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Genetic Linkage

Can Existing Drugs Treat COVID-19? From Viagra to Thalidomide to Cough Syrup

As the number of cases of COVID-19 continues to mount, so do entries at clinicaltrials.gov for potential treatments, reaching into the existing pharmacopeia for repurposing candidates.


Clinical trials for COVID-19 treatments range from 10 people to nearly 600, and most are happening in China. But a caveat: ClinicalTrials.gov is a clearinghouse of proposals, not requiring approval. The entries are from all over the world.


Normally – and these are far from normal times – a clinical trial is optimally designed to assess the safety and efficacy of a new treatment on two groups of people, one taking the drug, the other a placebo. Or, in a crossover design, participants take courses of both treatment and placebo at different times but don't know which is when.


The standard, scientific approach to evaluating drugs takes time. Lots of it. And right now, people are hesitant to sign up for a clinical trial knowing that they face a 50:50 chance of being assigned to a placebo group.


To continue reading, go to my DNA Science blog at Public Library of Science. 

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How the “F” word—flu—led to confusion as the coronavirus pandemic unfolded

As the world sought to cope with the growing coronavirus outbreak, there was a common refrain uttered by those failing to grasp the severity of this health crisis: "Oh, it's just a bad flu." In fact, they couldn't have been more wrong. Thinking that a novel virus is exactly like a familiar one is like assuming that a guinea pig is the same as a rat.


The confusion arises from using "flu" to denote the familiar litany of respiratory misery, fever and fatigue. These symptoms are mostly due to the response of the immune system to infection. But the specific illness "influenza" is actually due to infection from an influenza virus (not to be further confused with the tiny bacterium Hemophilus influenzae).


The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, puts it succinctly. "This virus is not SARS, it's not MERS, and it's not influenza. It is a unique virus with unique characteristics."


To continue reading, go to Genetic Literacy Project, where this post first appeared.

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