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COVID SCIENCE-COVID-19 heart problems may persist for months; smartphone oxygen meters prove helpful

Nancy Lapid
·3 min read

By Nancy Lapid

Feb 19 (Reuters) - The following is a roundup of some of thelatest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and effortsto find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the illness causedby the virus.

COVID-19 heart problems may remain evident months later

Signs of heart injury in hospitalized COVID-19 patientscould be precursors to longer-lasting heart problems,researchers have found. They studied 148 survivors of severeCOVID-19 who had high levels of troponin - a protein releasedwhen the heart has been injured - while they were hospitalized.An average of two months after they left the hospital, magneticresonance imaging (MRI) still showed some sort of heart issue in48% of the patients, including heart attacks, heart muscleinflammation, inadequate blood flow, or some combination ofthose problems, the researchers reported on Thursday in theEuropean Heart Journal. Among patients with heart attacks orinadequate cardiac blood flow, two-thirds had no past history ofcoronary disease. "Ultimately, we cannot definitely establish alink between the abnormalities detected on these cardiovascularmagnetic resonance scans and the acute COVID-19 infection," theauthors said. But the high prevalence of the abnormalities"suggests a likely link." Dr. Matthew Toomey, cardiac ICUdirector at Mount Sinai Morningside Hospital in New York Citywho was not involved in the study, noted: "We don't have thebenefit of long-term follow-up to see what it will developinto." He added that he was guardedly optimistic that mostpatients will not end up with heart failure. (https://bit.ly/3u92cZj)

Samsung smartphone oxygen meters could help in COVID-19

A device in Samsung S9 and S10 smartphones thatmeasures oxygen levels in the blood meets U.S. Food and DrugAdministration standards and could be used to monitor COVID-19patients, researchers said. Oxygen saturation levels areusually monitored with devices called pulse oximeters that cliponto a finger. Falling levels can indicate serious disease andneed for intervention. Pulse oximeters used in hospitals areexpensive, and inexpensive versions sold in drugstores are ofvariable accuracy, the researchers said in a report posted onThursday on medRxiv ahead of peer review. The phones theystudied have built-in pulse oximetry sensors, and theproprietary Samsung algorithms that interpret the signals "arevery good," said coauthor Sara Browne of the University ofCalifornia, San Diego. "We are not aware of any other smartphonethat has clinical grade pulse oximetry in it. Samsung did anawesome job on this," she said. Samsung dropped the sensors fromtheir phones for 2020 and 2021, Browne said. "As healthcarepractitioners, we would love to see them put back in," sheadded. Her team estimates that over 100 million S9 and S10phones are still in circulation and said they could beparticularly useful in countries where access to accurate pulseoximetry is limited. (https://bit.ly/3sdQESD)

PTSD often follows serious COVID-19

Italian doctors who interviewed COVID-19 survivors up tofour months after their diagnosis found nearly one in three hadpost-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Their study included 381adult survivors, roughly 80% of whom had been hospitalized.Aside from PTSD, seen in 30% of study participants, otherpsychiatric issues included depressive episodes (diagnosed in17%) and generalized anxiety disorders (7%), according to areport published on Thursday in JAMA Psychiatry. Patients withPTSD were more likely to be female, to have been delirious oragitated while hospitalized, and to be suffering from persistentCOVID-19 symptoms. The researchers point out that they onlystudied patients from a single hospital and did not compare themto patients with other serious illnesses, so they cannot saywhether PTSD is more common after COVID-19. They note, however,that the prevalence of PTSD in their patients "is in line withfindings ... reported after other types of collective traumaticevents." (https://bit.ly/3dtjx9j)

Open https://tmsnrt.rs/3c7R3Bl in an external browser for aReuters graphic on vaccines in development.

(Reporting by Nancy Lapid and Linda Carroll; Editing by BillBerkrot)