British scientists halted a major drug trial on Friday after it found that the anti-malarial hydroxychloroquine, touted by U.S. President Donald Trump as a potential “game changer” in the pandemic, was “useless” at treating COVID-19 patients.
“This is not a treatment for COVID-19. It doesn’t work,” Martin Landray, an Oxford University professor who is co-leading the RECOVERY trial, told reporters.
“This result should change medical practice worldwide. We can now stop using a drug that is useless.”
Vocal support from Trump raised expectations for the decades-old drug that experts said could have been a cheap and widely available tool, if proven to work, in fighting the pandemic, which has infected more than 6.4 million people and killed nearly 400,000 worldwide.
Controversy surrounding the drug grew after a study published in medical journal The Lancet last month raised safety concerns and led several COVID-19 studies of it to be halted. The Lancet study was then retracted on Thursday after its authors said they were unsure about its data.
Landray, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Oxford University, noted the “huge speculation” about the drug as a treatment for COVID-19 but said there had been until now “an absence of reliable information from large randomized trials.”
He said the preliminary results from RECOVERY, which was a randomized trial, were now quite clear: hydroxychloroquine does not reduce the risk of death among hospitalized patients with COVID-19.
“If you’re admitted to hospital, don’t take hydroxychloroquine,” he said.
The results have not been published. A statement from Oxford said full details will be provided soon. No information on safety was given.
No difference in death rates
The RECOVERY trial of hydroxychloroquine had randomly assigned 1,542 COVID-19 patients to hydroxychloroquine and compared them with 3,132 COVID-19 patients randomly assigned to standard care without the drug.
Results showed no significant difference in death rates after 28 days, in length of stay in hospital or in other outcomes, the researchers said.
The Oxford study is the largest so far to put hydroxychloroquine to a strict test.
Earlier this week, a University of Minnesota randomized trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the drug was ineffective in preventing infection in people exposed to the coronavirus.
Dozens of trials trying various permutations of use of the drug continue.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday the RECOVERY results would not change its plan to resume tests of hydroxychloroquine as part of its “Solidarity” trials. Canada is a participant in the Solidarity trial. WHO had briefly stopped giving the drug to new patients in light of the Lancet paper.
Parastou Donyai, director of pharmacy practice at the University of Reading in England, said the drug was “propelled onto the world stage by President Trump,” adding he had praised it without solid evidence.
“This news, although not positive, is a welcome relief to thousands of scientists, doctors and academics who have been crying out for proper proof of whether hydroxychloroquine works in COVID-19 or not.” she added, calling the conclusion that it does not “definitive.”
30 workers at Vaughan mushroom farm test positive for COVID-19 – Toronto Sun
Health officials say they are looking into an outbreak of COVID-19 at a mushroom farm in Vaughan.
York Region Public Health says the “workplace cluster” involves 30 workers at Ravine Mushroom Farm.
The agency says it has determined the risk of transmitting the virus to the general public is low.
It is also following up with those who have come in close contact with the infected workers.
The public health agency says it has inspected the facility to review and reinforce infection prevention and control measures.
It says it has also reaffirmed the importance of not having employees work when they are sick.
8 new coronavirus cases identified in Ottawa on Monday – Globalnews.ca
Ottawa Public Health’s (OPH) novel coronavirus case tally rose by eight on Monday as the city’s streak of days without a death related to the virus hit double digits.
The local public health unit says it’s identified 2,118 lab-confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Ottawa since the pandemic was first declared in mid-March.
There are currently 54 active cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in Ottawa, but 85 per cent of previously identified cases are now marked resolved.
Three people are currently in hospital with the disease.
Some 263 people in the city have died as a result of COVID-19 — that figure has remained unchanged for the past 10 days.
OPH also said Monday the outbreak at the Peter D. Clark long-term care facility ended on July 4, which marked at least 14 days since a resident or staff member last tested positive for the virus.
The outbreak at the city-run long-term care home was first declared on April 28. There were 45 coronavirus cases linked to the Peter D. Clark outbreak, with eight residents dying as a result of complications from COVID-19.
Staff at the home are now starting to schedule outdoor visits between residents and family members.
There is now only one Ottawa institution currently facing an outbreak: the Rideau building at the Perley & Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre.
Eleven people have tested positive for the virus at the long-term care home’s Rideau facility, with one resident dying in connection to COVID-19.
Coronavirus: Ontario health minister says there’s ‘hope’ for move to stage 3 soon
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Hundreds of Scientists Warn COVID-19 Is Airborne, And WHO Needs to Act – ScienceAlert
As countries ease their lockdowns, authorities need to recognize the coronavirus can spread through the air far beyond the two meters (six feet) urged in social distancing guidelines, an international group of 239 scientists said Monday.
In a comment piece that takes direct aim at the World Health Organization (WHO) for its reluctance to update its advice, researchers recommended new measures including increasing indoor ventilation, installing high-grade air filters and UV lamps, and preventing overcrowding in buildings and transport.
“There is significant potential for inhalation exposure to viruses in microscopic respiratory droplets (microdroplets) at short to medium distances (up to several meters, or room scale),” wrote the authors, led by Lidia Morawska of the Queensland University of Technology.
“Hand washing and social distancing are appropriate, but in our view, insufficient to provide protection from virus-carrying respiratory microdroplets released into the air by infected people.”
The new paper appears in the Oxford Academic journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
When an infected person breathes, speaks, coughs or sneezes, they expel droplets of various sizes.
Those above five to ten micrometers – which is less than the width of a typical human head hair – fall to the ground in seconds and within a meter or two.
Droplets under this size can become suspended in the air in what is called an “aerosol,” remaining aloft for several hours and traveling up to tens of meters.
There has been a debate in the scientific community about how infectious microdroplets are in the context of COVID-19.
For the time being the WHO advises that the potential for infection from an aerosol occurs “in specific circumstances” mainly in hospitals, for example when a tube is placed down a patient’s airway.
On the other hand, some studies of particular spreading events suggest that aerosolization and microdroplet transmission can happen in a variety of settings.
The air flow from an air conditioning unit appeared to waft the coronavirus to several tables in a Chinese restaurant in January where patrons became infected, according to a study that appeared in Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Another study that appeared in a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that the virus was spread by microdroplets from people singing during a choir practice in Washington state in March.
Fifty-three people fell ill at that event and two died.
That is in addition to the fact that bars jam-packed with people have also emerged as hotspots of contagion, with droplets of all sizes believed to contribute to the spread.
Cath Noakes, a professor of environmental engineering for buildings at the University of Leeds, who contributed to the paper, said COVID-19 doesn’t spread in the air as easily as measles or tuberculosis, but is a threat nonetheless.
“COVID-19 is more likely to be ‘opportunistically’ airborne and therefore poses a risk to people who are in the same room for long periods of time,” she added.
The WHO advice is out of step with both the US CDC and its European counterpart.
“We are aware of the article and are reviewing its contents with our technical experts,” the WHO said in response to the new commentary.
The authors recognized that the evidence for microdroplet transmission was “admittedly incomplete,” but argued that the evidence for large droplets and surface transmission was also incomplete yet still formed the basis for health guidelines.
“Following the precautionary principle, we must address every potentially important pathway to slow the spread of COVID-19,” they wrote.
Put another way, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” said Julian Tang, an associate professor of respiratory sciences at the University of Leicester who contributed to the commentary.
“The WHO say that there is insufficient evidence to prove aerosol/airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is happening. We are arguing that there is insufficient proof that aerosol/airborne transmission does not occur,” he said.
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