Researchers Find COVID-19 Cure As Nigeria Hits 27,564 Cases, 628 Deaths

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FILE PHOTO: The ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China, is seen in an illustration released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. January 29, 2020. Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM/CDC/Handout via REUTERS.

Nigeria has notched a tally of 27,564 COVID-19 cases and 628 deaths according to a report by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

The country on Friday recorded 454 new confirmed cases and 12 deaths as researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine in Göttingen have found cure for the rampaging virus.

According to them, Erythropoietin (Epo), a medication for anaemia can also be effective against COVID-19, insisting that the doping agent Epo could mitigate severe disease progression and protect patients from long-term neurological effects when the SARS-CoV-2 virus attacks the brain. 

Since initial case studies indicate a positive effect of Epo, the researchers are currently planning a randomised clinical trial to systematically investigate the effects of Epo treatment in COVID-19 patients.

At the end of March, a patient with severe COVID-19 symptoms was admitted to an Iranian hospital. Because the patient also had poor blood values, the doctors prescribed the haematopoietic growth factor Epo.

Seven days after the start of treatment, the patient was able to leave the hospital.

Another indication of the protective role of Epo in the case of COVID-19 comes from South America, where severe illness is rarer in higher-lying regions than in the lowlands. 

This is because people living at higher altitudes form more Epo and are better adapted to oxygen deficiency because they have more red blood cells. 

Hannelore Ehrenreich,  a scientist at the Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine has been researching the effect of the endogenous growth factor for over 30 years and suspects a connection between the administration of Epo and the mild illness progression. 

“For example, we have observed that dialysis patients withstand COVID-19 remarkably well—and it is precisely these patients who regularly receive erythropoietin”, she says.

Scientists say Epo is released as a natural reaction to oxygen deficiency. The molecule, according to them, stimulates the formation of red blood cells that improves the supply of oxygen to the brain and muscles. 

This effect is also exploited by athletes who take synthetic Epo as a doping agent. Epo stimulates not only blood cells but also many other tissues.

Ehrenreich and her colleagues have now summarised the various studies on the effects of Epo. Animal experiments suggest that Epo acts on areas of the brain stem and spinal cord that control breathing. As a result, the breathing improves when there is oxygen deficiency. 

Epo also has an anti-inflammatory effect on immune cells and could thus attenuate the frequently exaggerated immune response in COVID-19 patients. It could also protect against neurological symptoms and long-term effects of the disease such as headaches, dizziness, loss of smell and taste, and seizures.

The protective effects of Epo have been shown in animals as well as in numerous studies in humans with various brain disorders. 

Unfortunately, pharmaceutical companies have only limited interest in financing further studies on approved active ingredients such as erythropoietin for which patent protection has expired. 

“Because COVID-19 can have such severe health-related consequences, we must investigate any evidence of a protective effect of Epo. After all, there is currently neither a vaccine nor a medication for the disease. We are therefore preparing a ‘proof-of-concept study’ to investigate the effect of Epo on COVID-19 in humans”, Ehrenreich says. 

In this clinical trial, severely ill COVID-19 patients will also receive Epo. The researchers will then investigate whether the growth factor can alleviate severe disease progression.

However, in Nigeria, no new state, according to NCDC, reported a case in the last 24 hours.

While 27,564 cases have been confirmed, 11,069 COVID-19 patients have been discharged as 628 deaths have been recorded in 35 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

The 454 new cases reported from 19 states stands as follows: Lagos -87, Edo -63, Abuja -60, Ondo -41, Benue -32, Abia -31, Ogun -29, Oyo -19, Kaduna -17, Delta -16, Enugu -15, Borno -14, Plateau -nine, Nasarawa -eight, Kano five, Bauchi -four, Gombe -two, Katsina, and Kogi one each.

In the mean time, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) handling of communication around COVID-19 has come under attack.

Findings say it has shown how communicating risk can become risky communication. This is one of the key findings a recent analysis of the communication and information shared by the WHO within the first month after declaring COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) identified.

WHO has recently faced backlash and growing criticism of what is perceived as a slow response to the pandemic. WHO’s China-centred approach is at the heart of the argument against the global organisation.

US President Donald Trump on April 14, announced that the United States would withdraw its funding from the organization. And on May 29, Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw its participation completely.

Early communications

It is not just what WHO was saying in the first weeks of the pandemic that got the organisation in the hot seat, but also how. 

A review of the WHO’s communication in the first weeks of the outbreak from December 31, 2019 to January 31, 2020, by Medical Xpress, points to an ambiguous communication strategy that sowed a great deal of confusion.

According to it, ‘’WHO has several communication platforms based on the 2005 International Health Regulations (IHR): Disease Outbreak Newssituation reportsEPI-WIN (an information network for epidemics), public statementspress briefings and guidelines. There are also unconventional and informal communication channels, including profiles on social media networks like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

‘’In the first days of the outbreak, WHO showed a strong preference for communicating over Twitter, which goes against the agreed communication plan in the 2005 IHR. The first cases were reported to WHO on Dec. 31, 2019, and publicly disclosed on Jan. 4, 2020, over Twitter. A formal report followed the day after, using the first Disease Outbreak News platform.

‘’When the first case outside China was reported, the WHO issued a statement on its website on Jan. 13, followed by a Twitter post the next day.

‘’But WHO’s social media use was scattered: 143 Twitter posts, 21 Facebook posts, and 10 Instagram posts. There was no clear or consistent pattern or approach. The WHO privileged Twitter to communicate with the wider public, resulting in potentially unequal access to information based on the population, health professionals and national authorities.

‘’Such use of social media appears indiscriminate and stands in contrast to the established official methods of communication listed above. WHO also began deploying the EPI-WIN platform days before issuing a formal announcement: EPI-WIN was launched on Jan. 24 and announced on Jan. 30.

‘’As the outbreak spread from China, Thailand, Japan and Korea to 19 other countries between Jan. 20 and 31, the WHO’s communication strategy continued to float in many different directions through multiple channels and produced muddled definitions of key terms.

‘’Terms like entry/exit screening, risk assessment, travel recommendations, regional and global were widely circulated by the WHO but were never clearly defined, raising important questions around what exactly was being recommended and where.

‘’Compounding the ambiguous communication strategy, the WHO’s situation reports wrongly identified the global risk assessment for three days in a row. In situation reports No. 3No. 4 and No. 5, the global risk was originally published as “moderate,” and then corrected in situation report No. 6 stating this was an error and the risk is “high.” This error created confusion over the WHO risk assessment at a critical point in time. Based on the information currently available, it is not clear if this was an error of communication or risk assessment.

‘’Mixed messages were also issued regarding travel advice. Situation report No. 9 stated that there were no specific recommendations for travel, yet included a separate section on travelling and traffic advice. In a more glaring example, no travel restrictions were included the day the WHO declared the PHEIC, a decision that created uncertainty.

‘’As many countries continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial to reflect on the ways important information is communicated globally. Communicating risk is a challenge. It is also a risky business. 

‘’But even with all the communication shortcomings, we need the WHO to improve its communication strategies so it can carry out its mandate effectively. COVID-19 is a global challenge. Making international institutions like the WHO more effective is crucial to finding a global solution.’’

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