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New Zealand has a strategy of eliminating SARS-CoV-2 that has resulted in a low incidence of reported coronavirus-19 disease (COVID-19). The aim of this study was to describe the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in New Zealand via a nationwide serosurvey of blood donors. Samples (n = 9806) were collected over a month-long period (3 December 2020–6 January 2021) from donors aged 16–88 years. The sample population was geographically spread, covering 16 of 20 district health board regions. A series of Spike-based immunoassays were utilised, and the serological testing algorithm was optimised for specificity given New Zealand is a low prevalence setting. Eighteen samples were seropositive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, six of which were retrospectively matched to previously confirmed COVID-19 cases. A further four were from donors that travelled to settings with a high risk of SARS-CoV-2 exposure, suggesting likely infection outside New Zealand. The remaining eight seropositive samples were from seven different district health regions for a true seroprevalence estimate, adjusted for test sensitivity and specificity, of 0.103% (95% confidence interval, 0.09–0.12%). The very low seroprevalence is consistent with limited undetected community transmission and provides robust, serological evidence to support New Zealand's successful elimination strategy for COVID-19.
Smoking rates in people with depression and anxiety are twice as high as in the general population, even though people with depression and anxiety are motivated to stop smoking. Most healthcare professionals are aware that stopping smoking is one of the greatest changes that people can make to improve their health. However, smoking cessation can be a difficult topic to raise. Evidence suggests that smoking may cause some mental health problems, and that the tobacco withdrawal cycle partly contributes to worse mental health. By stopping smoking, a person's mental health may improve, and the size of this improvement might be equal to taking antidepressants. In this article we outline ways in which healthcare professionals can compassionately and respectfully raise the topic of smoking to encourage smoking cessation. We draw on evidence-based methods such as cognitive–behavioural therapy (CBT) and outline approaches that healthcare professionals can use to integrate these methods into routine care to help their patients stop smoking.
The medium- to long-term consequences of COVID-19 are not yet known, though an increase in mental health problems are predicted. Multidisciplinary strategies across socio-economic and psychological levels may be needed to mitigate the mental health burden of COVID-19. Preliminary evidence from the rapidly progressing field of psychedelic science shows that psilocybin therapy offers a promising transdiagnostic treatment strategy for a range of disorders with restricted and maladaptive habitual patterns of cognition and behaviour, notably depression, addiction and obsessive compulsive disorder. The COMPASS Pathways (COMPASS) phase 2b double-blind trial of psilocybin therapy in antidepressant-free, treatment-resistant depression (TRD) is underway to determine the safety, efficacy and optimal dose of psilocybin. Results from the Imperial College London Psilodep-RCT comparing the efficacy and mechanisms of action of psilocybin therapy to the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) escitalopram will soon be published. However, the efficacy and safety of psilocybin therapy in conjunction with SSRIs in TRD is not yet known. An additional COMPASS study, with a centre in Dublin, will begin to address this question, with potential implications for the future delivery of psilocybin therapy. While at a relatively early stage of clinical development, and notwithstanding the immense challenges of COVID-19, psilocybin therapy has the potential to play an important therapeutic role for various psychiatric disorders in post-COVID-19 clinical psychiatry.
Assessing impact of treatment from the patient perspective provides additional information about treatment efficacy in major depressive disorder (MDD) trials.
Pooled data from three identically designed clinical trials showed aripiprazole adjunctive to antidepressant therapy (ADT) was effective in treating MDD.1
Patients who completed an 8-week prospective ADT phase with inadequate response were randomized double-blind to 6-weeks adjunctive treatment with aripiprazole or placebo. The Quality of Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction Questionnaire-Short Form (Q-LES-Q-SF) is a 16-item, self-report measure to evaluate daily functioning, with higher scores indicating better satisfaction. Comparisons of mean change from baseline (Week 8) to Week 14 in Q-LES-Q-SF items and general subscores were performed using ANCOVA (LOCF).
There was significant improvement in the Q-LES-Q-SF Overall-General subscore (total of items 1-14 expressed as a percentage of the maximum possible score) in the aripiprazole-treatment group (9.49% [n=507]) vs placebo (5.71% [n=492] p< 0.001). Placebo was significantly higher than aripiprazole in Physical Ability (placebo 0.13 vs aripiprazole 0.02, p=0.020). Aripiprazole was significantly higher than placebo in all other items except Physical Health and Vision. Aripiprazole also produced significant increases in both the Satisfaction with Medication (Item 15) (aripiprazole 0.36 vs placebo 0.20, p< 0.01) and Overall Satisfaction (Item 16) (aripiprazole 0.61 vs placebo 0.35, p< 0.001) scores.
Results emphasize that assessment of patient functioning and quality of life may have utility both in clinical trials and clinical practice.2
To evaluate the efficacy of aripiprazole adjunctive antidepressant therapy (ADT) with regard to functioning in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) who did not achieve an adequate response with standard ADT.
Pooled data were analyzed from three nearly identically designed randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials: CN138-139, CN138-163 and CN138-165. These included patients with MDD, without psychotic features, who had failed at least one ADT treatment in the present episode. Patients completing an 8-week prospective ADT phase with inadequate response were randomized to 6-weeks’ treatment with adjunctive aripiprazole (n=508) or placebo (n=494). Functioning was assessed using the Sheehan Disability Scale (SDS). Comparisons of mean change from baseline in total SDS score, and domains of family life, social life and work/school were performed using ANCOVA.
Adjunctive aripiprazole produced significant improvements in total SDS (-1.2 on an adjusted scale of 1-10, with 10=worst level of functioning/1=best) vs adjunctive placebo (-0.7, p< 0.001). Adjunctive aripiprazole produced significant changes in the family life domain (-1.4 for adjunctive aripiprazole vs -0.7 for adjunctive placebo, p< 0.001) and the social life domain (-1.4 for adjunctive aripiprazole vs -0.7 for adjunctive placebo, p< 0.001). No difference between groups was observed on the work/school domain (-0.8 for adjunctive aripiprazole and -0.6 for adjunctive placebo, p=0.34).
Adjunctive aripiprazole showed significant improvements in overall SDS scores, and family and social life domains. Less change was observed in the work/school domain. The results emphasize that assessment of patient functioning may have utility both in clinical trials and clinical practice.
Modern humans evolved in Africa approximately 200,000 years ago (Campbell and Tishkoff 2010). As groups migrated out of Africa they underwent bottlenecks leading to sharp reductions in population size and genetic diversity (Amos and Hoffman 2010; Harpending and Rogers 2000; Ramachandran et al. 2005). To this day, African populations retain the most genetic diversity globally (Auton et al. 2015). In order to survive both within and out of Africa, early human populations had to adapt to their novel environments, including new food resources, colder climates, higher altitudes, and, especially, infectious diseases (Balaresque et al. 2007; Fumagalli et al. 2011). These adaptive requirements, facilitated by natural selection, led to an increased frequency of alleles that were beneficial in that environment. Due to the fact that these adaptive requirements were driven by local environmental pressures, some of these evolutionarily advantageous alleles display geographic and ancestral specificity, as observed in the genomes of present-day humans (Fumagalli et al. 2011).
The psychedelic research renaissance is gaining traction. Preliminary clinical studies of the hallucinogenic fungi, psilocybin, with psychological support, have indicated improvements in mood, anxiety and quality of life. A seminal, open-label study demonstrated marked reductions in depression symptoms in participants with treatment-resistant depression (TRD). The associated neurobiological processes involve alterations in brain connectivity, together with altered amygdala and default mode network activity. At the cellular level, psychedelics promote synaptogenesis and neural plasticity. Prompted by the promising preliminary studies, a randomized, double-blind trial has recently been launched across Europe and North America to investigate the efficacy of psilocybin in TRD. One of these centres is based in Ireland – CHO Area 7 and Tallaght University Hospital. The outcome of this trial will determine whether psilocybin with psychological support will successfully translate into the psychiatric clinic for the benefit of patients.
The COllaborative project of Development of Anthropometrical measures in Twins (CODATwins) project is a large international collaborative effort to analyze individual-level phenotype data from twins in multiple cohorts from different environments. The main objective is to study factors that modify genetic and environmental variation of height, body mass index (BMI, kg/m2) and size at birth, and additionally to address other research questions such as long-term consequences of birth size. The project started in 2013 and is open to all twin projects in the world having height and weight measures on twins with information on zygosity. Thus far, 54 twin projects from 24 countries have provided individual-level data. The CODATwins database includes 489,981 twin individuals (228,635 complete twin pairs). Since many twin cohorts have collected longitudinal data, there is a total of 1,049,785 height and weight observations. For many cohorts, we also have information on birth weight and length, own smoking behavior and own or parental education. We found that the heritability estimates of height and BMI systematically changed from infancy to old age. Remarkably, only minor differences in the heritability estimates were found across cultural–geographic regions, measurement time and birth cohort for height and BMI. In addition to genetic epidemiological studies, we looked at associations of height and BMI with education, birth weight and smoking status. Within-family analyses examined differences within same-sex and opposite-sex dizygotic twins in birth size and later development. The CODATwins project demonstrates the feasibility and value of international collaboration to address gene-by-exposure interactions that require large sample sizes and address the effects of different exposures across time, geographical regions and socioeconomic status.
To evaluate whole-genome sequencing (WGS) as a molecular typing tool for MRSA outbreak investigation.
Investigation of MRSA colonization/infection in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) over 3 years (2014–2017).
Single-center level IV NICU.
NICU infants and healthcare workers (HCWs).
Infants were screened for MRSA using a swab of the anterior nares, axilla, and groin, initially by targeted (ring) screening, and later by universal weekly screening. Clinical cultures were collected as indicated. HCWs were screened once using swabs of the anterior nares. MRSA isolates were typed using WGS with core-genome multilocus sequence typing (cgMLST) analysis and by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Colonized and infected infants and HCWs were decolonized. Control strategies included reinforcement of hand hygiene, use of contact precautions, cohorting, enhanced environmental cleaning, and remodeling of the NICU.
We identified 64 MRSA-positive infants: 53 (83%) by screening and 11 (17%) by clinical cultures. Of 85 screened HCWs, 5 (6%) were MRSA positive. WGS of MRSA isolates identified 2 large clusters (WGS groups 1 and 2), 1 small cluster (WGS group 3), and 8 unrelated isolates. PFGE failed to distinguish WGS group 2 and 3 isolates. WGS groups 1 and 2 were codistributed over time. HCW MRSA isolates were primarily in WGS group 1. New infant MRSA cases declined after implementation of the control interventions.
We identified 2 contemporaneous MRSA outbreaks alongside sporadic cases in a NICU. WGS was used to determine strain relatedness at a higher resolution than PFGE and was useful in guiding efforts to control MRSA transmission.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) represent a disease continuum with common genetic causes and molecular pathology. We recently identified mutations in the T-cell restricted intracellular antigen-1 (TIA1) protein as a cause of ALS +/− FTD. TIA1 is an RNA-binding protein containing a low complexity domain (LCD) that promotes the assembly of membrane-less organelles, such as stress granules (SG). Whole exome sequencing of two family members with fALS/FTD revealed a novel missense mutation in the TIA1 LCD (P362L). Subsequent screening identified five more TIA1 mutations in six additional ALS patients, but none in controls. All mutation carriers presented with weakness, behavioral abnormalities or language impairments and had a final diagnosis of ALS +/− FTD. Autopsy on five TIA1 mutation carriers showed widespread neurodegeneration with TDP-43 pathology. Round eosinophilic inclusions in lower motor neurons were a consistent feature. Cellular assays revealed abnormal SG dynamics in the presence of TIA1 mutations. In summary, missense mutations in the LCD of TIA1 are a newly recognized cause of ALS/FTD with TDP-43 pathology and strengthen the role of RNA metabolism in the pathogenesis in this disease.
Whether monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins differ from each other in a variety of phenotypes is important for genetic twin modeling and for inferences made from twin studies in general. We analyzed whether there were differences in individual, maternal and paternal education between MZ and DZ twins in a large pooled dataset. Information was gathered on individual education for 218,362 adult twins from 27 twin cohorts (53% females; 39% MZ twins), and on maternal and paternal education for 147,315 and 143,056 twins respectively, from 28 twin cohorts (52% females; 38% MZ twins). Together, we had information on individual or parental education from 42 twin cohorts representing 19 countries. The original education classifications were transformed to education years and analyzed using linear regression models. Overall, MZ males had 0.26 (95% CI [0.21, 0.31]) years and MZ females 0.17 (95% CI [0.12, 0.21]) years longer education than DZ twins. The zygosity difference became smaller in more recent birth cohorts for both males and females. Parental education was somewhat longer for fathers of DZ twins in cohorts born in 1990–1999 (0.16 years, 95% CI [0.08, 0.25]) and 2000 or later (0.11 years, 95% CI [0.00, 0.22]), compared with fathers of MZ twins. The results show that the years of both individual and parental education are largely similar in MZ and DZ twins. We suggest that the socio-economic differences between MZ and DZ twins are so small that inferences based upon genetic modeling of twin data are not affected.
A trend toward greater body size in dizygotic (DZ) than in monozygotic (MZ) twins has been suggested by some but not all studies, and this difference may also vary by age. We analyzed zygosity differences in mean values and variances of height and body mass index (BMI) among male and female twins from infancy to old age. Data were derived from an international database of 54 twin cohorts participating in the COllaborative project of Development of Anthropometrical measures in Twins (CODATwins), and included 842,951 height and BMI measurements from twins aged 1 to 102 years. The results showed that DZ twins were consistently taller than MZ twins, with differences of up to 2.0 cm in childhood and adolescence and up to 0.9 cm in adulthood. Similarly, a greater mean BMI of up to 0.3 kg/m2 in childhood and adolescence and up to 0.2 kg/m2 in adulthood was observed in DZ twins, although the pattern was less consistent. DZ twins presented up to 1.7% greater height and 1.9% greater BMI than MZ twins; these percentage differences were largest in middle and late childhood and decreased with age in both sexes. The variance of height was similar in MZ and DZ twins at most ages. In contrast, the variance of BMI was significantly higher in DZ than in MZ twins, particularly in childhood. In conclusion, DZ twins were generally taller and had greater BMI than MZ twins, but the differences decreased with age in both sexes.
For over 100 years, the genetics of human anthropometric traits has attracted scientific interest. In particular, height and body mass index (BMI, calculated as kg/m2) have been under intensive genetic research. However, it is still largely unknown whether and how heritability estimates vary between human populations. Opportunities to address this question have increased recently because of the establishment of many new twin cohorts and the increasing accumulation of data in established twin cohorts. We started a new research project to analyze systematically (1) the variation of heritability estimates of height, BMI and their trajectories over the life course between birth cohorts, ethnicities and countries, and (2) to study the effects of birth-related factors, education and smoking on these anthropometric traits and whether these effects vary between twin cohorts. We identified 67 twin projects, including both monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins, using various sources. We asked for individual level data on height and weight including repeated measurements, birth related traits, background variables, education and smoking. By the end of 2014, 48 projects participated. Together, we have 893,458 height and weight measures (52% females) from 434,723 twin individuals, including 201,192 complete twin pairs (40% monozygotic, 40% same-sex dizygotic and 20% opposite-sex dizygotic) representing 22 countries. This project demonstrates that large-scale international twin studies are feasible and can promote the use of existing data for novel research purposes.
In North America, terrestrial records of biodiversity and climate change that span Marine Oxygen Isotope Stage (MIS) 5 are rare. Where found, they provide insight into how the coupling of the ocean–atmosphere system is manifested in biotic and environmental records and how the biosphere responds to climate change. In 2010–2011, construction at Ziegler Reservoir near Snowmass Village, Colorado (USA) revealed a nearly continuous, lacustrine/wetland sedimentary sequence that preserved evidence of past plant communities between ~140 and 55 ka, including all of MIS 5. At an elevation of 2705 m, the Ziegler Reservoir fossil site also contained thousands of well-preserved bones of late Pleistocene megafauna, including mastodons, mammoths, ground sloths, horses, camels, deer, bison, black bear, coyotes, and bighorn sheep. In addition, the site contained more than 26,000 bones from at least 30 species of small animals including salamanders, otters, muskrats, minks, rabbits, beavers, frogs, lizards, snakes, fish, and birds. The combination of macro- and micro-vertebrates, invertebrates, terrestrial and aquatic plant macrofossils, a detailed pollen record, and a robust, directly dated stratigraphic framework shows that high-elevation ecosystems in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado are climatically sensitive and varied dramatically throughout MIS 5.