The Daily Dose: HIV drug makes it easier to PrEP; COVID-19 transmission and Zoomba

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An experimental anti-HIV prophylactic, cabotegravir, has shown great promise when compared with the current PrEP drug of choice, Truvada. “The trial, sponsored by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), began in December 2016 and enrolled more than 4500 participants worldwide, who were randomly assigned to Truvada, cabotegravir, placebo pills or placebo injections. As of late April, 12 infections occurred in the cabotegravir group versus 38 in the equally sized group that received Truvada. This represents a 0.38% incidence in the cabotegravir arm versus 1.21% in the Truvada one, a 69% difference in new infection rates.” One of cabotegravir’s advantages is that it is injectable, whereas Truvada is oral. It is longer acting which helps people maintain their regimen.

Laboratories around the world are racing to be the first to develop an effective vaccine or therapy for COVID-19. Unfortunately, drug discovery isn’t the only problem that will need to be solved. There’s a looming logistics hurdle that needs to be addressed immediately. As per Nature, “It is likely to be one of the biggest drug-making challenges the world has ever faced. Some of the therapies being tested against COVID-19 are novel and difficult to produce. Others — even if they are relatively simple compounds that have been in use for decades — face complications such as supply-chain weaknesses as drug-makers try to scale up production.”

Speaking of coronavirus drugs in development, there was some encouraging news on the COVID-19 front. Moderna Therapeutics reported positive results in its early phase vaccine trial. According to CNBC, “Each participant received a 25, 100 or 250 microgram dose, with 15 people in each dose group. Participants received two doses of the potential vaccine via intramuscular injection in the upper arm approximately 28 days apart… At day 43, or two weeks following the second dose, levels of binding antibodies in the 25 microgram group were at the levels generally seen in blood samples from people who recovered from the disease, the company said.” Good news but it’s still early days. Just don’t tell that to people playing the stock market. The announcement resulted in a significant bump to the company’s stock and the broader market.

As the world grapples with the task of not only opening up but also adjusting to a post-COVID-19 existence, every facet of daily life is under examination. Activities in closed spaces are a particular concern. A South Korean study published in the CDC’s journal, Emerging Infectious DIseases reports on COVID-19 clusters originating in Zoomba classes. As per the study, “By March 9, we identified 112 COVID-19 cases associated with fitness dance classes in 12 different sports facilities in Cheonan (Figure). All cases were confirmed by RT-PCR; 82 (73.2%) were symptomatic and 30 (26.8%) were asymptomatic at the time of laboratory confirmation. Instructors with very mild symptoms, such as coughs, taught classes for ≈1 week after attending the workshop. The instructors and students met only during classes, which lasted for 50 minutes 2 times per week, and did not have contact outside of class. On average, students developed symptoms 3.5 days after participating in a fitness dance class (3). Most (50.9%) cases were the result of transmission from instructors to fitness class participants.” Open-air Zoomba, anyone?

IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

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