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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.

Why the Coronavirus Hits Kids and Adults So Differently

May 15, 2020

(The Atlantic) – Only after New York City passed its current coronavirus peak did pediatricians notice a striking, new pattern: Dozens of kids who had been exposed to COVID-19 were coming in sick, but they weren’t coughing. They didn’t have severe respiratory distress. Instead, they had sky-high inflammation and some combination of fever, rashes on their hands and feet, diarrhea, vomiting, and very low blood pressure. When ICU doctors around the world gathered for a weekly online COVID-19 call on May 2, doctors elsewhere began sharing similar observations. “The tenor of the meeting completely changed,” says Steven Kernie, the chief of critical-care medicine at New York–Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, who was on the call.

T Cells Found in COVID-19 Patients ‘Bode Well’ for Long-Term Immunity

May 15, 2020

(Science) – Immune warriors known as T cells help us fight some viruses, but their importance for battling SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has been unclear. Now, two studies reveal infected people harbor T cells that target the virus—and may help them recover. Both studies also found some people never infected with SARS-CoV-2 have these cellular defenses, most likely because they were previously infected with other coronaviruses

Afghan Maternity Ward Attackers ‘Came to Kill the Mothers’

May 15, 2020

(BBC) – [Content Warning] The cold-blooded murders of 24 women, children and babies at a hospital in the Afghan capital was horrific enough. But as Frederic Bonnot made his way through the bullet-riddled maternity unit, he realised something more. The attackers had walked straight past a number of other wards, all closer to the entrance of Kabul’s Dasht-e-Barchi hospital, and made straight for the maternity unit.

Mortality Rates Hint at Even Higher Coronavirus Death Toll

May 15, 2020

(Medical Xpress) – The coronavirus has now taken 300,000 lives globally, according to official figures. But depending on the way deaths are counted, the real human cost could be far greater.  The official figures include only those deaths attributed to coronavirus, but experts are increasingly looking at data comparing this year’s death rates with previous years—regardless of the official cause.

The Sprint to Solve Coronavirus Protein Structures–And Disarm them with Drugs

May 15, 2020

(Nature) – Within 24 hours, a network of structural biologists around the world had redirected their labs towards a single goal — solving the protein structures of a deadly, rapidly spreading new contagion. To do so, they would need to sift through the 29,811 RNA bases in the virus’s genome, seeking out the instructions for each of its estimated 25–29 proteins. With those instructions in hand, the scientists could recreate the proteins in the lab, visualize them and then, hopefully, identify drug compounds to block them or develop vaccines to incite the immune system against them.

NIH Begins Clinical Trial of Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin to Treat COVID-19

May 14, 2020

(Medical Xpress) – A clinical trial has begun to evaluate whether the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, given together with the antibiotic azithromycin, can prevent hospitalization and death from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, is sponsoring the trial, which is being conducted by the NIAID-funded AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG). Teva Pharmaceuticals is donating medications for the study.

The Danger of Rushing Through Clinical Trials During the Coronavirus Pandemic

May 14, 2020

(The New Yorker) – I recently spoke by phone with Peter B. Bach, an epidemiologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where he runs the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes, a health-care policy think tank. Bach is also an expert on clinical trials, and I asked him exactly what we know about remdesivir, as well as how we should be thinking about standards of evidence in the middle of a public-health catastrophe. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we also discussed what makes a good clinical trial, why a pandemic is not necessarily the time to speed up the drug-approval process, and the most important fixes for our health-care system.

Coronavirus: Surge in Deaths Reported in Southern Yemen

May 14, 2020

(BBC) – A dramatic rise has been reported in the number of people dying with coronavirus-like symptoms in the southern Yemeni city of Aden. Citing official figures, Save the Children said there had been at least 380 deaths in the past week. It is feared the number of coronavirus cases may be far higher than the few dozen that have been confirmed. The health system has been damaged by years of civil war and ventilators are in short supply.

Revealed: Two Men in China Were First to Receive Pioneering Stem-Cell Treatment for Heart-Disease

May 14, 2020

(Nature) – Two men in China were the first people in the world to receive an experimental treatment for heart disease based on ‘reprogrammed’ stem cells and have recovered successfully one year later, says the cardiac surgeon who performed the procedures. In May last year, the men were injected with heart muscle cells derived from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, the surgeon told Nature — the first known clinical application of iPS-cell technology for treating damaged hearts.

Ethics Questions Swirl Around Historic Parkinson’s Experiment

May 14, 2020

(STAT News) – A secretive experiment revealed this week, in which neurosurgeons transplanted brain cells into a patient with Parkinson’s disease, made medical history. It was the first time such “reprogrammed” cells, produced from stem cells that had been created in the lab from the man’s own skin cells, had been used to try to treat the degenerative brain disease. But it was also a bioethics iceberg, with some issues in plain sight and many more lurking.

UK Researchers Try to Crack Genetic Riddle of COVID-19

May 14, 2020

(New York Times) – British researchers will study the genes of thousands of ill COVID-19 patients to try to crack one of the most puzzling riddles of the novel coronavirus: why does it kill some people but give others not even a mild headache? Researchers from across the United Kingdom will sequence the genetic code of people who fell critically ill with COVID-19 and compare their genomes with those who were mildly ill or not ill at all.

23andMe Study to Recruit Sickest Covid-19 Patients in Bid to Unravel Role of Genetics in Disease

May 14, 2020

(STAT News) – As researchers probe DNA in search of clues about why some Covid-19 patients get so much sicker than others, they’re coming to a clear realization: It’s essential that they enroll as many patients as possible with cases so severe they were hospitalized. On Wednesday, consumer genetics giant 23andMe bowed to that reality. It plans to solicit help from hospitals to expand a massive study it launched last month so that it can recruit more people — up to 10,000 new participants — who have been hospitalized with Covid-19. The idea is to mine their data to try to identify genetic differences that may help explain why some infected patients wind up on ventilators while others don’t even get a cough. 

Parents Are Hiring Jets to See Their Surrogate Children for the First Time

May 14, 2020

(Wired UK) – Every year, thousands of prospective parents from all over the world travel to countries such as Ukraine, Canada, Georgia and the US to carry out surrogacies. Having a baby abroad is a complicated legal process at the best of times and coronavirus has only made things more challenging. With many governments now ruling that travel should only be undertaken in life-or-death circumstances, intended parents with offspring due in far-flung places have to make new arrangements.

Organ Transplantations Dropped Sharply During the Coronavirus Pandemic, Study Finds

May 13, 2020

(CNN) – During the coronavirus pandemic, the number of organ transplantations fell dramatically, according to a study published Monday.  In early April, the number of deceased donor organ transplants dropped by 51.1% in the United States and 90.6% in France when compared to a month earlier, the study said. Kidney transplantations had the greatest decrease in numbers, but heart, lung and liver transplantations also had substantial reductions, the authors said.

Midwives Face Fear and New Challenges as the Coronavirus Spreads in Africa

May 13, 2020

(CNN) – When midwife Philomena Owusu Domfe gets up for work every day she is scared. Domfe has been at the Ridge Hospital in Accra, Ghana’s capital city, for eight years. Now each day she shows up to work, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in her country grows.  Ghana had more than 4,200 confirmed cases and 22 deaths resulting from the virus as of May 12. And while social distancing is prescribed by the World Health Organization as a key defense against the spread of Covid-19, Domfe said it’s difficult when proximity with her patients and their newborns is a job requirement. 

World Health Assembly Draft Resolution Boost Access to Covid-19 Medicines

May 13, 2020

(STAT News) – World Health Assembly negotiators have agreed on a draft resolution that ensures countries can navigate patent rights for Covid-19 medical products, a victory for those supporting wider access to drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines. Although the language could still change, the document mentions a voluntary pool, which would collect patent rights, regulatory test data, and other information that could be shared for developing medical products.

Record Death Tolls in Mexico and Brazil Add to Fears of Covid-19 Surge in Latin America

May 13, 2020

(The Guardian) – Brazil and Mexico have logged their highest single-day coronavirus death tolls to date, raising fears the pandemic is surging across Latin America amid ambivalent and delayed reactions from the governments of its two most populous countries. In Brazil – where the president, Jair Bolsonaro, has dismissed the virus as “a little flu” – the health ministry reported a new grim record of 881 deaths in 24 hours on Tuesday night. It has now confirmed 12,461 deaths, the sixth-highest death toll in the world, and 178,214 cases. Mexico also reached a new landmark on Tuesday night, reporting 353 new deaths over the previous 24 hours and 1,997 new confirmed cases.

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