The Briefing provides an at-a-glance view of some important developments in the information universe surrounding COVID-19. The views presented here are solely those of ECRI Horizon Scanning and have not been vetted by other stakeholders.

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The infectious diseases that we thought we understood well, such as acute hepatitis and monkeypox, seem to be following unusual new patterns. Some experts think that 2 years of COVID-19 precautions might have increased our susceptibility to viruses that we used to encounter regularly, and that we should be ready for unexpected outbreaks of diseases caused by influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, and enterovirus D68.

In addition to the new cautions about established viruses, our picture of what long COVID looks like, and who has it, is becoming clearer by using studies of electronic health records (EHR) and international classification of disease (ICD) codes. One study revealed that 75% of patients diagnosed with the new ICD-10 code (U09.9) for “Post COVID-19 condition, unspecified” had not been hospitalized for COVID-19. Another found that among patients who have recovered from COVID-19, one in five aged 18–64 years and one in four aged 65 years or older experienced at least 1 post-COVID condition (or Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 [PASC]). A third study used machine learning to create the first non–survey driven clinical description of post-COVID conditions that might provide more accurate diagnoses and identify patients who have not self-reported.

Some think that the pandemic, the disruptions to daily life, and the concern about future outbreaks have taken a toll on Americans’ mental health. Many companies have launched promising smartphone app-based interventions during the pandemic (see Topics to Watch for one aimed at adolescents). Despite the potential, downloads and monthly active user rates have been on the decline recently. Furthermore, the FDA plans a transition back to a stricter regulatory pathway that might delay uptake even further.  

Estimation and Monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 Immunity in People with Compromised Immune Systems

At a Glance

  • People with compromised immune systems might not mount sufficient immune responses to vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, which increases their risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19.
  • Higher preexposure SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody (NAb) levels are associated with better clinical outcomes. Quantifying and monitoring NAbs might provide useful information regarding individual risk and health care options to those in vulnerable populations.
  • However, the FDA advises that although antibody tests can play an important role in identifying individuals exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, these tests should not be used to determine immunity or protection against COVID-19 at any time, especially after vaccination.
  • Despite this, manufacturers are developing and marketing tests to quantify SARS-CoV-2 NAbs for purposes other than identifying those with an immune response from prior infection.
  • Quantitative antibody testing might cost between $150 and $300 per patient.

SparkRx to Reduce Symptoms of Depression in Adolescents

At a Glance

  • SparkRx is a prescription digital therapeutic that offers a self-guided program intended to reduce symptoms of depression in adolescents. Delivered through a smartphone application (app), it is a 5-week-long structured program that is accessed on-demand and independently by the user.
  • Rates of depression and health care provider shortages have both risen during the COVID-19 pandemic. SparkRx might help increase adolescent access to mental health care for depression and alleviate mental health care provider shortages.
  • Preliminary data from a completed unphased clinical trial in 227 adolescents aged 13 to 21 years suggested SparkRx significantly decreased depression symptoms and increased the remission rate compared with a control intervention.
  • SparkRx is currently available to eligible patients with an access code under the FDA’s enforcement policy for digital health devices for treating psychiatric disorders during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

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Commentary in this COVID-19 Scan reflects preliminary views of ECRI Horizon Scanning and internal ECRI stakeholders.
The information contained in this document has not been vetted by other stakeholders.

We welcome your comments on this Scan. Send them by email to [email protected].

Posted: June 3, 2022

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