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Today’s top news highlights: Protests and COVID-19 risk, avoidable epilepsy deaths, and more


Here are the stories our MDedge editors across specialties think you need to know about today:

Mass protests could cause COVID-19 outbreaks

As mass protests continue throughout the country, officials expressed concern about a potential spike in coronavirus cases in the coming days.

“There’s going to be a lot of issues coming out of what’s happened in the last week, but one of them is going to be that chains of transmission will have become lit from these gatherings,” Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner, said on the CBS News show “Face the Nation.”

The protests generally have started peacefully with some demonstrators following physical distancing rules. But they have evolved into sometimes violent gatherings of hundreds or thousands of people where standing six feet apart is impossible. Chanting, singing, and shouting may spread the virus through respiratory droplets.

“If you were out protesting last night, you probably need to go get a COVID test this week,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Saturday, according to The Associated Press. Read More.

Diabetes: 1 in 10 hospitalized for COVID-19 die within a week

More than 10% of people with diabetes who are hospitalized for COVID-19 die within a week, while nearly a third require mechanical ventilation, new research shows.

Data from the CORONADO study also revealed that body mass index was independently associated with death or intubation at 7 days, while A1c and use of renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system blockers and dipeptidyl peptidase–4 inhibitors were not.

The presence of diabetes-related complications and older age also increased the risk of death.

The findings were published online in Diabetologia.

Previous studies have linked diabetes to worse outcomes in COVID-19, but this is the first to examine specific characteristics before and at the time of hospital admission that predict worse outcomes among people with diabetes, study coauthor Samy Hadjadj, MD, PhD, said in an interview. Read more.

Most adult epilepsy-related deaths could be avoided

Almost 80% of epilepsy deaths among adults are potentially avoidable, results of a new study suggest.

The research shows that such avoidable deaths “remain common and have not declined over time, despite advances in treatment,” Gashirai Mbizvo, MBChB, PhD, of the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom, said during a press briefing. The findings were presented at the virtual/online Congress of the European Academy of Neurology (EAN) 2020.

Dr. Mbizvo investigated adolescents and adults aged 16 years and older who died because of epilepsy from 2009 to 2016. He compared this group to patients of similar age who were living with epilepsy. A total of 2149 epilepsy-related deaths occurred.

The most common cause of death in the 16- to 54-year age group was sudden unexpected death in epilepsy, followed by respiratory disorders, such as aspiration pneumonia. “We think this should be avoidable, in the sense that these are people that could perhaps be targeted early with, for example, antibiotics,” Dr. Mbizvo said.

The next most common cause of death was circulatory disease, largely cardiac arrest.

“The idea is that electroexcitation – an abnormality in the brain – and the heart are related, and maybe that’s translating to a risk of death,” Dr. Mbizvo said. Read More.

FDA approves combo treatment for hepatocellular cancer

The Food and Drug Administration has approved atezolizumab (Tecentriq) in combination with bevacizumab (Avastin) to treat patients with unresectable or metastatic hepatocellular carcinoma who have not received prior systemic therapy.

The approval was supported by results from the IMbrave150 trial (N Engl J Med 2020; 382:1894-1905). This phase 3 trial enrolled 501 patients with hepatocellular carcinoma who were randomized to receive either sorafenib or atezolizumab plus bevacizumab.

The median overall survival was not reached in patients who received atezolizumab plus bevacizumab, but it was 13.2 months in patients who received sorafenib.

The median progression-free survival was 6.8 months in patients who received atezolizumab plus bevacizumab and 4.3 months for those who received sorafenib. Read more.

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