Medication use in hospitalized patients with COVID-19

Efforts to treat COVID-19 patients chronicled in UC Health medications data

A record of medicine utilization patterns assembled by an interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of California, Irvine and the UC San Diego School of Medicine reveals the thought, care and scientific rigor clinicians at UC Health medical centers applied in their treatment of patients with COVID-19 in 2020.

For a study published today in JAMA Network Open, the investigators examined data on the usage rates of 10 different medicines and medicine categories to map how drugs were used on people hospitalized with the viral infection.

The authors got their data from the University of California COVID Research Data Set and tracked 22,896 patients admitted to UC Health medical centers in Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco between March 10 and Dec. 31, 2020.

“The home run of this paper is really in the figures built from the UC CORDS database,” said lead author Jonathan Watanabe, UCI professor of clinical pharmacy. “You can clearly see how usage of certain medicines grew or declined over the course of the pandemic and how those movements were tied to evidence-based decisions being made by UC healthcare providers in real time. You can monitor the evolution in how we treat our sickest patients.”

A stark example can be seen in the shift in acceptance of the antimicrobial medication hydroxychloroquine, which was the subject of public discussion in White House briefings and substantial media attention. In the early stages of the pandemic, the drug was given to more than 40 percent of patients, but by June, usage was below 5 percent. Usage of another drug in that class, azithromycin, fell from 40 to 30 percent in that same timeframe.

“There were some studies conducted in the early part of the pandemic that were not particularly well-designed and were limited in size that appeared to show hydroxychloroquine to be useful,” said Watanabe, who’s also UCI’s founding associate dean of pharmacy assessment and quality in UCI’s School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences. “We saw high uptake of the drug early on, but then it just cratered, because as time progressed and more high-quality trials came in, it was shown to be not effective.”

The opposite can be seen with dexamethasone, which increased from being administered to 1.4 percent of patients per day on March 31 to 67.5 percent by the end of December. The inexpensive, generic corticosteroid was found to be effective in large trials in hospitalized patients in the U.K., according to Watanabe.

“At first glance, a lot of people might say you wouldn’t want to use a corticosteroid that, theoretically, could reduce the immune response in a COVID patient,” he said. “But the trials really demonstrated that the knee-jerk mechanism of action-response was not correct in this case: The anti-inflammatory effect of the drug to tame cytokine storms was evidently more important than any blunting of the immune response.”

Remdesivir use grew 12-fold, from 4.9 percent on June 1 to 62.5 percent on Dec. 31. Watanabe said one possible explanation for this is that the medication was only available in conjunction with trials in the UC system in the early part of the pandemic and was more widely distributed as time went on.

Enoxaparin, used to both treat and prevent thrombosis, also proved effective against COVID-19, of which blood clots are a common symptom. The drug remained above 50 percent in usage throughout 2020.

“We tend to put hospitalized patients in general on an anticoagulant to reduce the risk of clots, which can happen because they may be lying in place immobile for long stretches,” Watanabe said. “But then we started to notice thrombophilia in COVID patients, so enoxaparin and heparin both became very important not just as prophylaxis but as treatments.”

He noted that the utilization numbers in the paper show how physicians and other healthcare professionals responded to evidence and their own observations effectively in real time and that such information is important for clinicians to know for future planning purposes in terms of both treatment decision-making and ensuring a robust supply of proven drugs.

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When You Use A Tongue Scraper Every Day, This Is What Happens

Oral hygiene is essential to overall health and, for many, to self esteem. Knowing that while we are speaking to people, we are doing so with fresh breath and a healthy smile, goes a long way. Therefore, for those who might occasionally experience difficulty in maintaining fresh breath, products that promise a solution are often intriguing. One such tool that is designed to help get bad breath under control is a tongue scraper. This is a device made from plastic, copper, or stainless steel and is used to clean the tongue, targeting all areas and leaving the tongue clean and cared for. Most people who use them do so at the same time as brushing their teeth, and tongue scrapers can be bought at most drug stores (via Cleveland Clinic). 

But what does a tongue scraper actually do, and is it really effective at keeping your mouth healthy and breath fresh?  

What scraping your tongue does for oral health

While brushing your teeth, flossing, and using mouthwash regularly are all great ways to promote oral health and prevent bad breath, some people don’t feel those things alone do enough to keep their breath in check. For those dealing with halitosis (the medical term for bad breath), tongue scrapers can potentially offer a means of removing more bacteria and debris than brushing alone (via Mayo Clinic). While brushing your tongue can help, tongue scrapers do a more thorough job. By using one once or twice after each time you brush, you can keep your mouth cleaner and your breath fresher. 

If, however, you find you halitosis is not controlled by these means or if you notice any signs of an infection or discoloration, you should absolutely see your dentist. The pros will know a more complete solution to help your mouth heal.  

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Comfort care beneficial for hospitalized stroke patients, yet disparities in use persist

stroke

Receiving palliative or hospice care services was found to improve quality of life for hospitalized ischemic stroke patients, however, disparities persist in which patients are prescribed or have access to these holistic comfort care options, according to new research published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association, an open access journal of the American Heart Association.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, stroke ranked No. 5 among all causes of death in the U.S. Nearly 9 in 10 strokes are ischemic strokes caused by a blockage in a blood vessel that carries blood to the brain. Despite advances in acute stroke treatment and management, stroke remains a leading cause of serious long-term disability in the U.S.

“Stroke death rates have declined over the past decade, however, as more people survive stroke, many face lingering consequences including varying levels of disability,” said lead study author Farhaan S. Vahidy, Ph.D., M.B.B.S., M.P.H., FAHA, an associate professor of outcomes research and the associate director of the Center for Outcomes Research at Houston Methodist, in Houston, Texas. “Many stroke patients are candidates for comfort care, including palliative or hospice care, which can improve outcomes and quality of life. It is important that stroke patients who could benefit with better quality of life from comfort care have these options available.”

Palliative care provides holistic support to patients with stroke and other chronic conditions to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life. Hospice care is end-of-life care and is usually reserved for patients among whom most treatment options are no longer feasible. And like palliative care, hospice care also aims to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.

To better understand comfort care use among ischemic stroke patients in the U.S., researchers examined hospital patient data from 2006 to 2015 from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. They found:

  • Of the nearly 4.3 million stroke hospital discharges, 3.8% received hospice or palliative care.
  • Prescribing comfort care increased during the 10-year period. Ischemic stroke patients were almost five times more likely to receive a comfort care intervention in 2014 to 2015, compared to 2006 to 2007.
  • The increasing trend in patients’ comfort care use was evident even among patients who had acute stroke treatments, including with intravenous clot busting medications, called thrombolytic therapy, and mechanical clot removal, or endovascular thrombectomy.
  • Some hospital types, including large hospitals and urban teaching hospitals, had higher rates of comfort care.
  • The average length of hospital stays for ischemic stroke patients who received comfort care was longer than stays for patients who did not receive comfort care, yet the average hospitalization costs for patients who received comfort care were lower.
  • Although comfort care continues to be associated with higher in-hospital deaths, 10-year outcome trends among patients receiving the services showed a significant decline in in-hospital deaths and a significant increase in the proportion of patients either discharged home or transferred to long term care facilities.

Comfort care use was notably lower among people who identify with non-white racial and ethnic groups. For example, use was 41% lower among Black stroke patients compared to white patients. Other factors independently associated with higher comfort care utilization were older age, female sex, non-Medicare (private) health insurance and higher incomes.

“Disparities in the prescribing of comfort care interventions among ischemic stroke patients was an important finding that needs to be carefully examined. To our knowledge such disparities have not been previously reported,” Vahidy said. “And, while more stroke patients are getting comfort care, overall use is still low, especially among people from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.”

A limitation of the study is that the investigators examined information that did not differentiate between palliative care and hospice care usage.

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Outdated digital literacy skills hinder use of smart devices

fitness tracker

Activity trackers are rising in popularity: Almost 20% of people own one. These trackers collect data about physical activities and assist in developing a healthy lifestyle. Yet a study conducted by the University of Twente demonstrates that many struggle to optimally use these devices. The cause? Outdated digital literacy skills.

Under the guidance of Alexander van Deursen, UT scientists are conducting plenty of research into digital literacy. The ability to use data and being digitally literate is vital to the continued development of the Internet of Things. For example, a user must be able to analyze the flow of personal data their activity tracker provides them in order to optimally benefit from using the device.

The rise of activity trackers

At this time, approximately 19% of the Dutch population is using an activity tracker. These trackers constantly collect data about users’ physical activities, such as heart rate, calories burned, and sleep patterns. Using these data, users will be able to live a healthier life and exercise more efficiently as long as they are able to correctly interpret the collected data and the way in which the data is presented. Only then will they be able to use these data to make informed decisions and act accordingly. In short, the use of smart equipment requires data analysis skills and strategic skills.

Performance measurement

In a performance measurement conducted among a hundred people (of different sexes, ages and with a variety of educational backgrounds) participants were fitted with an activity tracker for a number of weeks. After familiarizing themselves with the activity tracker, participants ended up participating in a task-based performance measurement used to test data analysis and strategic skills. The participants completed on average approximately half of the data analysis tasks and half of the strategic tasks. Both the insight into and interpretation of the collected data, as well as the ability to formulate specific goals to improve their health, turned out to be problematic for participants. The results show that participants were only able to parse the data collected by smart devices to a certain degree and make decisions accordingly. The level of data analysis and strategic skills proved to be insufficient.

Needs

The conclusions from the performance measurement underscore the need for skills development relating to the use of smart devices such as activity trackers. The current skills level demonstrates that the use of the options provided by these devices is not optimal. The elderly and people with lower levels of education performed relatively poorly. This is problematic as these target groups may benefit the most from the use of smart devices. An activity tracker can promote physical activity, for example, something that declines with age, particularly among those with lower levels of education.

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WHO says not to use ivermectin on COVID-19 patients

patient

The World Health Organization said Wednesday that ivermectin—touted by some on social media as a COVID-19 “miracle cure”—should not be used to treat coronavirus patients.

In response to the swirl of claims around the cheap anti-parasite drug, the WHO issued guidelines saying ivermectin should only be used on COVID-19 patients in clinical trial settings.

The UN health agency said there was a “very low certainty of evidence” on ivermectin’s effects on mortality, hospital admission and getting rid of the virus from the body.

Facebook posts and articles endorsing ivermectin have proliferated in Brazil, France, South Africa and South Korea as governments around the world struggle with vaccination programmes.

The pandemic has prompted a surge in demand for the drug, particularly in Latin America.

But in an update to its guidelines on COVID-19 therapeutics, the WHO said: “We recommend not to use ivermectin in patients with COVID-19 except in the context of a clinical trial.

“This recommendation applies to patients with any disease severity and any duration of symptoms.”

‘Ongoing concerns’

The WHO looked at studies that compared ivermectin against a placebo and against other drugs, in 16 randomised control trials examining 2,400 patients.

“We currently lack persuasive evidence of a mechanism of action for ivermectin in COVID-19, and any observed clinical benefit would be unexplained,” it said.

The drug has long been used to treat parasites such as head lice and for river blindness in sub-Saharan Africa.

The WHO recommendation was triggered by “increased international attention” on ivermectin as a potential treatment for COVID-19.

But the guidance said: “The effects of ivermectin on mortality, mechanical ventilation, hospital admission, duration of hospitalisation and viral clearance remain uncertain because of very low certainty of evidence addressing each of these outcomes.”

WHO experts stressed that the guidelines were not rigid and could be updated over time if further evidence comes to light.

But for now, “the low cost and wide availability do not, in the panel’s view, mandate the use of a drug in which any benefit remains very uncertain and ongoing concerns regarding harms remain”.

WHO fighting ‘unproven therapies’

Ivermectin is one of a string of medications tested as a potential COVID-19 treatment since the pandemic began.

Like anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine—so far unproven by clinical trials—ivermectin is widely available and relatively cheap.

The recommendation is likely to provoke fury and scepticism among the drug’s social media champions.

Often the rhetoric doing the rounds on social media for ivermectin is the same as for hydroxychloroquine: that the authorities are deliberately ignoring it because it is not profitable for the pharmaceutical industry.

However, its claimed benefits in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic has not been proven in major clinical trials.

The WHO’s clinical management leader Janet Diaz told reporters: “We’ve been fighting this over-use of unproven therapies, especially some of the repurposed drugs in various parts of the world without evidence of efficacy.

“So it is always concerning because there can be more harm than any good.”

Furthermore, “It can take resources away from conditions that should be treated with these drugs.”

Diversion

Proponents of ivermectin, like those of hydroxychloroquine, often argue that it is already widely used—even for totally different purposes—therefore its use for COVID-19 is nothing to worry about.

However, Bram Rochwerg, methods chair of the Guideline Development Group (GDG) behind the WHO recommendation, told reporters that while ivermectin was a “relatively safe drug”, the dosing regimes used for other illnesses were not comparable.

“The other potential for harm… was a diversion of attention and resources from supportive care that we know works for COVID patients,” he added.

Without evidence of efficacy, the GDG felt “these other factors outweighed any potential for uncertain benefit”.

Last week, the EU’s medicines regulator likewise advised against using ivermectin for coronavirus outside clinical trials.

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Researchers describe how embryonic stem cells keep optimal conditions for use in regenerative medicine

Researchers describe how embryonic stem cells keep optimal conditions for use in regenerative medicine

Scientists at the Proteomics Core Unit of the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), headed by Javier Muñoz, have described the mechanisms, unknown to date, involved in maintaining embryonic stem cells in the best possible state for their use in regenerative medicine. Their results, published in Nature Communications, will help to find novel stem-cell therapies for brain stroke, heart disease or neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

Naïve pluripotent stem cells, ideal for doing research

Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are pluripotent cells that can grow into all somatic cell types—a characteristic that is extremely useful for researchers and regenerative medicine. There are two types of pluripotency: naïve and primed. The naïve state comes before the primed one during embryonic development. Naïve ESCs have the potential to differentiate into any cell types. Thus, they are more relevant in research. However, the naïve state is unstable, because naïve ESCs are constantly receiving signals that regulate the transition to the primed state and their self-renewal. Understanding the mechanisms that regulate the pluripotent states is important because they might help achieve long-term maintenance of stable naïve pluripotent stem cells in ESC cultures.

Traditionally, maintenance of naïve ESC cultures is based on the inhibition of two of the signaling pathways that regulate cell differentiation—aka as the 2i culture method. Recently, naïve ESCs have been maintained adopting a totally different approach, namely, the inhibition of Cdk8/19, a protein that regulates the expression of numerous genes, including the genes that help maintain the naïve state. “While the two approaches are used to culture naïve cells, little is known about the mechanisms involved,” says Javier Muñoz, who led the study.

Now, using proteomics, the large-scale characterisation of proteins coded in a genome, CNIO scientists have described a large number of the molecular events that help stabilize these valuable ESC. “This is the first time proteomics has been used in this context,” says Ana Martí­nez del Val, from the Proteomics Core Unit at CNIO, first author of the article. “We analyzed the mechanisms at a number of levels. First, we conducted phosphoproteomic analyses, studying phosphorylated proteins. Phosphorylation regulates protein functions (by activating or inhibiting them). Second, we analyzed the expression of these proteins. Finally, we identified changes in metabolites (reaction intermediates or end products). With our integrated approach, we got an accurate picture of the causes of the high degree of plasticity of ESC,” Martí­nez del Val explains.

The results of the study might have implications for research on some types of cancer. We know that “the inhibition of Cdk8 leads to reduced cell proliferation in acute myeloid leukemia by enhancing tumor suppressors”, and that “Cdk8 is a colorectal cancer oncogene.” “Cdk8 activity is somehow enigmatic, since its functions vary considerably with the cell environment,” says Muñoz. “We have identified a number of Cdk8 targets that were unknown until now. This can help understand the function this protein regulates in other biological contexts.”

Going beyond genomics with proteomics

The study by the CNIO team shows the need for a greater focus on proteomics in cancer research strategies.

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Homemade Substitutes for Skin Care Beauty Products You Use Daily

Many people believe that buying expensive branded skin care products will guarantee them good looks. This might be true to some extent, but these products also contain a ton of chemicals that do more harm than good. We believe that natural products are always better and you’ll be shocked to discover how many homemade products can get you fast results and will cost you a fraction of what you spend on skin care and beauty products.

1. Homemade Blackhead Remover

This is something everyone has to deal with at least once a month. Skin exfoliation is important to remove blackheads and dead layers of skin. All you need is 1 tablespoon of baking soda and clean water. Mix the ingredients together until the mixture has a paste-like consistency. After that, apply the mixture to your nose and cheeks and leave it on for 10-15 minutes so it to dries completely. Rinse with water and you’ll instantly see the positive results. Seems like a better option than buying expensive skin care creams, doesn’t it?

2. Homemade Skin Toner

As you already know, skin toner is used to remove oil and dirt from your skin. If you have an aloe vera plant at home, you can create a homemade skin toner with magical effects. Cut a thick aloe vera leaf and carefully scoop out the fresh aloe vera gel inside. Apply this gel to your face and neck, then sit back and relax for 15 minutes until it dries. Use lukewarm water to rinse your face. After a couple of uses, people around you will start noticing the glow on your skin.

3. Homemade Face Pack for Glowing Skin

What if we told you that you won’t need to sit at your skin care center for hours and get an expensive facial anymore? Just take 2 tablespoons of chickpea flour and 1 tablespoon of raw milk and mix them together to make a slightly thick paste. Chickpea flour improves the uneven skin tone and has magical effects on the oily skin. Milk, as we know, makes the skin smoother and brighter. Once the mixture is prepared, apply it to your face and leave the mask on for 15-20 minutes. Once it dries completely, rinse the face with lukewarm water.

4. Homemade Teeth Whitener

Having pearly white teeth is just as important as having a beautiful glowing skin. Baking soda is a common household kitchen item. Take 1 tablespoon of baking soda and mix it with 1/2 tablespoon lime juice. Apply the paste to your teeth with a brush or even your finger and let it rest there for a couple of minutes and then rinse. If you do this for a week, your dentist will start missing you soon. Whether you save a few bucks on skin care products or dental bills, it’s a saving.

5. Homemade Makeup Remover

Forget about all the expensive makeup removing products if you have coconut oil in your home. Give yourself a sublime skin treatment by applying a dab of coconut oil to your cheeks. Unlike some makeup removing products and anti-aging creams, coconut oil is a natural moisturizer and gives your face a radiant glow. If you develop a habit of massaging your face with coconut oil before going to bed daily, you’ll start noticing the glow on your skin in a matter of days.

6. Homemade Eye Lash and Eye Brow Enhancer

Of course, fake eyelashes and mascara can give your eyelashes a fuller and definitive look, but those beauty products don’t come cheap. The natural, homemade solution to this problem is castor oil. Just apply 2 drops to your eyebrows and lashes before going to sleep each night and you’ll have thick and strong ones by the end of the week. Castor oil has remarkable properties when it comes to hair growth.

7. Homemade Wax for Facial Hair

The chemicals in bleach and other hair removal products can do a great deal of damage to the skin cells. Instead of buying expensive hair removal and skin care products, this homemade natural wax can do the same trick. Just take 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, 2 cups of water, and 1/2 cup of lemon juice (without the seeds) and mix the ingredients together. Next, heat up this mixture for 10-15 minutes until the color turns golden-brown. Turn off the stove and let the mixture cool down a bit. Upon cooling down it will become sticky, just like wax. Apply it to your skin, pull it gently, and voila! You can even store the mixture in your icebox to heat it up and reuse it next time.

These homemade and completely natural skin care treatments are perfect substitutes to the expensive beauty and skin products on the market. Enjoy!

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Heritable traits that appear in teen years raise risk for adult cannabis use

cannabis

While some youth experiment with marijuana but don’t go on to long-term use, others develop a problematic pot habit that continues into adulthood. A major new analysis shows that at least a small portion of the risk for developing into an adult marijuana user may be related to inherited behaviors and traits that appear during adolescence.

The journal Addiction published the findings by researchers at Brown University and Emory University.

“Our analysis suggests that some early adolescent behaviors and traits—like depression, neuroticism and acting out—can be indicative for cannabis use later in life,” says Rohan Palmer, senior author of the paper and assistant professor in Emory’s Department of Psychology, where he heads the Behavioral Genetics of Addiction Laboratory.

“Decades of research has shown that behaviors can have a genetic component,” adds Leslie Brick, lead author and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior in Brown’s Alpert Medical School. “And while there is not one genetically-influenced trait that determines whether you’re going to be a long-term cannabis user, our paper indicates that there are polygenic effects across multiple inherited behaviors and traits that show a propensity for increased risk.”

Brick, a long-time collaborator with Rohan, also holds an adjunct faculty appointment in Emory’s Department of Psychology.

The Transmissible Liability Index is a well-known measure for a constellation of heritable traits that may appear during the developmental years that are associated with the risk of a substance use disorder. For the current paper, the researchers wanted to tease out which of these heritable characteristics might be associated with repeated marijuana use later in life.

“Cannabis use has been less studied than tobacco and alcohol,” Palmer says. “For one thing, it’s harder to get people to answer detailed questionnaires honestly about cannabis, since it’s an illegal substance. And it’s also much more difficult to standardize the amount of cannabis consumed, as compared to cigarettes and liquor.”

Cannabis use, however, is widespread among adolescents and young adults. In 2018, more than 35 percent of high school seniors surveyed reported having used marijuana during the past year and more than 20 percent reported doing so during the past month, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

As cultural norms have shifted, including the legalization of marijuana for adult recreational use in many states, teens’ perceptions of the risks of marijuana use have declined.

Those risks, however, are real.

“Adolescence is a major period of brain development,” Brick says. “In fact, our brains don’t stop developing until we are around 25 years old. Research indicates that cannabis has some major impacts on our biology, although its full effects are still not well understood.”

The researchers drew data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, or Add Health, which includes a nationally representative sample of 20,000 adolescents in grades 7 to 12 in the United States who have been followed into adulthood. Comprehensive data from early adolescence to adulthood was collected on health and health-related behavior, including substance use, personality and genetics.

For the current paper, the researchers identified a large homogenous subgroup of individuals from the Add Health study, about 5,000 individuals of European ancestry, for their final analytic sample. They then leveraged existing genome-wide association studies to examine whether certain heritable behavioral traits noted during adolescence were associated with the Transmissible Liability Index, and whether any of these traits were also associated with risk for later cannabis use.

The results showed that a small portion of the risk for repeated cannabis use into adulthood can be attributed to the genetic effects of neuroticism, risk tolerance and depression that can appear during adolescence.

“While this work marks an important step in identifying genetic factors that can increase the risk for cannabis use, a substantial portion of factors that raise the risk remain unexplained,” Palmer says. “We’ve shown how you can use existing data to assess the utility of a polygenic risk score. More studies are needed to continue to identify unique genetic and other environmental sources for the risk of long-term, problematic use of cannabis.”

“Better understanding of what behaviors and traits may give someone a pre-disposition for long-term cannabis use gives us a better shot of identifying those most at risk so we can home in on effective interventions,” Brick says.

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Bulgaria suspends AstraZeneca vaccine use: PM

COVID-19 vaccine

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov on Friday suspended use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, following similar steps in Denmark, Iceland and Norway over safety concerns.

“I order a halt in vaccinations with the AstraZeneca vaccine until the European Medicines Agency dismisses all doubts about its safety,” a government press service statement quoted Borisov as saying.

The EMA announced on Thursday that countries can keep using AstraZeneca’s vaccine while it probes cases of blood clots that prompted suspension of particular bacthes of the vaccine or all jabs with it in several countries.

But Borisov insisted Friday that vaccinations should stop until the country received “a written statement with an accurate and clearly confirmed diagnosis—can we or cannot we administer it.”

“Until then, you stop it,” he said.

Bulgaria falls last among EU countries in terms of its vaccination rate with only 270,000 people or 3.9 percent of the population receiving at least one dose so far.

The country has ordered far more AstraZeneca vaccines than Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna doses. It was using primarily the AstraZenica vacccine in recent weeks after deciding to scrap prioritisation lists and offer jabs to anyone willing to take them.

So even if it remained unclear on Friday how long the suspension could last, it was expected to severely disrupt vaccination plans.

Health officials already confirmed Thursday that the country had already used up almost completely 31,200 shots from a batch of the vaccine that was suspended in Austria earier this week after the death of a 49-year-old nurse from “severe blood coagulation problems,” days after receiving the shot.

But Health Minister Kostadin Angelov had tried to dismiss any fears over the use of the vaccine saying that there was “no clear and precise conclusion that this batch is the cause of the adverse drug reaction associated with the lethal outcome.”

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Aspirin use for cardiovascular disease may reduce likelihood of COVID-19 infection

aspirin

Aspirin is an established, safe, and low-cost medication in long-standing common use in prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases, and in the past a pain relief and fever reducing medication. The use of aspirin was very popular during the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic, several decades before in-vitro confirmation of its activity against RNA viruses. Studies showed that aspirin, in addition to its well-known anti-inflammatory effects, could modulate the innate and adaptive immune responses helping the human immune system battle some viral infections.

With this information in mind Israeli researchers hypothesized that pre-infection treatment with low-dose aspirin (75mg) use might have a potential beneficial effect on COVID-19 susceptibility and disease duration. A joint team from Leumit Health Services, Bar-Ilan University, and Barzilai Medical Center conducted an observational epidemiological study, utilizing data from Leumit Health Services, a national health maintenance organization in Israel. Their findings were recently published in The FEBS Journal.

The researchers analyzed data of 10,477 persons who had been tested for COVID-19 during the first COVID-19 wave in Israel from February 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020. Aspirin use to avoid the development of cardiovascular diseases in healthy individuals was associated with a 29% lower likelihood of COVID-19 infection, as compared to aspirin non-users. The proportion of patients treated with aspirin was significantly lower among the COVID-19-positive individuals, as compared to the COVID-19-negative ones. And those subjects who had been treated with aspirin were less associated with the likelihood of COVID-19 infection than those who were not. Moreover, the group observed that the conversion time of SARS-CoV-2 PCR test results from positive to negative among aspirin-using COVID-positive patients was significantly shorter, and the disease duration was two-three days shorter, depending upon the patients’ pre-existing conditions.

“This observation of the possible beneficial effect of low doses of aspirin on COVID-19 infection is preliminary but seems very promising,” says Prof. Eli Magen from the Barzilai Medical Center, who led the study.

Study principal investigator Dr. Eugene Merzon, from Leumit Health Services, emphasizes the importance of repeating the study results using larger samples, and including patients from other hospitals and countries, to verify the results.

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