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Eastern Nazarene College Professor Characterizes Origins of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Wuhan

Published: December 2, 2020

Eastern Nazarene College Assistant Professor of Biology, Robert Logan, has co-authored a paper published by the journal Aging (Albany, NY), detailing the medical case studies of the first known patients in the world to die from the novel SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) infection, in Wuhan, China.  

 “Since the mutation rate in the COVID-19 virus seems to be much slower than other common viruses, such as influenza or HIV, the transmission rate and consequence of infection don’t seem to have changed much since the origins of the pandemic. Therefore, characterizing China’s very first deadly cases of COVID-19 can be useful in providing a historical context for the disease, shaping future COVID-19 treatment and potentially aiding in the control of the pandemic”, says Robert Logan.  

The study included a sample size of only 17 cases: 13 males and 4 females. In this study, male gender and an age greater than 65 were shown to be high risk factors for early death. Interestingly, the majority of initial symptoms did not include respiratory symptoms, but rather included fever, fatigue, body aches and chills. Patients who presented with their first symptoms being a cough or a cough in combination with fatigue, were likely to remain alive longer, but also were more likely to develop multiple severe symptoms and die from septic shock. Only 2 patients presented with underlying respiratory disease, namely chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.  

“The implication of our work shows that not all fatal cases of COVID-19 begin with respiratory symptoms. Furthermore, a person can be highly susceptible to early death from COVID-19 without having an underlying chronic respiratory illness, even though the most severe complications of COVID-19 infection are respiratory in nature.”, says Guan-Hui Wu, a physician-scientist working at Suzhou Municipal Hospital, which is associated with Nanjing Medical University in Suzhou, China. Robert Logan and Guan-Hui met each other while they both worked at the Massachusetts General Hospital.  

Although the sample size is limited, this timely publication provides meaningful insights for the clinical prognosis and effective treatment of COVID-19 patients. There is currently no established medical treatment regimen for all COVID-19 patients, especially those with pre-existing conditions such as advanced age. “A better understanding of how the novel coronavirus presented itself at the beginning of the pandemic can help shape our understanding of where it might be headed” Robert Logan explained.  

It has been almost a year since the COVID-19 virus started claiming lives around the world. Healthcare providers, government officials, scientists and the public alike have been diligently working to quickly mitigate the impact of the pandemic. Despite these efforts, confirmed cases of COVID-19 and deaths continue to rise globally due to high transmission rate between humans, but the hope for an effective vaccine now seems to be near in sight.  

Kong F, Wang Y, Wang M, Cheng Q, Logan R, Wu G, Hu S. Clinical characteristics of the first known cases of death caused by COVID-19 pneumonia. Aging (Albany NY). 2020; 12:22405-22412. https://doi.org/10.18632/aging.104171

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