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Rapamycin drug may treat COVID-19 patients: Experts

(Asian News Hub) – A team of researchers from India and the US has identified that the drug Rapamycin, which is generally used to prevent rejection of transplanted organs, by suppressing the body’s immune system, can be repurposed to treat Covid-19 patients.

The researchers say that repurposing of Rapamycin is similar to that of using the drug Remdesivir (originally developed to treat Hepatitis C) in the battle against Covid-19.

The research was conducted by the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Bhopal and the University of Nebraska Medical Centre, Nebraska.

According to a peer-reviewed research paper in the reputed International Elsevier journal, Chemico Biological Interactions, the researchers showed that the biochemical working of Rapamycin drug molecule points to its promise in treating Covid-19.

It states that since the repurposed drug(Rapamycin) has undergone a clinical development process for the treatment of other diseases, toxicity test, many steps in pre-clinical and early clinical development can be avoided.

Thus, the said drug can be directly tested on COVID-19 subjects in phase-II trials.

Dr Amjad Husain, Principal Scientist & CEO IICE, IISER Bhopal said that drug repurposing was an attractive solution, given how developing a new drug would be time-consuming, considering the raging pandemic.

It is added that one of the main challenges in developing antiviral drugs against COVID-19 has been the extensive mutations that the virus undergoes, thus deeming drugs ineffective. However, it says that treatment with drugs such as Rapamycin will not face that problem because it acts on host proteins and not on the virus. Rapamycin inhibits protein synthesis and can also arrest virus replication, irrespective of the type of mutant.

The study says, apart from inhibiting protein synthesis, Rapamycin has been known to inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are immune system proteins. High levels of cytokines in the blood indicate a medical phenomenon called ‘cytokine storm’, where the body starts to attack its own cells and tissues rather than just fighting off the virus. The inhibitory action of Rapamycin towards cytokines also makes it a promising treatment for COVID-19, adds the research.

Rapamycin is also known to reduce obesity through various pathways and this can help in mitigating the severity of COVID-19 effects in obese people.

Furthermore, the drug is known to induce autophagy, a cellular recycling process that helps in eliminating the damaged proteins and delaying ageing. Given higher fatalities among the aged persons, the anti-ageing properties of Rapamycin can have protective effects against COVID-10-induced morbidities, the study claims.

Recently another study got published in the prestigious journal The Lancet-Healthy Longevity that proposed the potential of Rapamycin analogues (rapalogs) to enhance resilience against SARS-CoV-2 infection and reduce the severity of COVID-19.

Although with a successful vaccination drive, the infection may be brought under control, it would likely not disappear. Currently, there are no universally approved drugs, for the treatment of COVID-19.


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AstraZeneca woes grow as Australia, Philippines, African Union curb COVID shots

(Asian News Hub) – Australia and the Philippines limited use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, while the Africa Union dropped plans to buy the shot, dealing further blows to the company’s hopes to deliver a vaccine for the world.

The vaccine – developed with Oxford University and considered a frontrunner in the global vaccine race – has been plagued by safety concerns and supply problems since Phase III trial results were published in December, with Indonesia the latest country forced to seek doses from other vaccine developers.

The Philippines suspended the use of AstraZeneca shots for people below 60 after Europe’s regulator said on Wednesday it found rare cases of blood clots among some adult recipients although the vaccine’s advantages still outweighed its risks.

Australia recommended people under 50 should get Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in preference to AstraZeneca’s, a policy shift that it warned would hold up its inoculation campaign.

The African Union is exploring options with Johnson & Johnson having dropped plans to buy AstraZeneca’s vaccine from India’s Serum Institute, the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention told reporters.

AstraZeneca’s shot is sold at cost, for a few dollars a dose. It is by far the cheapest and most high-volume launched so far, and has none of the extreme refrigeration requirements of some other COVID-19 vaccines, making it likely to be the mainstay of many vaccination programmes in the developing world.

But more than a dozen countries have at one time suspended or partially suspended use of the shot, first on concerns about efficacy in older people, and now on worries about rare side effects in younger people.

That, coupled with production setbacks, will delay the rollout of vaccines across the globe as governments scramble to find alternatives to tame the pandemic which has killed more than 3 million.


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A third of COVID survivors suffer neurological or mental disorders: study

(Asian News Hub) – One in three COVID-19 survivors in a study of more than 230,000 mostly American patients were diagnosed with a brain or psychiatric disorder within six months, suggesting the pandemic could lead to a wave of mental and neurological problems, scientists said.

Researchers who conducted the analysis said it was not clear how the virus was linked to psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression, but that these were the most common diagnoses among the 14 disorders they looked at.

Post-COVID cases of stroke, dementia and other neurological disorders were rarer, the researchers said, but were still significant, especially in those who had severe COVID-19.

“Although the individual risks for most disorders are small, the effect across the whole population may be substantial,” said Paul Harrison, a professor of psychiatry at Oxford University who co-led the work.

Max Taquet, also an Oxford psychiatrist who worked with Harrison, noted that the study was not able to examine the biological or psychological mechanisms involved, but said urgent research is needed to identify these “with a view to preventing or treating them”.

Health experts are increasingly concerned by evidence of higher risks of brain and mental health disorders among COVID-19 survivors.

A previous study by the same researchers found last year that 20% of COVID-19 survivors were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder within three months.

The new findings, published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal, analysed health records of 236,379 COVID-19 patients, mostly from the United States, and found 34% had been diagnosed with neurological or psychiatric illnesses within six months.

The disorders were significantly more common in COVID-19 patients than in comparison groups of people who recovered from flu or other respiratory infections over the same time period, the scientists said, suggesting COVID-19 had a specific impact.

Anxiety, at 17%, and mood disorders, at 14%, were the most common, and did not appear to be related to how mild or severe the patient’s COVID-19 infection had been.

Among those who had been admitted to intensive care with severe COVID-19 however, 7% had a stroke within six months, and almost 2% were diagnosed with dementia.

Independent experts said the findings were worrying.

“This is a very important paper. It confirms beyond any reasonable doubt that COVID-19 affects both brain and mind in equal measure,” said Simon Wessely, chair of psychiatry at King’s College London.

“The impact COVID-19 is having on individuals’ mental health can be severe,” said Lea Milligan, chief executive of the MQ Mental Health research charity. “This is contributing to the already rising levels of mental illness and requires further, urgent research.”


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COVID-19 situation not good: AIIMS chief

(Asian News Hub) – Amid the rapidly increasing cases of COVID-19 across India, AIIMS Chief Randeep Guleria on Friday (April 2) said that a mini lockdown may be required to get a grip on the deteriorating situation.

Guleria said that the situation in the country with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic is quite worrying as the cases continue to mount steadily, especially in the last few days.

He cautioned that maintaining social distancing that is, keeping six-feet away from each other, is required even for those who have been inoculated against the virus. He also strongly suggested people to wear masks at public places.

The AIIMS chief attributed the sharp spike in the number of cases to the negligence of people, mainly due to public gatherings.

“Negligence leads to illness,” said Guleria in a message to the people.

He said that the country needs about 200 crore doses to vaccinate the entire population.

Although recovery rate among children has been found high, said Guleria, it is a cause for concern that many children are contracting the infection.

He also emphasized on the need to create containment zones, so that the spread of the virus could be kept in check.

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