccinated people around the world, scientists at Northwestern Medicine are developing and studying potential next-generation COVID-19 vaccines that could be more effective at preventing and clearing breakthrough infections. Pablo Penaloza-MacMaster, PhD, an assistant professor of Microbiology-Immunology at Feinberg, discusses work in his lab that could lead to better vaccines and treatments for coronaviruses.
Daniel Batlle, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension at Northwestern, has been studying ACE2 and its potential therapeutic uses for many years. When the pandemic began, he proposed a hypothesis that soluble ACE2 could treat the SARS-CoV-2 virus and lead to survival and full recovery, and now he has some exciting preliminary results.
For some who contract COVID, symptoms can last for quite some time as part of a condition known as “long COVID.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID symptoms typically appear anywhere from two to 14 days after someone is exposed to the virus. The CDC says most people with COVID-19 “get better within a few days to a few weeks after infection.” COVID “long-haulers,” are defined as individuals who have had COVID symptoms for six or more weeks, Northwestern Medicine has said. A study from Northwestern Medicine last year showed that many so-called COVID “long-haulers” continue to experience symptoms like brain fog, tingling, headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, tinnitus and fatigue an average of 15 months after the onset of the virus.
Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews has revealed that he is fighting symptoms of long COVID. The Blackhawks announced over the weekend he is going to be out indefinitely while he deals with the effects of long COVID. Researchers say Toews is not unusual. Doctors at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine say there are some 30 million people suffering from long COVID symptoms on some level. It is the third most frequent neurological illness in the U.S. “Some people tend to improve in a seesaw pattern,” said Dr. Igor Koralnik at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Some stay flat and unfortunately some get worse over time.” Toews missed the entire 2021 season due to chronic immune response syndrome. Doctors say they have studied patients with long COVID and most – about eight out of ten – are young, healthy and never had severe symptoms initially. “There are some people who feel they are 10-20% recovered after more than two and a half years,” Dr. Koralnik said.
Kids’ COVID More Dangerous When Co-Infected With RSV, Colds
As colds, flu and COVID continue to circle this winter, a new U.S. government study finds that young children infected with COVID plus a second virus tend to become sicker. While severe COVID is rare among children, kids can and do fall ill enough to end up in the hospital. When youngsters have more than one infection, it’s hard to know what’s “driving” their symptoms, said William Muller, MD, PhD, an infectious disease specialist at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. He also noted that severely ill kids are probably more often tested for multiple bugs. But to Muller, the bottom line is straightforward: “We need to vaccinate more,” he said. That means both COVID vaccination and the yearly flu shot, Muller said. Both can be given to children age 6 months or older, and both slash the risk of severe illness. Both doctors stressed that the point is not to alarm parents: The vast majority of children with COVID or the flu do not land in the hospital. At the same time, there are ways to lower those odds.
If you’re like most Americans, someone in your family or social circle is sick right now with COVID, flu, a cold or RSV. It is in fact, possible, to catch more than one of these germs at the same time. There’s plenty of evidence of people testing positive for, say, COVID and the flu or flu and RSV simultaneously. “Absolutely, you can catch more than one virus at the same time,” says Tina Tan, MD, professor of pediatrics in infectious diseases at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “We’ve had kids that have actually had three different viruses. Some of them come in with RSV. They’ve also had influenza and enterovirus. There have been other kids who have presented with COVID and influenza.” The risk for multiple infections is especially high this year because so many viruses have been surging together. “It’s kind of a perfect storm for co-infections,” Tan says. It’s unclear how often this happens because most of the testing for this sort of thing is done on hospitalized patients, who probably aren’t representative of the general public. But some studies have found co-infections in up to 20% of those patients. The risk, however, doesn’t appear to be the same for everyone. Children appear to be far more likely to get more than one bug on top of the other, especially very young kids, researchers say.
New ‘kraken’ mutation is most contagious subvariant of COVID yet. Here’s what the Chicago area needs to know.
Medical experts say the new COVID-19 mutation dubbed “kraken” is the most contagious subvariant of the virus to emerge since the pandemic began – and it’s becoming the dominant strain in the United States. While the so-called kraken subvariant only accounts for about 7% of cases in Chicago, the city’s top doctor forecast that its prevalence will likely be increasing here in the coming weeks. But Dr. Elizabeth McNally, director of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine Center for Genetic Medicine, had a generally optimistic outlook about the COVID landscape, noting that “things look much better this year than they did last year at this same time.” Further she says, “I don’t think we need to be pressing the panic button since case numbers over the last 14 days have been only modestly up or steady,” McNally said. “It’s true we each may know people who got COVID recently, but many of these people had only mild cold symptoms.”
As the new year begins and the depths of winter approach, U.S. infectious disease experts monitoring the “tripledemic” stew of viruses that have been plaguing the country say they’re good news – and bad. The good news is the worst appears to be over from the RSV surge that has been making life miserable for many children and their parents. Ways to protect yourself from coronavirus subvariant XBB.1.5 include getting vaccinated and boosted, avoiding crowded, poorly ventilated parties, restaurants, bars and other places, and putting the mask back on in risky situations. “It’s not time to let your guard down,” warns Dr. Tina Tan, an infectious disease specialist at Northwestern University. Fortunately, most of the precautions that lower your risk of catching COVID-19 will also help protect you against any resurgence of RSV or the flu.