Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
Science

Novel coronavirus 2019 disease & virus gets official names

Two official names have been made public today in relation to the on-going pandemic, yes I said it, of novel coronavirus: the disease and the virus that causes it.

As per the World Health Organization:

For the virus:

Similar to how one should distinguish the AIDS (disease) from HIV (virus). With the official names now available, research and news reporting would be much clearer.

So let’s recap: the disease is called Coronavirus Disease-19 or COVID-19 and the virus is called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Categories
Daily dose

How the novel coronavirus outbreak gave birth to #OustDuterte

A lot has happened in the past month since the world learned of the 2019 novel coronavirus that started an outbreak in the city of Wuhan in China’s Hubei province. As of this writing, figures from the WHO are as follows:

Globally
11953 confirmed (2128 new)
China
11821 confirmed (2102 new)
1795 severe (268 new)
259 deaths (46 new)
Outside of China
132 confirmed (26 new)
23 countries (4 new)

Novel Coronavirus(2019-nCoV) Situation Report – 12 as of Feb 1, 2020

In the Philippines, the numbers from the Department of Health as summarized below:

DOH tracker of novel coronavirus cases in the Philippines

The first fatality in the Philippines also earned the distinction as the first one outside of China: 44-year old male who was the companion of the first patient, 38-year old female to have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Both were tourists from Wuhan arriving at Cebu via Cebu Pacific flight 5J 241 (Hong Kong-Cebu) and DG 6519 (Cebu-Dumaguete) last Jan. 21, 2020. From Cebu, they then took a flight to Manila on January 25, 2020 via Philippine Airlines. Both airlines have pulled out the actual planes boarded by the tourists for disinfection and have had their cabin crews and pilots screened for the the coronavirus. They are also working with health authorities in tracking down and contacting the other passengers who sat nearby the two tourists.

For some measure of relief, 24 persons under investigation have tested negative for the novel coronavirus.

On January 31, the WHO declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. In response, neighboring countries like Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Mongolia and Russia have declared travel restrictions on passengers from China. Meanwhile, here in the Philippines, all the government did was declare a travel restriction only to passengers coming form Hubei province where the epicenter of the of outbreak is. This slow response and deference to ‘avoiding the ire of Beijing‘ sparked public outrage that made #OustDuterte a top trending topic on Twitter.

Which was no surprise considering that on that same day, still active Presidential-aide turned Senator Christopher Go stated that President Duterte would meet have a meeting with heath experts and government officials to deal with the outbreak NEXT WEEK! Adding insult to injury, Presidential Spokesperson followed up with a statement that for Duterte, “weekends are sacred” and that he “likes to sleep long.

The response of the administration’s supporters was not totally unexpected: the deployment of online trolls and bot farms with a different, albeit hypocritical narrative: an appeal for sympathy for our Chinese brethren and that a travel ban smacks of racism:

Be careful with sharing the sob stories you read surrounding current events. Some of them are fake/propaganda…

Posted by Martin Luke Lastrilla Patiño on Friday, January 31, 2020

This quickly backfired as netizens used the troll’s message as a template to further mock and throw shade against the administration:

I'm sad. We have Chinese neighbors sa condo, and just now may nakasabay kaming babae (Chinese) with 2 kids. Ang sabi nya…

Posted by Rafael Antonio Anton Dulce on Saturday, February 1, 2020

There are a lot more of these and quite sure you’ve seen either type or both on your newsfeed. The key takeaway is this, at the very least the Duterte administration is sensitive to public opinion.