• African COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories Reignite Hostile Narratives against World Health Organization

    In May 2020, false information began spreading in several African countries that implied the World Health Organization (WHO) had mixed poison into “COVID-Organics,” an unproven herbal tonic touted across Africa as a cure for COVID-19, in an attempt to kill Africans. Tessa Knight and Kanishk Karan write for DFRLab that the narratives contributed to a conspiracy ecosystem of anti-vaxxers who frequently attack global public health efforts. The false narrative gave fuel to the ongoing conspiracy fire, resonating because it targeted an international organization — in this case, WHO ­– that is a common target for conspiracies

  • Software Tool Could Be Used to Limit Lockdowns, Safeguard Economy

    People hunkered down at home while many businesses, churches, and schools closed this spring to curtail the spread of the COVID-19, but one George Mason University Engineering researcher says that drastic lockdown strategy may not fit all areas of the United States. Sai Dinakarrao, an engineering professor, is working with other researchers to develop a software tool that factors in differences between parts of the country.

  • China’s Campaign Forcibly to Reduce Uighur Births May Amount to Genocide: Reports

    Four years ago, China has launched a broad campaign to reduce birth rates among Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Turkic Muslim populations in Xinjiang province in western China. The Chinese authorities have implemented various population control measures in Xinjiang, including mandatory pregnancy checks and forced insertion of intrauterine devices. Officials and armed police conducted night raids to look for hidden children and pregnant women, fining and detaining parents of three or more children and forcing abortions and sterilizations on women.

  • Global COVID-19 Cases Pass 10 Million, Deaths Top Half Million

    Global COVID-19 numbers crossed two grim thresholds Sunday, with cases passing 10 million and deaths topping 500,000, with cases still rising in a number of hot spots and countries that have controlled their outbreaks battling pockets of resurgence. The world has been adding about 1 million COVID-19 cases a week, and yesterday the total reached 10,199,798 cases, and 502,947 people have died from their infections.

  • “Pooled Testing” for COVID-19 Holds Promise, Pitfalls

    The nation’s top health officials are banking on a new approach to dramatically boost U.S. screening for the coronavirus: combining test samples in batches instead of running them one by one. Matthew Perrone writes for AP that the potential benefits include stretching laboratory supplies, reducing costs and expanding testing to millions more Americans who may unknowingly be spreading the virus. Health officials think infected people who aren’t showing symptoms are largely responsible for the rising number of cases across more than half of states.

  • U.S. Biotech Firm Inovio Reports Encouraging Virus Vaccine Results

    The US biotech firm Inovio reported preliminary but encouraging results Tuesday from tests of an experimental coronavirus vaccine. AFP reports that the vaccine, administered to 40 volunteers, triggered an immune system response in 94 percent of those who completed the so-called phase one clinical trial, meaning they received two injections, four weeks apart. Inovio’s vaccine, called INO-4800, is designed to inject DNA into a person so as to set off a specific immune system response against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

  • Coronavirus: The Antibody Drugs Few People Have Been Discussing – Until Now

    Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have been working around the clock to find an effective treatment. The first drug to show promise is dexamethasone, a cheap, widely available steroid. A large clinical trial run by the University of Oxford showed that the drug cut the risk of death for COVID-19 patients on ventilators by a third, and by a fifth for those on oxygen. Lara Marks writes in The Conversation thatwhat is encouraging about dexamethasone is that it provides a proof of concept for future therapies. The drug works by blocking the overactive immune response triggered by SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. This can cause excessive inflammation – a complication often far more damaging than the virus itself.

  • Coronavirus and Cancer Hijack the Same Parts in Human Cells to Spread – and Our Team Identified Existing Cancer Drugs that Could Fight COVID-19

    Most antivirals in use today target parts of an invading virus itself. Unfortunately, SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – has proven hard to kill. But viruses rely on cellular mechanisms in human cells to help them spread, so it should be possible to change an aspect of a person’s body to prevent that and slow down the virus enough to allow the immune system to fight the invader off. Nevan Krogan writes in The Conversation, “I am a quantitative biologist, and my lab built a map of how the coronavirus uses human cells. We used that map to find already existing drugs that could be repurposed to fight COVID-19 and have been working with an international group of researchers called the QBI Coronavirus Research Group to see if the drugs we identified showed any promiseMany have.

  • Gilead Sets Price of Coronavirus Drug Remdesivir at $3,120 as Trump Administration Secures Supply for 500,000 Patients

    Gilead Sciences, the maker of the first covid-19 treatment found to have worked in clinical trials, remdesivir, said Monday it will charge U.S. hospitals $3,120 for the typical patient with private insurance. Hannah Denham, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Christopher Rowland write in the Washington Post that sSoon after the announcement, the Trump administration said it had secured nearly all of the company’s supply of the drug for use in U.S. hospitals through September, with a contract for 500,000 treatment courses, which it will make available to hospitals at Gilead’s price.

  • This Coronavirus Mutation Has Taken over the World. Scientists Are Trying to Understand Why.

    When the first coronavirus cases in Chicago appeared in January, they bore the same genetic signatures as a germ that emerged in China weeks before. Sarah Kaplan and Joel Achenbach write in the Washington Post that as Egon Ozer, an infectious-disease specialist at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, examined the genetic structure of virus samples from local patients, he noticed something different. At a glance, the mutation seemed trivial. About 1,300 amino acids serve as building blocks for a protein on the surface of the virus. In the mutant virus, the genetic instructions for just one of those amino acids — number 614 — switched in the new variant from a “D” (shorthand for aspartic acid) to a “G” (short for glycine). But the location was significant, because the switch occurred in the part of the genome that codes for the all-important “spike protein” — the protruding structure that gives the coronavirus its crownlike profile and allows it to enter human cells the way a burglar picks a lock.

  • The Danger of Drug Research in a Hurry

    The number of studies on COVID-19 is increasing just as rapidly as the number of infections at the beginning of the pandemic. Felicitas Witte writes in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung [in German] that in mid-March there were still 84, today there are more than 2,200. Wolf-Dieter Ludwig, chairman of the drug commission of the German medical profession and an oncologist in Berlin, is concerned about the number. “This is more mass than class,” he says. “Many of the ongoing studies are so badly planned that it is already clear that a reliable result will not come out.” The corona crisis culminated in what he had been criticizing for a number of years: Medicines should come onto the market faster and faster, but the quality of the studies and ultimately the patient suffered as a result.

  • Lab-Grown ‘Mini-Brains’ Suggest COVID-19 Virus Can Infect Human Brain Cells

    A multidisciplinary team from two Johns Hopkins University institutions, including neurotoxicologists and virologists from the Bloomberg School of Public Health and infectious disease specialists from the School of Medicine, has found that organoids (tiny tissue cultures that simulate whole organs) made from human cells (known as “mini-brains”) can be infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. The results were published online today, June 26, in the journal ALTEX: Alternatives to Animal Experimentation. Johns Hopkins notes that Early reports from Wuhan, China, have suggested that 36% of COVID-19 patients show neurological symptoms, but until now it was not clear whether the virus infects human brain cells. The Johns Hopkins researchers have now demonstrated that certain human neurons express a receptor, ACE2, that the SARS-CoV-2 virus uses for entering the lungs — and possibly the brain.

  • Decisions: Relying on the Correct Information, Finding the Right Balance

    The reopening of the economies and the resulting – and expected – increase in the number of reported infections, have intensified, and deepened, the discussion over the economic and social lockdowns of the past three months, and the right approach in the face of more infections, let alone a second wave later in the year.

    Juliet Samuel writes that the enormous costs of the lockdown so far do not mean that lockdowns will not be re-imposed – especially if a better approach to containing the more serious effects of the virus is not offered. Sweden has offered a better, “light touch” alternative, but has now come under criticism for having a higher deaths-per-million ratio relative to its Scandinavian neighbors, which opted for strict lockdowns. Carl-Johan Karlsson writes that a close examination of the Swedish case shows that it was not that the “light touch” approach was wrong, but rather that its architects have overlooked a major problem: changes made to the Swedish senior care system in the last decade left Swedish elderly exposed (3,200 of Sweden’s 5,000 deaths are over 70 years old).

    There are terminological issues (does “infection” equal “sickness”?) and measurement issues (How do you find, with precision, what the R0 is?), and Ross Clark (also see here) addresses these issues.

    Have political leaders got the balance right between listening to scientists and medical experts, and respectfully taking additional issues – say, the economic, social, psychological, and medical consequences of a lockdown — into account when formulating a response to the epidemic, issues beyond the scientists’ and medical experts’ remit? Because if these leaders have not done so, then they have abdicated their leadership responsibility. Alistair Haimes and Greg Weiner discuss these issues (note: keeping scientific advice and expertise in the proper perspective does not mean boorishly dismissing science and denigrating experts, as Brazil president Jair Bolsonaro has been in the habit of doing, with grave consequences for his country).

    Finally, this question: Are governments and societies set up properly to deal with overlapping crises and costly catastrophes, both the low-probability, high-impact events (say, a meteorite hitting Earth; a new virus), or the slower moving but predictable (say, climate change). Arnold Kling, Philip Wallach, and the Economist argue that governments must fundamentally change the way they assess risks, prepare for them, and fashion policies to cope with and recover from them.

  • Chinese, Russian COVID-19 Disinformation More Influential than Domestic European News Sources

    Chinese, Russia, Turkish, and Iranian state-backed propaganda outlets disseminate COVID-19-related disinformation throughout Europe in French, German, and Spanish, and this professionally presented disinformation is generating greater engagement across Facebook and Twitter than prominent domestic news media such as Le Monde in France or El Pais in Spain. Russian outlets producing fake coronavirus content in French and German consistently emphasized weak democratic institutions and civil disorder in Europe.

  • America's COVID Spike Shows How a Second Wave Could Bring a Second Lockdown

    So far, we have found only two ways to contain fresh outbreaks.The first, and by far the least costly, is contact-tracing and isolation. It can be done manually without a tracing app, but it requires lightning-fast reactions and extreme efficiency. The second containment method: lockdowns. But lockdowns are destructive for the economy, and they carry with them an exceedingly high cost in personal, social, and medical terms. Juliet Samuel write in The Telegraphthat in the face of a possible second wave, “the stage is set for the great experiment. The top priority must be to get the tracing system working. But even if our Government is somehow incapable of that, it may yet find a set of distancing policies that keeps virus deaths at a low enough level without shutting everything down. Perhaps there is a balance to be struck, involving a mix of mask-wearing, better care-home procedures, loosening rules for the young before the old, keeping people outdoors and planning ways to do so in winter.”