Category: Health

Could Hypokalemia explain COVID-19 mortality?

THAILAND MEDICAL NEWS has reported that a new research study by researchers from Wenzhou Medical University in Zhejiang province lead by Dr Don Chen ‘revealed that almost all Covid-19 patients exhibited hypokalemia and that supplementation with potassium ions was one of the many factors that assisted in their recovery.

The study apparently found that as the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus attacks human cells via the ACE2 (Angiotensin- converting enzyme-2) receptors, it also attacks the renin–angiotensin system (RAS), causing low electrolyte levels in particularly potassium ions.

The study involving 175 patients in collaboration with Wenzhou Hospital found that ‘almost all patients exhibited hypokalemia and for those who already had hypokalemia, the situation even drastically worsened as the disease progressed.’

However, it was found from the study that ‘patients responded well to potassium ion supplements and had a better chance of recovery.’

The study has yet to be peer reviewed and has been published in the open platform medRvix : (https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.02.27.20028530v1.full.pdf+html)

Meanwhile another medical paper theorises why COVID19 starves patients of oxygen and produces crushed glass imagery

COVID-19: Attacks the 1-Beta Chain of Hemoglobin and Captures the Porphyrin to Inhibit Human Heme Metabolism.

The attack apparently will cause less and less hemoglobin that can carry oxygen and carbon dioxide.The lung cells have extremely intense poisoning and inflammatory due to the inability to exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen frequently, which eventually results in ground-glass-like lung images.

Another paper published by a group of Italian doctors claims ‘Covid-19 Does Not Lead to a “Typical” Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome’ and is cause for concern.

while the clinical approach to these patients is the one typically applied to severe ARDS, namely high Positive End Expiratory Pressure (PEEP) and prone positioning. However, the patients with Covid-19 pneumonia, fulfilling the Berlin criteria of ARDS, present an atypical form of the syndrome. Indeed, the primary characteristics we are observing (confirmed by colleagues in other hospitals), is the dissociation between their relatively well preserved lung mechanics and the severity of hypoxemia.

A New York City doctor explains why COVID19 is a ‘new disease requiring new treatment’ is not viral pneumonia, requires oxygen not ventilation, different protocols.

The past 48 hours or so have seen a huge revelation: COVID-19 causes prolonged and progressive hypoxia (starving your body of oxygen) by binding to the heme groups in hemoglobin in your red blood cells. People are simply desaturating (losing o2 in their blood), and that’s what eventually leads to organ failures that kill them, not any form of ARDS or pneumonia. All the damage to the lungs you see in CT scans are from the release of oxidative iron from the hemes, this overwhelms the natural defenses against pulmonary oxidative stress and causes that nice, always-bilateral ground glass opacity in the lungs. Patients returning for re-hospitalization days or weeks after recovery suffering from apparent delayed post-hypoxic leukoencephalopathy strengthen the notion COVID-19 patients are suffering from hypoxia despite no signs of respiratory ‘tire out’ or fatigue. Source

A blood test result more typically seen in disorders associated with bone marrow diseases was found in a patient with COVID-19, a viral infection caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The findings were published March 25 in the American Journal of Hematology.

Covid-19 Anti-Vaxers stage a comeback, but fail to check facts

IT STARTED with an interview on Al Jazeera, some brazen French researchers making shocking off-the-cuff remarks about a study on the potential use of the BCG vaccine against COVID-19 in Africa. Taken at face value, it appeared that the French were once again conducting openly racist, TB vaccine experiments in their former colonies. That’s TB as in Tuberculosis.

The story quickly escalated and amplified into a headline grabbing: ‘Senator Wetangu’la calls on African leaders to reject COVID-19 vaccine test on continent‘. As journalists failed to check if what was being said was relevant or even true. The French embassy was moved to caution that the researcher’s opinions “do not reflect the position of the French authorities.

By Sunday, Anti-Vaxers were having a field day on twitter, but hadn’t bothered to check the facts. Yes, Covid-19 Vaccine trials are being conducted on EVERY continent, not just our own,

The first was a Phase 1 clinical trial evaluating an ‘investigational vaccine designed to protect against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)’ begun at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) in Seattle, USA.

Phase 1 trials involve testing of drugs or vaccines on healthy volunteers for safety, and  also testing multiple doses (dose-ranging). Most countries such as South Africa have regulatory checks in place to avoid citizens becoming unwitting participants to phase 1 trials.

Our Constitution specifically outlaws such experimentation and states under Article 12  (2) Everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right— (a) to make decisions concerning reproduction; (b) to security in and control over their body; and (c) not to be subjected to medical or scientific experiments without their informed consent. 

Trials of Covid-19 related vaccines have already been conducted in Japan and elsewhere.

Large scale global trials involving patients from Argentina to Thailand under the auspices of the WHO are already underway.

There appears to be some confusion as to what a vaccine does, as opposed to antiviral treatment for COVID-19.  Ekurhuleni mayor, Mzwandile Masina, recently proposed using the municipality’s emergency funds “to procure the vaccine Inferon B from Cuba”, a proposal debunked by Africa Check.

The possibility that South Africa will also receive an actual trial vaccine is a big deal, not because we are likely to become lab rats, but because citizens will hopefully be able to volunteer for the phase 1 trials to assess the effectiveness of the vaccine in creating antibodies to the virus — a therapy which could prove to be a game-changer in the global pandemic.

As with any new drug or therapy, there will always be safety concerns, but the alternative is to live with permanent lock-downs and quarantines.

I would rather just get a jab in the arm thanks.

UPDATE: News24 forced to retract inaccurate coronovirus vaccine story

 

South Africa’s controversial Chloroquine Phosphate adoption

WHY ANYONE would prescribe a substance such as Chloroquine Phosphate for the treatment of Covid-19 is a mystery. For starters the anti-malaria drug is an amebicide, ‘an agent used in the treatment of amoebozoa infections, called amoebiasis’ and is not an anti-viral as such.

It has a low LD50, the lethal dose at which rats and patients die (low is more toxic). It has been touted by both the Trump administration and the World Health Organisation as a treatment for the disease but has been lambasted by critics. Chloroquine: Trump’s misleading claims spark hoarding and overdoses reads one headline.

On the March 19, South Africa adopted Chloroquine Phosphate in its guidelines for the clinical management of Covid-19, published by the Department of Health and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. A local pharmaceutical company has received permission from the medical regulator to import half a million chloroquine phosphate tablets.

New research published on Wednesday however, ‘suggested that “off label” re-purposing of drugs such as hydroxychloroquine could lead to “drug-induced sudden cardiac death”. The paper by the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit medical organisation, found that ‘chloroquine and Kaletra, a HIV drug also being used against coronavirus, can cause the heart muscle to take longer than normal to recharge between beats.’

Most RNA viruses develop solely in cytoplasm (a thick solution that fills each cell and is enclosed by the cell membrane.) Unlike plasmodium malaria (amoebozoa ) viral populations do not grow through cell division, because they are acellular.

Coronaviruses are enveloped positive-stranded RNA viruses that replicate in the cytoplasm.

‘To deliver their nucleocapsid into the host cell, they rely on the fusion of their envelope with the host cell membrane. The spike glycoprotein (S) mediates virus entry and is a primary determinant of cell tropism and pathogenesis.’

There are over 100 known drug compounds capable of disrupting the viral replication of Sars-CoV-2, the coronovirus responsible for COVID-19. These substances have been located via an unprecedented bioinformatics search by two groups of scientists working round-the-clock on the equivalent of the Manhattan Project.

Their findings were published less than three weeks apart and must be considered required reading by anyone working in the field of coronovirus medicine. Unfortunately due to politics surrounding branded drugs and the Trump administration, and the machinations of the World Health Organisation, and our own government, these findings are being ignored.

Local use of the drug appears to pre-empt a WHO trial already underway in Norway and Spain.

Although Chloroquine Phosphate, ‘the phosphate salt of chloroquine, a quinoline a compound with antimalarial and anti-inflammatory properties’ appears on one of the lists provided by the researchers, the substance is not recommended by doctors as anything more than a last resort.

The chief executive of Novartis cautioned on Friday that it is “too soon” to be sure whether the anti-malaria drugs could be a definitive treatment for the coronavirus.

“Researchers have tried this drug on virus after virus, and it never works out in humans. The dose needed is just too high,” says Susanne Herold, an expert on pulmonary infections at the University of Giessen,

The latest list of potential coronovirus drugs discovered via an unprecedented bioinformatics search, include many compounds already approved for administering by doctors, some are already in preclinical trials. Among them is a 1971 antiviral drug, Ribavirin capable of disrupting the RNA synthesis of the coronovirus itself, the bug responsible for the biggest health crisis event of the 21st Century.

The drug is described in a paper aptly entitled ‘Broad-spectrum coronavirus antiviral drug discovery‘. It escaped media attention, perhaps due to its patent rights lapsing, while Lopinavir–Ritonavir, a relatively new HIV drug has received a lot of press, alongside Favivlavr a drug from China approved by the National Medical Products Administration of China .  Clinical trials of a promising COVID-19 antiviral, Remdesivir, which gets incorporated into viral RNA and prevents it being synthesised, halting viral replication, are currently underway.

Ribavirin, also known as tribavirin, is an antiviral medication used to treat RSV infectionhepatitis C and some viral hemorrhagic fevers.

A team lead by Nevan Krogan of the Gladstone Institute, working around the clock have identified more than 300 human proteins that interact with SARS-CoV-2 during infection.

Since the Trump announcement there has been attempts to classify coronovirus medicine research and restrict any adverse criticism of Chloroquine, with EPA announcing broad restrictions.

Efforts to raise awareness amongst local organisers of a Peninsula community coronovirus response team were instead met with ridicule, and the writer threatened with prosecution. The lack of debate amongst local authorities is reminiscent of the HIV-denial era, since anyone publishing coronovirus information ‘not authorised by the DOH ‘ may run foul of recently gazetted regulations governing the spread of information.

It is safe to say when this epidemic broke, we were dealing with denialists who refused to believe there was an epidemic. Overnight, these same folk have turned into gatekeepers of what can and cannot be said. Now even government officials are denying there are any antiviral treatments capable of bringing down the epidemic to manageable proportions and urging us all to use Chloroquine  the most widely used drug against malaria.

The safety issues here are also reminiscent of the thalidomide disaster,  one of the darkest episodes in pharmaceutical research history

Although the mechanism of action is not fully understood, chloroquine has been shown to inhibit the parasitic enzyme heme polymerase that converts the toxic heme into non-toxic hemazoin, thereby resulting in the accumulation of toxic heme within the parasite.

Chloroquine may also interfere with the biosynthesis of nucleic acids. However the coronovirus is not a microbial parasite and more research on the use of the substance in symptomatic treatment of a condition associated with an RNA virus would be required.

The most important lesson of the 1918 influenza pandemic: Tell the damn truth

10 Days into the ‘National Disaster’, and South Africa continues to bungle its response to the crisis

AS THE COUNTRY prepares for what appears to be an unprecedented lock-down, following the declaration of a national disaster over a week ago, the authorities continue to bungle the epidemic.

Granted a lot has changed since we reported on the failure to close borders to European red zones, our obsession with Wuhan repatriation, and the problematic roll-out of posters with a case definition which excluded the possibility of community transmission.

Since then, our President announced broad-ranging and sweeping measures to contain the spread of the virus, including the shutting of ports and harbours, limitations on groups of more than 100 individuals, the introduction of a drinking curfew and other draconian measures, none of which tackle the central problem that this is a singlestranded, positive-sense RNA virus which hijacks the body in order to synthesise the proteins required to reproduce itself.

Instead of announcing a colloquium or symposium to collect the prevailing scientific and evidence-based research needed to make informed decisions, our government has simply launched the country into a series of drastic actions and interventions via presidential decree, albeit informed by World Health Organisation officials in Geneva.

One action announced on Monday is an unprecedented shelter-in-place directive, in other words a national lock-down, which will require all citizens except those in exempt categories, to stay home for 21 days.  A similar order during the epidemic in Wuhan, essentially voluntary self-quarantining, and also currently in the USA, and elsewhere, has had limited success, and will in all likelihood fail.

The measure to use the parlance of the WHO ‘merely buys time‘.

To put this another way, if we simply suppress the virus, it will just come back once we end our lock-down, and the exponential spike we are all hoping to avoid now, will come back in May or July, especially since the virus is more active during Winter.

Public health officials hope that these steps will act to ‘flatten the curve’, but as this video shows, doing so at the wrong time, may risk the situation where the other half of the population will still go on to get the illness.

We can’t go into another lockdown after this one, and the sheer impact upon the economy is causing reverberations and jitters around the continent. While a raft of measures were announced to mitigate the impact on sectors such as the Hospitality industry, the sheer numbers of people affected make life incredibly difficult for scenario planners.

So what are we not doing that we should be doing?

Avoiding crude measures such as mass quarantines and instead relying upon big data as Taiwan and Singapore have done, to manage the spread of the virus, is certainly more preferable.

Creating acceptable risks by rapidly introducing antiviral treatments which act to reduce viral production within the body and thereby infection, transmission and mortality is another option of managing the problem. (To date over a 100 compounds have been identified by computational methods, a veritable Manhattan Project).

Realising that we have an incredible advantage when it comes to data processing that previous generations and pandemics lacked is crucial to the outcome of the crisis.

Cutting the red-tape that prevents the repurposing and redeployment of antiviral medication to fight the virus is going to determine whether or not we win this one.

It is unthinkable that we live in an age of germ-destroying ‘disinfection robots’, artificial intelligence and the sudden re-emergence of the cordon sanitaire, long considered a throwback to the Middle Ages.

Extending force magnification measures already in place such as tele-medicine to virtual visits during the epidemic could assist an overstretched public health system in reaching out to patients in the absence of transport.

Extending drone delivery of blood samples to delivery of medication and home diagnostic kits also could save lives.

Correcting mistakes with health communication by acknowledging the evolving symptoms and vectors of the epidemic as the City of Cape Town has done, is just a start.

So too would be correcting the comparison often made here with the flu.

The Coronovirus is related to the common cold, in essence a Zoonotic Cold or Respiratory Illness from Bats and Pangolins, and has struck down normally healthy youngsters who form some 10% of those in ICU, as well as the aged.

The reason why some people end up in ICU with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) while others get away with mild symptoms is not well understood and may have something to do with previous exposure to coronoviruses and the presence or absence of antibodies.

In the near absence of universal testing, (SA will only able to do 30 000 tests a day by mid April) temperature screening of fever suspects at public gatherings, might eliminate super-spreaders, and also buy us more time. Enough time until we are able to roll-out a universal vaccine and immunisation campaign.

A jab in the arm is far preferable to living in conditions that resemble ancient times.

To date, South Africa has yet to announce a local vaccine candidate or drug trial.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are 69 potential Antiviral drug treatments as the Coronovirus rips up South Africa

HERE are 69 possible antiviral drug treatments for the Coronovirus. Some of them repurpose old drugs, others involve new combinations, and are already in use for a range of diseases, including Parkinsons, Cancer and HIV. Some drugs have already been approved for administering by doctors, some are already in preclinical trials. Among them is a 1971 antiviral drug, Ribavirin capable of disrupting the RNA synthesis of the coronovirus itself, the bug responsible for the biggest health crisis event of the 21st Century.

The drug is described in a paper aptly entitled ‘Broad-spectrum coronavirus antiviral drug discovery‘. It escaped media attention, perhaps due to its patent rights lapsing, while Lopinavir–Ritonavir, a relatively new HIV drug received a lot of press, alongside Favivlavr a drug from China approved by the National Medical Products Administration of China .

It appears a massive search using the latest information technology and supercomputers was conducted.

A group of scientists including ‘Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics’ experts has raced to make the discovery as New York hits an epidemic spike that looks set to require at least 30 000 extra respirators, countless more hospital beds, and the construction of makeshift morgues. The City is currently in a state of emergency.

South Africa is about to enter a national lockdown from midnight Thursday.

The latest research dovetails a paper published on 27 February by Micholas Smith, Jeremy C. Smith on ‘Repurposing Therapeutics for COVID-19: Supercomputer-Based Docking to the SARS-CoV-2 Viral Spike Protein and Viral Spike Protein-Human ACE2 Interface.’

The newer paper was published on 22 March 2020 and should have made headline news, if only NYC wasn’t at the centre of the epidemic.

The list includes Chloroquine, a controversial anti-malaria drug with a low Lethal Dose 50 (LD50), a measure of toxicity, where low is more toxic. The drug has been touted by Donald Trump, but has not been approved by the FDA for use, and also Haloperidol, a drug used to treat so-called Schizophrenia.

Meanwhile the World Health Organisation (WHO) has launched a global megatrial of what it claims are ‘the four most promising coronavirus treatments’

Scientists in Iceland have found 40 mutations of the coronavirus among people with the deadly bug in the country. A previous study conducted in China and published early this month indicates that two separate types of the novel coronavirus — one more aggressive than the other — had been infecting people since the start of the outbreak.

According to a WHO official ‘Ten percent of the people who are in [intensive care units] in Italy are in their 20s, 30s or 40s. These are young, healthy people with no co-morbidities, no other diseases.’

HERE IS THE LIST OF 69:

JQ1105; RVX-208; Silmitasertib1; TMCB; Apicidin1; Valproic Acid1; Bafilomycin A11; E-52862; PD-144418; RS-PPCC; PB281; Haloperidol; Indomethacin; Metformin1; Ponatinib; H-89; Merimepodib1; Migalastat1; Mycophenolic acid12; Ribavirin; XL4131; CCT 36562312; Midostaurin13; Ruxolitinib1; ZINC17759623671; ZINC432671913; ZINC4511851; ZINC95559591; AC-555411; AZ8838; Daunorubicin1; GB110; S-verapamil; AZ3451; ABBV-744; dBET6; MZ1; CPI-0610; Sapanisertib; Rapamycin; Zotatifin; Verdinexor; Chloroquine; Dabrafenib; WDB002; Sanglifehrin; AFK-506; Pevonedistat; Ternatin 4; 4E2RCat; Tomivosert; Compound 2; Compound 10; PS30613; IHVR-190291; Captopril1; Lisinopril1; Camostat; Nafamostat; Chloramphenicol; Tigecycline; Linezolid1

FIRST LIST IDENTIFIED BY SUPERCOMPUTER

pemirolast -7.4 ZINC5783214 benserazide -7.4 ZINC3830273 Natural Product: luteolin-monoarabinoside -7.4 ZINC18185774 pyruvic acid calcium isoniazid -7.3 ZINC4974291 Natural Product: quercetol;quercitin -7.3 ZINC3869685 protirelin -7.3 ZINC4096261 carbazochrome -7.2 ZINC100029428 nitrofurantoin -7.2 ZINC3875368 benserazide -7.2 ZINC3830273 carbazochrome -7.1 ZINC100045148 sapropterin -7.1 ZINC13585233 Vidarabine -7.1 ZINC970363 Natural Product: eriodictyol -7.1 ZINC58117 tazobactum -7.1 ZINC3787060 phenformin hcl -7 ZINC5851063 carbazochrome -7 ZINC100045148 carbazochrome -7 ZINC100045148 vildagliptin -7 ZINC100003507 Natural product: demethyl-coclaurine

 

Covid-19 Facts: Surviving the Covid-19 ‘Immunity’ Disaster

1. What is SARS-CoV-2 and Covid-19?

“Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)” is the name of the new virus according to the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV). “COVID-19” is the name of the new disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 following guidelines previously developed with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

This means it is related to the coronovirus responsible for the 2003 SARS epidemic. ‘Based on phylogeny, taxonomy and established practice, the CSG recognizes this virus as forming a sister clade to the prototype human and bat severe acute respiratory syndrome coronaviruses (SARS-CoVs) of the species Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus, and designates it as SARS-CoV-2.’

2. What are the Symptoms?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19, according to the WHO: fever (in 88% of cases), dry cough (68%), fatigue (38%) and sputum/phlegm production (33%). Shortness of breath occurred in nearly 20% of cases, and about 13% had a sore throat or headache, the WHO said in a report drawing on more than 70,000 cases in China.

3. How Infectious is SARS-CoV-2?

Covid-19 is more infectious and contagious than previously assumed. R0 value is likely to be between 4.7 and 6.6., and not 2.2 to 2.7 as previously reported. This places it in the realm of Smallpox which has an R0 of 5–7.

It can survive for up to 3 days+ on surfaces and remain airborne for hours.

It is most infectious during incubation, and first week of symptoms and less infectious during post-symptomatic recovery period. Incubation period averages 5.1 days.

It follows that since SARS-CoV-2 is related to the SARS 2003 virus, the same protocols should apply, ‘avoid direct contact with respiratory secretions or body fluids.’

Note: It is well worth reading up on predecessor SARS 1

Can We Learn Anything from the SARS Outbreak to Fight COVID-19?

The problem is that since the coronovirus is a new pathogen, we do not possess natural immunity. South Africans will eventually gain ‘herd immunity’ which is ‘the resistance to the spread of a contagious disease within a population that results if a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune to the disease, especially through vaccination’.

4. How many South Africans are likely to catch COVID-19?

If one uses Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel’s estimates that 40%-60% of the population will invariably be infected: South Africa with a population of 56+ million must plan for some 22 400 000 to 33 600 000 cases of which 1 904 000 will be critical according to WHO average mortality rate of 3.4. This makes it a major problem for the public health system. See Coronavirus: Simple statistical predictions for South Africa

Luckily we have a relatively young population. Age of a population is a factor in mortality rate.

5. How many hospital beds does South Africa have?

There are currently some 80 000 beds in the public health system, and 5000 beds in the private health care system according to MOH Dr Zweli Mkhize today. This means a potential shortfall of 1 819 000 beds. Nationally, there is only 1 hospital, 187 hospital beds and 42 surgical beds per 100 000 population.

6. Which groups are most at risk from SARS-CoV-2?

Most reports suggest that the elderly, infirm and those already possessing co-morbidity, i.e underlying disease such as HIV, Diabetes, Cardiovascular disease are particularly at risk from falling critically ill from the disease.

COVID-19 update: What you need to know now that it’s officially a pandemic

7. Why should I be concerned about SARS-CoV-2 & COVID-19?

Patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection are presenting with a wide range of symptoms. Most patients seem to have mild disease, and about 20% appear to progress to severe disease, including pneumonia, respiratory failure, and, in some cases, even death, according to the Lancet.

Coronavirus turns deadly when it leads to ‘cytokine storm’; identifying this immune response is key to patient’s survival

Since COVID-19 may also reduce lung function, opportunistic infection from Pneumococcus, Streptococcus and Mycobacterium Tuberculosis within the South African context may also be inferred. This presents a substantial and heretofore under-reported risk.

Unless we think globally and act locally to contain and prevent transmission, new waves of the pandemic are likely to hit the sub-continent.

8. What can I do to prevent transmission?

Social distancing, avoiding large crowds, hand-washing, the Covid “handshake” and sneezing into ones elbow are all behavioural changes suggested by our MOH.

Providing hand-sanitation stations at Taxi ranks, Metro-Rail and public venues is another suggestion, so too providing UV lights and/or latex gloves and hand sanitiser to those who deal with money at checkouts, and also pump jockeys at Petrol Stations.

Disinfection of Public Transport and Taxis should be prioritised!

Predecessor SARS 1 showed sensitivity to UV light, renders inactive.

Traditional burning of Imphepho or African Sage may assist poor households in removing bacteria and viruses from the air, as inferred from Journal of Ethnopharmacology, since havan samagri has the potential to kill 94% of bacteria.

9. Is there a cure?

Treatment is currently symptomatic. Several treatment therapies have been advanced, including the use of chloroquine phosphate to treat fever, antivirals such as protease inhibitors to treat viral reproduction and other therapies. Anecdotal evidence suggests that codeine and ibuprofen exacerbates the fever and should not be taken without doctor supervision. Favipiravir, a Japanese flu drug has also proven effective.

Covid-19: ibuprofen should not be used for managing symptoms, say doctors and scientists

See Could an old malaria drug help fight the new coronavirus?

Warnings issued on lethal dose of Chloroquine 

Nvidia is calling on gaming PC owners to put their systems to work fighting COVID-19 by assisting projects already  ‘simulating potentially druggable protein targets from SARS-CoV-2

Avoid Coronophobia, the fear of Coronoviruses killing you. Rational thinking rather than fear, panic and denial is the key here.

10. Can I test for SARS-CoV-2?

Yes, currently the only tests available are via pathology labs, designated public hospitals such as Tygerberg and the private health system and cost anywhere between R1400 to R900. Local tests have a 48 hour turnaround. This is a significant downside to an otherwise excellent disaster plan. Singapore for instance has rolled out a four-hour turnaround swab-test at entry points, while Senegal is working on a 10-minute PCR test.

Demand better screening, lowering of threshold of surveillance and access to free testing.

11. Is there a Vaccine?

South Africa has no candidate vaccine at this time.

See: How can AI help biotech companies seeking vaccines?

Passive antibody therapy, an Antibody Method from the 1890s is being used to provide stop-gap immunity.

A Phase 1 clinical trial evaluating an investigational vaccine designed to protect against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has begun at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) in Seattle.

Immunisation will take time, we need to be vigilant and patient until then.

Everything You Need to Know About Coronavirus Vaccines

12. Which borders are closed?

A travel ban has been enforced on foreign nationals from high-risk countries such as Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and China. There is currently no word on Japan,  Spain and other places of concern.

13. How will this effect the global economy?

In 2004 Jong-Wha Lee and Warwick J. McKibbin in ‘Estimating the Global Economic Costs of SARS’ published in ‘Learning from SARS: Preparing for the Next Disease Outbreak‘ produced a global model to simulate the economic impact of a long-term SARS epidemic using the period 2002–2081. The so-called ‘G-Cubed (Asia-Pacific) model’ is eerie and prescient in its description. I reproduce it here:

First, fear of SARS infection leads to a substantial decline in consumer demand, especially for travel and retail sales service. The fast speed of contagion makes people avoid social interactions in affected regions. The adverse demand shock becomes more substantial in regions that have much larger service-related activities and higher population densities, such as Hong Kong or Beijing, China. The psychological shock also ripples around the world, not just to the countries of local transmission of SARS, because the world is so closely linked by international travel. Second, the uncertain features of the disease reduce confidence in the future of the affected economies. This effect seems to be potentially very important, particularly as the shock reverberates through China, which has been a key center of foreign investment. The response by the Chinese government to the epidemic was fragmented and nontransparent. The greater exposure to an unknown disease and the less effective government responses to the disease outbreaks must have elevated concerns about China’s institutional quality and future growth potential. Although it is difficult to measure directly the effects of diseases on decision making by foreign investors, the loss of foreign investors’ confidence would have potentially tremendous impacts on foreign investment flows, which would in turn have significant impacts on China’s economic growth. This effect is also transmitted to other countries competing with China for foreign direct investment (FDI). Third, SARS undoubtedly increases the costs of disease prevention, especially in the most affected industries such as the travel and retail sales service industries. This cost may not be substantial, at least in global terms, as long as the disease is transmitted only by close human contact. However, the global cost could become enormous if the disease is found to be transmitted by other channels such as through international cargo.

14. How will this effect the local economy?

Our economy is so intertwined with the rest of the world that the impact is bound to last for a very long time. In the meantime, think about the benefits and opportunities of buying local, sharing with your neighbour, lending a hand and being prepared. Household responsibility dictates that it is up to individual households at the end of the day to provide for oursselves and to figure out how best to move the economy forward.

Singapore’s Portable Covid-19 Swab Test

A NEW SWAB TEST  test for the COVID-19 infection has been implemented at checkpoints in Singapore.

The National Development Minister said the new swab test extends testing to lower-risk symptomatic travellers as an added precautionary measure. All land, sea and air checkpoints currently conduct temperature screening on travellers.

“We are putting this in place precisely because…we want to have a mechanism in order to detect and identify upstream early on,” said Wong.

After undergoing the swab test, travellers will be allowed to continue with their journey. Each test outcome will take three to six hours, and individuals will then be contacted on their results. Those with positive results will be conveyed to hospital via ambulance.

Wong acknowledged that the swab tests would require more manpower but stated that it was important, “not least because beyond…the known infected sources, we don’t know whether the virus may be coming in from other sources”.

Those who refuse the swab test may face sanctions. Short-term visitors who refuse the test will be barred from entry into the country. Singapore permanent residents and long-term pass holders who refuse testing may have their immigration facilities or work pass privileges revoked or their validity shortened.

Travellers, including Singaporeans, who do not comply with the testing or who are uncontactable later may be penalised or prosecuted under the Infectious Diseases Act.

SINGAPORE-based Veredus Laboratories, a provider of innovative molecular diagnostic solutions, recently announced the development of VereCoV detection kit, a portable Lab-on-Chip application capable of detecting the Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) i.e. Wuhan Coronavirus, in a single test.

The VereCoV detection Kit is based on the VereChip technology, a Lab-on-Chip platform integrating two powerful molecular biological applications, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and microarray, that will be able to identify and differentiate MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV and 2019-nCoV with high specificity and sensitivity.

WHY IT MATTERS

The Wuhan Coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, Central China, was initially identified during mid-December 2019. The outbreak was linked primarily to stallholders who worked at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which also sold live animals. Chinese scientists found that the 2019-nCoV is at least 70% similar in genome sequence to SARS-CoV.

According to latest reports on the first day of the Lunar New Year (25th January), authorities have reported 15 new deaths in Wuhan, including a medical professional in his 60s, bringing the death toll in China to 41. The virus has also been detected in the US, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Nepal.

A recent article by The Business Times reported that the VereCoV detection kit was expected to be commercially available from Feb 1 this year.

ON THE RECORD

“Given the high transmission rates of SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, it is inevitable that the 2019-nCoV could possibly result in high incidences of transmission. There are similarities in genetic make-up between these Coronaviruses, however gene mutations in the 2019-nCoV are largely responsible for recent outbreak cases. It is therefore critical for our multiplexing assay to provide wide genetic coverage to detect and differentiate these Coronaviruses, particularly to identify 2019- nCoV for appropriate mitigation actions, if necessary,” said Dr Sato Mitsuharu, R&D Director of Veredus in a statement.

Dr Rosemary Tan, CEO of Veredus Laboratories added, “This VereCoV detection kit will be one of the first commercially available kits in the world with the capability to detect, differentiate and identify all 3 Coronaviruses in a single test in about 2 hours. Time-to-market is crucial as it addresses the need for a fast and easy-to-use detection method. This is something we are confident of as we have previously updated our VereFlu Influenza A/B detection kit and VereMERS detection kit to include the then newly emergent pandemic strain H1N1/2009 and MERS-CoV, respectively within few weeks from time of first outbreak.”