MT Weekly: At-Home COVID Test Kits, Anti-Malarial Drug Side Effects
MedTruth is reporting on the coronavirus. Here’s a summary of the most important developments this week — medical research, regulation, legislation and legal actions.
Staying informed starts here.
FDA Warns of Anti-Malarial Drug Side Effects, Household Disinfectants Are Not Safe Treatments
On Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned doctors not to prescribe the anti-malaria drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat coronavirus outside of hospitals and research settings, according to an AP report. The drugs have been widely promoted by President Donald Trump as potentially effective treatments for Covid-19.
According to a Monday AP report, a nationwide analysis found a higher death rate among coronavirus patients in veterans hospitals treated with hydroxychloroquine than in those treated with “standard care.” As well, the two drugs can cause serious side effects including heart rhythm abnormalities, severely low blood pressure and muscle or nerve damage.
At a White House briefing Thursday, President Donald Trump wondered aloud if UV (ultraviolet) light or household disinfectant injections or going out on a hot day could treat coronavirus infections. Public health experts and Reckitt Benckiser, Britain-based manufacturer of Lysol, have quickly denounced Trump’s ideas as dangerous, warning the public against the potentially deadly ingestion of household disinfectants such as Lysol and bleach.
As multiple CNN commentators have explained, household disinfectants and possibly heat and the UV light in sunlight as well may kill the coronavirus on surfaces. That is, however, altogether different from using UV light or household disinfectants inside the human body to kill the virus, or going outside on a hot day. Meanwhile, ABC Newsreported Friday morning that Trump claimed he was being “sarcastic” in his comments.
Nation Starts Controversial Reopening As Coronavirus Continues to Spread
On Thursday, President Trump announced that he may extend the national stay-at-home guidelines, which are scheduled to expire April 30, into May.
Many state-level shelter-in-place orders will expire by late April, including Michigan, Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Maine, and Mississippi, among others. In a few places, including Connecticut, Delaware, and the District of Columbia, the stay-at-home orders extend into May. California’s stay-at-home order currently has no end date.
Alaska, Indiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Florida have stated that they want elective surgeries to return as soon as possible. Georgia, on the other hand, will even be opening bowling alleys, theaters, and restaurants.
These disparate strategies have become a source of controversy, with some in the medical community taking issue with the rapid rate of reopening due to concerns over the ongoing or potentially increased spread of COVID-19.
Some states, like Nebraska, Arkansas, and North Dakota never issued a stay-at-home order, although non-essential businesses in North Dakota are closed through April 30.
Second Wave of Coronavirus Infections Possible, CDC Director Warns
With the reopening of states looming on the horizon, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield has a troubling message: This is not over.
“There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” Redfield told The Washington Post in an interview. “And when I’ve said this to others, they kind of put their head back, they don’t understand what I mean.”
Redfield stated that we were lucky that Covid-19 arose at the tail end of the annual flu season. He believes that fighting two respiratory bugs simultaneously could cripple our healthcare system.
Redfield has implored all citizens to get a flu vaccine. According to The Washington Post, Redfield said that getting vaccinated “may allow there to be a hospital bed available for your mother or grandmother that may get coronavirus.”
FDA Approves At-Home Coronavirus Collection Kits
On Tuesday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced its emergency authorization of the first at-home coronavirus test kit, “Pixel,” developed and manufactured by LabCorp. The test will initially be made available to health care workers and first responders and then to consumers in most states within weeks, as reported by CBS News.
This potential increase in testing availability could greatly improve the efficacy of state and national responses to the Covid-19 crisis.
“Throughout this pandemic we have been facilitating test development to ensure patients access to accurate diagnostics, which includes supporting the development of reliable and accurate at-home sample collection options,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said in an agency statement.
The Pixel at-home test kit, which requires a doctor’s orders, contains nasal swabs and saline. Once a patient swabs their nasal cavity, they mail the sample in an insulated package to a LabCorp lab for testing.
Combatting Coronavirus Crisis Ventilator Shortages
Research + Findings
Two groups from Yale School of Medicine, working independently, have developed methods of sharing ventilators between two patients that address existing issues with the process known as ventilator splitting.
Dr. Laura Niklason, Nicholas Greene Professor of Anesthesiology and professor of biomedical engineering at Yale University School of Medicine has developed the Pressure Regulated Ventilator Splitting response paradigm, or “PReVentS” system, with her team. Yale New Haven Hospital resident Dr. Peter Kahn meanwhile has worked with his team to develop the “Vent Multiplexor.”
The Yale teams have each designed ventilator modifications that treat two patients simultaneously and separately by altering the volume or pressure to match each patient’s needs independently. While the Vent Multiplexor received FDA approval on April 15, both of these innovative medical devices could provide hospitals with solutions while manufacturers construct additional ventilators to ease the strain on hospitals.
By James Parker
James Parker is a news writer and fact-checker from Coral Springs, Florida. He majored in Communication and Media Studies at Stetson University, where he spent much of his time bringing the cutting edge of medical research to his peers’ attention. When he’s not writing, he enjoys rewatching “Almost Famous” or curling up with a good book.