Infodemics, synthetic drugs and convalescent plasma

An infodemic is not a pandemic

When SARS broke out in 2003, people coined the term “infodemic” to describe the onslaught of misinformation that followed its announcement, exacerbated by the internet.

It’s a term that seems very appropriate in today’s times, and a lot of valuable work has gone into studying and combating the rapid spread of misinformation. But an international team of researchers, including representatives from the World Health Organization, want to warn against studying infodemics as if they were a virus.

“The apparent analogies between epidemics and infodemics have led to the suggestion that scientists and policymakers may investigate, model, and monitor both phenomena similarly,” the researchers write in an opinion piece in the journal. Cell.

“We need to better understand how individuals acquire or avoid information and how these decisions can influence their behavior.”

Co-author Walter Quattrociocchi, from Sapienza University, Italy, adds that “unlike a virus, we can decide to accept or not accept information.

“This peculiarity makes the respective processes of modeling and forecasting completely different.”

What has the pandemic done to New Year’s drug use?

New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest nights of the year for designer drug use around the world, but did COVID-19 change things last New Year’s Eve?

According to a study by the University of South Australia, it does. The study also found that Kiwis, with some of the world’s most lax restrictions last December, also partied the hardest on the 31st.

In a study of 10 countries, researchers found that New Zealand had the highest levels of new psychoactive substances in its sewage after New Years.

Australia and Canada also had high levels of designer drugs, while China and Fiji had the lowest. (Other countries in the study included Belgium, Italy, Korea, Spain, and the United States).

“All samples were taken in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, when all countries except New Zealand were in confinement, limiting social interactions and large gatherings”, explains Associate Professor Cobus Gerber, epidemiologist wastewater at UniSA.

“It probably had an impact on the distribution and consumption of certain drugs.”

The study is described in detail in an article Letters on environmental science and technology.

Do not treat COVID-19 with convalescent plasma

The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised against using convalescent plasma – blood transfusions from people who have had COVID-19 – as a treatment for new victims of the disease.

This advice comes from evidence from 16 different trials, including 16,236 total COVID-19 patients.

In a meta-analysis published in The BMJ, a team of WHO researchers say these data show that convalescent plasma is ineffective, expensive and time-consuming.

Blood transfusion therapy is now strongly discouraged for patients with mild COVID-19, and not recommended for routine use in patients with severe COVID-19.

The only exception is randomized controlled trials. The panel decided that there was not yet enough evidence on patients with severe COVID to fully advise against it – so convalescent plasma can still be used in these trials.

Do vaccine lotteries work?

Several US states have started offering cash prizes to get vaccinated, via the lottery, with some places giving prizes in the millions of dollars. Does this technique really work as an incentive to vaccinate?

According to an article by jama, the answer is yes, but only in certain places.

The researchers looked at data from a cross-sectional household survey, including 403,714 adults in total, for information on vaccination status.

They found that, on average, the announcement of lottery programs was associated with a 23% increase in vaccination rates. But the results varied wildly – ​​in some states, like Arkansas, Kentucky and West Virginia, the lotteries didn’t seem to have much of an effect.

“Vaccine acceptance may be a much more complex process with political, psychological, cultural, geographic, or socioeconomic elements involved that could explain differential outcomes of lottery programs in different states,” the authors point out in their paper.

Is a longer interval better between mRNA doses?

When the vaccine supply is limited, it may be useful to delay the second dose of a COVID vaccine to ensure wider partial coverage in the population. There is also evidence showing that with some adenovirus vaccines, such as the AstraZeneca vaccine, increasing this interval makes it more effective.

But a small Canadian study found that for mRNA vaccines Pfizer and Moderna, increasing intervals between doses may also help. The study is published in JAMA.

The researchers examined blood samples from paramedics, each of whom received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines with doses at recommended intervals (about three and four weeks, respectively) or at longer intervals.

Participants who were vaccinated at longer intervals had better immunogenicity than those at normal intervals. The researchers say more studies are needed to validate this result.

Alvin J. Chase