News from Bioethics.com

Israel Is Using AI to Flag High-Risk Covid-19 Patients

1 month 1 week

(MIT Technology Review) – One of Israel’s largest health maintenance organizations is using artificial intelligence to help identify which of the 2.4 million people it covers are most at risk of severe covid-19 complications. Maccabi Healthcare Services says the system—which it developed with AI company Medial EarlySign—has already flagged 2% of its members, amounting to around 40,000 people. Once identified, individuals are put on a fast track for testing.

Trauma on the Pandemic’s Front Line Leaves Health Workers Reeling

1 month 2 weeks

(NPR) – Hospital workers around the world face similar, sustained trauma, and it’s taking an emotional toll. A recent study underscored the severity of those risks: Half of Chinese health care workers studied who treated COVID-19 patients earlier this year now suffer from depression. Nearly as many — 44.6% — have anxiety, and a third have insomnia.

Ecuador’s Coronavirus Case Total Is Twice as High as Confirmed: Minister

1 month 2 weeks

(Reuters) – Ecuador’s health minister said on Thursday the country’s coronavirus case total was twice as high as previously confirmed, as authorities added 11,000 new infections that resulted from delayed testing.  With 560 confirmed deaths, the outbreak has ravaged the economy of the oil-producing country and overwhelmed sanitary authorities in the largest city of Guayaquil, where corpses remained in homes or for hours on the streets. 

Hopes Dashed as Coronavirus Drug Remdesivir Fails First Trial

1 month 2 weeks

(BBC) – A potential antiviral drug for the coronavirus has reportedly failed in its first randomised clinical trial. There had been widespread hope that remdesivir could treat Covid-19. But a Chinese trial showed that the drug had not been successful, according to draft documents accidentally published by the World Health Organization. The drug did not improve patients’ condition or reduce the pathogen’s presence in the bloodstream, it said. The US firm behind the drug, Gilead Sciences, said the document had mischaracterised the study.

Dutch Supreme Court Expands Euthanasia Law for Dementia Patients

1 month 2 weeks

(UPI) – The Netherlands’ Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that Dutch doctors may euthanize patients with severe dementia if at any time they gave written consent to do so. Previously, doctors were required by law to have patients reconfirm their wish to be euthanized. 

For Ecuador’s Guayaquil, Tides of Death and Disappearance

1 month 2 weeks

(Undark) – And yet the official numbers have been a matter of some dispute. According to public health officials, in the first two weeks of April alone — a period where the region might see 1,000 people die for any number of reasons, natural and otherwise — Guayas province registered more than 6,700 deaths. As of this week, however, Ecuador has only been able to officially confirm, through testing, that 537 people have died due to Covid-19. Another 952 are considered probable Covid-19 deaths, with the victims having shown symptoms, but without definitive testing. 

What Life Is Like After Being Taken Off a Ventilator

1 month 2 weeks

(The Atlantic) – In hospitals across America, thousands of the sickest COVID-19 patients are now needing intensive care. The marvels of 21st-century medicine will help keep them alive in the best-case scenarios. But surviving can be just the start of a long recovery, and even after this pandemic fades, some survivors might have to face lingering aftereffects. For reasons still not entirely understood, some patients may develop what’s known as “post-intensive-care syndrome,” which can include a constellation of physical, cognitive, and psychological symptoms. About 1 in 10 of all patients who have been in the ICU have PTSD. About thirty percent experience depression. Thirty percent have symptoms of anxiety. And another 40 percent report cognitive impairment on par with moderate brain injury.

Covid-19 Causes Sudden Strokes in Young Adults, Doctors Say

1 month 2 weeks

(CNN) – The new coronavirus appears to be causing sudden strokes in adults in their 30s and 40s who are not otherwise terribly ill, doctors reported Wednesday. They said patients may be unwilling to call 911 because they have heard hospitals are overwhelmed by coronavirus cases. There’s growing evidence that Covid-19 infection can cause the blood to clot in unusual ways, and stroke would be an expected consequence of that.

New Covid-19 Antibody Study Results Are In. Are They Right?

1 month 2 weeks

(Wired) – The results, posted Friday by the Stanford researchers as a preprint, haven’t been peer-reviewed. But they have gotten a lot of attention. And they’ve quickly become emblematic of this age of rapid-fire scientific communications: Surprising results are widely shared before they’re published in an academic journal, followed by an attempt at peer review by Twitter thread. First, the results: The Stanford researchers calculated that between 2.5 percent and 4.2 percent of the county’s residents were infected as of early April. That sounds like a reasonably small number, but if true, it would mean Covid-19 is drastically more widespread than local swab testing suggests: 50- to 85-fold, the researchers calculated.

Solving the Mysteries of Coronavirus with Genetic Fingerprints

1 month 2 weeks

(New York Times) – Using advanced technology that allows them to rapidly identify the tiny mutations that the virus makes in its virulent path through human hosts, the scientists working in Washington and several other states made two disconcerting discoveries. The first was that the virus brought in by the man from Wuhan — or perhaps, as new data has suggested, by someone else who arrived carrying a nearly identical strain — had managed to settle into the population undetected. Then they began to realize how far it had spread. 

Coronavirus Is Forcing Medical Research to Speed Up

1 month 2 weeks

(New York Times) – As scientists race to understand the coronavirus, the process of designing experiments, collecting data and submitting studies to journals for expert review is being compressed drastically. What typically takes many months is happening in weeks, even as some journals are receiving double their normal number of submissions. Science, one of the world’s most selective research outlets, published the structure of the spiky protein that the virus uses to enter host cells — crucial knowledge for designing a vaccine and antiviral drugs — nine days after receiving it, according to Holden Thorp, the journal’s editor in chief.

United States Should Allow Volunteers to Be Infected with Coronavirus to Test Vaccines, Lawmakers Argue

1 month 2 weeks

(Science) – Political support is building for regulators in the United States to embrace the controversial strategy of intentionally infecting volunteers with the virus that causes COVID-19 in order to test experimental vaccines. Such human challenge trials could greatly accelerate the development of an effective vaccine, 35 members of the House of Representatives argue in a letter sent yesterday to the heads of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Doctors and Nurses Are Using VR to Learn Skills to Treat Coronavirus Patients

1 month 2 weeks

(CNN) – As hospitals worldwide face severe shortages of health professionals, people are being called off the sidelines to help COVID-19 patients — even those with little to no experience in treating infectious diseases. To train thousands of doctors and nurses with expertise in other areas such as knee surgery or neurology — and retired practitioners reentering the medical field — some hospitals are implementing an unlikely method: virtual reality simulations.

New Analysis Recommends Less Reliance on Ventilators to Treat Coronavirus Patients

1 month 2 weeks

(STAT News) – By using ventilators more sparingly on Covid-19 patients, physicians could reduce the more-than-50% death rate for those put on the machines, according to an analysis published Tuesday in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. The authors argue that physicians need a new playbook for when to use ventilators for Covid-19 patients a message consistent with new treatment guidelines issued Tuesday by the National Institutes of Health, which advocates a phased approach to breathing support that would defer the use of ventilators if possible.

More Deaths, No Benefit from Malaria Drug in VA Virus Study

1 month 2 weeks

(Associated Press) – A malaria drug widely touted by President Donald Trump for treating the new coronavirus showed no benefit in a large analysis of its use in U.S. veterans hospitals. There were more deaths among those given hydroxychloroquine versus standard care, researchers reported. The nationwide study was not a rigorous experiment. But with 368 patients, it’s the largest look so far of hydroxychloroquine with or without the antibiotic azithromycin for COVID-19, which has killed more than 171,000 people as of Tuesday. 

Covid-19 Numbers Are Bad in Ecuador. The President Says the Real Story Is Even Worse

1 month 2 weeks

(NPR) – Ecuador has one of the highest rates of COVID-19 in all of Latin America – with 10,128 cases and 507 deaths in a country of just 17 million people. But the situation may be far worse than what the official numbers show. In fact, one Ecuadorian official says it appears that thousands more people may have died of the disease than his government is reporting. Jorge Wated, who heads a government task force charged with collecting and burying bodies in Guayaquil, the epicenter of the outbreak, said that in the first 15 days of April, 6,703 people had died from either COVID-19 or natural causes. Previous to the coronavirus outbreak, he said, the monthly figure was around 1,000.

New York Nurses Sue State, Two Hospitals over ‘Inadequate’ Coronavirus Protection

1 month 2 weeks

(Reuters) – The New York State Nurses Association sued the state and two hospitals on Monday to force them to provide safety equipment and adopt measures to prevent COVID-19 from spreading among its members, highlighting the growing disputes over workplace safety during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Feds to Track, Share Information on Nursing Home Outbreaks

1 month 2 weeks

(ABC News) – Calling nursing homes ground zero of the coronavirus crisis, federal officials said Monday they plan to start tracking and publicly sharing information on infections and deaths in such facilities to help spot trends and early signs the virus is spreading in communities. The move comes as critics, industry officials and local leaders have called for more aggressive actions by the federal government to track infections in homes and contain outbreaks by helping them get greater access to testing and masks, especially given the vulnerability of elderly residents.

Some Benefits of a Covid Vaccine Could Come Early

1 month 2 weeks

(The Economist) – Since then antibody-rich “convalescent plasma” (CP) has been used as a treatment for various diseases, including SARS and the pandemic strains of H1N1 and H5N1 influenza. Now covid-19 has joined the list. A recent study in Wuhan found that severely ill covid-19 patients treated with CP did significantly better than patients matched with them by age, gender and severity of infection had done earlier in the epidemic.

‘Amazing Potential.’ UM Doctor to Start Stem Cell Trial for Coronavirus Patients

1 month 2 weeks

(Miami Herald) – A team of doctors at the University of Miami won emergency federal approval to use stem cell therapy on patients suffering severe lung inflammation from COVID-19. The treatment will begin this week, starting with a dozen patients. The UM Miller School of Medicine doctors are proposing to block the inflammation using an intravenous infusion of stem cells from umbilical cords, building on promising but limited results from a 10-patient study in China. The Food and Drug Administration granted immediate authorization for the trial earlier this week.

Covid-19 Stalls Clinical Trials for Everything but Covid-19

1 month 2 weeks

(Wired) – Across the globe, while research into potential Covid-19 vaccines and treatments is speeding along, the pandemic has slowed or brought to a halt clinical trials for other diseases. Clinical trials demand patient travel, doctors, and clinical space—all pinched by the rapid spread of Covid-19. By one count from the publication BioPharma Dive, more than 70 companies so far reported an interruption to at least one clinical trial because of the pandemic. These delays could extend an already lengthy process to get drugs to market. And they may cut off a lifeline for patients willing to try a drug before it gets regulatory approval.

Congo Records Five New Ebola Cases, Shelves Declaration of End to Epidemic

1 month 2 weeks

(Reuters) – Five new Ebola infections have been recorded in eastern Congo since last week in a new flare-up just as the government was about to declare an end to the deadly epidemic, the World Health Organization said on Friday. Small outbreaks or one-off transmissions are common towards the end of an epidemic. Healthworkers are often able to prevent the virus spreading out of control by quarantining and vaccinating contacts of new cases.

China’s Virus Death Toll Revised Up Sharply After Review

1 month 2 weeks

(Associated Press) – China’s official death toll from the coronavirus pandemic jumped sharply Friday as the hardest-hit city of Wuhan announced a major revision that added nearly 1,300 fatalities. The new figures resulted from an in-depth review of deaths during a response that was chaotic in the early days. They raised the official toll in Wuhan by 50% to 3,869 deaths. While China has yet to update its national totals, the revised numbers push up China’s total to 4,632 deaths from a previously reported 3,342.

‘No One Is Prepared for This’–Italian Doctors Fight to Keep Home Patients Alive

1 month 2 weeks

(Reuters) – For doctors in northern Italy, fighting what is still Europe’s worst outbreak of COVID-19, the frontlines have moved beyond hospitals as special teams try to keep patients alive at home, away from the saturated wards where thousands have died. For staff on the so-called USCA (Special Continuity Assistance Units) teams, it has been a draining struggle, initially hampered by a shortage of vital protective gear, that mixes emergency medicine with the shock of losing unprecedented numbers of patients.

When Coronavirus Care Gets Lost in Translation

1 month 2 weeks

(The New York Times) – Because personal protective equipment is in short supply in hospitals across the country, few clinical interpreters are able to work in person with Covid-19 patients, as they normally would. Most language interpretation is done remotely. Communicating through an interpreter doubles or triples the length of a medical exchange, adding new confusion and anxiety to situations that are already stressful for patients and their families. And the conditions of Covid-19 care — the rapid pace at which cases evolve, the desire of hospital workers to limit the duration of their exposure to patients — create numerous obstacles to effective interpretation.

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