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Convalescent plasma therapy DOESN’T cut the risk of dying from Covid-19

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convalescent plasma therapy doesnt cut the risk of dying from covid 19

A scientific trial has poured cold water on the hope that the blood plasma of recovered Covid-19 patients is an effective treatment for the disease. 

Convalescent plasma had shown promise in early observational studies but a large-scale clinical trial has found it does not prevent death or severe symptoms.  

Medics in India enrolled 464 adults confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus and hospitalised by their symptoms between April and June. 

Half were given plasma while the others were not, and the data reveals the much-heralded therapy did nothing to improve a patient’s prognosis.  

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Convalescent plasma had shown promise in some early observational studies but a large-scale clinical trial has found it to be ineffective.

Convalescent plasma had shown promise in some early observational studies but a large-scale clinical trial has found it to be ineffective.

Convalescent plasma had shown promise in some early observational studies but a large-scale clinical trial has found it to be ineffective.  

It had been previously believed that blood plasma, a yellowish liquid in our blood which contains the antibodies to fight off viruses, could help treat Covid-19. 

In August, US President Donald Trump announced the FDA has given an emergency use authorisation for convalescent plasma to be used as a Covid-19 treatment. 

Other countries, including Britain, have been stockpiling blood plasma so the treatment could be rolled out if it proved effective. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who caught the coronavirus during the UK’s first wave at the start of the year, himself donated plasma

The findings of the new study, led by Professor Aparna Mukherjee at the Indian Council of Medical Research and Dr Elizabeth Pathak at the Women’s Institute for Independent Social Enquiry, were published in The British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Professor Mukherjee said: ‘As a potential treatment for patients with moderate Covid-19, convalescent plasma showed limited effectiveness.

‘Future research could explore using only plasma with high levels of neutralising antibodies, to see if this might be more effective.’

The study tracked how patients responded to the treatments after one, three, five and seven days. They were also checked 14 and 28 days post treatment. 

Medics in India enrolled 464 adults confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus and hospitalised by their symptoms between April and June. Half were given plasma while the others were not, and the data reveals the much-heralded therapy did nothing to improve a patient's prognosis

Medics in India enrolled 464 adults confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus and hospitalised by their symptoms between April and June. Half were given plasma while the others were not, and the data reveals the much-heralded therapy did nothing to improve a patient's prognosis

Medics in India enrolled 464 adults confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus and hospitalised by their symptoms between April and June. Half were given plasma while the others were not, and the data reveals the much-heralded therapy did nothing to improve a patient’s prognosis

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who caught the coronavirus during the UK's first wave at the start of the year, himself donated plasma earlier this year

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who caught the coronavirus during the UK's first wave at the start of the year, himself donated plasma earlier this year

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who caught the coronavirus during the UK’s first wave at the start of the year, himself donated plasma earlier this year 

At the four-week mark, 44 (19 per cent) of participants in the plasma group either died or their condition worsened and was classed as ‘severe disease’. 

For the control cohort, only 41 people (18 per cent) died or deteriorated. 

The researchers randomised the study to ensure the only difference between the two groups of people was whether or not they received the plasma of a recovered patient.   

Dr Pathak said: ‘This rigorous trial shows that convalescent plasma is ineffective for Covid-19, and its implications should be carefully considered by both safety monitoring and institutional review boards.

There was no difference among patients who had received blood plasma with high levels of antibodies, the researchers also found.

Dr Pathak said: ‘As such, they say, in settings with limited laboratory capacity, convalescent plasma does not reduce 28 day mortality or progression to severe disease in patients admitted to hospital with moderate covid-19.’

However, blood plasma transfusions did improve patients shortness of breath and fatigue, the researchers found.

There were also signs the virus was being neutralised by the plasma’s antibodies after seven days, but this did not prevent the patient’s condition from deteriorating by day 28.

WHAT IS CONVALESCENT PLASMA AND WHERE HAS IT BEEN USED?

Convalescent plasma has been used to treat infections for at least a century, dating back to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.  

It was also trialed during the 2009-2010 H1N1 influenza virus pandemic, 2003 SARS epidemic, and the 2012 MERS epidemic. 

Convalescent plasma was used as a last resort to improve the survival rate of patients with SARS whose condition continued to deteriorate.

It has been proven ‘effective and life-saving’ against other infections, such as rabies and diphtheria, said Dr Mike Ryan, of the World Health Organization.

‘It is a very important area to pursue,’ Dr Ryan said.

Although promising, convalescent plasma has not been shown to be effective in every disease studied, the FDA say.

Is it already being used for COVID-19 patients?

Before it can be routinely given to patients with COVID-19, it is important to determine whether it is safe and effective through clinical trials.

The FDA said it was ‘facilitating access’ for the treatment to be used on patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections’.

It came after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that plasma would be tested there to treat the sickest of the state’s coronavirus patients.  

COVID-19 patients in Beijing, Wuhan and Shanghai are being treated with this method, authorities report. 

Lu Hongzhou, professor and co-director of the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre, said in February the hospital had set up a special clinic to administer plasma therapy and was selecting patients who were willing to donate. 

‘We are positive that this method can be very effective in our patients,’ he said.

Meanwhile, the head of a Wuhan hospital said plasma infusions from recovered patients had shown some encouraging preliminary results.

The MHRA has approved the use of the therapy in the UK, but it has not been revealed which hospitals have already tried it. 

How does it work? 

Blood banks take plasma donations much like they take donations of whole blood; regular plasma is used in hospitals and emergency rooms every day.

If someone’s donating only plasma, their blood is drawn through a tube, the plasma is separated and the rest infused back into the donor’s body.

Then that plasma is tested and purified to be sure it doesn’t harbor any blood-borne viruses and is safe to use.

For COVID-19 research, people who have recovered from the coronavirus would be donating.  

Scientists would measure how many antibodies are in a unit of donated plasma – tests just now being developed that aren’t available to the general public – as they figure out what’s a good dose, and how often a survivor could donate.

There is also the possibility that asymptomatic patients – those who never showed symptoms or became unwell – would be able to donate. But these ‘silent carriers’ would need to be found via testing first.

Japanese pharmaceutical company Takeda is working on a drug that contains recovered patients antibodies in a pill form, Stat News reported. 

Could it work as a vaccine? 

While scientists race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, blood plasma therapy could provide temporary  protection for the most vulnerable in a similar fashion. 

A vaccine trains people’s immune systems to make their own antibodies against a target germ. The plasma infusion approach would give people a temporary shot of someone else’s antibodies that are short-lived and require repeated doses.

If US regulator the FDA agrees, a second study would give antibody-rich plasma infusions to certain people at high risk from repeated exposures to COVID-19, such as hospital workers or first responders, said Dr Liise-anne Pirofski of New York’s Montefiore Health System and Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

That also might include nursing homes when a resident becomes ill, in hopes of giving the other people in the home some protection, she said.

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This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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False widow spiders’ fangs carry harmful bacteria resistant to antibiotic treatments

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false widow spiders fangs carry harmful bacteria resistant to antibiotic treatments

Many fear the bite of a false black widow spider, which can lead to painful swelling, stiffness and large abscesses.

In rare cases it’s been blamed for paralysis, amputations and even death, but a new study confirms it’s not the arachnid’s bite that’s dangerous—it’s the bacteria on its fangs. 

In a new study published in Scientific Reports, researchers found spiders carry bacteria on their fangs that can infect humans.

And the germs the false black widow carries can be resistant to common antibiotics.

‘Antimicrobial resistance is an urgent and growing problem worldwide,’ said co-author Aoife Boyd, a pathologist at NUI Galway’s School of Natural Sciences. ‘[An approach connecting] human, animal and environmental health is the only way to tackle the problem.’  

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Researchers in Ireland confirmed the false widow spider carries a dozen pathogens that are harmful to humans. Though its bite is fairly harmless, its fangs can transmit antibiotic-resistant bacteria into its human victims.

Researchers in Ireland confirmed the false widow spider carries a dozen pathogens that are harmful to humans. Though its bite is fairly harmless, its fangs can transmit antibiotic-resistant bacteria into its human victims.

Researchers in Ireland confirmed the false widow spider carries a dozen pathogens that are harmful to humans. Though the arachnid’s bite is fairly harmless, its fangs can transmit antibiotic-resistant bacteria into its human victims

Previously, rare ‘skin-eating’ infections following seemingly harmless spider bites were often blamed on victims scratching their bites with dirty fingernails. 

But Boyd and his colleagues theorized the bacteria was coming from the spiders themselves.  

They swabbed some noble false widows for bacteria, and did the same to some lace-weaver and giant house spiders, also both common in the UK.

All the arachnids were rife with germs: Out  22 bacterial species found on the false widows, 12 were potentially pathogenic to humans, according to Science Alert.

She went to the GP and was given antibiotics for the infection

She went to the GP and was given antibiotics for the infection

The false widow spider migrated to the UK in the 1870s but has been spreading globally in recent years 

A false widow spider bite can become infected with bacteria, leading to large pus-filled abscesses. Some strains the false widow carries are multi-drug resistant, 'making them particularly difficult to treat with regular medicine'

A false widow spider bite can become infected with bacteria, leading to large pus-filled abscesses. Some strains the false widow carries are multi-drug resistant, 'making them particularly difficult to treat with regular medicine'

A false widow spider bite can become infected with bacteria, leading to large pus-filled abscesses. Some strains the false widow carries are multi-drug resistant, ‘making them particularly difficult to treat with regular medicine’

‘Our study demonstrates that spiders are not just venomous but are also carriers of dangerous bacteria capable of producing severe infections,’ said Neyaz Khan, an NUI Galway microbiologist,.  

Less than a dozen species of European spiders have fangs strong enough to pierce human skin.

‘But only one of them, the recent invasive noble false widow spider, is considered of medical importance,’ said co-author John Dunbar, zoologist at the Ryan Institute’s Venom System Lab.

WHAT IS A FALSE WIDOW SPIDER? 

False widow spiders, also known as noble widows, are distinctive for their shiny, black flesh, bulbous bodies, thick legs and skull-like patterns.

It’s native to the Canary Islands but migrated to the UK and Europe in the late 1800s, purportedly aboard a shipment of bananas. 

Millions of false widows have been found across the UK and the population is believed to be growing. 

The spiders have also been reported in California and Chile. 

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The species has a brown bulbous abdomen with cream markings that look like a skull. They have long legs and can reach about a half-inch in size.

Also known as steatoda nobilis, the spider is frequently confused for the black widow, which has deadly venom.  

 

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False widow spiders, also known as noble false widows, are distinctive for their shiny, black flesh, bulbous bodies, thick legs and skull-like patterns. 

Typically a noble widow’s bite, which itself is fairly painless, results in just some redness and pain.

But if bacteria is passed along, an infection can occur—in rare cases, serious enough to require antibiotics or a hospital stay.

The biggest threat is some strains the false widow carries are multi-drug resistant, ‘making them particularly difficult to treat with regular medicine,’ said Kahn.

In 2016, a Hampshire woman was believed to have been bitten by a false widow and had to have part of her finger amputated.

The woman, 60, was eventually hospitalized and died of sepsis, the BBC reported.

The noble widow first arrived in the UK from the Canary Islands in the 1870s and has been a regular presence in southern England for more than 150 years.

Now it’s appearing in northern England, Ireland and even France. 

The spiders have also been reported in California and Chile. 

That massive population growth has led to a spike in serious cases, including those hard to treat with common antibiotics, according to the report.

Beyond the danger to humans, experts also worry that the false widow spreading its web across the globe poses a serious threat to wildlife.

Rainer Breitling, a biologist at the University of Manchester, fears they’ll attack ‘vulnerable native species’ in their new environments, in some cases prey much larger than the spider itself.

That, in turn, could disrupt the food chain and affect regional ecosystems.

Researchers in Germany used computer modelling to predict favorable habitats for false widow invasions, based on present patterns.

The model successfully predicted the species would migrate to Normandy.

Mediterranean islands, southern Australia, large parts of New Zealand and South Africa also seem to be likely targets for future expansion.

‘These are areas that are home to a wide range of vulnerable native species, so the potential introduction of Steatoda nobilis, which can overcome prey much larger than its own size, is quite worrying,’ said Breitling.

While the spider’s migration was originally blamed on a shipment of bananas, researchers now believe it hitches a ride on ornamental plants or tourists.

‘So more careful monitoring of plant imports could be useful to control the spread of this species and other invasive spiders,’ said Breitling.  

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Elon Musk’s Boring Company hosts a ‘tunnel rave’ insides its Las Vegas Loop

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elon musks boring company hosts a tunnel rave insides its las vegas loop

Elon Musk’s The Boring Company celebrated the near competition of its Las Vegas Convention Center Loop’s site by hosting a ‘tunnel rave’ inside the facility.

The firm shared a first look inside with three Tesla vehicles parked at the boarding area, along with flashing lights and dance music by the late musician Avici playing in the background.

The video, shared on Twitter,  was shot inside the Loop’s hub where passengers will be transported from one end of the convention center to the other in a Model 3 electric vehicle.

The Boring Company plans to begin operations of the system in January that it says cuts the 15 minute walk from one end of the campus to the other down to just one minute.

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The Boring Company shared a first look inside with three Tesla vehicles parked at the boarding area, along with flashing lights and dance music by the late musician Avici playing in the background

The Boring Company shared a first look inside with three Tesla vehicles parked at the boarding area, along with flashing lights and dance music by the late musician Avici playing in the background

The Boring Company shared a first look inside with three Tesla vehicles parked at the boarding area, along with flashing lights and dance music by the late musician Avici playing in the background

‘During typical peak hours, driving from the Las Vegas Convention Center to Mandalay Bay, for example, can take up to 30 minutes,’ reads the firm’s website.

‘The same trip on Vegas Loop will take approximately 3 minutes.’

The Boring Company claims the Tesla vehicles will reach top speeds of 155 miles per hour, making the trip more of a sprint than a sluggish shuttle ride.

In May, the company completed its excavation of one of two tunnels making up the convention center loop.

Musk shared renders (pictured) earlier this year of what the area will look like once it is complete. Above the tunnels is a display showing passengers when and where their vehicles will depart and, for color, a sprawling wall ad for Las Vegas tourism sporting the city's 'What happens in Vegas, only happens here' slogan

Musk shared renders (pictured) earlier this year of what the area will look like once it is complete. Above the tunnels is a display showing passengers when and where their vehicles will depart and, for color, a sprawling wall ad for Las Vegas tourism sporting the city's 'What happens in Vegas, only happens here' slogan

Musk shared renders (pictured) earlier this year of what the area will look like once it is complete. Above the tunnels is a display showing passengers when and where their vehicles will depart and, for color, a sprawling wall ad for Las Vegas tourism sporting the city’s ‘What happens in Vegas, only happens here’ slogan

The Vegas loop will first included the Las Vegas Convention Center, but the firm plans to expand it to run along the Strip, McCarran International Airport, Allegiant Stadium, downtown Las Vegas and eventually to Los Angeles.

The system was first announced in May 2019, but like most of Musk’s projects the loop hit a three-month delay.

However, the process appears to be moving along, as The Boring Company is currently receiving approval for a number of agreements and is putting the final touches on the 0.8-mile-long tunnels and passenger stations.

And in the spirit of things, the firm decided to through a part in the passenger loading area – complete with strobe lights and dance music.

Musk shared renders earlier this year of what the area will look like once it is complete.

The video, shared on Twitter , was shot inside the Loop’s hub where passengers will be transported from one end of the convention center to the other in a Model 3 electric vehicle

The video, shared on Twitter , was shot inside the Loop’s hub where passengers will be transported from one end of the convention center to the other in a Model 3 electric vehicle

The video, shared on Twitter , was shot inside the Loop’s hub where passengers will be transported from one end of the convention center to the other in a Model 3 electric vehicle

Above the tunnels is a display showing passengers when and where their vehicles will depart and, for color, a sprawling wall ad for Las Vegas tourism sporting the city’s ‘What happens in Vegas, only happens here’ slogan.

The cars will use onboard self-driving software to navigate the tunnels in addition to ‘tracking wheel’ which guide the vehicle along its specific lane.

The renders are, of course, only tentative his point and could change drastically between now and when the station is actually built.

They do, however, show the progression of Musk’s Las Vegas loop, which he said in a corresponding tweet is ‘coming soon.’

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Robocallers pose as Apple and Amazon support in new scam

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robocallers pose as apple and amazon support in new scam

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning consumers of a new robocall scheme where scammers are posing as Apple and Amazon support.

Robocallers are using recorded messages that tell the person that something is wrong with their account like a suspicious purchase, lost package or their iCloud was breached.

The message prompts them to press ‘one’ to speak with customer service in order to discuss the problem – and this is where the scamming begins.

A fake representative is then connected and will attempt to extract a consumer’s personal information, like their credit card number or account passwords.

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Robocallers are using recorded messages tell the person, along with using their name, that something is wrong with their account like a suspicious purchase, lost package or their iCloud was breached

Robocallers are using recorded messages tell the person, along with using their name, that something is wrong with their account like a suspicious purchase, lost package or their iCloud was breached

Robocallers are using recorded messages tell the person, along with using their name, that something is wrong with their account like a suspicious purchase, lost package or their iCloud was breached 

‘If you get an unexpected call or message about a problem with any of your accounts, hang up,’ the FTC said. ‘Do not press 1 to speak with customer support, do not call a phone number they gave you, do not give out your personal information.’

The FTC found two parts of this scam – a caller acting as an employee of Amazon or Apple.

For the Amazon scheme, unsuspecting victims will be told there’s something wrong with your account. It could be a suspicious purchase, a lost package, or an order they can’t fulfill.

‘An unauthorized purchase of an iPhone XR 64 GB for $749 is being ordered from your Amazon account,’ the recording states.

The message prompts the individual to press 'one' to speak with customer service in order to discuss the problem – and this is where the scamming begins. A robocaller is then connected and will attempt to extract a consumer's personal information, like their credit card number or account passwords

The message prompts the individual to press 'one' to speak with customer service in order to discuss the problem – and this is where the scamming begins. A robocaller is then connected and will attempt to extract a consumer's personal information, like their credit card number or account passwords

The message prompts the individual to press ‘one’ to speak with customer service in order to discuss the problem – and this is where the scamming begins. A robocaller is then connected and will attempt to extract a consumer’s personal information, like their credit card number or account passwords 

‘To cancel your order or to connect with one of our customer support representatives please press one or simply stay on the line.’

In the scam disguised as Apple, the robocaller says: ‘Suspicious activity in your iCloud account, your iCloud account has been breached.’

‘Before you use any Apple device, please contact Apple support adviser.’

And again, prompts the person to press on to connect to the scammer.

Robocalls have become a major issue in the US.

Some 58 billion scam calls were made in 2019, an increase over 11 billion from the previous year.

However, in 2020 the number of calls took a dramatic dive to 30 billion across the nation.

In 2019, Americans, on average were hit with 15 robocalls per person in April, but exactly one year later that number decreased to 8.7 calls per person.

The decrease may stem from anti-robocall measures put into place December 2019.

In addition to fining convicted spammers from $1,500 to up to $10,000, the bill, signed by President Donald Trump, gives authorities more enforcement powers and looks to accelerate measures the industry is already taking to identify robocalls.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said: ‘American families deserve control over their communications, and this legislation will update our laws and regulations to stiffen penalties, increase transparency, and enhance government collaboration to stop unwanted solicitation.’ 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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