Shin Jie Yong
Freelance medical writer | Neurobiology MSc postgrad in Malaysia | 2x published academic author | 100+ articles on coronavirus | contact:

A newsletter on the various topics covered this month, such as PCR test, vitamin D, evolution, long-COVID, and others.

As the world focuses on vaccinating as many people as quickly as possible, other topics may have been overlooked. So, this newsletter will provide a brief description of the articles Microbial Instincts or I have covered in Feb 2021. I couldn't find a suitable theme, but I hope you can find something informative in these somewhat random topics.

The sad thing is how shockingly little we know about myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).

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Image by rawpixel

Roughly 70 outbreaks of myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) of unknown causes occurred in the 20th Century. One such instance was in 1955 in the U.K. Royal Free Hospital, where 255 medical workers were mysteriously hospitalized.

This event led Melvin Ramsay, M.A., M.D., to coin the term ME, which the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized as an official medical condition by 1969. In early 2000, ME was viewed as synonymous with CFS, so ME/CFS is now used to describe this condition.

A common trigger of ME/CFS is viral infections, of which Covid-19 comes into mind. While the survival…

Although the new trial finds no benefit, it still tells us important things about vitamin D and Covid-19.

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Image adapted from

Previously, two small randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have advocated vitamin D treatment for Covid-19, which I detailed here and here. But not every trial will show the same encouraging results, which is how things usually are. Even the FDA-approved remdesivir drug that inhibits coronavirus replication did not pass the W.H.O Solidarity trial and other trials.

Anyways, let’s see what another RCT —titled “Effect of a Single High Dose of Vitamin D3 on Hospital Length of Stay in Patients With Moderate to Severe COVID-19” published two days ago in the journal JAMA Network — has to say. …

Reasons for the doubt are actually not entirely wrong, but they need proper interpretations.

A person wearing a mask, gloves, and protective clothing inserting a nasal swab into test tube.
A person wearing a mask, gloves, and protective clothing inserting a nasal swab into test tube.
Medical photo created by freepik —

It’s ‘scientifically meaningless’ and all false positives, some have claimed about the current polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for SARS-CoV-2 infection or its disease, Covid-19. False-positive means that the positive result of a test is false, so it’s picking up a signal when there’s none.

There are at least 5 reasons why some doubt its scientific validity:

Seeking to answer if eating red meat causes or increases the risks of metabolic diseases and cancers.

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Food photo created by bublikhaus —

Is red meat good or bad for health? Ask different experts, and you might get different answers. One reason for this is that nutrition research literature is messy, and questionable funding sources are a big culprit.

A 2016 research review identified 26 papers showing that soft drinks are not associated with diabetes or obesity. But all these 26 papers had ties to the food industry. In contrast, 34 papers found that soft drink promotes diabetes or obesity; only one of these papers is industry-funded.

Another study — published last month — analyzed studies in the top 10 nutrition-related journals and…

A 50-fold more infectious SARS-CoV-2 is possible if the Q498R mutation arises.

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Image by Elf-Moondance from Pixabay

The coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is actively evolving as it spreads among us. With the recent advent of multiple strains — i.e., variants or mutants with slightly different viral properties — SARS-CoV-2 has become even better apt at surviving amidst humans. This is thanks to the three mutations arriving sequentially:

A newsletter covering the latest and relevant developments in the Covid-19 literature.

Entering 2021, vaccines for Covid-19 have arrived, as well as vaccine-resistance coronavirus mutants. But the latter has just started, so vaccines are still leading the race against the mutants (for now). With that said, here’s a short account of articles (friend linked) Microbial Instincts or I covered in January 2021 with emphasis on coronavirus mutants and vaccines.

SARS-CoV-2 mutants

After looking at the data, the situation isn’t good, but it’s not catastrophic (yet).

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Background vector created by freepik —

If you have been keeping up with coronavirus development, you’d probably know that things are getting worse. Last week, it was announced that Covid-19 mRNA vaccines are less effective against the U.K. and South Africa SARS-CoV-2 mutants. Preliminary data from the U.K. also shows that the mutant is 30–40% deadlier and 30–70% more transmissible. This article will look at what these numbers really mean in context.

The mutant in the U.K. is called B.1.1.7, N501Y, or 501Y.V1. The one in South Africa is B.1.351, E484K, or 501Y.V2. The one in Brazil is B1.1.28 or 501.V3. The one in Southern California…

An official guideline for managing the serious allergy concerns in the present pandemic.

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Image by (modified)

Incidents of serious allergic reactions — called anaphylaxis — have occurred within a few minutes of receiving the mRNA vaccines for Covid-19 in the U.S. and U.K. Anaphylaxis is life-threatening if untreated, and usually occur within minutes of allergen exposure. Symptoms include hives; swelling of the mouth, lips, tongue, or throat; breathlessness, wheezing, or chest tightness; or low blood pressure or consciousness loss.

Fortunately, vaccine anaphylaxis is incredibly rare. Historically, only 33 anaphylaxis cases have been documented out of 25 million vaccine doses. In the U.S., there were 21 anaphylaxis cases from the 1,893,360 million first doses of Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA…

Which risk would you take?

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Medical vector created by GarryKillian —

Although the current vaccines for Covid-19 — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines —have over 90% efficacy rate, they have no long-term medical history. So nobody knows if mRNA vaccines would pose any harm in the long-run. But we also don’t know the same about the novel coronavirus — SARS-CoV-2 — that causes Covid-19. So, let’s see what are the hypothetical possibilities for each scenario.

mRNA vaccine

1. Messenger RNA (mRNA)

Truly an innovative vaccine strategy, mRNA vaccines are easier to make compared to traditional vaccines. …

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