COVID-19 Round-Up: At-Home COVID Test Not as Sensitive to Omicron; and More

FDA Says Rapid At-Home COVID-19 Tests Not as Sensitive to Omicron

Early research suggests that some rapid COVID-19 tests may be less able to detect the omicron variant, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday.

To come to that conclusion, the agency used samples from patients confirmed to be infected with the omicron variant to see how well the rapid antigen tests work.

In a statement, the FDA said that antigen tests “do detect the omicron variant, but may have reduced sensitivity.” That is not good news, as the omicron variant fuels surging case numbers across the country and people are scrambling to find at-home rapid testing. Antigen tests can be done within minutes at home, while the more accurate polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests have longer turnaround times. Still, the FDA stopped short of saying that people should stop using antigen tests.

Weight Loss Via Surgery Linked to Improved COVID-19 Outcomes

Individuals with obesity who have undergone weight loss surgery have a reduced risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes, according to a study published online Dec. 29 in JAMA Surgery.

Ali Aminian, M.D., from the Cleveland Clinic, and colleagues examined the association between a successful weight loss intervention and improved risk and severity of COVID-19 infection among adults with a body mass index of 35 kg/m2 or higher. Participants underwent weight loss surgery between Jan. 1, 2004, and Dec. 31, 2017. Participants were matched 1:3 to a control group who did not have surgical intervention for obesity. A total of 20,212 participants were included; COVID-19 outcomes were available for 11,809.

Compared with control patients, those in the surgical group lost more weight before the COVID-19 outbreak (mean difference at 10 years from baseline, 18.6 percent) and had a lower 10-year cumulative incidence of all-cause non-COVID-19 mortality (4.7 versus 9.4 percent). The researchers found that the surgical and control groups had comparable rates of positive severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 test results (9.1 versus 8.7 percent). The risks for hospitalization, need for supplemental oxygen, and severe COVID-19 infection were lower in association with undergoing weight loss surgery (adjusted hazard ratios, 0.51, 0.37, and 0.40, respectively).

Omicron Cases Pass U.S. Peak Seen With Delta

COVID-19 is again surging throughout the United States, with the omicron variant already outpacing this summer’s delta variant in the rate of daily cases.

However, numbers of hospitalizations have not yet reached those surging numbers this holiday season, according to CNN. That may not last, experts warn, because tens of millions of Americans continue to be at higher risk for complications and death because they are not vaccinated. “Although hospitalizations may be less, that doesn’t mean zero. There are many places in the country where hospitalizations now are increasing,” William Schaffner, M.D., a professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, told CNN.

mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine Less Protective in Elderly With Comorbidity

Among elderly veterans with a high burden of comorbidity, messenger RNA (mRNA) COVID-19 vaccination is 69 percent effective against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection and 86 percent effective against SARS-CoV-2-related death, according to a study published online Dec. 21 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.