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article imageCOVID-19: Round up developments in pathophysiology

By Tim Sandle     Dec 5, 2020 in Science
How does the novel coronavirus affect the brain and is it correct that air pollution makes COVID-19 symptoms worse? These are some of the research topics appearing in recent weeks. Digital Journal presents a news round-up.
From a possible connection between COVID-19 and foggy thinking to infections becoming worse where air pollution levels are high, due to weakened lungs, the medical field is engaging with a range of different aspects of coronavirus research. This falls within the area of pathophysiology, the disordered physiological processes associated with disease or injury. We present the latest news.
Tiny variants in genes may dictate severity of coronavirus
Scientists are tracking small differences in DNA to explain why the disease has different effects, reports The Guardian. How individuals respond to a coronavirus infection and how severe the disease subsequently becomes may relate to the genetic make-up of the individual.
Specifically, research indicates that interferon, which is a molecular messenger that stimulates immune defences against invading viruses, plays an important role in defending the body, and it is here that variations arise between individual patients.
The strange ways that coronavirus can affect the brain
With delirium the latest condition to be highlighted as a key symptom, emerging evidence suggests COVID-19 can leave a long shadow. This news is concerning. Medics from around the world are reporting cases that coronavirus infection is often accompanied by a range of conditions hitting the brain, such as foggy thinking, through delirium, all the way to strokes and Parkinson's disease.
New study links air pollution to 15 percent of COVID-19 deaths
Researchers say deaths linked to COVID-19 and air pollution represents 'potentially avoidable, excess mortality'. This relates to a study undertaken by German and Cypriot scientists, who analysed health and disease data from the U.S. and China relating to air pollution, COVID-19 and coronavirus, and found a positive correlation.
How the coronavirus hacks the immune system
At a laboratory in Manhattan, researchers have discovered how the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) uses our defences against us, reports The New Yorker. This connects with the theory of co-evolution and the pattern that occurs when the host immune system adapts to fight a disease, the causative agent so adapts to overcome the body's immune response.
Why do COVID death rates seem to be falling?
Hard-won experience, changing demographics and reduced strain on hospitals are all possibilities - but no one knows how long the change will last, reports this Nature News Feature.
The feature quotes Critical-care physician Derek Angus, from the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, who states that his around the world there has been a reduction in death over time. “Without question, we’ve noticed a drop in mortality,” says Angus. “All things being equal, patients have a better chance of getting out alive.”
As to why this is happening, the reasons are not clear and scientists are puzzled. There have been no miracle drugs, no new technologies and no great advances in treatment strategies for the disease. Investigations are continuing.
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