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UBC researchers claim find of COVID-19 trial drug – Burnaby Now

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University of British Columbia researchers say they have found a trial drug that blocks the cellular door the virus uses to infect people with COVID-19.

“There is hope for this horrible outbreak,” said UBC Life Sciences Institute director Dr. Josef Penninger.

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Penninger said the drug might soon be ready for testing.

He said a global team’s work provides new insights into the  SARS-CoV-2 virus and its interactions on a cellular level, as well as how the virus can infect blood vessels and kidneys.

“We are hopeful our results have implications for the development of a novel drug for the treatment of this unprecedented outbreak,” he said.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) said March 20 that Thailand , Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, South Africa, Spain and Switzerland will be involved in a multi-country clinical study for potential treatments for COVID-19, part of a rapid global search for drugs to treat COVID-19.

Penninger’s team’s findings were published in the science journal Cell Friday.

Penninger said the finding holds some promise for a treatment capable of stopping early infection of the novel coronavirus that, as of April 4, has affected more than 1.16 million people and claimed the lives of 62,491people worldwide.

The study has involved researchers from Vancouver, Toronto, Spain and Sweden.

Penninger explained that cell membrane-surface protein ACE2 plays a key role in the outbreak.

In earlier work, Penninger and colleagues at the University of Toronto and the Institute of Molecular Biology in Vienna identified ACE2 as the key receptor for SARS, the viral respiratory illness recognized as a global threat in 2003.

What the new finding means, Penninger  said, is that “the absence of a clinically proven antiviral therapy or a treatment specifically targeting the critical SARS-CoV-2 receptor ACE2 on a molecular level has meant an empty arsenal for health care providers struggling to treat severe cases of COVID-19.”

“Our new study provides direct evidence that a drug – called APN01 (human recombinant soluble angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 – hrsACE2) – soon to be tested in clinical trials by the European biotech company Apeiron Biologics, is useful as an antiviral therapy for COVID-19,” said University of Toronto Dr. Art Slutsky, also a scientist at Toronto’s Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science at St. Michael’s Hospital.

What the researchers found through cell cultures is that the drug inhibited the coronavirus load. Using engineered replicas of human blood vessel and kidneys  – “organoids” grown from human stem cells – the researchers demonstrated the virus can directly infect and duplicate itself in such tissues.

What can be drawn from that, they said, is key information on the disease’s development and that severe cases of COVID-19 can lead to with multi-organ failure and cardiovascular damage.

“Clinical grade hrsACE2 also reduced the SARS-CoV-2 infection in these engineered human tissues,” they said.

 “Using organoids allows us to test in a very agile way treatments that are already being used for other diseases, or that are close to being validated,” said Prof. Núria Montserrat of the Institute for Bioengineering in Catalonia, Spain.

“In these moments in which time is short, human organoids save the time that we would spend to test a new drug in the human setting,” Montserrat said.

“The virus causing COVID-19 is a close sibling to the first SARS virus,” Penninger said. “Our previous work has helped to rapidly identify ACE2 as the entry gate for SARS-CoV-2, which explains a lot about the disease, he said.

“Now, we know that a soluble form of ACE2 could be indeed a very rational therapy that specifically targets the gate the virus must take to infect us.

The WHO team’s work, dubbed Solidarity, will test four different drugs or combinations – remdesivir, a combination of two drugs, lopinavir and ritonavir, the two drugs plus interferon beta, and chloroquine – and will compare their effectiveness to what is called standard of care – the regular support hospitals treating COVID-19 patients.

“This global problem requires urgent global solutions,” said WHO’s representative to Thailand, Daniel Kertesz. “The goal is to identify medicines that will save lives in the global battle to fight this virus.”

Research by Penninger’s team was supported in part by the Canadian federal government through emergency funding focused on accelerating the development, testing and implementation of measures to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.

 

jhainsworth@glaciermedia.ca

@jhainswo

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Testing underway after 8 migrant workers at Elgin County farm test positive for coronavirus – Global News

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Officials with the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) and Southwestern Public Health (SWPH) say coronavirus testing is underway at a St. Thomas-area farm after at least eight temporary foreign workers tested positive for the virus this week.

An outbreak was declared on Thursday at Ontario Plants Propagation, a greenhouse operation along John Wise Line, days after the MLHU said it first became aware of a case Monday night involving a worker at the farm, health officials said on Friday.


READ MORE:
New Brunswick reverses ban on temporary foreign workers

That initial case led to 16 of the worker’s close contacts being tested on Tuesday, with seven of the tests coming back positive. As those workers live in London, the seven are included in the tally of new cases that was reported on Friday by MLHU.

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According to the health unit, another 40 workers living at the same complex as the first case were tested on Wednesday at London’s Carling Heights Assessment Centre.

The remaining workers in the group, meanwhile, were to be tested on Friday at Ontario Plants Propagation. Test results for all were expected over the coming days.

“The operator of this farm has been tremendously co-operative with us, and we believe that this outbreak is now contained,” said Dr. Alex Summers, associate medical officer of health with the MLHU, during Friday’s coronavirus media briefing.

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“Of course, we will be monitoring that very closely over the next couple of weeks.”






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Coronavirus outbreak: How the pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities in the food supply chain

Summers said the workers had arrived primarily from Guatemala and Jamaica, and that as far as the health unit was aware, all had quarantined for 14 days upon arriving in Ontario.

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The workers are currently in self-isolation, and none have been admitted to hospital.

Health officials are still working to find the source of the outbreak, but Summers said it was believed they had been in Canada long enough that they either contracted it here, or “one of the other workers may have had mild symptoms that weren’t identified and transmitted it subsequently to their colleagues.”

“We believe that we have readily identified all close contacts and any additional cases,” Summers said. “Of course, we continue to watch for further results. But those tests have been done.”

Health officials stressed there was no risk to the public from the products grown on the farm, and that they didn’t believe there had been any close exposure or close contact outside of the migrant farmworker community.

“The living conditions for these migrant farmworkers were certainly a congregate living setting, but not exceptionally crowded, nor of specific concern for us,” Summers said.

“They were people living together and that would have resulted in the transmission.”


READ MORE:
B.C.’s agricultural sector short 6,000 to 8,000 jobs due to lack of foreign workers

COVID-19 cases have also been reported at other southwestern Ontario farms during the pandemic.

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Fifty-one workers, local and foreign, at Greenhill Produce in Kent Bridge, Ont., tested positive for the coronavirus last month.

In Windsor-Essex, at least 16 workers from three farms in the region had tested positive for the virus as of early this month, the region’s health unit said.

In March, four workers tested positive at Highline Mushrooms in Kingsville, Ont.

Approximately 20,000 migrant workers come to the Ontario each year to work on farms and in greenhouses.

— With files from Shawn Jeffords of The Canadian Press

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Six people can be added to existing double bubbles, government announces – NTV News

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The provincial government announced Friday that residents can expand their bubbles effective immediately.

Up to six more people can be added to an existing double bubble. The new members do not have to be from the same household, but cannot change once added. The government still advises people to keep their bubbles as small as possible.

More guidance can be found online here: https://www.gov.nl.ca/covid-19/individuals-and-households/expansion-of-household-bubble/

Dr. Proton Rahman is scheduled to release new projections Friday on how the COVID-19 pandemic is unfolding.

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Dr. Fitzgerald announced no new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.

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Ontario ramps up COVID-19 testing – ThePeterboroughExaminer.com

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A new testing strategy for COVID-19 will see “targeted campaigns” to check workers in Ontario communities with hot spots and key sectors where the virus spreads easily, including auto manufacturing, food suppliers and major retailers.

Officials unveiled the new blueprint Friday, with elements echoing what Premier Doug Ford has been saying for more than a week — and what epidemiologists have been pushing for much longer — to get a better picture of the illness as the economy reopens.

“It’s really to be proactive and understand what’s happening,” said Dr. Vanessa Allen of Public Health Ontario, who was instrumental in cobbling together a network of provincial, hospital and private labs to expand testing capacity.

For example, workers at LCBO stores were offered testing in the last few days along with Toronto police, said Dr. Dirk Huyer, Ontario’s chief coroner, who was brought in to lead the testing strategy. Several liquor store workers have tested positive in the last few months.

If there are concerns about the virus in a particular business, mobile teams will be sent in to test, he added.

There are also plans to support “enhanced testing” for hospital workers and their families, residents and staff in retirement homes, and more testing in nursing homes, where a first testing blitz of all residents and staff was completed two weeks ago after the new coronavirus raced through hundreds of facilities. About 30 per cent of retirement home testing has been completed.

That testing will continue next week in addition to testing open to the public at Ontario’s 131 assessment centres, which changed their criteria two weeks ago to allow anyone with one symptom of COVID-19 to be swabbed, along with people with no symptoms but occupational risk of exposure, such as health-care workers, their families and grocery-store workers.

Previously, people with mild or moderate symptoms were turned away from testing centres and told to self-isolate at home. Confusion over eligibility prompted Ford to issue a plea for people to get checked under the new criteria.

The goal going forward is to “identify, contain and monitor” new cases and spread of COVID-19, officials said, releasing figures showing 55 per cent of test results are available the next day and 82 per cent within two days.

Aside from communities with a higher number of cases, officials will also focus on “high-risk” individuals, such as hospital patients and cross-border workers.

Officials are aiming to increase Ontario’s lab capacity to get ready for the fall, when more respiratory symptoms will pop up and create “a need for greater testing,” Allen said.

Ontario’s testing for COVID-19 has ramped up this week and is close to peaks rarely reached as the number of cases since the illness arrived four months ago approached 29,000 with almost 2,300 deaths.

Ministry of Health figures released Friday show 18,525 nasal swabs were processed at a network of provincial, hospital and commercial labs across the province the previous day.

The provincial daily lab capacity is just over 20,000.

Results were in progress on another 13,351 samples and there have now been 680,687 tests processed in the province of 14.5 million, or 4.7 per cent of the population.

There were another 391 confirmed and probable cases as of 11 a.m. Friday, according to a Star compilation of data from health units in the previous 24 hours.

That raised the total number of cases to 28,544 and 2,272 deaths.

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About 66 per cent of cases have been in the Greater Toronto Area.

To date, at least 1,625 nursing-home residents have died, and there are outbreaks in 123 homes, down six from the previous day. But 1,476 nursing-home residents and 1,113 staff members are still fighting active cases of the highly contagious virus that spreads easily in close quarters.

The Ministry of Health said there were 826 Ontarians in hospital for COVID-19, with 129 in intensive care and 100 on ventilators. While the first two numbers were down from the previous day, there were six more patients who had to be put on ventilators to breathe.

Just under 21,000 Ontarians have recovered from the virus.

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