2020-09-15 15:56:00Jill Murphy, Assistant EditorResearchers at the National Institutes of Health have found that individuals with substance use disorders (SUD) were more likely than those without a SUD to develop coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In addition, those with a SUD diagnosis were more likely to experience worse COVID-19 outcomes than those without a SUD, according to a press release.

“The lungs and cardiovascular system are often compromised in people with SUD, which may partially explain their heightened susceptibility to COVID-19,” said study co-author Nora Volkow, MD, in a press release. “Another contributing factor is the marginalization of people with addiction, which makes it harder for them to access health care services. It is incumbent upon clinicians to meet the unique challenges of caring for this vulnerable population, just as they would any other high-risk group.”

Data for the analysis were collected until June 15, 2020, from 360 hospitals across the nation. The study consisted of more than 73 million patients, of whom over 7.5 million had been diagnosed with a SUD at some point in their lives, according to the study authors.

Further, more than 12,000 were diagnosed with COVID-19, and approximately 1880 had both a SUD and a COVID-19 diagnosis on record. The types of SUDs investigated were tobacco, alcohol, opioid, cannabis, and cocaine.

The complicating effects of SUD were visible in increased adverse consequences of COVID-19, as hospitalizations and death rates of COVID-19 patients were all elevated in people with recorded SUDs compared to those without.

In addition, African Americans with a recent opioid use disorder diagnosis were more than 4 times as likely to develop COVID-19 compared to whites. The data showed that hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and renal diseases were more prevalent among African Americans than whites with opioid use disorder, according to the study authors.

The findings of the study underscore the need to screen for and treat SUDs as a part of the strategy for controlling the pandemic. The study authors said that additional research is needed to better understand how best to treat those with SUDs who are at risk for COVID-19 and how best to provide counseling to avoid the risk of infection.

Substance use disorders linked to COVID-19 susceptibility. NIH. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/substance-use-disorders-linked-covid-19-susceptibility. Published September 14, 2020. Accessed September 14, 2020. Share:

Hierarchy of Breast Cancer Cells May Inform Treatment Resistance 2020-09-15 15:49:00 Alana Hippensteele, Editor It may take cells in different stages of development to cause breast cancer to progress and spread, according to recent research published in eLife.

The findings demonstrated the importance of accounting for specific cell states present in a tumor in order to determine the appropriate combination of drugs necessary to eliminate all the cell states present and halt treatment resistance, according to the study authors.

The researchers noted that the variation between cell states may cause difficulties during treatment if differences in cell states are not accounted for.

“This diversity poses a problem to treating patients because particular subsets of tumor cells may be drug resistant and eventually lead to disease recurrence,” said co-lead author Syn Yeo, PhD, an instructor at the University of Cincinnati, in a press release. “One of the factors contributing to this diversity is the fact that tumor cells can exist in different cellular states, ranging from more stem-like cells that can become other cell types to more differentiated cells that have been coded to serve a purpose, or do a certain ‘job’ within the system.”

Yeo explained further that cancer cells with stem-like properties can cause drug resistance. For this reason, they are generally seen as being at the top of the tumor hierarchy with more differentiated tumor cells toward the bottom of the hierarchy.

In order to determine the tumor hierarchy structure more specifically, the researchers identified and categorized singular cells in order to understand the purpose of each cell. Yeo noted that an analysis without this specificity would have obstructed cellular details during their assessment.

“We were able to find a complex spectrum of cell states between different tumor types that can range from stem-cells to the ‘beginner cells’ to more differentiated cells,” he said. “Furthermore, depending on the lineage of the tumor, some may show a spectrum of cell states that are higher up in the hierarchy and vice versa.”

Yeo explained that these results help to clarify the direction for further research.

“These findings are important because they show we need to know more about how these specific cell states contribute to tumor growth so we can target them with combination drug therapies, potentially helping more people who may otherwise experience drug resistance,” Yeo said.

Researchers pinpoint hierarchy of breast cancer cells as potential cause for treatment resistance. Cincinnati, OH: University of Cincinnati; August 25, 2020. sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/08/200825110633.htm. Accessed September 4, 2020. Share:

Study: Mediterranean Diet May Protect Against Rheumatoid Arthritis 2020-09-15 14:00:00 Sara Karlovitch, Assistant Editor The Mediterranean diet (MD)—which is rich in olive oils, cereals, fruits, vegetables, fish, and a moderate amount of dairy, meat, and wine—may help protect against rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to a new study published in Arthritis & Rheumatology.1

RA is an autoimmune disease with multifactorial etiology and 70% of cases affect women. RA is more common in Northern European countries than in Southern European countries. Environmental and lifestyle factors, such as diet, may help to explain this discrepancy, according to the study. Previous research has shown the MD, which is common in Southern European countries, is associated with a variety of health benefits.1

The current study included 62,629 women from France who took part in a questionnaire-based survey assessing dietary habits since 1990. Of the 62,629 women in the study, 480 developed RA.2

Overall, the MD was not associated with RA risk; however, in women who currently smoke or used to smoke, it was associated with a decreased risk. For former and current smokers who followed the MD, the risk was 383 cases per 1 million people per year. For those with a low adherence to the diet, the risk was 515 cases per 1 million people per year.2

“Although the benefits of the MD have been proven to reduce overall mortality, cardiovascular diseases, or cancers [10,22,30,31], its mechanism is not fully understood, and might include decreasing inflammation, or increasing antioxidant levels [29],” the study authors wrote. “In our study, we found an inverse association between a high adherence to MD and the risk of RA only among ever-smoking women, but not among non-smoking women. These could be explained by the differences between smokers and non-smokers in RA pathophysiological mechanisms [6,32].” 

The study authors added that the increased oxidant effect of smoking may be counterbalanced by the antioxidant effect by adherence to the MD. As a result, the increased risk of RA that is associated with smoking may be reduced by strong adherence to the MD.1

The study had several limitations, such as only including French women. Additionally, dietary habits were only recorded once, according to the study authors.1


  1. Nguyen Y, Salliot C, Et al. Mediterranean diet and risk of rheumatoid arthritis: findings from the French E3N: EPIC cohort study. Arthritis& Rheumatology. 2020. doi: 10.1102/ART.41487. 
  2. Does the Mediterranean diet protect against rheumatoid arthritis? [News Release] Hoboken, NJ. September 10, 2020. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-09/w-dtm090920.php. Accessed September 11, 2020. 

Post comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Go Top