July 6, 2021 Intelligence: Late-Breaking Lab News

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Did the SARS-CoV-2 virus infect people in the United States earlier than the first case diagnosed on Jan. 19, 2020? A newly-published study in Clinical Infectious Diseases, says there is evidence of COVID-19 infections in December 2019. The research team included scientists from the National Institutes of Health. The source of the specimens was the “All of Us” program. Blood samples collected from 24,000 people during the first three months of 2020 were analyzed for the novel coronavirus. Using an antibody biomarker, researchers determined that seven study participants were infected earlier than originally reported in their regions. The earliest infection was prior to Christmas Eve 2019.

MORE ON: COVID-19

The researchers emphasized that the findings from this study were not definitive, in part because the antibodies identified during testing provided protection from other strains of the coronavirus. One significant finding of the study was that none of the seven COVID-19 positive study participants lived in either New York City or Seattle, where the first COVID-19 cases where diagnosed in January 2020. “The question is how did, and where did, the virus take seed?” asked Keri N. Althoff, PhD, from Johns Hopkins University and the study’s lead author. Her answer was that the new study indicates “it probably seeded in multiple places in our country.”

MILITARY HOSPITAL BACKLOGGED WITH 600 PATH CASES

This spring, a backlog of 600 pathology cases was reported at 120-bed Fort Belvoir Community Hospital. Located outside Washington, DC, and operated by the Department of Defense, the hospital services military personnel and their families. The Military Times reported that the backlog was attributed to a surge in patients who had deferred care during the pandemic. However, the backlog was not addressed until an anonymous source contacted the Military Times. The delayed cases involved biopsies and resections. Pathologists at other military hospitals helped to work down the backlog of pathology cases at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital. 

TRANSITIONS

• GeneDx, a subsidiary of OPKO Health, announced the selection of Katherine Stueland as its new CEO and President. She previously held positions at Invitae, Vivo Communications, Dendreon Corporation, and WCG.

Mark Szewczyk is the new Chief Commercial Officer at Strata Oncology of Ann Arbor, Mich. Previously he served at Abbott Laboratories, Philips Healthcare, and Cleveland Clinic.

That’s all the insider intelligence for this report. Look for the next briefing on Monday, July 26, 2021.

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