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Scientists cut peer-review corners under pressure of COVID-19 pandemic –



The novel coronavirus was engineered in a lab using HIV. Stem cells are a potent weapon against the new pandemic. People with blood type A are more susceptible to COVID-19.

None of these “discoveries” have been proven. But all have been widely disseminated.

They’re examples of what many scientists are beginning to fear is an erosion of traditional safeguards against bad science under the pressing need for answers to the wave of sickness sweeping the globe.

“We are getting a firehose of research-based data coming out at us, because we need it,” said Rees Kassen, a University of Ottawa scientist who has just published a paper with the World Economic Forum about the concern.

“That’s good, but it has to come with strong caveats.”

The speed and volume of research into the novel coronavirus is unprecedented. During the 2003 SARS crisis, a French study found that 93 per cent of papers about the virus were published after the epidemic subsided.

Not this time. LitCovid, a hub for papers on COVID-19, says more than 1,600 on the topic were published last week alone.

But many are so-called “preprints” — untested research hot out of the lab.

Normally, a scientist with new findings writes them up and submits them to a journal. An editorial committee looks for problems, checks the findings against other research and puts them through the kind of scrutiny that leads to stronger work.

Peer review, however, takes months or even years. COVID-19 isn’t giving us that much time.

Increasingly, medical scientists have turned to preprint sites, where work is posted within days.

‘Buyer beware’

“They’re not peer-reviewed,” said Jim Woodgett, director of Toronto’s Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, who’s also affiliated with one of the main preprint sites.

“What we do is quite superficial in terms of checking that submitted manuscripts are actually scientific and they’re not just garbage and they’re not dangerous. It’s buyer beware.”

Preprint sites have busy comment sections and bad science is quickly called out. The COVID/HIV paper, for example, has been withdrawn.

Many scientists worry that weak preprints will still spread misinformation. Despite its flaws, the paper on blood types was featured in the New York Post.

Both the public and the reporters who write for them will have to be more careful of their sources, said Jim Germida, a University of Saskatchewan biologist.

He oversees Canadian Science Publishing, which prints more than 20 scientific journals.

“There’s a lot of good science that goes into preprints. But you have to be cautious.”

Traditional journals are doing their best to meet the demand for the latest COVID-19 research.

“Many, many reputable journals have expedited their review process,” Germida said.

As well, most of the major journals have made their archives free and opened access, providing decades of top-quality research to whoever needs it.

‘Some drop in standards’

Woodgett said reputable journals are feeling pressure to get useful information out there, even if flawed or incomplete. And with universities closed, many researchers may not be able to get back to their labs to dot those final i’s.

“There has been some drop in standards.”

Science has never been perfect, he added. Bad papers were published before COVID-19; new findings supplant the old.

Kassen points out the fatality rate of COVID-19 was first thought to be as high as 15 per cent. It’s now considered to be about one per cent.

“The best we can do is work with uncertainty.”

It’s a new world for science publishing. Woodgett offers advice to sort it out that will sound familiar to anyone who’s researched an article or bought a used car.

“If someone tells you something remarkable, you need to find something else to back it up.”

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Canadian study of critically ill patients with COVID-19 found lower death rate – EurekAlert



A Canadian case series of all patients with COVID-19 admitted to six intensive care units (ICUs) in Metro Vancouver found patient outcomes were substantially better than reported in other jurisdictions. The paper is published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Researchers looked at outcomes for 117 patients with COVID-19 admitted to one of six hospitals in Metro Vancouver between February 21 and April 14, 2020. Patients ranged in age from 23 to 92 years, with a median age of 69 years. Two-thirds (67.5%) were male. As of May 5, 85% of patients were still alive and 61% had been discharged home. The overall mortality rate was 15%.

“The overall mortality was appreciably lower than in previously published studies, despite comparable baseline patient characteristics and a higher proportion of patients with completed hospital courses,” writes Dr. Donald Griesdale, a critical care physician at Vancouver General Hospital and associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Medicine, Vancouver, BC, with coauthors.

Data from Lombardy, Italy, showed a 61% mortality rate for patients admitted to an ICU, a case study of 24 people in Seattle had a 57% mortality rate among patients in the ICU, and a case series from Wuhan, China, reported a mortality rate of 80% in patients admitted to the ICU.

Fewer patients in the Canadian series (63%) received mechanical ventilation than in Lombardy (88%), Seattle (75%) and New York (90%), but in Wuhan even fewer (42%) received mechanical ventilation. Very few patients received unproven treatments for COVID-19; one patient received hydroxychloroquine, four received tocilizumab, and none recived remdesivir.

“Despite the observed differences between patients and critical care interventions in these studies, it is unclear whether these solely account for the marked lower mortality that we report,” write the researchers. “We hypothesize that these encouraging results may be due to a broader system-level response that prevented an overwhelming surge of critically ill patients with COVID-19 from presenting to our hospitals and ICUs.”


Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

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Two deaths, eight new cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa – CTV News



Two more residents of Ottawa have died due to COVID-19, while eight new cases of the virus have been detected.

Ottawa Public Health announced the new cases in its daily epidemiology update on Thursday afternoon.

Since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Ottawa on March 11, there has been 1,930 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa, including 240 deaths.

Thirty-seven residents are currently in hospital for treatment of COVID-19.

The median age of the COVID-19 cases in Ottawa is 56-years-old. The youngest case involved a four-month-old.

Recovering from COVID-19

Ottawa Public Health says 80 per cent of COVID-19 cases are now resolved.

The report shows 1,544 people have recovered after testing positive for COVID-19.

There are currently 146 active cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa.

Source of COVID-19

Half of Ottawa’s 1,930 cases of COVID-19 are linked to an outbreak in a retirement home, long-term care home, group home, hospital or shelter.

Ottawa Public Health says 975 cases are linked to an institutional outbreak.

A total of 426 cases, 22 per cent, are linked to close contact with a known case or linked to a community outbreak.

The report shows 10 per cent of COVID-19 cases, 183 cases, are linked to community transmission of the virus.

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PoCo care home latest with COVID-19 outbreak, special team sent to Langley Lodge – CityNews Vancouver



PORT COQUITLAM (NEWS 1130 — A resident at a long-term care home in Port Coquitlam has tested positive for COVID-19, while the Fraser Health Authority is taking extra measures to control further spread and deaths at Langley Lodge.

To date, 22 Langley Lodge residents have died from virus, more than at any other care home in B.C.

The first reported case of COVID-19 was at the Lynn Valley Care Centre, where 20 people died from the virus. The outbreak there involved 76 cases, but was declared over earlier this month.

RELATED: Two more Langley Lodge residents die from COVID-19

Nicola Lodge, a long-term care facility in Port Coquitlam, reported its first case Thursday.

The resident is in isolation, according to Fraser Health.

The health authority has implemented enhanced control measures at the site.

Fraser Health has also appointed a director of pandemic response at Langley Lodge.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has been challenging to control at Langley Lodge due to complex factors, such as the outbreak being on a behavioral stabilization unit,” Fraser Healths says.

“We have been working very closely with Langley Lodge and this decision was made to further support the facility leadership and staff.”

As well, Fraser Health has deployed an ultraviolet germicidal irradiation machine, along with infection control specialists, and additional nurses and care staff at Langley Lodge.

According to latest update from the lodge, 10 staff members, including two from the health region, have contracted the virus, while one resident remains sick. Of all the cases, 22 people have fully recovered.

As of Wednesday, the province reported 14 outbreaks remained active in long-term care or assisted-living facilities, as well as one in an acute-care unit.

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