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Science

Remdesivir: cure for COVID-19? More studies needed

The race is on to find a cure for COVID-19 as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on countries, shuttering economies, straining public health systems and taking many lives. As of this writing there are 2, 160, 207 confirmed cases with 146, 088 deaths worldwide.

The World Health Organization has taken the lead in a global “Solidarity trial” of at least four candidate drugs that could potentially cure the disease: Remdesivir; Lopinavir/Ritonavir; Lopinavir/Ritonavir with Interferon beta-1a; and Chloroquine or Hydroxychloroquine.

First to grab headlines was Hydroxychloroquine which US President Trump has mentioned on many of his earlier briefings to the press.

Remdesivir
Chemical structure of Remdesivir.

Now, attention has shifted to remdesivir which has shown promising results based on a few studies in the US. The drug is made by Gilead Sciences and was initially tested against Ebola but had little success. Multiple studies in animals showed the drug could both prevent and treat coronaviruses related to COVID-19, including SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).

The US NIH came out with a report that remdesivir prevented COVID-19 from progressing in rhesus macaque monkeys based on mild- to-moderate cases of the human disease.

Although the “solidarity trial” is unprecedented and groundbreaking as it has never been done before, experts are saying that more rigorous studies are needed as the urgency to find a cure may compromise the global effort.

Dr. Rahul Ganatra, director of Continuing Medical Education at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts has scrutinized a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine on the use of remdesivir for patients with severe COVID-19. His initial appraisal is that the study was based on a population of small size – only 61 patients, there were missing data like the definition of what is “standard care”, and perhaps most importantly, it lacked a control group. To his mind, these threaten the promise of remdesivir being a cure for COVID-19. His conclusion: more well-designed trials like ones with control-groups are needed.

It is hoped that indeed researchers would bear in mind that a cure for COVID-19 would only be found through good science and that the goal is not only to be the first in finding it, rather finding a cure that really works.

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Daily dose Science

Debunking the ‘Well played China’ conspiracy theory

Along with the SARS-CoV-2 or coronavirus that has spread throughout the world causing a pandemic, conspiracy theories abound. One of the most recent ones being spread through social media can be summarized as follows:

China created the coronavirus to cause global economic collapse – people are told to stay at home to prevent the virus from spreading, businesses temporarily closed & work stoppage has been implemented.
This has sent stock prices dropping then China comes in to buy those low-priced stocks until we end up with a ‘world owned by China’.

Mind-blowing isn’t it? However this conspiracy theory is wrong on several points.

First, SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19 is not a man-made or engineered virus. This has already been proven by scientific studies in the journal Nature Medicine and the New England Journal of Medicine.

Second, while it’s true that the US stock market has seen some decline as COVID-19 has spread in the US, the market has made a rebound after the federal government announced an economic stimulus package.

Third, Chinese investors did buy shares but the shares they bought are those of Chinese companies.

In addition, the Chinese government rolled out an economic stimulus package and spent more than 1.2 trillion yuan ($170 billion) buying shares to shore up prices.

Lastly, Peter Nolan, a professor of Chinese Development at Cambridge University, debunks the notion that China is ‘buying the world’ in his latest book entitled “Is China Buying the World?

‘China has not bought the world and shows little sign of doing so in the near future,’ Nolan writes. ‘Their presence in high-income countries is negligible. This is a remarkable situation for a country that is the world’s largest exporter and its second largest economy and manufacturer. In other words, ‘we’ are inside ‘them’ but ‘they’ are not inside ‘us’.

Peter Nolan, “Is China Buying the World?”

Final words

Stop spreading conspiracy theories. Verify, look for sources or references that are credible. Since most of us are staying at home these days, use the time to search on Google and do some basic research.

If a message is forwarded to you and it has no references or citations, think twice before forwarding it to others or sharing it on social media. Verify. Google. Research. Or ask first from persons you trust to be experts or have knowledge about these things. Don’t be a sheep. Think! If there’s something more dangerous than the coronavirus is it ignorance and being too gullible.

And remember, stay at home. Stay healthy and be safe.

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Science

How long does SARS-CoV-2 survive in the environment?

In a new report on the New England Journal of Medicine, investigators tested how long the SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, lasts in the air and on surfaces:

Viable in aerosols or mixed in air for 3 hours

Viable and detectable on the following surfaces:

Stainless steel and plastic – up to 72 hours

Cardboard – 24 hours

Copper – 4 hours

So frequent hand washing is still a very effective preventive measure as well as cleaning surfaces. Especially our mobile phones, tablets & keyboards.

You can read the full report here.

Stay safe and as much as possible, stay indoors.

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Science

How hand washing with soap & water kills the SARS-CoV-2

The inevitable has happened, there are now 24 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines and as I write this, the World Health Organization is on the brink of calling the outbreak a pandemic.

You may have doubts or misgivings about our own Department of Health, but they are still the best source of information about COVID-19 cases in the Philippines. Sharing unverified information via social media only helps to fuel panic and paranoia which could worsen the outbreak for all of us.

With the virus spreading locally, it’s important that we do our share to help contain or minimize its spread. You’ve often heard from medical professionals, government officials, your HR folk, the World Health Organization and media that one of the most effective ways to fight the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 is by frequent hand washing with soap and water. How so? It’s all rooted in the morphology or physical characteristics of the coronavirus. See the illustration below:

Coronavirus is a type of “enveloped” virus which means its core genetic material is surrounded by a membrane. That membrane, encircled in the image above, is called a lipid bilayer or two layers of phospholipids.

By Bensaccount – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Lipid_bilayer_section.gif, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2929946

Lipid is a molecule that is like fat. Since soaps dissolve fat, washing your hands with soap and water for a sufficient amount of time, experts say singing “Happy birthday” twice does the trick, dissolves that lipid bilayer envelope of the coronavirus which in turn destroys the virus itself. This simple practice is very effective against germs, that’s why you often see surgeons spending a great deal of time thoroughly scrubbing their hands with soap and water before and after a surgery as shown in popular TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy or The Good Doctor.

So let’s do our part, frequently wash our hands with soap and water to keep it clean and fight off nasty germs like the coronavirus. Remember, before and after eating, wash your hands. After using the toiltet, wash your hands. Just got home from work or outside, wash your hands before touching anything else or your loved ones.

It cannot be overstated: wash your hands with soap and water.