Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
Brazil’s drug debate
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, 65, has placed his faith in hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to help his coronavirus-ravaged country and now himself beat COVID-19, turning them into the centerpiece of his government’s virus-beating playbook.
Amid mounting evidence that these drugs have no benefit for hospitalized patients, they are now flashpoints in Brazil’s polarized politics. People’s views of the drugs have become something of a referendum on their president, much like masks in the United States.
To understand how Bolsonaro, who has derided the virus as “a little flu”, embraced this unconventional strategy, Reuters interviewed more than two dozen people including current and former health officials. What emerged was a picture of a leader worried about the crippling effects of lockdowns imposed by governors and mayors across Brazil, and eager for a quick fix to re-open the economy.
Remdesivir that can be inhaled
Gilead Sciences Inc said on Wednesday it has started an early-stage study of its antiviral COVID-19 treatment remdesivir that can be inhaled, for use outside of hospitals.
The drug is currently used intravenously and an inhaled formulation would be given through a nebulizer, which could potentially allow for easier administration outside hospitals.
Remdesivir is believed to be at the forefront in the fight against the coronavirus after the drug helped shorten hospital recovery times in a clinical trial.
The body tricked into attacking the brain
Numerous neurological problems such as tremors, seizures, and impaired consciousness have been linked to severe COVID-19, and a small German study may have uncovered a mechanism by which the virus appears to trick the body into attacking the brain.
It appears that patients’ immune systems are producing what are known as autoantibodies that mistakenly target a person’s own tissues or organs, researchers reported on Monday on medRxiv, in advance of peer review.
“Remarkably, all 11 patients examined in the present study had strong autoantibodies targeting the brain, which are not normally found in cerebrospinal fluid of healthy people,” study coauthor Dr. Christiana Franke of Charité – Universitätsmedizin in Berlin told Reuters. The absence of other explanations for the neurological problems suggests these autoantibodies are to blame, she added.
Opening the door to telehealth
As coronavirus cases spiked in April, Japan temporarily eased restrictions on remote medical care, allowing doctors to conduct first-time visits online or by telephone and expanding the number of illnesses that can be treated remotely. Previously Japanese doctors were only allowed to treat recurring patients remotely, and for a limited number of diseases.
The changes mark a potential shake-up in one of the world’s biggest medical markets, which has lagged countries like Australia, China, and the United States in telemedicine. The reforms could also help Japan grapple with both a skyrocketing healthcare burden and few doctors in rural areas.