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From AAAS Science News on COVID19: New CRISPR based diagnostic may shorten testing time to 5 minutes

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A new CRISPR-based diagnostic could shorten wait times for coronavirus tests.

 

 

New test detects coronavirus in just 5 minutes

By Robert F. ServiceOct. 8, 2020 , 3:45 PM

Science’s COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center and the Heising-Simons Foundation.

 

Researchers have used CRISPR gene-editing technology to come up with a test that detects the pandemic coronavirus in just 5 minutes. The diagnostic doesn’t require expensive lab equipment to run and could potentially be deployed at doctor’s offices, schools, and office buildings.

“It looks like they have a really rock-solid test,” says Max Wilson, a molecular biologist at the University of California (UC), Santa Barbara. “It’s really quite elegant.”

CRISPR diagnostics are just one way researchers are trying to speed coronavirus testing. The new test is the fastest CRISPR-based diagnostic yet. In May, for example, two teams reported creating CRISPR-based coronavirus tests that could detect the virus in about an hour, much faster than the 24 hours needed for conventional coronavirus diagnostic tests.CRISPR tests work by identifying a sequence of RNA—about 20 RNA bases long—that is unique to SARS-CoV-2. They do so by creating a “guide” RNA that is complementary to the target RNA sequence and, thus, will bind to it in solution. When the guide binds to its target, the CRISPR tool’s Cas13 “scissors” enzyme turns on and cuts apart any nearby single-stranded RNA. These cuts release a separately introduced fluorescent particle in the test solution. When the sample is then hit with a burst of laser light, the released fluorescent particles light up, signaling the presence of the virus. These initial CRISPR tests, however, required researchers to first amplify any potential viral RNA before running it through the diagnostic to increase their odds of spotting a signal. That added complexity, cost, and time, and put a strain on scarce chemical reagents. Now, researchers led by Jennifer Doudna, who won a share of this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry yesterday for her co-discovery of CRISPR, report creating a novel CRISPR diagnostic that doesn’t amplify coronavirus RNA. Instead, Doudna and her colleagues spent months testing hundreds of guide RNAs to find multiple guides that work in tandem to increase the sensitivity of the test.

In a new preprint, the researchers report that with a single guide RNA, they could detect as few as 100,000 viruses per microliter of solution. And if they add a second guide RNA, they can detect as few as 100 viruses per microliter.

That’s still not as good as the conventional coronavirus diagnostic setup, which uses expensive lab-based machines to track the virus down to one virus per microliter, says Melanie Ott, a virologist at UC San Francisco who helped lead the project with Doudna. However, she says, the new setup was able to accurately identify a batch of five positive clinical samples with perfect accuracy in just 5 minutes per test, whereas the standard test can take 1 day or more to return results.

The new test has another key advantage, Wilson says: quantifying a sample’s amount of virus. When standard coronavirus tests amplify the virus’ genetic material in order to detect it, this changes the amount of genetic material present—and thus wipes out any chance of precisely quantifying just how much virus is in the sample.

By contrast, Ott’s and Doudna’s team found that the strength of the fluorescent signal was proportional to the amount of virus in their sample. That revealed not just whether a sample was positive, but also how much virus a patient had. That information can help doctors tailor treatment decisions to each patient’s condition, Wilson says.

Doudna and Ott say they and their colleagues are now working to validate their test setup and are looking into how to commercialize it.

Posted in:

doi:10.1126/science.abf1752

Robert F. Service

Bob is a news reporter for Science in Portland, Oregon, covering chemistry, materials science, and energy stories.

 

Source: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/10/new-test-detects-coronavirus-just-5-minutes

Other articles on CRISPR and COVID19 can be found on our Coronavirus Portal and the following articles:

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020: Emmanuelle Charpentier & Jennifer A. Doudna
The University of California has a proud legacy of winning Nobel Prizes, 68 faculty and staff have been awarded 69 Nobel Prizes.
Toaster Sized Machine Detects COVID-19
Study with important implications when considering widespread serological testing, Ab protection against re-infection with SARS-CoV-2 and the durability of vaccine protection

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Miniproteins against the COVID-19 Spike protein may be therapeutic

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD

Computer-designed proteins may protect against coronavirus

At a Glance

  • Researchers designed “miniproteins” that bound tightly to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and prevented the virus from infecting human cells in the lab.
  • More research is underway to test the most promising of the antiviral proteins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An artist’s conception of computer-designed miniproteins (white) binding coronavirus spikes. UW Institute for Protein Design

The surface of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is covered with spike proteins. These proteins latch onto human cells, allowing the virus to enter and infect them. The spike binds to ACE2 receptors on the cell surface. It then undergoes a structural change that allows it to fuse with the cell. Once inside, the virus can copy itself and produce more viruses.

Blocking entry of SARS-CoV-2 into human cells can prevent infection. Researchers are testing monoclonal antibody therapies that bind to the spike protein and neutralize the virus. But these antibodies, which are derived from immune system molecules, are large and not ideal for delivery through the nose. They’re also often not stable for long periods and usually require refrigeration.

Researchers led by Dr. David Baker of the University of Washington set out to design synthetic “miniproteins” that bind tightly to the coronavirus spike protein. Their study was funded in part by NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Findings appeared in Science on September 9, 2020.

The team used two strategies to create the antiviral miniproteins. First, they incorporated a segment of the ACE2 receptor into the small proteins. The researchers used a protein design tool they developed called Rosetta blueprint builder. This technology allowed them to custom build proteins and predict how they would bind to the receptor.

The second approach was to design miniproteins from scratch, which allowed for a greater range of possibilities. Using a large library of miniproteins, they identified designs that could potentially bind within a key part of the coronavirus spike called the receptor binding domain (RBD). In total, the team produced more than 100,000 miniproteins.

Next, the researchers tested how well the miniproteins bound to the RBD. The most promising candidates then underwent further testing and tweaking to improve binding.

Using cryo-electron microscopy, the team was able to build detailed pictures of how two of the miniproteins bound to the spike protein. The binding closely matched the predictions of the computational models.

Finally, the researchers tested whether three of the miniproteins could neutralize SARS-CoV-2. All protected lab-grown human cells from infection. Candidates LCB1 and LCB3 showed potent neutralizing ability. These were among the designs created from the miniprotein library. Tests suggested that these miniproteins may be more potent than the most effective antibody treatments reported to date.

“Although extensive clinical testing is still needed, we believe the best of these computer-generated antivirals are quite promising,” says Dr. Longxing Cao, the study’s first author. “They appear to block SARS-CoV-2 infection at least as well as monoclonal antibodies but are much easier to produce and far more stable, potentially eliminating the need for refrigeration.”

Notably, this study demonstrates the potential of computational models to quickly respond to future viral threats. With further development, researchers may be able to generate neutralizing designs within weeks of obtaining the genome of a new virus.

—by Erin Bryant

Source: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/computer-designed-proteins-may-protect-against-coronavirus

Original article in Science

De novo design of picomolar SARS-CoV-2 miniprotein inhibitors

 

  1. View ORCID ProfileLongxing Cao1,2
  2. Inna Goreshnik1,2
  3. View ORCID ProfileBrian Coventry1,2,3
  4. View ORCID ProfileJames Brett Case4
  5. View ORCID ProfileLauren Miller1,2
  6. Lisa Kozodoy1,2
  7. Rita E. Chen4,5
  8. View ORCID ProfileLauren Carter1,2
  9. View ORCID ProfileAlexandra C. Walls1
  10. Young-Jun Park1
  11. View ORCID ProfileEva-Maria Strauch6
  12. View ORCID ProfileLance Stewart1,2
  13. View ORCID ProfileMichael S. Diamond4,7
  14. View ORCID ProfileDavid Veesler1
  15. View ORCID ProfileDavid Baker1,2,8,*

See all authors and affiliations

Science  09 Sep 2020:
eabd9909
DOI: 10.1126/science.abd9909

Abstract

Targeting the interaction between the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein and the human ACE2 receptor is a promising therapeutic strategy. We designed inhibitors using two de novo design approaches. Computer generated scaffolds were either built around an ACE2 helix that interacts with the Spike receptor binding domain (RBD), or docked against the RBD to identify new binding modes, and their amino acid sequences designed to optimize target binding, folding and stability. Ten designs bound the RBD with affinities ranging from 100pM to 10nM, and blocked ARS-CoV-2 infection of Vero E6 cells with IC 50 values between 24 pM and 35 nM; The most potent, with new binding modes, are 56 and 64 residue proteins (IC 50 ~ 0.16 ng/ml). Cryo-electron microscopy structures of these minibinders in complex with the SARS-CoV-2 spike ectodomain trimer with all three RBDs bound are nearly identical to the computational models. These hyperstable minibinders provide starting points for SARS-CoV-2 therapeutics.

 

RESEARCH ARTICLE

De novo design of picomolar SARS-CoV-2 miniprotein inhibitors

  1. View ORCID ProfileLongxing Cao1,2
  2. Inna Goreshnik1,2
  3. View ORCID ProfileBrian Coventry1,2,3
  4. View ORCID ProfileJames Brett Case4
  5. View ORCID ProfileLauren Miller1,2
  6. Lisa Kozodoy1,2
  7. Rita E. Chen4,5
  8. View ORCID ProfileLauren Carter1,2
  9. View ORCID ProfileAlexandra C. Walls1
  10. Young-Jun Park1
  11. View ORCID ProfileEva-Maria Strauch6
  12. View ORCID ProfileLance Stewart1,2
  13. View ORCID ProfileMichael S. Diamond4,7
  14. View ORCID ProfileDavid Veesler1
  15. View ORCID ProfileDavid Baker1,2,8,*

See all authors and affiliations

Science  09 Sep 2020:
eabd9909
DOI: 10.1126/science.abd9909

Abstract

Targeting the interaction between the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein and the human ACE2 receptor is a promising therapeutic strategy. We designed inhibitors using two de novo design approaches. Computer generated scaffolds were either built around an ACE2 helix that interacts with the Spike receptor binding domain (RBD), or docked against the RBD to identify new binding modes, and their amino acid sequences designed to optimize target binding, folding and stability. Ten designs bound the RBD with affinities ranging from 100pM to 10nM, and blocked ARS-CoV-2 infection of Vero E6 cells with IC 50 values between 24 pM and 35 nM; The most potent, with new binding modes, are 56 and 64 residue proteins (IC 50 ~ 0.16 ng/ml). Cryo-electron microscopy structures of these minibinders in complex with the SARS-CoV-2 spike ectodomain trimer with all three RBDs bound are nearly identical to the computational models. These hyperstable minibinders provide starting points for SARS-CoV-2 therapeutics.

 

SARS-CoV-2 infection generally begins in the nasal cavity, with virus replicating there for several days before spreading to the lower respiratory tract (1). Delivery of a high concentration of a viral inhibitor into the nose and into the respiratory system generally might therefore provide prophylactic protection and/or therapeutic benefit for treatment of early infection, and could be particularly useful for healthcare workers and others coming into frequent contact with infected individuals. A number of monoclonal antibodies are in development as systemic treatments for COVID-19 (26), but these proteins are not ideal for intranasal delivery as antibodies are large and often not extremely stable molecules and the density of binding sites is low (two per 150 KDa. antibody); antibody-dependent disease enhancement (79) is also a potential issue. High-affinity Spike protein binders that block the interaction with the human cellular receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) (10) with enhanced stability and smaller sizes to maximize the density of inhibitory domains could have advantages over antibodies for direct delivery into the respiratory system through intranasal administration, nebulization or dry powder aerosol. We found previously that intranasal delivery of small proteins designed to bind tightly to the influenza hemagglutinin can provide both prophylactic and therapeutic protection in rodent models of lethal influenza infection (11).

Design strategy

We set out to design high-affinity protein minibinders to the SARS-CoV-2 Spike RBD that compete with ACE2 binding. We explored two strategies: first we incorporated the alpha-helix from ACE2 which makes the majority of the interactions with the RBD into small designed proteins that make additional interactions with the RBD to attain higher affinity (Fig. 1A). Second, we designed binders completely from scratch without relying on known RBD-binding interactions (Fig. 1B). An advantage of the second approach is that the range of possibilities for design is much larger, and so potentially a greater diversity of high-affinity binding modes can be identified. For the first approach, we used the Rosetta blueprint builder to generate miniproteins which incorporate the ACE2 helix (human ACE2 residues 23 to 46). For the second approach, we used RIF docking (12) and design using large miniprotein libraries (11) to generate binders to distinct regions of the RBD surface surrounding the ACE2 binding site (Fig. 1 and fig. S1).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Download high-res image

Fig. 1 Overview of the computational design approaches.

(A) Design of helical proteins incorporating ACE2 helix. (B) Large scale de novo design of small helical scaffolds (top) followed by rotamer interaction field (RIF) docking to identify shape and chemically complementary binding modes.

For full article please  go to Science at https://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2020/09/08/science.abd9909

 

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Did FDA Reverse Course on Convalescent Plasma Therapy for COVID-19?

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD

 

Starting with a timeline of recent announcements by the FDA on convalescent plasma therapy

April 16, 2020

FDA STATEMENT

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Encourages Recovered Patients to Donate Plasma for Development of Blood-Related Therapies

 

As part of the all-of-America approach to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been working with partners across the U.S. government, academia and industry to expedite the development and availability of critical medical products to treat this novel virus. Today, we are providing an update on one potential treatment called convalescent plasma and encouraging those who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma to help others fight this disease.

Convalescent plasma is an antibody-rich product made from blood donated by people who have recovered from the disease caused by the virus. Prior experience with respiratory viruses and limited data that have emerged from China suggest that convalescent plasma has the potential to lessen the severity or shorten the length of illness caused by COVID-19. It is important that we evaluate this potential therapy in the context of clinical trials, through expanded access, as well as facilitate emergency access for individual patients, as appropriate.

The response to the agency’s recently announced national efforts to facilitate the development of and access to convalescent plasma has been tremendous. More than 1,040 sites and 950 physician investigators nationwide have signed on to participate in the Mayo Clinic-led expanded access protocol. A number of clinical trials are also taking place to evaluate the safety and efficacy of convalescent plasma and the FDA has granted numerous single patient emergency investigational new drug (eIND) applications as well.

Source: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-encourages-recovered-patients-donate-plasma-development-blood

August 23, 2020

 

Recommendations for Investigational COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma

 

  • FDA issues guidelines on clinical trials and obtaining emergency enrollment concerning convalescent plasma

FDA has issued guidance to provide recommendations to health care providers and investigators on the administration and study of investigational convalescent plasma collected from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 (COVID-19 convalescent plasma) during the public health emergency.

The guidance provides recommendations on the following:

Because COVID-19 convalescent plasma has not yet been approved for use by FDA, it is regulated as an investigational product.  A health care provider must participate in one of the pathways described below.  FDA does not collect COVID-19 convalescent plasma or provide COVID-19 convalescent plasma.  Health care providers or acute care facilities should instead obtain COVID-19 convalescent plasma from an FDA-registered blood establishment.

Excerpts from the guidance document are provided below.

Background

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA or Agency) plays a critical role in protecting the United States (U.S.) from threats including emerging infectious diseases, such as the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.  FDA is committed to providing timely guidance to support response efforts to this pandemic.

One investigational treatment being explored for COVID-19 is the use of convalescent plasma collected from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19.  Convalescent plasma that contains antibodies to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 or SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is being studied for administration to patients with COVID-19. Use of convalescent plasma has been studied in outbreaks of other respiratory infections, including the 2003 SARS-CoV-1 epidemic, the 2009-2010 H1N1 influenza virus pandemic, and the 2012 MERS-CoV epidemic.

Although promising, convalescent plasma has not yet been shown to be safe and effective as a treatment for COVID-19. Therefore, it is important to study the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 convalescent plasma in clinical trials.

Pathways for Use of Investigational COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma

The following pathways are available for administering or studying the use of COVID-19 convalescent plasma:

  1. Clinical Trials

Investigators wishing to study the use of convalescent plasma in a clinical trial should submit requests to FDA for investigational use under the traditional IND regulatory pathway (21 CFR Part 312). CBER’s Office of Blood Research and Review is committed to engaging with sponsors and reviewing such requests expeditiously. During the COVID-19 pandemic, INDs may be submitted via email to CBERDCC_eMailSub@fda.hhs.gov.

  1. Expanded Access

An IND application for expanded access is an alternative for use of COVID-19 convalescent plasma for patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 disease who are not eligible or who are unable to participate in randomized clinical trials (21 CFR 312.305). FDA has worked with multiple federal partners and academia to open an expanded access protocol to facilitate access to COVID-19 convalescent plasma across the nation. Access to this investigational product may be available through participation of acute care facilities in an investigational expanded access protocol under an IND that is already in place.

Currently, the following protocol is in place: National Expanded Access Treatment Protocol

  1. Single Patient Emergency IND

Although participation in clinical trials or an expanded access program are ways for patients to obtain access to convalescent plasma, for various reasons these may not be readily available to all patients in potential need. Therefore, given the public health emergency that the COVID-19 pandemic presents, and while clinical trials are being conducted and a national expanded access protocol is available, FDA also is facilitating access to COVID-19 convalescent plasma for use in patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections through the process of the patient’s physician requesting a single patient emergency IND (eIND) for the individual patient under 21 CFR 312.310. This process allows the use of an investigational drug for the treatment of an individual patient by a licensed physician upon FDA authorization, if the applicable regulatory criteria are met.  Note, in such case, a licensed physician seeking to administer COVID-19 convalescent plasma to an individual patient must request the eIND (see 21 CFR 312.310(b)).

To Obtain a Single Patient Emergency IND  

The requesting physician may contact FDA by completing Form FDA 3926 (https://www.fda.gov/media/98616/download) and submitting the form by email to CBER_eIND_Covid-19@FDA.HHS.gov.

FACT SHEET FOR PATIENTS AND PARENTS/CAREGIVERS EMERGENCY USE AUTHORIZATION (EUA) OF COVID-19 CONVALESCENT PLASMA FOR TREATMENT OF COVID-19 IN HOSPITALIZED PATIENTS

  • FDA issues fact sheet for patients on donating plasma

August 23, 2020

 

FDA Issues Emergency Use Authorization for Convalescent Plasma as Potential Promising COVID–19 Treatment, Another Achievement in Administration’s Fight Against Pandemic

 

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for investigational convalescent plasma for the treatment of COVID-19 in hospitalized patients as part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to fight COVID-19. Based on scientific evidence available, the FDA concluded, as outlined in its decision memorandum, this product may be effective in treating COVID-19 and that the known and potential benefits of the product outweigh the known and potential risks of the product.

Today’s action follows the FDA’s extensive review of the science and data generated over the past several months stemming from efforts to facilitate emergency access to convalescent plasma for patients as clinical trials to definitively demonstrate safety and efficacy remain ongoing.

The EUA authorizes the distribution of COVID-19 convalescent plasma in the U.S. and its administration by health care providers, as appropriate, to treat suspected or laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 in hospitalized patients with COVID-19.

Alex Azar, Health and Human Services Secretary:
“The FDA’s emergency authorization for convalescent plasma is a milestone achievement in President Trump’s efforts to save lives from COVID-19,” said Secretary Azar. “The Trump Administration recognized the potential of convalescent plasma early on. Months ago, the FDA, BARDA, and private partners began work on making this product available across the country while continuing to evaluate data through clinical trials. Our work on convalescent plasma has delivered broader access to the product than is available in any other country and reached more than 70,000 American patients so far. We are deeply grateful to Americans who have already donated and encourage individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 to consider donating convalescent plasma.”

Stephen M. Hahn, M.D., FDA Commissioner:
“I am committed to releasing safe and potentially helpful treatments for COVID-19 as quickly as possible in order to save lives. We’re encouraged by the early promising data that we’ve seen about convalescent plasma. The data from studies conducted this year shows that plasma from patients who’ve recovered from COVID-19 has the potential to help treat those who are suffering from the effects of getting this terrible virus,” said Dr. Hahn. “At the same time, we will continue to work with researchers to continue randomized clinical trials to study the safety and effectiveness of convalescent plasma in treating patients infected with the novel coronavirus.”

Scientific Evidence on Convalescent Plasma

Based on an evaluation of the EUA criteria and the totality of the available scientific evidence, the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research determined that the statutory criteria for issuing an EUA criteria were met.

The FDA determined that it is reasonable to believe that COVID-19 convalescent plasma may be effective in lessening the severity or shortening the length of COVID-19 illness in some hospitalized patients. The agency also determined that the known and potential benefits of the product, when used to treat COVID-19, outweigh the known and potential risks of the product and that that there are no adequate, approved, and available alternative treatments.

 

August 24, 2020

Donate COVID-19 Plasma

 

  • FDA posts video and blog about how to donate plasms if you had been infected with COVID

 

https://youtu.be/PlX15rWdBbY

 

 

Please go to https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/donate-covid-19-plasma

to read more from FDA

 

 

August 25, 2020

 

CLINICAL MEMORANDUM From: , OBRR/DBCD/CRS To: , OBRR Through: , OBRR/DBCD , OBRR/DBCD , OBRR/DBCD/CRS Re: EUA 26382: Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) Request (original request 8/12/20; amended request 8/23/20) Product: COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Items reviewed: EUA request Fact Sheet for Health Care Providers Fact Sheet for Recipients Sponsor: Robert Kadlec, M.D. Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) Office of Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) EXECUTIVE SUMMARY COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma (CCP), an unapproved biological product, is proposed for use under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) under section 564 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act),(21 USC 360bbb-3) as a passive immune therapy for the treatment of hospitalized patients with COVID-19, a serious or life-threatening disease. There currently is no adequate, approved, and available alternative to CCP for treating COVID-19. The sponsor has pointed to four lines of evidence to support that CCP may be effective in the treatment of hospitalized patients with COVID-19: 1) History of convalescent plasma for respiratory coronaviruses; 2) Evidence of preclinical safety and efficacy in animal models; 3) Published studies of the safety and efficacy of CCP; and 4) Data on safety and efficacy from the National Expanded Access Treatment Protocol (EAP) sponsored by the Mayo Clinic. Considering the totality of the scientific evidence presented in the EUA, I conclude that current data for the use of CCP in adult hospitalized patients with COVID-19 supports the conclusion that CCP meets the “may be effective” criterion for issuance of an EUA from section 564(c)(2)(A) of the Act. It is reasonable to conclude that the known and potential benefits of CCP outweigh the known and potential risks of CCP for the proposed EUA. Current data suggest the largest clinical benefit is associated with high-titer units of CCP administered early course of the disease.

Source: https://www.fda.gov/media/141480/download

 

And Today August 26, 2020

  • A letter, from Senator Warren, to Commissioner Hahn from Senate Committee asking for documentation for any communication between FDA and White House

August 25, 2020 Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, M.D. Commissioner of Food and Drugs U.S. Food and Drug Administration 10903 New Hampshire Avenue Silver Spring, MD 20993 Dear Commissioner Hahn: We write regarding the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) troubling decision earlier this week to issue an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for convalescent plasma as a treatment for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).1 Reports suggests that the FDA granted the EUA amid intense political pressure from President Trump and other Administration officials, despite limited evidence of convalescent plasma’s effectiveness as a COVID-19 treatment.2 To help us better understand whether the issuance of the blood plasma EUA was motivated by politics, we request copies of any and all communications between FDA and White House officials regarding the blood plasma EUA.

Source: https://www.warren.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2020.08.25%20Letter%20to%20FDA%20re%20Blood%20Plasma%20EUA.pdf

…….. which may have been a response to this article

FDA chief walks back comments on effectiveness of coronavirus plasma treatment

 

From CNBC: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/25/fda-chief-walks-back-comments-on-effectiveness-of-coronavirus-plasma-treatment.html

PUBLISHED TUE, AUG 25 202010:45 AM EDTUPDATED TUE, AUG 25 20204:12 PM EDT

Berkeley Lovelace Jr.@BERKELEYJR

Will Feuer@WILLFOIA

KEY POINTS

  • The authorization will allow health-care providers in the U.S. to use the plasma to treat hospitalized patients with Covid-19.
  • The FDA’s emergency use authorization came a day after President Trump accused the agency of delaying enrollment in clinical trials for vaccines or therapeutics.
  • The criticism from Trump and action from the FDA led some scientists to believe the authorization, which came on the eve of the GOP national convention, was politically motivated.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn is walking back comments on the benefits of convalescent plasma, saying he could have done a better job of explaining the data on its effectiveness against the coronavirus after authorizing it for emergency use over the weekend.

Commisioners responses over Twitter

https://twitter.com/SteveFDA/status/1298071603675373569?s=20

https://twitter.com/SteveFDA/status/1298071619236245504?s=20

August 26, 2020

In an interview with Bloomberg’s , FDA Commissioner Hahn reiterates that his decision was based on hard evidence and scientific fact, not political pressure.  The whole interview is at the link below:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-08-25/fda-s-hahn-vows-to-stick-to-the-science-amid-vaccine-pressure?sref=yLCixKPR

Some key points:

  • Dr. Hahn corrected his initial statement about 35% of people would be cured by convalescent plasma. In the interview he stated:

I was trying to do what I do with patients, because patients often understand things in absolute terms versus relative terms. And I should’ve been more careful, there’s no question about it. What I was trying to get to is that if you look at a hundred patients who receive high titre, and a hundred patients who received low titre, the difference between those two particular subset of patients who had these specific criteria was a 35% reduction in mortality. So I frankly did not do a good job of explaining that.

  • FDA colleagues had frank discussion after the statement was made.  He is not asking for other people in HHS to retract their statements, only is concerned that FDA has correct information for physicians and patients
  • Hahn is worried that people will not enroll due to chance they may be given placebo
  • He gave no opinion when asked if FDA should be an independent agency

 

For more articles on COVID19 please go to our Coronavirus Portal at

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/coronavirus-portal/

 

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An expert opinion by Dr. Ofer Markman

A sweet perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic – glycobiologist view on the effort to curb the pandemic.

The sugars involved in a viral disease are unique in many ways when compared with the DNA/RNA or the proteins involved: they are almost totally dependent on the infected cells and tus are not affected by the viral mutation rate or by the virus at all. Nevertheless they are affected by the cells, their type and their sugar production mechanisms and in some respect to the production rate by which the virus in manufactured by the infected cells. Mutations may have neverthless major effect not on the structures of the glycans but rather on the axsistance of the glycosylation site, and thus the glycan at all, but not on its structures.

This may make the gycomolecule a good target for diagnostics as stability in the molecule may mean longer life time of the diagnostic kits.

Unique sugars are already predicted/found in the virus from certain chinese origin, in this case an o-linked glycan/s not previously detected.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/22221751.2020.1739565

Nevertheless, if the virus can infect multiple cells once current cells are not going to be available for any reason those viruses may present other glycans.

Once one starts to treat the infected person via modulation of protein production or by other means the change in the dynamic of protein production vs. protein glycosylation may cause changes in protein glycosyation, including their structures, this is well known to biotechnologists producing glycoproteins in labs and production.

This may either be a problem in understanding the state of disease or an advantage as it may help following response to the treatment and help as a co-treament diagnostics.

For that purpose we are starting to see pioneering players in that regard:

https://www.technologynetworks.com/diagnostics/news/carbohydrate-based-diagnostics-a-new-approach-to-covid-19-testing-332313

Glycans may play a role in treatment as well, TAMIFLU is uch an example. Tamiflu is directed to the flu enzyme Neuraminidaze that is part of the viral structures. This approch was also explored to develop treatments.

https://www.pharmasalmanac.com/articles/pneumagen-ltd-leverages-its-novel-glycan-approach-to-target-coronavirus-covid-19-infections

but glycans do not only effect their own involvement in treatment/diagnostics they also are effecting protein based diagnostics for this see statement by Dr. Michael Mercier of UAH

https://www.newswise.com/articles/we-re-dealing-with-covid-19-but-what-s-a-virus-in-the-first-place

also related and already published and commented

https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.11.20031096v1

Jiao Zhao, Yan Yang, Han-Ping Huang, Dong Li, Dong-Feng Gu, Xiang-Feng Lu, Zheng Zhang, Lei Liu, Ting Liu, Yu-Kun Liu, Yun-Jiao He, Bin Sun, Mei-Lan Wei, Guang-Yu Yang,  View ORCID ProfileXinghuan Wang, Li Zhang, Xiao-Yang Zhou, Ming-Zhao Xing,  View ORCID ProfilePeng George Wang

doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.03.11.20031096

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Recent Grim COVID-19 Statistics in U.S. and Explanation from Dr. John Campbell: Why We Need to be More Proactive

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

In case you have not been following the excellent daily YouTube sessions on COVID-19 by Dr. John Campbell I am posting his latest video on how grim the statistics have become and the importance of using proactive measures (like consistent use of facial masks, proper social distancing) instead of relying on reactive measures (e.g. lockdowns after infection spikes).  In addition, below the video are some notes from his presentation and some links to sites discussed within the video.

 

Notes from the video:

  • approaching 5 million confirmed cases in US however is probably an underestimation
  • 160,00 deaths as of 8/08/2020

From the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle WA

  • 295,000 US COVID-19 related deaths estimated by December 1, 2020
  • however if 95% of people in US consistently and properly wear masks could save 66,000 lives
  • however this will mean a remaining 228,271 deaths which is a depressing statistic
  • Dr. John Campbell agrees with Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics that “people’s inconsistent use of these measures (face masks, social distancing) is a serious problem”
  • States with increasing transmission like Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Virginia are suggested to have a lockdown when death rate reaches 8 deaths per million population however it seems we should be also focusing on population densities rather than geographic states
  • Dr. Campbell and Dr. Murray stress more proactive measures than reactive ones like lockdowns
  • if mask usage were to increase to 95% usage reimposition to shutdown could be delayed 6 to 8 weeks

 

New IHME COVID-19 Forecasts See Nearly 300,000 Deaths by December 1

SEATTLE (August 6, 2020) – America’s COVID-19 death toll is expected to reach nearly 300,000 by December 1; however, consistent mask-wearing beginning today could save about 70,000 lives, according to new data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine.The US forecast totals 295,011 deaths by December. As of today, when, thus far, 158,000 have died, IHME is projecting approximately 137,000 more deaths. However, starting today, if 95% of the people in the US were to wear masks when leaving their homes, that total number would decrease to 228,271 deaths, a drop of 49%. And more than 66,000 lives would be saved.Masks and other protective measures against transmission of the virus are essential to staying COVID-free, but people’s inconsistent use of those measures is a serious problem, said IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray.

“We’re seeing a rollercoaster in the United States,” Murray said. “It appears that people are wearing masks and socially distancing more frequently as infections increase, then after a while as infections drop, people let their guard down and stop taking these measures to protect themselves and others – which, of course, leads to more infections. And the potentially deadly cycle starts over again.”

Murray noted that there appear to be fewer transmissions of the virus in Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas, but deaths are rising and will continue to rise for the next week or two. The drop in infections appears to be driven by the combination of local mandates for mask use, bar and restaurant closures, and more responsible behavior by the public.

“The public’s behavior had a direct correlation to the transmission of the virus and, in turn, the numbers of deaths,” Murray said. “Such efforts to act more cautiously and responsibly will be an important aspect of COVID-19 forecasting and the up-and-down patterns in individual states throughout the coming months and into next year.”

Murray said that based on cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, several states are seeing increases in the transmission of COVID-19, including Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Virginia.

“These states may experience increasing cases for several weeks and then may see a response toward more responsible behavior,” Murray said.

In addition, since July 15, several states have added mask mandates. IHME’s statistical analysis suggests that mandates with no penalties increase mask wearing by 8 percentage points. But mandates with penalties increase mask wearing by 15 percentage points.

“These efforts, along with media coverage and public information efforts by state and local health agencies and others, have led to an increase in the US rate of mask wearing by about 5 percentage points since mid-July,” Murray said. Mask-wearing increases have been larger in states with larger epidemics, he said.

IHME’s model assumes that states will reimpose a series of mandates, including non-essential business closures and stay-at-home orders, when the daily death rate reaches 8 per million. This threshold is based on data regarding when states and/or communities imposed mandates in March and April, and implies that many states will have to reimpose mandates.

As a result, the model suggests which states will need to reimpose mandates and when:

  • August – Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, and South Carolina
  • September – Georgia and Texas
  • October – Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, and Oregon.
  • November – Alabama, Arkansas, California, Iowa, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.

However, if mask use is increased to 95%, the re-imposition of stricter mandates could be delayed 6 to 8 weeks on average.

Source: http://www.healthdata.org/news-release/new-ihme-covid-19-forecasts-see-nearly-300000-deaths-december-1

 

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Is SARS-COV2 Hijacking the Complement and Coagulation Systems?

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD

In a recent Nature Medicine paper “Immune complement and coagulation dysfunction in adverse outcomes of SARS-CoV-2 infection” Ramlall et al. demonstrate, in a retrospective study, that a significant number of patients presenting SARS-CoV2 complications had prior incidences of macular degeneration and coagulation disorders and these previous indications are risk factors for COVID-related complications.

 

Abstract

Understanding the pathophysiology of SARS-CoV-2 infection is critical for therapeutic and public health strategies. Viral–host interactions can guide discovery of disease regulators, and protein structure function analysis points to several immune pathways, including complement and coagulation, as targets of coronaviruses. To determine whether conditions associated with dysregulated complement or coagulation systems impact disease, we performed a retrospective observational study and found that history of macular degeneration (a proxy for complement-activation disorders) and history of coagulation disorders (thrombocytopenia, thrombosis and hemorrhage) are risk factors for SARS-CoV-2-associated morbidity and mortality—effects that are independent of age, sex or history of smoking. Transcriptional profiling of nasopharyngeal swabs demonstrated that in addition to type-I interferon and interleukin-6-dependent inflammatory responses, infection results in robust engagement of the complement and coagulation pathways. Finally, in a candidate-driven genetic association study of severe SARS-CoV-2 disease, we identified putative complement and coagulation-associated loci including missense, eQTL and sQTL variants of critical complement and coagulation regulators. In addition to providing evidence that complement function modulates SARS-CoV-2 infection outcome, the data point to putative transcriptional genetic markers of susceptibility. The results highlight the value of using a multimodal analytical approach to reveal determinants and predictors of immunity, susceptibility and clinical outcome associated with infection.

Introduction

As part of a separate study, the authors mapped over 140 cellular proteins that are structurally mimicked by coronaviruses (CoVs) and identified complement and coagulation pathways as targets of this strategy across all CoV strains4. The complement system is a critical defense against pathogens, including viruses5 and when dysregulated (by germline variants or acquired through age-related effects or excessive tissue damage) can contribute to pathologies mediated by inflammation5,6,7.

“So, virally encoded structural mimics of complement and coagulation factors may contribute to CoV-associated immune-mediated pathology and indicate sensitivities in antiviral defenses.”

 

Methods and Results

  • Between 1 February 2020 and 25 April 2020, 11,116 patients presented to New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center with suspected SARS-CoV-2 infection, of which 6,398 tested positive
  • Electronic health records (EHRs) were used to define sex, age and smoking history status as well as histories of macular degeneration, coagulatory disorders (thrombocytopenia, thrombosis and hemorrhage), hypertension, type 2 diabetes (T2D), coronary artery disease (CAD) and obesity (see Methods). A Python algorithm was used to analyze all confounders.
  • identified 88 patients with history of macular degeneration, 4 with complement deficiency disorders and 1,179 with coagulatory disorders).
  • observed a 35% mortality rate among patients that were put on mechanical ventilation and that 31% of deceased patients had been on mechanical respiration.
  • patients with AMD (a proxy for complement activation disorders) and coagulation disorders (thrombocytopenia, thrombosis and hemorrhage) were at significantly increased risk of adverse clinical outcomes (including mechanical respiration and death) following SARS-CoV-2 infection
  • 650 NP swabs from control and SARS-CoV-2-infected patients who presented to Weill-Cornell Medical Center were evaluated by RNA-Seq. Gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) of Hallmark gene sets found that SARS-CoV-2 infection (as defined by presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA and stratified into ‘positive’, ‘low’, ‘medium’ or ‘high’ based on viral load; induces genes related to pathways with known immune modulatory functions (Fig. 2a). Moreover, among the most enriched gene sets, SARS-CoV-2 infection induces robust activation of the complement cascade (false discovery rate (FDR) P < 0.001), with increasing enrichment and significance with viral load (FDR P < 0.0001).
  • KEGG Pathway Analysis revealed KEGG_Complement_and_Coagulation_Cascades’, ‘GO_Coagulation’ and ‘Reactome_initial_triggering_of_complement’ to be significantly enriched in expression profiles of SARS-CoV-2-infected samples
  • conducted a candidate-driven study to evaluate whether genetic variation within a 60-Kb window around 102 genes with known roles in regulating complement or coagulation cascades (2,888 genetic variants fulfill this criteria of the 805,426 profiled in the UK Biobank) is associated with poor SARS-CoV-2 clinical outcome
  • identified 11 loci representing seven genes with study-wide significance. A variant of coagulation factor III (F3), variant rs72729504, was found to be associated with increased risk of adverse clinical outcome associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection. The analysis also identified that four variants previously reported to be associated with AMD (rs45574833, rs61821114, rs61821041 and rs12064775)15predispose carriers to hospitalization following SARS-CoV-2 infection

As authors state:

“Among the implications, the data warrant heightened public health awareness for the most vulnerable individuals and further investigation into an existing menu of complement and coagulation targeting therapies that were recently shown to be beneficial in a small cohort of patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection.” 26,27.

 

References

Ramlall, V., Thangaraj, P.M., Meydan, C. et al. Immune complement and coagulation dysfunction in adverse outcomes of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Nat Med (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-020-1021-2

 

4.

Lasso, G., Honig, B. & Shapira, S. D. A sweep of earth’s virome reveals host-guided viral protein structural mimicry; with implications for human disease. Preprint at bioRxiv https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.06.18.159467 (2020).

 

SUMMARY

Viruses deploy an array of genetically encoded strategies to coopt host machinery and support viral replicative cycles. Molecular mimicry, manifested by structural similarity between viral and endogenous host proteins, allow viruses to harness or disrupt cellular functions including nucleic acid metabolism and modulation of immune responses. Here, we use protein structure similarity to scan for virally encoded structure mimics across thousands of catalogued viruses and hosts spanning broad ecological niches and taxonomic range, including bacteria, plants and fungi, invertebrates and vertebrates. Our survey identified over 6,000,000 instances of structural mimicry, the vast majority of which (>70%) cannot be discerned through protein sequence. The results point to molecular mimicry as a pervasive strategy employed by viruses and indicate that the protein structure space used by a given virus is dictated by the host proteome. Interrogation of proteins mimicked by human-infecting viruses points to broad diversification of cellular pathways targeted via structural mimicry, identifies biological processes that may underly autoimmune disorders, and reveals virally encoded mimics that may be leveraged to engineer synthetic metabolic circuits or may serve as targets for therapeutics. Moreover, the manner and degree to which viruses exploit molecular mimicry varies by genome size and nucleic acid type, with ssRNA viruses circumventing limitations of their small genomes by mimicking human proteins to a greater extent than their large dsDNA counterparts. Finally, we identified over 140 cellular proteins that are mimicked by CoV, providing clues about cellular processes driving the pathogenesis of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

 

26.

Risitano, A. M. Complement as a target in COVID-19?. Nat. Rev. Immunol. 20, 343–344 (2020).

 

27.

Mastaglio, S. et al. The first case of COVID-19 treated with the complement C3 inhibitor AMY-101. Clin. Immunol. 215, 108450 (2020).

 

28.

Polubriaginof, F. C. G. et al. Challenges with quality of race and ethnicity data in observational databases. J. Am. Med. Inf. Assoc. 26, 730–736 (2019).

 

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Reporter: Gail S. Thornton, M.A.

By USHA LEE MCFARLING

JULY 21, 2020

When dermatologist Jenna Lester learned that rashes on skin and toes were a symptom of Covid-19, she started searching the medical literature for images of what the rashes looked like on Black skin so she’d recognize it in her Black patients. She couldn’t find a single picture.

“I was frustrated because we know Covid-19 is disproportionately impacting communities of color,” said Lester, an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco who recently published her analysis. “I felt like I was seeing a disparity being built right before my eyes.”

The dearth of images in the Covid-19 literature is just the newest example of the glaring lack of representation of Black and brown skin that has persisted in dermatology research journals and textbooks for decades. The issue is coming under closer scrutiny now as dermatologists, like many physicians, grapple more openly with systemic racism and the health disparities it is causing in their field.

 

“Black Lives Matter is forcing a lot of people to look inward and say, ‘Where are our shortcomings?’” said Nada Elbuluk, an associate professor of clinical dermatology at the University of Southern California and the founder of a diversity and inclusion program in her department. “Dermatology is no different.”

 

 

The discrimination in her specialty extends beyond images and gaps in training, to restrictive insurance coverage for skin conditions that affect people with heavily pigmented skin, and to the many dermatologists who don’t accept patients with Medicaid.

 

It may be no surprise that a field that focuses on skin is now reckoning with skin color. In dermatology, where images are critical for diagnoses, the lack of images of darker skin poses a roadblock to proper treatment and medical education. Skin conditions that involve redness or pinkness in light skin can be subtler or harder to see in dark skin, and physicians who haven’t been adequately trained with such images are prone to misdiagnose people of color. “We absolutely need a diversity of images,” said Elbuluk.

An analysis of textbooks by Jules Lipoff, an assistant professor of clinical dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania, showed the percentage of images of dark skin ranged from 4% to 18%. “We are not teaching (and possibly not learning) skin of color,” Lester wrote in a separate analysis she conducted. Many worry the field’s shift toward using artificial intelligence to aid diagnosis of disease will further deepen the divide, because the machine learning algorithms are trained with datasets consisting primarily of fair-skinned images.

Dr. Jenna Lester w/ patient
Dermatologist Jenna Lester treats Geoffry Blair Hutto at the UCSF skin of color clinic.COURTESY BARBARA RIES, UCSF

It gets worse. While many textbooks depict the vast majority of skin diseases using light skin, there is one notable exception: Black skin is more often used to depict sexually transmitted diseases, a glaring example of stereotyping that is all the more painful given the U.S. government’s complicity in the notorious Tuskegee experiments that left syphilis untreated for decades in a group of poor, Black men.

Lipoff’s analysis, published this year, showed many dermatology textbooks had zero images of dark skin with acne, psoriasis, or dermatitis. When it came to syphilis, however, many books relied heavily on images of dark skin. Lester’s analysis found that while 28% of images of infectious diseases used images of darker skin, the number of depictions of dark skin was twice as high for infections that were sexually transmitted.

“In the textbooks I used in medical school, every penis was a Black penis showing an STD. We’ve got to stop that,” said Susan Taylor, a pioneer in the push for better dermatologic care for patients with dark skin and the Sandra Lazarus professor of dermatology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Considered a trailblazer in the field of dermatology, Taylor established the nation’s first “Skin of Color” dermatology clinic at Mount Sinai in New York in the late 1990s. In 2004, she founded the Skin of Color Society to help educate fellow dermatologists about how to treat patients of color, push for research and clinical trials to include people with darker skin, and mentor and encourage medical students of color to enter dermatology, where only 3% of practitioners are Black and 4% are Hispanic. “These are really abysmal numbers,” Taylor said. “That’s got to change.”

Taylor is also the lead author of the textbook Dermatology for Skin of Color, a guide considered invaluable by many dermatologists. But even those who rely on the book say it’s frustrating that a separate book on dark skin is still required — when as a nation we are just a few decades away from a majority of residents having skin of color.

“This is the white patient treated as the default and the Black patient as the asterisk,” said Lipoff. “You can’t make skin of color a lecture that students get once a year. It can’t be ‘otherized’ or put in a separate textbook.”

Taylor agrees. “Nothing would make me happier than to not have to publish another edition of that book,” she said.

 

Dermatologists say the lack of images is one reason why many conditions, including Lyme disease, spider bites, and cancers can go misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed in darker skinned patients, sometimes with dangerous results. The five-year melanoma survival rate for Black patients is just 70% compared with 94% for white patients.

The mother of a mixed-race 13-year-old from Connecticut said she was told by her child’s pediatrician when she was 8 that the white patches on her skin were pityriasis alba, a skin rash that’s usually not considered a serious condition. She was given a lotion, but the skin patches never went away. “I kept going online and looking at things but I couldn’t see anyone with issues that looked like hers,” said the mother, who didn’t want her name used to protect the girl’s privacy. “And the doctor was casual about it.”

Partly because of insurance issues, and partly because the mother thought there was nothing to worry about, it took five years before her daughter’s white patches were properly diagnosed: She had T-cell lymphoma, a cancer. While she will require maintenance light therapy for life, her overall prognosis is good. But her case highlights the difficult and sometimes frightening challenge many patients of color face to get a proper dermatologic diagnosis.

“Black Lives Matter is forcing a lot of people to look inward and say, ‘Where are our shortcomings?’ Dermatology is no different.”

 

When Ellen Buchanan Weiss noticed patches on the dark brown skin of her toddler son, she wondered if it was eczema, or something more serious. “I Googled it and noticed immediately the pictures were all of white skin,” she said. “I Googled other conditions and it was the same. No matter what I searched, there were almost no images of dark skin.”

The patches did turn out to be eczema and were easily treated. Still, the disparity bothered her for months. About a year ago, Weiss, a stay-at-home mom in Raleigh, N.C., decided to create an Instagram account called “Brown Skin Matters.” She posted images of skin conditions in darker skin next to images of the same condition in white skin and asked followers to send in more photos. The account exploded almost immediately.

“I’ve had tons of medical schools, physicians, nurses, and pharmacists all contact me saying this was useful,” she said. “I never thought this was going to become a diagnostic tool.”

Instagram is not exactly the best platform for making medical diagnoses, so Weiss is now working with medical experts to help create a more rigorous and searchable web-based tool for diagnosis of skin diseases in darker skin. It still floors Weiss that she, a person with no medical background, is at the center of it. “It’s curious to me, and troubling, that this is 2020 and this gap is still here,” she said. “Some large medical institution should have been taking care of this, not me.”

atopic dermatitis in infants
Comparison of atopic dermatitis in infants with darkly pigmented versus lightly pigmented skin, from the widely used textbook, Dermatology.COURTESY BOLOGNIA JL, SCHAFFER JV, AND CERRONI L, EDS. DERMATOLOGY. 4TH ED. ELSEVIER

Bolognia said she is extremely sensitive about not stigmatizing people of color by using only images of darkly pigmented skin to illustrate sexually transmitted diseases or drug users. “I noticed this as a student, the images of STDs were nearly all of patients with darkly pigmented skin, but the people I saw with syphilis were often fair-skinned,” she said. “I wondered about the possibility that pictures were being taken of individuals who were less likely to say no.”

The issue of textbooks failing to adequately represent skin of color is not a new one. Yet Lipoff’s study compared today’s textbooks with those of 15 years ago and found little has changed. Jean Bolognia, a professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine, has spent more than two decades editing the widely used textbook, Dermatology; she said providing a wide spectrum of skin tones is critical and something she’s worked hard to include, though she acknowledged there’s more work to do.

“I’m not saying it’s perfect, but we’ve been working really hard for over 15 years to show the whole spectrum,” said Bolognia, who is now working on the fifth edition of the textbook. “I feel you can always do better and I realize I don’t have enough images of Asian skin, so that is something I’m addressing.”Related: 

The field’s other widely used textbook is Andrews’ Diseases of the Skin. That book’s lead author, William James, is a longtime champion of diversity in dermatology, according to his colleagues at Penn, who include Taylor and Lipoff. James said representing a variety of skin tones was an important issue, but said authors were challenged by limits placed on the number of photos by textbook publishers and because findings of redness or pinkness can be hard to see in images of darker skin. “Deciding if an entity is represented at all, or more than once, is always difficult,” he said in an email.

James said his textbook includes more photos of Black skin than white skin in conditions that are more common in Black patients, and noted that eight of 14 photos of syphilis are in lighter skin.

Agrowing number of dermatologists are following Taylor’s lead and opening skin of color clinics that provide care for darker-skinned patients. Lester opened one at UCSF last year. Elbuluk has worked at or founded three skin of color clinics throughout her training and early career, including at Penn, NYU Medical School, and, in 2018, at USC, where she hopes to also spur much-needed clinical research on darker skin. “It’s surprising to me when large cities don’t have these,” Elbuluk said.

There are many reasons why people of color, particularly those who do not have private health insurance, lack access to dermatologists. Lipoff, who has examined the issue, said many dermatologists do not take Medicaid. Racial bias that discourages the treatment of Black patients, he said, is literally built into the physician reimbursement system. Many conditions that affect darker skin are often not covered by insurance because they are considered cosmetic.

Meanwhile, the highest revenue procedures, Lipoff said, include those for the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer, which is more likely to occur in white patients. This difference in how procedures are valued and reimbursed, he said, is a perfect example of structural racism that drives practices to directly and indirectly focus on white patients and marginalize Black patients. “If Black patients earned practices three times the revenue,” he said, “the disparity would disappear overnight.”

“It’s curious to me, and troubling, that this is 2020 and this gap is still here. Some large medical institution should have been taking care of this, not me.”

 

Until it does, physicians who run skin of color clinics are hoping to address the lack of care, and poor care, Black and brown patients have received. The clinics are a welcome addition to people like Dar Bray, a 45-year-old behavioral therapist and darker-skinned Black man from Los Angeles.

Bray had dealt for years with deep and persistent scars caused by acne, trying bleaching creams and expensive cosmetic products, all with no success. “I went to so many doctors who didn’t know what to do with my skin. All the pictures they had on their wall were fair-skinned people,” Bray said. “It didn’t feel like racism, it felt like just plain ignorance.”

Seeing Elbuluk, he said, was immediately different. Bray is now undergoing chemical peels to remove scarring and using simple (and inexpensive) cleansers and moisturizers, and says he sees a huge improvement in his skin. He’s also wearing sunscreen, something no physician had ever told him was necessary; like many, he had believed the myth “Black don’t crack.” “When I went to the beach, I never wore sunscreen,” he said. “Now I have years of sun damage.”

Mistrust of white physicians led Gregory Hines, a 63-year-old longshoreman who lives in Oakland, to go years without seeing a doctor about growths under his arm, on his back, and on his neck, even as they puffed up and became, in his words “kind of weird and ugly.”

“I experience it a lot, going to doctors — especially white, male doctors — they assume they know more than you. They assume they already know what your problem is the minute you walk through the door,” he said.

When he heard UCSF’s Skin of Color clinic had opened, he was willing to give it a try. “When Dr. Lester walked in, I said, ‘Whoa, this is great,’” he said. “I wanted a Black doctor who understands Black skin.”

Lester ended up removing the masses, one of which was nearly as large as a golf ball, and sent them for tests to see if they were cancerous. Fortunately, they were not.

Lester is the only Black dermatologist in San Francisco. She’s hoping that will change after her current crop of residents decides where they will establish their practices. Her Black patients, she said, are often shocked when she walks in the door.

“I’ve had patients ask if they can take a picture with me to show their grandkids,” she said. “They want to talk all about me and how I got here, and I have to say, ‘No, this time is for you.’”

SOURCE

:https://www.statnews.com/2020/07/21/dermatology-faces-reckoning-lack-of-darker-skin-in-textbooks-journals-harms-patients-of-color/?utm_source=STAT+Newsletters

 

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The Inequality and Health Disparity seen with the COVID-19 Pandemic Is Similar to Past Pandemics

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, PhD

2019-nCoV-CDC-23311

It has become very evident, at least in during this pandemic within the United States, that African Americans and poorer communities have been disproportionately affected by the SARS-CoV2 outbreak . However, there are many other diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer in which these specific health disparities are evident as well :

Diversity and Health Disparity Issues Need to be Addressed for GWAS and Precision Medicine Studies

Personalized Medicine, Omics, and Health Disparities in Cancer:  Can Personalized Medicine Help Reduce the Disparity Problem?

Disease like cancer have been shown to have wide disparities based on socioeconomic status, with higher incidence rates seen in poorer and less educated sub-populations, not just here but underdeveloped countries as well (see Opinion Articles from the Lancet: COVID-19 and Cancer Care in China and Africa) and graphics below)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In an article in Science by Lizzie Wade, these disparities separated on socioeconomic status, have occurred in many other pandemics throughout history, and is not unique to the current COVID19 outbreak.  The article, entitled “An Unequal Blow”, reveal how

in past pandemics, people on the margins suffered the most.

Source: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/368/6492/700.summary

Health Disparities during the Black Death Bubonic Plague Pandemic in the 14th Century (1347-1351)

During the mid 14th century, all of Europe was affected by a plague induced by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, and killed anywhere between 30 – 60% of the European population.  According to reports by the time the Black Death had reached London by January 1349 there had already been horrendous reports coming out of Florence Italy where the deadly disease ravished the population there in the summer of 1348 (more than half of the city’s population died). And by mid 1349 the Black Death had killed more than half of Londoners.  It appeared that no one was safe from the deadly pandemic, affecting the rich, the poor, the young, the old.

However, after careful and meticulous archaeological and historical analysis in England and other sites, revealed a distinct social and economic inequalities that predominated and most likely guided the pandemics course throughout Europe.   According to Dr. Gwen Robbins Schug, a bio-archaeologist at Appalachian State University,

Bio-archaeology and other social sciences have repeatedly demonstrated that these kinds of crises play out along the preexisting fault lines of each society.  The people at greatest risk were often those already marginalized- the poor and minorities who faced discrimination in ways that damaged their health or limited their access to medical care even in pandemic times.

At the start of the Black Death, Europe had already gone under a climactic change with erratic weather.  As a result, a Great Famine struck Europe between 1315-17.  Wages fell and more people fell into poverty while the wealthiest expanded their riches, leading to an increased gap in wealth and social disparity.  In fact according to recordkeeping most of Englanders were living below the poverty line.

Author Lizzie Wade also interviewed Dr. Sharon, DeWitte, a biological anthropologist at University of South Carolina, who looks at skeletal remains of Black Death victims to get evidence on their health status, like evidence of malnutrition, osteoporosis, etc.   And it appears that most of the victims may have had preexisting health conditions indicative of poorer status.  And other evidence show that wealthy landowners had a lower mortality rate than poorer inner city dwellers.

1918 Spanish Flu

Socioeconomic and demographic studies have shown that both Native American Indians and African Americans on the lower end of the socioeconomic status were disproportionately affected by the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.  According to census records, the poorest had a 50% higher mortality rate than wealthy areas in the city of Oslo.  In the US, minors and factory workers died at the highest rates.  In the US African Americans had already had bouts with preexisting issues like tuberculosis and may have contributed to the higher mortality.  In addition Jim Crow laws in the South, responsible for widespread discrimination, also impacted the ability of African Americans to seek proper medical care.

From the Atlantic

Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/05/americas-health-segregation-problem/483219/

America’s Health Segregation Problem

Has the country done enough to overcome its Jim Crow health care history?

VANN R. NEWKIRK II

MAY 18, 2016

Like other forms of segregation, health-care segregation was originally a function of explicitly racist black codes and Jim Crow laws. Many hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices were totally segregated by race, and many more maintained separate wings or staff that could never intermingle under threat of law. The deficit of trained black medical professionals (itself caused by a number of factors including education segregation) meant that no matter where black people received health-care services, they would find their care to be subpar compared to that of whites. While there were some deaths that were directly attributable to being denied emergency service, most of the damage was done in establishing the same cumulative health disparities that plague black people today as a societal fate. The descendants of enslaved people lived much more dangerous and unhealthy lives than white counterparts, on disease-ridden and degraded environments. Within the confines of a segregated health-care system, these factors became poor health outcomes that shaped black America as if they were its genetic material.

 

https://twitter.com/time4equity/status/1175080469425266688?s=20

 

R.A.HahnaB.I.TrumanbD.R.Williamsc.Civil rights as determinants of public health and racial and ethnic health equity: Health care, education, employment, and housing in the United States.

SSM – Population Health: Volume 4, April 2018, Pages 17-24

Highlights

  • Civil rights are characterized as social determinants of health.
  • Four domains in civil rights history since 1950 are explored in—health care, education, employment, and housing.
  • Health care, education, employment show substantial benefits when civil rights are enforced.
  • Housing shows an overall failure to enforce existing civil rights and persistent discrimination.
  • Civil rights and their enforcement may be considered a powerful arena for public health theorizing, research, policy, and action.

 

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National Public Radio interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci on his optimism on a COVID-19 vaccine by early 2021

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD

Below I am giving a link to an important interview by NPR’s Judy Woodruff with Dr. Anthony Fauci on his thoughts regarding the recent spikes in cases, the potential for a COVID-19 vaccine by next year, and promising therapeutics in the pipeline.  The interview link is given below however I will summarize a few of the highlights of the interview.

 

Some notes on the interview

Judy Woodruff began her report with some up to date news regarding the recent spike and that Miami Florida has just ordered the additional use of facemasks.  She asked Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAD), about if the measures currently in use are enough to bring this spike down.  Dr. Fauci said that we need to reboot our efforts, mainly because people are not doing three things which could have prevented this spike mainly

  1. universal wearing of masks
  2. distancing properly from each other
  3. close the bars and pubs (see Wisconsin bars packed after ruling)

It hasn’t been a uniform personal effort

Dr. Fauci on testing

We have to use the tests we have out there efficiently and effectively And we have to get them out to the right people who can do the proper identification, isolation, and do proper contract tracing and need to test more widely in a surveillance way to get a feel of the extent and penetrance of this community spread.  there needs to be support and money for these testing labs

We have a problem and we need to admit and own it but we need to do the things we know are effective to turn this thing around.

On Vaccines

“May be later this year”

His response to Merck’s CEO Ken Frazer who said officials are giving false hop if they say ‘end of year’ but Dr. Fauci disagrees.  He says a year end goal is not outlandish.

What we have been doing is putting certain things in line with each other in an unprecedented way.

Dr. Fauci went on to say that, in the past yes, it took a long time, even years to develop a vaccine but now they have been able to go from sequence of virus to a vaccine development program in days, which is unheard of.  Sixty two days later we have gone into phase 1 trials. the speed at which this is occurring is so much faster.  He says that generally it would take a couple of years to get a neutralizing antibody but we are already there.  Another candidate will be undergoing phase 3 trials by end of this month (July 2020).

He is “cautiously optimistic” that we will have one or more vaccines to give to patients by end of year because given the amount of cases it will be able to get a handle on safety and efficacy by late fall.

Now he says the game changer is that the government is working with companies to ramp up the production of doses of the candidate vaccines so when we find which one works we will have ample doses on hand.  He is worried about the anti vaccine movement derailing vaccine testing and vaccinations but says if we keep on informing the public we can combat this.

Going back to school

Dr. Fauci is concerned for the safety of the vulnerable in schools, including students and staff.  He wants the US to get down to a reasonable baseline of cases but in the US that baseline after the first wave was still significantly higher than in most countries, where the baseline was more like tens of cases not hundreds of cases.

For more information on COVID-19 Please go to our Coronavirus Portal at

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The Castleman Disease Research Network publishes Phase 1 Results of Drug Repurposing Database for COVID-19

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD.

 

From CNN at https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/27/health/coronavirus-treatment-fajgenbaum-drug-review-scn-wellness/index.html

Updated 8:17 AM ET, Sat June 27, 2020

(CNN)Every morning, Dr. David Fajgenbaum takes three life-saving pills. He wakes up his 21-month-old daughter Amelia to help feed her. He usually grabs some Greek yogurt to eat quickly before sitting down in his home office. Then he spends most of the next 14 hours leading dozens of fellow researchers and volunteers in a systematic review of all the drugs that physicians and researchers have used so far to treat Covid-19. His team has already pored over more than 8,000 papers on how to treat coronavirus patients.

The 35-year-old associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine leads the school’s Center for Cytokine Storm Treatment & Laboratory. For the last few years, he has dedicated his life to studying Castleman disease, a rare condition that nearly claimed his life. Against epic odds, he found a drug that saved his own life six years ago, by creating a collaborative method for organizing medical research that could be applicable to thousands of human diseases. But after seeing how the same types of flares of immune-signaling cells, called cytokine storms, kill both Castleman and Covid-19 patients alike, his lab has devoted nearly all of its resources to aiding doctors fighting the pandemic.

A global repository for Covid-19 treatment data

Researchers working with his lab have reviewed published data on more than 150 drugs doctors around the world have to treat nearly 50,000 patients diagnosed with Covid-19. They’ve made their analysis public in a database called the Covid-19 Registry of Off-label & New Agents (or CORONA for short).
It’s a central repository of all available data in scientific journals on all the therapies used so far to curb the pandemic. This information can help doctors treat patients and tell researchers how to build clinical trials.The team’s process resembles that of the coordination Fajgenbaum used as a medical student to discover that he could repurpose Sirolimus, an immunosuppressant drug approved for kidney transplant patients, to prevent his body from producing deadly flares of immune-signaling cells called cytokines.The 13 members of Fajgenbaum’s lab recruited dozens of other scientific colleagues to join their coronavirus effort. And what this group is finding has ramifications for scientists globally.
This effort by Dr. Fajgenbaum’s lab and the resultant collaborative effort shows the power and speed at which a coordinated open science effort can achieve goals. Below is the description of the phased efforts planned and completed from the CORONA website.

CORONA (COvid19 Registry of Off-label & New Agents)

Drug Repurposing for COVID-19

Our overarching vision:  A world where data on all treatments that have been used against COVID19 are maintained in a central repository and analyzed so that physicians currently treating COVID19 patients know what treatments are most likely to help their patients and so that clinical trials can be appropriately prioritized.

 

Phase 1: COMPLETED

Our team reviewed 2500+ papers & extracted data on over 9,000 COVID19 patients. We found 115 repurposed drugs that have been used to treat COVID19 patients and analyzed data on which ones seem most promising for clinical trials. This data is open source and can be used by physicians to treat patients and prioritize drugs for trials. The CDCN will keep this database updated as a resource for this global fight. Repurposed drugs give us the best chance to help COVID19 as quickly as possible! As disease hunters who have identified and repurposed drugs for Castleman disease, we’re applying our ChasingMyCure approach to COVID19.

Read our systematic literature review published in Infectious Diseases and Therapy at the following link: Treatments Administered to the First 9152 Reported Cases of COVID-19: A Systematic Review

From Fajgenbaum, D.C., Khor, J.S., Gorzewski, A. et al. Treatments Administered to the First 9152 Reported Cases of COVID-19: A Systematic Review. Infect Dis Ther (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40121-020-00303-8

The following is the Abstract and link to the metastudy.  This study was a systematic review of literature with strict inclusion criteria.  Data was curated from these published studies and a total of 9152 patients were evaluated for treatment regimens for COVID19 complications and clinical response was curated for therapies in these curated studies.  Main insights from this study were as follows:

Key Summary Points

Why carry out this study?
  • Data on drugs that have been used to treat COVID-19 worldwide are currently spread throughout disparate publications.
  • We performed a systematic review of the literature to identify drugs that have been tried in COVID-19 patients and to explore clinically meaningful response time.
What was learned from the study?
  • We identified 115 uniquely referenced treatments administered to COVID-19 patients. Antivirals were the most frequently administered class; combination lopinavir/ritonavir was the most frequently used treatment.
  • This study presents the latest status of off-label and experimental treatments for COVID-19. Studies such as this are important for all diseases, especially those that do not currently have definitive evidence from randomized controlled trials or approved therapies.

Treatments Administered to the First 9152 Reported Cases of COVID-19: A Systematic Review

Abstract

The emergence of SARS-CoV-2/2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has created a global pandemic with no approved treatments or vaccines. Many treatments have already been administered to COVID-19 patients but have not been systematically evaluated. We performed a systematic literature review to identify all treatments reported to be administered to COVID-19 patients and to assess time to clinically meaningful response for treatments with sufficient data. We searched PubMed, BioRxiv, MedRxiv, and ChinaXiv for articles reporting treatments for COVID-19 patients published between 1 December 2019 and 27 March 2020. Data were analyzed descriptively. Of the 2706 articles identified, 155 studies met the inclusion criteria, comprising 9152 patients. The cohort was 45.4% female and 98.3% hospitalized, and mean (SD) age was 44.4 years (SD 21.0). The most frequently administered drug classes were antivirals, antibiotics, and corticosteroids, and of the 115 reported drugs, the most frequently administered was combination lopinavir/ritonavir, which was associated with a time to clinically meaningful response (complete symptom resolution or hospital discharge) of 11.7 (1.09) days. There were insufficient data to compare across treatments. Many treatments have been administered to the first 9152 reported cases of COVID-19. These data serve as the basis for an open-source registry of all reported treatments given to COVID-19 patients at www.CDCN.org/CORONA. Further work is needed to prioritize drugs for investigation in well-controlled clinical trials and treatment protocols.

Read the Press Release from PennMedicine at the following link: PennMedicine Press Release

Phase 2: Continue to update CORONA

Our team continues to work diligently to maintain an updated listing of all treatments reported to be used in COVID19 patients from papers in PubMed. We are also re-analyzing publicly available COVID19 single cell transcriptomic data alongside our iMCD data to search for novel insights and therapeutic targets.

You can visit the following link to access a database viewer built and managed by Matt Chadsey, owner of Nonlinear Ventures.

If you are a physician treating COVID19 patients, please visit the FDA’s CURE ID app to report de-identified information about drugs you’ve used to treat COVID19 in just a couple minutes.

For more information on COVID19 on this Open Access Journal please see our Coronavirus Portal at

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/coronavirus-portal/

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