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        • Pandemics“The Lesson Is to Never Forget”

          Olga Jonas, senior fellow at the Harvard Global Health Institute, is an expert in managing the risks of pandemics. “A lesson [from previous pandemics] we should remember is that governments have the responsibility to prepare for a pandemic; they have the obligation to invest in public-health systems to protect their citizens from both the threat and the reality of the next pandemic,” she says. “The U.S. government didn’t react either quickly or adequately back in January, when the first confirmed case of coronavirus was found.”

        • Food securityGame-Changing Technologies to Transform Food Systems

          In the next three decades, the world will need a 30–70 percent increase in food availability to meet the demand from an increasing population. In addition, the global food system will need to change profoundly if it is going to provide humanity with healthy food that is grown sustainably in ways that are not only resilient in the face of climate change but also do not surpass planetary boundaries. According to new research, a pipeline of disruptive technologies could transform our food systems, ecosystems, and human health, but attention to the enabling environment is needed to realize their potential.

        • TreatmentsResearchers Urge Clinical Trial of Blood Pressure Drug to Prevent Complication of COVID-19

          Researchers in the Ludwig Center at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center report they have identified a drug treatment that could—if given early enough—potentially reduce the risk of death from the most serious complication of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), also known as SARS-CoV-2 infection. Phys.org reports that prazosin, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved alpha blocker that relaxes blood vessels, may specifically target an extreme inflammatory process often referred to as cytokine storm syndrome (CSS) that disproportionately affects older adults with underlying health conditions, and is associated with disease severity and increased risk of death in COVID-19 infection. Using it pre-emptively to address COVID-19-associated hyperinflammation of the lungs and other organs has the potential to reduce deaths in the most vulnerable populations, they say.

        • AntibodiesTeam Finds Effective SARS-CoV-2 Neutralizing Antibodies

          Researchers at Peking University (PKU) has successfully identified multiple highly potent neutralizing antibodies against the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the causative virus of the respiratory disease COVID-19, from convalescent plasma by high-throughput single-cell sequencing. Phys.org notes that neutralizing antibodies, generated by human immune system, can effectively prevent viruses from infecting cells. New results from animal studies showed that their neutralizing antibody provides a potential cure for COVID-19 as well as means for short-term prevention. This marks a major milestone in the fight against the pandemic.

        • HydroxychloroquineFurther Evidence Does Not Support Hydroxychloroquine for Patients with COVID-19

          More randomized, double-blind clinical trials of the use of hydroxychloroquine for treating COVID-19-infected patients find what earlier studies have found: hydroxychloroquine offers no benefits to trial subjects relative to the placebos given to the control group – but hydroxychloroquine significantly increase the risks of serious side-effects. Promoters of hydroxychloroquine argue that the drug is more effective in the early stages of infections, but in these two recent trials the drug was given to people in the early infection stage and showing only mild symptoms, with the same disappointing results. BMJ says that while further work is needed to confirm these results, the authors say that their findings do not support the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat patients with persistent mild to moderate COVID-19.

        • TreatmentsNo “Miracle Cure” for Coronavirus Until Clinical Trials Prove Madagascar’s Herbal Medicine

          Scientists are putting an herbal remedy from Madagascar, purported to cure COVID-19, to the test. Salem Solomon writes in VOA News that researchers at Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, in Potsdam, are collaborating with a U.S. company, ArtemiLife, to test an extract from the plant Artemisia annua to determine its effectiveness in speeding recovery from the virus.

        • Vaccines“A lot of hope”: Experimental Seattle Coronavirus Vaccine Study Shows Promise

          An experimental vaccine against the coronavirus being tested in Seattle showed encouraging results in very early testing, triggering hoped-for immune responses in eight healthy, middle-aged volunteers, its maker announced Monday. King5 reports that study volunteers given either a low or medium dose of the vaccine by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna Inc. had antibodies similar to those seen in people who have recovered from COVID-19. The study was run out of the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute In the next phase of the study, led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, researchers will try to determine which dose is best for a definitive experiment that they aim to start in July.

        • VaccinesCoronavirus Vaccine: First Evidence Jab Can Train Immune System

          The first hints that a vaccine can train people’s immune system to fight coronavirus have been reported by a company in the U.S. James Gallagher writes for the BBC that Moderna said neutralizing antibodies were found in the first eight people who took part in their safety trials. It also said the immune response was similar to that in people infected with the actual virus. Larger trials to see whether the jab protects against infection are expected to start in July. Work on a coronavirus vaccine has been taking place at unprecedented speed, with around 80 groups around the world working on them. Moderna was the first to test an experimental vaccine, called mRNA-1273, in people. The vaccine is a small snippet of the coronavirus’s genetic code, which is injected into the patient. It is not capable of causing an infection or the symptoms of COVID-19, but is enough to provoke a response from the immune system.

        • ScreeningA.C.L.U. Warns Against Fever-Screening Tools for Coronavirus

          Airports, office buildings, warehouses and restaurant chains are rushing to install new safety measures like fever-scanning cameras and infrared temperature-sensing guns. But the American Civil Liberties Union warned on Tuesday against using the tools to screen people for possible coronavirus symptoms, saying the devices were often inaccurate, ineffective and intrusive. Natasha Singer writes in the New York Times that in a new report, “Temperature Screening and Civil Liberties During an Epidemic,” the A.C.L.U. said that such technologies could give people a false sense of security, potentially leading them to be less vigilant about health measures like wearing masks or social distancing. The group also cautioned that the push for widespread temperature scans during the pandemic could usher in permanent new forms of surveillance and social control.

           

        • DisinformationTriad of Disinformation: How Russia, Iran, & China Ally in a Messaging War against America

          By Clint Watts

          China has long deployed widespread censorship, propaganda, and information manipulation efforts within its borders, but information operations directed at foreign audiences have generally focused on framing China in a positive way. In the last two months, however, Beijing, showing itself willing to emulate Russia’s approach to information campaigns, has conducted a much more ambitious effort not only to shape global perspectives about what’s occurring inside China, but to influence public opinion about events outside its borders.

        • TreatmentsStudy Shows Treatment with Antiviral Drug Interferon(IFN)- α2b Can Speed Up Recovery of COVID-19 Patients

          An international team of researchers led by Dr. Eleanor Fish, Scientist Emeritus at the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, UHN, and professor in the University of Toronto’s Department of Immunology, has shown for the first time that an antiviral drug can help speed up the recovery of COVID-19 patients. UHN reports that according to the new study, published Friday in Frontiers in Immunology, treatment with interferon(IFN)- α2b may significantly accelerate virus clearance and reduce levels of inflammatory proteins in COVID-19 patients. The research team found that treatment with this drug, which has been used clinically for many years, significantly reduced the duration of detectable virus in the upper respiratory tract, on average by about seven days. It also reduced blood levels of interleukin(IL)-6 and C-reactive protein (CRP), two inflammatory proteins found in COVID-19 patients.

        • SurveillanceGovernments Shouldn’t Use “Centralized” Proximity Tracking Technology

          By Bennett Cyphers and Gennie Gebhart

          Companies and governments across the world are building and deploying a dizzying number of systems and apps to fight COVID-19. Many groups have converged on using Bluetooth-assisted proximity tracking for the purpose of exposure notification. Even so, there are many ways to approach the problem, and dozens of proposals have emerged. One way to categorize them is based on how much trust each proposal places in a central authority.

        • PerspectiveSome Synthetic Biology May Not be Covered by the Biological Weapons Convention

          The study of viruses once challenged the world’s notion of what is “biological,” and for a time it was not clear whether viruses were regulated by the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). Durward Johnson and James Kraska write that “SynBio and its convergence with emerging technologies may create weapons not currently banned by universal disarmament obligations or customary international law, and this legal gap raises the prospect of weaponization of nonbiological threat agents tailor-made to create targeted effects. These tactical biotechnological capabilities could have potentially strategic consequences and yet may fall outside the existing regime.”

        • ArgumentCrisis Exposes How America Has Hollowed Out Its Government

          The government’s halting response to the coronavirus pandemic represents the culmination of chronic structural weaknesses, years of underinvestment and political rhetoric that has undermined the public trust — conditions compounded by President Trump’s open hostility to a federal bureaucracy that has been called upon to manage the crisis. Dam Balz writes that “The nation is reaping the effects of decades of denigration of government and also from a steady squeeze on the resources needed to shore up the domestic parts of the executive branch.”

        • Political divideCOVID-19 Response Gets More Political as U.S. Deaths Top 85,000

          With whistleblowers testifying to members of Congress and President Donald Trump in an ongoing dispute with the nation’s top infectious disease advisor, the federal response to the novel coronavirus has grown increasingly divided and political in the last week, Stephanie Soucheray writes in CIDRAP.

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