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The Latest on COVID-19

I am following the latest developments on COVID-19 and our efforts to control the pandemic or to deal with it as an endemic disease. I will update this page regularly, so if you are interested, check back often.

Colorectal Cancer Remission with Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor Drugs

Fourteen patients with “mismatched-repair” colorectal cancers were given a drug called dostarlimab every three weeks for six months, and follow-up after two years found that none of the patients had any remaining evidence of cancer. This is an incredible result because all patients had complete remission and none suffered serious reactions to the drug.

What Caused Beethoven’s Deafness?

Ludwig van Beethoven was a composer and concert pianist whose symphonies and other compositions are still among our most-beloved and often-performed classical music. Beethoven started to lose his hearing at age 31 and spent his last years feeling very sick, but he continued to compose incredible music until his horrible death at age 56 of liver failure, kidney failure and pneumonia.

Healthful Habits Reduce Risk for Dementia

The American Heart Association promotes a list called "Simple 7" as a reminder of the lifestyle habits that can help to prevent dementia and heart attacks. This "Simple 7" list has been used in a 30-year study of 11,561 people (average age 54), with 2234 who developed dementia during the study period.

Colon Cancer Associated with Sugared Drinks and Foods

The largest prospective study yet of 121,111 adult health professionals in the Nurses’ Health and Health Professionals Follow-Up Studies found 2733 cases of colon-rectal cancer, with 901 deaths. Sugar-sweetened beverages were associated with significantly increased risk for suffering and dying from colon cancer.

What You Should Know About Monkeypox

So far, the monkeypox virus does not appear to be likely to cause an epidemic or to be any more dangerous than chicken pox. There is evidence that it can be spread from humans-to-humans, rather than from most cases previously of animal-to-human transmission, so there is concern that this recent monkeypox virus has changed to become more transmissible.

Cancer Patients Are At Increased Risk for Heart Attacks

A study of 4,519,243 Canadian adults followed for 12 years found 224,016 cases of new cancers, and the people with newly diagnosed cancers were at increased risk for heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, lung clots, or death from heart disease. Patients with new cancers of the kidney, urinary tract, stomach, intestines, chest, nervous system or blood were at the highest risk for heart disease.

A Low-Fiber Diet to Treat Constipation?

The standard treatment for chronic constipation is to eat a high fiber, plant-based diet. However, other studies have shown that taking in large amounts of fiber can actually cause constipation in some people. In one study, constipated people on a high-fiber diet solved most of their constipation problems by going on a very low fiber diet..

Plastic Water Bottles May Be Harmful

A study from Copenhagen found more than 400 different substances from bottle plastic, and more than 3,500 substances derived from dishwasher soap in reusable plastic bottles stored for 24 hours after being washed in a dishwasher. The water stored in plastic bottles contained endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, insecticides, plastic softeners, antioxidants and release agents used in the manufacture of the plastic, as well as Diethyltoluamide (DEET), found in mosquito sprays.

Does Marijuana or Hemp Affect Brain Health?

The American Heart Association (AHA) reported that cannabinoid chemicals in marijuana and hemp may have harmful effects on the brain, and presented a review of the scientific literature at the AHA’s 2022 International Stroke Conference in New Orleans.

Should You Take Melatonin to Help You Fall Asleep?

This year, about six million North Americans will take over-the-counter sleeping pills called melatonin. The percentage of people taking melatonin regularly has increased five-fold, from 0.4 percent in 1999 to 2.1 percent in 2017, even though the evidence that it helps people fall asleep is controversial.

Low Vitamin D Increases Risks for Heart Attacks and Severe COVID-19

Recent studies show that having low levels of vitamin D is associated with increased risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and severe consequences of COVID-19. Researchers in Australia collected data prospectively from 295,788 participants, and found that having low blood levels of vitamin D is associated with increased risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. (Normal blood levels of hydroxy-vitamin D are considered to be above 30 ng/mL).

Forgetfulness is Not Necessarily a Warning Sign of Dementia

One in nine North Americans over age 65 will develop dementia, a progressive brain disorder that interferes with normal daily living and is marked by memory loss, personality changes and impaired reasoning). Aging is the major risk factor for dementia, but forgetfulness among seniors does not necessarily mean the person is headed for dementia.

Are Electric Blankets Safe?

There is no good data to show that electro-magnetic fields (EMFs) produced by electric blankets, cell phones and other devices cause cancer. Electric blankets do emit radiation from the movement of electric current through wires. Extensive studies in animals have repeatedly failed to show that low-frequency radiation EMFs cause cancer.

Overdiagnosis of Chronic Kidney Disease

Older people may be diagnosed with chronic kidney disease because of their results on a routine blood test called eGFR (Estimated Glomular Filtration Rate) that is used to screen for kidney damage. This test is important because patients with kidney disease often have no symptoms until just before the kidneys fail. However, it is normal for people to lose some kidney function with aging.

The Latest on COVID-19: Archive

This post contains older entries in my summaries of research on COVID-19 vaccinations and other aspects of the epidemic since it began in late 2019. Newer entries can be found in the main post titled The Latest on COVID-19.

Get Your Flu Shot Now

This coming winter could be the worst flu season in years since last winter we had one of the lowest incidences of flu cases and deaths because of the isolation techniques, mask wearing and hand washing so many people used to try to prevent COVID-19 Since very few people will have natural immunity from getting the flu last winter, we can expect a marked increase in flu cases and deaths this year.

Does Ivermectin Treat COVID-19?

A review of 41 studies found no good evidence that ivermectin prevents or treats COVID-19 infections. No study compared ivermectin to an intervention with proven efficacy. Additionally, 31 studies are ongoing and 18 studies are awaiting classification until publication of results or clarification of inconsistencies.

Suspected Carcinogens in Some Sunscreens

In May 2021, an independent testing lab, Valisure, found elevated levels of benzene, a suspected carcinogen, in some sunscreens. As a result, Johnson & Johnson recalled five kinds of Neutrogena and Aveeno sunscreen sprays, and CVS stopped selling some of its sunscreen products.

High Sugar Intake Associated with Increased Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease

Researchers at Rush University followed 837 patients with 19 different tests for memory and other brain functions. They found that higher consumption of foods and drinks with added sugars was associated with greater loss of ability to recognize objects and remember facts, and with greater risk for developing dementia.

Masks Do Not Block Breathing

Researchers showed that “wearing a surgical face mask did not cause gas exchange abnormalities in healthy adults or even in adults with lung function impairment”. The authors measured carbon dioxide exchange and oxygen saturation before and after wearing a surgical mask in physicians with healthy lungs and in people with severe chronic obstructive lung disease.

Almost All U.S. COVID-19 Hospitalizations and Deaths Are Now In Unvaccinated People

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths shows that of more than 18,000 people who died from COVID-19 in May 2021, only 150 deaths occurred in fully vaccinated people. That's less than one percent.

Chronic Constipation

The first-line treatment for chronic constipation is to eat lots of foods that are full of fiber such as fruits and vegetables, to severely restrict processed foods, particularly those made from refined carbohydrates (bakery products, pastas and many dry breakfast cereals), and to exercise. If these lifestyle changes do not solve your problem, you may benefit temporarily by taking over-the-counter laxatives

Dementia May Be Preventable

The American Heart Association has published a scientific statement on “Harnessing Healthy Behaviors to Prevent Dementia” (Stroke, Mar 15, 2021:52(6A);52:e295–e308). They report that dementia is associated with the following modifiable risk factors: depression, all heart attack risk factors, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, an inflammatory diet, smoking, social isolation, excessive alcohol use, sleep disorders and hearing loss.

Routine CT Scans Can Increase Cancer Risk

More than 80 million CT scans are done in the U.S. each year to help diagnose many medical conditions. In 2007, the National Cancer Institute predicted that 29,000 future cancer cases could be linked to the CT scans performed in the U.S. in that year alone, and doctors have ordered more CT scans every year since then.

Jim Allison’s Nobel Prize: Toward a Cure for Cancer

In August 2015, the world learned that former U.S. president Jimmy Carter’s melanoma skin cancer had spread to his liver and his brain. Patients with melanoma that had spread through their bodies were expected to die from their disease, but doctors radiated Carter's tumors and then gave him Keytruda, a check point inhibitor. Three months later, there was no evidence of cancer in his 91-year old body.

Risk Factors for Dementia and Heart Attacks Start Early in Life

Researchers in Finland followed 3,596 children (3-18) for 31 years to see whether cardiovascular risk factors in childhood and adolescence were associated with cognitive performance later in life. Cognitive testing was performed in 2,026 of the participants at 34-49 years of age, and the researchers found that early heart attack risk factors were also major risk factors for reduced mental function.

COVID-19 Update – Vaccines Are Very Effective

An Israeli study followed 596,618 people who were newly vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine during a six-week period from December 20, 2020, to February 1, 2021, and a matched group of the same number of unvaccinated controls. The researchers found that the vaccine offered a high degree of protection, similar to the results shown in the clinical trials.

Lack of Sleep Linked to Risk for Dementia

Researchers in the Whitehall Study followed 7959 British men and women for 30 years, with data on their sleep habits collected at ages 50, 60 and 70. They found that those who slept six hours or less per night had a 30 percent increased risk for dementia, compared with those who slept seven hours or more.

Treatable Risk Factors for Severe COVID-19

Don't believe the claims made for nutritional products that are supposed to boost your immunity and protect you from infections, unless you suffer from a specific medical condition or deficiency that can be corrected by that product. The current evidence shows that you are at increased risk for infection with, and severity of, COVID-19 if you have a medical condition that interferes with your immune system such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, and so forth.