DAILY DOSE: Some positive COVID-19 news about infections in children and about vaccines in India.

There are few silver-linings in the global COVID-19 pandemic. That said, the relative mildness of pediatric infections certainly counts as one, so far. Scientists still don’t know exactly why this is but have ideas. An article in Nature takes a look at the phenomenon. “For most other viruses, from influenza to respiratory syncytial virus, young children and older adults are typically the most vulnerable; the risk of bad outcomes by age can be represented by a U-shaped curve. But with COVID-19, the younger end of that curve is largely chopped off. It’s “absolutely remarkable”, says Kawsar Talaat, an infectious-disease physician at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. “One of the few silver linings of this pandemic is that children are relatively spared.” As schools open this fall, researchers will have more data at their disposal. http://go.nature.com/3l4UDPw

The weather has been notably warming in New Zealand. According to the Associated Press, “The southern winter that just ended in New Zealand was the warmest ever recorded, and scientists say that climate change is driving temperatures ever higher. For the three months through August, the average temperature was 9.8 Celsius (50 Fahrenheit), according to New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research. That’s 1.3C above the long-term average and 0.2C higher than the previous record posted last year. Scientists have been keeping records since 1909, but most of the warmest winters have been recent.” It’s worth noting that the increase is part of a longer trend and not a one-off event. http://bit.ly/3h9Lgx8

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In the latest installment of Making Drugs Ain’t East, Biomarin’ phenylketonuria gene therapy drug has hit a sizable speed bump. According to FierceBiotech, “The gene therapy space has taken yet another hit. Labor Day, just days after the FDA convened a panel to discuss the cancer risk of gene therapies, BioMarin revealed the regulator has slapped a clinical hold on a phase 1/2 study over a safety signal seen in mice. BioMarin gave seven mice with mutations that could raise their risk of tumors the highest dose of the gene therapy it is testing in patients with phenylketonuria, a rare genetic disorder that renders people unable to break down an amino acid. At that dose, which is yet to be given to humans, six of the mice had tumors one year after dosing. Five mice had benign tumors, and one had liver cancer. BioMarin also found evidence that parts of the vector integrated into the genome.” Vector integration technology has been a long-standing concern about the safety of gene therapies. In mice, researchers have linked vectors that integrate into certain parts of the genome to the development of liver cancer. http://bit.ly/3n5yzai

The Western news media were big on featuring India when COVID-19 was ripping through the country. They’ve been less engages when it comes to reporting the turnaround and vaccine success stories that followed. The country’s scientists have had considerable success developing a DNA vaccine for the disease. Per Nature, “India has approved a new COVID-19 vaccine that uses circular strands of DNA to prime the immune system against the virus SARS-CoV-2. Researchers have welcomed news of the first DNA vaccine for people to receive approval anywhere in the world, and say many other DNA vaccines might soon be hot on its heels. ZyCoV-D, which is administered into the skin without an injection, has been found to be 67% protective against symptomatic COVID-19 in clinical trials, and will probably start to be administered in India this month. Although the efficacy is not particularly high compared to that of many other COVID-19 vaccines, the fact that it is a DNA vaccine is significant, say researchers.” We need to hear the good news in equal parts with the bad. It would do wonders for people’s psyches. http://go.nature.com/3n9Sm8s

There has been a growing acceptance of psychedelic drugs as valid tools in the psychiatric arsenal. An BBC article examines the growing trend and what it means for the field and patients. Per the BBC, “In the last 10 years, psychedelic drugs like LSD, magic mushrooms, DMT, a host medicines” – including ayahuasca, iboga, salvia, peyote – and related compounds like MDMA and ketamine have begun to lose much of their 1960s-driven stigma. Promising clinical trials suggest that psychedelics may prove game-changing treatments for depression, PTSD and addiction. The response from the psychiatric community, far from dismissive or even sceptical, has been largely open-armed. The drugs may well mark the field’s first paradigm shift since SSRIs in the 1980s… This phenomenon is known as the “psychedelic renaissance” – and it promises to change far more about our societies than simply the medical treatments that doctors prescribe. Unlike other drugs, psychedelics can radically alter the way people see the world. They also bring mystical and hallucinatory experiences that are at the edge of current scientific understanding. So, what might follow if psychedelics become mainstream?” http://bbc.in/3BGzLoC

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.


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