What We’re Reading: COVID-19 Surges in Swing States; Grocery Workers’ High Risk of Infection; Risks of CRISPR Gene Editing

October 30, 2020
AJMC Staff

The United States sees a daily record in new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases; grocery workers are at a greater risk of COVID-19 infection; the risks of gene editing.

US COVID-19 Cases Surge

Less than a week out from the November 3 general election, the United States has reported a record of nearly 90,000 new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases in one day, as spikes emerge in nearly every swing state, The Washington Post reported. Currently, 228,000 deaths have been linked to the disease while cases are expected to reach 9 million today, only 15 days after the tally hit 8 million. Meanwhile, state health officials warn they do not have enough money to adequately distribute a vaccine as the CDC tells them to be prepared by November 15. The agency is asking states to provide information, such as a list of each jurisdiction’s top 5 sites capable of receiving and administering a vaccine, by Tuesday.

Study Shows Grocery Workers More Susceptible to COVID-19 Infection

A new study, published in Occupational & Environmental Medicine, found that among 104 workers tested at a grocery store in Massachusetts in May, 21 tested positive for COVID-19. However, among those with the virus, 76% were not showing any symptoms at the time of the test. Overall, workers who interacted with customers were 5 times more likely to test positive compared with those in other roles. At the time, the community reported a roughly 1% prevalence, highlighting how frontline workers are more vulnerable to infection. The study also evaluated employees’ mental states and showed those able to practice social distancing at work consistently exhibited significantly lower risks of anxiety or depression.

CRISPR Gene Editing Experiment Underscores Risks

A recent lab experiment that aimed to correct defective DNA in human embryos exhibited what can go wrong with this type of gene editing, underscoring concerns outlined by leading scientists on the safety of the procedure, The Associated Press reported. In more than half of the cases in the experiment, the procedure caused unintended changes like loss of an entire chromosome or big portions of it. Researchers used the CRISPR-cas9, the same tool Chinese scientists used on embryos in 2018 to create the world’s first gene-edited children. The tool is already used to raise superior crops and livestock and holds promise for future disease treatment. However, the use of the tool on embryos can make changes that may pass to future generations.