2023-12-08 General

This week’s post is a little short because I performed a rapid unscheduled cranio-planetary docking maneuver while on a bike ride. (I’m fine — helmets are awesome! — but I’m taking it easy for a few days.)


Two weeks ago, I reported on a case studies paper which found that nicotine patches helped some Long COVID patients a lot. This (very long) lay article has a lot more discussion on many aspects of nicotine. About halfway down, the author of the above case studies paper gives recommendations for how to self-dose (which is complicated enough that I’m not going to summarize — you should read it yourself if you want to self-dose!), and has links to a Facebook group for self-dosers. A survey of self-dosers (from October 2023) says that 20% felt more than 50% better, 36% felt 0-50% better, 20% felt about the same, 5% felt worse, and 17% were still in process.

This paper from UK and Germany (2023-12-04) found that the majority of the Long COVID patients performed worse than two age-adjusted standard deviations slower on the Simple Reaction Time test than people without Long COVID. Note that the Simple Reaction Time test takes about thirty seconds, and could be a good diagnostic test.

PCC means Post COVID Conditions i.e. Long COVID; PCC Ox means the Oxford cohort with Long COVID.

This paper from China (20231207) found that Long COVID patients who got probiotics for six months were ~2-3 times more likely to be rid of serious symptoms (e.g. fatigue, brain fog, gastrointestinal distress) at followup than those who got placebo. (Note: I can’t figure out if the followup was six months after the start of treatment or six months after the end of treatment, sorry.)

The probiotics contained 20 billion colony-forming units of three bacterial strains (B adolescentis, B bifidum, and B longum) with three prebiotic compounds (galacto-oligosaccharides, xylo-oligosaccharides, and resistant dextrin), administered as 10 billion colony-forming units in sachets twice daily.

This case study paper from USA (20231202) found that eight patients with brain fog who took guanfacine plus N-acetylcysteine (commonly called NAC) had reduced brain fog compared to controls. However, four other patients dropped out because of unpleasant side effects, and brain fog returned if they stopped taking it. It’s a treatment and not a cure.


This article (20231205) reports that Health Canada has approved Novavax’ XBB 1.5 vax.

Mitigation Measures

I ran across this old paper from UK (2021-06-30) that practically makes me want to cry. A hospital noticed that healthcare workers who worked in COVID-19 (“red”) wards caught COVID-19 a lot more than HCW in non-COVID (“green”) wards. Not being entirely oblivious, they changed the policy on masking from only using N95-class masks when doing aerosol-generating procedures (and flimsy surgical mask otherwise) to requiring N95-class masks all the time. Whaddayaknow, the infection rate plummeted:

You can see clearly here just how hammered the red ward HCWs were before the switch, and how after the switch, red and green wards had similar rates of infections. (Note that the community transmission was increasing around the time of the mask switchover.)

Those poor health care workers who had to work without N95s for so long!


Holy F, this paper from USA (which I know is not Canada, but it’s nearby) says that deaths in prisons rose by 77% in 2020 compared to 2019 — which is a 3.4x increase. This is despite there being some early releases on health grounds.

This paper from UK (20231018) found that about 1-2% of hospital patients between June 2020 and March 2021 caught COVID-19 in the hospital. Ouch. We need better ventilation in hospitals!

This paper from UK (20231125) found that wearing eyeglasses reduced your risk of catching COVID-19 by 15%.


This paper from Brazil (20231206) found that kids’ risk of neurodevelopmental impairment went up by 3.4x if they were exposed to COVID-19 while they were in the womb.

Recommended Reading

This very long and detailed paper from UK (2023-08-24) says that masks do in fact reduce transmission. (It’s long!! Don’t read it unless you really want to geek out about masks and research!)

This article from UK on masks (2023-10-31) is much more approachable, and spends a lot of time explaining why it is so hard to do research on mask wearing.

This blog post discusses (among other things) incorrect messages that people get from graphics about how effective masks are.

This blog post discusses how JN.1, the BA.2.86 descendant, is taking over in many parts of the world. (NB: I have not seen it show up yet in BC’s genomic surveillance charts.)