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US sends malaria drug to Brazil – still an unproven treatment for Covid-19

Adnan Kayyali

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US sends malaria drug to Brazil – still an unproven treatment for covid-19

Malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, has been sent to Brazil at the behest of US President Donald Trump. The president is pitching the drug as a possible cure or treatment for Covid-19 and dispatching it to one of the hardest hit countries.

The problem is that the medication has yet not been backed up by enough clinical trials proving its safety or effectiveness for prevention or treatment, and a few smaller studies even result in worse effects of taking it. Never-the-less, 2 million doses of the malaria drug have been sent.

Brazil continues to see a rise in virus cases to the point where the US is restricting travel from the country to prevent potential spread. With just under 30,000 deceased and over 500,000 cases confirmed, the US has sent the malaria drug as a prophylactic, or preventive treatment, and a therapeutic for those afflicted, along with 1,000 ventilators to essential front-line workers.

The World Health Organization is currently still assessing the use of the possible Covid-19 treatment, but caution any further use outside of clinical trials under strict supervision. They then put their hydroxychloroquine arm on pause while the drug’s safety efficacy is being reviewed.

Trump said that he had taken a 2-week course of the drug himself to prevent the coronavirus In May. He was however warned that it should only be administered for Covid-19 in a properly secured setting such as a hospital or research center due to potential harmful, or fatal side effects.

His decision to take the drug was prompted when two White House staff reported positive for Covid-19. Despite FDA warning, the president continued taking hydroxychloroquine, with criticism by some medical experts following shortly after, stating that others in his rather large sphere of influence may be encouraged to take the malaria drug as well in an equally unsafe manner.

Junior social media strategist with a degree in media and communication. Technology enthusiast and free-lance writer. Favorite hobby: 3D modeling.

MedTech

90-minute COVID-19 testing device

Mounir Jamil

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CovidNudge-Testing-Device-scaled

Since the emergence of the novel Coronavirus, scientists, healthcare workers and physicians have stressed on the need for more rapid diagnostic testing. A recent study from Imperial College London shows that a new testing device can yield results in just 90 minutes.

The new paper, published in the Lancet Microbe, claims that the new testing device, dubbed CovidNudge, has successfully matched time-consuming laboratory test results. This means that waiting days for a COVID-19 test result will soon be a thing of the past.

The testing on the CovidNudge started back in April, when a research team led by Professor Graham Cooke began trawling three different hospitals across London and Oxford looking for noses and throats to swab. They managed to obtain 386 samples from three different groups: emergency department patients with suspected Coronavirus, self-referred healthcare workers with suspected Coronavirus, and hospital-admitted patients with or without COVID-19.

Paired samples indicated that Cooke’s group can directly compare the accuracy of their 90-minute testing device with centralized lab tests. Cooke explained in a press release that the results were remarkable. He claimed that the CovidNudge does not have a trade-off between speed and accuracy, the testing device can achieve both.

The CovidNudge is basically a portable PCR platform that is spread across two devices:

a blue container, weighing in at 40g, called the DnaCartridge, which looks similar to the container you might put your retainer in at night. A nose and throat swab are taken from the patient and are then inserted directly into the DnaCartridge. The cartridge is then placed in the NudgeBox processing unit, a box roughly the size of a shoebox and coming in at 5kg. This packs in all the testing equipment needed to run a real-time PCR test.

The CovidNudge had spectacular performance, as it achieved an overall sensitivity of 94% and a specificity of 100% when compared with lab-based tests. Out of the 386 samples collected, the CovidNudge confirmed 67 positive results, compared to 71 positive results from lab tests.

The testing device is produced by DnaNudge, an Imperial start-up that includes clinicians and doctors from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, DnaNudge, and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust. So far, it has been deployed and installed in eight London hospitals.

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Nurturing your mental health during a pandemic

Mounir Jamil

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Nurturing your Mental Health during a Pandemic

Certain COVID-19-related words such as social distancing, pandemic, and quarantine are enough to make anyone feel anxious. While maintaining a distance from others helps mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, it does take a certain toll on our mental health. Luckily technology presents possible solutions for those of us who are battling with depression and anxiety.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has surveyed upwards of 5,000 American adults and has found that symptoms for anxiety and depression skyrocketed between April and June this year. The number quadrupled, as approximately four times the amount of people have reported that they are depressed in 2020 compared to 2019.

From the population surveyed, almost 10% claimed that they seriously considered suicide over the past 30 days, and ¼ of young people aged 18-24 admitted the same. With this survey indicating that 40% of US adults are struggling with mental health conditions or substance abuse, researchers wondered if certain factors such as unemployment, lack of school structure, isolation, and other financial concerns were key stressors amid the pandemic.

CDC offers telehealth as a practical and effective means of treatment for COVID-19 mental health conditions. Earlier in March, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that it will be expanding what Medicare would pay for regarding virtual visits. Patients will have more access to e-visits after payment for doctors, clinical psychologists and licensed clinical workers have been approved.

Not everyone is comfortable with visiting a doctor for their mental health. Mobile apps offer practical and convenient methods that are applied in face to face therapy.

Take Sanvello as an example. Sanvello now has more than three million people using their app for peer support, self-care, therapy, and coaching. The app offers daily mood tracking, coping tools to manage stress, anxiety and depression, along with guided journeys. You can speak directly to a coach that is trained in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or even join a live video group class.  A study from the Oregon Health and Science University has found that adults aged over 60 that used video chat applications had almost half the risk of depression. In the survey, researchers found that using texting and social media showed little effects in boosting spirits. However Skype and FaceTime seemed to be better tools for alleviating depressive symptoms and uplifting one’s mental health.

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Impacts of the pandemic on SMEs: First in, first out

Adnan Kayyali

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Impacts of the pandemic on SMEs First in, first out

The pandemic sent shockwaves across the world with many SMEs bearing the brunt of the crisis due to the reduction in global demand for goods and services.  

The worst effect of the pandemic on SMEs were the mass layoffs seen throughout all industries, although disproportionately. Disposable income that could have circulated in the economy became scarce, leaving many SMEs susceptible to permanent closure as people spend their money with greater caution. This was only a few weeks into the crisis, and prior to any government aid.

Business owners had very different predictions about the duration of the pandemic, leading them to make varied decisions on whether or not to keep their employees, cut their losses, or whether to save up or spend their stimulus checks. Many business owners were paying from their own pocket to stay afloat, and could not last more than a few weeks or few months, with layoffs.

A survey of more than 5,800 small businesses between March 28 and April 4, 2020 was conducted to determine how adaptable businesses were to the sudden change of the market and social landscape, and the impacts of the pandemic on SMEs.

According to the survey, 92% of SMEs changed at least one thing in their business model to adapt to COVID-19, most using some form of digital technology to bypass, adapt, or improve many traditional – potentially risky – ways of doing business.

Noting that some companies selected more than one option, the changes were listed as follows:

  • 58% of businesses said that they had adopted a new online delivery channel
  • 40% created new virtual services
  • 36% listed the use of a new offline delivery channel, such as Uber Eats.
  • 31% had released a new product.
  • 19% new customers

Consequently, the survey also listed the 5 most commonly mentioned challenges that these businesses have experienced:

  • 22% lack of employee skills
  • 16% lack of adequate funds
  • 14% setting up new online delivery channels
  • 9% developing new products.
  • 8% faced challenges adapting to the new health and safety standards
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