Think Twice About Following Food Trends

Johns Hopkins professor estimates at least 50,000 people have coronavirus in US

Think Twice About Following Food Trends | Johns Hopkins Medicine

A medical professor at Johns Hopkins University urged Americans not to believe low numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States, warning the actual number of people walking around with the virus could be “between 50,000 and half a million.”

Dr. Marty Makary told Yahoo Finance's “On the Move” on Friday that he believes the number of coronavirus cases is much higher than the 1,600 confirmed cases and 41 deaths that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported.

“Don’t believe the numbers when you see, even on our Johns Hopkins website, that 1,600 Americans have the virus,” Makary said. “No, that means 1,600 got the test, tested positive. There are probably 25 to 50 people who have the virus for every one person who is confirmed.” 

The professor noted that American hospitals will be overwhelmed by the massive influx of people, saying most intensive care units are already operating near full capacity.

“We only have 100,000 ICU beds in the United States. We could see 200,000 new patients that need critical care up to 2 million,” he said.

Statistical models meant to project the potential reach of COVID-19 suggest more than a million Americans could die if the nation does not take swift action to stop its spread.

Makary, who has been a contributor for The Hill, pointed to the shortage of coronavirus testing kits from the CDC as a reason for low case numbers.

“The CDC did admit to a mistake in the roll the testing and let’s face it — they went with the wrong testing system,” Makary said. “It was an early decision. It lived deep within the CDC and they have acknowledged that mistake.”

Between Jan. 18 and March 12, there were 13,624 tests for COVID-19 conducted in the United States, Yahoo noted from CDC data. During that same period, South Korea conducted more than 100,000 tests and the U.K. administered nearly 25,000.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump tears into '60 Minutes' after segment with whistleblower Bright James Woods defends Trump: He 'loves America more than any president in my lifetime' Kansas governor to meet with Trump at White House MORE vowed to overhaul the coronavirus testing approach in the U.S. on Friday, blaming former President Obama for the slow CDC process.

“For decades the @CDCgov looked at, and studied, its testing system, but did nothing about it,” Trump tweeted. “It would always be inadequate and slow for a large scale pandemic, but a pandemic would never happen, they hoped,” he added. “President Obama made changes that only complicated things further.”

Trump said 500,000 additional tests will be available next week, with drive-thru testing locations being announced Sunday night.

Trump also declared a national emergency over the coronavirus, freeing up additional resources and funding for the federal, state and local governments fighting the disease. 

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved an emergency authorization for a faster coronavirus test made by diagnostics maker Roche.


The prevalence and promise of nutrient-packed foods

Think Twice About Following Food Trends | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Jed Fahey is a nutritional biochemist and assistant professor of medicine and director of the Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Chemoprotection Center at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. This op-ed originally appeared in the 2017 Spring/Summer issue of the Johns Hopkins Health Review.

We are obsessed with so-called superfoods, drawn to the promise of berries, roots, leaves, or seeds that can singlehandedly prevent disease, help us lose weight, improve muscle and skin tone, enhance our sex life, and even help us live longer. But do they really live up to the hype?

Jed Fahey

Image : Marshall Clarke

The term “superfood” isn't new; in fact, it first showed up around 1915 as a well-intentioned aphorism used in scientific papers to describe the bountiful nutritional and pharma­cological benefits of infant formula, soy and other legumes, and microalgae.

It began to make its way into the popular consciousness in the early 2000s, when the food industry adopted it as a marketing term to promote the latest exotic plant, fruit, or vegetable you needed to include in your diet for various health benefits. Nutritional biochemists me tease apart these foods and attempt to see whether they live up to their lofty promises.

So far we've found that, in isolation at least, most of them don't. It's unreasonable to expect a single food to bestow such comprehensive benefits.

That's not to say, of course, that eating them along with other healthy foods won't improve your health.

In fact, science continues to uncover evidence that a healthy diet combined with exercise can increase what we call the healthspan—the period in which we are in generally good health, free of chronic disease and debilitating symptoms.

So before you fill your plate with exotic and expensive foods goji berries, acai berries, chia seeds, or quinoa, check out the nutritious, delicious, and relatively inexpensive fresh foods— kale, tomatoes, blueberries, fish, and meats—that are often produced locally and sustainably.

We citizens of the most privileged nation on earth have at our fingertips foods packed with beneficial phytochemicals (compounds that are present in edible plants at very low levels but are not required to sustain life), high in protein, and loaded with polyunsaturated fats that, eaten in combination, give us the vitamins and minerals we need.

Superfoods can come at a price—and not just at the checkout.

It's also worth noting that superfoods can come at a price—and not just at the checkout.

Many of these fad foods originate in developing countries, and producing them for mass consumption can have unintended consequences for the farmers and communities involved in that production. Take the latest superfood, Moringa oleifera.

Moringa is a fast-growing tree with edible, highly nutritious leaves that are unusually rich in protein and a variety of vitamins and minerals. The tree thrives in many tropical regions of the globe where poverty and malnutrition are endemic.

There's growing peer-reviewed biomedical evidence—and there are even a few small clinical trials—to back up moringa's phytopharmaceutical potential, meaning its anti-inflammatory, cardio-protective, anti-asthmatic, antibiotic, and anti-diabetic properties.

Many of those in the international nutrition community are familiar with the stories of the moringa's first flush of popularity in the 1970s and 1980s. Speculators, perhaps well-meaning, contracted with subsistence farmers in places Bangladesh where the tree grows.

The farmers gave up traditional crops that were needed to feed their families and instead planted moringa, lured by the promise of American dollars. By the time the harvest was ready, demand in the West had already waned, and the speculators never came back.

Many farmers were left out in the cold economically, putting their families in tremendous hardship. Now that moringa is making a comeback, these get-rich-quick schemes continue.

A recent Nigeria Today article titled “Farmers can make millions from moringa farming” cites a 50 percent annual increase in the price of moringa seeds over the past few years and encourages Nigerian farmers to jump on the bandwagon. What happens if the fad fades again?

Another example is the Andean grain quinoa. Once a regional staple, it caught the attention of American consumers, and demand drove up the price higher than the locals could afford.

So now, while we dine on high-protein quinoa, Andeans go without.

The good news is that there are growing numbers of responsible and ethical producers of moringa, quinoa, and other superfoods, but this sort of scenario threatens to play out over and over again.

My advice is to think twice before you succumb to the next cure-du-jour and run out to buy this week's superfood. It might cure what ails you (though probably not). Better to take a thorough look at your lifestyle, habits, and diet. Choose from the widely available healthy foods and go for a long walk!

Posted in Health

nutrition, superfoods


COVID-19 and Essential Worker Safety

Think Twice About Following Food Trends | Johns Hopkins Medicine

If you’ve been designated an essential worker, you probably have a very different experience of the coronavirus pandemic than most of your friends and family.

While in many states the stay-at-home directive is keeping the majority of Americans from venturing out except for needed trips to the grocery store or pharmacy, essential workers return to work each day.

This heightens their risk of becoming infected and sickening others in their household.

“It’s important to take every precaution as an essential worker, because you may be an asymptomatic carrier, and we still don’t know everything about the virus itself,” says Jade Flinn, RN, a nurse educator for the biocontainment unit at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore. “I don’t want the reason my family gets the disease to be because I had an essential job to do.”

The definition of essential workers has been open to interpretation and can vary from state to state.

Healthcare workers, first responders, food and agriculture employees, and water and sanitation employees are among those included in the 14 essential employee categories listed by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Plumbers, electricians, road maintenance workers, and people in the financial industry are considered essential as well.

RELATED: The Latest News on the COVID-19 Pandemic

Hospitals Follow Special Safety Protocols

“The risk of being an essential worker is exposure to the virus, especially for those who work in the hospital,” says Flinn. But the more controlled environment of a healthcare setting, she adds, can provide a certain measure of safety.

Hospitals follow certain precautions and procedures that other workplaces may not, Flinn explains. “There are disinfectant wipes at the bedside of every patient, and I have personal protective equipment and training that helps me whenever I’m entering an environment that has COVID-19,” she says.

“When we see patients who have COVID-19, they are in a special environment called a negative air pressure room — the air in the room gets sucked out and does not go back into the hallway,” says Flinn. This setup is designed to contain the virus in the patient's room.

That’s different from the environment of an essential worker who works outside a hospital, a grocery store stocker, says Flinn. “For example, they’re touching shelves that may not have been disinfected.

I know that they often wear gloves, so that can help them, but the safety of the environment is dependent on other people wearing face masks or disinfecting surfaces — it’s a less-controlled environment.

RELATED: Faces of Coronavirus: A Nurse on the Front Lines Tells Her COVID-19 Story

Safety Lessons From a Nurse

As a nurse who cares for COVID-19 patients, Finn is extremely aware of the infection risk she faces. Here she talks about how she stays safe on the job and shares lessons for all kinds of essential workers.

Personal protective gear (PPE) Finn wears double exam gloves, an isolation gown (a class 2 medical device full-body gown, which offers the highest level of protection from contamination, according to the U.S.

Food and Drug Administration), and respiratory protection — either an N95 mask with a plastic face shield or a PAPR, which is a powered air-purifying respirator, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A PAPR has a hood that looks it belongs to a “moon suit” and is attached to a pack that sits on the waist, Flinn explains.

“By using the N95 with a face shield or wearing the PAPR, I am protecting the mucous membranes my eyes and my nose,” she says.

Workers outside of the healthcare industry should also cover their faces with some kind of cloth mask in public places when they’re unable to maintain a safe social distance. “When you put your protective equipment on, such as a mask or bandanna, there should be a mindset change,” says Flinn. “Think, ‘I have this on, I’m entering a setting where I need to be more mindful.’”

She adds, “Even people who are wearing a mask are often touching and readjusting their masks — we seem to be always gravitating to touching our face. Try to train yourself to be mindful of what you’re doing with your hands.”

Hand hygiene Hand-washing is important because we are often touching surfaces that may have the virus on it, says Flinn.

“One scenario is that the virus is on an object, then the object is placed on a surface, the surface is touched, and then the person touches their eyes and becomes infected,” she says.

That’s one of the reasons washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is important, she says.

RELATED: 10 Misconceptions About the Coronavirus

Tips for Going to Work if You May Have Been Exposed

To keep essential operations going, workers who may have been exposed to the virus but remain asymptomatic may be permitted to continue work, according to the CDC. The CDC offers guidelines for prior to and during a work shift:

  • Employers should take employees’ temperature and ask about symptoms before they start work, ideally before the employee enters the building or workspace.
  • The person should wear a mask or cloth face covering at all times at work for two weeks after last exposure.
  • The employee should stay at least six feet away from other people whenever possible.
  • All common areas such as offices, bathrooms, and shared equipment should be disinfected routinely.

Keeping Your Home Virus-Free

“Because our jobs make us go out into the public, we need to have a procedure for when we come home to ensure we are not introducing the virus into our house and exposing our families,” says Flinn.

Flinn recommends the following steps:

  • Put all the items that you wore that day straight into the wash or, if you don’t have a washing machine at home, in a separate bag.
  • Leave your shoes outside.
  • Take a shower before you get close to your family or any pets.
  • Leave backpacks or other items you had with you outside or wash them thoroughly.

Open and clear communication with your family about the plan is important, says Flinn. “For example, my family knows to keep the dogs away, so they won’t jump on me until I’m changed and showered,” she explains.

RELATED: 13 Celebrities Diagnosed With COVID-19 and What You Can Learn From Their Experiences

Tips for Overall Well-Being During the Pandemic

Essential workers may feel a lot of responsibility and fear right now, says Maura Lipinski, a licensed social worker and a behavioral health therapist at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

“Even if they are in total alignment in the mission of helping those who are sick or playing a critical part in providing the necessities that people need to live, they’re still putting their families at risk at home,” she says.

If you’re one of these workers, finding ways to take care of yourself and your family can help you stay physically and emotionally strong, says Lipinski.

Take a vacationfrom the news. Sometimes Flinn turns the television off and tries to ignore negative social media posts to protect her own mental health. “It can be disheartening, and I need to stay mentally positive,” she says.

Taking a news “vacation,” where you stop checking into the news cycle all day long can help reduce anxiety, says Lipinski. “Try to limit yourself to looking once or twice a day for updates,” she suggests.

Acknowledge your disappointment. “Even in the face of difficulty and tragedy, it’s okay to acknowledge your disappointment around certain things,” says Lipinski.

“It’s healthy to express feelings you might be experiencing about not getting days off or missing a trip you planned.

Being open about your disappointments can help you move through this better than when you repress it.”

Make self-care a priority.Finding time to take care of yourself, whether it’s going for a walk, doing yoga or tai chi, or taking a hot bath, can help you recharge, says Lipinski.

“Meditation and breathing exercises are beneficial as well. There are even targeted meditations for people who are trying to manage their anxiety around COVID-19.

” You can find them with an internet search.

Stay connected. Even if it has to be via conference calls, Zoom, or Google Hangouts, maintaining your ties to family and friends can help you stay emotionally strong, says Lipinski.

Especially during times of stress, it’s important to invest emotional energy in your key relationships. “Try having a discussion with your partner about positive traits you see in each other,” she suggests. “It may sound silly, but it can help you get through the crisis.

Instead of constantly getting feedback about what’s wrong, you’re sharing feedback about what’s right in your world.”

Focus on the positive In addition to acknowledging fear or anxiety, talk with your partner, kids, or other household members about all the steps you are taking to stay safe, says Lipinski. “Be supportive of each other. It makes sense that we’re afraid, but make a point to talk to each other about the things you did right today. Choose to focus your energy on that,” she says.

RELATED: 12 Virtual Ways to Escape Reality During the Coronavirus Pandemic


Think Twice About Following Food Trends | Johns Hopkins Medicine

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Kale, chia seeds and quinoa: They’ve all received their fair share of mediabuzz over the last few years. Because they’ve been touted as doingeverything from lowering cholesterol to preventing cancer, it makes sensethat you’d want to try these healthy foods.

But is going your way to find the latest superfood, giving your kale a massage to make it tender or trying to figure out how to make quinoa taste good worth it? Not really, says Michael Blaha, M.D., M.P.H ., director of clinical research at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease.

“Every little paper that suggests that a certain food is good for you gets blown up in the media. It’s confusing for people because one study will say coffee, eggs or whatever other food is great while another will say it’s bad. But what’s far more important than focusing on health food fads is having an overall healthy eating pattern,” Blaha says.

Misleading Healthy Food Headlines

Most people imagine a scientific study to be a controlled, cause-and-effect experiment that takes place in a lab. But studying people and their habits is much more complicated. “The majority of food studies aren’t providing conclusive evidence,” Blaha says. “They are simply giving theories observing a group of people. It’s not a controlled experiment.”

The majority of food research is observational studies, which means a group of people is followed to see what happens over time. Studies search for answers to questions such as: Who lives longer? Who is more ly to develop a certain illness? Who is happier? Scientists attempt to determine what factors in people’s lives could be responsible for certain outcomes.

But the problem is that one group of people who make a particular lifestyle choice such as drinking coffee can be different in a variety of ways from people who don’t, Blaha explains: “Maybe they sleep more or less, eat more fruit, exercise more, make more money, have a better job or are different races or ethnicities. It’s just impossible to tease out the effect of an individual food someone’s busy, complicated life.”

Better Than a Diet

Instead of focusing on a few healthy foods to eat, it’s much better to have a healthy eating philosophy that guides your decisions when you’re planning meals, grocery shopping or going out to eat, Blaha says. Otherwise, it can be difficult to navigate the more than 200 food decisions you make each day, most of which are done on autopilot.

For example, if you follow a Mediterranean-style diet — which has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease — you’re more ly to make decisions consistent with that philosophy of eating whole and nutritious foods. You’ll select more vegetables and fish at the grocery store, use olive oil in your cooking, and choose salmon and couscous over macaroni and cheese at a restaurant.

“It’s better to ignore the hype about individual foods and instead try for an overall healthy eating pattern, the Mediterranean diet,” advises Blaha. “There’s good evidence that it leads to better heart health, although we still can’t say whether it’s the nuts or the oils or point to any specific food within the diet as being the one that makes the difference.”

A healthy eating pattern includes more vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean proteins such as fish and chicken, and healthy oils. Processed, packaged foods aren’t part of a healthy eating pattern.

But, says Blaha, “You can have dark chocolate on occasion, a cup of coffee a day, or include this or that healthy oil, as long as it’s part of a general healthy diet pattern.”


COVID-19 Tip Sheet: Story Ideas from Johns Hopkins

Think Twice About Following Food Trends | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Newswise — From The Front Lines: A Thank You from Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital Physician Meghan Martin, M.D.

It seems there will never be enough “thank-you’s” for the incredible doctors, nurses technicians and support staff who are working around the clock to help patients with this dangerous disease. It is their dedication, determination and spirit that allow Johns Hopkins to deliver the promise of medicine.

Meghan Martin, M.D., is an emergency medicine physician at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. In her role, she cares for some of Johns Hopkins’ youngest patients. Martin is available to speak with the press about the changes she’s had to make in patient care as the COVID-19 pandemic persists.

New App Aims to Spot COVID-19 Outbreaks

The COVID-19 tracker app is part of a research trial

Identifying the next COVID-19 outbreak may seem impossible to predict, but a new app that collects body temperature recordings may give researchers advance warning of an impending hotspot of illness.

The app, available through Google Play and the Apple App Store, asks users to record their body temperature and respond to questions about key COVID-19 symptoms. The anonymized data is linked to a randomly generated ID and stored on a secure server. Temperature and symptom data are mapped geographically to provide a display of anomalies occurring across the country.

“This type of data tracking could be really useful to enable targeted large-scale testing efforts,” says Robert Stevens, M.D.

, associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“It could allow us to identify beforehand areas that are at increased or decreased risk and inform decisions regarding mitigation and lifting social distancing restrictions.” 

Stevens worked with epidemiologist Frank Curriero, of Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, and electrical and computer engineer Ralph Etienne-Cummings, of the Whiting School for Engineering, to develop the app, which they dubbed “COVID Control — A Johns Hopkins University Study.”

The team will analyze the data collected to identify unexplained increases in body temperatures and generate real-time risk estimates of potential COVID-19 outbreaks. This predictive tool will allow health care systems and government agencies to better deploy resources to mitigate the effects of the disease.

Stevens is available to discuss this research trial.

Find more information on COVID Control here. And, read a recent article about the app in the HUB.

Obesity Linked to Severity of COVID-19 Infection in Younger Adults

As the COVID-19 pandemic was initially spreading, data from China and Italy suggested that only about 15% of people under the age of 50 were being hospitalized. However, when the disease reached the United States, physicians anecdotally noted what seemed an uptick in the number of younger patients with disease serious enough to require intensive care.

Although preexisting conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure have been linked to greater susceptibility to the virus, obesity wasn’t on the radar as a risk factor early in the coronavirus outbreak.

That’s because only about 6% of Chinese people and 20% of Italians are obese.

The United States, on the other hand, has a 40% rate of obesity in adults, making researchers wonder if this might factor into the younger population’s showing up with severe disease.

In a new correspondence published on April 30, 2020, in The Lancet, Johns Hopkins researchers examined the link between age and obesity of American patients with COVID-19 hospitalized in intensive care units (ICUs).

Seventy-five percent of the patients had a body mass index (BMI) of 26 or greater, indicating the person as overweight; and 25% had a BMI higher than 35, designating the person as morbidly obese. In general, they found that those patients in the ICU that were younger had higher BMIs, suggesting that younger Americans with obesity are ly at greater risk from COVID-19.

The researchers say that young people should pay attention to social distancing and stay vigilant about when to seek medical treatment in the early stages of their disease to help reduce the risks.

The first author, David Kass, M.D., the Abraham and Virginia Weiss Professor of Cardiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is available to discuss the implications of his findings.

Be Aware of Lyme Disease Risks in The Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Spring and summer are the highest risk seasons for contracting Lyme disease from the bite of an infected deer tick.

With most of the country staying at home and social distancing, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people are spending more time in their gardens and on walks in their neighborhoods and nearby woods — potentially putting them at higher risk for Lyme disease.

There are over 300,000 new cases of Lyme disease reported each year in the United States. Daily practices are important in disease prevention.

Hand-washing is recognized as being helpful in preventing COVID-19. wise, daily tick checks are helpful in avoiding Lyme disease. Another effective Lyme disease tip is to treat clothing with tick pesticides, such as permethrin. It is important to take preventative measures as well as to recognize how early presentations of Lyme disease compare and contrast with those of COVID-19.

Flu- symptoms of fever, severe fatigue, malaise, chills, sweats, body/muscle aches and headaches, are present in early Lyme disease, as well as in early COVID-19.

Lyme disease can also present with a distinct large, expanding, bull’s eye-looking rash called erythema migrans, whereas COVID-19 rash presentations may include patchy red lesions that more resemble measles, chicken pox or frostbite. John Aucott, M.D.

, director of the Johns Hopkins Lyme Disease Research Center and associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is available to discuss prevention tips, as well as the clinical impact of Lyme disease and how to distinguish early Lyme disease signs and symptoms from COVID-19. Mark Soloski Ph.D.

, co-director for Basic Research for the Johns Hopkins Lyme Disease Research Center and professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is available to highlight details surrounding the immune response in Lyme disease and how it may be different from the response to COVID-19.

Don’t Skip Needed Care in Fear of COVID-19

With the stay-at-home measures and fear of catching the new coronavirus, people may be thinking twice before deciding what merits a visit to the doctor’s office, an urgent care clinic or the emergency room. There are ways to stay safe and protected when seeking needed care during the pandemic.

It’s important for people to continue to obtain care in-person or remotely when medical attention is needed, especially for those with preexisting or chronic conditions who require follow-up with a health care provider. Not getting care, particularly for chronic illnesses and urgent or emergency conditions, puts people at high risk for complications later.

These complications could end up being worse than the COVID-19 disease.

The following Johns Hopkins Medicine experts can address ways to stay safe during the pandemic, what to seek care for and why it’s important to follow up with a health care provider for certain conditions.

Heart Attackand Cardiovascular Issues

Erin Michos, M.D., M.H.S., Director of Women’s Cardiovascular Health

Stroke and Neurological Issues

Victor Urrutia, M.D., Director of the Johns Hopkins Hospital Comprehensive Stroke Center

Sickle Cell Anemia

Sophie Lanzkron, M.D., M.H.S., Director of the Sickle Cell Center for Adults at The Johns Hopkins Hospital

Older Adult Care

Alicia Arbaje, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., Director of Transitional Care Research at Johns Hopkins

Asthma and COPD

William Checkley, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Medicine


Kathleen Page, M.D., Associate Professor of Medicine

Emergency Medicine

Barbara Maliszewski, R.N., M.S., Assistant Director of Nursing, Department of Emergency Medicine

Tracking the Mental Health of Frontline Workers — and How Their Loved Ones Can Help

While the symptoms and effects of COVID-19 continue to develop in unexpected ways, the psychological patterns of frontline workers will follow a predictable pattern, according to Albert W. Wu, M.D., M.P.H.

, an internist at Johns Hopkins Medicine and director of the Center for Health Services and Outcomes Research. And, for many doctors and nurses treating coronavirus patients, “we’re at a dangerous point,” he says.

“We’ve gone past the honeymoon phase.”

The adrenalin surge and group cohesion that marked the initial response to the pandemic is giving way to discouragement, exhaustion and burnout among health care workers, explains Wu, a professor of health policy and management, who conducts research on staff support.

Wu is available to trace the emotional highs and lows of frontline workers in a crisis, as well as offer advice as to what their loved ones can do to help — from organizing family conference calls to acknowledging they can unknowingly add stress. “By supporting them, you are supporting the fight against COVID-19,” he says.

Making Sure Vulnerable Communities Have Access to Reliable Information and COVID-19 Care

For many in the Latino community “there’s absolutely no safety net,” says Kathleen Page, M.D., who serves a large population of immigrant patients. “We’re seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases among Latino immigrants, particularly those with limited English proficiency (LEP), who most ly are undocumented.”

To bridge the gap, Page was instrumental in setting up — with the Esperanza Center in Baltimore—a hotline for Spanish speakers. She is also providing information to the Latino community through Live chats, with support from Johns Hopkins Centro Sol and other community partners.

In addition, with collaboration from the Johns Hopkins Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Office of Language Access Services, Page is establishing a bilingual provider consultation service to support the care of Spanish-speaking patients with LEP admitted to the Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

Her team is also assisting the Baltimore City Health Department with contact investigations in this community.

“We’re in the midst of setting up a Spanish provider care team that will be embedded within other care teams in the hospital, to help improve communication with Spanish speaking patients and their families.”

Page is available for interview on this topic.

Mitigating Issues in Senior Care Facilities

Infectious disease specialist Morgan J. Katz, M.D., M.H.S., says 60 to 70 percent of long-term care facility (assisted living and skilled nursing) residents are testing positive for COVID-19 but are asymptomatic when they are tested.

Katz is part of the Maryland Strike Team, a collaboration between the National Guard, Hospital Systems and the State that focuses efforts on stabilizing nursing homes struggling with COVID outbreaks by providing widespread testing, infection prevention recommendations and care delivery.

Maryland’s strike teams were formed after the confirmation that hundreds of elderly care facilities in Maryland have confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Katz is available to discuss what the team is doing; the next steps; and needs for widespread regular testing of long-term care facilities to reduce mortality and a large influx of nursing home residents into acute health care systems.

For information about the coronavirus pandemic from Johns Hopkins Medicine, visit the coronavirus information page. For information on the coronavirus from throughout the Johns Hopkins enterprise, including the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and The Johns Hopkins University, visit the Coronavirus Resource Center.


Johns Hopkins Opens New Center for Psychedelic Research

Think Twice About Following Food Trends | Johns Hopkins Medicine
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Since childhood, Rachael Petersen had lived with an unexplainable sense of grief that no drug or talk therapy could entirely ease. So in 2017 she volunteered for a small clinical trial at Johns Hopkins University that was testing psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, for chronic depression.

“I was so depressed,” Ms. Petersen, 29, said recently. “I felt that the world had abandoned me, that I’d lost the right to exist on this planet. Really, it was my thoughts were so stuck, I felt isolated.”

The prospect of tripping for hours on a heavy dose of psychedelics was scary, she said, but the reality was profoundly different: “I experienced this kind of unity, of resonant love, the sense that I’m not alone anymore, that there was this thing holding me that was bigger than my grief. I felt welcomed back to the world.”

On Wednesday, Johns Hopkins Medicine announced the launch of the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, to study compounds LSD and psilocybin for a range of mental health problems, including anorexia, addiction and depression.

The center is the first of its kind in the country, established with $17 million in commitments from wealthy private donors and a foundation. Imperial College London launched what is thought to be the world’s first such center in April, with some $3.

5 million from private sources.

“This is an exciting initiative that brings new focus to efforts to learn about mind, brain and psychiatric disorders by studying the effects of psychedelic drugs,” Dr. John Krystal, chair of psychiatry at Yale University, said in an email about the Johns Hopkins center.

The centers at Johns Hopkins and Imperial College give “psychedelic medicine,” as some call it, a long-sought foothold in the scientific establishment.

Since the early 2000s, several scientists have been exploring the potential of psychedelics and other recreational drugs for psychiatric problems, and their early reports have been tantalizing enough to generate a stream of positive headlines and at least two popular books.

The emergence of depression treatment with the anesthetic and club drug ketamine and related compounds, which cause out-of-body sensations, also has piqued interest in mind-altering agents as aids to therapy.

But the drugs’ history of abuse and the still thin evidence base have kept the field largely on the fringes, and many experts are still wary. Psychedelic trials cannot be “blinded” in the same way most drug trials are: participants know when they have been dosed, and reports of improvement aren’t yet standardized.

“It raises the caution that the investigation of hallucinogens as treatments may be endangered by grandiose descriptions of their effects and unquestioning acceptance of their value,” Dr.

Guy Goodwin, a professor of psychiatry at Oxford wrote, in a recent commentary, in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. “Timothy Leary was a research psychologist before he decided the whole world should ‘Turn on, tune in, and drop out.

’ It is best if some steps are not retraced.”

The scientists doing the work, at Hopkins, Imperial College and elsewhere, acknowledge as much, and say the new infusion of funding will help clarify which drugs help which patients, and when the altered states are ineffectual, or potentially dangerous.

“It’s been hand-to-mouth in this field, and now we have the core funding and infrastructure to really advance psychedelic science in a way that hasn’t been done before,” said Roland Griffiths, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins who will direct the new center. Dr.

Griffiths said the new funds will cover six full-time faculty, five postdoctoral scientists and the costs of running trials.

Among the first of those trials are a test of psilocybin for anorexia nervosa and of psilocybin for psychological distress and cognitive impairment in early Alzheimer’s disease.

“The one that’s crying out to be done is for opiate-use disorder, and we also plan to look at that,” Dr. Griffiths said.

Trials using psychedelics or other mind-altering drugs tend to have a similar structure.

Participants, whether they have a diagnosis of PTSD, depression or substance abuse, do extensive preparation with a therapist, which includes a complete medical history and advice and information about the study drug.

People with a history of psychosis are typically excluded, as psychedelics can exacerbate their condition. And those on psychiatric medications usually taper off beforehand.

On treatment day, the person comes into the clinic, takes the drug and sits or lies down, under continuous observation by a therapist, who provides support and occasional guidance as the drug’s effects become felt. In the Johns Hopkins trial that Ms. Petersen joined, participants wore eyeshades and headphones, lay down and listened to music.

“The first trip lasted six and half hours, and I didn’t move,” she recalled. A week later, she returned for another dose; each dose was about twice what recreational users take. Therapy using psychedelics or other mind-altering compounds typically involves just one or two sessions on the drug.

“I would be lying if I said aspects of my experience weren’t deeply challenging and upsetting,” Ms. Petersen said. “The therapist would grab my hand — would save me in a moment — and encourage me to adopt a posture of welcoming everything, a meditation.”

The literature so far, from trials these, suggests that psilocybin is promising for chronic depression and addiction, and that M.D.M.A., or ecstasy, can help people with post-traumatic stress, including veterans. Cannabis and LSD also have been tried, for addiction and other problems, with mixed results.

One finding many drug studies share is that any positive effects are far more ly to last if the participant has an especially intense trip. The intensity is subjectively graded using a variety of measures, including what scientists call the MEQ, for “mystical experience, questionnaire,” although Dr. Griffiths allowed that the term is misleading.

“That was a significant branding mistake, because awe is not fun,” he said. “There’s something existentially shaking about these experiences.”

It is that existential reckoning, the theory goes, that prompts many people to rejigger their identities or priorities in a way that reduces habitual behaviors or lines of thinking that cause distress.

In a continuing trial, Matthew Johnson, an addiction specialist at Johns Hopkins and a member of the new psychedelic center, is investigating how psilocybin treatment compares to use of a nicotine patch in helping people to quit smoking. So far, in the 39 people who have been in the study for at least six months, the abstinence rate in the psilocybin group is 50 percent, compared to 32 percent using the patch.

“The most compelling thing that makes psilocybin different from other addiction drugs is that it’s showing this cross-drug efficacy,” Dr. Johnson said. “It appears to have a similar effect, regardless of what drug the person is addicted to.”

That great potential, across many different diagnoses, is what attracted a small group of donors to Johns Hopkins, said Tim Ferriss, who brought in half the donated amount from investors, including more than $2 million from himself. Mr.

Ferriss, an investor and author, said that depression and addiction ran in his own family, and that available treatments were often inadequate. His investment in the center, he said, “was a chance to have a large output from a small input — a real Archimedes lever.

” The Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation provided the balance of the commitments.

Ms. Petersen is convinced that her psilocybin trip made a lasting difference. She has had one relapse since the trial, she said, and continued on antidepressant drugs. As a result of the trial, she also reordered her life, committing more time to things that are emotionally sustaining, and letting go of those there weren’t.

“I think that trial was the single most effective thing I’ve done to manage my mental health, and I had tried almost everything,” she said. “And it leads me to believe that we need to radically change how we think about mental health.”

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