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COVID Update: Did Omicron Catch a Cold?

Covid Update. Did omicron catch a cold? Image of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
Update on Omicron SARS-CoV-2 Virus Variant

Omicron COVID-19 variant possibly looks more like the common cold.

It looks like Omicron may have caught a cold. Seriously, researchers say the Omicron variant may have acquired at least one of its mutations from another virus, more likely the common cold, or possibly even the human genome. In a new research paper posted online Thursday, the authors set out to study Omicron’s 37 mutations in the variant’s spike protein (6 deletion mutations, 1 insertion mutation, and 30 substitution mutations) for comparison to other SARS-CoV-2 variants. The study shows the new insertion mutation (ins214EPE) has not been seen to date in any other version of SARS-CoV-2, and is unique to Omicron. Further analysis of the newly discovered insertion mutation also reveals it shares similar genetic attributes with other viruses, including the common cold, and with the human genome.

How did Omicron mutate?

The paper proffers that Omicron picked up this newly acquired snip of genetic material from either another virus that infected the same host cells as SARS-CoV-2, or the human transcriptome of host cells infected with SARS-CoV-2. Whether acquired from the common cold, another virus, or the human genome, the new insertion mutation on the spike protein makes Omicron look “more human” according to the lead author of the study, Venky Soundararajan.

Other researchers must now determine whether Omicron’s newly inserted mutation on the spike protein – with similar attributes to the human genome – will lead to a gain in function and competitive advantage compared to the Delta variant. The WHO reports in its update on Omicron that studies are underway to determine if this new insertion mutation, along with the more than 30 other mutations to the spike protein, may lead to an increase in transmissibility, an escape of our vaccines or infection-induced immunity, or an increase in severity of COVID-19 disease.

5 Reasons To Keep PCR Home COVID Test Kits on Hand. 4U Health. Updated December 6, 2021.

Ditch Nose Swabs for a Home Saliva PCR Covid Test Kit. 4U Health. Updated December 6, 2021.

Vitamin D & Coronavirus Prevention: Facts & Myths. 4U Health. Updated December 6, 2021.

Watch this short video to learn what a Coronavirus is and how it mutates.

What is a Coronavirus? How does Covid mutate?

About 4U Health

4U Health offers at-home lab testing to help you feel like your best self. Visit us at 4uHealth.com to learn about our COVID-19 Antibody Self-Collection At Home Test Kit, explore healthy living and wellness topics, and view our full at-home lab testing menu.

If you’re interested in home PCR COVID test kits to detect COVID-19 (including Omicron and its other variants), check out 4U Health’s COVID-19 Active Infection Self-Collection Test. It’s approved for children 5+ and adults alike. For the timeliest results, we recommend having our “just-in-case” saliva kit stocked in your medicine cabinet so you can test on your terms. Overnight shipping is included and results are typically within 24 hours of receipt by the lab.

Resources

Venkatakrishnanet, AJ et. al. Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 harbors a unique insertion mutation of putative viral or human genomic origin. URL. December 2, 2021. Accessed December 5, 2021.

Updated: December 6, 2021

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Vitamin D & Coronavirus Prevention: Facts & Myths

Covid Facts and Myths About Vitamin D
Sunlight Exposure is a Primary Source of Vitamin D

Ok, But What Exactly is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps to absorb the minerals calcium and phosphorous. As previously mentioned, it plays a vital role in forming and maintaining strong bones, regulating normal immune system function, and limiting inflammation. But it also aids in sturdy teeth, maintaining heart and lung health, and combating depression and other diseases.

Vitamin D is a family of compounds. Vitamin D is maintained in the body thanks to two mechanisms, Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3.

Vitamin D2

D2 is present in some foods & food supplements and ingested into the body.

Vitamin D3

D3 is primarily produced by the body at the skin level under the influence of solar radiation (the sun). It is also available as a supplement.

The two forms of Vitamin D2 and D3 have the same effect on the body and therefore it is important to know the sum of their quantities. The total concentration of Vitamin D 25-Hydroxy (D2+D3) is used to estimate the reserve of Vitamin D in the body.

Vitamin D Sources

• Sunlight: 5 to 30 minutes of sun exposure at least twice a week

• Supplements (600 to 800 international units a day), but don’t be alarmed if your doctor has you on a higher dose

• Fatty fish such as trout, salmon, tuna and mackerel

• Cheese

• Egg yolks

• Mushrooms

• Fortified foods, including cereal, milk and orange juice

Source: NIH Health Professional Fact Sheet

Then Why the Interest in Vitamin D?

The short answer is because vitamin D supplements are generally considered safe. Many patients and physicians alike are strong believers in the overall health benefits of vitamin D. Most deficiencies are discovered by a lab test, you can check your level here with an At-Home Vitamin D Test, and when it’s low it’s safe for most people to take in reasonable doses. But remember, if your supplementing, most physicians recommend periodic lab monitoring to ensure an optimal level and to rule out vitamin D toxicity.

All Right Already, So What Does the Science Say on Vitamin D and Covid?

Further research is needed to determine the role vitamin D and vitamin D deficiency might play concerning COVID-19. This is because there are numerous conflicting studies both for and against the efficacy of vitamin D to aid in the prevention and treatment of covid. For example, a recent study published on JAMA observed that Black individuals who have higher levels of vitamin D were less likely to test positive for COVID-19 than people with sufficient levels. However, conversely, a 2020 study conducted in Brazil concluded that a single high dose of vitamin D did not affect disease severity.

In the meantime, if you’re concerned about your vitamin D reserves or want to monitor your supplement dosing, you may want to have your Vitamin D levels checked. Even though the jury is still out on whether it helps with Coronavirus Prevention, having optimum vitamin D levels helps your body function at its best.

5 Reasons To Keep PCR Home COVID Test Kits on Hand. 4U Health. Updated December 6, 2021.

Ditch Nose Swabs for a Home Saliva PCR Covid Test Kit. 4U Health. Updated December 3, 2021.

About 4U Health

4U Health offers at-home lab testing to help you feel like your best self. Visit us at 4uHealth.com to learn about our COVID-19 Antibody Self-Collection At Home Test Kit, explore healthy living and wellness topics, and view our full at-home lab testing menu.

If you’re interested in a PCR at home COVID test to detect COVID-19 (including Omicron and its other variants), check out 4U Health’s COVID-19 Active Infection Self-Collection Test. It’s recommended for children 5+ and adults alike. For the timeliest results, we advise having a “just-in-case” saliva kit stocked in your medicine cabinet so you can test on your terms. Overnight shipping is included and results are typically within 24 hours of receipt by the lab.

How Do I View the National Institute of Health’s Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Consumers?

NIH VItamin D Fact Sheet for Consumers. Updated March 22, 2021. Accessed December 3, 2021.

Where Can I Find Supportive Research Information About Vitamin D as It Relates to COVID-19?

Evidence that Vitamin D Supplementation Could Reduce Risk of Influenza and COVID-19 Infections. April 2, 2020. Accessed December 3, 2021.

Resources

Front Immunol. Angajala A, Lim S, Phillips JB, et al. Diverse Roles of Mitochondria in Immune Responses: Novel Insights into Immuno-Metabolism. URL. July 12, 2018. Accessed Dec 3, 2021.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Information for Where You Live, Work, Learn, and Play. URL. Updated August 24, 2021. Accessed Dec 3, 2021.

Nutrients. Greiller CL, Martineau AR. Modulation of the immune response to respiratory viruses by vitamin D. URL. May 29, 2015. Accessed Dec 3, 2021.

The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Holick MF, Binkley NC, Bischoff-Ferrari HA, et al. Evaluation, treatment, and prevention of vitamin D deficiency: an Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline URL. June 6, 2011. Accessed December 3, 2021.

The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Kanhere M, He J, Chassaing B, et al. Bolus Weekly Vitamin D3 Supplementation Impacts Gut and Airway Microbiota in Adults with Cystic Fibrosis: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. URL. February 1, 2018. Accessed December 05, 2021.

Los Angeles Times. Coronavirus stalks the aged and infirm, who face the most serious, lethal risk. URL.  March 3, 2020. Accessed December 5, 2021.

International Journal of Cell Biology. Reshi ML, Su YC, Hong JR. RNA Viruses: ROS-Mediated Cell Death. URL. May 8, 2014. Accessed December 5, 2021.

International Journal of Molecular Sciences. Ricca C, Aillon A, Bergandi L, Alotto D, Castagnoli C, Silvagno F. Vitamin D Receptor Is Necessary for Mitochondrial Function and Cell Health. URL. June 5, 2018. Accessed December 5, 2021.

Clinical & Translational Immunology. Shukla SD, Budden KF, Neal R, Hansbro PM. Microbiome effects on immunity, health and disease in the lung. URL. March 10, 2017. Accessed December 5, 2021.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Tripkovic L, Lambert H, Hart K, et al. Comparison of vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 supplementation in raising serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D status: a systematic review and meta-analysis. June 6, 2012 URL. Accessed December 5, 2021.

Infect Immun. White JH. Vitamin D signaling, infectious diseases, and regulation of innate immunity. URL. May 27, 2008. Accessed December 5, 2021.

The Lancet: Diabetes & Endocrinology. Nita GF, Vitamin D for COVID-19: a case to answer?. URL. August 3, 2020. Accessed December 5, 2021.

Mayo Clinic Proc. Kennel KA, Drake MT, Hurley DL, Vitamin D Deficiency in Adults: When to Test and How to Treat. URL. August 2010. Accessed December 5, 2021.

Updated: December 6, 2021

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New Covid-19 Variant Facts: How Did Omicron Start?

Image of SARS-CoV-2 subject of  Omicron antigen testing effectiveness
Update on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Mutation

What is the Omicron (B.1.1.529) COVID Variant?

Last week South African scientists reported sequencing data on a new Covid variant, recently named Omicron by the World Health Organization (WHO). The data demonstrates some 50 mutations compared with the original Wuhan strain of Covid-19. Scientists and health experts around the world are in a tizzy over its 32 mutations on the spike protein alone. Remember, the spike protein acts as “the key” for the virus to enter our cells. This has caused obvious concern over whether Omicron has increased transmissibility as compared to the Wuhan strain, by evading our population’s vaccine or natural-induced immunities.

The good news is among thousands of variants identified during the Sars-CoV-2 pandemic, the vast majority of mutated strains turn out to have little to no consequence. The bad news is one variant, the Delta strain with its 9 changes on the spike protein, led to a second wave of infections this year and has gone on to become the most dominant type of SARS-CoV-2 circulating in the United States. Although the WHO categorized Omicron as a “variant of concern”, a designation only so far used previously on four variants (Alpha, Beta, Delta, & Gamma), it’s too early to tell if this mutation will present any clinical significance by outcompeting the Delta variant.

How did Omicron Start?

For Omicron to have such a rapid evolution of so many mutations, a likely scenario is it originated from a singular immunocompromised host. Studies have documented this phenomenon in the past. Bodies with inadequate immune systems act as perfect incubators for unrestricted virus mutations. Over a prolonged period (usually months on end), the virus replicates freely and generates numerous changes to its genetic code. Most of these genetic alterations fail, but a prolonged infection increases the likelihood for a successful-mutation, one that gains function and replicates to high load levels within a host. If a mutation is subsequently transmitted to other people before the host expires or clears the infection, then a new variant immerges upon the world and begins to compete against its previous self for survival.

So where does this leave us now?

As for Omicron, numerous studies are currently underway. The WHO reports in its update on Omicron that researchers are looking to determine if its more than 30 mutations to the spike protein may cause:

1.       An increase in transmissibility of the virus,

2.       The virus to escape our vaccines or infection induced immunity,

3.       An increase in severity of the disease, and or

4.       COVID-19 antigen tests (like the rapid tests typically sold in pharmacies) to be less effective at identifying the new variant.

Stay tuned as some of these answers may become available within a few weeks. In the interim, epedemiologists are also working on preventing the next “variant of concern”.

How to mitigate the risk of rapid multistage Covid mutations from occurring again?

Both within the United States and around the world, it is advised immunosuppressed patients receive a Covid vaccine. Howbeit, a large percentage of these individuals show a poor immune response to the vaccine, leaving them potentially vulnerable to a prolonged battle against Covid. To help provide further protection, the CDC issued new guidance saying people over age 18 who are “moderately to severely immunocompromised” can get a 4th jab of the vaccine.

Many physicians are advocating for the greater use of monoclonal antibodies out of compassion for the immunocompromised. But just as important, to prevent future rapid multistage Covid mutations, epidemiologists and virologists are advocating for their use to limit the duration of infections in immunocompromised patients. Although we still don’t definitively know how Omicron mutated; there is a strong case for more widely using monoclonal antibodies to prevent future Covid variants from mutating in immunocompromised hosts.

5 Reasons To Keep PCR Home COVID Test Kits on Hand. 4U Health. Updated December 6, 2021.

Ditch Nose Swabs for a Home Saliva PCR Covid Test Kit. 4U Health. Updated December 6, 2021.

Vitamin D & Coronavirus Prevention: Facts & Myths. 4U Health. Updated December 6, 2021.

About 4U Health

4U Health offers at-home lab testing to help you feel like your best self. Visit us at 4uHealth.com to learn about our COVID-19 Antibody Self-Collection At Home Test Kit, explore healthy living and wellness topics, and view our full at-home lab testing menu.

If you’re interested in a PCR at home COVID test to detect COVID-19 (including Omicron and its other variants), check out 4U Health’s COVID-19 Active Infection Self-Collection Test. It’s recommended for children 5+ and adults alike. For the timeliest results, we advise having a “just-in-case” saliva kit stocked in your medicine cabinet so you can test on your terms. Overnight shipping is included and results are typically within 24 hours of receipt by the lab.

More information on monoclonal antibodies

Please see the article titled FDA authorizes REGEN-COV monoclonal antibody therapy for post-exposure prophylaxis (prevention) for COVID-19. Updated August 10, 2021. Accessed December 4, 2021.

More information on rapid viral mutations in Covid patients

For more information on rapid genetic Covid mutations , please see the New England Journal of Medicine article SARS-CoV-2 Variants in Patients with Immunosuppression. Updated August 5, 2021. Accessed December 4, 2021.

Updated: December 6, 2021

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Omicron New COVID-19 Variant Facts: What We Know So Far

Image of SARS-CoV-2 subject of  Omicron antigen testing effectiveness
Update on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Mutation

What is the Omicron (B.1.1.529) COVID Variant?

A new Covid-19 variant, B.1.1.529, has been classified by the WHO as a Variant of Concern and named Omicron. Most of the concern over Omicron comes from its 37 mutations on the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. The spike protein acts as the key for the virus to enter our cells. As a comparison, the Delta variant had nine changes on the spike protein. The WHO reports studies are underway on Omicron’s mutations to determine if they cause:

1. An increase in transmissibility of the virus,

2. The virus to escape our vaccines or infection induced immunity,

3. Less accurate rapid antigen (lateral flow) tests

4. An increase in severity of the disease, and

5. A different set of common symptoms.

When Was Omicron Discovered?

Omicron was first reported in Botswana on November 11, 2021. Three days later, South African officials detected the mutation in their country. Shortly thereafter, Hong Kong announced its first two cases followed by Israel, Belgium, Australia, Britain, Denmark, Italy, and the Netherlands. To date, Omicron is in 38 countries, with no deaths reported.

Entry Into the U.S. Barred from Southern African Countries

To help delay Omicron’s arrival, as of Monday, November 29, 2021, President Biden restricted entry into the U.S. foreign nationals who have visited within the last 14 days any of eight southern African countries: South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. Travel restrictions do not apply to U.S. citizens or their family members, among others.

New Requirements for Air Travelers to the U.S.

On December 6, the state department reports air travelers aged two and older, regardless of nationality or vaccination status, are required to show documentation of a negative viral test result taken within one day of the flight’s departure to the United States before boarding. The CDC order remains in effect requiring all non-immigrant, non-citizen air travelers to the United States to be fully vaccinated and to provide proof of vaccination status prior to boarding an airplane to the United States.

New Push for Boosters

The emergence of Omicron has led CDC Director Rochelle Walensky to update the agency’s recommendations on vaccine boosters. On November 29, in an apparent push to fight back against the further spread of Omicron and the Delta variants, the CDC issued updated guidance recommending that every vaccinated adult get a booster. All adults 18 and older who completed a primary vaccination series with an mRNA vaccine at least six months ago and those who received a Johnson & Johnson shot at least two months ago are eligible for a booster. “I also want to encourage people to get a COVID-19 test if they are sick,” Walensky said. “Increased testing will help us identify Omicron quickly.”

Moreover, on December 9, the Food and Drug Administration authorized third booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for 16-and-17-year-olds. Hours later Director Walensky signed off on booster shots for the age group and issued updated CDC guidance. Walensky said in a statement that initial data suggest a third shot may help with strengthening protection against Omicron and other variants. “We know that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective,” she said, urging 16-and-17-year-olds to get the booster.

U.S. Requires Private Insurers to Pay for Rapid Home Covid Tests

Private insurers will have to cover 100% of the cost of rapid at-home coronavirus tests, President Joe Biden announced Thursday in his plan to protect Americans against the Delta and Omicron variants during the winter months. Under the new rules set to take place next month, privately-insured Americans will be able to submit the cost of rapid at-home tests (purchased at pharmacies and other retailers) for reimbursement to their private insurance carrier. To help reach uninsured individuals, the administration will send 50 million free rapid tests to 20,000 sites around the country.

Do COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Tests Detect the Omicron COVID-19 Variant?

The Word Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed PCR tests are able to detect all known COVID-19 strains to date, including the new Omicron COVID-19 variant. But it’s too early to say if all COVID-19 antigen tests can accurately detect Omicron.

Rupert Beale, who runs the Cell Biology of Infection lab at the Francis Crick Institute tweeted about the concerns regarding lateral flow efficacy.

He said: “We cannot assume lateral flow tests maintain sensitivity against Omicron – might depend on test, might also depend on intra-variant variation.”

However, as reported by the Independent, he noted it could equally be fine, but time is needed to find out.

Studies are currently underway to determine if the more than 30 mutations to the spike protein have caused any decrease in sensitivity or specificity of certain types of COVID-19 tests to identify an Omicron infection. Abbott’s BinaxNOW should be able to pick up the omicron variant, but not all rapid antigen tests may. Doctor Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser for Covid-19, said that his South African colleagues told him “at least some of the rapid antigen tests” could detect Omicron.

New Covid-19 Variant Facts: How Did Omicron Start. 4U Health. Updated December 6, 2021.

COVID Update: Did Omicron Catch a Cold. 4U Health. Updated December, 6, 2021.

5 Reasons To Keep PCR Home COVID Test Kits on Hand. 4U Health. December 6, 2021.

About 4U Health

4U Health offers at-home lab testing to help you feel like your best self. Visit us at 4uHealth.com to learn about our COVID-19 Antibody Self-Collection At Home Test Kit, explore healthy living and wellness topics, and view our full at-home lab testing menu.

If you’re interested in home PCR COVID test kits to detect COVID-19 (including Omicron and its other variants), check out 4U Health’s COVID-19 Active Infection Self-Collection Test. It’s approved for children 5+ and adults alike. For the timeliest results, we recommend having our “just-in-case” saliva kit stocked in your medicine cabinet so you can test on your terms. Overnight shipping is included and results are typically within 24 hours of receipt by the lab.

Updated: December 9, 2021

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Ditch Nose Swabs for Saliva At Home Covid Test Kits

Child Approved Covid-19 Testing Kit. This test detects Omicron Variant, Delta Variant, and all other known covid variants.
At Home Covid Test Saliva Collection Tube

What is a Saliva Home Covid Test?

Brain tickling nose swabs often make getting a COVID test a nightmare. Although schools and workplaces are going back to in-person environments, COVID continues to circulate. Undoubtedly with the emergence of the Delta and Omicron variants, children and adults alike are going to have more coronavirus scares. Most COVID test choices are not only time-consuming (as they require scheduling a face-to-face appointment with a doctor, urgent care facility, or hospital), they can be unpleasant. These traditional medical providers typically use invasive nasopharyngeal swabs that go deep into the nose that are often incredibly uncomfortable for adults – and may even cause some kids to shed tears. Now don’t fret, there is a more approachable pain-free saliva home covid test to diagnose by PCR an active COVID-19 infection.

Using a non-invasive saliva PCR COVID test to analyze for COVID-19 may not only be a lot more bearable for you and your little one, but the best part is, it has FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) that allows for self-collected at home covid test samples. Now when COVID symptoms strike, without in-person doctor visits and time spent in waiting rooms, you can easily test for a COVID infection (including Omicron and Delta variants), all from the comfort of home. For the most timely results, it’s recommended to have a home COVID PCR test kit stocked in your medicine cabinet so you can test on your own terms. You can get one delivered to your home from 4U Health by clicking on this COVID-19 Active Infection Saliva Test link. Tests are typically turned around within 24hours of receipt by the lab.

Home Covid Test Kits by 4U Health. The kit is a saliva covid spit test collection device. The test is a PCR Covid test.
Home Covid Test Kit – Detects Omicron, Delta, & All Oher Variants

As for accuracy, the saliva at home COVID test is just as precise as a deep nose swab according to a Systemic Review and Meta-Analysis published in JAMA Internal Medicine on January 15, 2021. Moreover, as part of its PCR home COVID test, 4U Health employs the OMNIgene-DNA saliva collection device that has FDA Emergency Use Authorization. And rest assured, our PCR saliva covid test can detect the Delta and Omicron COVID-19 variants.

How to Collect a Covid Saliva Test?

To learn if a self-collected saliva at home covid test kit [1] is a good fit for you or your child, please view the DNA saliva collection instructions video below.

DNA Saliva Sample Collection Instructions Video – AKA COVID Spit Test Collection

5 Reasons To Keep PCR Home COVID Test Kits on Hand. 4U Health. Updated December 6, 2021.

Ditch Nose Swabs for a Home Saliva PCR Covid Test Kit. 4U Health. Updated December 6, 2021.

Vitamin D & Coronavirus Prevention: Facts & Myths. 4U Health. Updated December 6, 2021.

About 4U Health

4U Health offers at-home lab testing to help you feel like your best self. Visit us at 4uHealth.com to learn about our COVID-19 Antibody Self-Collection At Home Test Kit, explore healthy living and wellness topics, and view our full at-home lab testing menu.

If you’re interested in home PCR COVID test kits to detect COVID-19 (including Omicron and its other variants), check out 4U Health’s COVID-19 Active Infection Self-Collection Test. It’s approved for children 5+ and adults alike. For the timeliest results, we recommend having our “just-in-case” saliva kit stocked in your medicine cabinet so you can test on your terms. Overnight shipping is included and results are typically within 24 hours of receipt by the lab.

Note(s)

[1] The term “kit” references the OMNIgene saliva collection device that is a part of the COVID-19 Active Infection Self-Collection Test.

Updated: December 6, 2021