Health · August 2, 2022

Omicron infects young children more easily than other variants; Loss of smell can be a precursor to memory loss

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The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. This includes research results that warrant further studies to confirm the results and that have yet to be certified through peer review.

Children’s noses are less resistant to Omicron

The Omicron variant may be more efficient at infecting children through the nose than previous versions of the coronavirus, according to a small study.

At the beginning of the pandemic, children’s noses were less welcoming of the virus that causes COVID-19 than adult noses. Studies of the original SARS-CoV-2 and some of its variants found that the virus encountered stronger immune responses in the cells lining young noses than in the nasal lining cells of adults, and it was less efficient at making copies of itself in children to create noses. But recent test-tube experiments, mixing the virus with nasal cells from 23 healthy children and 15 healthy adults, found that antiviral defenses in children’s noses “were significantly less pronounced in the case of Omicron,” researchers reported Monday in PLOS Biology . They also report that Omicron reproduces more efficiently in children’s nasal mucosal cells compared to Delta and the original virus.

DURING THE BA.5 OMICRON SUBVARIANT RISE, VACCINATION PROFESSIONALS STRONGLY URGE HIGH-RISK PEOPLE TO GET COVID-19 STOP NOW

“These data are consistent with the increased number of pediatric infections observed during the Omicron wave,” the researchers wrote, calling for additional studies.

Two young children wear masks while playing in the snow in Bryant Park during the COVID pandemic in the New York City borough of Manhattan, New York, the United States, on January 14, 2022.

Two young children wear masks while playing in the snow in Bryant Park during the COVID pandemic in the New York City borough of Manhattan, New York, the United States, on January 14, 2022.
(REUTERS / Carlo Allegri)

Smell problems can predict post-COVID-19 memory problems

According to an Argentine study, the severity of smell disturbance after infection with the coronavirus could be a better indicator of long-term cognitive impairment than the overall severity of COVID-19.

The researchers looked at a random sample of 766 people over the age of 60, about 90% of whom were infected with the virus. Physical, cognitive, and neuropsychiatric tests performed three to six months after infection revealed some level of memory impairment in two-thirds of the infected participants. After accounting for other individual risk factors, severity of smell loss, known as anosmia, “but not clinical status, significant (predicted) cognitive impairment,” the researchers reported Sunday at the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2022 International Conference held online and in San Diego .

“The more insight we have into the causes, or at least predict who will experience the significant long-term cognitive effects of COVID-19 infection, the better we can track them and start developing methods to prevent them,” said study leader Gabriela Gonzalez – Aleman of the Pontificia Universidad Catolica Argentina in Buenos Aires said in a statement.

Vaccination requirements related to better staffing in nursing homes

In states that mandated COVID-19 vaccines for nursing home workers, the rules had the desired effect and did not lead to mass layoffs and/or staff shortages, according to a study.

However, in states without such mandates, nursing homes experienced staffing shortages during the study period, researchers reported Friday in the JAMA Health Forum. Data collected from mid-June to mid-November 2021 by the National Healthcare Safety Network showed that in 12 states with COVID-19 vaccine mandates, employee immunization rates ranged from 78.7% to 95.2%. Non-mandated states “had consistently lower staff immunization coverage rates throughout the study window” and “higher rates of reported staff shortages throughout the study period,” according to the report.

BA.5 OMICRON VARIATION MAY LEAD TO HIGHER RISK OF MATURATION AND SERIOUS RESULTS COMPARED TO OTHER VARIANTS

“The association of mandates with higher vaccination coverage contrasts with previous efforts to increase uptake of COVID-19 vaccines by nursing home staff through education, outreach, and incentives,” the researchers said. They added that the data “suggests that fears of massive staffing shortages due to vaccine mandates may be unfounded.”