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Hot Topics of the Day are picked by experts to capture the latest information and publications on public health genomics and precision health for various diseases and health topics. Sources include published scientific literature, reviews, blogs and popular press articles.

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Common variants at 21q22.3 locus influence MX1 gene expression and susceptibility to severe COVID-19
I Andolfo et al, MEDRXIV, December 20, 2020

We performed a genetic analysis of chromosome 21 exploiting the genome-wide association study data including 6,406 individuals hospitalized for COVID-19 and 902,088 controls with European genetic ancestry. We found that five single nucleotide polymorphisms within TMPRSS2 and near MX1 gene show suggestive associations (P=1x10-5) with severe COVID-19.

Mutant coronavirus in the United Kingdom sets off alarms but its importance remains unclear
K Kupferschmidt, Science December 20, 2020

Not only were half the cases caused by one specific variant of SARS-CoV-2, but that variant was sitting on a branch of the tree that literally stuck out from the rest of the data. Scientists are hard at work trying to figure out whether B.1.1.7 is really more adept at human-to-human transmission—not everyone is convinced yet—and if so, why.

The lightning-fast quest for COVID vaccines — and what it means for other diseases The speedy approach used to tackle SARS-CoV-2 could change the future of vaccine science
P Ball, Nature News, December 18, 2-2-

The world was able to develop COVID-19 vaccines so quickly because of years of previous research on related viruses and faster ways to manufacture vaccines, enormous funding that allowed firms to run multiple trials in parallel, and regulators moving more quickly than normal.

Difficult trade-offs in response to COVID-19: the case for open and inclusive decision making.
Norheim Ole F et al. Nature medicine 2020 Dec

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced governments to make difficult choices that profoundly affect the health, wealth and freedoms of their populations. A deliberative decision making that is inclusive, transparent and accountable can contribute to more trustworthy and legitimate decisions on difficult ethical questions and trade-offs during the pandemic and beyond.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ Interim Recommendation for Use of Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine — United States, December 2020
SE Oliver et al, MMWR, December 20, 2020

Covid-19: New coronavirus variant is identified in UK
J Wise, BMJ, December 16, 2020

It’s been named VUI-202012/01 (the first “Variant Under Investigation”) and is defined by a set of 17 changes or mutations. One of the most significant is an N501Y mutation in the spike protein that the virus uses to bind to the human ACE2 receptor. Changes in this part of spike protein may, in theory, result in the virus becoming more infectious.

The Coronavirus Is Mutating. What Does That Mean for Us? Officials in Britain and South Africa claim new variants are more easily transmitted. There’s a lot more to the story, scientists say.
A Mandavilli, NY Times, December 20, 2020

Recurrent pregnancy loss
E Dimitriadis et al, Nature DIs Primers, December 2020

Recurrent pregnancy loss can be caused by chromosomal errors, anatomical uterine defects, autoimmune disorders and endometrial dysfunction. Available treatments target the putative risk factors of pregnancy loss, although the effectiveness of many medical interventions is controversial.

Advancing digital health: FDA innovation during COVID-19
K Kadakia et al, NPJ Digital Medicine, December 2020

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a number of temporary policies to support digital health innovation during the pandemic, such as guidance documents to expand the use of digital therapeutics for psychiatric disorders and medical devices for remote patient monitoring.

Disclaimer: Articles listed in Hot Topics of the Day are selected by Public Health Genomics Branch to provide current awareness of the scientific literature and news. Inclusion in the update does not necessarily represent the views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor does it imply endorsement of the article's methods or findings. CDC and DHHS assume no responsibility for the factual accuracy of the items presented. The selection, omission, or content of items does not imply any endorsement or other position taken by CDC or DHHS. Opinion, findings and conclusions expressed by the original authors of items included in the Clips, or persons quoted therein, are strictly their own and are in no way meant to represent the opinion or views of CDC or DHHS. References to publications, news sources, and non-CDC Websites are provided solely for informational purposes and do not imply endorsement by CDC or DHHS.