March 30, 2020

Mayo Clinic researchers are working to combat COVID-19, from the front lines to the laboratories

By Susan Murphy

By Mayo Clinic News Network

Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear scrubs, protective equipment and step out in difficult times to be there for others. As COVID-19 continues to spread and people heed notices to socially distance themselves and hunker down in their homes, there are still those who are on the front lines helping to fight the disease. These are the unsung heroes, and there are thousands of them at Mayo Clinic. Read more.

How the virus that causes COVID-19 differs from other coronaviruses

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause illnesses such as the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). So what makes those coronaviruses different from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19?  Dr. Clayton Cowl, a pulmonologist and chair of Mayo Clinic's Division of Preventive, Occupational and Aerospace Medicine, says that SARS-CoV-2 shares both similarities and differences with other coronaviruses.

"The name 'coronavirus' has to do with what the virus looks like under a microscope," says Dr. Cowl. "'Corona' means crown. All coronaviruses have a similar structure. They are also 'enveloped' viruses, which means they are able to stick to surfaces, but are also able to be killed with disinfectants. The novel virus that causes COVID-19 is one-nine hundredth of a width of a piece of hair." Read more.

Science needs to guide us, says Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Gianrico Farrugia on “Face the Nation”

Mayo Clinic President and CEO Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., shared his perspective on next steps to address the COVID-19 pandemic on CBS News' "Face the Nation" program that aired Sunday.

In his interview with "Face the Nation" moderator Margaret Brennan, Dr. Farrugia said the focus needs to be on saving lives because “there is no direct end in sight,” and he emphasized that the multi-faceted approach has to be “driven by the science, not by conjecture.”

Dr. Farrugia also underscored that innovations that are happening across the country will improve the way health care providers test and track the outbreak on both macro and micro levels, to help flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections faster and help those in greatest need. Read more.

What cancer patients should know

Older adults and those with serious chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, are at higher risk of developing serious complications if infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

But what about cancer patients?

Cancer patients may be at higher risk of infection and more severe symptoms, though temporarily, due to a weakened immune system from cancer treatment. "However we have very limited information at the present time," says Dr. Rafael Fonseca, a hematologist and interim executive director of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center.

Dr. Fonseca says he and his team are receiving many questions from patients with cancer who are concerned and want to understand better what a potential with a COVID-19 infection might mean. "From what we know, infection with COVID-19 seems to be more difficult, more aggressive and with worse outcomes in people who are, in general, unwell, and are of advancing age, and what we're seeing is this is predominantly in older males that we have seen the effect." Read more.

The science behind the test for the COVID-19 virus

Mayo Clinic's new test for the virus that causes COVID-19 is described in a recent news release as a PCR test. While most won't know what that means, PCR is a well-used tool in the laboratory and medical testing. Larry Pease, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic immunologist, and Kyle Rodino, Ph.D., a clinical microbiologist, explain how this test works.

To start, PCR stands for a laboratory technique known as polymerase chain reaction. In this test, the goal is to selectively amplify trace amounts of genetic material, identifying specific parts of DNA. Just as a reminder, DNA is the genetic code that is present in every cell in the body. When a cell divides, it copies DNA, separating the two strands and then creating a new strand of DNA by copying the template. PCR mimics what normally happens in cells. Read more.

Helping Kids cope during the COVID-19 pandemic

During any rapidly changing situation, loss of daily routine, isolation and uncertainty can lead to anxiety, fear, depression and loneliness. Information overload, rumors and misinformation can make you feel out of control and make it unclear what to do. When you feel this way, your kids may feel it too — and they often sense the way you're feeling. Talking to them about what's going on can be challenging.

COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) has become a source of daily conversation. As a caregiver, you may be wondering how to support your kids' developmental needs and understanding of COVID-19. Honest and accurate discussion with your kids about COVID-19 can help them understand what's happening, relieve some of their fears, make them feel safe and help them begin to cope. 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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