Thursday, September 17, 2020

University of Pittsburgh scientists discover antibody that 'neutralizes' virus that causes COVID-19

Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have isolated “the smallest biological molecule” that “completely and specifically neutralizes” SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The antibody component is 10 times smaller than a full-sized antibody, and has been used to create the drug Ab8, shared in the report published by the researchers in the journal Cell on Monday. The drug is seen as a potential preventative against SARS-CoV-2.

According to the report, the drug has been “highly effective in preventing and treating” the SARS-CoV-2 infections in mice and hamsters during tests. The drug also reportedly does not bind to human cells, which suggests it will not have negative side effects in people.

“Ab8 not only has potential as therapy for COVID-19, but it also could be used to keep people from getting SARS-CoV-2 infections,” said co-author John Mellors, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Pitt and UPMC. “Antibodies of larger size have worked against other infectious diseases and have been well tolerated, giving us hope that it could be an effective treatment for patients with COVID-19 and for protection of those who have never had the infection and are not immune.”

Researchers are “thinking outside the box” for how the drug could be administered, stating it may be able to be inhaled or through a superficial injection, instead of an IV

According to the report, the team at University of Texas Medical Branch Center for Biodefense and Emerging Diseases and Galveston National Laboratory tested Ab8 and found it blocked the virus from entering cells. In mice trials, those treated with Ab8 had 10-fold less of the amount of infectious virus compared to those that were untreated.



It’s Far Too Late to Think Lockdowns Can Make Covid-19 Go Away

In the early days of the coronavirus crisis, the rationale given for lockdowns was that it was necessary to stay at home for "fifteen days to slow the spread." The idea was that social distancing was necessary so that hospitals and other healthcare resources would not be overwhelmed.

However, by the summer of 2020, whether by design or not, it became common to hear media pundits, politicians, and even some scientists either imply or outright claim that social distancing could permanently flatten the curve or otherwise somehow cause a drastic reduction in overall covid-19 deaths.

For example, The Hill's Reid Wilson claimed in July: "We know how to stop this virus, it requires social distancing, it requires wearing a mask, and constant hand sanitizers and staying home as much as possible."

Yet this displays a woeful lack of understanding about the purpose and effectiveness of lockdowns. Lockdowns of the sort seen in April and May in this country do nothing at all to "stop this virus." The lockdown strategy only works to completely stop a disease if certain conditions can be met. Specifically, the lockdown must be extremely strict,  and it must be maintained indefinitely—perhaps for years—until a safe and effective vaccine is widely available.

Clearly, the US is nowhere near enforcing a lockdown like this, nor does it appear that a vaccine—certainly not a well-tested one—is imminent. Thus, given that we know lockdowns themselves cause deaths through suicides, drug overdoses, and more, trying to impose a strict lockdown until that day comes would be a high-stakes gamble few will be willing or able to endure.

Lockdowns Only Provide "Temporary Suppression"
For some insightful observers, this has been clear from the very beginning. Writing back in April of this year, Joseph Ladapo, a professor of medicine at UCLA, wrote:

There is no guarantee of a vaccine within the next 18 months. We have taken measures to slow the virus, but these can’t stop it. The only thing that can stop the virus at this advanced stage of community transmission is a complete lockdown, which can happen in authoritarian countries like China, but not in the U.S.

Are shutdowns enough? No. Despite the efforts, there is still enough human contact to ensure the virus will spread. Take a look at the long list of “essential” services and exemptions on California’s Covid-19 website, for example. Shutdowns will cause the virus to spread more slowly, but it will spread nonetheless.

When shutdowns end, the virus will spread and Covid-19 deaths will increase. Without a vaccine and community immunity—often called “herd immunity”—this outcome is all but guaranteed. The only thing that will temporarily quell it in the near term, short of a miracle treatment, is another shutdown. But states will get only one pass at this. Once lifted, the appetite for a repeat shutdown will be tepid at best, even in left-leaning states. The reality of the shutdown’s costs—the upheaval caused by school closures, economic hurt, social isolation and lost lives and livelihoods—will be fresh. Some argue that stopping Covid-19 and protecting the economy are one and the same. Although this is true, it is too late to do either.

Not even the most enthusiastic supporters of draconian lockdowns, including Neil Ferguson, author of the infamous (and very wrong) Imperial College model, thought it possible to eradicate the disease through lockdowns. The Imperial report refers to lockdowns simply as a method of "temporary suppression."

As Ladapo notes, at this stage in the game, i too late to contain the disease without a total lockdown where so much as a trip to the grocery store is verboten. Moreover, international borders would have to be sealed shut to prevent infected populations from entering the country. Given the success with which governments have controlled the flow of migrants, we can guess about how successful that strategy would be.

When we add all this together, given current realities, social distancing and lockdowns cannot possibly serve any purpose other than to slow down the spread so as to lessen the burden on healthcare facilities. The only lives saved would be those who would otherwise have been denied medical care by an overwhelmed medical system. But this is a relatively small number, and in the developed world medical systems are now nowhere near running out of beds.

Thus, another round of stay-at-home orders or lockdowns certainly won't make the disease go away. They'll just delay the spread to a future date. Moreover, it’s debatable how effective lockdowns are at accomplishing even this. In a new working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), Andrew Atkeson, Karen Kopecky, and Tao Zha conclude that we may be even past the time when lockdowns make much of a difference to outcomes.

It appears countries and regions follow a similar pattern "everywhere." Transmission rates are high at first, the study notes, but growth in the spread of the disease quickly declines after twenty to thirty days. After this, “the growth rate of daily deaths in all regions has hovered around zero or slightly below.” This is regardless of whether or not there are social distancing laws or mask mandates. In other words, it doesn't look like lockdowns (which now vary widely in their extent and severity) are even changing the shape of the curve anymore.

Thus, a few months out from the initial surge, growth rates in all regions became more and more similar across jurisdictions. The authors therefore conclude:

given the observation that disease transmission rates have remained low with relatively low dispersion across locations worldwide for the past several months as NPIs [nonpharmaceutical interventions] have been lifted, we are concerned that estimates of the effectiveness of NPIs in reducing disease transmission from the earlier period may not be relevant for forecasting the impact of the relaxation of those NPIs in the current period, due to some unobserved switch in regime.

In other words, not only are we well past the time when lockdowns might have flattened the initial surge in transmissions, at this point in the pandemic it doesn’t look like lockdowns would even do much to flatten the curve to the point that we're better off.

Dogmatic advocates for lockdowns are likely to continue pushing for open-ended mandates until a vaccine is widely available. But they're gambling with people's lives. How many children must be impoverished and how many jobless men and women must die by suicide or drug overdoses in the meantime? Every day of a lockdown puts more lives in danger.



‘One size fits all’ approach dangerous when it comes to personal protective equipment

Protective masks do not fit healthcare workers properly, particularly women and those of Asian descent, a new Australian study has found.

The debate around mask wearing has been a hot topic since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Now researchers claim masks don’t always fit our frontline workers properly, particularly women or those of Asian descent, putting them at risk of catching the potentially deadly disease.

Now academics are calling for more formal fit-testing procedures.

Researchers at the University of Western Australia and Perth Children’s Hospital argue hospitals lack the time and financial resources to ensure every worker has a mask that fits properly.

Co-author Professor Britta von Ungern-Sternberg said an ill-fitting mask could allow unfiltered air to be drawn inside.

The “fit-pass” rate for women is just 85 per cent compared with 95 per cent for men, while masks fit 90 per cent of caucasian workers properly, but that figure drops to 84 per cent for people of Asian descent and even lower at 60 per cent for Asian females.

The shape and size of the respirator in relation to the wearer’s facial anthropomorphic dimensions were major factors in terms of quality of fit, researchers said.

However, the study has its limits. Females and Asians were under-represented, academics confessed.

But they said the most important takeaway was triggering discussion about the difference between fit checking (when a wearer checks their own mask) and fit testing (a standardised testing measure).

The authors said fit testing should form part of official hospital occupational health and safety programs.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, filtering facepiece respirators require a fit test to ensure proper protection.

But despite international guidelines, fit testing is not adopted in many countries including in Australia.

Some companies do offer fit testing at a hefty price which authors said is similar to in-person mandatory training.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted deficiencies of some healthcare facilities to protect their HCWs in line with national and international recommendations, and the requirement for formal fit-testing programs appears to be particularly important,” the study authors noted.




John Durham speculation reaching fever pitch after aide resignation, Lindsey Graham comments, and phone-wipe mystery (Fox News)

CDC is moving ahead with critical race theory trainings despite Trump order (National Review)

Justice Department internal watchdog is investigating Roger Stone's sentencing (NBC News)

Attacks on Chicago officers are up "five times" over previous years (The Daily Wire)

Two Los Angeles County deputies in stable condition after being shot; search for assailant continues (ABC 7)

Wounded female LA deputy, shot through jaw and both arms, gave partner emergency medical treatment after ambush (Disrn)

Rochester mayor fires police chief over handling of Daniel Prude case (Washington Examiner)

Federal ruling: Florida can require eligible felons to pay fines and fees to vote (Washington Examiner)

Riots and looting hit Pennsylvania after cop shoots a minority man who was charging at the officer with a knife (The Daily Wire)

If the child porn in Netflix's "Cuties" surprised you, you haven't been paying attention (The Federalist)

NBC's woke Sunday Night Football ratings plummet nearly 30% compared to 2019 (Disrn)

"They're there to cover the game": CBS tells announcers not to editorialize on NFL "social justice" (The Resurgent)

Maryland to add LGBTQ content to public schools' history curricula (The Daily Caller)

University of Chicago's English Department declares it will only accept applicants interested in working "in and with Black studies" for its next graduate admissions cycle (Daily Mail)

College Board reportedly became "key partner" with Chinese regime; the academic behemoth behind AP, SAT helped advance Chinese infiltration in K-12 schools (The Washington Free Beacon)

DHS cracks down on goods made with Chinese forced labor (The Washington Free Beacon)

DHS leaked email confirms antifa is an organized group (The Post Millennial)

Trump issues stark warning to Iran after reports country is considering plot to assassinate U.S. ambassador (Fox News)

U.S. halts ineffective symptom checks and screenings for high-risk countries (New York Post)

Policy: How urban governments have failed on housing, school outcomes, income segregation, and policing (American Enterprise Institute)

Policy: President Trump's ban on critical race theory, explained (Foundation for Economic Education)


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