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Advisors to CDC Debate How COVID-19 Vaccine Should Be Rolled Out

November 2, 2020

(NPR) – States should be working toward being ready to give out COVID-19 vaccines by Nov. 15, according to a target date made public by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday. That’s an aspirational date so far — there is still no vaccine approved for use, and there may not be one until later this year or beyond. But, in preparation for that day, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a group composed mainly of doctors and public health experts outside of CDC, met virtually Friday and debated how best to distribute such a vaccine when it becomes available, weighing who would be in line to get it first.

How Are Americans Catching the Virus? Increasingly, ‘They Have No Idea’

November 2, 2020

(New York Times) – As the coronavirus soars across the country, charting a single-day record of 99,155 new cases on Friday and surpassing nine million cases nationwide, tracing the path of the pandemic in the United States is no longer simply challenging. It has become nearly impossible. Gone are the days when Americans could easily understand the virus by tracking rising case numbers back to discrete sources — the crowded factory, the troubled nursing home, the rowdy bar. Now, there are so many cases, in so many places, that many people are coming to a frightening conclusion: They have no idea where the virus is spreading.

How Covid-19 Hinders the Fight Against Malaria

November 2, 2020

(The Economist) – Yet there are hidden dangers. The irrigation ditches in Thiba’s paddy fields breed mosquitoes, which transmit malarial parasites from human bloodstream to human bloodstream. So even if there is less coronavirus here than in a city, it is far more dangerous for children. Worldwide, 400,000 people died of malaria in 2018, two-thirds of them children under five. Very few children die of covid-19. To prevent mosquito bites, governments hand out insecticide-treated bednets. Kenya does it every three years; and was scheduled to do it in April. Alas, covid-19 scotched that plan. Kenya was under curfew, movement was restricted and health workers were on pandemic duty.

Two COVID-19 Outpatient Antibody Drugs Show Encouraging Results

November 2, 2020

(Medscape) – Two COVID-19 antibody treatments, one developed by Regeneron and the other by Eli Lilly, show promise in the outpatient setting in results released on Wednesday. Regeneron, in a randomized, double-blind trial, is assessing the effect of adding its investigational antibody cocktail REGN-COV2 to usual standard of care in comparison with adding placebo to standard of care. 

Death Rates Have Dropped for Seriously Ill Covid Patients

October 30, 2020

(New York Times) – The coronavirus struck the United States earlier this year with devastating force. In April, it killed more than 10,000 people in New York City. By early May, nearly 50,000 nursing home residents and their caregivers across the country had died. But as the virus continued its rampage over the summer and fall, infecting nearly 8.5 million Americans, survival rates, even of seriously ill patients, appeared to be improving. At one New York hospital system where 30 percent of coronavirus patients died in March, the death rate had dropped to 3 percent by the end of June.

New Polio Vaccine Poised to Get Emergency WHO Approval

October 30, 2020

(Nature) – A vaccine against a type of polio that is spreading in the Southern Hemisphere is expected to receive emergency approval before the end of the year. If it does, it will be the first time the World Health Organization has steered an unlicensed vaccine or drug through its emergency listing process. Wild polio has been almost eradicated. Only two countries — Afghanistan and Pakistan — still report cases. But a version of the virus that arose naturally from the weakened polio virus used in vaccination is increasing.

Lab Tests Show Risks of Using CRISPR Gene Editing on Embryos

October 30, 2020

(Associated Press) – A lab experiment aimed at fixing defective DNA in human embryos shows what can go wrong with this type of gene editing and why leading scientists say it’s too unsafe to try. In more than half of the cases, the editing caused unintended changes, such as loss of an entire chromosome or big chunks of it.

Wealthy Funder Pays Reparations for Use of HeLa Cells

October 30, 2020

(Nature) – A major biomedical-research organization has for the first time aimed to make financial reparation for the continuing experimental use of cells from Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman whose unknowing donation gave rise to the historic ‘HeLa’ cell line, which has been a mainstay of biological research for decades. The Henrietta Lacks Foundation announced the six-figure gift from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) in Chevy Chase, Maryland, on 29 October.

40 Dead, Now 40 Laid Off: Inside a Nursing Home in Crisis

October 30, 2020

(New York Times) – Theirs are the untold stories of the pandemic: the nursing home workers who reported daily to the viral hot zones, often in facilities without proper protective equipment, and who now face a fiscal crisis beyond their control. Most never spoke publicly about their experiences because the homes did not let them.

Over 3 Million Cases of Coronavirus Reported in Mideast

October 30, 2020

(Medical Xpress) – The number of reported coronavirus cases has gone over 3 million in the Middle East, an Associated Press count showed Friday, with the true number likely even higher. Across the Mideast, there have been over 75,000 deaths attributed to the virus by health authorities, the AP count relying on reported figures by individual countries shows.

Waymo Pulls Back the Curtain on 6.1 Million Miles of Self-Driving Car Data in Phoenix

October 30, 2020

(The Verge) – In its first report on its autonomous vehicle operations in Phoenix, Arizona, Waymo siad that it was involved in 18 crashes and 29 near-miss collisions during 2019 and the first nine months of 2020. These crashes included rear-enders, vehicle swipes, and even one incident when a Waymo vehicle was T-boned at an intersection by another car at nearly 40 mph. The company said that no one was seriously injured and “nearly all” of the collisions were the fault of the other driver.

Yemen on Brink of Losing Entire Generation of Children to Hunger, UN Warns

October 28, 2020

(The Guardian) – Almost 100,000 children under the age of five are at risk of dying in Yemen as the country slides back into a hunger crisis. An analysis by UN agencies says the coronavirus pandemic, economic problems and conflict have led to the highest levels of malnutrition ever recorded in parts of the country. Serious malnutrition in southern Yemen has risen 10% this year, according to the study, but rose to 15% among under-fives.

Europe and US Facing New Round of Shutdowns Amid Virus Surge

October 28, 2020

(ABC News) – A new wave of lockdowns and business closings swept across France, Germany and other places in Europe on Wednesday as surging coronavirus infections there and in the U.S. wipe out months of progress against the scourge on two continents.

Sanofi, GSK to Provide COVID-19 Vaccine to Global Alliance

October 28, 2020

(Associated Press) – Drugmakers Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline have agreed to provide 200 million doses of their potential COVID-19 vaccine to the COVAX Facility, a collaboration designed to give countries around the world equal access to coronavirus vaccines. The Sanofi-GSK vaccine candidate is in early stage trials, with results expected in early December. The drugmakers said Wednesday that they plan to begin phase three trial by the end of the year and request regulatory approval of the vaccine in the first half of 2021.

COVID’s Cognitive Costs? Some Patients’ Brains May Age 10 Years

October 28, 2020

(Reuters) – People recovering from COVID-19 may suffer significant brain function impacts, with the worst cases of the infection linked to mental decline equivalent to the brain ageing by 10 years, researchers warned on Tuesday. A non-peer-reviewed study of more than 84,000 people, led by Adam Hampshire, a doctor at Imperial College London, found that in some severe cases, coronavirus infection is linked to substantial cognitive deficits for months.

Covid: Belgian Doctors with Coronavirus Asked to Keep Working

October 27, 2020

(BBC) – Doctors in the Belgian city of Liège have been asked to keep working even if they have coronavirus amid a surge in cases and hospital admissions. About a quarter of medical staff there are reportedly off sick with Covid-19. Now 10 hospitals have requested that staff who have tested positive but do not have symptoms keep working. The head of the Belgian Association of Medical Unions told the BBC they had no choice if they were to prevent the hospital system collapsing within days.

Nurses Are at High Risk for Covid Among Health Workers, C.D.C. Says

October 27, 2020

(The New York Times) – Among health care workers, nurses in particular have been at significant risk of contracting Covid-19, according to a new analysis of hospitalized patients by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The findings were released Monday as a surge of new hospitalizations swept the country, with several states hitting record levels of cases.

Can Lab-Grown Brains Become Conscious?

October 27, 2020

(Nature) – But one experiment has drawn more scrutiny than the others. In August 2019, Muotri’s group published a paper in Cell Stem Cell reporting the creation of human brain organoids that produced coordinated waves of activity, resembling those seen in premature babies. The waves continued for months before the team shut the experiment down. This type of brain-wide, coordinated electrical activity is one of the properties of a conscious brain. The team’s finding led ethicists and scientists to raise a host of moral and philosophical questions about whether organoids should be allowed to reach this level of advanced development, whether ‘conscious’ organoids might be entitled to special treatment and rights not afforded to other clumps of cells and the possibility that consciousness could be created from scratch.

Some Covid Survivors Have Antibodies That Attack the Body, Not Virus

October 27, 2020

(The New York Times) – Some survivors of Covid-19 carry worrying signs that their immune system has turned on the body, reminiscent of potentially debilitating diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, a new study has found. At some point, the body’s defense system in these patients shifted into attacking itself, rather than the virus, the study suggests. The patients are producing molecules called “autoantibodies” that target genetic material from human cells, instead of from the virus. This misguided immune response may exacerbate severe Covid-19. It may also explain why so-called “long haulers” have lingering problems months after their initial illness has resolved and the virus is gone from their bodies.

Eli Lilly Said Its Antibody Treatment Does Not Work on Patients Hospitalized with Covid-19

October 27, 2020

(The New York Times) – The drug maker Eli Lilly said on Monday that its antibody treatment was ineffective on patients hospitalized with advanced Covid-19 and that a government-sponsored trial would not administer the drug to new participants. The company said that other trials of the treatment, in people who are not as sick or who have been exposed to the virus, would continue, and that it remained optimistic that the treatment could work if given early in the course of the disease.

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