News Briefs


Sex Affects Risk of Long COVID

Woman with seasonal affective disorder

Women are significantly more likely to suffer from long COVID than men, according to a study published in Current Medical Research.

In long COVID, people experience persistent symptoms for more than four weeks after an initial COVID-19 infection. Those symptoms also differ between men and women. After analyzing data from approximately 1.3 million patients, researchers found that women were more likely to have persistent ear, nose, and throat issues; mood, neurological, skin, gastrointestinal and rheumatological disorders; and fatigue. Men were more likely to experience diabetes and kidney disorders.

"Differences in immune system function between females and males could be an important driver of sex differences in long COVID syndrome,” the researchers noted in a press release. Women “mount more rapid and robust innate and adaptive immune responses, which can protect them from initial infection and severity,” they explained. But “this same difference can render females more vulnerable to prolonged autoimmune-related diseases."



Walgreens to Open Five New Health Corners in Ohio


Walgreens Health, a division of Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc., is collaborating with Buckeye Health Plan, a managed care company, to provide five new Walgreens Health Corner locations in Ohio this summer.

Through Walgreens Health Corners, pharmacists or registered nurses will offer eligible Ohio Medicaid members access to an integrated health-care experience that supplements care received from primary care physicians and specialists. Services range from preventive care and wellness checks to assistance with managing chronic conditions:

  • Answering questions about prescription and over-the-counter medications
  • Administering health-risk surveys
  • Assisting with digital health applications and monitoring devices
  • Counseling on general health questions
  • Performing health screenings, such as blood pressure checks, BMI assessments, and HbA1c tests
  • Providing test kits for colorectal cancer and diabetic urine screenings
  • Scheduling mammography appointments.

The services will be available at no additional cost to eligible Buckeye Health Plan members in northeast Ohio. 

[[Read More: Walgreens and VillageMD Expand to New Hampshire]]

This new collaboration follows a successful Walgreens Pharmacy pilot program launched with Buckeye Health Plan in 2021 to support asthma and COPD patients. Through the pilot, Walgreens pharmacists counseled patients on how to use inhalers, provided outreach to nonadherent patients, and used predictive modeling to reach out to people at high risk for becoming nonadherent. It was the first expanded disease state management pilot for asthma/COPD in partnership with a payer to include pediatric and adult managed Medicaid, Medicare, and Health Exchange patients. To date, more than 1,900 pharmacist consultations have been completed. Lessons from the pilot will be applied to future disease state management programs between Walgreens and Buckeye Health.

[[Read more: Walgreens and Labcorp Offer Home PCR Test for COVID-19]]

Walgreens Health is now contracted to serve more than 2.27 million patients, with additional partners are in California and New Jersey across commercial and Medicare plan patient populations respectively. By the end of 2022, the number of current Walgreens Health Corners will expand from 55 to approximately 100 locations, which include the additional five in Ohio.


Fermentable Fiber Boosts Skin Health

a bowl filled with different types of food on a table

Microbial fermentation of dietary fiber in the gut may protect against allergic skin disease, researchers reported in Mucosal Immunology. The fermentation produces short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), including butyrate, which protected against atopic dermatitis in laboratory mice.

Researchers from the Monash University (Australia) fed mice a diet high in fermentable fiber or gave them purified SCFAs. They then tracked the butyrate in the body and found that, within minutes, it enhanced the metabolism of keratinocytes in the skin, priming them to mature and produce the key structural components required for a healthy skin barrier. This strengthened the skin barrier against allergens that would normally penetrate it, trigger the immune system, and launch an allergic reaction.

SCFAs could be administered orally or topically, the researchers noted. Foods that contain fermentable fibers include oats, barley, legumes, citrus fruits, and nuts.


Aerosol Vaccines Superior to Nasal Sprays


Inhaled aerosol vaccines provide stronger immunity than nasal sprays, researchers from McMaster University reported in Frontiers in Immunology.1 While nasal sprays get the vaccine into the nose and throat, aerosol vaccines deliver vaccine droplets deep in the airway, where they can induce a broad protective immune response.

"The immune response you generate when you deliver the vaccine deep into the lung is much stronger than when you only deposit that material in the nose and throat because of the anatomy and nature of the tissue and the immune cells that are available to respond are very different," Matthew Miller, Canada Research Chair in Viral Pandemics at McMaster University, said in a press release.

This study, which specifically looked at a tuberculosis vaccine, provides evidence to support the development of inhaled aerosol vaccines against respiratory infections including influenza and COVID-19. Previous research by the same team showed that an inhaled influenza vaccine can achieve maximum protection with a much smaller dose than injected vaccines. A phase 1 clinical trial is evaluating an inhaled vaccine in healthy adults who had previously received an injected COVID mRNA vaccine.

The research is part of Canada's Global Nexus for Pandemics and Biological Threats at McMaster.


  1. Vidthiya Jeyananthan, Sam Afkhami, Michael R. D’Agostino, Anna Zganiacz, Xueya Feng, Matthew S. Miller, Mangalakumari Jeyanathan, Michael R. Thompson, Zhou Xing. Differential Biodistribution of Adenoviral-Vectored Vaccine Following Intranasal and Endotracheal Deliveries Leads to Different Immune Outcomes. Frontiers in Immunology, 2022; 13 DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2022.860399



Mortality Changes Linked to County Politics


Mortality rates are dropping faster in counties that vote Democrat than in Republican-leaning counties, researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital reported in the British Medical Journal.

They used data from the Wide-ranging OnLine Data for Epidemiologic Research (CDC WONDER) database and the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Election Data and Science Laboratory to examine mortality rates and federal and state election data for all U.S. counties from 2001 to 2019. (The study ended before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.)

At the start of our study, there was little difference in mortality rates in Democratic and Republican counties. But over time, mortality rates improved 22% in Democratic counties (850 deaths per 100,000 people in 2001 compared with 664 in 2019). In Republican counties, mortality rates declined 11%, from 867 to 771. The gap was substantial among white but not Black and Hispanic residents. Democratic counties experienced greater reductions in mortality rates from heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory tract diseases, diabetes, influenza, pneumonia, and kidney disease.

The authors did not study the effect of flipping political environments (counties that switched from voting Democratic or Republican to voting for the other party). The authors note that the widening gap in death rates may reflect the influence of politics on health policies.

One of the inflection points detected in the study corresponds to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was passed in 2010. More Democratic states than Republican states adopted Medicaid expansion under the ACA, which expanded health insurance coverage to people on a low income.

"In an ideal world, politics and health would be independent of each other and it wouldn't matter whether one lives in an area that voted for one party or another," said corresponding author Haider Warraich, MD, of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Brigham. "But that is no longer the case. From our data, we can see that the risk of premature death is higher for people living in a county that voted Republican."


Iron for Allergies


Targeted dietary measures can reduce the symptom burden in allergic reactions, researchers reported in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.

Deficiencies in micronutrients, particularly iron, can make the immune system particularly sensitive to allergenic substances, researchers noted in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In PracticeA clinical trial showed that an iron lozenge is an effective remedy.

The investigators developed a lozenge based on the whey protein beta-lactoglobulin from cows, which acts as a carrier for numerous micronutrients. The carrier allows absorption to take place via the lymph, where immune cells are present, instead of blood vessels.

According to the study results, supplementation with the lozenge significantly reduced the symptom burden in birch and grass pollen-allergic individuals. After six months of intake, there was improvement in the iron status of circulating monocytes and red blood cell parameters, and a 45% reduction of the Combined Symptom Medication Score, a measure for the symptoms and medication use, during the peak birch pollen season.

"Supplying the immune cells with micronutrients via the lozenge showed a strikingly similar efficacy [to allergen immunotherapy], but in a completely allergen-independent and therefore universal way," said study leader Franziska Roth-Walter from the Messerli Research Institute. "The study therefore presents a new approach in the care of allergy sufferers. In this approach, a dietary measure is used to reduce the underlying hypersensitivity of the immune cells to allergenic substances rather than targeting the allergy itself."