Friday, September 18, 2020

Eli Lilly’s coronavirus antibody drug cut hospitalization rates by THREE-FOLD for mild or moderately ill patients, early study data reveals

Eli Lilly and Co says interim results from its study of an antibody drug shows it may prevent mild to moderately ill coronavirus patients from being hospitalized.

The antibody, LY-CoV555, was developed by Indianapolis-based Lilly and the Canadian company AbCellera.

It recognizes the virus once a person is infected and attaches to it, preventing the pathogen from spreading throughout the body.

Hospitalization or ER visits were about three times less likely in COVID-19 patients given the drug than those given a placebo.

The company announced the results on Wednesday in a press release, but they have not been published or reviewed by independent scientists.

‘I’m strongly encouraged’ by the results, said Dr Myron Cohen, a virologist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. He had no role in the Lilly study but helps direct antibody studies for a public-private research group the federal government formed to speed testing of these drugs. ‘This seems to demonstrate what we thought’ – that such drugs would give a benefit, he said.

A total of 450 people with COVID-19 symptoms not severe enough to warrant hospitalization were recruited for the mid-stage study.

The drug is given once through an IV and was tested at three doses. Neither the patients nor their doctors knew which patients received the drug or placebo infusions.

Hospitalization or ER visits occurred in 1.7 percent of 302 patients given the drug and six percent of those given the placebo, a 72 percent risk reduction.

No serious side effects or deaths were reported among patients.

The drug missed the study’s main goal of reducing the amount of virus patients had after 11 days, except the middle of three doses being tested at 2,800 milligrams.

However, most study participants, even those given a placebo treatment, had cleared the virus by then, so that time point now seems too late to judge that potential benefit, the company said.

The company felt that giving the actual numbers ‘told the story in the most balanced way,’ said Dr Daniel Skovronsky, Lilly’s chief scientific officer.

‘The results reinforce our conviction that neutralizing antibodies can help in the fight against COVID-19.’

The company said most hospitalizations occurred in patients who were among higher-risk groups, such as being elderly or underlying risk factors such as being elderly or obese, suggesting a more pronounced treatment effect for people in these higher-risk groups.

Lilly said it would talk with regulators about possible next steps but that it was too soon to speculate on whether these interim results might lead to any action to allow early use.

Antibodies are proteins the body makes when an infection occurs. They attach to a virus and help it be eliminated.

The blood of survivors – convalescent plasma – is being tested as a treatment for COVID-19 patients because it contains such antibodies.

However, the strength and types of antibodies varies depending on each donor, and doing this on a large scale is impractical.

The drugs that Lilly and other companies are testing are concentrated versions of specific antibodies that worked best against the coronavirus in lab and animal tests, and can be made in large, standardized doses.

They are being tested to treat newly diagnosed COVID-19 patients in hope of preventing serious disease or death, and to try to prevent infection in people at high risk of these outcomes such as nursing home residents and health workers.

The difference seems large enough to suggest a true benefit and the result is ‘promising’ even though the study missed its main goal, said Dr Peter Bach, a health policy expert at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York who was not involved in the study.

The trial, which has now enrolled 800 patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19, is being test in combination with another Lilly antibody, LY-CoV016, which binds a different park of the spike protein the virus uses to enter human cells.

Lilly has already started manufacturing its antibody drug, hoping to have hundreds of thousands of doses ready by fall if studies give positive results.

Another company that developed an antibody drug cocktail against Ebola – Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc – now is testing a two-antibody drug for coronavirus.



Do eyeglasses lower COVID-19 risks? Study finds spectacle-wearers are FIVE TIMES less likely to be diagnosed with coronavirus than the general public

Wearing eyeglasses daily may reduce the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus, a new study suggests.

Researchers from China found that COVID-19 patients were five times less likely to have frames than the general population.

The team, from The Second Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University, says they believe this is because ACE-2 receptors, which the virus latches onto to enter and infect human cells, can be found in the eyes.

The findings also provide more evidence for why healthcare workers should wear eye protection and why more attention needs to be focused on preventive measures such as frequently wash their hands and avoid touching their face.

For the study, published in JAMA Ophthalmology, the team looked at 276 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 between January 27 and March 13.

Thirty patients wore eyeglasses (10.9 percent), including 16 cases of nearsightedness and 14 cases of farsightedness.

None of those diagnosed with the virus wore contact lenses or had undergone refractive surgery to correct their vision.

A total 16 patients, all nearsighted, were long-term wearers, defined as wearing glasses for more than eight hours a day, accounting for 5.8 percent.

For the general population, the researchers looked at study decades ago from students between ages seven to 22 years in Hubei province, of which 31.5 percent wore glasses for nearsightedness.

At the time of publication, those students would be between ages 42 and 57, close to the median age of 31 for the COVID-19 patients.

This means that the general population is 5.4 times more likely to wear eyeglasses daily than those diagnosed with coronavirus.

‘Our main finding was that patients with COVID-19 who wear eyeglasses for an extended period every day were relatively uncommon, which could be preliminary evidence that daily wearers of eyeglasses are less susceptible to COVID-19,’ the authors wrote.

The researchers hypothesize that frames ‘prevent or discourage wearers from touching their eyes, thus avoiding transferring the virus from the hands to the eyes.’

Studies have recently found that the eyes produce ACE-2, making the organs a prime target for the virus.

Coronavirus has not only been found on the surface of the eyes, but also within tears, which would transfer the pathogen.

This may explain why up to 12 percent of patients with COVID-19 have so-called ‘ocular manifestations,’ such as redness and swelling.

‘Therefore, the eyes are considered an important channel for SARS-CoV-2 to enter the human body,’ the authors wrote.

‘For daily wearers of eyeglasses, who usually wear eyeglasses on social occasions, wearing eyeglasses may become a protective factor, reducing the risk of virus transfer to the eyes and leading to long-term daily wearers of eyeglasses being rarely infected with COVID- 19.’

In an invited commentary, Dr Lisa Maragakis, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said people should not wear glasses if they do not need them.

‘Although it is tempting to conclude from this study that everyone should wear eyeglasses, goggles, or a face shield in public to protect their eyes and themselves from COVID-19, from an epidemiological perspective, we must be careful to avoid inferring a causal relationship from a single observational study,’ she wrote.



Twitter suspends account of Chinese virologist who claims COVID-19 was developed in a Wuhan lab – as she releases report with ‘evidence’ that she says backs up her theory

Twitter has suspended the account of a Chinese virologist who has publicly claimed that COVID-19 was developed in a Wuhan laboratory.

Li-Meng Yan’s account was taken down on Tuesday after she accused China of intentionally manufacturing and releasing COVID-19.

The Twitter account remained down on Wednesday and a message on the page now reads: ‘Account suspended. Twitter suspends accounts which violate the Twitter Rules.’

Twitter has not commented on the suspension of Yan’s account.

The social media giant started putting warning messages on tweets in May that contained disputed coronavirus claims.

It is not clear if there was one specific tweet from Yan that violated Twitter’s policy.

In an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on Tuesday night, Yan claimed she was suspended because ‘they don’t want the people to know this truth’.

Yan, who is a former researcher at the Hong Kong School of Public Health, said COVID-19 was ‘man-made’ and ‘not from nature’.

‘I have evidence to show why they can do it, what they have done, how (they did it),’ she told Fox News.

‘The scientific world also keeps silent… works together with the Chinese Communist Party, they don’t want people to know his truth. That’s why I get suspended, I get suppressed, I am the target that Chinese Communist Party wants disappeared.’

After the segment aired, the Fox News show also accused Facebook of censorship after saying they had been blocked from sharing the interview segment on the social media platform.

A video of the interview segment posted on the Tucker Carlson Tonight show’s page now comes with a warning that reads: ‘False Information. This post repeats information about COVID-19 that independent fact-checkers say is false.’

It comes as Yan published a report this week that she claims backs up her theory that China created the virus in a lab.

Some scientists have since said her report is ‘unsubstantiated’ and said it ‘cannot be given any credibility’.

Yan’s report has not been published in a scientific journal and has not been peer-reviewed – meaning it has not been checked and approved by fellow scientists.

Her report was posted on the website Zenodo.

The study was produced by the Rule of Law Society and the Rule of Law Foundation, sister organizations that former Trump strategist Steve Bannon founded with 50-year-old Chinese fugitive Guo Wengui.

Yan, who claims she fled to the US in April, says she was working at the Hong Kong School of Public Health – a reference laboratory for the World Health Organisation – before she was cut off after trying to alert people to human-to-human transmission of the virus in December.

The lab has denied that Yan ever ‘conducted any research on human-to-human transmission’ and said her assertions have ‘no scientific basis’.

In her report released this week, Yan claims the virus was built by merging the genetic material of two bat coronaviruses.

She claims its spike protein – a structure on the surface of the virus which it uses to bind with cells – was edited to make it easier for the virus to latch on to human cells.

Other research papers have already determined the origin of the virus as bats, which has resulted in top experts dismissing suggestions the virus was created by humans.

Yan writes that her research discounts the theory that coronavirus evolved in the wild and was then transferred to humans, claiming it ‘lacks substantial support’.

‘SARS-CoV-2 shows biological characteristics that are inconsistent with a naturally occurring virus,’ she wrote.

President Donald Trump claims he has seen evidence the virus, which he solely blames China for, came from Wuhan Institute of Virology – but he is not allowed to reveal it.



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