Covid-19 is just over seven months old, and globally, the virus has taken centre stage in reorganising work, socialising and more. But scientists studying Covid-19’s spread have brought to light new information about the impact and treatment of the novel virus strain. Health-e News put together some of the latest studies on the global pandemic. 

TB cases and deaths predicted to spike due to Covid-19 

A new study published in the European Respiratory Journal found that due to the impact of Covid-19, more than 110 000 additional tuberculosis (TB) deaths over the next five years. 

The study focused on three countries with high TB burdens – China, India and South Africa. These countries make up approximately 40% of the global TB cases. 

Researchers found that in places where health services are severely under strain, this number could rise to up to 200 000 additional deaths. 

 Furthermore, the study also found that if there is a substantial health service disruption that sees a 50% reduction in TB cases being detected and successfully treated, there could be an increase in both incidence and deaths from TB over the next five years. The data shows that the most probable scenario indicates that 6 000 additional deaths could occur in China, 95 000 in India and 13 000 in South Africa. 

Recently, Health-e News reported that Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Khayelitsha had seen a decrease in TB testing, as well as a decrease in patients who started TB and drug-resistant TB treatment. 

The research states that social distancing can play an important role in decreasing the transmission of TB, however, should there be a disruption in healthcare services, the impact of social distancing will not be effective. 

 The prediction model of the study was based on an 80% reduction in TB detection and treatment success. It foresees an 8-14% increase in deaths from TB over the next five years. 

But, researchers say that more research is required to examine how factors such as poverty or reduced access to antiretroviral treatments in areas of high HIVprevalence influence the projected mortality figures. 

Relief for patients with severe cases of Covid-19 

Dexamethasone, a drug normally used to treat inflammation, severe allergies, asthma and many other conditions, has been found to reduce death in hospitalised patients with severe respiratory complications due to Covid-19, a study from University of Oxford found. 

The research was conducted on 2 104 patients that were randomised to receive dexamethasone once per day for 10 days and were then compared to 4 321 randomised patients who received their usual care alone. 

 The results revealed that dexamethasone reduced deaths by one-third in ventilated patients and by one fifth in other patients receiving oxygen only. It was not beneficial for patients with mild symptoms or for those who were asymptomatic. 

The South African government says that it will start administering the drug in state hospitals for patients with severe breathing problems due to the virus. 

“Our healthcare workers are very familiar with dexamethasone, having used it for decades as a registered medicine in South Africa. We are immediately able to offer all patients that need intravenous dexamethasone – we have checked our stock and we currently have around 300 000 ampoules in the country,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement. 

Mkhize says this drug is easily available in the country and that the country will have no difficulty in health workers using it. 

“The strategy is easy to implement as the medicine is inexpensive, easy to transport, easy to administer and will not require too much additional training.” 

Statin use is linked to lower death rate in hospitalised Covid-19 patients

The use of statins is associated with a lower death rate and a lower incidence of mechanical ventilation in patients hospitalised, reports Cell Metabolism 

Statins are drugs that are used to lower cholesterol levels according to United States non-profit Mayo Clinic. They work by blocking a substance your body needs to make cholesterol. They have also been linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.  

The study was conducted among 13 981 cases of confirmed Covid-19 cases who were admitted in 21 hospitals from Hubei Province, China. This is the one the largest Covid-19 studies to date. The patients were divided into two groups – 1 219 received in-hospital use of statins and the remaining 12 762 had no statin treatment. 

Patients who received statin were 66 years or older, and those who had chronic illnesses. 

The research revealed that the incidence rate of death during a 28-day follow-up was lower in the statin group compared to the non-statin group. 

When the researchers juxtaposed 861 patients in the statin group to 3 444 patients in the non-statin group, statin use was linked with a 45% decrease in the mortality rate, from 9.4% to 5.2%.  

In the matched cases, statin use was also associated with a lower incidence of acute respiratory distress syndrome and admission to intensive care units. 

However, the scientists of the study say that there is a need for further randomised controlled trials to explore the efficacy of statins on reducing Covid-19 mortality in vulnerable groups.- Health-e News