China approves first homegrown COVID antiviral

The country’s drug regulator has granted conditional authorization for an HIV drug to be used to treat COVID-19.

Yvaine Ye

Nature | July 26, 2022

A temporary hospital for people with COVID-19 in Shanghai. The country has approved the first antiviral for the disease made in China. Credit: Ray Young/Feature China/Future Publishing/Getty

China’s drug regulator granted conditional approval on Monday for an HIV drug to be used to treat COVID-19. The drug, Azvudine, developed by Chinese drugmaker Genuine Biotech, is the first oral antiviral for the disease made in China.

Genuine Biotech, headquartered in Pingdingshan, applied for regulatory approval earlier this month. In an announcement, the company said that 40% of people with COVID-19 who were given Azvudine for a week in a phase III clinical trial showed “improved clinical symptoms”, compared with 11% of those given a placebo. However, detailed data from the trial, including whether the treatment reduced the risk of hospitalization or death, have not been released.

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How different COVID-19 recovery paths affect human health, environmental sustainability, and food affordability: a modelling study

Juliette Maire, PhD; Aimen Sattar, MPhil; Roslyn Henry, PhD; Frances Warren, PhD; Magnus Merkle, MSc; Prof Mark Rounsevell, PhD; and Peter Alexander, PhD

The Lancet | Open Access | Published: July, 2022 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2542-5196(22)00144-9

Summary
Background
The COVID-19 pandemic arrived at a time of faltering global poverty reduction and increasing levels of diet-related diseases, both of which have a strong link to poor outcomes for those with COVID-19. Governments responded to the pandemic by placing unprecedented restrictions on internal and external movements, which have resulted in an economic contraction. In response to the economic shock, G20 governments have committed to providing US$14 trillion stimuli to support economic recovery. We aimed to assess the impact of different COVID-19 recovery paths on human health, environmental sustainability, and food sustainability.

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How months-long COVID infections could seed dangerous new variants

Tracking SARS-CoV-2 evolution during persistent cases provides insight into the origins of Omicron and other global variants. What can scientists do with this knowledge?

Ewen Callaway

Nature | June 15, 2022

These are mutations that accumulated in the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 during a seven-month-long infection.Illustration by Nik Spencer/Nature; Source: Ref. 1

Virologist Sissy Sonnleitner tracks nearly every COVID-19 case in Austria’s rugged eastern Tyrol region. So, when one woman there kept testing positive for months on end, Sonnleitner was determined to work out what was going on.

Before becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2 in late 2020, the woman, who was in her 60s, had been taking immune-suppressing drugs to treat a lymphoma relapse. The COVID-19 infection lingered for more than seven months, causing relatively mild symptoms, including fatigue and a cough.

Sonnleitner, who is based at a microbiology facility in Außervillgraten, Austria, and her colleagues collected more than two dozen viral samples from the woman over time and found through genetic sequencing that it had picked up about 22 mutations (see ‘Tracking spike’s evolution’). Roughly half of them would be seen again in the heavily mutated Omicron variants of SARS-CoV-2 that surged around the globe months later1. “When Omicron was found, we had a great moment of surprise,” Sonnleitner says. “We already had those mutations in our variant.”

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Most US kids have caught the coronavirus, antibody survey finds

Study shows that infections in very young children doubled during the Omicron wave.

Smriti Mallapaty

Nature | May 05, 2022

Credit: Sarah Silbiger/UPI/Shutterstock

Roughly two in every three children aged between one and four years old in the United States have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, according to a nationwide analysis1. Infections in that age group increased more than in any other during the Omicron wave, which researchers say demonstrates the variant’s high transmissibility.

Researchers looked for COVID-19 antibodies in blood samples from more than 86,000 children under 18 years old — including some 6,100 children aged between one and four. In the youngest children, the number of infections more than doubled, from 33% to 68% between December 2021 and February 2022.

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India: COVID-19 third wave: How do Delhi’s hospitals fare?

DTE visited a few hospitals in the national capital to take a pulse of the situation

Taran Deol

Down To Earth | January 06, 2022

COVID-19 third wave: Situation in Delhi hospitals is calm for now. Representative photo: iStock

The third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India sparked by the new variant of concern omicron has stoked fears about an unprecedented rise in cases, followed by a rise in hospitalisations and an overburdened healthcare system — as was seen in the ghastly second wave of April 2021.

India’s metropolitan cities are the epicentre of the third wave of COVID-19 cases. With 2,135 infections of the new variant across the country as of January 5, 2022 — 653 in Maharashtra and 464 in Delhi alone — omicron is fast establishing its dominance.

With 11,665 new cases in the last 24 hours, dedicated COVID-19 hospitals in the national capital are preparing for an unprecedented rise in cases, even though evidence, for now, suggests that omicron infections remain mostly mild.

Down to Earth visited a few hospitals in the national capital to take a pulse of the situation.

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Omicron’s feeble attack on the lungs could make it less dangerous

Mounting evidence from animal studies suggests that Omicron does not multiply readily in lung tissue, which can be badly damaged in people infected with other variants.

Max Kozlov

Nature | January 06, 2022

A doctor in PPE investigates a COVID-19 patient's lungs by ultrasound in a hospital in Ukraine.
A doctor in Uzhhorod, Ukraine, examines the lungs of a person with COVID-19. The Omicron variant might affect the lungs less than do previously circulating variants.Credit: Serhii Hudak/Ukrinform/Barcroft Media via Getty

Early indications from South Africa and the United Kingdom signal that the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is less dangerous than its predecessor Delta. Now, a series of laboratory studies offers a tantalizing explanation for the difference: Omicron does not infect cells deep in the lung as readily as it does those in the upper airways.

“It’s a very attractive observation that might explain what we see in patients,” says Melanie Ott, a virologist at the Gladstone Institute of Virology in San Francisco, California, who was not involved in the research. But she adds that Omicron’s hyper-transmissibility means that hospitals are filling quickly — despite any decrease in the severity of the disease it causes.

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India’s Post-Pandemic Economic Recovery

Prabhat Patnaik

People’s Democracy | December 12, 2021

THE pandemic alas is not yet over, but there are no economic disruptions in the current fiscal year in the form of lockdowns or workers’ absence. The economy’s performance therefore can no longer be attributed to the prevalence of the pandemic; whatever it is, it is caused by economic factors.

Government spokesmen are busy claiming that the economy is displaying a robust recovery, and that the current fiscal year will post a double-digit growth rate. But a double-digit growth rate in the current year means nothing; since the previous fiscal year had witnessed a sharp absolute drop in GDP, in fact one of the sharpest among all countries of the world because of the government’s imposing a lock-down more stringent than anywhere else, a drop amounting to a staggering 24 per cent in the April-June quarter of 2020, a bounce back from such a trough is naturally to be expected; there is nothing to crow about it. The real question is how the current fiscal year’s performance compares with that of the pre-pandemic fiscal year, i.e., with 2019-20. And on doing so, we find that the first quarter’s GDP this year was well below that of the first quarter of 2019-20. The second quarter’s GDP is about the same as the GDP of the second quarter of 2019-20 (in fact it is just marginally higher by 0.3 per cent). In other words, given the 7.3 per cent drop in GDP last year compared to the previous year, even a double-digit growth rate of 10 per cent, which is higher than what government agencies like the State Bank of India are projecting for the current year (which is 9.5 per cent), will just about put the current year’s GDP 1.97 per cent above what it was in 2019-20; this is hardly indicative of a positive trend in the economy.

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Reason for hope? Analysis of first Omicron patients in Gauteng, South Africa paints encouraging picture

Taran Deol

Down to Earth | December 08, 2021

Photo: @GautengProvince / Twitter
Photo: @GautengProvince / Twitter

The Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) was first detected in the Tshwane district of South Africa’s Gauteng province between November 21 and 27. Now, a leading health professional has prepared a detailed profile of the first patients. And the picture that emerges is encouraging.

Fewer people have been administered specialist care than previous waves of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The in-hospital death-rate has been significantly lower. There has also been a decline in the average length of stay in the hospital.

The results offer reason for hope even as the Omicron variant has now spread to all South African provinces and triggered the fourth wave of COVID-19 in the COVID-19. It has also spread to 40 other countries.

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Cuba Works on Vaccines Against New COVID-19 Variant

teleSUR | December 02, 2021

Cuban scientists working in the development of vaccines, Cuba, 2021
Cuban scientists working in the development of vaccines, Cuba, 2021 | Photo: EFE

BioCubaFarma announced on Wednesday that Cuban scientists are now working to develop new vaccines to fight the new strain of Coronavirus.

Eduardo Martinez, president of BioCubaFarma, announced on Wednesday, Dec. 1, that Cuban scientists are working to develop a new variant of vaccines to strike strains like Omicron of the Coronavirus.

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