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Promising results from VIDO-InterVac's COVID-19 vaccine pre-clinical trials – News Talk 650 CKOM

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The results from the COVID-19 vaccine trials at the University of Saskatchewan’s VIDO-InterVac research lab using ferrets, has hit a new and positive milestone.

According to the centre’s director, Dr. Volker Gerdts, teams were able to demonstrate that the ferrets were protected from the disease and specifically showed significantly reduced viral infection in the respiratory tract.

“That is of particular importance,” explained Gerdts. “It not only speaks to the severity of the disease, but also the ability of the animals to infect others.”

Ferrets were chosen for the study because of their similarity to human respiratory systems.

Several weeks ago, two doses of vaccine were given to the animals. Time was needed to then assess their immune response against a control group.

So how effective exactly is the vaccine so far?

“In the vaccinated animals – the ones that responded to the vaccine – we saw almost undetectable amounts of virus afterwards,” says Gerdts. “So, that’s very good news, and in comparison to the control group per swap… this is a range in a 50,000 fold reduction of it.”

All of the ferrets that were infected received what Gerdts says is a ‘high’ dose, or one million particles of the disease. Depending on exposure levels, it’s not even in the range of what a human would be exposed to, even with a high ‘virus shedder.’

Data on the lungs of the ferrets is still being analysed, but initial results indicate a very high immune response as well as high levels of neutralizing antibodies. It does not appear as though any other organs were affected by the virus either.

At this point, Gerdts says they are now in the midst of producing clinical grade vaccine doses that can be used in humans. He calls it the most time consuming part of the vaccine development.

In the meantime, they’re also conducting safety studies – which are required by regulators to essentially move on to human trials.

“In these safety studies, we’ll address whether there’s any unwanted effects or any adverse events to the vaccine. And also with this particular disease there is concern about what is called ‘disease enhancement’ where the vaccine would actually enhance the disease. So, there’s particular studies that will help us to rule out that our vaccine will do that.”

Gerdts admits that there is some concern that certain vaccines being developed currently may actually make the disease worse. It happened when a vaccine was developed for the virus that causes Dengue Fever several years ago.

“The technology that we have chosen is one that has a very well proven track record in humans and animals… and the advantage of that, is that it’s easily ‘scalable.’ So, at the end, we can produce millions of doses in a single run in a manufacturing facility. So while maybe it’s a bit slower at the moment, the advantage of our vaccine will be that it’s easier to scale and more cost effective.”

If all goes well, human trials are scheduled to begin in the fall.

“This is a vaccine made by Canadians for Canadians. So, we will make sure that our vaccine is available to Canadians at the highest priority.”

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Study: 35% of excess deaths in pandemic's early months tied to causes other than COVID-19 – EurekAlert

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IMAGE: In March and April of 2020, mortality rates from (clockwise from top left) heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke spiked in states that also had the most COVID-19 deaths:…
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Credit: (Courtesy of JAMA)

RICHMOND, Va. (July 1, 2020) — Since COVID-19’s spread to the United States earlier this year, death rates in the U.S. have risen significantly. But deaths attributed to COVID-19 only account for about two-thirds of the increase in March and April, according to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University and Yale University found that, from March 1 to April 25, the U.S. saw 87,001 excess deaths — or deaths above the number that would be expected based on averages from the previous five years. The study, “Excess Deaths from COVID-19 and Other Causes, March-April 2020,” showed that only 65% of the excess deaths that occurred in March and April were attributed to COVID-19, meaning more than one-third were linked to other causes.

In 14 states, including two of the most populated — California and Texas — more than half of the excess deaths were tied to an underlying cause other than COVID-19, said lead author Steven Woolf, M.D., director emeritus of VCU’s Center on Society and Health.

This data, Woolf said, suggests the COVID-19 death counts reported to the public underestimate the true death toll of the pandemic in the U.S.

“There are several potential reasons for this under-count,” said Woolf, a professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health at VCU School of Medicine. “Some of it may reflect under-reporting; it takes awhile for some of these data to come in. Some cases might involve patients with COVID-19 who died from related complications, such as heart disease, and those complications may have been listed as the cause of death rather than COVID-19.

“But a third possibility, the one we’re quite concerned about, is indirect mortality — deaths caused by the response to the pandemic,” Woolf said. “People who never had the virus may have died from other causes because of the spillover effects of the pandemic, such as delayed medical care, economic hardship or emotional distress.”

Woolf and his team found that deaths from causes other than COVID-19 rose sharply in the states that had the most COVID-19 deaths in March and April. Those states were Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York — particularly New York City — and Pennsylvania. At COVID-19’s peak for March and April (the week ending April 11), diabetes deaths in those five states rose 96% above the expected number of deaths when compared to the weekly averages in January and February of 2020. Deaths from heart disease (89%), Alzheimer’s disease (64%) and stroke (35%) in those states also spiked.

New York City’s death rates alone rose a staggering 398% from heart disease and 356% from diabetes, the study stated.

Woolf said he and his team suspect that some of these were indirect deaths from the pandemic that occurred among people with acute emergencies, such as a heart attack or stroke, who may have been afraid to go to a hospital for fear of getting the virus. Those who did seek emergency care, particularly in the areas hardest hit by the virus, may not have been able to get the treatment they needed, such as ventilator support, if the hospital was overwhelmed by the surge.

Others may have died from a chronic health condition, such as diabetes or cancer, that was exacerbated by the effects of the pandemic, said Woolf, VCU’s C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Distinguished Chair in Population Health and Health Equity. Still others may have struggled to deal with the consequences of job loss or social isolation.

“We can’t forget about mental health,” Woolf said. “A number of people struggling with depression, addiction and very difficult economic conditions caused by lockdowns may have become increasingly desperate, and some may have died by suicide. People addicted to opioids and other drugs may have overdosed. All told, what we’re seeing is a death count well beyond what we would normally expect for this time of year, and it’s only partially explained by COVID-19.”

Woolf and his co-authors, Derek Chapman, Ph.D., Roy Sabo, Ph.D., and Latoya Hill of VCU, and Daniel M. Weinberger, Ph.D., of Yale University, state that further investigation is needed to determine just how many deaths were from COVID-19 and how many were indirect deaths “caused by disruptions in society that diminished or delayed access to health care and the social determinants of health (e.g., jobs, income, food security).”

Woolf, also a family physician, said this paper’s results underscore the need for health systems and public officials to make sure services are available not only for COVID-19 but for other health problems. His study showed what happened in the states that were overwhelmed by cases in March and April. Woolf worries that the same spikes in excess deaths may now be occurring in other states that are being overwhelmed.

“The findings from our VCU researchers’ study confirm an alarming trend across the U.S., where community members experiencing a health emergency are staying home — a decision that can have long-term, and sometimes fatal, consequences,” said Peter Buckley, M.D., interim CEO of VCU Health System and interim senior vice president of VCU Health Sciences. “Health systems nationwide need to let patients know it is safe and important to seek care in a health emergency, whether it’s through telehealth or in person.”

Woolf, who serves in a community engagement role with the C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research, said resources should be available for those facing unemployment, loss of income and food and housing insecurity, including help with the mental health challenges, such as depression, anxiety or addiction, that these hardships could present.

“Public officials need to be thinking about behavioral health care and ramping up their services for those patients in need,” Woolf said. “The absence of systems to deal with these kinds of other health issues will only increase this number of excess deaths.”

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The research team from VCU and Yale received funding for this study from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Both entities are part of the National Institutes of Health.

About VCU and VCU Health

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 217 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Thirty-eight of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 11 schools and three colleges. The VCU Health brand represents the VCU health sciences academic programs, the VCU Massey Cancer Center and the VCU Health System, which comprises VCU Medical Center (the only academic medical center in the region), Community Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, MCV Physicians and Virginia Premier Health Plan. For more, please visit http://www.vcu.edu and vcuhealth.org.

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Coronavirus: What's happening around the world on Thursday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

  • Daily cases of COVID-19 top 50,000 in the U.S. 
  • Palestinian government orders five-day quarantine in the West Bank.
  • India’s coronavirus infections surpassed 600,000.
  • U.K. to lift quarantine rules for those arriving from 75 countries.

Governors of U.S. states hit hardest by the resurgent coronavirus halted or reversed steps to reopen their economies on Wednesday, led by California, the nation’s most populous state and a new epicentre of the pandemic.

New cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, shot up by nearly 50,000 in the U.S. on Wednesday, marking it the biggest one-day spike since the start of the pandemic.

“The spread of this virus continues at a rate that is particularly concerning,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said in ordering the closure of bars, bans on indoor dining and other restrictions in 19 counties, affecting more than 70 per cent of the state’s population.

The change in California, which was the first U.S. state to impose sweeping “stay-at-home” restrictions in March, will likely inflict more financial pain on the owners of bars and restaurants who have struggled to survive the pandemic.

New cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, shot up by nearly 50,000 on Wednesday, marking it the biggest one-day spike since the start of the pandemic in the U.S. (Al Drago/Pool/Getty Images)

The epicentre of the country’s COVID-19 epidemic has moved from the Northeast to California, Arizona and New Mexico in the West, along with Texas, Florida and Georgia.

Texas again topped its previous record on Wednesday with 8,076 new cases, while South Carolina reported 24 more coronavirus deaths, a single-day high for the state. Tennessee and Alaska also had record numbers of new cases on Wednesday.

The U.S. recorded nearly 48,000 new infections on Tuesday, including more than 8,000 each in California and Texas.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Grisham, a Democrat, on Wednesday extended the state’s emergency public health order through July 15, saying that authorities would “aggressively” enforce mandatory mask rules.

“I want to be as clear as I can possibly be: New Mexico, in this moment, still has the power to change the terrible trajectory of this virus,” Grisham said. “But our time is limited. And we are staring down the barrel of what Texas, Arizona and many other hard-hit states are grappling with.”

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat whose city was for months at the centre of the U.S. outbreak, said Wednesday he would postpone a plan to allow indoor restaurant dining beginning Monday.

“We see a lot of problems and we particularly see problems revolving around people going back to bars and restaurants indoors, and indoors is the problem more and more,” de Blasio told reporters.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he will postpone reopening plans that would have allowed indoor restaurant dining across the city. ( Bryan Thomas/Getty Images)

A Reuters/Ipsos poll found Americans are increasingly worried about the spread of COVID-19, the serious and sometimes fatal illness caused by the coronavirus.

Roughly seven in 10 Republicans said they were personally concerned about the virus’s spread, up from six in 10 in previous polls. About nine in 10 Democrats said they are similarly worried, a level of concern that has not changed.

Conservatives have generally been less willing to wear masks or follow other restrictions imposed by local authorities to stop the spread of the virus as the issue has become increasingly politicized.


What’s happening with COVID-19 in Canada

As of 7 a.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had 104,271 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 67,746 of the cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 8,663. 

A new mobile app meant to help with contact tracing of COVID-19 cases won’t roll out across Ontario Thursday as planned.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health says the province is still working with the federal government and the app is expected to launch soon.

The province will be the first to use the COVID Alert app, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said it should be ready for downloading in the rest of the country later this summer.

This comes as large parts of Ontario look to moving to Stage 3 of the province’s COVID-19 reopening plan, with the spread of the coronavirus remaining slow in most public health units. 

Meanwhile, Canadians celebrated a Canada Day like no other as they marked the national holiday under unprecedented circumstances.

Canada Day 2020 took place amid both a global pandemic and a growing conversation about systemic racism in society.

The pandemic forced the cancellation of high-profile events and large celebrations like the annual pomp and pageantry on Parliament Hill in favour of backyard barbecues and online offerings to keep crowds from gathering. 


Here’s what’s happening around the world

The Palestinian Authority has announced a five-day quarantine in the West Bank in response to a major increase in coronavirus cases and deaths in recent days.

The Palestinian government says the lockdown will take effect Friday, and people will be required to shelter at home. A two-month total lockdown of the Palestinian territory was lifted in late May.

In the past two weeks, Palestinian health authorities have reported more than 1,700 confirmed coronavirus cases in the West Bank city of Hebron and hundreds more in Bethlehem and Nablus.

The occupied West Bank has a total of 3,045 confirmed cases and 11 deaths from the coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic.

Undertakers carry coffins at the end of funeral proceedings for COVID-19 victims at a mosque in Cape Town, South Africa. Africa’s confirmed cases have surpassed 400,000 and deaths have crossed 10,000 as health officials warn the pandemic is picking up speed across the continent. (Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images)

Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases have surpassed 400,000 and deaths have crossed 10,000 as health officials warn the pandemic is picking up speed on the continent of 1.3 billion people.

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says confirmed cases are now above 404,000 on the 54-nation continent, while testing capabilities remain low because of shortages of materials.

South Africa leads the continent with more than 151,000 confirmed cases. An emerging hot spot is in Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg, with 28 per cent of the country’s cases.

Kazakhstan will implement a second, softer lockdown for two weeks from Sunday to help combat a surge in coronavirus cases, the government said on Thursday.

Authorities will close some non-essential businesses, limit travel between provinces, cut public transit services’ hours of operation and ban public gatherings. The measures may be tightened or extended later, the cabinet said in a statement.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev ordered new curbs after coronavirus cases in the Central Asian country rose more than sevenfold following the lifting of its first, more restrictive lockdown in mid-May.

South Korea says it has confirmed 54 more COVID-19 cases as the coronavirus continues to spread beyond the capital region and reach cities like Gwangju, which has shut schools and tightened social restrictions after dozens fell sick this week.

The figures reported Thursday brought the national case total to 12,904, including 282 deaths.

Health Minster Park Neung-hoo is expressing alarm over the rise of infections in Gwangju, which had one of the smallest caseloads among major South Korean cities before this week.

China is reporting three newly confirmed cases of coronavirus, and says just one of them involved local transmission in the capital of Beijing.

The report Thursday appears to put the country where the virus was first detected late last year on course to eradicating it domestically, at least temporarily.

The National Health Commission says the other two cases were brought from outside China. No new deaths were reported, leaving the toll at 4,634 among 83,537 total cases of COVID-19.

A Chinese epidemic control worker wears a protective suit as she performs a nucleic acid swab test for COVID-19 on a woman at a government testing site in Beijing. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

China is moving swiftly to reopen its economy, but mass unemployment looms as the heavily indebted government is reluctant to spend lavishly on stimulus programs.

With new coronavirus cases in Tokyo surging to a two-month high, Japan faces the prospect of a second wave without the experts who tackled the first phase of the epidemic.

Instead, a new panel comprising a Nobel-prize winning geneticist, an artificial intelligence expert and a cardiologist will advise the government, as Japan seeks to revitalize its recession-hit economy.

The reshuffle has raised concerns among some health experts over Japan’s risk management capability as the pandemic could re-intensify.

A health-care worker checks the temperature of a child in Mumbai. India’s coronavirus infections surpassed 600,000 on Thursday. (Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters)

India’s coronavirus infections surpassed 600,000 on Thursday, with 17,834 deaths, as authorities battled to contain the pandemic while easing lockdown rules, officials and the health ministry said.

Fresh challenges to protect people from the virus emerged for disaster management officials in the northeast state of Assam amid torrential rainfall, where floods and landslides killed 57 people this week and more than 1.5 million were forced to flee their homes.

Assam’s health minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, said the state had started testing aggressively to identify coronavirus cases among villagers forced to take shelter in community halls, schools and government buildings.

The United Kingdom’s government will effectively ditch its air bridge plans and simply end the coronavirus quarantine rules for those arriving from 75 countries so that people can go on holiday, The Daily Telegraph reported.

The newspaper said the U.K. would shortly lift a ban on non-essential travel to nearly all EU destinations, including Bermuda and Gibraltar, and Turkey, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has been grappling with how to open up international travel after it imposed a two-week quarantine for arrivals, which has added to the woes of the shuttered tourism and travel industry.

A passenger wearing a face mask arrives at Heathrow airport, London. The U.K. government will effectively ditch its air bridge plans and simply end the coronavirus quarantine rules for those arriving from 75 countries. (Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images)

Indonesia is working to produce its own COVID-19 vaccine next year, amid growing anxiety that developing countries could have difficulty getting access to a future jab, the head of Indonesia’s national COVID-19 research team said Thursday.

“The production capability and capacity of biotech companies in the world is, we know, limited, and global supply chains also have challenges,” Ali Ghufron Mukti, head of the innovation team at Indonesia’s research and technology ministry, said.

“Therefore, it is necessary for Indonesia to develop its own COVID-19 vaccine. And it will be by Indonesia, from Indonesia, to Indonesia,” he said.

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Launch of COVID-19 contact tracing app in Ontario delayed – KitchenerToday.com

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A new mobile app meant to help with contact tracing of COVID-19 cases won’t roll out across Ontario today as planned.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health says the province is still working with the federal government and the app is expected to launch soon.

The province will be the first to use the COVID Alert app, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said it should be ready for downloading in the rest of the country later this summer.

Premier Doug Ford says the app is meant to enhance the province’s contact tracing strategy.

He’s previously said it could play a key role in helping contain the spread of COVID-19 as more businesses reopen their doors.

The app will be voluntary, and will notify users based on a number of criteria, including if they were within two metres of a person who tests positive for the virus and if that contact took place over an extended period of time.

The province didn’t give a new date for the app’s launch.

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