Pandemic News Links / Current News Updates

curncman
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The US tops 100,000 coronavirus infections for third straight day, as hospitalizations soar

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(CNN)The United States topped 100,000 new coronavirus cases for the third straight day Friday, in a week that also saw Covid-19 hospitalizations climb.

By Friday evening, there had been at least 108,316 new cases and at least 1,061 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Additionally, more than 53,000 Americans are hospitalized with Covid-19, with nearly 11,000 of them in intensive care, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
That's alarming for several reasons, health experts say.
For one, officials around the nation are warning that hospitals could soon run out of capacity. New Mexico authorities said hospitals could run out of beds "in a matter of days," while in Kansas City, physicians voiced concerns about staffing.
More people in the hospital and intensive care could also lead to a rise in deaths. An ensemble forecast by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects another 31,000 people could lose their lives over the next two-and-a-half weeks.
curncman
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Dr. Scott Gottlieb says actual number of new daily U.S. Covid cases is ‘at least half a million’

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Dr. Scott Gottlieb says actual number of new daily U.S. Covid cases is ‘at least half a million’

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/06/dr-scot ... llion.html

POINTS
The U.S. probably has more than half a million new coronavirus infections per day, significantly more than the actual number of diagnosed cases, Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC.
“Remember 120,000 cases aren’t 120,000 cases. We’re probably, at best, diagnosing 1 in 5 cases right now,” the former FDA chief said.
“We’re building up a lot of trouble for the future, and I think that this is going to explode in several weeks,” he added.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb on Friday offered a dismal assessment of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, suggesting the real number of new infections per day is more than 500,000 — more than four times the current record of daily new diagnosed Covid-19 cases.

That record came Thursday, when 121,888 new infections were reported, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. A day earlier, the country saw its daily case count top 100,000 for the first time ever, part of a trend of record-high daily infections as the country’s epidemic ascends further into its third peak ahead of the holiday season.

“Remember 120,000 cases aren’t 120,000 cases. We’re probably, at best, diagnosing 1 in 5 cases right now, maybe a little bit less than that, so this is at least half a million cases a day, probably more in terms of actual numbers of infection,” Gottlieb said on CNBC’s “Closing Bell.”

The situation also is unlikely to improve without targeted interventions to reduce transmission in the hardest-hit states, according to Gottlieb, a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner under President Donald Trump. “But we’re not doing that right now,” he said. “We’re building up a lot of trouble for the future, and I think that this is going to explode in several weeks.”

“You have to be really worried what January is going to look like, what December is going to look like right now given the way this is rising,” added Gottlieb.

The worrisome indicators extend beyond just case counts, Gottlieb said. Hospitalization data is troubling, he said. The average number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 is up by at least 5% in 36 states, according to a CNBC analysis of data from the Covid Tracking Project, which is run by journalists at The Atlantic.

Many of the states reporting record levels of hospitalizations are in America’s Midwest and West: Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

In the U.S. overall, more than 53,000 people are currently hospitalized with Covid-19, according to the Covid Tracking Project. More than 10,000 people are in intensive care units, Gottlieb said. “That’s a lot, and it’s growing very quickly.”

The mortality rate for Covid-19 patients has improved during the pandemic, as doctors and health-care workers are more experienced at treating the disease, Gottlieb noted. Additionally, he said more patients are being treated at home, compared with the early days of the outbreak in the spring.

The challenge facing the country right now is, simply, the number of people who are infected, he said. More infections ultimately will lead to more hospitalizations, which at a certain point strains health-care resources, he said.

“It’s just a fact that, even if we get the death rates down and we manage people in the hospital better, and ... we’re discharging people more easily, more quickly, we’re infecting a lot more people, so eventually the health-care system is going to get pressed,” Gottlieb said. He pointed to places where it’s already happened, such as Green Bay, Wisconsin, where a field hospital was set up last month.

Earlier in the pandemic, when a particular area such as New York experienced a severe crunch in its health-care system, it was easier to provide it with extra resources from around the country, Gottlieb said. “But if you have very diffuse spread across the country, which is where we’re headed, it’s going to be hard for the federal government to backstop that much.”

The U.S. has more than 9.6 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus, according to Hopkins data. At least 235,761 people have died.
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Re: Pandemic News Links / Current News Updates

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The COVID-19 RT-PCR Test: How to Mislead All Humanity. Using a “Test” To Lock Down Society

https://www.globalresearch.ca/covid-19- ... ty/5728483


By Dr. Pascal Sacré
Global Research, November 05, 2020




The COVID-19 RT-PCR Test: How to Mislead All Humanity. Using a “Test” To Lock Down Society
It is time for everyone to come out of this negative trance, this collective hysteria, because famine, poverty, massive unemployment will kill, mow down many more people than SARS-CoV-2!
By Dr. Pascal Sacré
Global Research, November 05, 2020
Theme: Science and Medicine

[print]

Introduction: using a technique to lock down society

All current propaganda on the COVID-19 pandemic is based on an assumption that is considered obvious, true and no longer questioned:

Positive RT-PCR test means being sick with COVID. This assumption is misleading.

Very few people, including doctors, understand how a PCR test works.

RT-PCR means Real Time-Polymerase Chain Reaction.

In French, it means: Réaction de Polymérisation en Chaîne en Temps Réel.

In medicine, we use this tool mainly to diagnose a viral infection.

Starting from a clinical situation with the presence or absence of particular symptoms in a patient, we consider different diagnoses based on tests.

In the case of certain infections, particularly viral infections, we use the RT-PCR technique to confirm a diagnostic hypothesis suggested by a clinical picture.

We do not routinely perform RT-PCR on any patient who is overheated, coughing or has an inflammatory syndrome!

It is a laboratory, molecular biology technique of gene amplification because it looks for gene traces (DNA or RNA) by amplifying them.

In addition to medicine, other fields of application are genetics, research, industry and forensics.

The technique is carried out in a specialized laboratory, it cannot be done in any laboratory, even a hospital. This entails a certain cost, and a delay sometimes of several days between the sample and the result.

Today, since the emergence of the new disease called COVID-19 (COrona VIrus Disease-2019), the RT-PCR diagnostic technique is used to define positive cases, confirmed as SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus responsible for the new acute respiratory distress syndrome called COVID-19).

These positive cases are assimilated to COVID-19 cases, some of whom are hospitalized or even admitted to intensive care units.

Official postulate of our managers: positive RT-PCR cases = COVID-19 patients. [1]

This is the starting postulate, the premise of all official propaganda, which justifies all restrictive government measures: isolation, confinement, quarantine, mandatory masks, color codes by country and travel bans, tracking, social distances in companies, stores and even, even more importantly, in schools [2].

This misuse of RT-PCR technique is used as a relentless and intentional strategy by some governments, supported by scientific safety councils and by the dominant media, to justify excessive measures such as the violation of a large number of constitutional rights, the destruction of the economy with the bankruptcy of entire active sectors of society, the degradation of living conditions for a large number of ordinary citizens, under the pretext of a pandemic based on a number of positive RT-PCR tests, and not on a real number of patients.

Technical aspects: to better understand and not be manipulated

The PCR technique was developed by chemist Kary B. Mullis in 1986. Kary Mullis was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1993.

Although this is disputed [3], Kary Mullis himself is said to have criticized the interest of PCR as a diagnostic tool for an infection, especially a viral one.

He stated that if PCR was a good tool for research, it was a very bad tool in medicine, in the clinic [4].

Mullis was referring to the AIDS virus (HIV retrovirus or HIV) [5], before the COVID-19 pandemic, but this opinion on the limitation of the technique in viral infections [6], by its creator, cannot be dismissed out of hand; it must be taken into account!

PCR was perfected in 1992.

As the analysis can be performed in real time, continuously, it becomes RT (Real-Time) – PCR, even more efficient.

It can be done from any molecule, including those of the living, the nucleic acids that make up the genes:

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid)
RNA (Ribonucleic Acid)

Viruses are not considered as “living” beings, they are packets of information (DNA or RNA) forming a genome.

It is by an amplification technique (multiplication) that the molecule sought is highlighted and this point is very important.

RT-PCR is an amplification technique [7].

If there is DNA or RNA of the desired element in a sample, it is not identifiable as such.

This DNA or RNA must be amplified (multiplied) a certain number of times, sometimes a very large number of times, before it can be detected. From a minute trace, up to billions of copies of a specific sample can be obtained, but this does not mean that there is all that amount in the organism being tested.

In the case of COVID-19, the element sought by RT-PCR is SARS-CoV-2, an RNA virus [8].

There are DNA viruses such as Herpes and Varicella viruses.

The most well known RNA viruses, in addition to coronaviruses, are Influenza, Measles, EBOLA, ZIKA viruses.

In the case of SARS-CoV-2, RNA virus, an additional specific step is required, a transcription of RNA into DNA by means of an enzyme, Reverse Transcriptase.

This step precedes the amplification phase.

It is not the whole virus that is identified, but sequences of its viral genome.

This does not mean that this gene sequence, a fragment of the virus, is not specific to the virus being sought, but it is an important nuance nonetheless:

RT-PCR does not reveal any virus, but only parts, specific gene sequences of the virus.

At the beginning of the year, the SARS-CoV-2 genome was sequenced.

It consists of about 30,000 base pairs. The nucleic acid (DNA-RNA), the component of the genes, is a sequence of bases. In comparison, the human genome has more than 3 billion base pairs.

Teams are continuously monitoring the evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 viral genome as it evolves [9-10-11], through the mutations it undergoes. Today, there are many variants [12].

By taking a few specific genes from the SARS-CoV-2 genome, it is possible to initiate RT-PCR on a sample from the respiratory tract.

For COVID-19 disease, which has a nasopharyngeal (nose) and oropharyngeal (mouth) entry point, the sample should be taken from the upper respiratory tract as deeply as possible in order to avoid contamination by saliva in particular.

A

ll the people tested said that it is very painful [13].

The Gold Standard (preferred site for sampling) is the nasopharyngeal (nasal) approach, the most painful route.

If there is a contraindication to the nasal approach, or preferably to the individual being tested, depending on the official organs, the oropharyngeal approach (through the mouth) is also acceptable. The test may trigger a nausea/vomiting reflex in the individual being tested.

Normally, for the result of an RT-PCR test to be considered reliable, amplification from 3 different genes (primers) of the virus under investigation is required.

“The primers are single-stranded DNA sequences specific to the virus. They guarantee the specificity of the amplification reaction. » [14]

“The first test developed at La Charité in Berlin by Dr. Victor Corman and his associates in January 2020 allows to highlight the RNA sequences present in 3 genes of the virus called E, RdRp and N. To know if the sequences of these genes are present in the RNA samples collected, it is necessary to amplify the sequences of these 3 genes in order to obtain a signal sufficient for their detection and quantification. »[15].

The essential notion of Cycle Time or Cycle Threshold or Ct positivity threshold [16].

An RT-PCR test is negative (no traces of the desired element) or positive (presence of traces of the desired element).

However, even if the desired element is present in a minute, negligible quantity, the principle of RT-PCR is to be able to finally highlight it by continuing the amplification cycles as much as necessary.

RT-PCR can push up to 60 amplification cycles, or even more!

Here is how it works:

Cycle 1: target x 2 (2 copies)

Cycle 2: target x 4 (4 copies)

Cycle 3: target x 8 (8 copies)

Cycle 4: target x 16 (16 copies)

Cycle 5; target x 32 (32 copies)

Etc exponentially up to 40 to 60 cycles!

When we say that the Ct (Cycle Time or Cycle Threshold or RT-PCR positivity threshold) is equal to 40, it means that the laboratory has used 40 amplification cycles, i.e. obtained 240 copies.

This is what underlies the sensitivity of the RT-PCR assay.

While it is true that in medicine we like to have high specificity and sensitivity of the tests to avoid false positives and false negatives, in the case of COVID-19 disease, this hypersensitivity of the RT-PCR test caused by the number of amplification cycles used has backfired.

This over-sensitivity of the RT-PCR test is deleterious and misleading!

It detaches us from the medical reality which must remain based on the real clinical state of the person: is the person ill, does he or she have symptoms?

That is the most important thing!

As I said at the beginning of the article, in medicine we always start from the person: we examine him/her, we collect his/her symptoms (complaints-anamnesis) and objective clinical signs (examination) and on the basis of a clinical reflection in which scientific knowledge and experience intervene, we make diagnostic hypotheses.

Only then do we prescribe the most appropriate tests, based on this clinical reflection.

We constantly compare the test results with the patient’s clinical condition (symptoms and signs), which takes precedence over everything else when it comes to our decisions and treatments.

Today, our governments, supported by their scientific safety advice, are making us do the opposite and put the test first, followed by a clinical reflection necessarily influenced by this prior test, whose weaknesses we have just seen, particularly its hypersensitivity.

None of my clinical colleagues can contradict me.

Apart from very special cases such as genetic screening for certain categories of populations (age groups, sex) and certain cancers or family genetic diseases, we always work in this direction: from the person (symptoms, signs) to the appropriate tests, never the other way around.

This is the conclusion of an article in the Swiss Medical Journal (RMS) published in 2007, written by doctors Katia Jaton and Gilbert Greub microbiologists from the University of Lausanne :

PCR in microbiology: from DNA amplification to result interpretation:

“To interpret the result of a PCR, it is essential that clinicians and microbiologists share their experiences, so that the analytical and clinical levels of interpretation can be combined.”

It would be indefensible to give everyone an electrocardiogram to screen everyone who might have a heart attack one day.

On the other hand, in certain clinical contexts or on the basis of specific evocative symptoms, there, yes, an electrocardiogram can be beneficial.

Back to RT-PCR and Ct (Cycle Time or Cycle Threshold).

In the case of an infectious disease, especially a viral one, the notion of contagiousness is another important element.

Since some scientific circles consider that an asymptomatic person can transmit the virus, they believe it is important to test for the presence of virus, even if the person is asymptomatic, thus extending the indication of RT-PCR to everyone.

Are RT-PCR tests good tests for contagiousness? [17]

This question brings us back to the notion of viral load and therefore Ct.

The relationship between contagiousness and viral load is disputed by some people [18] and no formal proof, to date, allows us to make a decision.

However, common sense gives obvious credence to the notion that the more virus a person has inside him or her, especially in the upper airways (oropharynx and nasopharynx), with symptoms such as coughing and sneezing, the higher the risk of contagiousness, proportional to the viral load and the importance of the person’s symptoms.

This is called common sense, and although modern medicine has benefited greatly from the contribution of science through statistics and Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM), it is still based primarily on common sense, experience and empiricism.

Medicine is the art of healing.

No test measures the amount of virus in the sample!

RT-PCR is qualitative: positive (presence of the virus) or negative (absence of the virus).

This notion of quantity, therefore of viral load, can be estimated indirectly by the number of amplification cycles (Ct) used to highlight the virus sought.

The lower the Ct used to detect the virus fragment, the higher the viral load is considered to be (high).

The higher the Ct used to detect the virus fragment, the lower the viral load is considered to be (low).

Thus, the French National Reference Centre (CNR), in the acute phase of the pandemic, estimated that the peak of viral shedding occurred at the onset of symptoms, with an amount of virus corresponding to approximately 108 (100 million) copies of SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA on average (French COVID-19 cohort data) with a variable duration of shedding in the upper airways (from 5 days to more than 5 weeks) [19].

This number of 108 (100 million) copies/μl corresponds to a very low Ct.

A Ct of 32 corresponds to 10-15 copies/μl.

A Ct of 35 corresponds to about 1 copy/μl.

Above Ct 35, it becomes impossible to isolate a complete virus sequence and culture it!

In France and in most countries, Ct levels above 35, even 40, are still used even today!

The French Society of Microbiology (SFM) issued an opinion on September 25, 2020 in which it does not recommend quantitative results, and it recommends to make positive up to a Ct of 37 for a single gene [20]!

With 1 copy/μl of a sample (Ct 35), without cough, without symptoms, one can understand why all these doctors and scientists say that a positive RT-PCR test means nothing, nothing at all in terms of medicine and clinic!

Positive RT-PCR tests, without any mention of Ct or its relation to the presence or absence of symptoms, are used as is by our governments as the exclusive argument to apply and justify their policy of severity, austerity, isolation and aggression of our freedoms, with the impossibility to travel, to meet, to live normally!

There is no medical justification for these decisions, for these governmental choices!

In an article published on the website of the New York Times (NYT) on Saturday, August 29, American experts from Harvard University are surprised that RT-PCR tests as practiced can serve as tests of contagiousness, even more so as evidence of pandemic progression in the case of SARS-CoV-2 infection [21].

According to them, the threshold (Ct) considered results in positive diagnoses in people who do not represent any risk of transmitting the virus!

The binary “yes/no” answer is not enough, according to this epidemiologist from the Harvard University School of Public Health.

“It’s the amount of virus that should dictate the course of action for each patient tested. »

The amount of virus (viral load); but also and above all the clinical state, symptomatic or not of the person!

This calls into question the use of the binary result of this RT-PCR test to determine whether a person is contagious and must follow strict isolation measures.

These questions are being raised by many physicians around the world, not only in the United States but also in France, Belgium (Belgium Health Experts Demand Investigation Of WHO For Faking Coronavirus Pandemic), France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States and the United Kingdom. in Germany, Spain…

According to them: “We are going to put tens of thousands of people in confinement, in isolation, for nothing. » [22]. 22] And inflict suffering, anguish, economic and psychological dramas by the thousands!

Most RT-PCR tests set the Ct at 40, according to the NYT. Some set it at 37.

“Tests with such high thresholds (Ct) may not only detect live virus but also gene fragments, remnants of an old infection that do not represent any particular danger,” the experts said.

A virologist at the University of California admits that an RT-PCR test with a Ct greater than 35 is too sensitive. “A more reasonable threshold would be between 30 and 35,” she adds.

Almost no laboratory specifies the Ct (number of amplification cycles performed) or the number of copies of viral RNA per sample μl.

Here is an example of a laboratory result (approved by Sciensano, the Belgian national reference center) in an RT-PCR negative patient:

No mention of Ct.

In the NYT, experts compiled three datasets with officials from the states of Massachusetts, New York and Nevada that mention them.

Conclusion?

“Up to 90% of the people who tested positive did not carry a virus. »

The Wadworth Center, a New York State laboratory, analyzed the results of its July tests at the request of the NYT: 794 positive tests with a Ct of 40.

“With a Ct threshold of 35, approximately half of these PCR tests would no longer be considered positive,” said the NYT.

“And about 70% would no longer be considered positive with a Ct of 30! “

In Massachusetts, between 85 and 90% of people who tested positive in July with a Ct of 40 would have been considered negative with a Ct of 30, adds the NYT. And yet, all these people had to isolate themselves, with all the dramatic psychological and economic consequences, while they were not sick and probably not contagious at all.

In France, the Centre National de Référence (CNR), the French Society of Microbiology (SFM) continue to push Ct to 37 and recommend to laboratories to use only one gene of the virus as a primer.

I remind you that from Ct 32 onwards, it becomes very difficult to culture the virus or to extract a complete sequence, which shows the completely artificial nature of this positivity of the test, with such high Ct levels, above 30.

Similar results were reported by researchers from the UK Public Health Agency in an article published on August 13 in Eurosurveillance: “The probability of culturing the virus drops to 8% in samples with Ct levels above 35.” [23]

In addition, currently, the National Reference Center in France only evaluates the sensitivity of commercially available reagent kits, not their specificity: serious doubts persist about the possibility of cross-reactivity with viruses other than SARS-CoV-2, such as other benign cold coronaviruses. [20]

It is potentially the same situation in other countries, including Belgium.

Similarly, mutations in the virus may have invalidated certain primers (genes) used to detect SARS-CoV-2: the manufacturers give no guarantees on this, and if the AFP fast-checking journalists tell you otherwise, test their good faith by asking for these guarantees, these proofs.

If they have nothing to hide and if what I say is false, this guarantee will be provided to you and will prove their good faith.

We must demand that the RT-PCR results be returned mentioning the Ct used because beyond Ct 30, a positive RT-PCR test means nothing.
We must listen to the scientists and doctors, specialists, virologists who recommend the use of adapted Ct, lower, at 30. An alternative is to obtain the number of copies of viral RNA/μl or /ml sample. [23]
We need to go back to the patient, to the person, to his or her clinical condition (presence or absence of symptoms) and from there to judge the appropriateness of testing and the best way to interpret the result.

Until there is a better rationale for PCR screening, with a known and appropriate Ct threshold, an asymptomatic person should not be tested in any way.

Even a symptomatic person should not automatically be tested, as long as they can place themselves in isolation for 7 days.

Let’s stop this debauchery of RT-PCR testing at too high Ct levels and return to clinical, quality medicine.

Once we understand how RT-PCR testing works, it becomes impossible to let the current government routine screening strategy, inexplicably supported by the virologists in the safety councils, continue.

My hope is that, finally, properly informed, more and more people will demand that this strategy be stopped, because it is all of us, enlightened, guided by real benevolence and common sense, who must decide our collective and individual destinies.

No one else should do it for us, especially when we realize that those who decide are no longer reasonable or rational.

Summary of important points :

The RT-PCR test is a laboratory diagnostic technique that is not well suited to clinical medicine.
It is a binary, qualitative diagnostic technique that confirms (positive test) or not (negative test) the presence of an element in the medium being analyzed. In the case of SARS-CoV-2, the element is a fragment of the viral genome, not the virus itself.
In medicine, even in an epidemic or pandemic situation, it is dangerous to place tests, examinations, techniques above clinical evaluation (symptoms, signs). It is the opposite that guarantees quality medicine.
The main limitation (weakness) of the RT-PCR test, in the current pandemic situation, is its extreme sensitivity (false positive) if a suitable threshold of positivity (Ct) is not chosen. Today, experts recommend using a maximum Ct threshold of 30.
This Ct threshold must be informed with the positive RT-PCR result so that the physician knows how to interpret this positive result, especially in an asymptomatic person, in order to avoid unnecessary isolation, quarantine, psychological trauma.
In addition to mentioning the Ct used, laboratories must continue to ensure the specificity of their detection kits for SARS-CoV-2, taking into account its most recent mutations, and must continue to use three genes from the viral genome being studied as primers or, if not, mention it.



Overall Conclusion

Is the obstinacy of governments to use the current disastrous strategy, systematic screening by RT-PCR, due to ignorance?

Is it due to stupidity?

To a kind of cognitive trap trapping their ego?

In any case, we should be able to question them, and if among the readers of this article there are still honest journalists, or naive politicians, or people who have the possibility to question our rulers, then do so, using these clear and scientific arguments.

It is all the more incomprehensible that our rulers have surrounded themselves with some of the most experienced specialists in these matters.

If I have been able to gather this information myself, shared, I remind you, by competent people above all suspicion of conspiracy, such as Hélène Banoun, Pierre Sonigo, Jean-François Toussaint, Christophe De Brouwer, whose intelligence, intellectual honesty and legitimacy cannot be questioned, then the Belgian, French and Quebec scientific advisors, etc., know all this as well.

So?

What’s going on?

Why continue in this distorted direction, obstinately making mistakes?

It is not insignificant to reimpose confinements, curfews, quarantines, reduced social bubbles, to shake up again our shaky economies, to plunge entire families into precariousness, to sow so much fear and anxiety generating a real state of post-traumatic stress worldwide, to reduce access to care for other pathologies that nevertheless reduce life expectancy much more than COVID-19! [24]

Is there intent to harm?

Is there an intention to use the alibi of a pandemic to move humanity towards an outcome it would otherwise never have accepted? In any case, not like that!

Would this hypothesis, which modern censors will hasten to label “conspiracy”, be the most valid explanation for all this?

Indeed, if we draw a straight line from the present events, if they are maintained, we could find ourselves once again confined with hundreds, thousands of human beings forced to remain inactive, which, for the professions of catering, entertainment, sales, fairgrounds, itinerants, canvassers, risks being catastrophic with bankruptcies, unemployment, depression, suicides by the hundreds of thousands. [25-26-27-28]

The impact on education, on our children, on teaching, on medicine with long planned care, operations, treatments to be cancelled, postponed, will be profound and destructive.

“We risk a looming food crisis if action is not taken quickly.” [29].

It is time for everyone to come out of this negative trance, this collective hysteria, because famine, poverty, massive unemployment will kill, mow down many more people than SARS-CoV-2!

Does all this make sense in the face of a disease that is declining, over-diagnosed and misinterpreted by this misuse of overly sensitively calibrated PCR tests?

For many, the continuous wearing of the mask seems to have become a new norm.

Even if it is constantly downplayed by some health professionals and fact-checking journalists, other doctors warn of the harmful consequences, both medical and psychological, of this hygienic obsession which, maintained permanently, is in fact an abnormality!

What a hindrance to social relations, which are the true foundation of a physically and psychologically healthy humanity!

Some dare to find all this normal, or a lesser price to pay in the face of the pandemic of positive PCR tests.

Isolation, distancing, masking of the face, impoverishment of emotional communication, fear of touching and kissing even within families, communities, between relatives…

Spontaneous gestures of daily life hindered and replaced by mechanical and controlled gestures …

Terrified children, kept in permanent fear and guilt…

All this will have a deep, lasting and negative impact on human organisms, in their physical, mental, emotional and representation of the world and society.

This is not normal!

We cannot let our rulers, for whatever reason, organize our collective suicide any longer.

Translated from French by Global Research. Original source: Mondialisation.ca

Dr Pascal Sacré is a physician specialized in critical care, author and renowned public health analyst, Charleroi, Belgium. He is a Research Associate of the entre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

****

Professionals whose references and comments are the basis of this article in its scientific aspect (especially and mainly on RT-PCR):

1) Hélène Banoun

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Helene_Banoun

PhD, Pharmacist biologist

Former INSERM Research Officer

Former intern at the Paris Hospitals

2) Pierre Sonigo

Virologist

Research Director INSERM, worked at the Pasteur Institute

Heads the Virus Genetics Laboratory in Cochin, Paris.

Participated in 1985 in the sequencing of the AIDS virus.

3) Christophe De Brouwer

PhD in Public Health Science

Honorary Professor at the School of Public Health at ULB, Belgium

4) Jean-François Toussaint

Doctor, Professor of Physiology at the University of Paris-Descartes

Director of IRMES, Institute for BioMedical Research and Sports Epidemiology

Former member of the High Council of Public Health
The original source of this article is Global Research
Copyright © Dr. Pascal Sacré, Global Research, 2020
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Re: Pandemic News Links / Current News Updates

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Occupational risk of COVID-19 in 3.5 million Norwegians

11/5/20


https://www.news-medical.net/news/20201 ... gians.aspx


During the first wave of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, many individuals around the world were asked to stay at home. As a result, many businesses’ services and activities were either reduced or closed down entirely. The pandemic has caused major economic disruption worldwide, particularly for those – like the United States, Italy, and the United Kingdom – that have reported surging cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2); the causative pathogen responsible for COVID-19.

A team of researchers at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health has sought to determine which among workers and employees have higher odds of COVID-19 infection in the first and second waves of the outbreak.

They found that nurses, dentists, physicians, physiotherapists, taxi drivers, and bus drivers were 1.5 to 3.5 times more likely to be infected with COVID-19 during the first wave of the outbreak than everyone else in their working age. Meanwhile, on the second wave of infection, waiters, bartenders, travel stewards, food service counter attendants, and taxi drivers had 1.5 to 4 times the odds of COVID-19 infection.

The study

The study, which recently appeared on the pre-print server medRxiv*, aims to determine whether employees in occupations that typically involve close contact with other people are at a higher risk of COVID-19 and related hospitalization for the first and second wave of infection in Norway.

To arrive at the study’s findings, the researchers gathered data from the BREDT C19 register, a newly developed emergency preparedness register that aims to provide information about the spread of COVID-19. It contains patient records from all hospitals in Norway, which helped the researchers have a glimpse of the situation in the country.

The team’s data also included results from the first positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for SARS-CoV-2 of every resident in the country, including the dates of testing and diagnosis. Further, the team was able to determine the occupation of the patients included in the study, which can help shed light on those who are at a higher risk of being infected.

What the study found


Of the more than 3.55 million persons between the ages of 20 and 70 living in Norway, 51 percent are men and 78.8 percent were born in Norway. By October 20, more than 12,000 had been infected with SARS-CoV-2, and of these, 7.5 percent were admitted to the hospital due to severe illness.

The team also found that persons employed as nurses, physicians, dentists, physiotherapists, bus, tram, and taxi drivers were 1.5 to 3.5 times more likely to be infected with COVID-19 during the first wave of infection than others in their working age. Meanwhile, teachers of students at any age, child care workers, bartenders, sales shop assistants, cleaners, waiters, hairdressers, fitness instructors, hotel receptionists, transport conductors, and travel guides had no heightened risk of infection.

Now, amid a second wave of the infection, the occupations with the highest odds of being infected include bartenders, waiters, travel stewards, taxi drivers, and food service attendants. However, many occupations, the study finds, have no increased risk of infection, including teachers of children and students at any age, child care workers, fitness instructors, hairdressers, bus drivers, hotel receptionists, sales shop assistants, and health personnel such as nurses, physicians dentists, and physiotherapists.

When it comes to the outcome hospitalization with COVID-19 infection, none of the occupations had an increased likelihood of severe COVID-19. But, dentists had a 7 times increased risk ratio, while pre-school teachers, child care workers, and taxi, tram, or bus drivers had a 1 to 2 times increased odds ratio.

“We believe this report is the first to show the COVID-19 risks of specific occupations for the entire working population and everyone diagnosed. Existing reports have considered the associations in smaller populations, have used broad categories of occupations and/or have considered only severe hospital-confirmed COVID-19 or mortality,” the team explained in the study.

The team concluded that the occupations that had the highest odds of being infected during the first wave had shifted during the second wave.

This can be explained by the lockdown orders since, during the first wave, most people were confined in their homes, and businesses were closed. However, when the restrictions were lifted, and people were allowed access to restaurants and other public areas, the workers in these sorts of occupations were exposed to more potential carriers of the virus.

“Our findings may be of relevance to increase the understanding of risk and transmission settings for COVID-19 to contribute to more targeted measures to decrease transmission of COVID-19 in public settings,” the team concluded.

*Important Notice

medRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and, therefore, should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.

Journal reference:

Magnusson, K., Nygard, K., Vold, L., Telle, K.E. (2020). Occupational risk of COVID-19 in the 1st vs 2nd wave of infection. medRxiv. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101 ... 20220426v1
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New Zealand case study shows room for improvement in genomic sequencing of COVID-19 outbreaks

11/5/20


https://www.news-medical.net/news/20201 ... reaks.aspx


Researchers in New Zealand, the United States and Australia have demonstrated the effectiveness of real-time genomic sequencing at tracking the re-emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in New Zealand, in August this year.

SARS-CoV-2 is the agent responsible for the current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic that continues to plague the globe posing a threat to public health and the economy.

Jemma Geoghegan from the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, and colleagues say real-time genomic sequencing quickly identified that the new cases belonged to a single genomic lineage and were, therefore, the result of a single introduction.

The sequencing was used to inform the lockdown measures and track and trace efforts needed to control the outbreak and enable the virus to be eliminated from the community for a second time.

However, the team also says substantial biases and gaps in global sequencing data limited the power of the genomics to successfully identify the precise origin of the August outbreak.

The researchers advise that potential sampling biases and gaps in this sequencing data should always be carefully considered when trying to identify the origin of a specific SARS-CoV-2 outbreak.

They also say that access to a broader and more heterogeneous sample of global genomic data would improve future efforts to locate the sources of new outbreaks.

A pre-print version of the paper is available on the server medRxiv*, while the article undergoes peer review.

Genomic sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 “has occurred so quickly”

Just twelve days after SARS-CoV-2 was first identified, a genome of the virus had been published, and as of September 25th this year, more than 110,000 SARS-CoV-2 genomes had been made publicly available.

“The underlying genome sequencing has occurred so quickly that, for the first time during an infectious disease outbreak, it has enabled virological and epidemiological data to be integrated in real time,” say Geoghegan and colleagues.

Real-time genomic sequencing of these data has been pivotal in informing the response to the pandemic by tracking the global transmission and evolution of SARS-CoV-2, including the identification of the number, source, and timing of introductions into different countries.

However, there has been significant between-country variation in the number and proportion of positive cases sequenced and genomes published, say the researchers.

Geoghegan and colleagues say such disparities in sequencing efforts can have important implications for data interpretation and must be met with careful consideration.

The re-emergence of SARS-CoV-2 in New Zealand

“Real-time sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 genomes has, however, had particular utility in tracking the re-emergence of the virus in New Zealand,” says the team.

Following the initial outbreak in late February, SARS-CoV-2 had effectively been eliminated in the country by June, with any positive cases limited to those linked to quarantine facilities at the border.

However, following more than one hundred days of no detectable community transmission, four new cases emerged on August 12th, none of which could be epidemiologically linked to any known case.

During this second outbreak, genomic sequencing was used to support track and trace efforts in the country for the first time.

Geoghegan and colleagues generated the genomes of 80% of the laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2-positive samples from the new outbreak. They then compared these to sequenced cases from the first outbreak and to those from quarantine facilities.

However, no link was identified, and the team went on to compare the genomes from the new community outbreak to the global dataset.

What did they find?


Initial genomic sequencing was able to quickly identify that the new COVID-19 cases and subclusters were linked to the one genomic lineage B.1.1.1, therefore showing that the outbreak had resulted from a single introduction.

However, of the countries that had so far contributed SARS-CoV-2 genomic data, 40% had genomes originating from this lineage.

Phylogenetic analysis of the most recently sampled B.1.1.1. genomes found that those identified in Switzerland, South Africa, and England in August were the closest relatives of the viruses associated with the new outbreak in New Zealand.

However, genomic epidemiological analysis on the possible origins of the new outbreak was found to be inconclusive, which the team says is “likely due to missing genomic data within the quarantine border facilities as well as in the global data set.”

For example, twelve SARS-CoV-2 genomes from people returning to New Zealand from India who all arrived on the same flight spanned at least four genomic lineages, with sequence divergence of up to 34 genomic mutations.


“Such a high level of diversity in just a small sample of positive cases from India suggest that the currently available genomic data fails to encompass the true diversity that existed locally, let alone globally,” says the researchers.

Real-time genomic sequencing helped New Zealand eliminate the virus a second time

However, real-time genomic sequencing following the re-emergence of the virus helped to quickly inform the track and trace efforts and lockdown measures needed to control the outbreak, putting New Zealand on track to eliminate the virus for the second time, they add.

Nevertheless, the biased nature of global sampling clearly limited the power of genomics to identify the geographical origin of New Zealand’s August 2020 outbreak, says the team.

“We, therefore, advocate that careful consideration of the potential sampling biases and gaps in available genomic data be made whenever attempting to determine the geographic origins of a specific outbreak of SARS- CoV-2,” write Geoghegan and colleagues. “Analysis should consider all available evidence, including from genomic and epidemiological sources.”

*Important Notice


medRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and, therefore, should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.

Journal reference:

Geoghegan J, et al. The power and limitations of genomics to track COVID-19 outbreaks: a case study from New Zealand. medRxiv, 2020. doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.10.28.20221853, https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101 ... 20221853v1
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Universal nanoparticle platform may help in rapid development of a COVID-19 vaccine

11/8/20


https://www.news-medical.net/news/20201 ... ccine.aspx


The race to find an effective vaccine against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has assumed a new urgency. The effort continues in light of an ongoing resurgence of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in several parts of the world, where the rates of new infection have spiked once again.

A research group in China recently published a paper on the pre-print server bioRxiv* that reports the performance of a potentially universal nanoparticle platform that may prove useful for the rapid development of a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as other vaccines in the future.

The SARS-CoV-2 spike protein’s receptor-binding region (RBD) is a prime target for vaccine development, as it is the crucial zone at which the virus engaged the host cell receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), which in turn facilitates the subsequent membrane fusion that allows the virus to gain entry into and to infect the target cell. However, RBD subunits are not very immunogenic, hindering these efforts.

Some attempts to increase the immunogenicity include using multimers or attaching the RBD to a carrier to increase the antigen size. However, this may not only alter the RBD structure presented to the immune cells but may also result in a longer and more difficult production process.

RBD-Conjugated Nanoparticle Vaccine Candidates


The current study describes three vaccine candidates based on RBD-conjugated nanoparticles (NP), using covalent bonds in the well-established SpyTagSpyCatcher system. Here, the SpyTag is covalently linked to the C-terminus of the RBD, and the SpyCatcher to the NP. They thus fuse, linking the antigen to the NP scaffold. The conjugation was verified to leave the RBD structure essentially intact.

The three vaccine candidates used self-assembled ferritin NPs, mi3 NP protein, and 153-50 NPs, which form octahedral, dodecameric, and icosahedral particles to which the RBD is linked.

Increased Immunogenicity

In a mouse study, the adjuvanted monomeric RBD failed to produce detectable antibodies after the priming dose, but the binding antibody titer increased by 72 to 168 times following the priming dose of the RBD-NP conjugates. After 1 and 2 booster doses of the monomeric adjuvanted RBD and the conjugated RBD-NPs, the antibody titer increased significantly, but much higher responses were seen with the latter.

The ratio of IgG1 to IgG2 titers remained above 1 throughout, which indicates a Th2-biased immune response, and therefore a lower risk of antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) of the disease.

Neutralizing Capacity up to 120-Fold Higher

The researchers found that these vaccines, produced 8-120-fold greater neutralization following the vaccination, compared to the monomeric RBD, when the serum from immunized mice was incubated with either the SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus and the wildtype virus.

Secondly, these sera prevented RBD from attaching to ACE2 or to neutralizing antibodies in vitro. The binding to the antibody was much higher than with the SpyTag-RBD monomer. This may indicate the higher affinity of these RBD-conjugated NPs to the B-cell receptors specifically targeting the viral RBD. The stronger competitive inhibition offered by the RBD in the NP conjugates compared to the monomer suggests that the strength of inhibition is related to the number of copies of the RBD on the surface. Moreover, it may indicate that the spike protein (or S-protein) RBD of the virus is occupied .

Thirdly, these vaccines are not only stable under a range of physical conditions, but their assembly is highly adaptable, which allows their manufacture to be rapidly scalable.

Conclusion

The investigators point out that these NP scaffolds could easily be linked to antigens other than the RBD from future pathogens, which would reduce the downtime required to understand the structure of the latter before being able to initiate vaccine development. This approach obviates the need to screen or express the antigen, select a suitable NP scaffold, assemble the particle, and confirm the immunogenicity of the particle.

This platform is also friendly to commercial manufacturers in that it yields a high amount of protein components for the vaccine, thus reducing the time required to bring forth a candidate vaccine.

The researchers say, “These results supported that our designed SARS-CoV-2 RBD-conjugated nanoparticle was a competitive vaccine candidate and the carrier nanoparticles could be adopted as a universal platform for future vaccine development.”

*Important Notice

bioRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and, therefore, should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.

Journal reference:

Kang, Y.-F. et al. (2020). Rapid Development Of SARS-Cov-2 Receptor Binding Domain-Conjugated Nanoparticle Vaccine Candidate. medRxiv pre-print. doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.11.03.366138, https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101 ... 3.366138v1
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'Worst of the pandemic' yet to come for US: Experts

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'Worst of the pandemic' yet to come for US: Experts

Experts have expressed worries that the United States is ill-prepared for the incoming cold season and holidays when the COVID-19 pandemic could spiral into its deadliest phase, according to media reports.

The United States is heading into a fall holiday season marked by family gatherings and longer periods indoors, while the signs of further COVID-19 restrictions are basically non-existent, according to the article published Sunday by The Guardian.

Washington's strategy toward the pandemic boils down to one word -- hope, which is not a strategy, said Carlos del Rio, executive associate dean of the Emory School of Medicine and Grady Health System in Georgia, Xinhua news agency reported on Monday.

He predicted that the daily number of new cases could reach 200,000 by Thanksgiving, if the country's public health measures continue as they currently operate.

"We are heading into the very worst of the pandemic right now," Megan Ranney, an emergency room doctor at Brown University told The Guardian, adding that the fate of the country in the pandemic depends much on the next two months.

The situation could be exacerbated as US businesses are exhausting their pandemic relief aid, an ominous sign foreboding more layoffs and bankruptcies, the report said.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday reported a record-high average daily increase of COVID-19 cases at nearly 100,000, a new milestone since the onset of the pandemic in the country.

The country's national tally of COVID-19 cases has topped 9,944,000, with over 237,400 deaths as of Sunday afternoon, according to Johns Hopkins University.
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Billionaire couple who are so devoted to research that they spent their wedding day in the lab win race to produce coron

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Billionaire couple who are so devoted to research that they spent their wedding day in the lab win race to produce coronavirus vaccine that's given hope to millions across the globe

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/articl ... -worl.html
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Successful containment of COVID-19 in a Brazilian archipelago

11/8/20


https://www.news-medical.net/news/20201 ... elago.aspx


The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was first identified in late December 2019 in Wuhan, China. The outbreak was declared a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern" in January 2020 and a pandemic in March 2020. As of today, more than 50 million cases have been confirmed, with more than 1.25 million deaths attributed to COVID-19 worldwide. The paramount area of concern is the transmission of the novel coronavirus. This is especially relevant to Brazil, the country with the third-largest number of COVID-19 cases globally, standing at over 5.66 million cases.

Epidemiologists believe that viral transmission can be closely monitored in islands as the population is small and has a relatively smaller area. A group of 21 islands about 350 kilometers off Brazil's northeast coast is Fernando de Noronha Archipelago (FNA). The team of researchers in May 2020, headed by Ligia Regina Franco Sansigolo Kerr and Prof Costa Mendes, aimed to discuss and report the various control measures taken by FNA authorities in order to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2 virus in the Fernando de Noronha Archipelago (FNA). Their research is published on the preprint server medRxiv*.

Fernando de Archipelago:


The islands' official population is about 3,000, all living on the main island covering 17 km2. Being situated in Brazil's state of Pernambuco, FNA is a World Heritage Site, with tourism being the main economic activity. FNA also has an airport bringing in around 38 flights weekly, bringing in approximately 452 passengers every day.

"We have started taking preventive measures to manage COVID-19 pandemic here much before the state was hit with its first COVID-19 positive case in early March 2020" the administrative general of FNA says.

The study


The research team collected data about the COVID-19 pandemic in FNA by documenting data from epidemiological bulletins and also conducted a cohort study with questionnaires and testing of COVID-19 using RT-PCR kits in intervals of 60, 120, 180, and 360 days from May 22, 2020, for the people belonging to FNA. The team looked at the socioeconomic factors and reported the government's control measures and its implications in the FNA region.

Prevalence of COVID-19 in FNA


Only 5.1% cases were reported, and the research group from their survey estimates that about 5.6 times more cases occurred on the island went unreported. On comparing the national survey of 133 cities report published in May 2020, Mozart's team predicts that FNA would have had the country's ninth highest prevalence rate.

Control Measures

From the survey conducted, the team noticed that the FNA government followed the WHO protocols such as testing, isolation, and social distancing very religiously. The study showed few exceptional measures such as contact tracing for all the positive cases was identified, testing was made compulsory for travelers before, and after coming into the island, the wrist band usage to distinguish positive cases that cannot be removed without the approval from health surveillance system and the residents can venture out to get basic necessities only after authorization from an application in the smartphone. Schools in FNA were closed until further notice, and the FNA government has strengthened primary healthcare facilities by building a hospital in FNA itself to avoid travel to the mainland and mitigate the COVID-19 spread.

Even after the control measures taken by the FNA government, there was a high transmission rate. The researchers note that the removal of masks when with family and friends, food and other products being imported, and an influx of staff for primary healthcare from other cities outside the island could be the reason for the high transmission rate.

Influence of COVID-19 pandemic on the economy

The team conducted detailed research on the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy through their survey. FNA's main economic activity, tourism, was affected as the government imposed strict air travel rules, drastically reducing the number of flights from 38 to 1 flight per week. This increased the unemployment rate to around 46.4% on the island, with many citizens having to switch to informal work due to food insecurity.

Conclusion

The measures taken by the FNA administration were partly successful in curtailing the spread of COVID-19 in three months from the date of the first reported COVID-19 case in FNA. The success rate of nearly halting the COVID-19 spread attributed to the government's measures and low population size even though many islands such as Puerto Rico in the US with a low population could not succeed in the containment of spread. "The sustenance of this exemplification remains an enormous challenge since the island has to open up again for its largely dependent economic activity of tourism in order to address the gloomy situation of unemployment and food security in FNA, the researchers said, "We will continue to monitor the situation to advise the authorities."

Journal reference:

Fernando de Noronha: how an island controlled the community transmission of COVID-19 in Brazil, Authors: Mozart Júlio Tabosa Sales; Ligia Regina Franco Sansigolo Kerr; Regina Vianna Brizolara; Ivana Cristina de Holanda Cunha Barreto; Rosa Lívia Freitas de Almeida; Paulo Savio Angeiras de Goes; Luiz Odorico Monteiro de Andrade; Leuridan Cavalcante Torres; Flávia Kelly Alvarenga Pinto; Francisco Marto Leal Pinheiro Júnior; Rebeca Valentim Leite; Aline Priscila Rego de Carvalho; Amanda Carolina Felix Cavalcanti de Abreu; Rebecca Lucena Theophilo; Fernando Rodrigues Magalhães; Susane Lindinalva da Silva; Carl Kendall, Doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.10.22.20216010, https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101 ... 20216010v1
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Search for a Snakebite Drug Might Lead to a COVID Treatment, Too

11/9/20


https://khn.org/news/search-for-a-snake ... tment-too/


Dr. Matthew Lewin, founder of the Center for Exploration and Travel Health at the California Academy of Sciences, was researching snakebite treatments in rural locations in preparation for an expedition to the Philippines in 2011.

The story of a renowned herpetologist from the academy, Joseph Slowinski, who was bitten by a highly venomous krait in Myanmar and couldn’t get to a hospital in time to save his life a decade earlier, weighed on the emergency room doctor.

“I concluded that I needed something small and compact and that doesn’t care what kind of snake,” Lewin said.

It didn’t exist. That set Lewin in pursuit of a modern snakebite drug, a journey that finds his Corte Madera, California, company, Ophirex, nearing a promising oral treatment that fits in a pocket; is stable, easy to use and affordable; and treats the venom from many species. “That’s the holy grail of snakebite treatment,” he said.

His work has gotten a boost with multimillion-dollar grants from a British charity and the U.S. Army. If it works — and it has been shown to work extremely well in mice and pigs — it could save tens of thousands of lives a year.

Lewin and Ophirex are not alone in their quest. Snakebites kill nearly 140,000 people a year, overwhelmingly in impoverished rural areas of Asia and Africa without adequate medical infrastructure and knowledge to administer anti-venom. Though just a few people die each year in the U.S. from snakebites, the problem has risen to the top of the list of global health concerns in recent years. Funding has soared, and other research groups have also done promising work on new treatments. Herpetologists say deforestation and climate change are increasing human-snake encounters by forcing snakes to move to new habitats.

Lewin’s research is centered on a drug called varespladib. The enzyme inhibitor has proven itself in in-vitro lab studies and has effectively saved mice and pigs dosed with venom.

Along the way, Lewin and his team have come across another potential use for the drug. Varespladib has a positive effect on acute respiratory distress syndrome, associated with COVID-19. Next year, Ophirex will conduct human trials for the possible treatment of the condition funded with $9.9 million from the Army.

The link to a snakebite? The inflammation of the lungs caused by the coronavirus produces the sPLA2 enzyme. A more deadly version of the same enzyme is produced by snake venom.

The other companies that have come up with promising approaches to snakebite aren’t as far along as Ophirex. At the University of California-Irvine, chemist Ken Shea and his team created a nanogel — a kind of polymer used in medical applications — that blocks key proteins in the venom that cause cell destruction. At the Technical University of Denmark, Andreas Laustsen is looking at engineering bacteria to manufacture anti-venom in fermentation tanks.

The days of incising a snakebite and sucking out the poison are long over, but the current treatment for venomous snakebites remains archaic.

Since the early 1900s, anti-venom has been made by injecting horses or other animals with venom milked from snakes and diluted. The animals’ immune systems generate antibodies over several months, and blood plasma is taken from the animals and antibodies extracted from it.

It’s extremely expensive. Hospitals in the U.S. can charge as much as $15,000 a vial — and a single snakebite might require anywhere from four to 50 vials. Moreover, anti-venom exists for little more than half the world’s species of venomous snakes.

A major problem is the roughly two hours it takes on average for a snakebite victim to reach a hospital and begin treatment. The chemical weapon that is venom starts immediately to destroy cells as it digests its next meal, making fast treatment essential to saving lives and preventing tissue loss.

“The two-hour window between fang and needle is where the most damage occurs,” said Leslie Boyer, director of the University of Arizona’s Venom Immunochemistry, Pharmacology and Emergency Response — VIPER — Institute. “We have a saying, ‘Time is tissue.’”

That’s why the search for a new snakebite drug has focused on an inexpensive treatment that can be taken into the field. Lewin’s drug wouldn’t replace anti-venom. Instead, he thinks of it as the first line of defense until the victim can reach a hospital for anti-venom treatment.

Lewin said he expects the drug to be inexpensive, so people in regions where snakebites are common can afford it.

Venom is extremely complicated chemically, and Lewin began his search by sussing out which of its myriad components to block. He zeroed in on the sPLA2 enzyme.

Surveying the literature about drugs that had been clinically tested for other conditions, he came across varespladib. It had been developed jointly by Eli Lilly and Shionogi, a Japanese pharmaceutical company, as a possible treatment for sepsis. They had never taken it to market.

If it worked, Lewin could license the right to produce the drug, which had already been thoroughly studied and was shown to be safe.

He placed venom in an array of test tubes. Varespladib and other drugs were added to the venom. He then added a reagent. If the venom was still active, the solution would turn yellow; if it was neutralized, it would remain clear.

The vials with varespladib “came up completely blank,” he said. “It was so stunning I said, ‘I must have made a mistake.’”

With a small grant, he sent the drug to the Yale Center for Molecular Discovery and found that varespladib effectively neutralized the venom of snakes found on six continents. The results were published in the journal Toxins and sent ripples through the small community of snakebite researchers.

Lewin then conducted tests on mice and pigs. Both were successful.

Human clinical trials are next, but they have been delayed by the pandemic. They are scheduled to get underway next spring.

Along the way, Lewin was fortunate enough to make some good connections that led to funding. In 2012, he attended a party at the Mill Valley, California, home of Jerry Harrison, the former guitarist and keyboardist for Talking Heads. Harrison had long been interested in business and startups — he said he was the most careful reader of the ’80s band’s contracts — and at the party he asked “if anyone had any ideas lying fallow,” Harrison said.

“And Matt pipes up and says, ‘I have this idea how to prevent people from dying from snakebites,’” Harrison said.


The musician said he was a bit taken aback by such an unusual and dire problem, but “I thought if it can save lives we have to do it,” he said. He became an investor and co-founder of Ophirex with Lewin.

Lewin met Lt. Col. Rebecca Carter, a biochemist who was assigned to lead the Medical Modernization Division of Air Force Special Operations Command, in 2016 when she attended a Venom Week conference in Greenville, North Carolina. He was presenting the results of his mouse studies. She told him about her first mission: to find a universal anti-venom for medics on special operations teams in Africa. She persuaded the Special Operations Command Biomedical Research Advisory Group, which specializes in getting critical projects to production, to grant Ophirex $148,000 in 2017. She later retired from the Air Force and now works for Ophirex as vice president.

More multimillion-dollar grants followed, including the Army’s COVID grant. Clinical trials are scheduled to begin this winter.

Despite the progress and the sudden cash flow, Lewin tamps down talk of a universal snakebite cure. “There’s enough evidence to say the drug deserves to have its day in clinical trials,” he said.
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