Pandemic News Links / Current News Updates

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Re: Pandemic News Links / Current News Updates

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Another pandemic ‘to do’ on the list for schools: Contact tracing

5/13/21


https://www.news-medical.net/news/20210 ... acing.aspx


Chris Hodges, the principal of Gaylord High School in Otsego County, Michigan, never thought he'd be a contact tracer.

"I definitely thought, you know, 'Why — why am I doing this?'" he said with a laugh. "That's not what I went to school for."

In what has become a regular part of his school day, Hodges fields reports on his charges such as hearing from the Health Department of Northwest Michigan that a student had tested positive for the novel coronavirus and was in school for three days when she might have been contagious.

One Tuesday in April, after the school day was over, he found himself walking the almost-empty halls with a laptop and a tape measure, making a list of other students who sat close enough to their sick classmate that they would need to quarantine.

Lisa Peacock, health officer for the department, said that without the school district's help it would be "literally impossible" to keep up with contact tracing.

The school-age population has accounted for a growing share of recent coronavirus cases across northern Michigan, and Peacock said quickly identifying people exposed to those cases and telling them how to quarantine is crucial to protecting communities and containing spread.

When Hodges first started helping the health department with contact tracing, he found himself calling teachers on weekends, holidays and late in the day after they'd gone home, asking them where a particular student sat and struggling to orient himself in the classroom as they described the student's position over the phone.

It happened so often that he's now requiring each teacher to keep an up-to-date seating chart in a bright-yellow folder on top of their desk so he can find it easily.

But in this case, the teacher, Hannah Romel, was still at school. The student Hodges was tracing is in her yearbook class, which has different seating arrangements every day. Romel handed Hodges the three charts, and he got to work.

In each place Romel had marked the student, Hodges extended his tape measure to the surrounding desks.

Teachers have spaced their seats out as much as they can, he said, but sometimes they can't quite get to the 6-foot distance required to avoid counting as close contact.

(The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance last month to allow for 3-foot distancing between desks, but only in communities where transmission is low. In this district, Superintendent Brian Pearson said, during Michigan’s recent surge in cases, 6-foot separation is the standard.)

Hodges moved quickly, both because if he didn't complete the contact tracing the same day, the school can't open the next, and because he wanted to get in touch with the families of students exposed to the virus right away.

"We want to make those phone calls as soon as we can, so that those students aren't at work, aren't at church, aren't going to other people's houses. We want to prevent the spread of covid not only inside our walls, but in our community," he said.

Hodges will then pass on information about who was in close contact with the student to the local health department. Other nearby school districts run similar operations.


Nationally, this kind of relationship between schools and health departments is not typical in normal times, but it is happening with some regularity during the pandemic, said Adriane Casalotti, chief of government and public affairs for the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

Public health funding has declined over the past few decades, she said, forcing local departments to cut staff members who could have boosted their contact-tracing capacity.

Still, getting schools and health departments to work together can greatly help communities, Casalotti said.

Peacock, the local health officer, said that once her staffers get word of exposures at local schools, they will also get in touch with the families to talk them through the details.

"People always have questions," she said. "They have questions about 'What does this mean? What does it mean that I'm quarantined for 14 days?' We recognize that."

And, in some cases, the health department needs more information than Hodges can give, Peacock said. They might want to find out whether a coronavirus variant is at play, or do a more detailed investigation of how students got sick and where they were when contagious.

Back in Romel's yearbook classroom, Hodges found two students sat just shy of 6 feet from their classmate who tested positive. They'll need to quarantine for two weeks from the date of their last exposure.

Romel said she's still surprised to hear the news that a student is sick.

"I worry about the kid," she said. "I hope that it's a mild case, and they get to just be OK and get back to school after their quarantine period and come back and be learning with us again."

After a quick chat with Romel about whether the class did any group work on the days in question (they didn't, which Hodges said is a relief, because it complicates his process), he headed off to the next classroom.

In all, 14 students will be quarantined as a result of exposure to this coronavirus case.

It's a lot, Hodges said, but it's a far cry from the number of quarantines stemming from a single day last month when 15 students tested positive, and each of them had several close contacts.

Making phone calls to families informing them their child will need to stay home from school for up to two weeks is not an enjoyable part of the day, for him or the families, said Hodges, but he's gratified to play a role in mitigating the extent of the pandemic.
curncman
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What is mucormycosis, the “black fungus” disease impacting Covid-19 patients in India?

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What is mucormycosis, the “black fungus” disease impacting Covid-19 patients in India?

https://us.yahoo.com/tech/m/aa7810c4-fb ... s-the.html

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curncman
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The creators of the mRNA vaccines will likely be nominated for the Nobel prize

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Just last week, a close friend and board member at the CDC told me, "The creators of the mRNA vaccines will likely be nominated for the Nobel prize.
The creators of the mRNA vaccines will likely be nominated for the Nobel prize

https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/medica ... d=msedgdhp

Dr. Sanjay Gupta: 'Race for the Vaccine'
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Dr. Kevin Perrott, CEO/founder of OpenCures & Dr. Dayan Goodenowe, CEO/founder of Prodrome Sciences

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Dr. Kevin Perrott, CEO/founder of OpenCures & Dr. Dayan Goodenowe, CEO/founder of Prodrome Sciences

curncman
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Govt removes plasma therapy as treatment for Covid-19 among adults The government has removed the use of convalescent pl

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Govt removes plasma therapy as treatment for Covid-19 among adults
The government has removed the use of convalescent plasma therapy as part of its treatment protocol for adult Covid-19 patients.

https://www.indiatoday.in/coronavirus-o ... 2021-05-17

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Until now, India's Covid-19 treatment protocol allowed 'off label' use of convalescent plasma therapy but only at the stage of early moderate disease, that is, within seven days of the onset of symptoms, and if there is availability of a high titre donor plasma.

The Covid-19 treatment protocol is prepared in consultation with the Indian Council of Medical Research, AIIMS New Delhi, among others.

In the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic, plasma therapy became popular as a 'treatment' for Covid-19 and something that was thought to be effective in preventing progression of a case from moderate to severe.

However, as more research was carried out, it has now been evidenced that plasma therapy is not effective on Covid-19 patients in reducing or containing the severity of infection.

Last Friday, in a meeting of the ICMR-National Task Force for Covid-19, all members were in favour of removing the use of convalescent plasma from the Clinical Guidance for Management of Adult Covid-19 Patients. The members reportedly cited its ineffectiveness and inappropriate use in several cases.

The decision to remove it from the guidelines comes in the backdrop of some clinicians and scientists writing to Principal Scientific Advisor K VijayRaghavan cautioning against the "irrational and non-scientific use" of convalescent plasma for Covid-19 in the country.

In the letter, which was also marked to ICMR chief Dr Balram Bhargava and AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria, public health professionals alleged that the current guidelines on plasma therapy are not based on existing evidence and pointed out some very early evidence that indicates a possible association between emergence of variants with "lower susceptibility to neutralising antibodies in immunosuppressed" people given plasma therapy.

"We are writing to you as concerned clinicians, public health professionals and scientists from India about the irrational and non-scientific use of convalescent plasma for Covid-19 in the country. This has stemmed from guidelines issued by government agencies, and we request your urgent intervention to address the issue which can prevent harassment of Covid-19 patients, their families, their clinicians and Covid-19 survivors," said the letter.
curncman
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A plant-based COVID-19 vaccine from a GlaxoSmithKline alliance with Medicago shows strong antibody response

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A plant-based COVID-19 vaccine from a GlaxoSmithKline alliance with Medicago shows strong antibody response

https://www.yahoo.com/finance/m/a422444 ... id-19.html

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Trial participants have 10 times more antibodies in their systems than patients recovering from COVID-19.
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Innate Immune System Reprogramming By Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Against SARS-COV-2?

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Random COVID Questions with Dr. Been (#74)
Innate Immune System Reprogramming By Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Against SARS-COV-2?






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Inside the race to find a COVID-19 treatment pill

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TSOI had QUADRAMUNE since June 2020 and has put its hand first to help everyone stay healthy from COVID-19

Inside the race to find a COVID-19 treatment pill

https://www.yahoo.com/news/inside-race- ... 06046.html

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By Deena Beasley

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - In early 2020, as a new deadly coronavirus began spreading around the world, Pfizer Inc assembled what it called a “SWAT team” of scientists and chemists to identify a potential treatment to fight COVID-19.

The U.S. pharmaceutical giant, which had begun exploring a vaccine, also wanted to produce a pill that could stop the infection from progressing, similar to how the widely-used Tamiflu drug fights influenza. The team scoured Pfizer’s library of molecules looking for unused compounds to help jumpstart the process, and quickly identified a promising candidate.

More than a year later, Pfizer has yet to embark on large-scale human trials of a COVID-19 oral treatment - something it says it hopes to start by July.

Pfizer and its rivals, including U.S.-based Merck & Co Inc and Swiss pharmaceutical Roche Holding AG, are racing to produce the first antiviral pill that people could take at early signs of the illness. Their shared goal: filling a key treatment hole by helping people recently-infected with coronavirus to avoid becoming seriously ill and needing hospitalization.

But after almost 18 months of the pandemic, there is still no easy-to-administer treatment proven to be effective against COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. That is despite the development of a number of effective COVID-19 vaccines, including one from Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE, which in December became the first to gain authorization for use in the United States.

Pfizer’s experience underscores the challenges drugmakers face in developing an oral treatment for the virus. Unlike a vaccine, which needs only to trigger the body's own immune system, an effective antiviral pill must block a virus from spreading throughout the body while also being selective enough to avoid interfering with healthy cells.

Testing antivirals is also difficult, drug company executives say. A drug needs to be given early in the course of an infection, which means finding trial participants who have recently contracted COVID-19. Many people infected with the virus develop only mild symptoms, but studies need to prove that a drug has a meaningful impact on patient health.

Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla has said the company could seek emergency authorization in the United States for a COVID-19 pill as soon as late this year.

"Right now we have very good reason to believe that we can be successful," Bourla told an economic forum in Greece via video conference last week.

Pfizer and its rivals say the development process has been much faster than the several years it typically takes to produce a drug that can be taken as a pill.

Merck and Roche recently started late-stage human trials and have also said their drugs could be ready by later this year. Merck is developing its drug in partnership with biotech Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP and Roche is working with Atea Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Governments around the world have poured billions of dollars into vaccine development, but Pfizer, Merck and Roche say they have not received government funding to develop oral antivirals for the disease.

‘HUNT FOR THE NEXT TAMIFLU’

While the rate of new COVID-19 infections is currently in retreat in some countries, others continue to struggle with a rapid spread of the virus. And with vaccines in short supply in many countries, much of the world will not be vaccinated for several years. Many people also remain reluctant to take vaccines.

Scientists forecast that COVID-19 – which has killed more than 3.5 million people globally - could become a seasonal disease similar to influenza.

"We need a pill that can keep people out of the hospital," said Dr. Rajesh Gandhi, a professor and infectious disease specialist at Harvard Medical School.

Doctors have tried a number of existing oral drugs in fighting COVID-19, but none of them have succeeded yet in rigorous clinical testing.

Currently, the only treatments shown to help COVID-19 patients avoid hospitalization are antibody drugs that require lengthy intravenous infusions and work less well against variants of the coronavirus.

Pfizer and its rivals say their oral antiviral candidates could be effective against a broad spectrum of coronavirus variants, but no relevant data has been made public.

For patients already hospitalized with COVID-19, treatment often involves steroids or anti-inflammatory drugs to manage symptoms of the infection, but these medications do not target the virus itself. The only antiviral drug approved in the United States to treat COVID-19 is Gilead Sciences Inc’s remdesivir, which is delivered intravenously and used only for hospitalized patients.

Gilead is currently testing an inhaled form of remdesivir and is exploring other compounds that may be effective oral agents.

"We are all on the hunt for the next Tamiflu," said Gilead Chief Medical Officer Merdad Parsey.

Tamiflu is recommended for people who have had flu for no more than two days and has been shown to shorten the duration of flu symptoms.

‘CHEMISTRY MASTERPIECE’

Pfizer’s scientists and chemists began hunting for an antiviral treatment in January last year. They quickly zeroed in on a compound from 2003, when the company had sought a treatment for the first global SARS pandemic, said Charlotte Allerton, Pfizer's head of medicine design.

The compound belongs to a class known as protease inhibitors, designed to block a key enzyme, or protease, essential to the ability of the coronavirus to multiply. Similar drugs are used to treat other viral infections such as HIV and hepatitis C, both on their own and in combination with other antivirals.

Pfizer’s scientists hit an early stumbling block. Laboratory testing showed the drug candidate was active against the novel coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2, but concentrations were not strong enough to combat the virus in humans, Allerton said.

Pfizer continued working with the active component of that compound to formulate a drug that could be given intravenously. But antivirals are most useful if you catch a disease early, “and that isn’t easy with an IV drug,” said Allerton.

In March 2020, Pfizer scientists also started designing a new compound that could be absorbed through the stomach and taken as a pill, which they finalized in July, according to Allerton.

Discovering a protease inhibitor that could be delivered orally was "a bit of a chemistry masterpiece," said Pfizer Chief Scientific Officer Mikael Dolsten.

Antivirals are more complex to develop than vaccines because they have to target the virus after it is already replicating inside human cells, without damaging healthy cells. COVID-19 vaccines typically teach the human immune system to recognize and attack a portion of the “spike” protein that is specific to the coronavirus.

A COVID pill would likely be taken for only a few days, but drugmakers have had to move slowly to ensure safety.

TRICKY TRIALS

The Merck and Roche drug candidates use different mechanisms to Pfizer’s, and to each other, to disrupt the replication machinery of the virus. But the companies share similar challenges in testing.

One is ensuring a patient receives the drug soon after infection with COVID-19. “It's all about treating as early in the disease process as possible, when the virus is expanding," Pfizer’s Dolsten said.

And with vaccination rates high in some regions, trials have to be located in countries where COVID-19 is still on the rise.

In March of this year, Pfizer began early-stage human trials in the United States of its experimental oral COVID-19 treatment, known as PF-07321332. It followed a separate trial by the company of the intravenous drug started last fall.

Dolsten declined to comment on how the pending late-stage trials of either drug will be structured.

Merck’s antiviral drug candidate, called molnupiravir, recently had a setback. The company said last month it would not pursue its use in hospitalized patients. But Merck said it was moving the drug into late-stage trials of a narrow group of non-hospitalized patients - specifically those who have had symptoms for no more than five days and with at least one risk factor for serious disease, such as advanced age, obesity or diabetes.

Merck said it could have definitive data by September or October.

Roche and its partner Atea are also limiting participation in their recently launched late-stage trial of their AT-527 drug to COVID-19 patients experiencing symptoms for less than five days. Atea said final trial results are expected before the end of this year.
curncman
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Are Vaccines Causing Variants? (Responding to the French Nobel Laureate)

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Are Vaccines Causing Variants? (Responding to the French Nobel Laureate)

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Moderna Warns New Waves of Covid-19 Are Coming

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Moderna Warns New Waves of Covid-19 Are Coming

https://finance.yahoo.com/m/5f0c28b0-c7 ... es-of.html

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Moderna scientists and executives laid out their plans to combat new strains of the virus that causes Covid-19 at a virtual investor event on Thursday, saying that new waves of the epidemic are on their way.

“As the virus spreads, it is rapidly mutating,” the company’s chief scientific officer, Melissa Moore, said on the call. “Some of these new viral strains appear to be even more transmissible than the original strain… We already know that some of these new strains are less susceptible to neutralization by our current vaccine.”
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