Saturday, August 28, 2021

Could a Long-Used Cholesterol Drug Fight Severe COVID-19?

A drug that lowers cholesterol might help save hospitalized patients with COVID-19, a new, small Israeli study suggests.

Researchers at Hebrew University of Jerusalem noted that COVID causes a big buildup of cholesterol, which results in inflammation in cells.

In lab experiments, they found that the cholesterol-lowering drug fenofibrate (TriCor) effectively reduced damage to lung cells and stopped the SARS-CoV-2 virus from replicating. A study in 15 patients confirmed the lab results.

"They've shown that fenofibrate can potentially reduce the chance of a patient becoming hospitalized, it can decrease the amount of time they spend in hospital, decrease their need for oxygen, and it might even decrease the risk of dying, so I'm cautiously optimistic, but these are very small numbers of patients, so I am cautious," said Alan Richardson, a reader in pharmacology at Keele University in Staffordshire, U.K., who reviewed the findings.

He said the drug appears to work by affecting the metabolic changes that happen when the SARS-CoV-2 virus invades cells.

In his own research, Richardson found that TriCor could potentially stop the virus from getting inside the cells in the first place.

But he strongly emphasized that people should not take TriCor in hopes of preventing COVID-19 infection.

"I'd strongly advise people not to do it on their own without talking to a doctor," he said.

In this new trial, researchers gave TriCor to 15 patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19. All had pneumonia and required oxygen. They were given TriCor for 10 days.

Study leader Dr. Yaakov Nahmias said the results were "astounding."

"Progressive inflammation markers, [which] are the hallmark of deteriorative COVID-19, dropped within 48 hours of treatment," Nahmias said in a news release. "Moreover, 14 of the 15 severe patients didn't require oxygen support within a week of treatment, while historical records show that the vast majority [of] severe patients treated with the standard of care require lengthy respiratory support."

A biomedical engineer at Hebrew University, Nahmias is also a faculty member at Harvard University's Center for Engineering in Medicine in Boston.

"There are no silver bullets, but fenofibrate is far safer than other drugs proposed to date," he said, adding that the way it works makes it less likely to be effective only with specific coronavirus variants.

All 15 patients left the hospital in less than a week and had no side effects from the drug, according to the study. Few reported COVID side effects during four weeks of follow-up.

Although the results were promising, researchers said only larger trials can prove the drug's effectiveness as a COVID treatment.

Two phase 3 trials are underway in South America and the United States, according to the researchers.

Dr. Marc Siegel, a professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, reacted with caution to the findings.

"This is just an observational study with 15 people, so it's way too early to be saying that this medicine should be used," he said, adding that he's not sure that in the long run TriCor will be the medication of choice for COVID patients.

"We've gotten magic bullets in the works in the lab," Siegel said. "We're going to have an antiviral for COVID-19, but I don't think it's going to be this."

He said further study is warranted, however.

"Maybe TriCor will have some impact, but we're getting much closer to true antiviral treatments that may be game-changers," he said.

Siegel emphasized that TriCor doesn't take the place of COVID-19 vaccines in fighting the virus.

"Nothing takes the place of a vaccine, nothing," he stressed.

The study was published online Aug. 23 on the preprint server Research Square, but the findings have not yet been peer-reviewed


Finally, the age of lockdowns is over

Delta has changed everything. Comment from Australia

The age of the lockdown is over. The only catch is we can’t quite celebrate yet because half the nation is in lockdown.

And there is perhaps no more fitting final act of the coronavirus saga than this tragi-comic theatre of the absurd.

After more than a year and a half of Orwellian doublespeak and Machiavellian powerplays, Australia has finally come to its senses. Unfortunately it has only done so in theory, not practice.

From the very beginning of the pandemic there were those of us who could clearly see that mass lockdowns were never going to be a long-term solution, let alone a humane one.

We pleaded the vital importance of children going to school and adults going to work and thus were naturally condemned as granny-killing capo-fascists.

It would be unbecoming to crow now that we were right but, well, we were right.

Victoria subjected its citizens to four months of lockdown across the bitter winter of 2020 in an effort to beat the bug. But the bug came back and the state went into lockdown again.

And again. And again.

Meanwhile NSW showed that with a well-managed and well-resourced contact tracing system you could beat Covid-19 without city or statewide lockdowns.

The Casula outbreak, the Northern Beaches outbreak, the Croydon outbreak, the Berala outbreak and countless other leaks from hotel quarantine were all contained and crushed.

This all changed with the Delta variant.

NSW officials clearly thought they could beat it as they had the others, first with just contact tracing, then with local lockdowns, then with a citywide “lockdown lite” and lastly with some of the harshest measures ever seen.

None of it has worked. As every health expert and Blind Freddy himself now knows, we will not be getting back to zero ever again.

The predictable Pavlovian response from the hardliners was that this was because we didn’t lock down fast or hard enough.

And sure enough when Delta went down south Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews locked down hard and fast. After a couple of weeks he announced they had reached zero overnight cases.

That very same day Melbourne went into lockdown again. For the sixth time.

On Wednesday it looked like Victoria might have again started to bend the curve, posting just 45 overnight cases. The next day that number almost doubled.

An exasperated Andrews finally admitted there were “not many more levers we can pull”.

In short, he has gone as hard and fast as possible and still the virus is circulating and still Melburnians are living under the yoke.

Maybe it was just bad luck but if so there’s an awful lot of that going around.

In Fortress New Zealand, the global poster girl for ultra-hard lockdowns, they shut down the country at one single case. On Thursday there were more than 60 new cases.

Sure, Delta might possibly be held at bay for a while in some sparser scenarios but unless these jurisdictions are planning on becoming hermit states it is difficult to see what their long-term strategy is.

It is also true that both the Victorian and New Zealand outbreaks were caused by people from NSW — sorry about that! — but NSW could equally argue that its outbreak came from somewhere else too.

Or indeed that Sydney’s big second wave scare came from Victoria. The problem with the finger of blame is that it always ends up pointing in a circular direction.

The important thing is that even the most reluctant and recalcitrant are now finally seeing the light: Hard and fast or soft and slow, lockdowns now belong in the same historical dustbin as eugenics and ether theory.

They were never truly necessary in Australia, as its most populous state proved time and again, and when it comes to the current outbreak they clearly don’t work.

The NZ and Victorian governments are now subtly suggesting what NSW has been shouting from the rooftops — that it is not possible to beat the Delta variant with such medieval measures.

It is also worth noting that as of Thursday NSW and Victoria had reached almost the exact same number of Covid cases – around 21,500.

In Victoria 820 people died, in NSW just 133.

That is the difference vaccination makes and that is why even with record high case numbers NSW is now lifting restrictions instead of tightening them.

Indeed, new Doherty Institute modelling confirms this will not increase the death toll but anyone who can count could see that with their own eyes.

Even one of the Andrews government’s key lockdown advisers, epidemiologist and former staunch eliminationist Tony Blakely, is now advocating a softening of the current lockdown.

Likewise federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese has now endorsed the national pathway out of lockdowns. And NSW Labor’s Chris Minns has delivered from opposition what some of his counterparts have failed to deliver in government: Leadership.

With Labor MPs representing virtually all the Sydney Covid hotspots, Minns last week instructed every local member to ensure their communities were getting vaccinated.

And this week he threw his weight behind a strategy to get kids back to school next term, for which opposition support will be critical.

This is Labor at its best, putting people ahead of pointscoring.

Meanwhile the isolationist premiers of Queensland and WA are looking increasingly like the apocryphal last Japanese soldier on the island, fighting a solitary long lost war.

The final irony in all of this is that those who are locked down now will perhaps be the longest free, as vaccination rates surge in NSW and Victoria and stagnate in the separatist states.

Soon we will be reunited with the world while the wallflowers chew their nails in the corner.



About 1,500 American citizens still in Afghanistan, secretary of state claims (NBC News)

White House cuts off audio of Joe Biden’s appalling response to question about Americans stranded in Afghanistan (Twitchy)

Two congressmen, a Democrat and a Republican, went to Kabul because they don’t trust Biden’s Afghanistan spin (PJ Media) |

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has ludicrously commended the president’s Saigon 2.0 malfeasance, slams the “freelance” trip (Fox News)

Pentagon orders COVID vaccinations for military personnel (Washington Times)

New York governor adds 12,000 deaths to publicized COVID tally (AP)

CDC: Schools with mask mandates didn’t see statistically significant different rates of COVID transmission from schools with optional policies (FEE)

YouTube oligarchs yank over one million COVID videos it deems “dangerous” (Daily Caller)

Man gets six years in prison for Gretchen Whitmer kidnapping role (Detroit News)

Former California Democrat majority leader endorses Larry Elder (Power Line)

Osama bin Laden warned in 2010 letter that Biden would “lead US into crisis” (NY Post)

Capitol Police officer who shot Ashli Babbitt to speak out in interview (Daily Wire)

Apple promotes hookup apps to children (Free Beacon)

New Mexico governor’s car gets 13 MPG as she demands state average of 52 MPG (The Federalist)

A Washington state jail is offering free Ramen noodles to inmates who get the vaccine (Not the Bee)

Policy: The roads not taken in Afghanistan (Foreign Affairs)

Policy: The results of the labor-market experiment are in: Reducing unemployment benefits reduced unemployment (City Journal)




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