Canadian researchers launched a study Monday into the use of a powerful anti-inflammatory drug to reduce the risks of pulmonary complications and death related to the new coronavirus.
Several COVID-19 patients have had severe complications from a surge of activated immune cells in the lungs—known as a “cytokine storm.”
In a cytokine storm, the immune system overreacts and damages lung tissue, leading to acute respiratory distress and multi-organ failure.
A team led by Jean-Claude Tardif, director of the Montreal Heart Institute research center and professor of medicine at the University of Montreal, are hoping the drug colchicine will work to moderate the overproduction of immune cells and their activating compounds—called cytokines—in COVID-19 patients.
If it proves to be successful, the drug—which is already used to treat gout and pericarditis (inflammation of the heart membrane), and is readily available and inexpensive—could become a key tool in the pandemic fight.
At a news conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Can$192 million (US$132 million) in funding for vaccine development and production in Canada, as well as several partnerships with firms to accelerate clinical trials and the eventual production of a vaccine and treatments.
“Once there are promising options, Canada needs the capacity to mass produce treatments as quickly as possible,” he said.
Those named by the prime minister included Vancouver’s AbCellera, Medicago in Quebec City, and Toronto-based startup BlueDot, which used artificial intelligence to flag the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan nine days before the World Health Organization, as well as the University of Saskatchewan and the National Research Council.
Tardif told public broadcaster Radio-Canada that he hopes to know if colchicine is effective in coronavirus patients within three months.
He said he became interested in its possible application as a COVID-19 fighter when it became clear that most children were resistant to the illness.
Children typically have reduced inflammatory responses to colds and flus, compared to adults.
In laboratory tests, animals whose inflammatory responses were blocked also lived longer after being exposed to influenza.
The hypothesis was worked on by 125 people and Health Canada approved the Quebec government-funded study within 24 hours.
According to a heart institute statement, the researchers are looking to recruit 6,000 Canadians with the coronavirus, for a clinical trial.
But there were only 1,430 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Canada as of 2200 GMT Sunday, including 20 deaths. More than 100,000 Canadians have been tested, so far.
Trudeau also said the government was accelerating lab tests for the virus, and has asked research schools across the country for any spare masks and ventilators, while also looking at the possibility of 3D printing medical supplies.
© 2020 AFP
Researchers study drug to reduce COVID-19 complications (2020, March 23)
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Canada is expecting rise in Coronavirus deaths as job losses touch 1 million – International Business Times, Singapore Edition
Canada is expecting the increase in the number of coronavirus deaths from the current 435 to as high as 22,000 by the time the pandemic ends, health officials stated on Thursday, while the economy suffered a loss of one million jobs last month.
The officials outlined two scenarios which are most likely to take place, showing that between 11,000 and 22,000 people will die. The total number of positive coronavirus cases ranged from 934,000 to 1.9 million.
The officials said they expected between 500 and 700 people in Canada to die from the coronavirus by April 16. There have been 18,447 positive diagnoses so far. “Models are not a crystal ball,” Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, told a briefing, saying it was too early to predict when the peak would be.
Canada may witness 22,000 deaths due to Coronavirus
Tam said it was crucial that people continued to obey instructions to stay at home as much as possible. “While some of the numbers released today may seem stark, Canada’s modeling demonstrates that the country still has an opportunity to control the epidemic,” she said. “We cannot prevent every death but we must prevent all the deaths that we can.”
Local governments across Canada have ordered non-essential businesses shut to combat the spread of the coronavirus, throwing millions out of work. Canada lost a record-breaking 1 million jobs in March while the unemployment rate soared to 7.8 percent, Statistics Canada said on Thursday, adding that the figures did not reflect the real toll. “Sticker shock for sure. This was about as bad as it could be,” said Derek Holt, vice president of capital markets economics at Scotiabank.
More than five million Canadians had applied for all forms of federal emergency unemployment help since March 15, government data showed on Thursday, suggesting the real jobless rate is closer to 25 percent. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has so far announced a range of measures to help businesses that total around C$110 billion ($78.3 billion) in direct spending, or 5 percent of gross domestic product. Canada’s independent parliamentary budget officer predicted the budget deficit would balloon to C$184.2 billion in the 2020-2021 fiscal year from C$27.4 billion in the 2019‑2020 fiscal year.
(With agency inputs)
Controls can keep Canadian COVID-19 deaths under 22,000, health agency says – Agassiz-Harrison Observer
With strong control measures, the federal public health agency projects that 11,000 to 22,000 Canadians could die of COVID-19 in the coming months.
In a report released Thursday, (April 9) Public Health Agency of Canada says short-term estimates are more reliable, and it anticipates 500 to 700 deaths by the end of next week.
The agency released modelling data this morning with different possible scenarios, warning that what happens depends very much on how Canadians behave to keep the respiratory illness from spreading.
With poor containment measures, the death toll could be much, much higher, the agency says.
It says the COVID-19 battle in Canada is still in its early stages but Canada’s numbers of confirmed cases have been increasing more slowly than in other countries.
The agency the fight against the novel coronavirus will likely take many months and require cycles of tighter and weaker controls.
Later on Thursday (April 9), Chief medical officer Dr. TheresaTam said the “aspirational and our ambitious goal” was that just one per cent of the population is infected with COVID-19. With a population of 37.6 million, that would mean about 376,000 people would be infected.
Tam said there were 17,766 total confirmed cases of the virus and 461 deaths as of Thursday.
“I recognize there changes in our daily lives… are extremely difficult,” Tam said during a press conference in Ottawa.
She said the measures had “allowed the healthcare system to cope.”
She called on Canadians to make the upcoming long weekend a “staycation for the nation,” and stay home to celebrate with their household, or virtually with other friends and family.
Tam said health officials were evaluation the effect of measures like physical distancing and self-isolation daily.
“No one is gathering, really… we’re just trying to strengthen the message to Canadians that you should avoid all non-essential travel and stay at home as much as possible,” she said.
“We know that contact tracing is very key.”
The Canadian Press
Virus modelling estimates 11,000 to 22,000 Canadian deaths if physical distancing continues – The Globe and Mail
In the next year, between 11,000 and 22,000 Canadians could die as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, in what officials say are among the best-case scenarios for the disease.
The federal pandemic models released Thursday show that the country could see 22,580 to 31,850 cases by April 16, resulting in between 500 and 700 deaths.
Canada already has 19,291 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 435 confirmed deaths as a result of the disease.
Disease modelling is meant to show what might happen as the illness spreads across Canada, and does not predict what will happen.
In reading the models, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, has warned they are not a “crystal ball,” and instead serve to inform decision-makers about where they need to put resources, the health system’s capacity to respond to the virus, and what other measures need to be put in place to further limit transmission.
At a technical briefing, Dr. Tam and her deputy, Dr. Howard Njoo, outlined three possible scenarios facing Canada over the next year.
With strong epidemic control measures, such as a high degree of physical distancing and a high per cent of testing and contact tracing, the models show the epidemic could last until the fall and infect between one and 10 per cent of the population. Officials say that is Canada’s best-case scenario.
The potential 11,000 to 22,000 range in deaths is based on an overall infection rate of between 2.5 and 5 per cent.
“We cannot prevent every death but we must prevent every death that we can,” Dr. Tam said, adding that the models show Canada must continue with its physical-distancing measures already in place.
If no policy measures, such as physical distancing, were put in place, the models show 70 and 80 per cent of people could become infected and more than 300,000 people could die.
A middle-of-the-road scenario, where weaker controls would delay and reduce the peak, could lead to between 25 and 50 per cent of residents becoming infected with COVID-19 and more than 100,000 people could die. In that case, officials said the first wave of the pandemic could last until spring, 2021.
Dr. Tam said the models released by Ottawa show the first wave of the virus and warned that even when Canada is over the peak of the outbreak, some restrictions will need to stay in place to ensure the epidemic does not “reignite.”
She added that it is not clear yet when the pandemic will peak in different parts of the country, because no region is on the downward slope of its infection curve. Since at least half of all cases will come after the initial peak, the need for strong measures to reduce contact among individuals will need to continue for some time after it is clear that the first wave of the pandemic has crested, she said.
Nicholas Ogden, a senior scientist with the health agency, said that the fatality rate estimated for the Canadian figures – about 1.18 per cent of confirmed cases – was based on a range of factors and international data.
The federal government released its modelling after many provinces had done the same. On Wednesday, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador all released their models. British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick and Quebec have also already made their models public.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada is benefitting from being hit by the global pandemic after many other countries. “For the time being,” he said, the health care system is able to cope with the spread of the virus but the country is “at a fork in the road.”
“We have the chance to determine what our country looks like in the weeks and months to come,” Mr. Trudeau said, meaning Canadians will have to continues to stay home and remain disciplined.
“This will be the new normal until a vaccine is developed,” Mr. Trudeau said.
Experts say making the models public is a way for officials to build trust with citizens who are being asked to take restrictive and economically painful measures to blunt the impact of the virus.
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