Biden Admin To Spend $1.7 Billion To Sequence Covid Variants
New variants make up about half of current U.S. covid cases according to the CDC. In other news, an OCD drug is touted as a potential covid treatment, and monoclonal antibodies are in the headlines again.
CDC To Ramp Up COVID-19 Variant Sequencing
The Biden administration will direct $1.7 billion to sequence the emerging variants of the virus that causes COVID-19, the White House announced Friday. New variants of the coronavirus make up about half of the current COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The emergence of variants underscores the critical need for rapid and ongoing genomic surveillance,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters in a press briefing. (McIntire, 4/16)
The All-Purpose Disease Pathogen Test
Faster and cheaper genetic sequencing can give us the ability to test for almost any infectious pathogen — provided we use it. Doctors never identify the causative agents of many infections, leading them to misdiagnose patients and even miss the early emergence of new diseases, but wider use of genetic sequencing promises a future in which no virus will be left behind. (Walsh, 4/17)
In other covid research developments —
OCD Drug Spotlighted As Potential COVID-19 Treatment
Despite a highlight story on 60 Minutes last month, fluvoxamine, a drug typically used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), is still just a brief mention in the "cytokine inhibitors" section in the New York Times' "Coronavirus Drug and Treatment Tracker." For now, it makes sense. Fluvoxamine, a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), has shown promise in two smaller studies, but larger trials have not been published yet. (McLernon, 4/16)
COVID-19 Antibody Drugs Are Tough To Deploy In Surges
Government officials are trying to figure out how to make better use of drugs that can keep people with COVID-19 out of the hospital. That's an urgent but daunting challenge in Michigan, where hospitals are struggling to keep up with a surge in new cases. Monoclonal antibodies can hold the coronavirus in check by mimicking the body's natural immune defenses. The drugs, produced by Regeneron and Eli Lilly, can keep people with mild to moderate COVID-19 out of the hospital and have emergency authorization for people over 65, as well as others with certain underlying health conditions. (Harris, 4/16)
COVID-19: Monoclonal Antibodies Are 'Happy Pill' For At-Risk Americans
As of Wednesday, the government had bought nearly 1 million doses of monoclonals from the two companies that have authorized products, Regeneron and Eli Lilly, and has made them available to 5,800 sites across the country. Many hospital systems, particularly those in large urban areas, have adopted the drugs. Forty-three percent of the federally funded doses have been used in patients, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The remaining doses sit on pharmacy shelves. Last month, the Biden administration announced a $150 million plan to improve access to the drugs, particularly among vulnerable people. (Weintraub, 4/17)
The New York Times:
The Covid-19 Plasma Boom Is Over. What Did We Learn From It?
Scott Cohen was on a ventilator struggling for his life with Covid-19 last April when his brothers pleaded with Plainview Hospital on Long Island to infuse him with the blood plasma of a recovered patient. The experimental treatment was hard to get but was gaining attention at a time when doctors had little else. After an online petition drew 18,000 signatures, the hospital gave Mr. Cohen, a retired Nassau County medic, an infusion of the pale yellow stuff that some called “liquid gold.” (Thomas and Weiland, 4/17)
The New York Times:
Can Covid Research Help Solve The Mysteries Of Other Viruses?
Barie Carmichael lost her sense of taste and smell while traveling in Europe. She remembers keeping a dinner date at a Michelin-starred restaurant but tasting nothing. “I didn’t have the heart to tell my host,” she said. It may sound like a case of Covid-19. But Ms. Carmichael, 72, a fellow at the University of Virginia’s business school, lost her ability to taste and smell for three years in the 1990s. The only respiratory infection she’d had was bronchitis. (Kolata, 4/17)