BBC:A new drug developed by UK scientists to treat Covid-19 patients is being trialled at University Hospital Southampton.
Developed by UK bio-tech company Synairgen, it uses a protein called interferon beta, which our bodies produce when we get a viral infection.
Initial results from the trial are expected by the end of June.
There are currently few effective treatments for coronavirus with doctors relying on patients’ immune systems.
What is the new drug?
Interferon beta is part of the body’s first line of defence against viruses, warning it to expect a viral attack, explains Richard Marsden, chief executive of Southampton-based Synairgen.
He says the coronavirus seems to suppress its production as part of its strategy to evade our immune systems.
The drug is a special formulation of interferon beta delivered directly to the airways when the virus is there, with the hope that a direct dose of the protein will trigger a stronger anti-viral response even in patients whose immune systems are already weak.
- When will we have a drug to combat coronavirus?
- How long does it take to recover?
- Coronavirus: What it does to the body
Interferon beta is commonly used in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.
Synairgen has already shown its preparation can stimulate the immune response in the lungs of patients with asthma and other chronic lung conditions.
But we can only know whether it works for Covid-19 patients after it has been through a rigorous clinical trial.
Kaye Flitney is one of 75 people who have been enrolled in the clinical trial, filmed exclusively by BBC Panorama. It requires Covid-19 patients, like her, to inhale the drug via a nebuliser to bring it deep into the lungs.
Kaye, 67, struggles to sit up in her hospital bed and coughs as she puts the dispenser to her lips. She says when she first found out she had coronavirus her first thought was not for her own health.
“I was frightened because my husband has heart failure. It would kill him.”
The 67-year-old, who was taken to hospital due to difficulty with her breathing, said taking the drug hasn’t caused her much discomfort.
“You don’t notice you’re taking it ’til you’re finished. It’s not so bad. I could see myself taking it at home.”
How does the trial work?
The 75 volunteers involved so far have been recruited from some 10 hospitals around Britain. Half get the drug, half get what is known as a placebo – an inactive substance.
No-one involved in the trial knows which patients have been given which treatment until the trial is over.
“If you know it’s a drug, your mind might have a bias,” explains Sandy Aitken, the nurse administering the drug.
The hope is, it will show the patients getting the drug do much better than those that don’t, says Professor Tom Wilkinson, of the University of Southampton.
Synairgen’s drug trial is the template for a new fast-track clinical scheme that has just been set up by the government.
The Accord programme, as it is known, is designed to accelerate the development of new drugs for patients with Covid-19.
The first phase of the programme involves six other drugs.
More than 100 treatments are being explored worldwide and a drug called remdesivir, which was developed as an Ebola treatment, has generated particular excitement.
US officials have claimed there is “clear-cut” evidence it helps people recover from the coronavirus.
How far away could the UK treatment be?
Initial results from the interferon beta trial are expected by the end of June. But even if the drug does show promise, it will face further scrutiny before it can be used routinely on patients.
That could take months, although the government has said it will work as fast as possible.
If deemed effective, the drug and the nebulisers used to deliver it would then need to be manufactured in huge quantities.
Mr Marsden says he is already talking to suppliers around the world about whether it will be possible to start producing the drug as soon as the clinical trial is over.
However, he says it would still not be widely available until the end the year.
Dozens dead in Pakistan as PIA plane plunges into Karachi houses
Islamabad, Pakistan – At least 85 people have been killed after an Airbus A320 passenger airliner cr..
Islamabad, Pakistan – At least 85 people have been killed after an Airbus A320 passenger airliner crashed into a residential neighbourhood while on approach to the airport in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, officials say.
At least two male passengers of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight PK-8303 from the eastern city of Lahore to Karachi survived the crash on Friday, a health ministry spokeswoman told Al Jazeera.
There were at least 91 passengers on board the plane, according to an official passenger manifest shared with Al Jazeera by the officials.
Health ministry spokeswoman Meeran Yousuf told Al Jazeera by telephone that 85 people have died, with 53 bodies kept at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Karachi’s largest government hospital, and 32 at Civil Hospital Karachi, another major state-run hospital.
Yousuf said the two survivors were being treated at the hospitals in Karachi, while 19 bodies have been identified so far.
At least six people who were on the ground when the airliner crashed into houses in the densely populated Model Colony area of Karachi, adjacent to the city’s international airport, were being treated for their injuries, she added.
“Our plane [an Airbus] A320 which was coming from Lahore to Karachi was on final approach,” said PIA chief Arshad Malik in a video message released after the crash.
“The last words we heard from our pilot were that there is a technical problem and he was told on final approach that he has both runways available to him to land on. But the pilot decided that he wanted to go around.”
The plane then rapidly lost altitude and crashed short of the runway into the Model Colony neighbourhood, witnesses told the local media.
Dense plumes of black smoke rose above houses in the narrow streets of the neighbourhood, with television footage showing several houses crushed from the impact of the aircraft.
Parts of the plane, including the emergency exit door, were seen strewn in the streets.
Wreckage of the PIA passenger plane crash can be seen in a residential area in Karachi [Sabir Mazhar/Anadolu]
Pakistan’s military said it had deployed helicopters to assess the damage and help ferry the dead and wounded to the hospitals.
An emergency was declared in all of the city’s hospitals, already reeling from a widespread outbreak of the coronavirus, provincial health minister Azra Pechucho told reporters.
“We are doing DNA testing of the dead bodies so that they can be identified and they can be given to their families,” she said.
“We were already in an emergency situation due to COVID, we were already alert … and now we have put the surgical units on alert as well.”
‘Shocked and saddened’
Pakistan resumed limited domestic flight operations last week, after a lengthy suspension due to the coronavirus outbreak, which has claimed more than 1,067 lives in the South Asian nation, according to the government data.
The Airbus A320, operated by Pakistan’s national flag carrier, was due to land in Karachi at 2:45pm local time (09:45 GMT) after an hour and a half in the air after departing Lahore earlier in the day.
In 2016, Pakistan suffered its deadliest recent air crash, when all 47 people on board a PIA Embraeur ATR aircraft were killed when it crashed into a mountain en route from the northern town of Chitral to the capital Islamabad.
In 2010, the country saw its worst air disaster, with all 152 people on board an Air Blue passenger flight killed when the plane crashed into the hills just north of the capital Islamabad.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered an immediate inquiry into Friday’s crash.
UK to introduce quarantine for international arrivals from June 8
Britain will introduce a 14-day quarantine for travellers arriving from abroad from June 8, interior..
Britain will introduce a 14-day quarantine for travellers arriving from abroad from June 8, interior minister Priti Patel said, with the government warning that anyone breaking the rules would face a fine or prosecution.
All international arrivals, including returning Britons, will have to self-isolate and provide details of where they will be staying under the plans, which were criticised by airlines, business groups and politicians alike.
“Now we are past the peak of this virus, we must take steps to guard against imported cases triggering a resurgence of this deadly disease,” Patel said at a news conference.
“We are not shutting down completely. We are not closing our borders.”
Those who breached the quarantine in the United Kingdom could be fined 1,000 UK pounds ($1,218), and spot checks would be carried out by health and border officials.
The quarantine will not apply to those arriving from the Republic of Ireland, nor to freight drivers, medical professionals or seasonal agricultural workers. The measures will be reviewed every three weeks.
The UK has recorded the highest number of deaths in Europe from coronavirus, with more than 36,000 people who have tested positive having died so far.
But the quarantine move is controversial, especially with the aviation sector, where flights have been grounded and passenger numbers slumped during lockdown measures.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary this week branded a proposed quarantine plan “idiotic” and accused ministers of “making it up as they go along”.
Virgin Atlantic said quarantine would prevent services from resuming and claimed there “simply won’t be sufficient demand to resume passenger services before August at the earliest”.
Trade body Airlines UK has said it “would effectively kill” international travel to the UK.
Others have questioned why Britain did not introduce quarantine earlier, like countries such as South Korea, Spain and the United States.
Ireland also imposes measures
In addition to Britain, travellers arriving in Ireland from next week will also be legally required to inform the government where they will quarantine for 14 days to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Minister for Health Simon Harris said on Friday.
“These are extraordinary measures but they are necessary in a time of a public health crisis,” said Harris in a statement.
From Thursday until at least June 18, those arriving in the Republic of Ireland will be legally required to complete a form noting the address where they will “self-isolate” for two weeks.
Failure to complete the form will carry a penalty of up to 2,500 euros ($2,725) and/or up to six months’ imprisonment.
All nationalities will be required to provide information, including those coming from neighbouring Britain.
Ireland has suffered 1,592 deaths from coronavirus according to the latest department of health figures. Recorded daily deaths peaked at 77 on April 20 but on Friday, the figure had fallen to 11.
Trump predicts coronavirus vaccine by years end, vows plague will pass
As some states loosen lockdown restrictions in a bid to set the nation’s battered economy on the roa..
As some states loosen lockdown restrictions in a bid to set the nation’s battered economy on the road to recovery, President Trump endorsed a state-by-state approach while predicting at a Fox News virtual town hall on Sunday that a coronavirus vaccine could be available by December.
“I think we’ll have a vaccine by the end of the year,” Trump told the moderators, Fox News’ Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, saying he was “very confident” in the assessment. “We’ll have a vaccine much sooner rather than later.”
Asked by MacCallum if he was concerned about the potential risks of accelerating a vaccine and human trials, Trump responded: “No, because they’re volunteers. They know what they’re getting into … They want to help the process.”
That timeline was dramatically ahead of previous estimates from both public and private sector experts at the outset of the pandemic, which had said a vaccine could take up to 18 months, if not longer. But, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said this weekend it was “doable if things fall in the right place” to have a vaccine by January.
Trump also predicted that the U.S. would be self-reliant on antibiotics, without needing to rely on China, within two years. Republicans have said it’s “crazy” that America is reliant on China, a communist adversary, for critical supplies including antibiotics.
President Donald Trump speaks during a Fox News virtual town hall from the Lincoln Memorial, Sunday, May 3, 2020, in Washington, co-moderated by FOX News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
However, Trump predicted that as many as 100,000 Americans could die from the coronavirus, in a significant increase from his estimate of 60,000 last month. “Were going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people,” Trump said, calling it a “horrible” situation. Without his administration’s actions, Trump asserted, “the minimum we would have lost was a million two, a million four, a million five, thats the minimum.”
Trump generally backed the efforts of America’s governors to manage the crisis, saying that each state will have a different approach to reopening their economies.
“It’s going to pass,” he assured, repeatedly referring to the outbreak as the “plague.”
Trump went on to assert that Democrats and media organizations, who have mocked him for touting the possible benefits of hydroxychloroquine in fighting coronavirus, were motivated by politics and “don’t want to see a good result.” Some media organizations even reported that an Arizona couple had consumed fish tank cleaner because they believed it contained hydroxychloroquine. The woman in that case had claimed she was following Trump’s advice despite openly attacking Trump on social media. Her husbands death after ingesting the liquid is now under investigation.
President Donald Trump speaks during a Fox News virtual town hall from the Lincoln Memorial, Sunday, May 3, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)