Friday, November 4, 2022

COVID-19: vaccines and infections

Personalized, precise and predictive vaccinology's holy grail is to anticipate immune response for every individual, depending on their genetic background and all other factors that may impact vaccine immunogenicity, efficacy, and safety.

The high expense of comprehensive genomic and immune-profiling tests, however, prohibits their routine use and this disproportionally affects underserved populations.

A new paper reports preliminary results of an ongoing study of COVID-19 vaccination in geographic neighborhoods and online health support groups. Due to innovative recruitment and monitoring strategies, the study has the largest representation of active "oldest old" - individuals aged 80 or older - than all other trials with diverse age groups. 

Despite widespread belief of a biphasic pattern for the frequency of systemic adverse events post-vaccination (VAEs), the paper reports statistically significant differences in the incidence of VAEs for both younger and 80+ populations when compared to those in the 60-69 and 70-79 age brackets. The subtypes of adverse events in younger and older populations are different. This short paper groups post-vaccination events in three types: "No or minimal VAEs", and short- or long-term reactions that significantly impacted activities of daily living.    

The paper suggests genetic origin for some adverse reactions. Scientists have only just begun to look into genetics of less common VAEs. HLA-A∗03:01 (contributing to low risk of severe COVID-19) was recently found to be associated with increased risk of stronger side effects (including fever and chills) from Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination. In another recent study, HLA-DQB1*06 alleles were found to protect from breakthrough infection during the ancestral SARS-CoV-2 virus and subsequent Alpha-variant waves compared with non-carriers. Hopefully, more studies will follow. 


Gabashvili IS. The Incidence and Effect of Adverse Events Due to COVID-19 Vaccines on Breakthrough Infections: Decentralized Observational Study With Underrepresented Groups. JMIR Form Res. 2022 Nov 4;6(11):e41914. doi: 10.2196/41914. PMID: 36309347.

Current Impact score of the journal is: 2.38 (Resurchify)

JMIR Formative Research has been accepted for the Web of Science: Emerging Sources Citation Index. The journal will receive a Journal Impact Factor in 2023. 

Saturday, September 17, 2022

The Rapid Expansion of DTC Healthcare

Preventive care is recognized as the most effective strategy for health care cost reductionScreening for early signs of heart disease, cancer, maintenance of diabetes and allergies and prevention of infectious diseases can be done without a supervising physician. Direct-to-consumer (DTC) laboratory testing allows individuals to order tests directly from a laboratory without going through their healthcare provider, and often at lower costThe number of companies providing direct-to-consumer diagnostic testing is rapidly growing, along with the range of health information provided by these tests. Ancestry (genealogy) testing is an example. And so are new devices for cardiac monitoring

Experts anticipate a near-term explosion in the DTC marketplace. DTC healthcare already was a US$700 billion industry in 2020, including over-the-counter drugs. The Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company, PBC (MCCPDC) is nearing one million customers. An analysis of 2011-1019 records from Rock Health Digital Database, showed that 252 (21%) of 1214 digital health companies pursued a direct-to-consumer strategy. The pandemic has accelerated this growth. According to research by Deloitte, the number of people using virtual healthcare rose from 15% to 19% from 2019 to early 2020, then jumped to 28% in April 2020. On average, 80% were likely to have another virtual visit, even post COVID-19 and said they will use this type of care again. Latest data showed that consumers’ appetite for virtual health and digital health tools continued to steadily increased, although there was significant variation in physician adoption. 

Human touch remains central to care delivery. In the 2022 Deloitte Survey of US Health Care Consumers, 70% of respondents who had a virtual visit in 2022 (vs. 67% in 2020) thought that the quality of virtual care was as good as in person, but only 73% (vs. 82% in 2020) thought they were able to connect with the clinician the same way they would in-person. Integration of data from patients' wearables and their self-reported outcomes into health records also experienced a setback

The global market for Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) testing was predicted to grow from $1.4 billion in 2020 to $2.6 billion by 2025. There were cautionary cases of uBiome and Theranos, there are quackery labs, but as the industry matures and moves toward utilization of clear clinical metrics, and as the capabilities of technology advance, DTC testing will me more and more impactful. There are DTC companies that offer the tests and biometric screenings that a physician would typically order as part of a routine annual physical, such as a complete blood count, comprehensive metabolic panel, urinalysis, and cardiovascular and diabetes risk assessment. Ultalabs, JasonHealth, discounted labs, drsays and privatemdlabs all allow to self-order laboratory tests and Quest and Labcorps locations. 
No more uncomfortable questions for a blood test prescription. No doctor visit needed to gettest results - they will be emailed instead. Consumers pay up front and know exactly what they are paying for. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many other healthcare services.

Genetic counseling for patients who are pursuing genetic testing in the absence of a medical indication, referred to as elective genomic testing (EGT), is becoming relatively common. More people are using technology to monitor their health, measure fitness, and order prescription refills. Before COVID-19, there was a slight decline in people who were willing to share their health data—but during the pandemic, new data showed that people are more comfortable sharing data during a crisis


Cohen AB, Mathews SC, Dorsey ER, Bates DW, Safavi K. Direct-to-consumer digital health. The Lancet Digital Health. 2020 Apr 1;2(4):e163-5.

Stoffel M, Greene DN, Beal SG, Foley P, Killeen AA, Shafi H, Terrazas E. Direct-to-Consumer Testing for Routine Purposes. Clinical Chemistry. 2022 Sep;68(9):1121-7.

2022 Global health care sector outlook | Deloitte


Monday, May 16, 2022

Resolving the subtypes of COVID-19 in the elderly

SARS-Cov-2 is one of the most complex viruses known to medical science. Patients with COVID-19 present a broad spectrum of clinical manifestations, ranging from asymptomatic infection to lethal outcome. Both the young and the old may have very different clusters of symptoms and responses to medications, including the COVID-19 vaccines.  Each type is associated with how severe of an illness a patient might experience, ranging from asymptomatic to lethal. 

Precision medicine approaches such as whole-exome sequencing can provide insight into the phenotypes, endotypes and underlying mechanisms of the disease. The high cost of cutting-edge approaches, however, keeps these tools out of reach for many research teams. 

In this age of big data and large clinical studies, we should not forget about the value of individual cases. A good case report tells a detailed story. It describes a unique phenotype and offers unique clues to its resolution into an endotype. 

A new systematic review of case reports aims to answer questions about COVID-19 subtypes in octogenarians, nonagenarians, and centenarians and offer possible solutions to organize the knowledge and identify the gaps. 


Irene S. Gabashvili. The outcomes of COVID-19 vaccination and SARS-CoV-2 infection in octogenarians, nonagenarians, and centenarians. PROSPERO 2022 CRD42022332621 Available from:

Irene S. Gabashvili (2022), “COVID-19 vaccine and SARS-CoV-2 in the oldest old: rapid literature review”, Mendeley Data, v1

Irene S. Gabashvili (2022), “The Outcomes of COVID-19 and Vaccination in the Oldest Old: a Longitudinal Observational Study and Literature Review”, April 2022, DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.15625.93285

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Getting Out of Echo Chambers

Web search is hyper personalized and social media creates echo chambers. 

Nothing new, really. "The Facebook effect" was coined over 10 years ago, and the echo chamber effect of the Internet was known long before that.  Echo chambers existed even in the early blogosphere. But the isolation from a diversity of views and opinions may be reaching the tipping point. 

A study published last month in PLOS One, analyzed and visualized 60 billion tweets demonstrating how highly the vaccine debate is polarized. 

Users with similar stances interacted preferentially with one another. Interactions between individuals with different views were rare and not productive.  Extending this insight, the authors provide evidence of an epistemic echo chamber effect, where users are exposed to highly dissimilar sources of information, depending on the stance of their contacts. 

But does it make sense to call an article or a blog post provaxx or antivaxx based on pro- or anti-vaccine sentiment?

Why can't we discuss pros and cons of vaccines objectively and admit that medicine should be personalized? Majority of population benefits from vaccines, but there are those that don't. Should not we try to understand why?

The only way to overcome hyperpolarization is to increase our collective cultural intelligence, improve critical thinking skills, counteract destructive polarizationrecognize the legitimacy and ongoing necessity of opposing viewpoints.

The site is a collection of scientific papers about the less discussed medical cases. We all know that vaccines work. We dare you to understand why there are cases when they don't. 


Less Discussed Medical Case Reports

M√łnsted B, Lehmann S. Characterizing polarization in online vaccine discourse—A large-scale study. PloS one. 2022 Feb 9;17(2):e0263746.

Ries M. The COVID-19 Infodemic: Mechanism, Impact, and Counter-Measures—A Review of Reviews. Sustainability. 2022 Jan;14(5):2605.

Gorman, J. M., & Scales, D. A. (2022). Leveraging infodemiologists to counteract online misinformation: Experience with COVID-19 vaccines. Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) Misinformation Review.

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