Archive for January 2022

WHO recommends two new drugs to treat COVID-19

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Treatment

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are a fevercoughing, and breathing problems. Unless you have severe symptoms, you can most likely treat them at home, the way you would for a cold or the flu. Most people recover from COVID-19 without the need for hospital care. Call your doctor to ask about whether you should stay home or get medical care in person.

Scientists are trying to make new medicines and test some existing drugs to see whether they can treat COVID-19. In the meantime, there are a number of things that can relieve symptoms, both at home and at the hospital.

At-Home Coronavirus Treatment

If your symptoms are mild enough that you can recover at home, you should:

  • Rest. It can make you feel better and may speed your recovery.
  • Stay home. Don’t go to work, school, or public places.
  • Drink fluids. You lose more water when you’re sick. Dehydration can make symptoms worse and cause other health problems.
  • Monitor. If your symptoms get worse, call your doctor right away. Don’t go to their office without calling first. They might tell you to stay home, or they may need to take extra steps to protect staff and other patients.
  • Ask your doctor about over-the-counter medicines that may help, like acetaminophen to lower your fever.

The most important thing to do is to avoid infecting other people, especially those who are over 65 or who have other health problems.

That means:

  • Try to stay in one place in your home. Use a separate bedroom and bathroom if you can.
  • Tell others you’re sick so they keep their distance.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your elbow.
  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth if you can.
  • Wash regularly, especially your hands.
  • Don’t share dishes, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with anyone else.
  • Clean and disinfect common surfaces like doorknobs, counters, and tabletops.

What to expect

Symptoms begin 2 to 14 days after you come into contact with the virus. Many people who have mild infections recover within 2 weeks. More severe cases tend to last 3 to 6 weeks.

Talk to your doctor about how long you should isolate yourself if you have symptoms. CDC guidelines say you can leave isolation when all of these are true:

  • You haven’t had a fever for 24 hours.
  • Your respiratory symptoms, such as coughing or shortness of breath, are better.
  • It’s been at least 5 days since your symptoms began.

How do you know if your symptoms are getting worse?

Get medical care right away if you begin to have:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Pain or pressure in your chest
  • Confusion or severe drowsiness
  • A blue tint to your lips or face

Coronavirus Treatment in a Hospital

You don’t need to go to the hospital or ER if you have basic COVID-19 symptoms, like a mild fever or cough. If you do, many hospitals will send you home.

If your case is severe, members of the medical staff will check for signs that the illness is causing more serious problems. They might:

  • Check the levels of oxygen in your blood with a clip-on finger monitor
  • Listen to your lungs
  • Give you a COVID-19 test. This involves putting a 6-inch cotton swab up both sides of your nose for about 15 seconds.
  • Give you a chest X-ray or CT scan

You may get extra oxygen through two small tubes that go just inside your nostrils. In very serious cases, doctors will connect you to a machine that can breathe for you, called a ventilator.

You may also get fluids through a tube, or IV, in your arm to keep you from getting dehydrated. Doctors will also closely monitor your breathing. The goal is for your infection to run its course and for your lungs to heal enough that they can breathe on their own again.

Your doctors may give you an antiviral medicine called remdesivir (Veklury). Remdesivir is the first drug approved by the FDA for treatment of hospitalized COVID patients over the age of 12.  Research shows that some patients recover faster after taking it. Remdesivir was created to fight Ebola, but the FDA has issued an emergency use ruling so doctors can use it against COVID-19.

Your doctor might also give you medication to thin your blood and prevent clots.

If you take drugs such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), or statins for other health problems, your doctor will tell you to continue them as usual.

The FDA has issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for drugs called monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID-19. Sotrovimab or a combination of casirivimab and imdevimab (REGEN-COV) can be given to high-risk patients who have recently been diagnosed with mild to moderate illness to lower levels of the virus in their bodies and lower the risk of hospitalization. REGEN-COV has also been granted EUA for preventative treatment in high-risk people who have been exposed to COVID-19.

The FDA also recently set an EUA for Pfizer’s drug, called Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir tablets and ritonavir tablets), to treat mild to moderate COVID-19. Adults and children over 12 years old (and weighing at least 88 pounds) can use this medication. Paxlovid can only treat positive COVID-19 cases. You won’t get this drug to prevent the virus if you were exposed but don’t yet have the virus.

Many clinical trials are underway to explore treatments used for other conditions that could fight COVID-19 and to develop new ones. The FDA has also granted an EAU of blood plasma from people who’ve recovered from COVID-19 in order to help patients with severe or life-threatening cases. You’ll hear this called convalescent plasma.

Clinical trials are under way for other medications, including tocilizumab, which has been used to treat autoimmune conditions and an inflammatory condition called cytokine release syndrome.

The FDA rescinded its emergency authorization for the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat people who are hospitalized with COVID-19 amid serious concerns about their safety and how well they worked against the virus. The medications are approved to treat malaria and autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

One study found that dexamethasone, a common steroid medication, can help people who are hospitalized with severe COVID-19 complications. But the findings are preliminary, and the researchers haven’t released the full study.

Paxlovid, Pfizer’s Covid-19 pill

Anyone seeking Paxlovid, which must be prescribed within five days of the first symptoms, should be sure to let their prescribers and pharmacists know the complete lists of other medications and over-the-counter supplements they are taking.

Some medications, such as particular statins, are most likely safe to stop taking during treatment with the Covid pills. For example, it might be better to stay on certain blood thinners but to lower the doses. Some heart rhythm drugs cannot be taken with Paxlovid.

Conversely, some anti-seizure medications can boost liver enzymes’ metabolic action and thus lower the body’s Paxlovid levels, as can the herbal supplement St. John’s Wort. The FDA warned that they should not be combined with Paxlovid.

Because the Paxlovid treatment is brief — 30 pills, taken asthree pills twice a day for five days — experts are hopeful that the risk of adverse interactions with other medications is low. 

“Five days of interactions is not a big deal for the majority of drugs,” said Jason Gallagher, a clinical pharmacy specialist in infectious diseases at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia. 

If a drug’s potential interaction with Paxlovid poses too much of a risk, a safe and effective alternative Covid-19 therapy would be GlaxoSmithKline’s sotrovimab — the sole authorized monoclonal antibody treatment that research indicates reliably neutralizes the omicron variant of the virus. Otherwise, the antiviral molnupiravir is an option, albeit one with a much lower efficacy than either Paxlovid or sotrovimab. 

Even with the concerns about taking Paxlovid with other prescription medications, experts are excited about the drug’s potential. 

Goal setting

When it comes to setting New Year resolutions, most people struggle to adhere to them as they are too vague, ambitious or unmeasurable. 

“But the key to success is taking the right approach.”

Consider the meaning of the word ‘resolution’ (a firm decision to do or not to do something) versus ‘goal’ – (the object of a person’s ambition or effort, an aim or desired result). 

goal is something to work towards and allows for lapses along the way, but the idea is to reach it and move on to the next thing.

For professionals embracing the new world of hybrid work, which typically affords better work-life balance (as people are able to combine working in an HQ with being based at home and at a local coworking space).

There is more scope in 2022 to 

• upgrade skills

• improve time management and

• invest in personal wellbeing. 

Here are five tips for setting goals – and achieving them…

Choose a ‘power’ word

Sometimes simplicity is the best approach. Choosing a ‘power’ word that has resonance for the New Year acts as a way of guiding you in your decision making and helps to remind you of your priorities as you balance time at your desk with looking after loved ones, for example. 

American philanthropist Melinda Gates is an advocate of selecting a ‘word of the year’.

“In 2016, my word of the year was gentle, which, for me, functioned as a reminder to go easy on myself, to fight the pull of perfectionism, and to encourage others around me to do the same. The next year, my word was spacious, which encouraged me to make room for the things that matter. Last year, my word was grace.”

She says that a well-chosen word “makes the year better – and it helps me be better, too”.

Focus on one objective at a time.

Having too many competing goals will detract from your chance of success, so a good approach is to eliminate the distraction of other ambitious targets by putting your focus on one at a time. 

It can also be helpful to break down a “BHAG” (“big hairy audacious goal”) by deciding on more manageable aims that can be achieved over a set timeline.

For example, instead of saying you want to have a team of 100 employees by the summer, focus on recruiting more gradually and keep the business lean, perhaps working with freelancers and contractors, to retain a degree of flexibility

Focusing on the exact projects or tasks you need help with, will give you clarity in your decision-making.

Stack your successes

Success is addictive, so setting achievable targets that you can ‘stack’ one on top of the other once they are done can be incredibly motivating

The method works like this – you say: “After I have got a new accountant, I will work on my financial forecasts.”

The approach is also effective at building better habits

For example: “After I have done one hour of emails in the morning, I will go for a run.” 

The nature of hybrid working, which has flexibility at its heart, is ideal for supporting both personal and professional objectives.

Whether your goals are for you as an individual or that of the company, writing them down is particularly important – whether it’s on a whiteboard for everyone to see, in a notebook or on your phone – because it’s satisfying to tick them off and you can visibly see your progress. 

The Strides app is worth downloading as it is specifically designed for logging goals and stacking successes.

Talk about goals with others.

A well-known technique for achieving goals is to talk about them with other people. 

This is because knowing that colleagues, for example, are expecting you to do something motivates you to actually get it done. 

Having a monthly Zoom catch-up or in-person meeting at an office or local flexspace is a great way of sharing progress reports and announcing when goals have been reached.

And don’t forget to celebrate those wins, no matter how small they might be.  As motivational speaker Tony Robbins says: “You can only build on success.”

Mediterranean Diet Microbiome benefits

  • A new study explored the impact of a Mediterranean on our microbiome – or gut bacteria.
  • It suggests that a Mediterranean can make changes to our microbiome that are linked to improvements to cognitive function and memory and immunity and bone strength.
  • In ageing society, these could be important health benefits. 

As our global population is projected to live longer than ever before, it’s important that we find ways of helping people live healthier for longer. 

Exercise and diet are often cited as the best ways of maintaining good health well into our twilight years. But recently, research has also started to look at the role our gut – specifically our microbiome – plays in how we age.

Our latest study has found that a Mediterranean diet causes microbiome changes linked to improvements in cognitive function and memory, immunity and bone strength.

The gut microbiome is a complex community of trillions of microbes that live semi-permanently in the intestines. 

These microbes have co-evolved with humans and other animals to break down dietary ingredients such as inulinarabinoxylan and resistant starch, that the person can’t digest. 

They also help prevent disease-causing bacteria from growing.

However, the gut microbiome is extremely sensitive, and many things including diet, the medications you take, your genetics, and even conditions like inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome, can all change the gut microbiota community

The gut microbiota plays a such a huge role in our body, it’s even linked to behavioural changes, including anxiety and depression

But as for other microbiome-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes and obesity, changes in the microbiome are only part of the issue – the person’s genetics and bad lifestyle are major contributing factors.

Since our everyday diets have such a big affect on the gut microbiome, our team was curious to see if it can be used to promote healthy ageing. 

We looked at a total of 612 people aged 65-79, from the UK, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Poland.

We asked half of them to change their normal diet to a Mediterranean diet for a full year. This involved eating more vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, olive oil and fish, and eating less red meat, dairy products and saturated fats. The other half of participants stuck to their usual diet.

We initially found that those who followed the Mediterranean diet had better cognitive function and memory, less inflammation, and better bone strength. 

However, what we really wanted to know was whether or not the microbiome was involved in these changes.

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, a person’s baseline microbiome (the species and number of microbes they had living in their gut before the study started) varied by country. 

This baseline microbiome is likely a reflection of the diet they usually ate, alongside where they lived. 

We found that participants who followed the Mediterranean diet had a small but insignificant change in their microbiome diversity – meaning there was only a slight increase in the overall number and variety of species present.

However, when we compared how strictly a person followed the diet with their baseline microbiome data and their microbiome after following the diet, we were able to identify two different gut microbe groups: diet-positive microbes that increased on the Mediterranean diet, and diet-negative microbes whose abundance was reduced while following the diet.

Diet-positive microbes are microbes that flourished in the Mediterranean diet. 

Diet-negative microbes either couldn’t metabolise the diet, or they were were unable to compete with diet-positive microbes. 

These diet-positive microbes were linked with less frailty and inflammation in the body, and higher levels of cognitive function. Losing the diet-negative microbes was also associated with the same health improvements.

When we compared the changes in the number of these microbes in the treatment group (those on the Mediterranean diet) and the control group (those following their regular diet), we saw that the people who strictly followed the Mediterranean diet increased these diet-positive microbes. 

Although the changes were small, these finding were consistent across all five countries – and small changes in one year can make for big effects in the longer term.

Many of the participants were also pre-frail (meaning their bone strength and density would start decreasing) at the beginning of the study. 

We found the group who followed their regular diet became frailer over the course of the one-year study. 

However, those that followed the Mediterranean diet were less frail.

The link between frailty, inflammation, and cognitive function, to changes in the microbiome was stronger than the link between these measures and dietary changes. 

This suggests that the diet alone wasn’t enough to improve these three markers. 

Rather, the microbiome had to change too – and the diet caused these changes to the microbiome.

These types of studies are challenging and expensive, and the microbiome dataset is often difficult to analyse because there are many more data-points to study than there are people in the study. 

Our findings here were possible because of the large group sizes, and the length of the intervention.

However, we recognise that following a Mediterranean diet isn’t necessarily doable for everybody who starts thinking about ageing, usually around the age of 50. 

Future studies will need to focus on what key ingredients in a Mediterranean diet were responsible for these positive microbiome changes. 

But in the meantime, it’s clear that the more you can stick to a Mediterranean diet, the higher your levels of good bacteria linked to healthy ageing will be.