Coronavirus hope after hepatitis C drug helps 11 patients recover

Coronavirus hope after hepatitis C drug helps 11 patients recover as Britons reliant on another promising treatment used to treat lupus beg panic-buyers not to buy supplies

  • Pharma company which makes danoprevir tested it on COVID-19 patients
  • It said the medicine was safe and well-tolerated and could help recovery
  • But study was not designed to assess how well the drug worked on coronavirus
  • Lupus patients using hydroxychloroquine urged Government to protect stocks
  • Stocks are reportedly running low and hopes are rising of its prospects 
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

A drug used to treat hepatitis C is safe to use in coronavirus patients and could help them to recover, according to a study.

The medication danoprevir, sold as Ganovo, was given to 11 people with ‘moderate’ COVID-19 infections, in combination with the HIV drug ritonavir.

Scientists found it was safe and did not cause severe side effects, raising its prospects as a ‘promising therapeutic option’, they said.

If doctors decide to trial the medication it could become one of a variety of existing drugs which are being touted as possible therapies for people with the coronavirus.

Others include HIV-suppressing medicines, treatments for lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, and one that was developed to fight Ebola.

But people who rely on such medicines to keep them health in normal life fear that linking them to coronavirus will lead to shortages, as has happened in the US.

Various medications are being trialled in a bid to find one that works against the coronavirus (stock image)

Researchers from a Chinese biotechnology company and a hospital in Jiangxi, China, published the results of their trial without them being reviewed by other scientists.

They had given 11 patients a combination of danoprevir and ritonavir for between four and 12 days. 

All of them recovered and took around two days to produce a negative test result – the fastest negative test came just one day after treatment started and the last one eight days after.

They were discharged from hospital after their body temperatures returned to normal, their breathing improved, their lungs looked healthier in scans and they tested negative twice. 

A vaccine that protects against tuberculosis (TB) and naturally improves a person’s immune system is being trialled on 4,000 healthcare workers in Australia to see if it can protect against coronavirus.

The Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine is used to give children immunity to TB — a bacterial infection — but it is known to have other benefits.  

Trials have previously discovered people that receive the jab have improved immune responses and are better able to protect themselves from various infections.  

These so-called off-target effects include enhanced protection against respiratory diseases,and have been recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Scientists are now deploying the vaccine to thousands of people to see if it offers extra protection against SARS-CoV-2 and reduce COVID-19 symptom severity.

The trial will be led by Researchers at Melbourne’s Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and involve 4,000 health workers in various hospitals across the country.  

To date, Australia has reported almost 3,000 cases and 13 deaths, with the global toll of infections approaching half a million.  

Similar trials are being conducted in other countries including the Netherlands, Germany and the UK.  

Professor Kathryn North AC, Director of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, said: ‘Australian medical researchers have a reputation for conducting rigorous, innovative trials. 

‘This trial will allow the vaccine’s effectiveness against COVID-19 symptoms to be properly tested, and may help save the lives of our heroic frontline healthcare workers.’

The study did not look at how well the drug worked, nor compare it to any other treatments, but assessed whether it was safe to take.

Ritonavir is being tested elsewhere, including an Oxford University trial in the UK, and some Chinese doctors claimed it had worked well for them. 

The researchers, led by Dr Jinzi Wu, CEO of Ascletis Pharmaceuticals, which produces the drug, said: ‘Our findings suggest that repurposing danoprevir for COVID-19 is a promising therapeutic option’.

Other drugs being trialled on coronavirus patients include Japanese flu remedy favipiravir; an Ebola drug called remdesivir; and HIV suppressing medication lopinavir/ritonavir, also known as Kaletra.

One potential remedy has been touted in the form of an anti-malarial drug called chloroquine, which is also used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

But people who rely on the drug – who suffer those conditions – fear there will be a shortage if people are given hope that it will protect them from the coronavirus.

Just this week a man in the US died after drinking aquarium cleaner which contained another version of the deadly chemical.

RAIRDA, the Rare Autoimmune Rheumatic Disease Alliance, is now calling for the UK Government to act early to prevent prolonged shortages.

One chloroquine drug, hydroxychloroquine, is used to control autoimmune conditions such as lupus. 

If patients stop taking this medication their disease can flare up, which can be a life-threatening situation in itself and also raise the risk of getting severe symptoms of coronavirus. 

India is currently the only country which manufactures a key ingredient for the drug approved for use in the UK. 

However, it recently imposed export controls, meaning manufacturers for the UK cannot make more of the drug for this country.

Paul Howard, LUPUS UK chief executive and RAIRDA member said: ‘Patients are already experiencing difficulties getting hold of hydroxychloroquine. 

‘About 90 per cent of the 50,000 lupus patients in the UK take this medication and, for them, there is no alternative which has the same effect. 

‘We do not know what it does against COVID-19 but we do know that patients with lupus need this drug. Many patients who take it, with lupus and similar conditions, are already classified as at high or very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 infection and any shortage could increase their vulnerability.’

Sue Farrington, chair of RAIRDA said: ‘This drug is used by tens of thousands of patients in the UK to control serious rheumatological conditions. 

‘Whilst many of these are labelled as “rare” they still affect tens of thousands, meaning the health service would experience a significant burden if these patients lost the ability to control their condition. 

‘We cannot allow this to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.’

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23 Messages Of Hope From Communities Affected By The Coronavirus Outbreak

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A man walks by a closed theater in downtown Los Angeles on March 21.

People walk past a sign during Day 2 of the citywide shelter-in-place order in San Francisco on March 18.

A message reads, “This is just intermission, we’ll see you soon” on the marquee of Paramount Theater in Seattle on March 20.

A quote attributed to Mr. Rogers fills the marquee above the Indiana Theater in Bloomington, Indiana, on March 18.

Jaclyn Swyt puts up a yard sign showing support for a doctor who is a neighbor in Nolensville, Tennessee, on March 22.

Andrea Eby, left, puts up a yard sign showing support for a doctor who is a neighbor in Nolensville, Tennessee, on March 22.

Signs in Times Square thank health care workers in New York City on March 20.

The Grand Lake theater displays a message in Oakland, California, on March 18.

The shuttered Hayworth Theatre displays a message in Los Angeles on March 23.

A homeless man walks by a closed theater in downtown Los Angeles on March 21.

Andy Woods Elementary School staff member Monina Mercado holds up a sign as cars filled with teachers pass by during a teachers’ parade in Tyler, Texas, on March 24.

Andy Woods Elementary School teacher Morgan Conrado holds up a sign as she passes by the houses of her students during a teachers’ parade in Tyler, Texas, on March 24.

A sign is displayed encouraging social distancing at the United Methodist Building in Washington DC, on March 24.

A sign hangs in the window of American Coney Island restaurant in Detroit on March 24.

Monica Ybarra, corporate counsel for TBS Factoring Service, holds a sign announcing sandwiches for truck drivers along Interstate 35 in Oklahoma City on March 20.

People hold a sign for a resident of the Lambeth House retirement community in New Orleans, where a cluster of the coronavirus was discovered, as opera singers Irini Hymel and Bryan Hymel sing to the quarantined residents on March 20.

Local residents wave and show placards to tourists who have to leave the Florida Keys due to the coronavirus on March 22.

The Bagdad Theater in Portland on March 23.

A quieter-than-usual scene outside the Clinton Street Theater in Portland on March 23.

The Hollywood Theater displays a positive message to passersby in Portland on March 23.

A couple walks past the marquee of the Georgia Theatre in Downton Athens, Georgia, on March 20.

A sign pictured on the Lake Theater and Cafe in Lake Oswego, Oregon, on March 24.

A shuttered movie theater displays the message “Keep Calm” in Beverly Hills, California, on March 18.

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  • 17 Teachers Who Deserve An A+++ For Their Efforts To Educate Their Students In QuarantineStephanie McNeal · March 23, 2020
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  • Gabriel H. Sanchez is the Senior Photo Essay Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York City.

    Contact Gabriel H. Sanchez at [email protected]

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Glimmer of hope for the African Black Rhino

Glimmer of hope for the African Black Rhino as experts reveal numbers increased 2.5 per cent a year between 2012 and 2018 to reach 5,630 living in the wild

  • The numbers come from the International Union for Conservation of Nature
  • Experts say that the slow rise is thanks to ‘immense’ conservation efforts
  • These have included increased law enforcement efforts against poachers 
  • Careful rhino population management has also helped to increase their numbers

African Black Rhinos have been given a glimmer of hope as experts have revealed that numbers increased 2.5 per cent a year between 2012 and 2018.

There are now around 5,630 living in the wild, thanks to ‘immense’ conservation efforts, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reported.

These efforts included law enforcement and population management measures, including moving some rhinos from established populations to new locations.

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African Black Rhinos have been given a glimmer of hope as experts have revealed that numbers increased 2.5 per cent a year between 2012 and 2018. This means that there are now around 5,630 living in the wild, thanks to ‘immense’ conservation efforts

‘Africa’s rhinos are by no means safe from extinction,’ said IUCN acting director general Grethel Aguilar.

However, she added, ‘the continued slow recovery of Black Rhino populations is a testament to the immense efforts made in the countries the species occurs in, and a powerful reminder to the global community that conservation works.’

‘At the same time, it is evident that there is no room for complacency as poaching and illegal trade remain acute threats.

‘It is essential that the ongoing anti-poaching measures and intensive, proactive population management continue, with support from national and international actors.’

Population models predict a further slow increase over the next five years, according to the IUCN update.

The south-western black rhino, a subspecies, has seen sufficient population growth over the last three generations to be newly categorised as only ‘Near Threatened’, the IUCN said.

But the other two surviving subspecies — the South-eastern and Eastern rhinos — both remain ‘Critically Endangered’ due to their drastic declines between the 1970s and 1990s.

There are now around 5,630 living in the wild, thanks to ‘immense’ conservation efforts, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reported 

Meanwhile, Africa’s other rhino species — the white rhino — continues to be categorised as ‘Near Threatened’ on the IUCN Red List.

While poaching of African rhinos continues to be the main threat to the two species, the IUCN said that the strong counter-measures taken by range states, private landowners and communities in recent years are having a positive effect.

Figures indicate that poaching numbers have decreased after a peak in 2015, when a minimum of 1,349 rhinos were found to have been targeted.

In 2018, there were a minimum of 892 rhinos poached — a number that is equivalent to one every ten hours.

‘If the encouraging declines in poaching can continue, this should positively impact rhino numbers,’ said Richard Emslie, Red List authority coordinator for the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s African Rhino Specialist Group.

‘Continued expenditure and efforts will be necessary to maintain this trend.’

The update to the Red List shows that more than 31,000 of 116,177 known animal species are threatened with extinction.

WHAT IS THE ENDANGERED ‘RED LIST’?

Species on the endangered red list are animals of the highest conservation priority that need ‘urgent action’ to save.

An Amber list is reserved for the next most critical group, followed by a green list.

Red list criteria:

  • Globally threatened
  • Historical population decline in UK during 1800–1995
  • Severe (at least 50 per cent) decline in UK breeding population over last 25 years
  • Severe (at least 50 per cent) contraction of UK breeding range over last 25 years  

Last year, in the UK, several more species were added to the list. 

These included:  

  • Atlantic puffin
  • Nightingale 
  • Long-tailed duck 
  • Turtle dove

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