What We're Reading: COVID-19 Prison Cases Spike; Clinical Trial Numbers Fall; Virus Mutation Increases Strength

June 16, 2020

Cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continue to rise in US prisons; clinical trials have seen patient enrollment drop precipitously since the pandemic began; there is a specific mutation that strengthens the coronavirus.

US Prisons See COVID-19 Cases, Fear Continue to Increase

Texas alone has seen its cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) quadruple over the past 3 weeks among prisoners and prison staffers alike, reported The New York Times, while across the remaining United States there has been a 73% jump in prison deaths since mid-May. Testing efforts have been dismal among most state prison systems, with New York testing not even 3% of inmates and California testing less than 4%. Meanwhile, prisoners are complaining on the lack of protections for their health, while the CDC continues to recommend mass testing among large populations held in close quarters even if they are asymptomatic.

Clinical Trial Patient Numbers Drop Off

Global patient enrollment in clinical trials plunged 74% year-over-year for the first 2 weeks in May, while the numbers for phase 2 and 3 cancer clinical trials in the United States had dropped up to 48% by the last 2 weeks of March alone, according to STAT. Other countries have seen even larger drops in their year-over-year trial enrollment totals for March, April, and May, respectively, including India (84%, 97%, and 95%) and the United Kingdom (80%, 95%, and 100%) noted a medidata report. Other trial therapeutic areas especially hard hit include the cardiovascular, dermatology, and endocrine spaces.

D614G Mutation Gives Strength to the Coronavirus

Experts from Scripps Research are now detailing why New York and Italy may have been hit that much harder by COVID-19, and it entails a specific mutation to the coronavirus, D614G, reported Reuters. This mutation enhances the virus’ ability to both infect cells and bind to them by increasing the spikes on its surface—up to 5 times more. However, researchers cannot yet confirm if this mutation also increases symptom severity or mortality from COVID-19. They are calling for controlled studies to confirm their findings.