Publications by authors named "Lorenz Risch"

147 Publications

Impact of baseline SARS-CoV-2 antibody status on syndromic surveillance and the risk of subsequent COVID-19-a prospective multicenter cohort study.

BMC Med 2021 10 14;19(1):270. Epub 2021 Oct 14.

Cantonal Hospital St. Gallen, Division of Infectious Diseases and Hospital Epidemiology, Rorschacherstrasse 95, 9007, St. Gallen, Switzerland.

Background: In a prospective healthcare worker (HCW) cohort, we assessed the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection according to baseline serostatus.

Methods: Baseline serologies were performed among HCW from 23 Swiss healthcare institutions between June and September 2020, before the second COVID-19 wave. Participants answered weekly electronic questionnaires covering information about nasopharyngeal swabs (PCR/rapid antigen tests) and symptoms compatible with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Screening of symptomatic staff by nasopharyngeal swabs was routinely performed in participating facilities. We compared numbers of positive nasopharyngeal tests and occurrence of COVID-19 symptoms between HCW with and without anti-nucleocapsid antibodies.

Results: A total of 4812 HCW participated, wherein 144 (3%) were seropositive at baseline. We analyzed 107,807 questionnaires with a median follow-up of 7.9 months. Median number of answered questionnaires was similar (24 vs. 23 per person, P = 0.83) between those with and without positive baseline serology. Among 2712 HCW with ≥ 1 SARS-CoV-2 test during follow-up, 3/67 (4.5%) seropositive individuals reported a positive result (one of whom asymptomatic), compared to 547/2645 (20.7%) seronegative participants, 12 of whom asymptomatic (risk ratio [RR] 0.22; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.07 to 0.66). Seropositive HCWs less frequently reported impaired olfaction/taste (6/144, 4.2% vs. 588/4674, 12.6%, RR 0.33, 95% CI 0.15-0.73), chills (19/144, 13.2% vs. 1040/4674, 22.3%, RR 0.59, 95% CI 0.39-0.90), and limb/muscle pain (28/144, 19.4% vs. 1335/4674, 28.6%, RR 0.68 95% CI 0.49-0.95). Impaired olfaction/taste and limb/muscle pain also discriminated best between positive and negative SARS-CoV-2 results.

Conclusions: Having SARS-CoV-2 anti-nucleocapsid antibodies provides almost 80% protection against SARS-CoV-2 re-infection for a period of at least 8 months.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12916-021-02144-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8514323PMC
October 2021

A prospective, randomized, single-blinded, crossover trial to investigate the effect of a wearable device in addition to a daily symptom diary for the Remote Early Detection of SARS-CoV-2 infections (COVID-RED): a structured summary of a study protocol for a randomized controlled trial.

Trials 2021 Oct 11;22(1):694. Epub 2021 Oct 11.

Julius Clinical, Zeist, the Netherlands.

Objectives: It is currently thought that most-but not all-individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2 develop symptoms, but the infectious period starts on average 2 days before the first overt symptoms appear. It is estimated that pre- and asymptomatic individuals are responsible for more than half of all transmissions. By detecting infected individuals before they have overt symptoms, wearable devices could potentially and significantly reduce the proportion of transmissions by pre-symptomatic individuals. Using laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections (detected via serology tests [to determine if there are antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 in the blood] or SARS-CoV-2 infection tests such as polymerase chain reaction [PCR] or antigen tests) as the gold standard, we will determine the sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV) and negative predictive value (NPV) for the following two algorithms to detect first time SARS-CoV-2 infection including early or asymptomatic infection: • The algorithm using Ava bracelet data when coupled with self-reported Daily Symptom Diary data (Wearable + Symptom Data Algo; experimental condition) • The algorithm using self-reported Daily Symptom Diary data alone (Symptom Only Algo; control condition) In addition, we will determine which of the two algorithms has superior performance characteristics for detecting SARS-CoV-2 infection including early or asymptomatic infection as confirmed by SARS-CoV-2 virus testing.

Trial Design: The trial is a randomized, single-blinded, two-period, two-sequence crossover trial. The study will start with an initial learning phase (maximum of 3 months), followed by period 1 (3 months) and period 2 (3 months). Subjects entering the study at the end of the recruitment period may directly start with period 1 and will not be part of the learning phase. Each subject will undergo the experimental condition (the Wearable + Symptom Data Algo) in either period 1 or period 2 and the control condition (Symptom Only Algo) in the other period. The order will be randomly assigned, resulting in subjects being allocated 1:1 to either sequence 1 (experimental condition first) or sequence 2 (control condition first). Based on demographics, medical history and/or profession, each subject will be stratified at baseline into a high-risk and normal-risk group within each sequence.

Participants: The trial will be conducted in the Netherlands. A target of 20,000 subjects will be enrolled. Based on demographics, medical history and/or profession, each subject will be stratified at baseline into a high-risk and normal-risk group within each sequence. This results in approximately 6500 normal-risk individuals and 3500 high-risk individuals per sequence. Subjects will be recruited from previously studied cohorts as well as via public campaigns and social media. All data for this study will be collected remotely through the Ava COVID-RED app, the Ava bracelet, surveys in the COVID-RED web portal and self-sampling serology and PCR kits. More information on the study can be found in www.covid-red.eu . During recruitment, subjects will be invited to visit the COVID-RED web portal. After successfully completing the enrolment questionnaire, meeting eligibility criteria and indicating interest in joining the study, subjects will receive the subject information sheet and informed consent form. Subjects can enrol in COVID-RED if they comply with the following inclusion and exclusion criteria: Inclusion criteria: • Resident of the Netherlands • At least 18 years old • Informed consent provided (electronic) • Willing to adhere to the study procedures described in the protocol • Must have a smartphone that runs at least Android 8.0 or iOS 13.0 operating systems and is active for the duration of the study (in the case of a change of mobile number, the study team should be notified) • Be able to read, understand and write Dutch Exclusion criteria: • Previous positive SARS-CoV-2 test result (confirmed either through PCR/antigen or antibody tests; self-reported) • Current suspected (e.g. waiting for test result) COVID-19 infection or symptoms of a COVID-19 infection (self-reported) • Participating in any other COVID-19 clinical drug, vaccine or medical device trial (self-reported) • Electronic implanted device (such as a pacemaker; self-reported) • Pregnant at the time of informed consent (self-reported) • Suffering from cholinergic urticaria (per the Ava bracelet's user manual; self-reported) • Staff involved in the management or conduct of this study INTERVENTION AND COMPARATOR: All subjects will be instructed to complete the Daily Symptom Diary in the Ava COVID-RED app daily, wear their Ava bracelet each night and synchronize it with the app each day for the entire period of study participation. Provided with wearable sensor and/or self-reported symptom data within the last 24 h, the Ava COVID-RED app's underlying algorithms will provide subjects with a real-time indicator of their overall health and well-being. Subjects will see one of three messages, notifying them that no seeming deviations in symptoms and/or physiological parameters have been detected; some changes in symptoms and/or physiological parameters have been detected and they should self-isolate; or alerting them that deviations in their symptoms and/or physiological parameters could be suggestive of a potential COVID-19 infection and to seek additional testing. We will assess the intraperson performance of the algorithms in the experimental condition (Wearable + Symptom Data Algo) and control conditions (Symptom Only Algo). Note that both algorithms will also instruct to seek testing when any SARS-CoV-2 symptoms are reported in line with those defined by the Dutch national institute for public health and the environment 'Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu' (RIVM) guidelines.

Main Outcomes: The trial will evaluate the use and performance of the Ava COVID-RED app and Ava bracelet, which uses sensors to measure breathing rate, pulse rate, skin temperature and heart rate variability for the purpose of early and asymptomatic detection and monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 in general and high-risk populations. Using laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections (detected via serology tests, PCR tests and/or antigen tests) as the gold standard, we will determine the sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV) and negative predictive value (NPV) for each of the following two algorithms to detect first-time SARS-CoV-2 infection including early or asymptomatic infection: the algorithm using Ava bracelet data when coupled with the self-reported Daily Symptom Diary data and the algorithm using self-reported Daily Symptom Diary data alone. In addition, we will determine which of the two algorithms has superior performance characteristics for detecting SARS-CoV-2 infection including early or asymptomatic infection as confirmed by SARS-CoV-2 virus testing. The protocol contains an additional twenty secondary and exploratory objectives which address, among others, infection incidence rates, health resource utilization, symptoms reported by SARS-CoV-2-infected participants and the rate of breakthrough and asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections among individuals vaccinated against COVID-19. PCR or antigen testing will occur when the subject receives a notification from the algorithm to seek additional testing. Subjects will be advised to get tested via the national testing programme and report the testing result in the Ava COVID-RED app and a survey. If they cannot obtain a test via the national testing programme, they will receive a nasal swab self-sampling kit at home, and the sample will be tested by PCR in a trial-affiliated laboratory. In addition, all subjects will be asked to take a capillary blood sample at home at baseline (between month 0 and 3.5 months after the start of subject recruitment), at the end of the learning phase (month 3; note that this sampling moment is skipped if a subject entered the study at the end of the recruitment period), period 1 (month 6) and period 2 (month 9). These samples will be used for SARS-CoV-2-specific antibody testing in a trial-affiliated laboratory, differentiating between antibodies resulting from a natural infection and antibodies resulting from COVID-19 vaccination (as vaccination will gradually be rolled out during the trial period). Baseline samples will only be analysed if the sample collected at the end of the learning phase is positive, or if the subject entered the study at the end of the recruitment period, and samples collected at the end of period 1 will only be analysed if the sample collected at the end of period 2 is positive. When subjects obtain a positive PCR/antigen or serology test result during the study, they will continue to be in the study but will be moved into a so-called COVID-positive mode in the Ava COVID-RED app. This means that they will no longer receive recommendations from the algorithms but can still contribute and track symptom and bracelet data. The primary analysis of the main objective will be executed using the data collected in period 2 (months 6 through 9). Within this period, serology tests (before and after period 2) and PCR/antigen tests (taken based on recommendations by the algorithms) will be used to determine if a subject was infected with SARS-CoV-2 or not. Within this same time period, it will be determined if the algorithms gave any recommendations for testing. The agreement between these quantities will be used to evaluate the performance of the algorithms and how these compare between the study conditions.

Randomization: All eligible subjects will be randomized using a stratified block randomization approach with an allocation ratio of 1:1 to one of two sequences (experimental condition followed by control condition or control condition followed by experimental condition). Based on demographics, medical history and/or profession, each subject will be stratified at baseline into a high-risk and normal-risk group within each sequence, resulting in approximately equal numbers of high-risk and normal-risk individuals between the sequences.

Blinding (masking): In this study, subjects will be blinded to the study condition and randomization sequence. Relevant study staff and the device manufacturer will be aware of the assigned sequence. The subject will wear the Ava bracelet and complete the Daily Symptom Diary in the Ava COVID-RED app for the full duration of the study, and they will not know if the feedback they receive about their potential infection status will only be based on the data they entered in the Daily Symptom Diary within the Ava COVID-RED app or based on both the data from the Daily Symptom Diary and the Ava bracelet.

Numbers To Be Randomized (sample Size): A total of 20,000 subjects will be recruited and randomized 1:1 to either sequence 1 (experimental condition followed by control condition) or sequence 2 (control condition followed by experimental condition), taking into account their risk level. This results in approximately 6500 normal-risk and 3500 high-risk individuals per sequence.

Trial Status: Protocol version: 3.0, dated May 3, 2021. Start of recruitment: February 19, 2021. End of recruitment: June 3, 2021. End of follow-up (estimated): November 2021 TRIAL REGISTRATION: The Netherlands Trial Register on the 18 of February, 2021 with number NL9320 ( https://www.trialregister.nl/trial/9320 ) FULL PROTOCOL: The full protocol is attached as an additional file, accessible from the Trials website (Additional file 1). In the interest in expediting dissemination of this material, the familiar formatting has been eliminated; this letter serves as a summary of the key elements of the full protocol.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13063-021-05643-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8503725PMC
October 2021

Quantification of the spread of SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7 in Switzerland.

Epidemics 2021 Aug 9;37:100480. Epub 2021 Aug 9.

Functional Genomics Center Zurich, ETH Zürich and University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.

Background: In December 2020, the United Kingdom (UK) reported a SARS-CoV-2 Variant of Concern (VoC) which is now named B.1.1.7. Based on initial data from the UK and later data from other countries, this variant was estimated to have a transmission fitness advantage of around 40-80 % (Volz et al., 2021; Leung et al., 2021; Davies et al., 2021).

Aim: This study aims to estimate the transmission fitness advantage and the effective reproductive number of B.1.1.7 through time based on data from Switzerland.

Methods: We generated whole genome sequences from 11.8 % of all confirmed SARS-CoV-2 cases in Switzerland between 14 December 2020 and 11 March 2021. Based on these data, we determine the daily frequency of the B.1.1.7 variant and quantify the variant's transmission fitness advantage on a national and a regional scale.

Results: We estimate B.1.1.7 had a transmission fitness advantage of 43-52 % compared to the other variants circulating in Switzerland during the study period. Further, we estimate B.1.1.7 had a reproductive number above 1 from 01 January 2021 until the end of the study period, compared to below 1 for the other variants. Specifically, we estimate the reproductive number for B.1.1.7 was 1.24 [1.07-1.41] from 01 January until 17 January 2021 and 1.18 [1.06-1.30] from 18 January until 01 March 2021 based on the whole genome sequencing data. From 10 March to 16 March 2021, once B.1.1.7 was dominant, we estimate the reproductive number was 1.14 [1.00-1.26] based on all confirmed cases. For reference, Switzerland applied more non-pharmaceutical interventions to combat SARS-CoV-2 on 18 January 2021 and lifted some measures again on 01 March 2021.

Conclusion: The observed increase in B.1.1.7 frequency in Switzerland during the study period is as expected based on observations in the UK. In absolute numbers, B.1.1.7 increased exponentially with an estimated doubling time of around 2-3.5 weeks. To monitor the ongoing spread of B.1.1.7, our plots are available online.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.epidem.2021.100480DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8452947PMC
August 2021

Testing and Prescribing Vitamin B12 in Swiss General Practice: A Survey among Physicians.

Nutrients 2021 Jul 29;13(8). Epub 2021 Jul 29.

Institute of Primary Care, University of Zurich, University Hospital Zurich, 8091 Zurich, Switzerland.

Testing and prescribing vitamin B12 (also known as cobalamin) is increasing in Switzerland but substantial variation among general practitioners (GPs) with respect to testing has been noted. In this study, we aimed at exploring GPs' mindsets regarding vitamin B12 testing and prescribing. A cross-sectional study was conducted using an online survey distributed by e-mail to Swiss GPs. The questionnaire explored mindsets related to testing and prescribing vitamin B12 in specific clinical situations, as well as testing and prescribing strategies. The questionnaire was sent to 876 GPs and 390 GPs responded (44.5%). The most controversial domains for testing and prescribing vitamin B12 were idiopathic fatigue (57.4% and 43.4% of GPs agreed, respectively) and depressive symptoms (53.0% and 35.4% of GPs agreed, respectively). There was substantial variation among GPs with regard to testing strategies (89.5% of GPS used a serum cobalamin test, 71.3% of GPS used holotranscobalamin, and 27.6% of GPs used homocysteine or methylmalonic acid). Intramuscular injection was the predominantly prescribed route of application (median of 87.5% of the prescriptions). In this study, we focus on discordant mindsets that can be specifically targeted by using educational interventions, and research questions that still need answering specifically about the effectiveness of vitamin B12 for idiopathic fatigue.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/nu13082610DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8398177PMC
July 2021

Molecular characterization of a ceftriaxone-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae strain found in Switzerland: a case report.

Ann Clin Microbiol Antimicrob 2021 Aug 6;20(1):52. Epub 2021 Aug 6.

Centre of Laboratory Medicine (CLM) Dr Risch, 3097, Liebefeld, Switzerland.

Background: The resistance of Neisseria gonorrhoeae to ceftriaxone is unusual in Switzerland. The underlying genotype responsible for resistance is suspected to be novel. Generally, resistance in Neisseria gonorrhoeae (Ng) involves a comprehensive set of genes with many different mutations leading to resistance to different β-lactams and fluoroquinolones.

Case Presentation: A patient had a positive result from specific PCR for Ng. We routinely culture all clinical specimens with a positive NG-PCR. In this particular case, we isolated a strain with resistance to ceftriaxone in Switzerland. A total of seven different genes (penA, ponA, porinB, mtr, gyrA, parC, 23S rRNA gene) in this strain were partially sequenced for comparison with phenotypic susceptibility testing. Interestingly, two different mutations in the porinB gene were observed, and data on this gene are limited. Information on the identified allele type of the penA gene is very limited as well. Three different mutations of parC and gyrA that correlate with ciprofloxacin resistance were found. The combination of ceftriaxone and ciprofloxacin resistance makes an appropriate treatment difficult to obtain due to multidrug resistance.

Conclusion: The combined results for all genes show the appearance of new mutations in central Europe either due to worldwide spread or the emergence of new genetic combinations of mutations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12941-021-00456-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8349002PMC
August 2021

Elementary Laboratory Assays as Biomarkers of Ageing: Support for Treatment of COVID-19?

Gerontology 2021 2;67(5):503-516. Epub 2021 Aug 2.

Kantonsspital Graubünden, Chur, Switzerland.

Youth, working age and the elderly: On a timeline, chronological age (CA) and biological age (BA) may dissociate; nosological entities manifest themselves at different BAs. In determining which disease corresponds to a given age decade, statistical registries of causes of death are unreliable and this does not change with SARS CoV-2 infection. Beyond adolescence, ageing metrics involve estimations of changes in fitness, including prediction models to estimate the number of remaining years left to live. A substantial disparity in biomarker levels and health status of ageing can be observed: the difference in CA and BA in the large cohorts under consideration is glaring. Here, we focus more closely on ageing and senescence metrics in order to make information available for risk analysis non the least with COVID-19, including the most recent risk factors of ABO blood type and 3p21.31 chromosome cluster impacting on C5a and SC5b-9 plasma levels. From the multitude of routine medical laboratory assays, a potentially meaningful set of assays aimed to best reflect the stage of individual senescence; hence risk factors the observational prospective SENIORLABOR study of 1,467 healthy elderly performed since 2009 and similar approaches since 1958 can be instantiated as a network to combine a set of elementary laboratory assays quantifying senescence.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000517659DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8450824PMC
October 2021

Autoimmune diseases - New insights into a troublesome field.

J Transl Autoimmun 2021 1;4:100108. Epub 2021 Jun 1.

Center for Laboratory Medicine Dr Risch, Vaduz, Liechtenstein.

Recent updates in the diagnosis and management of chronic inflammatory conditions can be brought together to better understand autoimmune diseases (ADs). With organ-specific or organ-limited and systemic ADs, physicians often are faced with a dilemma when making a diagnosis and may feel a kind of embarrassment when a more distinct nosological entity cannot be found. ADs often overlap with other diseases and good diagnostic procedures for ADs only become evidence-based when refined histopathologic, immunopathologic, and general laboratory analyses are available. Immunofluorescence analyses, Western blotting, CUT & RUN technology allow localization of the site of autoantibody-reactivity on the relevant DNA sequence. The Polymerase chain reaction technology and CRISPR-Cas9, the new gene editor using pools of synthetic non-coding RNAs in screening experiments, are expected to lead to advances in the diagnosis of ADs. The current use of mRNA as a vaccine against COVID-19 has increased confidence in the use of mRNA or long non-coding RNAs in the treatment strategy for ADs. The integration of new knowledge about innate immunity, the complement system, vaccinology, and senescence into the care of patients with ADs expands the therapeutic arsenal of disease-modifying drugs and allows for the repurposing of anti-cytokine monoclonal/biosimilar antibodies, originally designed for chronic inflammatory diseases, for ADs. This review article brings together some of the most relevant ideas; a case report included in this review highlights the difficulty of distinguishing between ADs, chronic inflammation, and/or granular disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jtauto.2021.100108DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8188057PMC
June 2021

A prospective, randomized, single-blinded, crossover trial to investigate the effect of a wearable device in addition to a daily symptom diary for the remote early detection of SARS-CoV-2 infections (COVID-RED): a structured summary of a study protocol for a randomized controlled trial.

Trials 2021 Jun 22;22(1):412. Epub 2021 Jun 22.

Julius Clinical, Zeist, the Netherlands.

Objectives: It is currently thought that most-but not all-individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2 develop symptoms, but that the infectious period starts on average two days before the first overt symptoms appear. It is estimated that pre- and asymptomatic individuals are responsible for more than half of all transmissions. By detecting infected individuals before they have overt symptoms, wearable devices could potentially and significantly reduce the proportion of transmissions by pre-symptomatic individuals. Using laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections (detected via serology tests [to determine if there are antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 in the blood] or SARS-CoV-2 infection tests such as polymerase chain reaction [PCR] or antigen tests) as the gold standard, we will determine the sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV) and negative predictive value (NPV) for the following two algorithms to detect first time SARS-CoV-2 infection including early or asymptomatic infection: the algorithm using Ava bracelet data when coupled with self-reported Daily Symptom Diary data (Wearable + Symptom Data Algo; experimental condition) the algorithm using self-reported Daily Symptom Diary data alone (Symptom Only Algo; control condition) In addition, we will determine which of the two algorithms has superior performance characteristics for detecting SARS-CoV-2 infection including early or asymptomatic infection as confirmed by SARS-CoV-2 virus testing.

Trial Design: The trial is a randomized, single-blinded, two-period, two-sequence crossover trial. All subjects will participate in an initial Learning Phase (varying from 2 weeks to 3 months depending on enrolment date), followed by two contiguous 3-month test phases, Period 1 and Period 2. Each subject will undergo the experimental condition (the Wearable + Symptom Data Algo) in one of these periods and the control condition (Symptom Only Algo) in the other period. The order will be randomly assigned, resulting in subjects being allocated 1:1 to either Sequence 1 (experimental condition first) or Sequence 2 (control condition first). Based on demographics, medical history and/or profession, each subject will be stratified at baseline into a high-risk and normal-risk group within each sequence.

Participants: The trial will be conducted in the Netherlands. A target of 20,000 subjects will be enrolled. Based on demographics, medical history and/or profession, each subject will be stratified at baseline into a high-risk and normal-risk group within each sequence. This results in approximately 6,500 normal-risk individuals and 3,500 high-risk individuals per sequence. Subjects will be recruited from previously studied cohorts as well as via public campaigns and social media. All data for this study will be collected remotely through the Ava COVID-RED app, the Ava bracelet, surveys in the COVID-RED web portal, and self-sampling serology and PCR kits. During recruitment, subjects will be invited to visit the COVID-RED web portal ( www.covid-red.eu ). After successfully completing the enrolment questionnaire, meeting eligibility criteria and indicating interest in joining the study, subjects will receive the subject information sheet and informed consent form. Subjects can enrol in COVID-RED if they comply with the following inclusion and exclusion criteria.

Inclusion Criteria: Resident of the Netherlands At least 18 years old Informed consent provided (electronic) Willing to adhere to the study procedures described in the protocol Must have a smartphone that runs at least Android 8.0 or iOS 13.0 operating systems and is active for the duration of the study (in the case of a change of mobile number, study team should be notified) Be able to read, understand and write Dutch Exclusion criteria: Previous positive SARS-CoV-2 test result (confirmed either through PCR/antigen or antibody tests; self-reported) Previously received a vaccine developed specifically for COVID-19 or in possession of an appointment for vaccination in the near future (self-reported) Current suspected (e.g., waiting for test result) COVID-19 infection or symptoms of a COVID-19 infection (self-reported) Participating in any other COVID-19 clinical drug, vaccine, or medical device trial (self-reported) Electronic implanted device (such as a pacemaker; self-reported) Pregnant at time of informed consent (self-reported) Suffering from cholinergic urticaria (per the Ava bracelet's User Manual; self-reported) Staff involved in the management or conduct of this study INTERVENTION AND COMPARATOR: All subjects will be instructed to complete the Daily Symptom Diary in the Ava COVID-RED app daily, wear their Ava bracelet each night and synchronise it with the app each day for the entire period of study participation. Provided with wearable sensor and/or self-reported symptom data within the last 24 hours, the Ava COVID-RED app's underlying algorithms will provide subjects with a real-time indicator of their overall health and well-being. Subjects will see one of three messages, notifying them that: no seeming deviations in symptoms and/or physiological parameters have been detected; some changes in symptoms and/or physiological parameters have been detected and they should self-isolate; or alerting them that deviations in their symptoms and/or physiological parameters could be suggestive of a potential COVID-19 infection and to seek additional testing. We will assess intraperson performance of the algorithms in the experimental condition (Wearable + Symptom Data Algo) and control conditions (Symptom Only Algo).

Main Outcomes: The trial will evaluate the use and performance of the Ava COVID-RED app and Ava bracelet, which uses sensors to measure breathing rate, pulse rate, skin temperature, and heart rate variability for the purpose of early and asymptomatic detection and monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 in general and high-risk populations. Using laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections (detected via serology tests, PCR tests and/or antigen tests) as the gold standard, we will determine the sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV) and negative predictive value (NPV) for each of the following two algorithms to detect first-time SARS-CoV-2 infection including early or asymptomatic infection: the algorithm using Ava Bracelet data when coupled with the self-reported Daily Symptom Diary data, and the algorithm using self-reported Daily Symptom Diary data alone. In addition, we will determine which of the two algorithms has superior performance characteristics for detecting SARS-CoV-2 infection including early or asymptomatic infection as confirmed by SARS-CoV-2 virus testing. The protocol contains an additional seventeen secondary outcomes which address infection incidence rates, health resource utilization, symptoms reported by SARS-CoV-2 infected participants, and the rate of breakthrough and asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections among individuals vaccinated against COVID-19. PCR or antigen testing will occur when the subject receives a notification from the algorithm to seek additional testing. Subjects will be advised to get tested via the national testing programme, and report the testing result in the Ava COVID-RED app and a survey. If they cannot obtain a test via the national testing programme, they will receive a nasal swab self-sampling kit at home, and the sample will be tested by PCR in a trial-affiliated laboratory. In addition, all subjects will be asked to take a capillary blood sample at home at baseline (Month 0), and at the end of the Learning Phase (Month 3), Period 1 (Month 6) and Period 2 (Month 9). These samples will be used for SARS-CoV-2-specific antibody testing in a trial-affiliated laboratory, differentiating between antibodies resulting from a natural infection and antibodies resulting from COVID-19 vaccination (as vaccination will gradually be rolled out during the trial period). Baseline samples will only be analysed if the sample collected at the end of the Learning Phase is positive, and samples collected at the end of Period 1 will only be analysed if the sample collected at the end of Period 2 is positive. When subjects obtain a positive PCR/antigen or serology test result during the study, they will continue to be in the study but will be moved into a so-called "COVID-positive" mode in the Ava COVID-RED app. This means that they will no longer receive recommendations from the algorithms but can still contribute and track symptom and bracelet data. The primary analysis of the main objective will be executed using data collected in Period 2 (Month 6 through 9). Within this period, serology tests (before and after Period 2) and PCR/antigen tests (taken based on recommendations by the algorithms) will be used to determine if a subject was infected with SARS-CoV-2 or not. Within this same time period, it will be determined if the algorithms gave any recommendations for testing. The agreement between these quantities will be used to evaluate the performance of the algorithms and how these compare between the study conditions.

Randomisation: All eligible subjects will be randomized using a stratified block randomization approach with an allocation ratio of 1:1 to one of two sequences (experimental condition followed by control condition or control condition followed by experimental condition). Based on demographics, medical history and/or profession, each subject will be stratified at baseline into a high-risk and normal-risk group within each sequence, resulting in equal numbers of high-risk and normal-risk individuals between the sequences.

Blinding (masking): In this study, subjects will be blinded as to study condition and randomization sequence. Relevant study staff and the device manufacturer will be aware of the assigned sequence. The subject will wear the Ava bracelet and complete the Daily Symptom Diary in the Ava COVID-RED app for the full duration of the study, and they will not know if the feedback they receive about their potential infection status will only be based on data they entered in the Daily Symptom Diary within the Ava COVID-RED app or based on both the data from the Daily Symptom Diary and the Ava bracelet.

Numbers To Be Randomised (sample Size): 20,000 subjects will be recruited and randomized 1:1 to either Sequence 1 (experimental condition followed by control condition) or Sequence 2 (control condition followed by experimental condition), taking into account their risk level. This results in approximately 6,500 normal-risk and 3,500 high-risk individuals per sequence.

Trial Status: Protocol version: 1.2, dated January 22, 2021 Start of recruitment: February 22, 2021 End of recruitment (estimated): April 2021 End of follow-up (estimated): December 2021 TRIAL REGISTRATION: The trial has been registered at the Netherlands Trial Register on the 18 of February, 2021 with number NL9320 ( https://www.trialregister.nl/trial/9320 ) FULL PROTOCOL: The full protocol is attached as an additional file, accessible from the Trials website (Additional file 1). In the interest in expediting dissemination of this material, the familiar formatting has been eliminated; this Letter serves as a summary of the key elements of the full protocol.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13063-021-05241-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8218271PMC
June 2021

Soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase 1 (sFlt-1): A novel biochemical marker for acute fatty liver of pregnancy.

Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand 2021 Oct 18;100(10):1876-1884. Epub 2021 Jul 18.

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Inselspital, University Hospital and University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.

Introduction: Acute fatty liver of pregnancy (AFLP) substantially contributes to maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality. Other liver-associated pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia-associated HELLP (hemolysis, elevated liver enzyme, low platelet) syndrome may be difficult to differentiate from AFLP as these diseases overlap with regard to multiple clinical and laboratory features. The aim of this study was to investigate angiogenic profiles by measuring soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase-1 (sFlt-1) and placental growth factor (PlGF) in pregnancies compromised by AFLP and to compare them with those complicated by HELLP syndrome.

Material And Methods: Pregnant women affected by AFLP or HELLP syndrome were enrolled. The study population of women with HELLP syndrome was part of a larger data collection obtained in our clinic that has been used for previous work. Patients' angiogenic profiles were assessed by measuring sFlt-1 and PlGF serum levels. To assess the diagnostic potential of these angiogenic markers in AFLP, as well as discriminating it from HELLP syndrome, non-parametric tests were used and receiver operating curves were calculated.

Results: Six women with AFLP and 48 women with HELLP syndrome were included in the study. Patients with AFLP showed significantly higher sFlt-1 levels (median: 57 570 pg/mL; range 31 609-147 170 pg/mL) than patients with HELLP syndrome (9713 pg/mL; 1348-30 781 pg/mL; p < 0.001). PlGF serum levels were higher in patients with AFLP compared with those with HELLP syndrome (197 pg/mL; 127-487 pg/mL vs. 40 pg/mL; 9-644 pg/mL, respectively; p < 0.01). sFlt-1/PlGF ratios were not significantly different between AFLP and HELLP syndrome patients (192; 157-1159 vs. 232; 3-948, respectively; NS). In our study population, an sFlt-1 cut-off value of 31 100 pg/mL allowed differentiation between these two diseases with a sensitivity and specificity of 100%. A linear correlation was found between the cumulative numbers of Swansea criteria and sFlt-1 serum levels (r = 0.97; p < 0.01).

Conclusions: AFLP is associated with very high sFlt-1 serum levels in particular in women fulfilling eight or more Swansea criteria. Besides the suggested Swansea criteria to diagnose AFLP, an sFlt-1 value above 31 100 pg/mL may be an additional biochemical feature improving discrimination between AFLP and HELLP syndrome. However, because of the small number of pregnancies affected by AFLP included in this work further studies are needed to corroborate our findings.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/aogs.14218DOI Listing
October 2021

Non-occupational and occupational factors associated with specific SARS-CoV-2 antibodies among hospital workers - A multicentre cross-sectional study.

Clin Microbiol Infect 2021 Sep 19;27(9):1336-1344. Epub 2021 May 19.

Division of Infectious Diseases and Hospital Epidemiology, Cantonal Hospital St Gallen, St Gallen, Switzerland. Electronic address:

Objectives: Protecting healthcare workers (HCWs) from coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) is critical to preserve the functioning of healthcare systems. We therefore assessed seroprevalence and identified risk factors for severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) seropositivity in this population.

Methods: Between 22 June 22 and 15 August 2020, HCWs from institutions in northern/eastern Switzerland were screened for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. We recorded baseline characteristics, non-occupational and occupational risk factors. We used pairwise tests of associations and multivariable logistic regression to identify factors associated with seropositivity.

Results: Among 4664 HCWs from 23 healthcare facilities, 139 (3%) were seropositive. Non-occupational exposures independently associated with seropositivity were contact with a COVID-19-positive household (adjusted OR 59, 95% CI 33-106), stay in a COVID-19 hotspot (aOR 2.3, 95% CI 1.2-4.2) and male sex (aOR 1.9, 95% CI 1.1-3.1). Blood group 0 vs. non-0 (aOR 0.5, 95% CI 0.3-0.8), active smoking (aOR 0.4, 95% CI 0.2-0.7), living with children <12 years (aOR 0.3, 95% CI 0.2-0.6) and being a physician (aOR 0.2, 95% CI 0.1-0.5) were associated with decreased risk. Other occupational risk factors were close contact to COVID-19 patients (aOR 2.7, 95% CI 1.4-5.4), exposure to COVID-19-positive co-workers (aOR 1.9, 95% CI 1.1-2.9), poor knowledge of standard hygiene precautions (aOR 1.9, 95% CI 1.2-2.9) and frequent visits to the hospital canteen (aOR 2.3, 95% CI 1.4-3.8).

Discussion: Living with COVID-19-positive households showed the strongest association with SARS-CoV-2 seropositivity. We identified several potentially modifiable work-related risk factors, which might allow mitigation of the COVID-19 risk among HCWs. The lower risk among those living with children, even after correction for multiple confounders, is remarkable and merits further study.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cmi.2021.05.014DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8131187PMC
September 2021

Blood Omega-3 Fatty Acids Are Inversely Associated With Albumin-Creatinine Ratio in Young and Healthy Adults (The Omega-Kid Study).

Front Cardiovasc Med 2021 27;8:622619. Epub 2021 Apr 27.

Department of Internal Medicine, Cantonal Hospital of Baden, Baden, Switzerland.

Omega-3 fatty acids are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and with beneficial effects on CV risk factors. The albumin-creatinine ratio (ACR) is a risk factor for CVD, all-cause mortality and accelerated glomerular filtration rate (GFR) decline in the general population. We aimed to investigate the association between n-3 PUFAS and ACR in heathy individuals with preserved GFR. The present cross-sectional analysis is part of the GAPP study, a population-based cohort of healthy adults aged 25-41 years. Individuals with known CVD, diabetes, or a BMI >35 kg/m were excluded. eGFR was calculated according to the combined Creatinine/Cystatin C CKD-EPI formula. ACR was obtained from a fasting morning urine sample. The Omega-3 Index (relative amount of EPA and DHA of total fatty acids in %) was obtained from whole blood aliquots. Overall, 2001 participants (median age 37 years IQR 31; 40, 53% female) were included in this analysis. Median Omega-3 Index was 4.59 (IQR 4.06; 5.25) and median eGFR 111 ml/min/1.73 m (IQR 103; 118). Median ACR was 0.14 mg/mmol (IQR 0; 0.43). We found a significant inverse association of the Omega-3 Index with ACR (ratio 0.84, 95%CI 0.73-0.96; p = 0.011) which remained after comprehensive adjustment (ratio 0.86, 95%CI 0.74-1.00; = 0.048). No association of the Omega-3 Index with eGFR was found. The adjusted difference in eGFR per 1-unit increase in Omega3-Index was -0.21 (95%CI -0.76; 0.35; = 0.47). A higher Omega-3 Index was significantly associated with lower ACR in this young and healthy population with preserved eGFR. Omega-3 fatty acids may exhibit cardio- and nephroprotective effects in healthy individuals through modulation of ACR.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fcvm.2021.622619DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8110728PMC
April 2021

First report of a bla metallo-β-lactamase-possessing Klebsiella michiganensis.

J Glob Antimicrob Resist 2021 06 4;25:310-314. Epub 2021 May 4.

Institute for Infectious Diseases (IFIK), University of Bern, Friedbühlstrasse 51, CH-3001 Bern, Switzerland. Electronic address:

Objectives: Klebsiella michiganensis is an emerging pathogen. Like Klebsiella pneumoniae, this species is able to acquire antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) via mobile genetic elements. In this context, K. michiganensis isolates producing carbapenemases of KPC, NDM, IMP and OXA-48-like types have already been reported. Here we characterised a strain (BD-50-Km) isolated from a rectal swab of a Turkish patient hospitalised in Switzerland.

Methods: Species identification was initially performed using MALDI-TOF/MS. Antimicrobial susceptibility testing was done by the microdilution method. Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) was performed with both Illumina and Nanopore platforms and was used to confirm species identification, to characterise plasmids and to perform core-genome analyses.

Results: BD-50-Km was initially identified as Klebsiella oxytoca and showed reduced susceptibility to imipenem. However, WGS indicated that the isolate was actually K. michiganensis. BD-50-Km carried the bla gene associated with a rare class 1 integron (In87) located on a pST1 196 kb IncC plasmid. This plasmid shares its backbone with many other IncC plasmids found in different species (including five K. michiganensis), but not the same In87 and the remaining region harbouring various ARGs. BD-50-Km belongs to the novel ST342. Moreover, core-genome analysis (single nucleotide variant analysis) showed that BD-50-Km was not closely related to any K. michiganensis strains deposited in NCBI (n = 212), including the 38 so far reported as possessing carbapenemase genes.

Conclusion: This is the first report of a bla-possessing K. michiganensis clinical isolate. The spread of plasmid-mediated VIM carbapenemases in this emerging pathogen represents an additional threat to our therapeutic armamentarium.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jgar.2021.03.027DOI Listing
June 2021

SARS-CoV-2 N501Y Introductions and Transmissions in Switzerland from Beginning of October 2020 to February 2021-Implementation of Swiss-Wide Diagnostic Screening and Whole Genome Sequencing.

Microorganisms 2021 Mar 25;9(4). Epub 2021 Mar 25.

Applied Microbiology Research, Department of Biomedicine, University of Basel, 4056 Basel, Switzerland.

The rapid spread of the SARS-CoV-2 lineages B.1.1.7 (N501Y.V1) throughout the UK, B.1.351 (N501Y.V2) in South Africa, and P.1 (B.1.1.28.1; N501Y.V3) in Brazil has led to the definition of variants of concern (VoCs) and recommendations for lineage specific surveillance. In Switzerland, during the last weeks of December 2020, we established a nationwide screening protocol across multiple laboratories, focusing first on epidemiological and microbiological definitions. In January 2021, we validated and implemented an N501Y-specific PCR to rapidly screen for VoCs, which are then confirmed using amplicon sequencing or whole genome sequencing (WGS). A total of 13,387 VoCs have been identified since the detection of the first Swiss case in October 2020, with 4194 being B.1.1.7, 172 B.1.351, and 7 P.1. The remaining 9014 cases of VoCs have been described without further lineage specification. Overall, all diagnostic centers reported a rapid increase of the percentage of detected VOCs, with a range of 6 to 46% between 25 to 31 of January 2021 increasing towards 41 to 82% between 22 to 28 of February. A total of 739 N501Y positive genomes were analysed and show a broad range of introduction events to Switzerland. In this paper, we describe the nationwide coordination and implementation process across laboratories, public health institutions, and researchers, the first results of our N501Y-specific variant screening, and the phylogenetic analysis of all available WGS data in Switzerland, that together identified the early introduction events and subsequent community spreading of the VoCs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms9040677DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8064472PMC
March 2021

Corrigendum to: Age appropriate reference intervals for eight kidney function and injury markers in infants, children and adolescents.

Clin Chem Lab Med 2021 Mar 2;59(5):1007. Epub 2021 Mar 2.

Pediatric Pharmacology and Pharmacometrics, University Children's Hospital Basel (UKBB), University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/cclm-2021-0232DOI Listing
March 2021

Characteristics of Three Different Chemiluminescence Assays for Testing for SARS-CoV-2 Antibodies.

Dis Markers 2021 6;2021:8810196. Epub 2021 Jan 6.

Department of Infectious Diseases and Hospital Epidemiology, Cantonal Hospital St. Gallen, Rohrschacherstrasse 95, 9007 St. Gallen, Switzerland.

Several tests based on chemiluminescence immunoassay techniques have become available to test for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. There is currently insufficient data on serology assay performance beyond 35 days after symptoms onset. We aimed to evaluate SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests on three widely used platforms. A chemiluminescent microparticle immunoassay (CMIA; Abbott Diagnostics, USA), a luminescence immunoassay (LIA; Diasorin, Italy), and an electrochemiluminescence immunoassay (ECLIA; Roche Diagnostics, Switzerland) were investigated. In a multigroup study, sensitivity was assessed in a group of participants with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 ( = 145), whereas specificity was determined in two groups of participants without evidence of COVID-19 (i.e., healthy blood donors, = 191, and healthcare workers, = 1002). Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves, multilevel likelihood ratios (LR), and positive (PPV) and negative (NPV) predictive values were characterized. Finally, analytical specificity was characterized in samples with evidence of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) ( = 9), cytomegalovirus (CMV) ( = 7), and endemic common-cold coronavirus infections ( = 12) taken prior to the current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. The diagnostic accuracy was comparable in all three assays (AUC 0.98). Using the manufacturers' cut-offs, the sensitivities were 90%, 95% confidence interval [84,94] (LIA), 93% [88,96] (CMIA), and 96% [91,98] (ECLIA). The specificities were 99.5% [98.9,99.8] (CMIA), 99.7% [99.3,99.9] (LIA), and 99.9% [99.5,99.98] (ECLIA). The LR at half of the manufacturers' cut-offs were 60 (CMIA), 82 (LIA), and 575 (ECLIA) for positive and 0.043 (CMIA) and 0.035 (LIA, ECLIA) for negative results. ECLIA had higher PPV at low pretest probabilities than CMIA and LIA. No interference with EBV or CMV infection was observed, whereas endemic coronavirus in some cases provided signals in LIA and/or CMIA. Although the diagnostic accuracy of the three investigated assays is comparable, their performance in low-prevalence settings is different. Introducing gray zones at half of the manufacturers' cut-offs is suggested, especially for orthogonal testing approaches that use a second assay for confirmation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2021/8810196DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7834819PMC
February 2021

Comparison of the Diagnostic Performance of qPCR, Sanger Sequencing, and Whole-Genome Sequencing in Determining Clarithromycin and Levofloxacin Resistance in .

Front Cell Infect Microbiol 2020 17;10:596371. Epub 2020 Dec 17.

Labormedizinisches zentrum Dr Risch, Buchs, Switzerland.

antibiotic resistance is increasing worldwide, emphasizing the urgent need for more rapid resistance detection prior to the administration of eradication regimens. Macrolides and fluoroquinolones are widely used to treat . In this study, we aimed to compare the diagnostic performance of A) 23SrDNA qPCR (with melting curve analysis) and an in-house developed qPCR followed by Sanger sequencing with a commercial IVD-marked hybridization probe assay (for 23SrDNA and ) using 142 gastric biopsies (skipping culturing) and B) the same two qPCR for 23SrDNA and (including Sanger sequencing) with whole-genome sequencing (WGS) and phenotypic characterization of clarithromycin and levofloxacin resistance using 76 cultured isolates. The sensitivity of both qPCRs was 100% compared to that of the commercial IVD-marked hybridization probe assay for the detection of in gastric biopsies (without resistance testing). The specificity of the qPCR followed by Sanger sequencing was 100%, indicating that the best sequence identity was always . The results show good agreement between molecular tests, especially between qPCR (inclusive Sanger sequencing) and WGS. Discrepancies (concerning mutated or wild type of positive gastric biopsies) were observed between Sanger sequencing of the gene and the corresponding commercial hybridization probe assay, mostly because the high sequence diversity of the gene even at positions adjacent to the relevant codons of 87 and 91 interfered with obtaining correct results from the hybridization probe assay. Interestingly, we found several mixed sequences, indicating mixed populations in the gastric biopsies (direct detection without culturing). There was a high percentage of both levofloxacin and clarithromycin resistance in gastric biopsies (both between 22% and 29%, direct detection in gastric biopsies). Therefore, we recommend analyzing both targets in parallel. We confirmed that phenotypic resistance is highly correlated with the associated mutations. We concluded that the two qPCR followed by Sanger sequencing of the gene is a fast, cost-effective and comprehensive method for resistance testing of directly in gastric biopsies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fcimb.2020.596371DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7773895PMC
June 2021

The Swiss STAR trial - an evaluation of target groups for sexually transmitted infection screening in the sub-sample of women.

Swiss Med Wkly 2020 Dec 31;150:w20393. Epub 2020 Dec 31.

Division of Infectious Diseases and Infection Control, Cantonal Hospital St. Gallen, Switzerland / Communicable Diseases Division, Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, Bern, Switzerland.

Objectives: In Switzerland, universal health insurance does not cover any routine testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), not even in individuals at high risk, and extra-genital swabbing is not standard of care. We compared STI prevalence in a multicentre prospective observational cohort of multi-partner women with/without sex work and evaluated associated risk factors.

Materials And Methods: Between January 2016 and June 2017, we offered free STI testing to women with multiple  sexual partners (three or more in the previous 12 months), with follow-up examinations every 6 months. We used multiplex polymerase chain-reaction testing (for Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Chlamydia trachomatis, Trichomonas vaginalis, Mycoplasma genitalium) for pooled swabs (pharynx, urethra/vagina, anus), and antibody tests for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Treponema pallidum at every visit, and for hepatitis B and C at baseline.

Results: We screened 490 female sex workers (FSWs), including 17 trans women, and 92 other multi-partner women. More than half reported a steady partner. Previously undiagnosed HIV was found in 0.2% vs 0.0%, respectively, and T. pallidum antibodies in 5.9% vs 0.0%. STIs requiring antibiotic treatment comprised: active syphilis 1.2% vs 0.0%; N. gonorrhoeae 4.9% vs 0.0%; C. trachomatis 6.3% vs 5.4%, T. vaginalis 10.4% vs 0.0%; M. genitalium 6.7% vs 6.5%. One in four FSWs vs one in nine other women had one or more of these STIs at baseline. 15.8% vs 3.8% had a history of hepatitis B, 45.5% vs 22.8% had no immunity (HBs-AB <10 IU/l). Two FSWs had hepatitis C virus antibodies (0.4%) without concurrent HIV infection. Non-condom-use (last three months) for anal/vaginal sex was not associated with STIs. Independent risk factors were group sex (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 2.1, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.1–4.0), age less than 25 (aOR 3.7, 95% CI 1.6–8.9), and being active in sex work for less than 1 year (aOR 2.7, 95% CI 1.3–5.3).

Conclusion: HIV and HCV do not appear to pose a major public health problem among FSWs in Switzerland, whereas vaccination against HBV should be promoted. FSWs showed high rates of STIs requiring treatment to reduce transmission to clients and/or steady partners. FSWs should be offered low-cost or free STI screening as a public health priority.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.4414/smw.2020.20393DOI Listing
December 2020

Characterization of a Pan-Immunoglobulin Assay Quantifying Antibodies Directed against the Receptor Binding Domain of the SARS-CoV-2 S1-Subunit of the Spike Protein: A Population-Based Study.

J Clin Med 2020 Dec 9;9(12). Epub 2020 Dec 9.

Central Laboratory, Kantonsspital Graubünden, Loësstrasse 170, 7000 Chur, Switzerland.

Pan-immunoglobulin assays can simultaneously detect IgG, IgM and IgA directed against the receptor binding domain (RBD) of the S1 subunit of the spike protein (S) of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2 S1-RBD Ig). In this work, we aim to evaluate a quantitative SARS-CoV-2 S1-RBD Ig electrochemiluminescence immunoassay (ECLIA) regarding analytical, diagnostic, operational and clinical characteristics. Our work takes the form of a population-based study in the principality of Liechtenstein, including 125 cases with clinically well-described and laboratory confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection and 1159 individuals without evidence of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). SARS-CoV-2 cases were tested for antibodies in sera taken with a median of 48 days (interquartile range, IQR, 43-52) and 139 days (IQR, 129-144) after symptom onset. Sera were also tested with other assays targeting antibodies against non-RBD-S1 and -S1/S2 epitopes. Sensitivity was 97.6% (95% confidence interval, CI, 93.2-99.1), whereas specificity was 99.8% (95% CI, 99.4-99.9). Antibody levels linearly decreased from hospitalized patients to symptomatic outpatients and SARS-CoV-2 infection without symptoms ( < 0.001). Among cases with SARS-CoV-2 infection, smokers had lower antibody levels than non-smokers ( = 0.04), and patients with fever had higher antibody levels than patients without fever ( = 0.001). Pan-SARS-CoV-2 S1-RBD Ig in SARS-CoV-2 infection cases significantly increased from first to second follow-up ( < 0.001). A substantial proportion of individuals without evidence of past SARS-CoV-2 infection displayed non-S1-RBD antibody reactivities (248/1159, i.e., 21.4%, 95% CI, 19.1-23.4). In conclusion, a quantitative SARS-CoV-2 S1-RBD Ig assay offers favorable and sustained assay characteristics allowing the determination of quantitative associations between clinical characteristics (e.g., disease severity, smoking or fever) and antibody levels. The assay could also help to identify individuals with antibodies of non-S1-RBD specificity with potential clinical cross-reactivity to SARS-CoV-2.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/jcm9123989DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7764650PMC
December 2020

Oral glucose tolerance test does not affect degree of hemoglobin glycation as measured by routine assay.

Ann Endocrinol (Paris) 2020 Dec 2;81(6):545-550. Epub 2020 Dec 2.

Labormedizinisches Zentrum Dr. Risch, Vaduz, Liechtenstein.

Background: Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) is an accurate index of fluctuation in glycemia over the 2-3 months prior to quantitative assessment. During this time, hemoglobin (Hb) slowly glycates until it shows the properties of advanced glycation end-products. Glycation kinetics is intensified by prolonged glucose exposure. In subjects undergoing oral glucose tolerance testing (OGTT), immediately after ingestion, glucose is ostensibly transported by the glucose transporter 1 (GLUT1) to erythrocyte corpuscular hemoglobin. The earliest significant measurable level of hemoglobin glycation associated with this transportation is still not clear.

Subjects And Methods: We attempted to explore the early impact of short-term glucose load on HbA1c levels, because it is now known that transmembrane GLUT1-mediated glucose transport occurs immediately. A total of 88 participants (46 patients and 42 clinically healthy controls) underwent fasting plasma glucose quantitation during an OGTT. HbA1c, revealed by a monoclonal anti-glycation epitope antibody and adiponectin, was quantitated before (T0) and 2 hours (T120) after 80 g glucose ingestion.

Results: Wilcoxon test revealed that the HbA1c values did not significantly vary (P=0.15) during the OGTT, whereas glucose concentration varied strongly between T0 and T120.

Discussion: It is well known that quantitative estimation of HbA1c is informative for clinical care, independently of glucose level. The molecular mechanisms and dynamics by which glucose enters/exits red blood cells are incompletely known and may differ between individuals. We here show, for the first time, that HbA1c levels do not significantly increase during OGTT, supporting the view that non-enzymatic glycation of hemoglobin occurs slowly and that glycation during the 2 hours of an OGTT is insignificant.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ando.2020.11.003DOI Listing
December 2020

Preoperative decolonization and periprosthetic joint infections-A randomized controlled trial with 2-year follow-up.

J Orthop Res 2021 02 8;39(2):333-338. Epub 2020 Dec 8.

Department of Internal Medicine, Sonnenhofspital, Bern, Switzerland.

Preoperative decolonization, especially of Staphylococcus aureus carriers, has been proposed to reduce periprosthetic joint infections (PJI), but the evidence-based consensus is still lacking and data on long-term outcomes is scarce. In a previous randomized, single-blinded trial, decolonization produced no significant reduction of surgical site infections in overall elective orthopedic surgery at 3-month follow-up. A 2-year follow-up was then performed to specifically detect the impact of decolonization on delayed-onset PJI (3-24 months after surgery). Between November 2015 and September 2017, 613 of 1318 recruited patients underwent prosthetic surgery. Individuals were allocated into either the S. aureus carrier group (34%, 207 of 613 patients) or the noncarrier group (406 of 613 patients), according to nasal swab screening results. Both groups were then randomized into intervention and control arms. In the S. aureus group, the intervention consisted of daily chlorhexidine showers and application of mupirocin nasal ointment twice a day for 5 days before surgery. In noncarriers, only chlorhexidine showers were prescribed. Sample size calculation was based on the initial trial for overall and not for the prosthetic surgery group. No PJI was found at 2 years in either the carrier or in the noncarrier group. Therefore, no definite conclusion about the efficacy of preoperative decolonization to reduce PJI can be drawn. PJI proportions in this study were lower than described in the literature (mostly around 0.3%). Despite the insufficient sample size, this trial is the largest randomized trial on decolonization with a long-term follow-up, and results may be helpful for future meta-analyses.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jor.24916DOI Listing
February 2021

Temporal Course of SARS-CoV-2 Antibody Positivity in Patients with COVID-19 following the First Clinical Presentation.

Biomed Res Int 2020 16;2020:9878453. Epub 2020 Nov 16.

Labormedizinisches Zentrum Dr. Risch, Wuhrstrasse 14, 9490 Vaduz, Liechtenstein.

Knowledge of the sensitivities of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) antibody tests beyond 35 days after the clinical onset of COVID-19 is insufficient. We aimed to describe positivity rate of SARS-CoV-2 assays employing three different measurement principles over a prolonged period. Two hundred sixty-eight samples from 180 symptomatic patients with COVID-19 and a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test followed by serological investigation of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies were included. We conducted three chemiluminescence (including electrochemiluminescence assay (ECLIA)), four enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), and one lateral flow immunoassay (LFIA) test formats. Positivity rates, as well as positive (PPVs) and negative predictive values (NPVs), were calculated for each week after the first clinical presentation for COVID-19. Furthermore, combinations of tests were assessed within an orthogonal testing approach employing two independent assays and predictive values were calculated. Heat maps were constructed to graphically illustrate operational test characteristics. During a follow-up period of more than 9 weeks, chemiluminescence assays and one ELISA IgG test showed stable positivity rates after the third week. With the exception of ECLIA, the PPVs of the other chemiluminescence assays were ≥95% for COVID-19 only after the second week. ELISA and LFIA had somewhat lower PPVs. IgM exhibited insufficient predictive characteristics. An orthogonal testing approach provided PPVs ≥ 95% for patients with a moderate pretest probability (e.g., symptomatic patients), even for tests with a low single test performance. After the second week, NPVs of all but IgM assays were ≥95% for patients with low to moderate pretest probability. The confirmation of negative results using an orthogonal algorithm with another assay provided lower NPVs than the single assays. When interpreting results from SARS-CoV-2 tests, the pretest probability, time of blood draw, and assay characteristics must be carefully considered. An orthogonal testing approach increases the accuracy of positive, but not negative, predictions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2020/9878453DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7673235PMC
December 2020

Flattening the curve in 52 days: characterisation of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Principality of Liechtenstein - an observational study.

Swiss Med Wkly 2020 10 16;150:w20361. Epub 2020 Oct 16.

Department of General Internal Medicine, Landesspital Liechtenstein, Vaduz, Liechtenstein.

Background: The principality of Liechtenstein had its first COVID-19 case at the beginning of March 2020. After exponential growth, the pandemic’s first wave was contained, with the last case being diagnosed 52 days after the initial occurrence.

Aim: To characterise the COVID-19 pandemic in Liechtenstein.

Methods: All patients diagnosed in Liechtenstein were followed up until recovery and again 6–8 weeks after symptom onset. They were contacted every 2 days to record their clinical status until the resolution of their symptoms. The diagnosis of COVID-19 was based on clinical symptoms and molecular testing. Household and close workplace contacts were included in the follow-up, which also comprised antibody testing. In addition, public health measures installed during the pandemic in Liechtenstein are summarised.

Results: During the first wave, 5% of the population obtained a reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction test. A total of 95 patients (median age 39 years) were diagnosed with COVID-19 (82 who resided in Liechtenstein), resulting in an incidence in Liechtenstein of 0.211%. One patient, aged 94, died (mortality rate 1%). Only 62% of patients could retrospectively identify a potential source of infection. Testing the patients’ household and close workplace contacts (n = 170) with antibody tests revealed that 25% of those tested were additional COVID-19 cases, a quarter of whom were asymptomatic. Those households which adhered to strict isolation measures had a significantly lower rate of affected household members than those who didn’t follow such measures. The national public health measures never restricted free movement of residents. Masks were only mandatory in healthcare settings. The use of home working for the general workforce was promoted. Gatherings were prohibited. Schools, universities, certain public spaces (like sports facilities and playgrounds), childcare facilities, nonessential shops, restaurants and bars were closed. Social distancing, hygienic measures, solidarity and supporting individuals who were at risk were the main pillars of the public health campaigns.

Conclusion: The close collaboration of all relevant stakeholders allowed for the complete workup of all COVID-19 patients nationwide. A multitude of factors (e.g., young age of the patients, low-threshold access to testing, close monitoring of cases, high alertness and adherence to public health measures by the population) led to the early containment of the first wave of the pandemic, with a very low rate of serious outcomes. Antibody testing for SARS-CoV-2 revealed a substantial proportion of undiagnosed COVID-19 cases among close contacts of the patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.4414/smw.2020.20361DOI Listing
October 2020

Diagnostic Characteristics of 3-Parameter and 2-Parameter Equations for the Calculation of a Combined Indicator of Vitamin B12 Status to Predict Cobalamin Deficiency in a Large Mixed Patient Population.

Clin Lab 2020 Oct;66(10)

Background: A combined indicator for the determination of vitamin B12 status (4cB12) that employs four markers of vitamin B12 status (i.e., holotranscobalamin, HoloTC; vitamin B12, B12; methyl malonic acid, MMA; and homocysteine, Hcy) has been proposed for the comprehensive assessment of B12 status. We aimed to compare recently published 2- (2cB12) and 3-parameter (3cB12) cB12 equations missing one or two markers of B12 status with the established four-parameter cB12 (4cB12).

Methods: In 3,614 routine samples in which HoloTC, B12, MMA, Hcy and serum folate were measured, cB12 was assessed with 4cB12, as well as with four 3cB12 and six 2cB12 equations. Diagnostic accuracy (AUC) curves were calculated by receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis with the four-parameter equation (4cB12) as an index. Furthermore, we investigated whether calculating cB12 in addition to a 2-step algorithm employing the same parameters would add diagnostic value for the diagnosis of vitamin B12 deficiency.

Results: HoloTC showed the highest diagnostic accuracy among the single markers (AUC = 0.94). The cB12 equation using HoloTC and MMA (2cB12HoloTC/MMA) had the highest AUC among the 2-parameter equations (0.98). Among the 3-parameter equations, 3cB12HoloTC/MMA/Hcy and 3cB12HoloTC/B12/MMA revealed an AUC of 0.99, which was significantly higher than that of 2cB12HoloTC/MMA (p < 0.01). Calculating 2cB12HoloTC/MMA in addition to using a stepwise algorithm employing HoloTC and MMA for diagnosis of vitamin B12 deficiency increased the positive likelihood ratio from 12.1 to 42.6.

Conclusions: cB12 calculated with two or three markers of B12 status provides a good approximation of the 4cB12 equation. A 2cB12 equation employing the same parameters improved diagnostic accuracy compared to the use of a 2-step diagnostic algorithm alone. Our results suggest, that laboratories should consider enriching their reports by additionally reporting a corresponding 2cB12 or 3cB12 to results obtained in stepwise diagnostic algorithms.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.7754/Clin.Lab.2020.200130DOI Listing
October 2020

Prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies among Swiss hospital workers: Results of a prospective cohort study.

Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2021 05 8;42(5):604-608. Epub 2020 Oct 8.

Cantonal Hospital St Gallen, Division of Infectious Diseases and Hospital Epidemiology, St Gallen, Switzerland.

In this prospective cohort of 1,012 Swiss hospital employees, 3 different assays were used to screen serum for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. Seropositivity was 1%; the positive predictive values of the lateral-flow immunoassay were 64% (IgG) and 13% (IgM). History of fever and myalgia most effectively differentiated seropositive and seronegative participants.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/ice.2020.1244DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7582018PMC
May 2021

Severe Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is Associated With Elevated Serum Immunoglobulin (Ig) A and Antiphospholipid IgA Antibodies.

Clin Infect Dis 2021 11;73(9):e2869-e2874

Department of Dermatology, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.

Background: Severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) frequently entails complications that bear similarities to autoimmune diseases. To date, there are little data on possible immunoglobulin (Ig) A-mediated autoimmune responses. Here, we aim to determine whether COVID-19 is associated with a vigorous total IgA response and whether IgA antibodies are associated with complications of severe illness. Since thrombotic events are frequent in severe COVID-19 and resemble hypercoagulation of antiphospholipid syndrome, our approach focused on antiphospholipid antibodies (aPL).

Methods: In this retrospective cohort study, clinical data and aPL from 64 patients with COVID-19 were compared from 3 independent tertiary hospitals (1 in Liechtenstein, 2 in Switzerland). Samples were collected from 9 April to 1 May 2020.

Results: Clinical records of 64 patients with COVID-19 were reviewed and divided into a cohort with mild illness (mCOVID; 41%), a discovery cohort with severe illness (sdCOVID; 22%) and a confirmation cohort with severe illness (scCOVID; 38%). Total IgA, IgG, and aPL were measured with clinical diagnostic kits. Severe illness was significantly associated with increased total IgA (sdCOVID, P = .01; scCOVID, P < .001), but not total IgG. Among aPL, both cohorts with severe illness significantly correlated with elevated anticardiolipin IgA (sdCOVID and scCOVID, P < .001), anticardiolipin IgM (sdCOVID, P = .003; scCOVID, P< .001), and anti-beta 2 glycoprotein-1 IgA (sdCOVID and scCOVID, P< .001). Systemic lupus erythematosus was excluded from all patients as a potential confounder.

Conclusions: Higher total IgA and IgA-aPL were consistently associated with severe illness. These novel data strongly suggest that a vigorous antiviral IgA response, possibly triggered in the bronchial mucosa, induces systemic autoimmunity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciaa1496DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7543315PMC
November 2021

Comparison of Blood Pressure and Kidney Markers between Adolescent Former Preterm Infants and Term Controls.

Children (Basel) 2020 Sep 17;7(9). Epub 2020 Sep 17.

Department of Pediatric Pharmacology and Pharmacometrics, University of Basel Children's Hospital, 4056 Basel, Switzerland.

Background: Preterm infants are at an increased risk of developing hypertension and chronic kidney disease later in life. No recommendations exist for blood pressure (BP) and renal follow up for these patients.

Aim: To compare BP and serum and urinary kidney markers between preterm-born adolescents and term-born controls.

Methods: BP measurements in 51 preterm-born (≤32 weeks gestational age) and 82 term-born adolescents at the age of 10-15 years were conducted. Stepwise regression analysis explored the association between BP and participant characteristics. Kidney markers measured in the serum and urine were creatinine, neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL), and uromodulin. Kidney markers measured in the serum were cystatin C, beta-2 microglobulin, and beta trace protein.

Results: Systolic BP was significantly higher in preterm boys compared with term boys, but not in girls, and low birth weight was associated with higher BP in boys. In the preterm group, maternal hypertension/preeclampsia and adolescent height were associated with higher systolic BP. Serum creatinine and NGAL were significantly higher in the preterm group.

Conclusions: Our study confirms an inverse sex-dependant relationship between birth weight and BP at adolescent age. The higher serum creatinine and NGAL in the preterm group may indicate that premature birth affects kidney function in the long term.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/children7090141DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7552693PMC
September 2020

A consideration of convalescent plasma and plasma derivatives in the care of Severely-ill patients with COVID-19.

Transfus Apher Sci 2020 Oct 5;59(5):102936. Epub 2020 Sep 5.

Labormedizinisches Zentrum Dr. Risch, Vaduz, Liechtenstein. Electronic address:

The pathogenesis and immunopathological damage of severe forms of COVID-19 resemble acute autoimmune disease sparked by SARS-CoV-2, including an early systemic overproduction of proinflammatory cytokines. Such immunopathological features provide a rationale for the use of passive immunotherapy with convalescent plasma as a source of neutralizing anti-viral antibodies and of anti-inflammatory plasma components. While convalescent plasma therapy is now being evaluated in prospective clinical trials, we further consider the therapeutic potential of human hyper immune globulins, and of heterologous, engineered and monoclonal neutralizing antibodies as anti-viral agents to treat COVID-19. Good medical practice procedures are still needed and is why we also discuss the potential use of polyclonal polyspecific immunoglobulins (IVIG), a therapeutic plasma derivative, with potent anti-inflammatory activity, in severe forms of Covid-19.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.transci.2020.102936DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7833822PMC
October 2020

Reference Intervals for Platelet Counts in the Elderly: Results from the Prospective SENIORLAB Study.

J Clin Med 2020 Sep 3;9(9). Epub 2020 Sep 3.

Zentrallabor, Kantonsspital Graubünden, Loësstrasse 170, 7000 Chur, Switzerland.

Currently, age- and sex-independent reference limits (RLs) are frequently used to interpret platelet counts in seniors. We aimed to define and validate reference intervals (RIs) for platelet counts within the framework of the prospective SENIORLAB study. Subjectively healthy Swiss individuals aged 60 years and older were prospectively included and followed for morbidity and mortality. Participants who had circumstances known to affect platelet counts were excluded. The obtained RIs were validated with indirect statistical methods. Frequencies of abnormal platelet counts in a population-based setting, including 41.5% of the entire age-specific population of the Principality of Liechtenstein, were compared by using age- and sex-independent RIs and the RLs obtained in the present study. For males ( = 542), 95% RIs for platelet counts were defined as follows: 150-300 × 10/L (60-69 years); 130-300 × 10/L (70-79 years); and 120-300 × 10/L (80 years and above). For females ( = 661), the consolidated age-independent 95% RI was 165-355 × 10/L. These RI values were validated by indirect RI determination of 51,687 (30,392 female/21,295 male) patients of the same age. Age- and sex-independent RIs exhibited imbalanced frequencies of abnormal platelet counts between the two sexes, which were corrected by introducing age- and sex-specific RLs. In conclusion, females have higher platelet counts than males. Whereas the upper RL for males remains constant, the lower RL decreases with age. We propose to abandon the practice of employing sex- and age-independent RL for platelet counts in the elderly.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/jcm9092856DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7564319PMC
September 2020
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