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To Develop a Coronavirus Vaccine Synthetic Biologists Try to Outdo Nature

March 16, 2020

(STAT News) – With Gates and NIH funding, the emerging field of synthetic biology is answering the SOS over Covid-19, aiming to engineer vaccines that overcome these obstacles. “It’s all of us against the bug,” said Neil King of the University of Washington, who has been part of the hunt for a coronavirus vaccine since 2017. Although the Gates Foundation is spreading its bets among several cutting-edge vaccine platforms, including those using genetic material, one based on synthetic biology has real promise.

President Trump Just Declared the Coronavirus Pandemic a National Emergency. Here’s What That Means

March 13, 2020

(STAT News) – President Trump declared the Covid-19 pandemic a national emergency on Friday, the first time such a declaration has been issued over an infectious disease outbreak since the H1N1 influenza pandemic of 2009. In a Rose Garden press conference, Trump said his declaration would free $50 billion in federal resources to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus and the respiratory disease it causes, which has sickened over 1,000 Americans and killed thousands more worldwide.

Coronavirus Testing Is Starting to Get Better–But It Has a Long Way to Go

March 13, 2020

(STAT News) – Friday morning a ray of light cracked through the ominous cloud of the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus: The Swiss health care giant Roche introduced a new test for the virus that could be run more efficiently and with less manpower than existing diagnostics, potentially doubling the capacity in the U.S. to detect the virus.

U.S. Hospitals Brace for ‘Tremendous Strain’ from New Virus

March 13, 2020

(Medical Xpress) – U.S. hospitals are setting up circus-like triage tents, calling doctors out of retirement, guarding their supplies of face masks and making plans to cancel elective surgery as they brace for an expected onslaught of coronavirus patients. Depending on how bad the crisis gets, the sick could find themselves waiting on stretchers in emergency room hallways for hospital beds to open up, or could be required to share rooms with others infected. Some doctors fear hospitals could become so overwhelmed that they could be forced to ration medical care.

As Pressure for Coronavirus Vaccine Mounts, Scientists Debate Risks of Accelerated Testing

March 13, 2020

(Reuters) – Drugmakers are working as quickly as possible to develop a vaccine to combat the rapidly spreading coronavirus that has infected more than 100,000 people worldwide.  Behind the scenes, scientists and medical experts are concerned that rushing a vaccine could end up worsening the infection in some patients rather than preventing it.

Researchers Rush to Test Coronavirus Vaccine in People without Knowing How Well It Works in Animals

March 12, 2020

(STAT News) – That isn’t how vaccine testing normally happens. Regulators require that a manufacturer show a product is safe before it goes into people, and while it isn’t enshrined in law, researchers almost always check that a new concoction is effective in lab animals before putting human volunteers at potential risk. “This is very unusual,” explained Akiko Iwasaki, a Yale University microbiologist who studies the immune response to viruses. “It reflects the urgency to develop vaccines to counter the Covid-19 pandemic.”

U.S. in Crisis Mode as Coronavirus Cases Soar, Travel Restrictions Loom

March 12, 2020

(Reuters) – The United States went into crisis mode on Thursday to contain a coronavirus outbreak that has played havoc with businesses, shuttered schools and universities and severely disrupted the sports and entertainment world.  Fears of a recession grew as U.S. cases of the virus that causes the sometimes fatal COVID-19 respiratory illness rose and the Trump administration prepared to roll out restrictions that threaten to cripple the travel industry.

The Medical Ethics of the Coronavirus Crisis

March 12, 2020

(The New Yorker) – As the number of cases rises, we will soon face decisions on limiting movement and, potentially, rationing supplies and hospital space. These issues will be decided at the highest level by politicians, but they are often influenced by medical ethicists, who advise governments and other institutions about the way to handle medical emergencies.

Down Syndrome Abortion Ban Is Going Before a Federal Court

March 11, 2020

(ABC News) – A federal court in Cincinnati will hear complex legal arguments Wednesday for and against Ohio’s Down syndrome abortion ban in a case viewed as pivotal in the national debate over the procedure. Attorneys for the government contend in legal filings that the sidelined 2017 law does not infringe on a woman’s constitutional rights — because it “does not prohibit any abortions at all.”

WHO Declares Novel Coronavirus Outbreak a Pandemic

March 11, 2020

(CNN) – The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the novel coronavirus outbreak to be a pandemic. There are 118,000 cases, more than 4,000 deaths, the agency said, and the virus has found a foothold on every continent except for Antarctica.

Second Person Ever to Be Cleared of HIV Reveals identity

March 11, 2020

(The Guardian) – The second person ever to be cleared of HIV has revealed his identity, saying he wants to be an “ambassador of hope” to others with the condition. Adam Castillejo, the so-called London patient, was declared free of HIV last year, 18 months after stopping antiretroviral therapy following a stem cell – or bone marrow – transplant to treat blood cancer. Castillejo, 40, went public on Monday in an interview with the New York Times and revealed he had been living with HIV since 2003.

What Happens If You’re Critically Ill in China–But Not with Coronavirus

February 25, 2020

(NPR) – An all-out effort to stop the virus known as SARS-CoV-2 is underway in Wuhan. New treatment centers have been built in the past two weeks to accommodate coronavirus patients. Tens of thousands of doctors around China have been diverted to Hubei province, whose capital is Wuhan, where there’s a critical need for both medical staff and supplies to address the disease. But those struggling with other life-threatening health issues say medical care is nearly impossible to come by. Yu had been receiving care in a Wuhan hospital after being diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2014. On Jan. 25, two days after the city entered lockdown, the hospital sent him home. His niece said they explained that his bed was needed to treat COVID-19 patients.

NIH Clinical Trial of Remdesivir to Treat COVID-19 Begins

February 25, 2020

(NIH) – A randomized, controlled clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the investigational antiviral remdesivir in hospitalized adults diagnosed with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has begun at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) in Omaha. The trial regulatory sponsor is the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. This is the first clinical trial in the United States to evaluate an experimental treatment for COVID-19, the respiratory disease first detected in December 2019 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

CDC Expects ‘Community Spread’ of Coronavirus, as Top Official Warns Disruptions Could Be ‘Severe’

February 25, 2020

(STAT News) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday warned that it expects the novel coronavirus that has sparked outbreaks around the world to begin spreading at a community level in the United States, as a top official said that disruptions to daily life could be “severe.” “As we’ve seen from recent countries with community spread, when it has hit those countries, it has moved quite rapidly. We want to make sure the American public is prepared,” Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters.

For a Change of Heart, Would-Be Egg Donors Face Threats and Bills

February 25, 2020

(Undark) – Sometimes, however, egg donors change their minds, and evidence suggests that in some instances, clinics and agencies brokering the egg exchange appear unwilling to take that decision in stride. Indeed, in numerous cases investigated by Undark and involving a variety of fertility organizations, donors say that even though they had not signed contracts, nor even started injecting necessary medications related to egg donation, they have been threatened — sometimes with legal action — when they decided not to continue. Emails, text messages, bills, and other documents chronicle threats and harassment aimed at getting the women to change their minds — or pay money.

WHO Tells Countries to Prepare for Coronavirus Pandemic, But Insists It’s Too Soon to Make That Call

February 24, 2020

(STAT News) – The World Health Organization said the coronavirus outbreak that has swept from China to a number of countries in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe is not yet a pandemic, but it urged countries to prepare for its arrival on the assumption that a declaration may come. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said countries should be working to protect health workers, engaging groups that are at highest risk — for instance, the elderly — and striving to contain spread of the virus to the highest degree possible to slow its arrival in countries that don’t have the means to respond to its threat.

The Coronavirus Is Picking Up Steam Outside China, Narrowing Chances of Eliminating It

February 24, 2020

(STAT News) – There are worrying signs the coronavirus outbreak is entering a new phase, with spread outside of China — until recently at low levels — beginning to rapidly pick up steam. Experts point to the sharp rise of the number of cases in South Korea, which went from 30 on Monday to 204 by Friday, and in Italy, which had no cases at the start of Friday and 16 at the end of it. Five of the infected people in Italy are health workers.

It’s Not Just Hospitals That Sue Patients Who Can’t Pay

February 21, 2020

(Kaiser Health News) – Nashville General Hospital is a safety-net facility funded by the Tennessee capital city. For a patient without insurance, this is supposed to be the best place to go in a city with many hospitals. But for the uninsured, it may have been the worst choice in 2019.  Its emergency room was taking more patients to court for unpaid medical bills than any other hospital or practice in town. A WPLN investigation found the physician-staffing firm that runs the ER sued 700 patients in Davidson County during 2019.

The Coronavirus Is Picking Up Steam Outside China, Narrowing Chances of Eliminating It

February 21, 2020

(STAT News) – There are worrying signs the coronavirus outbreak is entering a new phase, with spread outside of China — until recently at low levels — beginning to rapidly pick up steam. Experts point to the sharp rise of the number of cases in South Korea, which went from 30 cases on Monday to 204 by Friday, and to Italy, which had no cases at the start of Friday and 16 at the end of it. Five of the infected people in Italy are health workers.

Experts Say Confusion Over Coronavirus Case Count in China Is Muddying Picture of Spread

February 20, 2020

(STAT News) – Infectious diseases experts are losing confidence in the accuracy of China’s count of cases of the novel coronavirus, pointing toward health officials’ shifting definition of cases over time. Confusion over how China is counting cases of infections is making it harder to know how coronavirus is spreading, even as China is officially reporting that the numbers of new cases reported in recent days have fallen sharply. Many suspect the decline may be attributed in part to shifting case definitions.

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