March 27, 2020

Mayo Clinic doctors provide urgent information on COVID-19

By Susan Murphy

With the U.S. now reporting more cases of COVID-19 than any other country, and people across America and around the world grappling with unprecedented lockdowns, quarantines and uncertainty, Mayo Clinic doctors and researchers are working relentlessly to care for patients, search for treatments and provide people with up-to-date information and advice.

By Mayo Clinic News Network

Patients could be at risk of drug-induced sudden cardiac death from use of off-label COVID-19 treatments

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, continues to spread, leading to more than 25,000 deaths worldwide in less than four months. Efforts are progressing to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, but it's still likely 12 to 18 months away.

In the meantime, the pandemic, with over 500,000 confirmed cases worldwide already, is driving researchers to find safe and effective therapies for patients with COVID-19, and an antimalarial drug is potentially on the front lines of that effort. While new and repurposed drugs are being tested in clinical trials, some of these promising drugs are simultaneously being used off-label for compassionate use to treat patients.

Some of the medications being used to treat COVID-19 are known to cause drug-induced prolongation of the QTc of some people. The QTc is an indicator of the health of the heart's electrical recharging system. Patients with a dangerously prolonged QTc are at increased risk for potentially life-threatening ventricular rhythm abnormalities that can culminate in sudden cardiac death. Read more.

3D Anatomic Modeling Lab prints model of virus that causes COVID-19

To help in educating the public and in the hope of better conveying the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 3D Anatomic Modeling Lab at Mayo Clinic in Rochester has printed a 3D model of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection.

Jonathan Morris, M.D., medical director of the 3D Anatomic Modeling Lab at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, says because the virus cannot be seen with the naked eye, it may not be perceived by some as a real threat.

"This may be a vital tool for colleagues to really drive home the seriousness of this virus. A picture is worth a thousand words, and a model is worth a thousand pictures," Dr. Morris says. "What we've seen through our 3D printing practice is that models help people fundamentally understand something they just couldn't through pictures. We believe this could do the same for people who maybe aren't convinced yet about the seriousness of the virus and the importance of self-isolation." Read more.

What does supportive care mean for patients with COVID-19?

"Supportive treatment refers to what we can do to relieve the symptoms of COVID-19," says Dr. Cowl, a pulmonologist and chair of Mayo Clinic's Division of Preventive, Occupational and Aerospace Medicine. "By closely monitoring patients, helping them breathe, delivering intravenous fluids, keeping their fever down and treating cough, we can hopefully prevent adverse events, such as chronic shortness of breath, or worse, death in severe cases. But as the number of severe cases increases, we must prepare for delivering supportive care to more people with the illness." Read more.

Keeping seniors and immunocompromised people safe

Some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 because of their age or underlying health conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Adults 60 and older and those with an underlying health condition or a compromised immune system appear to develop serious illness more often than others.

According to Dr. Jessica Lancaster, a Mayo Clinic immunologist, as we age, our immune systems start to gradually decline and has a much more delayed immune response when faced with infection. Dr. Lancaster says one way to think about how our immune system works is to think of it as a sort of military operation.

"The different immune cells come together and they have to coordinate their efforts in order to repel the threat," says Dr. Lancaster. "So if you think of a younger immune system, the cells are able to react much more quickly and are able to coordinate their efforts in order to clear the infection. However, as we age, the ability for the cells to communicate with each other starts to diminish. It starts to slow down and, thus, the patient could potentially succumb to the effects of the illness before they had a chance to launch a proper immune response." Read more.

Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast: Answering listeners’ COVID-19 questions

Each day, the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast shares the latest information on the COVID-19 pandemic. On today's episode, Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group, answers listeners' coronavirus questions.

Click the player below:

Expert Alert: Have heart disease? Protect your health during the COVID-19 pandemic

People with heart disease and other underlying health conditions are at a high risk for becoming seriously ill if they develop COVID-19. Heart patients may question if they are doing the right things for their health at a time when there is little research available surrounding this new viral disease. Stephen Kopecky, M.D., a Mayo Clinic cardiologist, talks about what heart patients need to consider in relation to COVID-19, including maintaining a healthy diet and weight, getting a flu shot to head off viral inflammation, and keeping up the exercise. Read more.

Learn more

Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for additional updates on COVID-19. For all your COVID-19 coverage, go to the Mayo Clinic News Network.

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