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What a Big New Study on Malaria Drugs as Covid-19 Treatments Tells Us–And What It Doesn’t

May 22, 2020

(STAT News) – A new study underlines safety concerns about using the malaria drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat Covid-19, and heightens questions about whether or not the drugs are effective at all. The study, which was published in the Lancet, cannot answer the question of whether or not hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine can help patients fight off Covid-19 or whether the drugs increase or decrease the death rates in those patients. Those answers can only come from large studies in which patients are randomly assigned to either receive the drugs or a placebo. Dozens of such studies are ongoing.

How to Improve and Protect Nursing Homes from Outbreaks

May 22, 2020

(New York Times) – The doctors, researchers and advocates who have been paying close attention for years are appalled at the way the coronavirus has devastated the nation’s nursing homes — but they’re not shocked. “Every geriatrician knew what was coming,” said Dr. Mike Wasserman, a geriatrician and president of the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine. Robyn Grant, the director of public policy and advocacy for the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care: “The sheer numbers are horrifying. The underlying factors that have contributed are no surprise; they’ve been issues of concern for a long time.”

Exclusive: Russian Ventilators Reached U.S. States Without FDA Oversight

May 22, 2020

(Reuters) – Russian-made ventilators now under investigation for causing deaths in Russia were not authorized by U.S. health regulators before the same model was sent to New York and New Jersey at the height of their coronavirus outbreaks, Reuters has learned.

Genetically-Engineered Malaria Vaccines Show Promise in the Clinic

May 22, 2020

(Chemical & Engineering News) – Two experimental malaria vaccines have delivered promising results in first-in-human trials, demonstrating how genetic engineering is driving a new wave of vaccines that could protect people from this killer disease. The World Health Organization estimates that there are more than 200 million cases of malaria each year, causing almost half a million deaths. Although malaria can be treated with drugs, researchers have spent decades trying to develop vaccines that could prevent and potentially even help eradicate malaria.

America’s Patchwork Pandemic Is Fraying Even Further

May 21, 2020

(The Atlantic) – I spoke with two dozen experts who agreed that in the absence of a vaccine, the patchwork will continue. Cities that thought the worst had passed may be hit anew. States that had lucky escapes may find themselves less lucky. The future is uncertain, but Americans should expect neither a swift return to normalcy nor a unified national experience, with an initial spring wave, a summer lull, and a fall resurgence. “The talk of a second wave as if we’ve exited the first doesn’t capture what’s really happening,” says Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.  

Ethics of Controlled Human Infection to Address COVID-19

May 21, 2020

(Science) – Development of an effective vaccine is the clearest path to controlling the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. To accelerate vaccine development, some researchers are pursuing, and thousands of people have expressed interest in participating in, controlled human infection studies (CHIs) with severe acute respiratory syndrome–coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) In CHIs, a small number of participants are deliberately exposed to a pathogen to study infection and gather preliminary efficacy data on experimental vaccines or treatments. We have been developing a comprehensive, state-of-the-art ethical framework for CHIs that emphasizes their social value as fundamental to justifying these studies.

A Massive Cyclone Battered India and Bangladesh. The Coronavirus Makes Recovery Even Harder.

May 21, 2020

(Vox) – A devastating cyclone pounded India and Bangladesh on Wednesday, killing more than 80 people and leaving thousands homeless. That will only compound the crisis those countries face from the coronavirus. Cyclone Amphan, considered one of the most dangerous storms in recent memory, wiped out bridges, trees, electric lines, and homes after making landfall. The storm was weaker than expected once it hit the region’s coastline, but it still left a wake of destruction, forcing many to live without power or shelter.

US Begins Crackdown on Unvetted Virus Blood Tests

May 21, 2020

(ABC News) – U.S. regulators are moving ahead with a crackdown on scores of antibody tests for the coronavirus that have not yet been shown to work. The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday published a list of more than two dozen test makers that have failed to file applications to remain on the market or already pulled their products.

Roe v. Wade: Woman Behind US Abortion Ruling Was Paid to Recant

May 21, 2020

(BBC) – The woman behind the 1973 ruling legalising abortion in the US is seen admitting in a new documentary that her stunning change of heart on the issue in later life was “all an act”. Norma McCorvey, known as Jane Roe in the US Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v Wade, shocked the country in 1995 when she came out against abortion. But in new footage, McCorvey alleges she was paid to switch sides.

A New Entry in the Race for a Coronavirus Vaccine: Hope

May 20, 2020

(New York Times) – In a medical research project nearly unrivaled in its ambition and scope, volunteers worldwide are rolling up their sleeves to receive experimental vaccines against the coronavirus — only months after the virus was identified. Companies like Inovio and Pfizer have begun early tests of candidates in people to determine whether their vaccines are safe. Researchers at the University of Oxford in England are testing vaccines in human subjects, too, and say they could have one ready for emergency use as soon as September. Moderna on Monday announced encouraging results of a safety trial of its vaccine in eight volunteers. There were no published data, but the news alone sent hopes soaring.

Apple and Google Roll Out Their New Exposure Notification Tool. Interest Seems Limited.

May 20, 2020

(Vox) – The Apple-Google exposure notification tool, announced on April 10, is one step closer to being launched. The two companies released software that will help public health authorities build apps that incorporate their exposure notification tool. Apple, specifically, rolled out a software update to iOS devices that some users could download immediately. This big public unveiling raises a couple very important questions: Will any government agencies actually build those apps? And will anybody use them? 

Colombian Police Use Drones to Detect High Body Temperatures

May 20, 2020

(Reuters) – It is not a bird, a plane or Superman: the aircraft humming in the skies above Colombia’s capital Bogota are instead police drones that are meant to detect people with high temperatures or those violating the country’s coronavirus quarantine.  If a drone detects someone with a potential fever it sends the location to a medical team that seeks out the person to determine if they have coronavirus symptoms, officials said on Wednesday.

Vaccinations Fall to Alarming Rates, C.D.C. Study Shows

May 19, 2020

(New York Times) – During the pandemic, the rates of childhood vaccinations have dropped significantly as many parents have been reluctant to schedule well-child visits at their doctors’ offices, for fear of contracting the coronavirus. As a result, children have fallen behind on vaccinations for diseases like measles and pertussis, better known as whooping cough. According to a new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccination rates in May for children under 2 years old in Michigan fell to alarming rates, including fewer than half of infants 5 months or younger.

‘Like a War Situation Here.’ Ukraine’s Overburdened Doctors’ Desperate COVID-19 Fight

May 19, 2020

(TIME) – The deplorable conditions — broken or substandard equipment, a lack of drugs, low wages — reflects the meltdown of Ukraine’s health care system, which has been quickly overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic even with the country’s relatively low number of cases. Ukraine’s corruption-plagued economy has been weakened by six years of war with Russia-backed separatists in the east. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s year-old administration inherited an underfunded health care system that was further crippled by a reform launched by his predecessor that drastically cut state subsidies.

Global Trial to Assess Chloroquine Against COVID-19 in Health Workers

May 19, 2020

(UPI) – More than 50,000 healthcare workers worldwide will be enrolled in a clinical trial to assess chloroquine’s potential in protecting against COVID-19, researchers at the Washington University of St. Louis School of Medicine announced Monday. The U.S. arm of the study, which will begin enrolling participants later this month, is being led by the school. Results are expected in early 2021, researchers said. 

Coronavirus Contact-Tracing Apps: Can They Slow the Spread of COVID-19?

May 19, 2020

(Nature) – As the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic continues, much of the world is pinning its hopes of easing lockdowns on being able to quickly identify people who might have been exposed to the virus. But such ‘contact tracing’ is generally a laborious, slow process that relies on in-person interviews and detective work. Enter the smartphone: a new breed of app aims to automate the process of retracing a person’s movements to find people they might have infected — and possibly notify those people at the earliest possible stage.

Gilead Ups Its Donation of the Covid-19 Drug Remdesivir for U.S. Hospitals

May 19, 2020

(STAT News) – Gilead Sciences, the drug company behind the experimental Covid-19 therapy remdesivir, has upped the number of doses it’s donating to the federal government from 607,000 to around 940,000, STAT has learned. The new number appeared, with no acknowledgement of the shift, in a letter that a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services official sent to governors on Saturday.

Vaccine Experts Say Moderna Didn’t Produce Data Critical to Assessing Covid-19 Vaccine

May 19, 2020

(STAT News) – Heavy hearts soared Monday with news that Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate — the frontrunner in the American market — seemed to be generating an immune response in Phase 1 trial subjects. The company’s stock valuation also surged, hitting $29 billion, an astonishing feat for a company that currently sells zero products. But was there good reason for so much enthusiasm? Several vaccine experts asked by STAT concluded that, based on the information made available by the Cambridge, Mass.-based company, there’s really no way to know how impressive — or not — the vaccine may be.

Exclusive: CDC Plans Sweeping COVID-19 Antibody Study in 25 Metropolitan Areas

May 18, 2020

(Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) plans a nationwide study of up to 325,000 people to track how the new coronavirus is spreading across the country into next year and beyond, a CDC spokeswoman and researchers conducting the effort told Reuters.

How to Address the Coronavirus’s Outsized Toll on People of Color

May 18, 2020

(Nature) – As figures emerge about the disproportionate toll that COVID-19 is taking on people of colour in the United States, scientists are suggesting measures to help mitigate the inequalities. They say that better data are needed on the incidence of the disease, that testing needs to be ramped up and that hospitals serving people at-risk need to better prepare. Researchers and some US lawmakers are now calling for a national commission devoted to identifying racial disparities in health that would act as a unified voice in trying to overcome them.

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