The Week That Wasn't in COVID-19: Urine, Preclinical Vaccine, Recovery Stories

Ellie Kincaid

May 09, 2020

This week in COVID-19 news, researchers found SARS-CoV-2 in an infected patient's urine, an Italian biotech company said its vaccine candidates showed promising preclinical results, and a couple of patients with COVID-19 and other diseases recovered from the infection. But you didn't see these headlines on Medscape. Here's why.

Coronavirus in Urine

Researchers at the first affiliated hospital of Guangzhou Medical University in Guangzhou, China reported that they isolated SARS-CoV-2 from the urine of a patient with COVID-19. Many reports about identifying SARS-CoV-2 in various bodily fluids or on surfaces only show that the researchers isolated the coronavirus' RNA through PCR testing, but in this study the researchers tested whether the coronavirus they isolated was still capable of infecting cells. They found that it was. "Appropriate precautions should be taken to avoid transmission from urine," they write. 

This report of SARS-CoV-2 in a single urine sample is not the first, and yet researchers who ran a larger study in which they tested 72 urine specimens for the coronavirus found that none tested positive. A single case report is not enough data to change clinical practice, even for COVID-19. Especially considering the conflicting evidence from a larger study, we didn't think our readers needed to spend time on this case report. 

Italian Biotech's Vaccine 

Rome-based biotechnology company Takis announced that its five candidate vaccines induced a strong antibody response against SARS-CoV-2 in animal testing, according to a press release. An Italian science publication reports that human tests are expected to happen after the summer. 

Many vaccines are in development for COVID-19, and some are already being tested in clinical trials. We didn't think this press release about preclinical tests, however promising, was worth the attention of busy clinicians. 

Recovery Stories

Two heartwarming stories in local news outlets that got lots of attention online tell about how a man with cancer and a 7-year old boy with sickle cell anemia both recovered from bouts with COVID-19. The man received remdesivir and the boy had three blood transfusions, according to the news reports. "He had to keep getting stuck by the needle because the needle kept coming out," the boy's mother said. "To watch him go through that, it was really scary."

Stories like these, and an earlier one from Medscape about an Italian doctor who recovered after receiving tocilizumab, highlight that many people sick with COVID-19 do recover. In fact, so many do that we could hardly keep up even if we tried to write about every case of recovery. Because these recent news reports don't contain enough medical information to be useful for clinicians, we decided not to cover these particular recovery cases. 

Ellie Kincaid is Medscape's associate managing editor. She has previously written about healthcare for Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and Nature Medicine.

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