Virus three times more deadly than the flu, oximeters so reliable in Black patients

A health worker in personal protective equipment (PPE) collects a swab sample from a man during a rapid antigen testing campaign for coronavirus infection (COVID-19), on the outskirts of Mumbai, India, December 9, 2020. REUTERS / Francis Mascarenhas / Files

(Reuters) – The following is a summary of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find cures and vaccines for COVID-19, the disease that caused the virus.

COVID-19 far more deadly than seasonal flu

COVID-19 is three times more deadly than seasonal flu, according to researchers in France who compared 89,530 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 early this year with 45,819 hospitalized patients with flu between December 2018 and February 2019. The mortality rate was 16.9% vs 5.8%, which is “particularly noteworthy given that the 2018/2019 flu season was the worst in the last five years in France in terms of deaths , “Dr. Catherine Quantin, of Dijon University Hospital, said in a news release. More patients with COVID-19 landed in intensive care units (16.3% vs. 10.8%) and the average ICU stay was nearly twice as high. long (15 days vs. 8 days), her team reported Thursday in Lancet Respiratory Medicine COVID-19 patients were also more likely to require mechanical ventilation and lung failure.In another study published Diciadai n in the BMJ, U.S. researchers found that people hospitalized for COVID-19 carried higher risks for organ failure and death, and increased use of health facilities, compared to those hospitalized for the flu. (;

Less reliable oxygen monitoring tools in Black patients

COVID-19 can cause blood oxygen levels to drop to dangerously low levels, and devices used to monitor these levels are far less reliable in Black patients than in white patients, extensive study. Pulse oximeters are called shaving fingers and pass red and infrared light through the skin to measure oxygen levels in the blood, which darken when levels fall. Because pulse oximeters were mostly tested on insects when developed, they are calibrated for people with light skin. Among 1,609 patients studied this year at Michigan University Hospital in Ann Arbor, the devices lost low oxygen levels in 11.7% of black patients compared to 3.6% of white patients. When the researchers examined a further 8,392 patients treated at 178 intensive care units in 2014-2015, they found that pulse oximeters missed low oxygen levels in 17.0% of Blacks versus 6.2% of blacks . “Given the widespread use of pulse oximetry for medical decisions, these decisions have some key implications, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the researchers warned Wednesday in and the New England Journal of Medicine. “Relying on pulse oximetry to recruit patients and alter supplemental oxygen levels can put black patients at greater risk.” (;

Minor patients may find COVID-19 may benefit from tocilizumab

Among the majority of non-white patients hospitalized with COVID-19 pneumonia, the Roche arthritis drug, Actemra, also known as tocilizumab, reduced those who required mechanical ventilation or died. Among the 389 volunteers in a study, the combined risk of these events was 12% in patients randomly assigned to receive tocilizumab in addition to routine care, versus 19% in those who received placebo. Looking directly at the risk of death, however, levels in both groups were similar, researchers reported Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Tocilizumab also did not reduce the discharge of patients from the hospital or the time it took to improve their medical status. Previous studies did not focus on racial or ethnic minorities and yielded mixed results. Earlier this month, a different team of doctors reported that the drug reduced the risk of patients dying in hospital, but the difference was not statistically significant. The American Infectious Diseases Association of America does not currently recommend routine use of tocilizumab in hospitalized patients. (

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Reporting with Nancy Lapid, Megan Brooks and Gene Emery; Edited by Tiffany Wu