The UK will begin human trials on a possible COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday. The vaccine has been developed by Oxford University scientists and the British government is throwing over 20-million pounds into the project. Over 500 healthy people between the ages of 18 and 55 will take part in the first phase of the trial. That number is expected to increase during the second and third phases. It’s hoped the vaccine will be ready by September.
Matt Hancock, the UK Health Secretary said, “in the long run, the best way to defeat coronavirus is through a vaccine, after all this a new disease. This is an uncertain science. But I am certain that we will throw everything we’ve got at developing a vaccine.
A malaria drug widely touted as a potential cure for COVID-19 showed no benefit against the disease over standard care — and was in fact associated with more deaths, the biggest study of its kind showed Tuesday. The US government-funded analysis of how American military veterans fared on hydroxychloroquine was posted on a medical preprint site and has not yet been peer-reviewed.
The experiment had several important limitations but adds to a growing body of doubt over the efficacy of the medicine that counts President Donald Trump and right-wing news channel Fox News among its biggest backers. Researchers looked at the medical records of 368 veterans hospitalized nationwide who either died or were discharged by 11 April.
Death rates for patients on hydroxychloroquine were 28 percent, compared to 22 percent when it was taken with the anti-biotic azithromycin a combination favored by French scientist Didier Raoult, whose study on the subject in March triggered a surge of global interest in the drug.
The death rate for those receiving only standard care was 11 per cent. Hydroxychloroquine, with or without azithromycin, was more likely to be prescribed to patients with more severe illness, but the authors found that increased mortality persisted even after they statistically adjusted for higher rates of use. Other drawbacks include the fact that the study did not assign people randomly to groups, because it was a retrospective analysis meaning it looked back on what had already happened.
In addition, the results are hard to generalize because the population was highly specific: most of the patients were male, with a median age over 65, and black, a group that is disproportionately affected by underlying illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.
There was no added risk of being on ventilator among the hydroxychloroquine only group, leading the authors to suggest that increased mortality among this group might be attributable to side-effects outside the respiratory system. Previous research has found that the medicine is risky for patients with certain heart rhythm issues and can cause blackouts, seizures or at times cardiac arrest in this group.
Hydroxychloroquine and related compound chloroquine have been used for decades to treat malaria, as well as the autoimmune disorders lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. They have received significant attention during the novel coronavirus pandemic and have been shown in lab settings to block the virus from entering cells and prevent it replicating but in the pharmaceutical world, “in vitro” promise often fails to translate into “in vivo” success.
The true answer can only be determined through very large, randomized clinical trials that assign patients to receive either the drug under investigation or a placebo. Several of these are underway, including notably in the United States, Europe, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
In other news – Rami Chuene offers some words of advice to freelancers during the lockdown
As many South Africans are busy adjusting to the new normal of staying at home to curb the spread of the coronavirus, actress Rami Chuene has penned a message to freelancers who are financially affected during the time.
Being a freelancer herself with many years of experience in the industry, the veteran actress strongly cautioned her fellow actors to not to fall victim to working for free during this pandemic. Read more