The Daily Dose: COVID-19 clinical trials move forward; Ibuprofen danger lacks hard data

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International research and development to develop a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine and coronavirus treatments are moving forward. The World Health Organization stands in prime position to organize the process. It’s pretty much one of the reasons they exist. As per Science, “WHO announced a large global trial, called SOLIDARITY, to find out if any can treat infections with the new coronavirus for the dangerous respiratory disease. It’s an unprecedented effort—an all-out, coordinated push to collect robust scientific data rapidly during a pandemic. The study, which could include many thousands of patients in dozens of countries, has been designed to be as simple as possible so that even hospitals overwhelmed by an onslaught of COVID-19 patients can participate.”

In similar R&D news, scientists are actively compiling lists of pharmaceuticals that may possess activity against the novel coronavirus. As per the New York Times, “Nearly 70 drugs and experimental compounds may be effective in treating the coronavirus, a team of researchers reported on Sunday night. Some of the medications are already used to treat other diseases, and repurposing them to treat Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, may be faster than trying to invent a new antiviral from scratch, the scientists said. The list of drug candidates appeared in a study published on the web site bioRxiv.” The list was compiled by studying the virus’s genome and inferring compounds that interact with its genetic code or the proteins produced by them.

Some scientists are hitting the breaks on the notion that ibuprofen worsens COVID-19. According to an op-ed in Science, “As pandemic coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to accelerate, French Health Minister, Olivier Véran has confused matters by claiming on Twitter that anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or cortisone could aggravate the infection. However, scientific evidence does not indicate that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) consumption puts patients who otherwise might have mild or asymptomatic infection by severe acute respiratory syndrome–coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)—the virus that causes COVID-19—at risk of more severe disease.” The article does not rule out that a negative reaction is possible. However, it asserts that there isn’t enough data on the subject, making any speculation just that.

More evidence that the Trump Administration’s prior decisions hampered their response to the COVID-19 outbreak and exacerbated an already dire situation continues to emerge. As per Reuters, “Several months before the coronavirus pandemic began, the Trump administration eliminated a key American public health position in Beijing intended to help detect disease outbreaks in China, Reuters has learned. The American disease expert, a medical epidemiologist embedded in China’s disease control agency, left her post in July, according to four sources with knowledge of the issue.” The administration dismantled a global pandemic task force that was created by the Obama White House. It also placed a hiring freeze that has compromised the Center for Disease Control’s effectiveness.

For the foreseeable future, New York City will be the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. In the coming weeks, the situation will continue to deteriorate and this is getting the city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, very worried. As per BBC News, “The coronavirus outbreak in New York will get worse, with damage accelerated by shortages of key medical supplies, the city’s mayor has said. ‘We’re about 10 days away from seeing widespread shortages,’ Bill de Blasio said on Sunday. ‘If we don’t get more ventilators people will die.’ New York state has become the epicentre of the outbreak in the US and accounts for almost half of the country’s cases… New York now accounts for roughly 5% of Covid-19 cases worldwide.” As it stands, NYC would rank sixth in a list of countries in terms of COVID-19 cases. If current patterns hold, the state will continue to move up the list in coming weeks.

More countries are imposing massive quarantines in an attempt to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2. South Asian countries are the latest to adopt forced social distancing measures. According to Al-Jazeera, “Authorities in India have placed more than 80 cities and districts across the country under stringent lockdown after cases of coronavirus were detected there, as the world’s second-most populous nation stepped up measures to halt the spread of the pandemic.”

As you’d expect these days, people are touting the potential benefits of artificial intelligence in combating the novel coronavirus. According to the Next Web, “Combined with the assistance of human experts, BlueDot’s AI can not only predict the start of an epidemic, but also forecast how it will spread. In the case of COVID-19, the AI successfully identified the cities where the virus would be transferred to after it surfaced in Wuhan. Machine learning algorithms studying travel patterns were able to predict where the people who had contracted coronavirus were likely to travel.” Unfortunately, healthcare AI has been a little underwhelming, but at least it’s fantastic when it comes to serving ads on the web and predicting consumer trends, right?

Finally, Edwin Catmull, a graphics researcher at the University of Utah, has won the Turing Prize, often referred to as the Nobel Prize for the computing world. The award was also shared with Patrick Hanrahan. “Wednesday, Catmull’s pioneering research on graphics earned him the highest honor in computing, the Association for Computer Machinery’s A.M. Turing Award, seen as the field’s equivalent to a Nobel Prize. Catmull shared the award and $1 million prize money with Patrick Hanrahan, a fellow computer graphics researcher he recruited to the founding team of Pixar in 1986. The pair were honored for inventing techniques that transformed Hollywood and have shaped other forms of entertainment such as video games and virtual reality.”

IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

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