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Possible Treatment For Coronavirus Found With Chloroquine; India Bans Its Exports

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A recent research in China and France including the use of hydroxychloroquine and its close relative chloroquine touted as a way to treat people with severe Covid-19 has sparked hopes around the world but has also created a shortfall of the drug for lupus patients.

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Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are both used to treat acute cases of malaria as well as certain autoimmune disorders like lupus. But scientists have long speculated that both drugs have a broad antiviral effect. Earlier research in the lab had specifically shown these drugs could kill the SARS virus, closely related to the new coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2.

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Most recently, reports from doctors in China and France treating severe Covid-19 patients reported success with using hydroxychloroquine, sometimes in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin. The mayor of the French city of Nice, Christian Estrosi, said on television Monday that he was on his sixth day of treatment and has “the sense I’ve been cured.”

The reports in China and France prompted President Donald Trump to call chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as potential “game-changer”, spurring a rush by some individuals – and countries, including Algeria and Indonesia – to stockpile these drugs. India, meanwhile, has announced it will ban the export of the drug.

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Such is the interest in chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, that the World Health Organization identified them as one of four potential therapies to include in a global trial known as Solidarity, along with three other potential drug therapies.

However, Trump’s own public health experts and outside researchers have warned that more thorough research was needed to assert any promising treatment for Covid-19 before its common use. Dr Anthony Stephen Fauci, a leading member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, told reporters there is no solid evidence that hydroxychloroquine would be an effective therapy for COVID-19.

“The evidence that you’re talking about is anecdotal evidence,” he said during a briefing last week. “As the commissioner of FDA and the president mentioned yesterday, we’re trying to strike a balance between making something with a potential of an effect to the American people available at the same time that we do it under the auspices of a protocol that would give us information to determine if it’s truly safe and truly effective. But, the information that you’re referring to specifically is anecdotal. It was not done in a controlled clinical trial, so you really can’t make any definitive statement about it.”

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Chloroquine Related Death

Tragically, a Phoenix-area man died and his wife is in critical condition after taking chloroquine phosphate, an additive used to treat parasitic infestations in aquarium. The cleaning agent has the same active ingredient as the medicine chloroquine but is formulated differently (chloroquine can easily be toxic in a very high dose).

The woman said she had seen a televised briefing wherein Donald Trump discussed the potential benefits of chloroquine as a treatment Covid-19.  “We saw his press conference. It was on a lot, actually,” she said. “Trump kept saying it was basically pretty much the cure.” “We were afraid of getting sick.”

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They mixed a small amount of the substance with liquid to drink. Within 20 minutes, both fell ill. “I started vomiting,” she said. “My husband started developing respiratory problems.”

Last week, Nigerian health officials also issued a warning regarding the drug’s misuse after hospitals in Lagos, the nation’s capital, began reporting patients suspected of chloroquine poisoning. At least three people are believed to be hospitalised.

Despite President Donald Trump’s praise and the interest in chloroquine as an anti-viral treatment, it has proved to be a dead-end before in human trials for other viruses, including dengue and chikungunya.

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Inconclusive Evidence

But given the early success of these drugs, doctors have already started carrying out their own small, controlled clinical trials. According to a study published in the Journal of Zhejiang University in China, results were inconclusive that hydroxychloroquine can treat Covid-19.

The sample size was very small and secondly, the study didn’t test the combination of azithromycin, which researchers theorize can have an added anti-inflammatory effect and help treat severe Covid-19 cases where people are infected by bacteria along with the coronavirus.

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In the trials, 50 per cent patients out of a total of 30 that had been hospitalized with Covid-19 were given standard care while the other 50% received hydroxychloroquine for five days alongside this care. The patients also had their throats routinely swapped for the genetic presence of the virus with a negative result indicating that the active infection had passed.

By day seven, most people in either group had negative throat swabs, with no clear advantage seen for those on hydroxychloroquine. There was also no significant difference in the amount of time it took patients in either group to stop having symptoms such as a high fever (one person’s condition in the hydroxychloroquine group worsened severely, but all had improved by the end of the trial).

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The French study that attracted the most attention also suggested the same. Doctors gave hydroxychloroquine to 26 people with confirmed coronavirus infections, including some with no symptoms. Six also were given the antibiotic azithromycin.

After six days, no patients given hydroxychloroquine plus azithromycin had virus detected in swabs from the back of the nose, versus 57% of those given the malaria drug alone and 12.5% of some other patients who received neither drug.

That’s encouraging, but many things could have affected the outcome, such as how sick people were, when they were treated, what other treatments they received, as well as their age, gender and underlying health conditions. The results do not mean a complete dead end for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, but it is a clear lesson regarding why any experimental treatment shouldn’t be hyped too early.

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Researchers, however, have not lost hopes and yet another study that is currently underway is one led by the University of Minnesota throughout the U.S. to see if hydroxychloroquine can prevent people exposed to the virus from getting sick or reduce the severity of illness.

But Trump’s proclamation has prevented many lupus patients from getting the necessary drug leaving them with even more uncertainty and fear. The autoimmune disease afflicts about 1.5 million Americans, predominantly women and African Americans for whom the clock is ticking.

Hydroxychloroquine is used to treat a number of ailments and diseases, including malaria attacks, rheumatoid arthritis and most commonly, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Those who suffer from SLE use the drug to protect their kidneys and heart and to prevent flare-ups associated with the autoimmune disease.

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Chloroquine has been used to treat malaria since the 1930s. Hydroxychloroquine came along a decade later and has fewer side effects. The latter is sold in generic form and under the brand name Plaquenil for use against several diseases.

The drugs can cause heart rhythm problems, severely low blood pressure and muscle or nerve damage. Plaquenil’s label warns of possible damage to the retina, especially when used at higher doses, for longer times and with certain other medicines such as the breast cancer drug tamoxifen.

That’s where the evidence comes in — and, so far, there is not much. Hydroxychloroquine curbed coronavirus’ ability to enter cells in lab tests, researchers reported last week in the journal Nature Medicine. That doesn’t mean it would do the same in people or that they could tolerate the doses tested in the lab.

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Hagia Sophia: Turkey turns iconic Istanbul museum of Hagia Sophia into mosque

The court ruled that Hagia Sophia was owned by a foundation established by Sultan Mehmet II, also known as Mehmet the Conqueror, and was presented to the community as a mosque. According to the ruling, Hagia Sophia was defined as a “mosque,” a status that cannot be legally changed.

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The iconic Istanbul museum of Hagia Sophia will be turned into a mosque. Hours after a landmark court ruling Friday (July 10), the Turkish government confirmed that Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia will be reopened for worship after an 85-year hiatus.

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The nearly 1,500-year-old architectural gem will be transferred to the state Religious Affairs Directorate under a presidential decree, according to a Friday announcement in the Official Gazette.

Earlier Friday, ruling on a petition filed by an Istanbul NGO, Turkey’s Council of State overturned a 1934 Cabinet decree that had turned Hagia Sophia into a museum.

The court ruled that Hagia Sophia was owned by a foundation established by Sultan Mehmet II, also known as Mehmet the Conqueror, and was presented to the community as a mosque. According to the ruling, Hagia Sophia was defined as a “mosque,” a status that cannot be legally changed.

After centuries of use as a church under the Byzantine Empire, in 1453 Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque by Mehmet II following his conquest of Istanbul. In 1935, Hagia Sophia was turned into a museum. Posting his decree on social media today, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed best wishes for the change, which he has long advocated.

While details of the change are not yet known, Turkish officials have pointed out that many famed houses of worship, such as Paris’ Notre Dame and Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, are also open to visitors.

“Opening up Hagia Sophia to worship won’t keep local or foreign tourists from visiting the site,” Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan’s spokesman, told Anadolu Agency in an interview this week. Turkey is home to people of many faiths who can freely exercise their religions, he added.

World Reacts To Decision On Hagia Sophia

The Russian Orthodox Church expressed shock at Turkey’s decision to withdraw the museum status of Hagia Sophia, blaming it of disregarding voices of millions of Christians. “The concern of millions of Christians has not been heard,” Russian Orthodox Church spokesman Vladimir Legoida stated.

“Today’s court ruling shows that all calls for the need for extreme delicacy in this matter were ignored,” Legoida said.

UNESCO said its World Heritage Committee would review Hagia Sophia’s status, saying it was “regrettable that the Turkish decision was not the subject of dialogue nor notification beforehand”.

“UNESCO calls on the Turkish authorities to open a dialogue without delay in order to avoid a step back from the universal value of this exceptional heritage whose preservation will be reviewed by the World Heritage Committee in its next session,” the UN’ cultural body said in a statement.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides tweeted –  Cyprus “strongly condemns Turkey’s actions on Hagia Sophia in its effort to distract domestic opinion and calls on Turkey to respect its international obligations”.

Christodoulides said Turkey’s “escalating, flagrant violation of its international obligations is manifested in its decision to alter the designation of Hagia Sophia, a World Heritage Site that is a universal symbol of the Orthodox faith”.

Later, Greece called Turkey’s move an “open provocation to the civilised world”. “The nationalism displayed by Erdogan … takes his country back six centuries,” Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said in a statement.

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Indian Air Force Receives Complete Delivery Apache, Chinook Helicopters

Boeing India also tweeted: Thank you, @IAF_MCC, for your partnership. We’re happy to have completed the deliveries of the 22 #AH64-E Apache and 15 #Chinook helicopters to India.

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The Indian Air Force (IAF) has received the delivery of all AH-64E Apache and CH-47F(I) Chinook helicopters today. The final five of the 22 Apache attack helicopters were handed over to the IAF at Air Force Station, Hindon.

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Earlier, Boeing had handed over the last five of 15 CH-47F (I) Chinook heavy-lift helicopters to the Indian Air Force, read a statement. India is one of 17 nations to select the Apache and has opted for the most advanced version of the attack helicopter.

“Customer centricity, commitment to the modernization and mission-readiness of India’s defence forces are key values to our partnership with India,” said Surendra Ahuja, Managing Director, Boeing Defence India.

“With this delivery of military helicopters, we continue to nurture this partnership and are fully committed to working closely with India’s defence forces to deliver the right value and capabilities to meet their operational needs,” Ahuja added.

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COVID-19 Exposes India, Philippines To Higher Risk Of Cancer; Australia, Malaysia Safest – Index

According to an index prepared by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Australia, Malaysia and South Korea are most prepared to meet the burden of more cancer cases. Meanwhile, India, the Philippines and Vietnam are ill-prepared to face such a challenge. 

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As people living in Asian countries get richer and lead to sedimentary and unhealthy lifestyles, cancer is predicted to increases. However, countries such as Australia, Malaysia and South-Korea are well prepared to battle cancer while countries such as India and the Philippines are ill-prepared.

According to an index prepared by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Australia, Malaysia and South Korea are most prepared to meet the burden of more cancer cases. Meanwhile, India, the Philippines and Vietnam are ill-prepared to face such a challenge.

The EIU has warned of a mini-tsunami of cancer cases as the coronavirus subsides and patients feel safe to visit hospitals. Out of fear of catching the coronavirus, cancer patients have avoided getting treatments done at hospitals.

Even hospitals put cancer treatment on the back burner as a top priority was given to curing COVID-19 cases. In the Philippines, for instance, cancer patients who were no longer able to attend advanced medical facilities were simply discharged into the wider community without any continuity of care.

The index measured the preparedness of 10 Asia-Pacific countries using 45 indicators and created a scorecard for each country, with 100 being most prepared.

Australia led the ranking with a score of 92.4, followed by South Korea with 83.4, and Malaysia with 80.3. All three have rigorous vaccination programs, including for hepatitis B which is linked to liver cancer, and HPV which can cause cervical cancer.

These countries tend to be aggressive in gathering information about individual cases at a national level so policymakers can understand the scale of the problem and design effective responses.

The rankings indicate that the three countries mentioned above have managed to keep the mortality rate down. This indicates that they are either detecting cancers at an early stage and/or are able to treat their patients effectively. Cancers that are more advanced are difficult to cure.

Unhealthy Habits a Cause of Concern

Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia, are all rapidly growing economies whose populations have developed bad habits such as smoking. For example, nearly 40% of Indonesians aged 15 and older smoke.

Similarly, obesity amongst children in Thailand and Indonesia, countries where medical services are harder to access, could become a problem in the near future.

The EIU suggests that governments could support low-income groups by subsidizing health care costs and that patients should not have to pay more than 20% of their medical bills. 62.4% of medical expenses are still paid by patients in India, 53% in the Philippines, 45.3% in Vietnam and 36.1% in China.

Presently, governments Government health care expenditure is also low in these countries, at just 3.4% of total expenditure in New Delhi, 7.1% in the Manila, 9.1% in Beijing and 9.5% in Hanoi.

In terms of service affordability, accessibility to cancer treatments such as radiotherapy and cancer research, Japan tops the list. Tokyo has prioritized tackling the disease ever since it became the leading cause of deaths from 1981.

However, Japan has a poor track record for data collection, an issue that also became clear during the coronavirus crisis and is slow in introducing vaccination programs. The EIU also noted “a concerning prevalence of modifiable risk factors such as smoking and alcohol consumption in Japan,” and urged the government to promote healthier lifestyles.

Despite having advance medical facilities and superior services, cancer patients in Japan have a higher mortality rate than patients in Australia and South Korea.

Cancers are caused by damage to genes and such genetic errors tend to increase with age, obesity and bad habits, such as smoking, alcohol consumption and a lack of exercise. Half of the cancer patients in the world currently live in Asia. By 2030, cancer cases are expected to rise by 35% in the region, even as its population is expected to grow just 9%.

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