The following is a brief weekly roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus.
Anti-inflammatories may keep virus in check
Researchers in Spain using computer techniques have analyzed 6,466 approved drugs and identified seven that might inhibit the main enzyme that helps the coronavirus to replicate, referred to as M-pro. The approach is already being tested via trials of the HIV antiretroviral medications lopinavir and ritonavir. Two of the seven newly identified drugs, both anti-inflammatory medications, have been selected by a group of academic researchers for early-stage laboratory tests, according to a report published on Wednesday in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences. The two are celecoxib, sold by Pfizer Inc. for arthritis pain under the brand name Celebrex, and carprofen, used for pets under several brand names, including Rimadyl from Zoetis Inc. The researchers say the molecular structures of these drugs could be used as starting points for developing derivatives with more potent effects against the coronavirus.
Chinese vaccine could be ready by year-end
A Chinese-made coronavirus vaccine could be ready for market as early as the end of this year, China's State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) said in a social media post. In trials, more than 2,000 people have received vaccines developed by the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products and the Beijing Institute of Biological Products. A vaccine could be ready for the market as early as the end of this year or early 2021, according to the May 29 post on Chinese social media platform WeChat. The Beijing Institute of Biological Products' production line will have an annual manufacturing capacity of 100 million to 120 million doses, according to the article. China currently has five coronavirus vaccines in human trials.
Morning fever screenings not ideal
As businesses and cities reopen, screening people for fever when they arrive in the morning at work or school is likely to be widely used to help prevent coronavirus spread. But "morning may be the worst time" to screen for fevers, researchers say. They draw this conclusion from data collected from more than 300,000 people during studies of flu outbreaks in earlier years. "Fever-range temperatures ... were rarest during mornings, and were about half as common during mornings as during evenings in periods of high influenza activity," they reported in a paper published Tuesday without peer review on the medRxiv preprint server. "The results suggest that morning temperature measurements could miss many febrile disease cases," they said.
COVID-19 thickens blood, causing strokes
Doctors are seeing dramatically increased rates of blood-clot-related complications in patients infected with the novel coronavirus. It appears that the virus injures the lining of blood vessels – the endothelium – leading blood to clot as it flows past the damage. A small study has now found that blood in critically ill COVID-19 patients appears to be thicker than normal. The condition, called hyperviscosity, is known to damage the endothelium and increase the risk for clots, researchers reported on Monday in The Lancet medical journal. They are "actively exploring" whether COVID-19 patients with hyperviscosity will benefit from plasma exchange, an effective treatment for hyperviscosity in other illnesses.
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