Posts Tagged “Coronavirus”

Israeli Lab Says Antiviral Drug May Work Against Coronavirus

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Israeli Lab Says Antiviral Drug May Work Against Coronavirus

Israeli scientists at the Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) have found that a combination of two existing antiviral drugs for Gaucher disease appears to inhibit the growth of SARS CoV-2, the virus that leads to COVID-19 and may work against other viral infections, including a common flu strain.

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The IIBR is a governmental research center specializing in biology, chemistry and environmental sciences that falls under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s Office. During the pandemic, announcements have been issued by the Defense Ministry.

According to a press announcement on Tuesday, scientists at the secretive bio-defense lab-tested an analog of the FDA-approved drug Cerdelga, and an analog of a second drug, Venglustat, currently in advanced trials. They found that, in combination, the drugs led to a significant reduction in the replication capacity of the coronavirus and to the destruction of the infected cells.

The two drugs are used to treat Gaucher disease, an inherited genetic condition most common in people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent that leads to the buildup of fatty substances in certain organs, particularly the spleen and liver, and can affect their function. The disease can also lead to skeletal abnormalities and blood disorders, In rare cases, Gaucher disease can also lead to brain inflammation, according to the Mayo Clinic. The disease is unrelated to COVID-19.

The Israeli researchers tested the drugs on mouse models using four different RNA viruses: Neuroinvasive Sindbis virus (SVNI), an infection transmitted via mosquitos that can lead to years of debilitating musculoskeletal symptoms; West Nile virus (WNV), also a mosquito-borne disease that can cause neurological disease and is potentially fatal; Influenza A virus, a strain of the flu; and SARS-CoV-2.

The researchers found that the two drugs were effective in all four cases. They work by inhibiting glucosylceramide synthase *GCS), an enzyme involved in the production of glucocerebroside, a lipid that accumulates in the tissues of patients affected with Gaucher disease. In the lab setting, they inhibited the replication of the viruses, and in the case of mice infected with SVNI, increased their survival rate.

In the case of COVID-19, the drugs “have an antiviral effect on the SARS-CoV-2 clinical isolate in vitro, with a single dose able to significantly inhibit viral replication within 24–48 h.”

The two drugs are currently being tested for their effectiveness in treating animals infected with the coronavirus.

The study, published in bioRxiv, has not yet been peer-reviewed. The authors are all from the IIBR’s Department of Infectious Diseases

The data suggests that “GCS inhibitors can potentially serve as a broad-spectrum antiviral therapy and should be further examined in preclinical and clinical trial,” the scientists wrote, adding that repurposing approved drugs can lead “to significantly reduced timelines and required investment in making treatment available.

“Treatment of a new disease such as COVID-19 using an existing, approved drug may serve as an effective short-term solution considering that one of the major challenges in addressing such a pandemic is the length of time it takes for both the research and approval phases of new drugs,” the Defense Ministry wrote in the announcement.

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Israeli Data Scientists Believe The End ‘of the peak’ of Coronavirus is Near

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Israeli Data Scientists Believe The End ‘of the peak’ of Coronavirus is Near

An Israeli data scientist from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has suggested that the “end of the coronavirus peak” is just weeks away.

Professor Mark Last, a BGU professor at the Department of Software and Information Systems Engineering and head of the university’s Data Science Research Center, tells NoCamels that a data model he created based on both daily deaths attributed to coronavirus, reported by the Israeli Ministry of Health, and published results of serological tests (tests that look for antibodies) indicates that, in a few weeks, coronavirus infection rates will begin to decline. Furthermore, according to the model, another lockdown is not necessary and herd immunity is imminent.

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“Soon we should have enough people in the population who were at some stage infected with the coronavirus and these people have antibodies,” he says. “We should have enough people to cause a decline in the daily number of new infections. That’s the thing — according to my model, it should happen within the next few weeks. I cannot say exactly when, it’s an estimation, but that’s the forecast.”

When pressed further, Prof. Last said it could happen as soon as two to three weeks, but he cannot give an exact time.

“I cannot say exactly in 10 days, it’s going to happen. I don’t have such accurate data.”

“Lockdown is the perfect solution to stop the pandemic if you can keep it forever,” Prof. Last says, “But every day of a lockdown has some kind of cost associated with it. And the benefit would be very short because after it ends, everything goes [back to normal], and then we have more cases when things reopen.”

Israel was one of the first countries hit by the coronavirus crisis to go into a national lockdown for about five weeks between March and April before reopening in May. But during the lockdown, the country’s unemployment rate skyrocketed to over 25 percent, with over a million people out of work at the time.

Herd immunity
Herd immunity occurs when a large percentage of the population becomes immune to a disease, which makes the spread of disease from person to person unlikely, according to the Mayo Clinic.

According to his calculations, Prof. Last suggests that herd immunity is around the corner because “we need 1.16 million people with antibodies in order to achieve herd immunity and we are very close to that number.”

Last says that a report based on tests conducted by a Health Ministry team, initial serological tests indicate that only one in 10 of Israel’s coronavirus cases is actually confirmed.

“Their conclusion was that the ratio of the actual number of infected people to the number of confirmed cases is 10 to one,” he explains, “So you can take the total number of confirmed cases reported this morning, something like 114,000 and you multiply it by 10 and you get an estimated number of people with antibodies of the total number of people who were infected.”

He says this assumption is based on international research that has certain populations being given antibody blood tests to show who had the virus at some point.

Prof. Last noted that international research suggests that the number varies between five and 10, according to antibody blood tests that show who had the virus. Thus, he says Israel’s one in 10 ratio is quite reasonable.

“If the number is larger, it means that there is a larger amount of people who are infected and probably they have no symptoms, they’re not aware of the fact that they’re infected,” he says.

While no one can know the actual number of infected cases in the country unless the entire population is tested every day, Prof. Last says that according to these numbers “we now have slightly above one million people with antibodies in Israel and we need at least 1.2 million.

Mortality rate
Prof. Last’s data model predicts the country’s mortality rate, the number of daily death cases attributed to COVID-19, and it can be evaluated by comparing a predicted cumulative number of deaths in Israel, and the actual number.

“In my testing experiments, I found out that this model stays pretty accurate for a relatively long period of time. I’m talking about at least a few weeks and even longer in Israel. “We have excellent numbers. It’s not related to my model, but generally we have excellent numbers in terms of the mortality rates for criticially ill patients.”

While the numbers may seem high — the death toll in Israel currently stands at 922, according to figures from the Health Ministry (Hebrew) — Prof. Last admits that his data model has been fairly accurate.

“On August 4, my model predicted 929 death cases by Aug. 31,” he said.

Prof. Last also says that Israel’s health system has managed to keep the percentage of deaths from COVID-19 to under one percent, out of the total number of confirmed cases, while other countries had higher rates such as Italy with 16 percent and Sweden with 14 percent.

“The average daily mortality rate is not going up for probably about two months now,” he explains. “If you look at the so-called number of confirmed cases, it is also very stable.”

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Health announced that it had undercounted Israel’s COVID-19 deaths and that it had failed to include 53 fatalities at senior living homes during July and August in its official count.

For Prof. Last, this was a good sign. He had believed that there was some strange discrepancy, which gave him doubts about the reliability of his model.

“Then, one day, they announced that actually some cases were not reported initially, and I put the new numbers on the curve. And I see that the predictions and the actual numbers aligned together,” he tells NoCamels, “After they corrected the reporting, my model became much more accurate.”

Prof. Last remains cautiously optimistic about the COVID-19 pandemic in Israel.

“I don’t think we need any significant change in the current policy, in the current restrictions,” he tells NoCamels, “But we should get used to these restrictions because probably we’ll have to live with these restrictions for quite some time.”

“We are heading in the right direction,” he adds in a BGU statement, “but it is important not to relax our restrictions or get overconfident.”

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Israeli Robot Deployed to Combat Coronavirus

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Israeli Robot Deployed to Combat Coronavirus

An Israeli-made AI-powered robot assistant is being used in hundreds of hospitals, medical centers, nursing homes, and corporate buildings in Asia to help minimize human-to-human contact as millions of people take precautions due to the novel coronavirus outbreak worldwide.

Israeli startup Robotemi, the developer of the Temi robot assistant, says the product has already been distributed to hundreds of locations throughout Southeast Asia including China, Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong. The Temi was initially conceived as a companion to senior citizens and busy families and executives and was not specifically intended to help with a virus outbreak but that is exactly what is happening, the Israeli company says.

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The Temi, which the company calls the world’s first intelligent personal AI robot, is a mobile, smart-display assistant, featuring human-robot interaction capabilities and characteristics. Standing at three feet tall and featuring a 10-inch tablet for a head and thin, curved body on top of a base, the Temi can roll on four small wheels for as much as eight hours on battery power. It connects over Wi-Fi, LTE, and Bluetooth has a built-in sound system and can be used with Amazon’s Alexa technology. It also has an autonomous navigation system that allows it to move around on its own while avoiding obstacles.

As the novel coronavirus began spreading starting in late December, the Robotemi team, which is headquartered in New York with an R&D lab in Tel Aviv and a manufacturing location in Shenzhen (China), decided to add special features to the robot including a thermometer, a thermal camera, and even a sink attached to the machine where employees can wash their hands.

“In China, there are regulations currently in place where an employee arriving at the office must get his body temperature before continuing his day. Temi is standing at the front door waiting for him,” Goren explained, “There is a thermometer installed on top of the robot. It can measure the employee’s temperature and show the number on its screen.”

This is not only done in places of work, he explained. It can be integrated wherever there is a Temi, like in hotels, stores, and restaurants.

As the novel coronavirus continues to spread across the world, with infections confirmed in over 60 countries, large conferences and events are being canceled and more people are avoiding large crowds and gatherings for fear of contracting the virus. France went as far as banning all indoor gatherings of more than 5,000 people over the weekend, and countries across the globe are updating travel restrictions as the US and Australia recorded their first death from the virus. The future of the 2020 summer Olympics in Japan is also in question.

As of March 1, over 2,900 people have died after contracting the virus,
known as 2019-nCoV and which causes COVID-19, and over 85,000 have been infected globally, with a majority in China. South Korea, Italy, and Iran are also recording a growing number of confirmed coronavirus cases.

Thousands of people are in either hospitalized quarantine or home isolation as international health officials try to get a handle on the spread. In China, authorities locked down major parts of Hubei province – home to over 50 million people – where the outbreak was first recorded in the city of Wuhan.

While global travel restrictions are still being heavily enforced, others are cautiously leaving quarantine and heading back to work — but not without emergency measures in place to reduce the risk of exposure.

“Many businesses and offices already have Temi but now it is being used for specific purposes related to coronavirus,” Goren says.

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Sheba Hospital To Treat Coronavirus Victims

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Sheba Hospital To Treat Coronavirus Victims

Israel’s Sheba Medical Center is set to use top-of-the-line Israeli tele-medicine technologies to care for 11 nationals making their way back from a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship docked off the coast of Japan for the past several weeks. The Israelis are expected to arrive at the hospital early Friday where they will be placed in isolation for the next 14 days.

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The patients do not have any symptoms of the novel coronavirus which has so far (as of February 20) infected over 75,000 and killed over 2,1000 people, mainly in mainland China, but the 14-day quarantine is in accordance with guidelines set out by the World Health Organization. Three Israelis traveling on the ship, the Diamond Princess, were diagnosed with the coronavirus, currently known as 2019-nCoV and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and are currently hospitalized in Japan. The ship was carrying over 3,700 people from more than 40 countries.

The 11 Israelis will be housed in an isolation unit at an evacuated hotel on the Sheba campus but away from the main hospital, the medical center said in a statement.

Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like.

The hospital will be using technologies such as medical robots, devices and AI-powered sensors operated remotely by doctors to monitor patients and conduct basic check-ups. Participating Israeli companies include Tyto Care, a tele-health company that developed handheld, at-home examination devices that examine the heart, lungs, skin, ears, throat and abdomen, as well as measure body temperature; Datos, a big data platform and app that allows for continuous contact with patients and leverages patient-generated health data for care delivery; and EarlySense, which developed a clipboard-sized sensor that can be embedded in any mattress to monitor sleep, vital signs, and motion, leveraging AI and big data analytics to help clinicians in early detection of patient deterioration

“As Israel welcomes home its citizens from the Diamond Princess cruise who have been directly affected by the coronavirus, Tyto Care is honored to be working with Sheba Medical Center to provide the safest, highest quality medical care to the patients during the quarantine period to help stem the spread of the virus,” said Dedi Gilad, Tyto Care CEO and co-founder. Each of the 12 patients will receive a Tyto Care device to perform comprehensive medical examinations on themselves which “will provide Sheba staff the clinical data they require to make fully informed decisions from a safe distance, without physical exposure to the patients or any contact between the patients.”

“Our solution ensures complete isolation without sacrificing the quality of medical care, preventing further escalation during this critical time,” added Gilad.

Dr. Galia Barkai, director of tele-medicine services at Sheba said, “Datos’ solution can help us greatly reduce this risk by enabling us to monitor less severe patients outside the hospital …with the telemedicine app enabling us to communicate with them via video whenever necessary.”

Professor Arnon Afek, deputy director-general of the Sheba Medical Center and the director of Sheba’s General Hospital said: “We are using some of the world’s most sophisticated high-tech tele-medicine applications taken from our startup ecosystem at Sheba and Israel, using sensors, robots, hand-held devices in order to minimize exposure to our medical staff. The goal is to make our returning citizens feel comfortable in an environment where they will know that all of their needs will be taken care of.”

Professor Afek said the hospital will be doing its utmost “to minimize and eliminate the danger to the public by isolating the returning Israeli citizens,” and is had been preparing for a potential outbreak in the country.

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