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Coronavirus ‘breakthrough’ as inhaled drug treatment slashes ICU admissions by 79%

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coronavirus breakthrough as inhaled drug treatment slashes icu admissions by 79
Scientists believe they have found an inhaler (pictured) that blocks coronavirus from progressing in the lungs

Scientists believe they have found an inhaler (pictured) that blocks coronavirus from progressing in the lungs

Scientists believe they have found an inhaler (pictured) that blocks coronavirus from progressing in the lungs

An inhaled drug cuts the risk of Covid-19 patients falling seriously ill with the life-threatening infection, according to scientists trialling the experimental treatment. 

Initial results from the trial of more than 100 hospitalised Covid-19 patients found it prevented 79 per cent of them from needing intensive care, suggesting it stops the disease in its tracks.

The treatment also slashed the average time patients spent in hospital by a third, down from an average of nine days to just six. 

The drug — known as SNG001 — uses a protein called interferon beta which the body produces when it fights a viral infection. 

It has been developed by Southampton-based pharmaceutical firm Synairgen and trialled by researchers from the city’s university.

The treatment sees patients inhale the drug directly into the lungs using a nebuliser, where it helps the immune system fight off viral infection.  

The preliminary results from the trial haven’t yet been verified because the research hasn’t been published in a scientific journal or scrutinised by other scientists.

But independent experts say it would ‘represent by far the biggest breakthrough in Covid-19 treatment to date’ if the results are verified.

The only drug scientifically proven to treat the disease at present is a £5 steroid known as dexamethasone, which slashes death rates by up to a third.

Kaye Flitney is one of the 101 people enrolled in the clinical trial carried out by British pharmaceutical firm Synairgen

Kaye Flitney is one of the 101 people enrolled in the clinical trial carried out by British pharmaceutical firm Synairgen

Kaye Flitney is one of the 101 people enrolled in the clinical trial carried out by British pharmaceutical firm Synairgen

Southampton-based Synairgen is a publicly traded firm, meaning it was obligated to release the preliminary results due to stock market rules.

The trial involved 101 Covid-19 patients who had been admitted at nine UK hospitals and required oxygen support. Half of the recruits were given the drug, while the rest took a placebo. 

The trial was carried out on a double blind basis, meaning neither the researchers nor the 101 patients knew who was receiving SNG001.

BORIS JOHNSON SAYS HE IS NOT CONFIDENT BRITAIN WILL GET A COVID-19 VACCINE BY THE END OF 2021

Boris Johnson said there may not even be a Covid-19 vaccine ready by the end of next year and that we ‘can’t count in it riding over the hill like the cavalry’.

Speaking in a television interview this morning the Prime Minister said he has his ‘fingers crossed’ but couldn’t be 100 per cent confident that a vaccine will be found.

The British public must keep following social distancing, washing their hands and wearing masks in confined spaces, Mr Johnson said, to ‘drive the virus down by our own collective action’.

His comments come as officials today announced deals with two foreign pharmaceutical firms to buy 90million doses of separate experimental vaccine candidates.

UK officials are now taking a spread-betting approach to vaccines, buying up stocks of various untested ones that they think could work, in the hope that one or more of them will pay off. 

Agreement has been reached for 30million doses from German firm BioNTech and the US company Pfizer, and 60million doses from France’s Valneva.

The figure is in addition to the 100million doses of vaccine that are being developed by Oxford University in partnership with AstraZeneca, as well as another at Imperial College London which started human trials in June.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the new agreements would ‘ensure the UK has the best chance possible of securing a vaccine that protects those most at risk’.

But the government’s vaccine tsar today scuppered hopes of Oxford’s vaccine — one of the front-runners in the world’s race against time for a jab — being ready for September.

Oxford scientists have already said they are ’80 per cent’ confident they can have their jab available for the autumn.

Kate Bingham, chair of the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce, revealed she was still ‘hopeful’ it would be ready by the end of 2020 but admitted that academics are unlikely to get enough data to prove it works until the end of the year. 

Results of the first wave of trials of the Oxford jab — called AZD1222 — are set to be published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet today. But the results will not prove it can save lives, meaning it won’t be licensed and rolled-out yet.  

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It found the risk of developing severe disease — needing ventilation or dying — was reduced by 79 per cent in those receiving the drug compared to the control group. 

Three people died after being randomly assigned the placebo, while there were no deaths among those who received the drug, Synairgen said.

Studies have shown key high risk groups for Covid-19, including older people and those with some chronic diseases have lower levels of interferon beta.

Separate trials in asthmatic patients have shown SNG001 is well-tolerated, boosts the lungs anti-viral defences and helps lung function during cold or flu infection.

The inhaler turns SNG001 into a fine mist so it can be inhaled deep into the lungs, with the hope it will trigger a stronger, more targeted anti-viral response. 

Interferon beta is already used as an injection to boost the immune response of people with multiple sclerosis. 

The trial’s chief investigator, Tom Wilkinson, professor of respiratory medicine at the University of Southampton, said if the results are replicated in larger studies it will be ‘a game changer’. 

He added: ‘The results confirm our belief that interferon beta, a widely known drug that, by injection, has been approved for use in a number of other indications, has huge potential as an inhaled drug to be able to restore the lungs’ immune response, enhancing protection, accelerating recovery and countering the impact of Sars-CoV-2 virus.’

Stephen Holgate CBE, professor of immunopharmacology at the University of Southampton, said recognising that the coronavirus ‘is known to have evolved to evade the initial anti-viral response of the lung’ was a valuable insight.

‘Our treatment of giving high local concentrations of interferon beta, a naturally occurring antiviral protein, restores the lungs ability to neutralise the virus,’ added Professor Holgate, who is also the co-founder of Synairgen.

He said it would work on ‘any mutation of the virus or co-infection with another respiratory virus such as RSV or influenza, as could be encountered in the winter if there is a resurgence of Covid-19’.

Reacting to the findings, Professor Francois Balloux, a geneticist at University College London, tweeted: ‘Preliminary results from a clinical trial suggest interferon beta reduces the risk of developing severe #COVID19 disease by 79 per cent. 

‘If confirmed, this would represent by far the biggest breakthrough in #COVID19 treatment to date.’

Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, added: ‘The results seem very impressive, and although accepted that the trial is small with just over 100 participants, a 79 per cent reduction in disease severity could be a game changer.

‘It would be good to see the full results once presented and peer-reviewed to make sure they are robust and the trial conduct was rigorous. 

‘Also, with small numbers comes less certainty on the true level of benefit, or whether benefits vary between people with differing risk characteristics. Such work would require a larger trial but, even so, these results are very exciting.’ 

But Professor Steve Goodacre, an expert in emergency medicine at the University of Sheffield, said: ‘These results are not interpretable. 

‘We need the full details and, perhaps more importantly, the trial protocol. The trial should have been registered and a protocol made available before any analysis was undertaken.’

Synairgen will now have to present its findings to medical regulators around the world before it is approved.

Health chiefs will review the findings and decide whether to approve the treatment so doctors can treat Covid-19 patients with it.

The firm’s chief executive Richard Marsden told the BBC it would be able to deliver a ‘few hundred thousands’ of doses each month by the winter.

Because the study was quite small — only involving 100 patients — the trial may have to be scaled up before getting approval. 

This process could take months, although governments around the world might be open to fast-tracking the drug if they are impressed by the findings.

British ministers have approved the Ebola drug remdesivir for emergency use on patients suffering life-threatening symptoms of Covid — despite evidence about its effectiveness still being mixed.  

Only one drug, the £5 steroid dexamethasone, has so far been conclusively proven to treat coronavirus.

The Recovery trial found it reduced the risk of death by 35 per cent for patients on ventilators — the most dangerously ill — and by a fifth for all patients needing oxygen at any point. 

WHAT ARE THE MOST PROMISING COVID-19 DRUGS AND TREATMENTS? 

SNG001

SNG001 uses a protein called interferon beta, which our bodies produce during a viral infection.

It is inhaled directly into the lungs using an inhaler, with the hope it will trigger a stronger, more targeted anti-viral response.

The drug was developed by Southampton-based pharmaceutical firm Synairgen and trialled by researchers from the city’s university. 

Preliminary results from a trial of more than 100 hospitalised Covid-19 patients found it prevented 79 per cent of people from needing intensive care.

The treatment also slashed the average time patients spent in hospital by a third, down from an average of nine days to just six.

Dexamethasone

The £5 steroid is the only drug scientifically proven to treat Covid-19.

It is a type of anti-inflammatory medicine given as either an injection or once-a-day tablet.

Oxford University scientists found it saved the lives of up to 35 per cent of patients relying on ventilators – the most dangerously ill – and reduced the odds of death by a fifth for all patients needing oxygen at any point. 

The results came from the RECOVERY trial – the world’s largest investigation of promising Covid-19 therapies. 

Researchers say the steroid prevents the release of substances in the body that cause inflammation, a nasty Covid-19 complication that makes breathing difficult. In seriously unwell patients, the lungs become so inflamed they struggle to work.

Remdesivir

Remdesivir was developed by Gilead Sciences to treat Ebola.

Trials produced encouraging results earlier this year when it showed promise for both preventing and treating MERS – another coronavirus – in macaque monkeys.

Studies on humans have produced mixed results.

In a US government-led study, remdesivir shortened recovery time by 31 per cent — 11 days on average versus 15 days for those given just usual care.

But it had not improved survival according to preliminary results after two weeks of followup. Results after four weeks are expected soon.

The drug appears to help stop the replication of viruses like coronavirus and Ebola alike.

It’s not entirely clear how the drug accomplishes this feat, but it seems to stop the genetic material of the virus, RNA, from being able to copy itself.

That, in turn, stops the virus from being able to proliferate further inside the patient’s body.

It has been approved for emergency use in the UK, despite its mixed results.

Hydroxychloroquine

The anti-malaria drug was first touted as a ‘game changer’ by US President Donald Trump in April. 

It works in the treatment of malaria by blocking the virus from replicating.

It also has anti-inflammatory properties which stop the immune system from going into hyper-drive and attacking healthy cells.

Trump said there were ‘very strong signs’ hydroxychloroquine could treat the viral disease based on limited anecdotal reports from US doctors and poor studies.

But last month, Oxford University’s RECOVERY trial stopped enrolling participants to its hydroxychloroquine arm after concluding that it showed no clinical benefit.

A quarter of NHS patients given hydroxychloroquine died from Covid-19, compared to 23.5 per cent who were not prescribed the drug.

The scientists running the trial said the results were ‘pretty compelling’, adding: ‘This isn’t a treatment that works.’

President Trump has also admitted to taking the drug as a preventative therapy, to stop him from getting infected from the disease in the first place. Trials are currently ongoing to see if the tablets can work in this way.

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Rihanna’s father Ronald Fenty says Barbados should have removed Queen as head of state in 1966

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The father of singer Rihanna has said that Barbados should have removed the Queen as a head of state as the country reveals it will become a republic.

Ronald Fenty, 66, said the Queen should have been removed as head of state ‘when we declared independence in 1966’.

He told The Times that he can see ‘British people being hurt by the decision’ but that Barbados will ‘still be part of the Commonwealth’.   

Barbados has announced its intention to remove the Queen as its head of state and become a republic by November, 2021.  

Ronald Fenty, 66, said the Queen should have been removed as head of state 'when we declared independence in 1966'

Ronald Fenty, 66, said the Queen should have been removed as head of state 'when we declared independence in 1966'

Ronald Fenty, 66, said the Queen should have been removed as head of state ‘when we declared independence in 1966’

The decision to replace the Queen as head of state is dividing the conservative nation

The decision to replace the Queen as head of state is dividing the conservative nation

The decision to replace the Queen as head of state is dividing the conservative nation 

It was the Queen’s representative, governor-general Dame Sandra Mason, 71, who announced on Wednesday that ‘the time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind’. 

She added that ‘Barbadians want a Barbadian head of state’.       

Prime Minister Mia Mottley wrote a speech quoting the Caribbean island nation’s first premier Errol Barrow’s warning against ‘loitering on colonial premises’.

Ms Mottley came to power two years ago with a programme that included a ‘reassessment’ of relations with the United Kingdom.  

The decision to replace the Queen as head of state follows the decriminalisation of cannabis and the removal of Bridgetown’s statue of Horatio Nelson in dividing this conservative nation. 

Buckingham Palace has said Barbados’ intention to remove the Queen as head of state and become a republic is a ‘matter’ for the Caribbean nation.  

The Queen pictured with Governor-General of Barbados Dame Sandra Mason at Windsor Castle in 2018

The Queen pictured with Governor-General of Barbados Dame Sandra Mason at Windsor Castle in 2018

The Queen pictured with Governor-General of Barbados Dame Sandra Mason at Windsor Castle in 2018

The Queen inspects a guard of honour upon arrival in Barbados in 1977

The Queen inspects a guard of honour upon arrival in Barbados in 1977

The Queen inspects a guard of honour upon arrival in Barbados in 1977 

Prince Charles attends a wreath laying ceremony in Bridgetown in March 2019

Prince Charles attends a wreath laying ceremony in Bridgetown in March 2019

Prince Charles attends a wreath laying ceremony in Bridgetown in March 2019 

Reading the speech, Governor-General Dame Sandra Mason said: ‘The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind. Barbadians want a Barbadian Head of State. 

‘This is the ultimate statement of confidence in who we are and what we are capable of achieving.

‘Hence, Barbados will take the next logical step toward full sovereignty and become a Republic by the time we celebrate our 55th Anniversary of Independence.’

Asked to comment on the Commonwealth country’s plans a palace spokesman said: ‘This is a matter for the government and people of Barbados.’

Downing Street said it was a ‘decision for Barbados and the Government there’ but that Britain would continue to ‘enjoy a partnership’ with the Caribbean island nation as members of the Commonwealth.

Queen Elizabeth ll smiles with a young girl in Barbados on November 1, 1977

Queen Elizabeth ll smiles with a young girl in Barbados on November 1, 1977

Queen Elizabeth II on a walkabout during a visit to Bridgetown, Barbados, during her Silver Jubilee tour of the Caribbean

Queen Elizabeth II on a walkabout during a visit to Bridgetown, Barbados, during her Silver Jubilee tour of the Caribbean

Left, Queen Elizabeth ll smiles with a young girl in Barbados on November 1, 1977. Right, Queen Elizabeth II on a walkabout during a visit to Bridgetown

A Number 10 spokesman said: ‘We obviously have a shared history and remain united with Barbados in terms of history, culture and language, and we will continue to have and enjoy a partnership with them as members of the Commonwealth.’

The country gained its independence from Britain in 1966, though the Queen remains its constitutional monarch.

In 1998, a Barbados constitutional review commission recommended republican status, and in 2015 Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said ‘we have to move from a monarchical system to a republican form of government in the very near future’.

Most Caribbean countries have kept formal links with the monarchy after achieving independence.

Barbados would join Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica and Guyana if it proceeds with its plan to become a republic.

The Queen and Prince Philip driving through Barbados waving to the crowds in February 1966

The Queen and Prince Philip driving through Barbados waving to the crowds in February 1966

The Queen and Prince Philip driving through Barbados waving to the crowds in February 1966 

Jamaica has also flagged such a transition, with Prime Minister Andrew Holness saying it is a priority of his government, but has yet to achieve it.

Barbados took another step towards independence from the UK in 2003 when it replaced the London-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice, located in Trinidad and Tobago’s Port of Spain, as its final appeals court.

Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur promoted the idea of a referendum on becoming a republic in 2005, however the vote was called off due to concerns raised by the Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

Barbados: The country’s colonial history 

The Sugar Revolution, the introduction of sugar cane from Dutch Brazil, in the 1640s was highly lucrative but came at great social cost

The Sugar Revolution, the introduction of sugar cane from Dutch Brazil, in the 1640s was highly lucrative but came at great social cost

The Sugar Revolution, the introduction of sugar cane from Dutch Brazil, in the 1640s was highly lucrative but came at great social cost 

Barbados was one of the oldest English settlements in the West Indies, being surpassed only by Saint Kitts. 

The countries’ historical ties date back to the 17th century and involve settlement, post-colonialism and modern bilateral relations. 

Since Barbados gained its independence in 1966, the nations have continued to share ties through the Commonwealth, with the Queen as Monarch. 

The Barbadian Parliament is the third oldest in the entire Commonwealth and the island continues to practice the Westminster style of government.

Many of the historic Anglican churches and plantation houses across the island show the influence of English architecture. 

In 1627, 80 Englishmen aboard the William and John landed on the Caribbean island and founded Jamestown (close to today’s Holetown), in the name of King James I.

The early settlers struggled to develop a profitable export crop and faced difficulties in maintaining supplies from Europe.

However, the Sugar Revolution, the introduction of sugar cane from Dutch Brazil, in the 1640s was highly lucrative and over the next decade more than two thirds of English emigres to the Americas went to Barbados. 

But while this shift to sugar yielded huge profits, it came at a great social cost. Thousands of West African slaves were shipped across the Atlantic to work the plantations and workers suffered from low wages and minimal social services. 

It is estimated that between 1627 to 1807, some 387,000 Africans were shipped to the island against their will and the country shifted from having a majority white population to a majority black population. 

On 28th August 1833, the British Government passed the Slavery Abolition Act, and slaves across the British empire were granted emancipation. 

Barbados remained a British colony until internal autonomy was granted in 1961. 

The country became fully independent on November 30, 1966, during a time when the country’s economy was expanding and diversifying. 

Since then, the Barbadian Parliament has remained a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, which is modeled on the British Westminster system of government. 

In 2008, British exports to Barbados stood at £38 million, making it Britain’s fourth-largest export market in the region.  

In recent years a growing number of British nationals have been relocating to Barbados to live, with polls showing that British nationals make up 75–85 per cent of the Barbados second home market.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer have arrived at Westminster Abbey in London for the annual Sunday service marking the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

Mr Johnson, along with Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, will give a reading at the venue’s first major service since March. 

Marshal of the Royal Air Force Lord Stirrup representing the Prince of Wales and U.S. ambassador to Britain, Woody Johnson, are also among those attending.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, right, have arrived at Westminster Abbey in London for the annual Sunday service marking the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain

Chairs for around 79 invited guests, who are all wearing masks, have been placed at the transepts of the church close to the altar.

Each chair has been spaced two metres apart to allow social distancing, with protective plastic screens separating the north and south transepts.

The annual Sunday service usually attracts around 2,000 people to the London landmark as the UK commemorates the first battle in history fought entirely in the air during the Second World War.

However, this Sunday’s event will see attendance significantly reduced and social-distancing measures in place – with the abbey vowing the service will be ‘reduced in stature but not in spirit’.

A spokesperson said: ‘The Abbey is a very large church, it usually holds 2,200, so the guests will be easily spaced out to conform with social distancing.’

Woody Johnson, U.S. ambassador to Britain arrives at Westminster Abbey ahead of the "Service of Thanksgiving and Rededication to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain", today

Woody Johnson, U.S. ambassador to Britain arrives at Westminster Abbey ahead of the "Service of Thanksgiving and Rededication to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain", today

Woody Johnson, U.S. ambassador to Britain arrives at Westminster Abbey ahead of the ‘Service of Thanksgiving and Rededication to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain’, today

A member of the armed forces at a service to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain at Westminster Abbey on Sunday

A member of the armed forces at a service to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain at Westminster Abbey on Sunday

A member of the armed forces at a service to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain at Westminster Abbey on Sunday

It is the first major service to take place at Westminster Abbey since the Commonwealth Day service held earlier this year on March 9, two weeks before the UK went into lockdown in response to the pandemic.

The 11am service led by Dr David Hoyle – the Dean of Westminster Abbey, includes an act of remembrance, during which the Battle of Britain Roll of Honour bearing the names of 1,497 pilots and aircrew killed or mortally wounded in the battle will be borne through the church.

This will be followed by a procession of flags, readings, prayers and music – with a flypast over Westminster Abbey planned at the end of the service.

The Battle of Britain was a major air campaign fought in the skies over the UK in 1940, and although the battle took place between July and October, September 15 saw the British Royal Air Force (RAF) gain a decisive victory over the Luftwaffe in what was Nazi Germany’s largest daylight attack.

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Girl, 14, dies after being hit by a car as two men, aged 18 and 19, are arrested

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girl 14 dies after being hit by a car as two men aged 18 and 19 are arrested

A 14-year-old girl has died after being hit by a car in Merseyside on Saturday night. 

Merseyside Police said two men, aged 18 and 19, were arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving after the crash in St Helens. 

Officers were called to a report of a collision involving a car and a pedestrian on Blackbrook Road around 9.50pm. 

A 14-year-old girl has died after being hit by a car in Merseyside on Saturday night and two men, aged 18 and 19, were arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving

A 14-year-old girl has died after being hit by a car in Merseyside on Saturday night and two men, aged 18 and 19, were arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving

A 14-year-old girl has died after being hit by a car in Merseyside on Saturday night and two men, aged 18 and 19, were arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving

A force spokesman said: ‘Emergency services attended and the pedestrian, a 14-year-old girl, was taken to hospital where she sadly died. 

‘Her family have been informed and are being supported at this time.’  

Officers urged anyone who witnessed the incident or had any information, CCTV or dashcam footage to contact police on 101 quoting ref 20000569277, call the Roads Policing Unit on 0151 777 5747 or contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

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