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Scientists from three countries identify specific inhibitor of SARS-COV-2-related gene in bats called carolacton: South China Morning Post

2020-04-01

(image courtesy of pixabay.com and Ri_Ya)

The SCMP (South China Morning Post) reported that scientists from Singapore, China, and the United States have identified a specific inhibitor of a bat gene that SARS-COV-2 requires for replication: carolacton.  The paper was originally published on Biorxiv.  The gene involved is key to the production of purine, a precursor to one of the RNA bases that the virus requires for its genome (its genetic blueprint).  Apparently mammalian cells (like bats and humans, for example) are far more tolerant of purine synthesis inhibitors (drugs that stop the production of purine) than viruses.

If you have a yen for abstruse biology, visit Biorxiv.org; otherwise, I suggest you re-watch “Red Beard” or “Seven Samurai”, now featured on TMC as part of a retrospective of the famous Japanese actor (and swordsman) Toshiro Mifune.

WaPo: ophthalmologist with COVID-19 failed hydroxychloroquine/azithromycin, Kevzara, not eligible for remdesivir due to renal failure; on ventilator for 10 days.

2020-04-01

(image courtesy of pixabay.com and Ri_Ya)

A story in today’s Washington Post describes the tragic tale of a 41-year-old ophthalmologist with three children on Long Island.  He fell ill on March 14 with fever and cough, was hospitalized with dyspnea (shortness of breath), and by March 19 was on a ventilator.  He has not improved with a course of the treatment touted by [redacted]: azithromycin and hydroxychloroquine.  Then he failed to respond to Kevzar, an investigational drug originally intended for rheumatoid arthritis.  His kidneys stopped working.  Now he is ineligible to try remdesivir due to renal failure (kidneys not working).

To be clear, evidence was not presented that renal failure is a contraindication (reason for not using) to taking remdesivir.  These are the criteria set by Gilead, the drug’s maker, to limit the number of patients eligible for trials of this drug.  Presumably, the drug would be less likely to help him under these circumstances.  There is also the issue of supply: over a thousand patients have already been treated with this not-yet-approved drug.

There is no publicly available outcomes data for remdesivir, in part because Gilead holds the patent and can claim that such information would be “proprietary” (a trade secret).  On the other hand, there is widely circulated data on a French study of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin which looks impressive until one checks the actual numbers.  Only twenty patients were studied.  This is inadequate given that, by now, thousands and thousands of patients have been treated with the drug combination, including people with renal failure and other comorbidities (additional diseases) and those in extremis (clearly dying).

The situation now is so dire that an obstetrician-gynecologist calling himself “The Honest Ob-Gyn” has circulated a video on FaceBook touting the results of the French study.  He told his listeners to “tell your doctor” and by implication, to demand this treatment.  He failed to mention the tiny number of patients in the study, and inaccurately claimed that the results (which he held up on a hand-drawn graph in the video) showed “clearance of virus from the blood”.  In fact, the novel coronavirus doesn’t circulate in the blood in most cases, and is only shed from the respiratory epithelium (the lining of the nose, throat, bronchi, and lungs).

What is worse, hydroxychloroquine is currently unavailable to outpatients due to a run on the supply and the donation of hundreds of millions of doses to hospitals.  There is plenty of azithromycin around, as this is widely prescribed for bronchitis (which is usually caused by other viruses) even though there is no evidence that it is effective even for ordinary, garden-variety acute bronchitis.

This FaceBuck video is now responsible for medical assistants asking their providers (the doctors and physician assistants they work for) why they are not prescribing these drugs!  This in the context of no tests being readily available and the turnaround time for test results stretching out to ten days in routine cases.  It has to be patiently and gently (adverbs of which I am not capable) explained to them what is wrong with this picture.  This is one reason I retired: too many ignorant questions from people who don’t even know what questions to ask.

SARS-COV-2: This Chinese study about asymptomatic patients wasn’t retracted: it showed 28% of children under 14 and 27% of elders over 70 had no symptoms.

2020-04-01

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Here’s a link to a Chinese study on Medrxiv that wasn’t retracted (yet– too late now).

Here’s the key findings:

 In different infection periods, compared with the proportion after 1/31/2020, the proportion of asymptomatic patient among SARS-CoV-2 infected patient was higher(19% VS 1.5%). In different age groups, the proportion of asymptomatic patient was the highest(28.6%) in children group under 14, next in elder group over 70 (27.3%). Compared with mild and common Covid-19 patients, the mean latency of asymptomatic [sic] was longer (11.25 days VS 8.86 days), but the hospital length of stay was shorter (14.3 days VS 16.96 days) .

Peru and the novel coronavirus SARS-COV-2: doing much better than the rest of South America, especially Brazil

2020-04-01

(image courtesy of pixabay.com and Ri_Ya)

Yesterday, I mentioned that the countries with the highest prevalence of blood type O might see some protection from the novel coronavirus.  This study from China, published March 11 on Medrxiv, is the basis for this speculation.  Peru has the second largest percentage of people in the world with this blood type (70%, with Chile at 86%).  It also has a relatively stable, effective government.  This contrasts with Brazil and Mexico, whose leaders are still downplaying the seriousness of this pandemic.

A report  in the journal of the Americas Society/Council of the Americas published yesterday shows what is happening over the whole continent.  The graph that counts gives us a picture of what is happening in Peru, and by contrast, Brazil.  Peru has a shallowly increasing incidence of positive test results after the 100th case; Brazil has a steep curve, the worst in the continent.  Colombia, Mexico, and Panama also show slow rises in cases.  Cuba, with questionable data, has a similar, slow rise– I will discount their results because of the authoritarian dictatorship there.  Chile seems to have had a middle-of-the-road curve.

Mexico appears to be doing relatively well, but I suspect that case finding is very poor there.  Reports emerged this week of vacationers to Mexico returning to the US with infections (sorry, not sourced; you’ll have to Google it).  Infrastructure is weak, and their leader AMLO (Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador) has been dismissive of the new virus’ impact.  A national health emergency was declared on March 30, more than a month after their first case was reported on February 28.  Nearly 50% of Mexicans live in poverty, and 82% disapproved of AMLO’s extensive travel within the country.  On March 27, AMLO encouraged Mexicans to stay home, but the next day he started another journey, “which included a stop to meet—and shake hands—with the mother of U.S.-imprisoned drug cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzman.”

Peru has been trying hard since its first case was announced March 6.  A strict national quarantine and state of emergency was declared on March 15 and took effect on March 19, including a ban from the roads for private vehicles.  The same day, 3 million poor families received payments of $100 each for two weeks of basic goods.  President Vizcarra’s approval rating has soared 35% to 87%, and 95% support the lockdown.  That very same day, the president announced that he had ordered 1.4 million test kits.

Details for all South and Central American countries are available in this report, so if this is something you are interested in, I encourage you to follow the link and look at what Chile has been up to.  Whether the prevalence of type O blood in Chile and Peru will be protective remains to be seen; with many of its people having other types, there is plenty of room for damage.  Fortunately for poor Peruvians, their government is trying hard.

Chile, with 86% of its people having type O blood, has done better than Brazil but not as well as the countries mentioned above.  Thus, type O might be irrelevant to the larger picture– government response might be more important.  What’s your blood type?

Das Coronavirus Update in German with Christian Drosten on Nord-Deutsche Radio: the latest facts and questions, not yet translated

2020-04-01

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Here’s a link directly to Das Coronavirus Update.  It’s also available on YouTube, although I don’t recommend patronizing YouBube because of its morass of mis-information.

Why that Chinese Research was retracted: Administration Cited Study as Showing Chinese tests were flawed; that’s not what the study actually said.

2020-04-01

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Here’s the link to the story in NPR.  It provides many details on the study and the Administration’s flawed attempt to cite it as a reason for the US developing its own test.  The conclusion they drew is that the reasons why the study was retracted have not been revealed.  According to the NPR:

Without access to the paper, nobody can assess the value of the work or determine whether it suffers from a scientific flaw. It’s also unknown if the paper was retracted for political reasons. That’s a possibility, though it was retracted well before U.S. officials started citing it in public in a way that disparaged the Chinese coronavirus test.

The study cited a 47% positivity rate in asymptomatic close contacts of ill patients.  This number may well be accurate, although since the retraction, we cannot rely upon it.  The revelation that asymptomatic people can carry and transmit the virus in a quarter to a third of cases puts this in perspective.  The possibility is that many positive-tested patients are asymptomatic, and in this perspective, a 47% number is not so questionable.

The study may have been retracted for political reasons, namely the Chinese government’s attempts to cover up the fact that they have not included asymptomatic positive-testing people in their case counts.  As of today, the Chinese will start to include such patients in their case counts.  When they announced the coming change, they revealed that roughly 1,500 people were currently in quarantine for positive tests but lacking in symptoms (roughly a third of the total under isolation).

So it’s speculation, but I say that it’s possible that the retraction was not due to scientific inaccuracy, but for the way it made the Chinese government “look bad” or made them lose face.  The Chinese are extremely sensitive, and they have an enveloping censorship that makes the true facts very hard to ascertain.  The epidemic in China may have been much worse than they were willing to admit, and it may be continuing despite their best efforts.

 

Details about the New Republican Lie About SARS-COV-2: It’s the Democrat’s Fault for Impeaching [redacted]

2020-04-01

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The details: the impeachment trial’s pre-ordained conclusion occurred on February 5, 2020.  The first known patient with COVID-19 arrived in the US on January 15 and was hospitalized on January 19-20.  Details of his case were published in the NEJM (New England Journal of Medicine) on January 31.  Briefings for the *president on the threat of the new virus had already been held.

Himself was holding rallies and golfing thru-out the month of February and into March.   He visited Mar-a-Lago repeatedly and met with officials from Brazil (after which multiple members of the Brazilian delegation turned out to be positive for the new virus).  He was calling the virus a “Democratic hoax” all along.  This is at the same time that he was getting regular briefings on the advance of the virus in the US.

After impeachment was over, he pivoted towards retaliating against those who dared to come forward and testify to his corrupt actions.  He kicked Alexander Vindman off the NSC (National Security Council).  He threw Vindman’s twin brother out (who had done nothing) at the same time.

George (“Mr. KellyAnne”) Conway pushed back on McConnell’s claims, according to IJR (Independent Journal Review):

Conway noted that the impeachment trial — which ended on Feb. 5 — was “over before it even started, thanks in large part to McConnell.”

Himself made his first tweet about COVID-19 on January 24, projected confidence, and made no mention of its spread to the US.

On February 29, the first US death from the new virus was reported.  Himself had already banned travel from China on January 31 (after removing US nationals from the country) and reported new travel bans on the 29th.  He boasted that the travel ban for China had been very effective.

All in all, multiple news outlets have contradicted the claim that impeachment was a distraction– or would have been for the average president.  Clinton had made a good show of concentrating on actual business while he was being impeached.  But Himself couldn’t concentrate on anything except the attack on his standing in government and its narcissistic threats to his self-image.

Long after impeachment was over, He held rallies, golfed, travelled, and raved about the new virus as a “Democratic hoax”.  McConnell’s new claim is just an attempt to deflect blame for His tardy response towards the Democrat’s quixotic quest to remove the sociopathic, narcissistic solipsist who claims to be our leader.