What’s the evidence that REGEN-COV (casirivimab and imdevimab) monoclonal antibody cocktail is effective in the post-exposure prophylaxis of Covid-19?

The U.S. FDA has issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the emergency use of REGEN-COV in adult and pediatric populations (≥12 years of age and older weighing> 40 kg) who are at high risk* of progression to severe COVID-19— including hospitalization or death— and who are not fully vaccinated or are not expected to mount an adequate immune response to the vaccine (eg, immunocompromised state).1  This recommendation is based on a randomized controlled trial involving individuals enrolled within 96 hours of exposure to a known Covid-19 case (Covid-10 Phase 3 Prevention Trial).2

In this trial, the primary efficacy end point was the development of symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection through day 28  in participants who did not have SARS-CoV-2 infection  by PCR or serology at the time of enrollment. Symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection developed in 1.5% of treatment group (vs 7.8% in placebo group) with 81.4% relative risk reduction (P<0.001); 66% reduction was observed when symptomatic and asymptomatic infections were combined.  Duration of symptoms and the magnitude and duration of detectable RNA were also lower in the REGEN-COV group compared to placebo. Therapy was well tolerated.2

In the same study, in a subgroup analysis of those who were seropositive at the time of enrollment REGEN-COV lowered the risk of symptomatic disease (0.4% vs 2.3% in the placebo group) with relative risk reduction of 81%, though not statistically significant (P=0.14).  This may be why the FDA EUA extended to certain vaccinated groups as well since to date there are no published trials on the use of REGEN-COV as post-exposure prophylaxis in vaccinated individuals.

*High risk group included ≥65 years of age, BMI≥25 kg/m2, diabetes, immunocompromised state, cardiovascular disease or hypertension, chronic lung disease, sickle cell disease and neurodevelopment disorders.

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References

  1. Fact sheet for health care providers emergency use authorization (EUA) of REGEN-COV. https://www.fda.gov/media/145611/download. Accessed September 15, 2021.
  2. O’Brien MP. Forleo-Neto E, Musser BJ et al. Subcutaneous REGEN-COV antibody combination to prevent Covid-19. N Engl J Med 2021, August 4, 2021. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2109682

 

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, their affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

What’s the evidence that REGEN-COV (casirivimab and imdevimab) monoclonal antibody cocktail is effective in the post-exposure prophylaxis of Covid-19?

Should patients previously immunized against Covid-19 receive selected monoclonal antibodies when diagnosed with a breakthrough infection?

Although published studies supporting monoclonal antibody therapy in mild to moderate Covid-19 preceded availability of Covid-19 vaccines and the emergence of new variants of concern,1,2 given the possibility of severe breakthrough Covid-19 in high risk vaccinated patients with suboptimal immunity and the retained activity of certain monoclonal antibody products (ie, casirivimab and imdevimab-Regeneron-Cov and sotrovimab) against common variants of SARS-CoV-2 , their use is recommended even in vaccinated individuals with mild to moderate Covid-19.3-5

In fact, the CDC states that “For people who have received one or more doses of Covid-19 vaccine and subsequently experience SARS-CoV-2 infection, prior receipt of a Covid-19 vaccine should not affect treatment decisions (including use of monoclonal antibodies, convalescent plasma, antiviral treatment, or corticosteroid administration) or timing of such treatment.”3

In its July 30, 2021 Emergency Authorization Use (EUA) letter regarding use of casirivimab and imdevimab – REGEN-COV), the FDA does not distinguish between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals for its indications,4 similar to those of guidelines posted by the Department of Health and Human Services and the NIH.5-6

When indicated, high risk vaccinated individuals with Covid-19 should be offered  an FDA approved (under EUA currently) monoclonal antibody product (such as  casirivimab and imdevimab antibody cocktail or sotrovimab) soon after diagnosis and certainly no later than 10 days.

Vaccinated individuals with mild to moderate Covid-19 not requiring hospitalization and for whom monoclonal antibody treatment may be indicated include older patients and those with risk factors for severe disease, such as obesity, pregnancy, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung disease (including COPD), immunocompromised state, serious heart conditions (eg, heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies), sickle cell disease and type 2 diabetes.7

Of note, casirivimab and imdevimab is indicated for adults (weighing at least 40 kg) and children 12 years or older and is administered by IV infusion or subcutaneously, if IV infusion is not feasible and would lead to delay in treatment.4

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that in phase III trials, casirivimab and imdevimab  antibody cocktail reduced hospitalization or death by 70% in non-hospitalized patients with Covid-19?2

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References

  1. Interim clinical considerations for use of Covid-19 vaccines currently authorized in the United States. 2021. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/info-by-product/clinical-considerations.html. Accessed August 22, 2021.
  2. March 23, 2021 https://www.roche.com/media/releases/med-cor-2021-03-23.htm
  3. Dougan M, Nirula A, Azizad M, et al. Bamlanivimab plus Etesevimab in mild or moderate Covid-19. N Engl J Med, July 14, 2021. https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2102685
  4. Letter, EUA REGEN-COV, July 30, 2021. https://www.fda.gov/media/145610/download
  5. Department of Health and Human Services. High risk Covid-19 outpatients may avoid hospitalization with monoclonal antibody treatment. July 16, 2021. https://combatcovid.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/documents/High-Risk-COVID-19-Outpatients-072021.pdf
  6. Anti-SARS Cov-2 monoclonal antibodies. Accessed August 22, 2021. https://www.covid19treatmentguidelines.nih.gov/therapies/anti-sars-cov-2-antibody-products/anti-sars-cov-2-monoclonal-antibodies/
  7. Science brief: evidence used to update the list of underlying medical conditions that increase a person’s risk of severe illness from Covid-19. Accessed August 22, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/science-briefs/underlying-evidence-table.html

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy-St. Louis, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, their affiliate healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

Should patients previously immunized against Covid-19 receive selected monoclonal antibodies when diagnosed with a breakthrough infection?

What’s the evidence that immunocompromised patients need a 3rd booster mRNA Covid vaccine shot?

At this time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation for a booster shot of an mRNA vaccine in patients with moderate to severe immunocompromised state (1,2) is based primarily on the concern for waning immunity following the initial series—including a decline in neutralizing antibodies— in this patient population, and the finding that at least some immunocompromised patients may have a significant improvement in certain laboratory measurements of immunity following their booster shot. 

Although there are no randomized-controlled trials of the efficacy of the 3rd shot in protecting against Covid-19 in immunocompromised patients, the recent surge in the highly transmissible SARS-CoV-2 variants in many parts of the world (including the U.S.)  as well as immunocompromised patient population accounting for nearly one-half of all breakthrough Covid-19 cases requiring hospitalization (1) make it urgent to adopt these recommendations. 

A randomized trial involving 120 solid organ transplant patients (median age 67 y) found higher neutralizing antibody levels and SARS CoV-2 specific T-cell counts after the mRNA-1273 (Moderna) vaccine booster dose compared to placebo (3).

In another study involving 101 solid organ transplant patients, of 59 subjects who were seronegative before the 3rd dose, 44% became seropositive 4 weeks after the 3rd vaccine dose ( BNT162b2-Pfizer vaccine administered 2 months after the second dose). Patients who did not have an antibody response were older, had higher degree of immunosuppression and had a lower estimated glomerular filtration rate than those with antibody response (4).

A “spectacular increase” in anti-spike antibodies with levels close to the general population has also been reported among hemodialysis patients receiving a third dose of Pfizer mRNA vaccine (5). 

Until further data from larger studies become available,  these studies support administration of a 3rd dose booster mRNA vaccine in moderate to severely immunosuppressed individuals.

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that although immunocompromised patients have significantly worse influenza outcome, the data on the impact of immunocompromised status on the outcome of Covid-19 is less clear with published evidence that both supports and refutes this association (6)?  

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References

  1. CDC. Data and clinical considerations for additional doses in immunocompromised people: ACIP Meeting, July 22, 2021. ACIP Data and Clinical Considerations for Additional Doses in Immunocompromised People (cdc.gov)
  2. CDC. Interim clinical considerations for use of Covid-19 vaccines currently authorized in the United States. August 13, 2021. Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines | CDC
  3. Hall VG, Ferreira VH, Ku T, et al. Randomized trial of a third dose of mRNA-1273 vaccine recipients. N Engl J Med 2021, Aug 11. Randomized Trial of a Third Dose of mRNA-1273 Vaccine in Transplant Recipients | NEJM
  4. Kamar N, Abravanel F, Marion O. Three doses of an mRNA Covid-19 vaccine in solid-organ transplant recipient. N Engl J Med 2021, Aug 12.Three Doses of an mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine in Solid-Organ Transplant Recipients | NEJM
  5. Frantzen L, Thibeaut S, Moussi-Frances J, et al. Covid-19 vaccination in haemodialysis patients: Good things come in threes… Neph Dial Transplant, 20 July 2023. COVID-19 Vaccination in Haemodialysis Patients: Good things come in threes… – PubMed (nih.gov)
  6. Parisi C. An opportunity to better understand the impact of coronavirus on immunocompromised patients. J Infect Dis 2021;224:372-3. Opportunity to Better Understand the Impact of Coronaviruses on Immunocompromised Patients | The Journal of Infectious Diseases | Oxford Academic (oup.com)

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy-St. Louis, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, their affiliate healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

What’s the evidence that immunocompromised patients need a 3rd booster mRNA Covid vaccine shot?

What’s the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccination in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) treated with high-efficacy disease-modifying therapies?

The answer appears to be dependent on which high-efficacy disease-modifying agent is being used to treat MS.  Limited data suggest that cladribine treatment does not impair humoral response to Covid-19 vaccine in patients with MS, while ocrelizumab and fingolimod have a major negative impact on vaccine responsiveness based on humoral antibody measurements.1

A study involving 125 Covid-19 MS vaccine (mRNA, Pfizer BNT162b2) recipients  (58% females, 61% relapse-remitting, 19% primary-progressive, 14% secondary-progressive, 3% clinically isolated syndrome and 2% radiologically isolated syndrome), found high levels of SARS-CoV-2 anti-spike IgG in all subjects (n=23) receiving cladribine as early as 4.4 months from last treatment dose.1

In contrast only 4% of patients with MS treated with fingolimod had a post-vaccination humoral response (time-interval from last treatment dose to vaccination not reported).  Similarly, most patients under treatment with ocrelizumab failed to develop a post-vaccination humoral response, with only 23% demonstrating a protective antibody titer (time-interval from last treatment dose 3.1-8.9 months).

These results may not be totally surprising given the attenuated humoral response to several common vaccines in patients with MS treated with ocrelizumab or fingolimod.2,3

Given the potential suboptimal response to Covid-19 vaccine in patients with MS treated with fingolimod or ocrelizumab, until further data become available, it’s fair to state that patients treated with these agents should NOT depend on vaccination to protect them from Covid-19 and that they may need to still take extra precautions during the pandemic.   

 

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that fingolimod prevents lymphocyte egression from secondary lymphoid tissue and ocrelizumab is an anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody that depletes B lymphocytes?1

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Reference

  1. Achiron A, Mandel M, Dreyer-Alster S, et al. Humoral immune response to COVID-19 mRNA vaccine in patients with multiple sclerosis treated with high-efficacy disease-modifying therapies. Therapeutic Adances in Neurological Disorders 2021;14:1-8. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/17562864211012835
  2. Bar-Or A, Calkwood JC, Chognot C, et al. Effect of ocrelizumab on vaccine responses in patients with multiple sclerosis. Neurology 2020; 95:e1999-22008. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32727835/
  3. Kappos L, Mehling M, Arroyo R, et al. Randomized trial of vaccination in fingolimod-treated patients with multiple sclerosis. Neurology 2015;84:872-9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25636714/  

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis or its affiliate healthcare centers, Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School or its affiliated institutions. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

What’s the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccination in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) treated with high-efficacy disease-modifying therapies?

Why is the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 increasingly becoming a “variant of concern” in the current Covid-19 pandemic?

The Delta variant (B.1.617.2, formerly India variant) has become an increasingly prevalent strain of SARS-Cov-2 causing Covid-19 in many countries outside of India, including the United States and United Kingdom, particularly affecting younger unvaccinated persons.  Several features of the Delta variant are of particular concern. 1-7

  1. Delta virus appears to be more transmissible when compared to previously emerged variant viruses. Data from new Public Health England (PHE) research suggests that the Delta variant is associated with a 64% increased risk of household transmission compared with the Alpha variant (B.,1.1.7, UK variant) and 40% more transmissibility in outdoors. 1,8  
  2. Delta virus is also associated with a higher rate of severe disease, doubling the risk of hospitalization based on preliminary data from Scotland. In vitro, it replicates more efficiently than the Alpha variant with higher respiratory viral loads.5
  3. Delta virus may also be associated with reduced vaccine effectiveness with increased vaccine breakthroughs. One study found that Delta variant is 6.8-fold more resistant to neutralization by sera from Covid-19 convalescent and mRNA vaccinated individuals.5 Fortunately, a pre-print study released by PHE in May 2021 found that 2 doses of the Pfizer vaccine were still 88% effective against symptomatic infection with Delta variant  (vs 93% for the Alpha variant) and 96% effective against hospitalization; 1 dose was only 33% effective against symptomatic disease (vs 50% for the Alpha variant).  Two doses of Astra Zeneca vaccine were 60% effective against symptomatic disease from the Delta variant.8 
  4. Aside from its somewhat unique epidemiologic features, Covid-19 caused by Delta variant seems to be behaving differently (starting out as a “bad cold” or “off feeling”), with top symptoms of headache, followed by runny nose and sore throat with less frequent fever and cough; loss of sense of smell was not common at all based on reported data to date.1

What the Delta variant reminds us is, again, the importance of vaccination, masks and social distancing. The pandemic is still with us!

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that, on average, a Delta variant-infected person may transmit it to 6 other contacts (Ro~6.0) compared to 3 others (Ro~3) for the original SARS-CoV-2 strains found during the early part of the pandemic?1

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References

  1. https://www.bbc.com/news/health-57467051
  2. Knodell R. Health Advisory: Emergence of Delta variant of coronavirus causing Covid-19 in USA. Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services. 23 June, 2021. https://health.mo.gov/emergencies/ert/alertsadvisories/pdf/update62321.pdf
  3. Kupferschmidt K, Wadman M. Delta variant triggers new phase in the pandemic. Science 25 June 2021; 372:1375-76. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/sci/372/6549/1375.full.pdf
  4. Sheikh A, McMenamin J, Taylor B, et al. SARS-CoV-2 Delta VOC in Scotland: demographics, risk of hospital admission, and vaccine effectiveness. Lancet 2021; 397:2461-2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8201647/
  5. Mlcochova P, Kemp S, Dhar MS, et al. Sars-Cov-2 B.1.617.2 Delta variant emergence and vaccine breakthrough. In Review Nature portfolio, posted 22 June, 2021. https://www.researchsquare.com/article/rs-637724/v1
  6. Bernal JL, Andrews N, Gower C, et al. Effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines against the B.1.617.2 variant. MedRxiv, posted May 24, 2021. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.05.22.21257658v1 vaccine efficacy
  7. Allen H, Vusirikala A, Flannagan J, et al. Increased household transmission of Covid-19 cases associatd with SARS-Cov-2 variant of concern B.1.617.2: a national case control study. Public Health England. 2021. https://khub.net/documents/135939561/405676950/Increased+Household+Transmission+of+COVID-19+Cases+-+national+case+study.pdf/7f7764fb-ecb0-da31-77b3-b1a8ef7be9aa  Accessed June 27, 2021.
  8. Callaway E. Delta coronavirus variant: scientists brace for impact. Nature. 22 June 2021. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-01696-3 

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis or its affiliate healthcare centers, Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School or its affiliated institutions. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author.

Why is the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 increasingly becoming a “variant of concern” in the current Covid-19 pandemic?

My patient with Covid-19 and abdominal pain has an elevated lipase. Is there a connection between Covid-19 and acute pancreatitis?

Acute pancreatitis as a complication of Covid-19 is infrequent.1 Despite reports of elevated amylase/lipase and/or acute pancreatitis in some patients with Covid-19,2 the exact role that SARS-CoV-2 plays in causing acute pancreatitis is unclear at this time.

A retrospective study of over 11,000 hospitalized patients with Covid-19 in the U.S. found a point prevalence of acute pancreatitis of only 0.27%,3 while another retrospective study of Covid-19 patients seen in Spanish emergency rooms reported acute pancreatitis in only 0.07% of cases.4 Of interest, in the latter study, Covid-19 was associated with lower frequency of acute pancreatitis. Further adding to the controversy on the causative role of Covid-19 is lack of an observed increase in the incidence of acute pancreatitis during Covid-19 pandemic. 1

An earlier study from China reported mild elevation (<3x upper limits of normal) of amylase and/or lipase in 17% of patients with Covid-19 pneumonia, none of whom had abdominal pain. 5

The temporal relationship between Covid-19 and acute pancreatitis has varied from abdominal symptoms at the onset of Covid-19 symptoms to days after diagnosis of Covid-19? 1

Despite these disparate findings, Covid-19 related acute pancreatitis or pancreatic injury is plausible. Pancreatic ductal, acinar and islet cells express ACE2, an important receptor for SARS-CoV-2.1 Infection in the GI tract (virus can easily be found in the stool) may potentially spread from the duodenal epithelium to the pancreatic duct and the pancreatic parenchyma itself. Immune-mediated inflammatory response or endotheliitis caused by SARS-CoV-2 may also potentially explain reports of pancreatic injury in Covid-19. 1,2

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that SARS-CoV-2 has been found in pancreatic tissue of some patients who succumbed to Covid-19 and has been shown to infect human pancreatic beta cells in-vitro.6  Perhaps we should be on the lookout for diabetes as a consequence of Covid-19 as well!

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 References

  1. De-Madaria E, Capurso G. Covid-19 and acute pancreatitis: examining the causality. Nature Reviews Gastroenterol Hepatol 2021;18: 3-4. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41575-020-00389-y
  2. Kandasamy S. An unusual presentation of Covid-19: acute pancreatitis. Ann Hepatobiliary Pancreat Surg 2020;24:539-41. https://synapse.koreamed.org/upload/SynapseXML/2110ahbps/pdf/AHBPS-24-539.pdf
  3. Inamdar S, Benias PC, Liu Y, et al. Prevalence, risk factors, and outcomes of hospitalized patients with coronavirus disease 2019 presenting as acute pancreatitis. Gastroenterol 2020;159:2226-28. https://www.gastrojournal.org/article/S0016-5085(20)35115-5/pdf
  4. Miro O, Llorens P, Jimenez S, et al. Frequency of five unusual presentations in patients with Covid-19: results of the UMC-19-S. Epidemiol Infect 2020;148:e189. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32843127/
  5. Wang F, Wang H, Fan J, et al. Pancreatic injury patterns in patients with coronavirus disease 19 pneumonia. Gastroenterology 2020;159:367-70. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7118654/
  6. Wu C-T, Lidsky PV, Xiao Y, et al. SARS-CoV-2 infects human pancreatic beta cells and elicits beta cell impairment. Cell Metab 2021 May 18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8130512/

 

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis or its affiliate healthcare centers, Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School or its affiliated institutions. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

My patient with Covid-19 and abdominal pain has an elevated lipase. Is there a connection between Covid-19 and acute pancreatitis?

Can Covid-19 exacerbate seizures in patients with epilepsy?

There have been several reports of seizure exacerbation in epileptic patients after Covid-19 infection. Seizure exacerbations have been observed in epileptic patients with uncontrolled epilepsy, as well as patients who were previously controlled with antiepileptic drugs (AEDs).1,2

In a survey of 362 epileptic patients in Wuhan, China, the site of the initial outbreak, 31 (8.6%) patients reported an increased number of seizures in the month after the public lockdown began; 16 (51.6%) of the 31 patients with seizure exacerbation had prior exposure to Covid-19.1

In a study of 439 patients with Covid-19 infection in Egypt, 19 (4.3%) patients presented with acute seizures.2  Two of the 19 seizure patients had a previous diagnosis of epilepsy, which had been controlled for up to 2 years. Interestingly, the other 17 patients had new onset seizures without a previous epilepsy diagnosis.

Covid-19 has been proposed to induce seizures by eliciting inflammatory cytokines in the central nervous system, leading to neuronal necrosis and increased glutamate levels in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus.3

Covid-19 infection may have also indirectly caused seizure exacerbations in a number of epileptic patients. Interestingly, stress related to worrying about the effect of the outbreak on a patient’s seizure activity was associated with seizure exacerbations (odds ratio: 2.5, 95% CI: 1.1-6.1)2. It is also possible that some seizure exacerbations may have been due to fear of visiting the hospital and AED withdrawal, as was demonstrated during the 2003 SARS outbreak.4

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that Guillain–Barré Syndrome has also been observed in patients with Covid-19 infection?5

Contributed by Luke Vest, Medical Student, St. Louis University Medical School

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References:

  1. Huang, S., Wu, C., Jia, Y., et al. (2020). COVID-19 outbreak: The impact of stress on seizures in patients with epilepsy. Epilepsia, 61(9), 1884-1893. https://doi.org/10.1111/epi.16635  
  2. Khedr, E. M., Shoyb, A., Mohammaden, M., & Saber, M. (2021). Acute symptomatic seizures and COVID-19: Hospital-based study. Epilepsy Res, 174, 106650. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eplepsyres.2021.106650
  1. Nikbakht, F., Mohammadkhanizadeh, A., & Mohammadi, E. (2020). How does the COVID-19 cause seizure and epilepsy in patients? The potential mechanisms. Multiple sclerosis and related disorders, 46, 102535. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.msard.2020.102535
  2. Lai, S. L., Hsu, M. T., & Chen, S. S. (2005). The impact of SARS on epilepsy: the experience of drug withdrawal in epileptic patients. Seizure, 14(8), 557–561. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.seizure.2005.08.010
  3.  Abu-Rumeileh, S., Abdelhak, A., Foschi, M., Tumani, H., & Otto, M. (2021). Guillain-Barré syndrome spectrum associated with COVID-19: an up-to-date systematic review of 73 cases. Journal of neurology, 268(4), 1133–1170. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00415-020-10124-x   

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis or its affiliate healthcare centers, Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School or its affiliated institutions, or St. Louis University Medical School. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

Can Covid-19 exacerbate seizures in patients with epilepsy?

How effective are the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines in reducing the risk of hospitalization among adults 65 years of age or older?

The mRNA vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna seem very effective in not only reducing risk of symptomatic Covid-19 but also risk of hospitalization among adults 65 years of age or older.   A CDC study published on April 28, 2021, showed a vaccine efficacy of 94% among fully immunized and 64% among partially immunized adults ≥ 65 years of age  with approximately one-half of subjects  ≥75 years old.1

This study was carried out in 24 hospitals in 14 states in the U.S. during January 1, 2021-March 26, 2021, and involved 417 patients: 187 case-patients with Covid-19 and 230 controls with negative SARS-CoV-2 PCR test.  Among patients with Covid-19, 10% were partially immunized (vs 27% among controls) and 0.5% were fully immunized (vs. 8% among controls). 1

An Israeli study in a nationwide mass vaccination setting involving persons (28% ≥ 60 y) receiving Pfizer mRNA vaccine similarly found a vaccine efficacy of 74% for hospitalization for partially immunized and 87% for fully immunized persons.2

The high effectiveness of mRNA vaccines against more severe Covid-19 requiring hospitalization is great news, of course, as advanced age is by far the greatest risk factor for death from Covid-19, independent of underlying comorbidities.3   

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that prior to the availability of effective Covid-19 vaccination, adults over 65 years of age represented 80% of hospitalizations and had a 23-fold greater risk of death than those under 65?3

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References

  1. Tenforde MW, Olson SM, Self WH, et al. Effectiveness of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines against COVID-19 among hospitalized adults aged ≥65 years-United States, January-March 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7018e1.htm?s_cid=mm7018e1_w
  2. Dagan N, Barda N, Kepten E, et al. BNT162b2mRNA Covid-19 vaccine in a nationwide mass vaccination setting. N Engl J Med 2021;384:1412-1423. https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2101765
  3. Mueller AL, McNamara MS, Sinclair DA. Why does COVID-19 disproportionately affect older people. Aging (Albany NY) 2020;12:9959-9981. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7288963/

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis or its affiliate healthcare centers, Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School or its affiliated institutions. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

How effective are the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines in reducing the risk of hospitalization among adults 65 years of age or older?

Are women at higher risk of Covid-19 vaccine-related adverse events?

Data to date shows a preponderance of Covid-19 vaccine-related adverse events (AEs) among women compared to men. This finding may be due to the generally more robust immunological response to infections and vaccines among women, increased reporting of AEs by women, genetic factors, microbiome differences as well as other factors.1-3

A CDC study involving mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) during the 1st month of vaccination roll out in the US, found that nearly 80% of adverse events were reported by women.  The great majority (>90%) of these AEs were not serious and included symptoms such as headache, dizziness and fatigue.1

A JAMA study involving individuals receiving one of the mRNA vaccines found that 94% (Pfizer) and 100% (Moderna) of anaphylaxis events occurred among women. Of note, the median age was ~40 years  with the majority of anaphylaxis events were reported after the first dose. 2

Higher incidence of AEs following Covid-19 vaccination is not surprising and may be explained biologically. Women typically have a more robust immune response to infections and vaccination, both at the level of innate and adaptive immunity with higher antibody responses.  

These findings may be in part due to hormones such as estrogen which is known to enhance differentiation of dendritic cells and proinflammatory cytokine production. Other proposed mechanisms include differences in microbiome between sexes and sex-based genetic influences on humoral immune profile with the X chromosome expressing 10 times more genes than the Y chromosome, including genes that influence immunity.3

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that anaphylactic reaction to the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines is extremely rare, occurring in only 2-5 cases/ million!2

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References

  1. Gee J, Marquez P, Su J, et al. First month of Covid-19 vaccine safety monitoring—United States, December 14, 2020—January 13, 2021. MMWR 2021;70:283-88. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7008e3.htm
  2. Shimabukuro TT, Cole M, Su JR. Reports of anaphylaxis after receipt of mRNA Covid-19 vaccines in the US—December 14, 2020-January 18, 2021. JAMA 20201;325:1101-1102. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2776557
  3. Fischinger S, Boudreau CM, Butler AL, et al. Sex differences in vaccine-induced humoral immunity. Semin Immunopath 2019;41:239-49. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30547182/

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis or its affiliate healthcare centers, Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School or its affiliated institutions. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

Are women at higher risk of Covid-19 vaccine-related adverse events?

How effective are the current Covid-19 vaccines in reducing the risk of asymptomatic infection?

Limited data suggest that not only are the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines effective in reducing the risk of symptomatic disease  by greater than 90% but also reducing the risk of asymptomatic infections by 80-90% after the second dose and by 62-80% after the 1st dose. 1-3

A CDC study of health care personnel, first responders, and other essential and frontline workers who received one of the 2 currently available mRNA vaccines (BNT162b2-Pfizer or mRNA-1273-Moderna) and underwent weekly testing for SARS-CoV-2 infection irrespective of symptoms found 90% efficacy in preventing infection among fully immunized (≥14 days after 2nd dose) and 80% efficacy in preventing infection among the partially immunized (≥14 days after 1st dose).  The majority of SARS-CoV-2 infections were identified by weekly specimens, with 11% remaining without symptoms.1

In a retrospective study of over 39,000 asymptomatic adult patients undergoing pre-procedural SARS-CoV-2 molecular screening tests, an 80% reduction in the risk of a positive test  was observed in those who had received 2 doses of an mRNA vaccine (majority Pfizer) and 72% reduction in those following a single dose of vaccine >10 days prior to their pre-procedure test.2  In the original Moderna trial , a 62% reduction in the risk of asymptomatic infection was seen among participants just before the second dose (ie, partially immunized).3 

Collectively, these reports support the high efficacy of mRNA vaccines in reducing the risk of SARS-CoV-2 in asymptomatic infection.  Whether these findings can be reproduced with other vaccine preparations is not known at this time!

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that according to 1 study, asymptomatic patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection may be more likely to be women, younger and have shorter duration of viral shedding? 4

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References

  1. Thompson MG, Burgess JL, Naleway AL, et al. Interim estimates of vaccine effectiveness of BNT162b2 and mRNA-1273 Covid-19 vaccines in preventing SARS-CoV-2 infection among health care personnel, first responders, and other essential and frontline workers—Eight U.S. locations, December 2020-March 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7013e3.htm
  2. Tande AJ, Pollock BD, Shah ND, et al. Impact of the Covid-19 vaccine on asymptomatic infection among patients undergoing pre-procedural Covid-19 molecular screening. Clin Infect Dis 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33704435/
  3. Baden LR, El Sahly HM, Essink B, et al. Efficacy and safety of the mRNA-1273 SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. N Engl J Med 2021;384:403-16. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmoa2035389
  4. Yang R, Gui X, Xiong Y. Comparison of clinical characteristics of patients with asymptomatic vs symptomatic coronavirus disease 2019 in Wuhan, China. JAMA Network Open 2020; May 27. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2766237

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis or its affiliate healthcare centers, Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School or its affiliated institutions. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

How effective are the current Covid-19 vaccines in reducing the risk of asymptomatic infection?