News from Bioethics.com

US Begins Crackdown on Unvetted Virus Blood Tests

1 month 2 weeks

(ABC News) – U.S. regulators are moving ahead with a crackdown on scores of antibody tests for the coronavirus that have not yet been shown to work. The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday published a list of more than two dozen test makers that have failed to file applications to remain on the market or already pulled their products.

Roe v. Wade: Woman Behind US Abortion Ruling Was Paid to Recant

1 month 2 weeks

(BBC) – The woman behind the 1973 ruling legalising abortion in the US is seen admitting in a new documentary that her stunning change of heart on the issue in later life was “all an act”. Norma McCorvey, known as Jane Roe in the US Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v Wade, shocked the country in 1995 when she came out against abortion. But in new footage, McCorvey alleges she was paid to switch sides.

A New Entry in the Race for a Coronavirus Vaccine: Hope

1 month 2 weeks

(New York Times) – In a medical research project nearly unrivaled in its ambition and scope, volunteers worldwide are rolling up their sleeves to receive experimental vaccines against the coronavirus — only months after the virus was identified. Companies like Inovio and Pfizer have begun early tests of candidates in people to determine whether their vaccines are safe. Researchers at the University of Oxford in England are testing vaccines in human subjects, too, and say they could have one ready for emergency use as soon as September. Moderna on Monday announced encouraging results of a safety trial of its vaccine in eight volunteers. There were no published data, but the news alone sent hopes soaring.

Apple and Google Roll Out Their New Exposure Notification Tool. Interest Seems Limited.

1 month 2 weeks

(Vox) – The Apple-Google exposure notification tool, announced on April 10, is one step closer to being launched. The two companies released software that will help public health authorities build apps that incorporate their exposure notification tool. Apple, specifically, rolled out a software update to iOS devices that some users could download immediately. This big public unveiling raises a couple very important questions: Will any government agencies actually build those apps? And will anybody use them? 

Colombian Police Use Drones to Detect High Body Temperatures

1 month 2 weeks

(Reuters) – It is not a bird, a plane or Superman: the aircraft humming in the skies above Colombia’s capital Bogota are instead police drones that are meant to detect people with high temperatures or those violating the country’s coronavirus quarantine.  If a drone detects someone with a potential fever it sends the location to a medical team that seeks out the person to determine if they have coronavirus symptoms, officials said on Wednesday.

Vaccinations Fall to Alarming Rates, C.D.C. Study Shows

1 month 3 weeks

(New York Times) – During the pandemic, the rates of childhood vaccinations have dropped significantly as many parents have been reluctant to schedule well-child visits at their doctors’ offices, for fear of contracting the coronavirus. As a result, children have fallen behind on vaccinations for diseases like measles and pertussis, better known as whooping cough. According to a new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccination rates in May for children under 2 years old in Michigan fell to alarming rates, including fewer than half of infants 5 months or younger.

‘Like a War Situation Here.’ Ukraine’s Overburdened Doctors’ Desperate COVID-19 Fight

1 month 3 weeks

(TIME) – The deplorable conditions — broken or substandard equipment, a lack of drugs, low wages — reflects the meltdown of Ukraine’s health care system, which has been quickly overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic even with the country’s relatively low number of cases. Ukraine’s corruption-plagued economy has been weakened by six years of war with Russia-backed separatists in the east. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s year-old administration inherited an underfunded health care system that was further crippled by a reform launched by his predecessor that drastically cut state subsidies.

Global Trial to Assess Chloroquine Against COVID-19 in Health Workers

1 month 3 weeks

(UPI) – More than 50,000 healthcare workers worldwide will be enrolled in a clinical trial to assess chloroquine’s potential in protecting against COVID-19, researchers at the Washington University of St. Louis School of Medicine announced Monday. The U.S. arm of the study, which will begin enrolling participants later this month, is being led by the school. Results are expected in early 2021, researchers said. 

Coronavirus Contact-Tracing Apps: Can They Slow the Spread of COVID-19?

1 month 3 weeks

(Nature) – As the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic continues, much of the world is pinning its hopes of easing lockdowns on being able to quickly identify people who might have been exposed to the virus. But such ‘contact tracing’ is generally a laborious, slow process that relies on in-person interviews and detective work. Enter the smartphone: a new breed of app aims to automate the process of retracing a person’s movements to find people they might have infected — and possibly notify those people at the earliest possible stage.

Gilead Ups Its Donation of the Covid-19 Drug Remdesivir for U.S. Hospitals

1 month 3 weeks

(STAT News) – Gilead Sciences, the drug company behind the experimental Covid-19 therapy remdesivir, has upped the number of doses it’s donating to the federal government from 607,000 to around 940,000, STAT has learned. The new number appeared, with no acknowledgement of the shift, in a letter that a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services official sent to governors on Saturday.

Vaccine Experts Say Moderna Didn’t Produce Data Critical to Assessing Covid-19 Vaccine

1 month 3 weeks

(STAT News) – Heavy hearts soared Monday with news that Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate — the frontrunner in the American market — seemed to be generating an immune response in Phase 1 trial subjects. The company’s stock valuation also surged, hitting $29 billion, an astonishing feat for a company that currently sells zero products. But was there good reason for so much enthusiasm? Several vaccine experts asked by STAT concluded that, based on the information made available by the Cambridge, Mass.-based company, there’s really no way to know how impressive — or not — the vaccine may be.

Exclusive: CDC Plans Sweeping COVID-19 Antibody Study in 25 Metropolitan Areas

1 month 3 weeks

(Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) plans a nationwide study of up to 325,000 people to track how the new coronavirus is spreading across the country into next year and beyond, a CDC spokeswoman and researchers conducting the effort told Reuters.

How to Address the Coronavirus’s Outsized Toll on People of Color

1 month 3 weeks

(Nature) – As figures emerge about the disproportionate toll that COVID-19 is taking on people of colour in the United States, scientists are suggesting measures to help mitigate the inequalities. They say that better data are needed on the incidence of the disease, that testing needs to be ramped up and that hospitals serving people at-risk need to better prepare. Researchers and some US lawmakers are now calling for a national commission devoted to identifying racial disparities in health that would act as a unified voice in trying to overcome them.

Why the Coronavirus Hits Kids and Adults So Differently

1 month 3 weeks

(The Atlantic) – Only after New York City passed its current coronavirus peak did pediatricians notice a striking, new pattern: Dozens of kids who had been exposed to COVID-19 were coming in sick, but they weren’t coughing. They didn’t have severe respiratory distress. Instead, they had sky-high inflammation and some combination of fever, rashes on their hands and feet, diarrhea, vomiting, and very low blood pressure. When ICU doctors around the world gathered for a weekly online COVID-19 call on May 2, doctors elsewhere began sharing similar observations. “The tenor of the meeting completely changed,” says Steven Kernie, the chief of critical-care medicine at New York–Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, who was on the call.

T Cells Found in COVID-19 Patients ‘Bode Well’ for Long-Term Immunity

1 month 3 weeks

(Science) – Immune warriors known as T cells help us fight some viruses, but their importance for battling SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has been unclear. Now, two studies reveal infected people harbor T cells that target the virus—and may help them recover. Both studies also found some people never infected with SARS-CoV-2 have these cellular defenses, most likely because they were previously infected with other coronaviruses

Afghan Maternity Ward Attackers ‘Came to Kill the Mothers’

1 month 3 weeks

(BBC) – [Content Warning] The cold-blooded murders of 24 women, children and babies at a hospital in the Afghan capital was horrific enough. But as Frederic Bonnot made his way through the bullet-riddled maternity unit, he realised something more. The attackers had walked straight past a number of other wards, all closer to the entrance of Kabul’s Dasht-e-Barchi hospital, and made straight for the maternity unit.

Mortality Rates Hint at Even Higher Coronavirus Death Toll

1 month 3 weeks

(Medical Xpress) – The coronavirus has now taken 300,000 lives globally, according to official figures. But depending on the way deaths are counted, the real human cost could be far greater.  The official figures include only those deaths attributed to coronavirus, but experts are increasingly looking at data comparing this year’s death rates with previous years—regardless of the official cause.

The Sprint to Solve Coronavirus Protein Structures–And Disarm them with Drugs

1 month 3 weeks

(Nature) – Within 24 hours, a network of structural biologists around the world had redirected their labs towards a single goal — solving the protein structures of a deadly, rapidly spreading new contagion. To do so, they would need to sift through the 29,811 RNA bases in the virus’s genome, seeking out the instructions for each of its estimated 25–29 proteins. With those instructions in hand, the scientists could recreate the proteins in the lab, visualize them and then, hopefully, identify drug compounds to block them or develop vaccines to incite the immune system against them.

NIH Begins Clinical Trial of Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin to Treat COVID-19

1 month 3 weeks

(Medical Xpress) – A clinical trial has begun to evaluate whether the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, given together with the antibiotic azithromycin, can prevent hospitalization and death from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, is sponsoring the trial, which is being conducted by the NIAID-funded AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG). Teva Pharmaceuticals is donating medications for the study.

The Danger of Rushing Through Clinical Trials During the Coronavirus Pandemic

1 month 3 weeks

(The New Yorker) – I recently spoke by phone with Peter B. Bach, an epidemiologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where he runs the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes, a health-care policy think tank. Bach is also an expert on clinical trials, and I asked him exactly what we know about remdesivir, as well as how we should be thinking about standards of evidence in the middle of a public-health catastrophe. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we also discussed what makes a good clinical trial, why a pandemic is not necessarily the time to speed up the drug-approval process, and the most important fixes for our health-care system.

Coronavirus: Surge in Deaths Reported in Southern Yemen

1 month 3 weeks

(BBC) – A dramatic rise has been reported in the number of people dying with coronavirus-like symptoms in the southern Yemeni city of Aden. Citing official figures, Save the Children said there had been at least 380 deaths in the past week. It is feared the number of coronavirus cases may be far higher than the few dozen that have been confirmed. The health system has been damaged by years of civil war and ventilators are in short supply.

Revealed: Two Men in China Were First to Receive Pioneering Stem-Cell Treatment for Heart-Disease

1 month 3 weeks

(Nature) – Two men in China were the first people in the world to receive an experimental treatment for heart disease based on ‘reprogrammed’ stem cells and have recovered successfully one year later, says the cardiac surgeon who performed the procedures. In May last year, the men were injected with heart muscle cells derived from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, the surgeon told Nature — the first known clinical application of iPS-cell technology for treating damaged hearts.

Ethics Questions Swirl Around Historic Parkinson’s Experiment

1 month 3 weeks

(STAT News) – A secretive experiment revealed this week, in which neurosurgeons transplanted brain cells into a patient with Parkinson’s disease, made medical history. It was the first time such “reprogrammed” cells, produced from stem cells that had been created in the lab from the man’s own skin cells, had been used to try to treat the degenerative brain disease. But it was also a bioethics iceberg, with some issues in plain sight and many more lurking.

UK Researchers Try to Crack Genetic Riddle of COVID-19

1 month 3 weeks

(New York Times) – British researchers will study the genes of thousands of ill COVID-19 patients to try to crack one of the most puzzling riddles of the novel coronavirus: why does it kill some people but give others not even a mild headache? Researchers from across the United Kingdom will sequence the genetic code of people who fell critically ill with COVID-19 and compare their genomes with those who were mildly ill or not ill at all.

23andMe Study to Recruit Sickest Covid-19 Patients in Bid to Unravel Role of Genetics in Disease

1 month 3 weeks

(STAT News) – As researchers probe DNA in search of clues about why some Covid-19 patients get so much sicker than others, they’re coming to a clear realization: It’s essential that they enroll as many patients as possible with cases so severe they were hospitalized. On Wednesday, consumer genetics giant 23andMe bowed to that reality. It plans to solicit help from hospitals to expand a massive study it launched last month so that it can recruit more people — up to 10,000 new participants — who have been hospitalized with Covid-19. The idea is to mine their data to try to identify genetic differences that may help explain why some infected patients wind up on ventilators while others don’t even get a cough. 

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