From the Editor

COVID-19: We are in a war, without the most effective weapons to fight a novel viral pathogen

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References

Convalescent serum

There are no high-quality studies demonstrating the efficacy of convalescent serum for treatment of COVID-19. A small case series suggests that there may be modest benefit to treatment of people with severe COVID-19 disease with convalescent serum.22

Testing for anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgM and IgG antibodies

We may have a serious problem in our current approach to detecting COVID-19 disease. Based on measurement of IgM and IgG antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein, our current nucleic acid tests for SARS-CoV-2 may detect less than 80% of infections early in the course of disease. In two studies of IgM and IgG antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein, a single polymerase chain reaction test for SARS-CoV-2 had less than a 60% sensitivity for detecting the virus.23,24 During the second week of COVID-19 illness, IgM or IgG antibodies were detected in greater than 89% of infected patients.23 Severe disease resulted in high concentrations of antibody.

When testing for IgM and IgG antibodies is widely available, it may become an option to test all health care workers. This will permit the assignment of those health care workers with the highest levels of antibody to frontline duties with COVID-19 patients during the next disease outbreak, likely to occur at some point during the next 12 months.

A COVID-19 vaccine

Dozens of research teams, including pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and many academic laboratories, are working on developing and testing vaccines to prevent COVID-19 disease. An effective vaccine would reduce the number of people who develop severe disease during the next outbreak, reducing deaths, avoiding a shutdown of the country, and allowing the health systems to function normally. A vaccine is unlikely to be widely available until sometime early in 2021.

Facing COVID-19 well-being and mental health

SARS-CoV-2, like all viral particles, is incredibly small. Remarkably, it has changed permanently life on earth. COVID-19 is affecting our physical health, psychological well-being, economics, and patterns of social interaction. As clinicians it is difficult to face a viral enemy that cannot be stopped from causing the death of more than 100,000 people, including some of our clinical colleagues, within a short period of time.

Dr. Russ Harris, an Australian acceptance commitment therapist, has written an ebook (http://www.commpsych.com/wp-content/uploads/FACE_COVID-1.pdf) and produced an animated YouTube video, titled FACE COVID (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmvNCdpHUYM), which describes a systematic approach to deal with the challenge of the pandemic. He advises a 9-step approach:

  • F—focus on what is in your control
  • A—acknowledge your thoughts and feelings
  • C—come back to a focus on your body
  • E—engage in what you are doing
  • C—commit to acting effectively based on your core values
  • O—opening up to difficult feelings and being kind to yourself and others
  • V—values should guide your actions
  • I—identify resources for help, assistance, support, and advice
  • D—disinfect and practice social distancing.

This war will come to an end

During the American Revolution, colonists faced housing and food insecurity, epidemics of typhus and smallpox, traumatic injury including amputation of limbs, and a complete disruption of normal life activities. They persevered and, against the odds, successfully concluded the war. Unlike the colonists, who did not know if their conflict would end with success or failure, we clinicians know that the COVID-19 pandemic will end. We also know that eventually the global community of clinicians will develop and deploy the effective weapons we need to prevent a recurrence of this traumatic pandemic: population-wide testing for both the SARS-CoV-2 virus and serologic testing for IgG and IgM antibodies to the virus, effective antiviral medications, and a potent vaccine. ●

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