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New peer reviews of COVID-19 preprints from the MIT Press journal Rapid Reviews: COVID-19

Peer reviewers highlight promising research on increased risk for severe complications from COVID-19 in post-menopausal women; improved prognostic scoring for hospital admissions; and a new therapeutic approach

Rapid Reviews: COVID-19 (RR:C19), is an open-access overlay journal published by the MIT Press that accelerates peer review of COVID-19-related research preprints to advance new and important findings and prevent the dissemination of false or misleading scientific news.

For the month of August, the preprints selected for review covered a wide range of subjects with peer reviewers finding recommendations for new prognostic scores to guide clinical decision making and hospital admissions and a study of estrogen levels and COVID-19 symptoms in women particularly noteworthy and useful.

Peer reviewers also flag as potentially misleading new research on whether beta-coronavirus MHV, a pathogen of mice, uses deacidification of lysosomes to exit cells while avoiding degradation. They caution decision-makers to not act on this research.

New August peer reviews from RR:C19, in order of the evidence scale rating (strong, reliable, potentially informative, not informative, or misleading) as provided by each of the two reviewers:

  • “The utility of established prognostic scores in COVID-19 hospital admissions: a multicentre prospective evaluation of CURB-65, NEWS2, and qSOFA” by Freddy Frost, et al. Preprint | Reviews

    Evidence Scale Rating: Strong/Strong

    Summary: This robust analysis is novel and of high interest for the medical community. This study informs how new prognostic scores should be created to more accurately guide clinical decision-making in patients with COVID-19. Reviewers: Michael Meisner and Kapil Gururangan
  • “Progenitor identification and SARS-CoV-2 infection in long-term human distal lung organoid cultures” by Ameen A. Salahudeen, et al. Preprint | Reviews

    Evidence Scale Rating: Reliable/Strong

    Summary: This study offers a chemically-defined human lung organoid culture system and employs this model to identify club cells as a novel target in SARS-CoV-2 infection. The findings reported are reliable for informing future COVID-19 research. Reviewers: Jaymin Kathiriya and Jeffrey A. Whitsett
  • “Estrogen and COVID-19 symptoms: associations in women from the COVID Symptom Study” by Ricardo Costeira, et al. Preprint | Reviews

    Evidence Scale Rating: Reliable/Reliable

    Summary: This is a reliable study that shows the protective role of estrogens against COVID-19 severe complications among 1.6 million UK women. Novel findings show potential increased risk amongst postmenopausal women and a potentially protective role of COCP in premenopausal women. Reviewers: Giovanni Grandi and Azure Grant
  • “Anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG from severely ill COVID-19 patients promotes macrophage hyper-inflammatory responses” by Willianne Hoepel et al.. Preprint | Review

    Evidence Scale Rating: Reliable/Reliable

    Summary: This study introduces a novel therapeutic approach to treating COVID-19. Study motivates further investigation of whether selectively inhibiting FcR receptor-driven inflammation could result in more targeted and effective COVID-19 interventions. Reviewers: Sarah Stanley, Scott Biering, and Saumendra N. Sarkar
  • “Intestinal receptor of SARS-CoV-2 in inflamed IBD tissue is downregulated by HNF4A in ileum and upregulated by interferon regulating factors in colon” by Bram Verstockt, et al. Preprint | Review

    Evidence Scale Rating: Reliable/Potentially Informative

    Summary: Study claims increased susceptibility of IBD patients to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Study lacks sufficient evidence to support the authors’ claims concerning the importance of IBD medication in COVID-19 risk management. Claims are not actionable except to prompt further research. Reviewers: Girija Goyal, Cicely Fadel, Donald Ingber, and Magdalena Kasendra
  • “Medical Costs of Keeping the US Economy Open During COVID-19” by Jiangzhuo Chen, et al. Preprint | Reviews

    Evidence Scale Rating: Reliable/Potentially Informative

    Summary: A major benefit of this analysis is that it presents a credible,flexible model for estimating the costs of COVID-19, although models will require updating with valid evidence. Sufficient compliance with lockdown guidelines could substantially reduce the medical costs of COVID-19. Reviewers: Christine Eibner, Raffaele Vardavas, and Mehdi Shiva
  • “The infection fatality rate of COVID-19 inferred from seroprevalence data” by John Ioannidis. Preprint | Reviews

    Evidence Scale Rating: Potentially informative/Potentially informative

    Summary: This study finds substantial heterogeneity in the infection fatality rate (IFR)across different locations. Data are useful and add to the emerging picture on IFR, however, substantial conclusions cannot be drawn. Reviewers: Timothy Hallett, Kenji Mizumoto, and Gerardo Chowell
  • “Predicted success of prophylactic antiviral therapy to block or delay SARS-CoV-2 infection depends on the drug’s mechanism of action” by Peter Czuppon, et al. Preprint | Review

    Evidence Scale Rating: Reliable/Not informative

    Summary: Authors claim that stochastic modeling can be used to predict the efficacy of repurposed drugs to prevent or treat SARS-CoV-2 infections. Readers and decision makers should assess results with some caution. Reviewers: Anna Bershteyn and Praveen P Nekkar Rao
  • “Clinical validation of innovative, low cost, kit-free, RNA processing protocol for RT-PCR based COVID-19 testing” by Nikhil Shri Sahajpal, et al. Preprint | Reviews

    Evidence Scale Rating: Potentially informative/Not Informative

    Summary: While informative, there are many flaws in the protocol testing if SARS-CoV2 RNA can be amplified from nasopharyngeal swab samples. The protocol does not appear to support claims that authors have made that this approach will decrease assay time, reduce cost, and instrumentation. Reviewers: Aditi Bhargava Bhargava and Mohamed Sharafeldin
  • “β-Coronaviruses use lysosomal organelles for cellular egress” by S Ghost, et al. Preprint | Reviews

    Evidence Scale Rating: Misleading/Potentially informative

    Summary: This study claims β-coronaviruses utilize a lysosome-mediated egress mechanism. In its current form, this pre-print includes numerous unsubstantiated, misleading, or poorly supported claims and is unreliable for informing future COVID-19 research. Reviewers: David Avram Sanders and Cristina Risco Ortiz

RR:C19 is published by the MIT Press and the editorial offices are located at UC Berkeley, headed by editor-in-chief Stefano M. Bertozzi, Professor of Health Policy and Management and Dean Emeritus of the School of Public Health at University of California Berkeley. The journal is funded by a grant from the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation and hosted on PubPub, an open-source publishing platform from the Knowledge Futures Group.

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