News from Bioethics.com

The Long Game of Coronavirus Research

3 months 3 days

(The New Yorker) – Last month, Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke at a biotech conference, where he emphasized how much is still unknown about the coronavirus. “I thought H.I.V. was a complicated disease,” he said. “It’s really simple compared to what’s going on with COVID-19.” To anyone who knows the history of AIDS research—Fauci has spent much of his career studying the disease—this was a dismaying thing to hear.

Sanger’s Name to Be Dropped from NYC Clinic Over Eugenics

3 months 3 days

(ABC News) – Planned Parenthood of Greater New York will remove the name of pioneering birth control advocate Margaret Sanger from its Manhattan health clinic because of her “harmful connections to the eugenics movement,” the group announced on Tuesday.

Coronavirus Vaccines Leap Through Safety Trials–But Which Will Work Is Anybody’s Guess

3 months 4 days

(Nature) – When it rains, it pours. In the past few days, scientists working at feverish pace to develop vaccines against the coronavirus have released a flood of data from their first human trials. The results come from phase I and II trials of four promising vaccine candidates and detail how people respond to the jabs. Because the trials were focused on safety and dosing, the data cannot say whether the vaccines will prevent disease or infection — large-scale efficacy trials are needed for this. But they suggest that the candidate vaccines are broadly safe, and offer the first hints that vaccines can summon an immune response that resembles that of people who have been infected with the virus.

Crisis Hits Lebanon’s Hospitals, Among the Best in Mideast

3 months 4 days

(Associated Press) – Lebanon’s hospitals, long considered among the best in the Middle East, are cracking under the country’s financial crisis, struggling to pay staff, keep equipment running or even stay open amid a surge in coronavirus cases. Private hospitals, the engine of the health system, warn they may have to shut down. Chronically underfunded public hospitals, which have led the fight against the virus, fear they will be overrun

Confusion Spreads Over System to Determine Priority Access to Covid-19 Vaccines

3 months 4 days

(STAT News) – As manufacturers around the world race to develop Covid-19 vaccines, a parallel effort has begun to figure out who in the United States should get them first — and how those doses should be distributed. But already the effort is being complicated by tensions over who gets to make those critical decisions, with some groups feeling sidelined and multiple new actors crowding the stage.

Google Promises Privacy with Virus App But Can Still Collect Location Data

3 months 4 days

(New York Times) – When Google and Apple announced plans in April for free software to help alert people of their possible exposure to the coronavirus, the companies promoted it as “privacy preserving” and said it would not track users’ locations. Encouraged by those guarantees, Germany, Switzerland and other countries used the code to develop national virus alert apps that have been downloaded more than 20 million times.

World Virus Cases Top 15M; US Labs Buckle Amid Testing Surger

3 months 4 days

(Medical Xpress) – Laboratories across the U.S. are buckling under a surge of coronavirus tests, creating long processing delays that experts say are actually undercutting the pandemic response.  With the U.S. tally of infections at 3.9 million Wednesday and new cases surging, the bottlenecks are creating problems for workers kept off the job while awaiting results, nursing homes struggling to keep the virus out and for the labs themselves, dealing with a crushing workload.

New COVID Testing Strategy Could Speed Up Backlogged Labs

3 months 4 days

(The Verge) – Samples scraped from the back of patients’ noses and throats can now be bundled together and tested for the coronavirus in groups in one of the country’s biggest commercial labs. Quest Diagnostics, which handles tens of thousands of coronavirus tests each day, received authorization for the method, called pooled testing, from the Food and Drug Administration over the weekend. 

After Surgery, Black Children Are More Likely to Die than White Children

3 months 5 days

(Scientific American) – Studies have repeatedly shown that Black patients’ experiences with the U.S. health care system are worse than those of white patients at almost every stage, from infancy to geriatric care. In surgical settings, Black patients experience more complications, receive fewer follow-up visits and are more likely to die. Conventional medical thinking has largely attributed such disparities to a higher occurrence of comorbidities (the presence of two or more chronic illnesses) among Black people. But a new study finds that even in apparently healthy children with no preexisting comorbidities, there were still big differences in postsurgical outcomes.

Controversial ‘Human Challenge’ Trials for COVID-19 Vaccines Gain Support

3 months 5 days

(Science) – Since the early days of the pandemic, some researchers have advocated a fast way to determine whether a COVID-19 vaccine works: Intentionally attempt to infect vaccinated volunteers with the virus, SARS-CoV-2. Ethicists and vaccine scientists alike raised red flags, and the discussion has remained mostly theoretical. But now two key elements are taking shape: a large corps of volunteers willing to take part in a “human challenge” trial, and the well-understood lab-grown virus strains needed for the studies.

What Does It Mean to Say a New Drug ‘Works’?

3 months 5 days

(Wired) – John Beigel’s problem was that not enough people were dying of Covid-19. Not that he wanted them to, of course. It’s just that, as bad as the pandemic has gotten, it hasn’t killed as many people as it seemed like it might. And Beigel, a researcher at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was designing a big study to see if an experimental antiviral drug called remdesivir would work against the disease. He and his team needed the right “end point”—the thing they could count, turn into data, and analyze. Mortality is a great end point. It’s right there in the name.

U.S. Accuses Hackers of Trying to Steal Coronavirus Vaccine Data for China

3 months 5 days

(New York Times) – The Justice Department accused a pair of Chinese hackers on Tuesday of targeting vaccine development on behalf of the country’s intelligence service as part of a broader yearslong campaign of cybertheft aimed at industries around the world, including defense contractors, high-end manufacturing and solar energy companies.

Pharma Promises Lawmakers, Again and Again, Industry Won’t Cut Corners with Covid-19 Vaccines

3 months 5 days

(STAT News) – The pharmaceutical industry does not want you to worry about the safety or efficacy of a future Covid-19 vaccine. Officials from five major vaccine makers — AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Moderna, and Pfizer — all used their testimony before a House investigative subcommittee on Tuesday to push back on concerns that the Food and Drug Administration might prematurely approve a vaccine for the novel coronavirus and thereby put Americans at risk.

Actual Covid-19 Case Count Could Be 6 to 24 Times Higher Than Official Estimates, CDC Study Shows

3 months 5 days

(STAT News) – The true number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. could be anywhere from six to 24 times higher than the confirmed number of cases, depending on location, according to a large federal study that relied on data from 10 U.S. cities and states. The vast majority of Americans, however, are still vulnerable to Covid-19.

The Stranded Babies of the Coronavirus Disaster

3 months 5 days

(The New Yorker) – The Rosenbergs were not alone. As the virus spread, and travel froze, parents around the world suddenly found themselves separated, by thousands of miles, from newborns who were, in fact, their biological children. Commercial surrogacy is growing more popular, thanks to a number of converging factors: advances in reproductive technology, a wave of restrictive adoption laws, the rise of gay rights, and the fact that women in developed countries are waiting longer before having children, leading to more problems with fertility. 

The Explosion of New Coronavirus Tests That Could Help to End the Pandemic

3 months 6 days

(Nature) – Research groups around the world are now devising tests that go beyond PCR. Dozens of diagnostic methods are in development, all of which detect viral material but in different ways: some are tweaks for RT-PCR that make the test faster or easier to use; others use the gene-editing tool CRISPR to home in on genetic snippets of SARS-CoV-2; and some identify the virus using proteins that sit on its surface. Many of these tests, such as Zhang’s, are being validated using clinical samples, and some are already in the clinic.

Gene Therapy Shows Promise for Hemophilia, But Could Be Most Expensive U.S. Drug Ever

3 months 6 days

(NPR) – One of the biggest questions is the possible cost. BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. of San Rafael, Calif., the company that developed the gene therapy, says the treatment could cost as much as $3 million per patient, which would make it the most expensive drug ever approved. “It’s just outrageous,” says Peter Bach, who studies drug prices at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Once a Model City, Hong Kong Grapples with a New Coronavirus Wave

3 months 6 days

(New York Times) – Hong Kong once seemed like a model for how to control the coronavirus. Schools were open. Restaurants and malls buzzed with crowds. Buses and trains operated as usual, with residents dutifully wearing face masks on board. But a new wave of infections in recent days has put the city on edge. Hospitals are now seeing more cases a day than they ever have during the pandemic. More important, health officials are unable to determine the origin of many of these cases, despite having a robust contact tracing system in place.

WHO Sounds Alarm at Spread of Coronavirus in Africa

3 months 6 days

(Medical Xpress) – The World Health Organization voiced alarm Monday at the spread of COVID-19 in Africa, warning that South Africa’s surging numbers could be a “precursor” for outbreaks across the continent. “I am very concerned right now that we are beginning to see an acceleration of disease in Africa,” WHO’s emergencies chief Michael Ryan told a virtual press conference.

Covid-19 News: Oxford Vaccine Is Safe and Induces Immune Response

3 months 6 days

(New Scientist) – A coronavirus vaccine candidate being developed by the University of Oxford in partnership with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is safe and activates an immune response in people, according to preliminary results from trials involving 1077 volunteers. People injected with the vaccine, called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, made antibodies and immune cells against the coronavirus. The trial results were published today in The Lancet.

New Treatment for Covid-19 Shows Promise, but Scientists Urge Caution

3 months 6 days

(New York Times) – A small study of hospitalized Covid-19 patients in Britain has identified a promising new treatment for the illness, a British biotechnology company said on Monday, with initial results showing that an inhaled form of a commonly available drug can reduce the odds of patients requiring intensive care.

COVID-19 Death Rates in ICUs Down

3 months 6 days

(Medscape) – Overall mortality of patients with COVID-19 in intensive care units (ICUs) across Europe, Asia, and North America has dropped from nearly 60% at the end of March to nearly 42% at the end of May, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis.

China Is Using Uighur Labor to Produce Face Masks

3 months 6 days

(New York Times) – As the coronavirus pandemic continues to drive demand for personal protective equipment, Chinese companies are rushing to manufacture the gear for domestic and global consumption. A New York Times visual investigation has found that some of those companies are using Uighur labor through a contentious government-sponsored program that experts say often puts people to work against their will.

Judge strikes down Indiana abortion complications report law

3 months 2 weeks

(ABC News) INDIANAPOLIS — A federal judge has struck down an Indiana law that aimed to require reports from medical providers to the state if they treat women for complications arising from abortions.

Supreme Court Upholds Trump Administration Regulation Letting Employers Opt Out of Birth Control Coverage

3 months 2 weeks

(New York Times) WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a Trump administration regulation that lets employers with religious or moral objections limit women’s access to birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act and could result in as many as 126,000 women losing contraceptive coverage from their employers.

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