JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Signs of life on Venus?

All around the world are dawning headlines wondering if we have founds signs of life on Venus.

Despite the hunt for life on star systems that are lightyears from Earth, it turns out there may be something on the Planet-next-door. “May” being the operative word. A team found phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus and can’t think of any other way it could have got there. Phosphine is considered to be a biomarker. And microbes on Earth would have no trouble making it, though none of them could easily survive on Venus where the atmosphere clouds and rain are nearly pure hot sulphuric acid.*

Scientists find gas linked to life in atmosphere of Venus

Ian Sample, The Guardian

Sara Seager, a planetary scientist on the study at MIT in the US, called the finding “mind-boggling”. She hypothesises a lifecycle for Venusian microbes that rain down, dry out and are swept back up to more temperate altitudes by currents in the atmosphere.

For 2bn years, Venus was temperate and harboured an ocean. But today, a dense carbon dioxide atmosphere blankets a near-waterless surface where temperatures top 450C. The clouds in the sky are hardly inviting, containing droplets [...]

How to ignore 94% of Covid deaths?

Be wary of junk data and junk conclusions

Death data has become a political tool (stretched both up and down by vested interests). We’ve all heard of the motorcyclist who crashed into the Covid tally, and the payments for US docs. We know there’s junk data out there, but the suggestion we only count deaths “from” Covid, and not the deaths “with” Covid is unscientific in the extreme.

Stick with me. We all want WuFlu to be nothing, but scientists and skeptics need to pick their targets carefully. Don’t lose sight of the real scandal and the real solutions. It’s a travesty that people are dying while cheap vitamins and antivirals are being ignored. Let’s fight for Vitamin D, HCQ, Ivermectin, and all the other potentials like Interferon, Bromhexine, Melatonin, steroids, asthma drugs etc etc. But let’s not get distracted by a hopeful fantasy that the true US  “death tally” is only 6% of Covid deaths in the US.

There’s an idea out there that only 9,680 people have died of Covid in the US, not 161,392 people. It’s because of this CDC quote:

“For 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned. For deaths with [...]

Even cough syrup might actually work against Coronavirus

I didn’t think cough syrups even worked against coughs, but one new paper suggests that bromhexine in common cough syrups reduces both Covid-19 rates of ICU and of mortality.

The era of antivirals has come, not that Big Pharma want you to know that cheap out-of-patent drugs might help. But for years we were told that medical science didn’t have an answer to viruses.

Bromhexine was patented in 1961 and is commonly found in OTC pharmacy cough syrups with names like Bisolvon, Robitussin, and Duro-Tuss (Wiki has a long list).

Theoretically Bromhexine sabotages one of our molecules — with the snappy name of TMPRSS2 (which is shorter than saying Transmembrane protease S2).  A protease is a fancy pair of molecular scissors, it chops or tweaks the viral spike and if that doesn’t happen, the virus can’t get into the cell (at least not through its favourite path).

The nice thing about an antiviral acting against our  molecules, rather than against the virus itself, is that it’s harder for the virus to mutate to get around it. That means it’s less likely the virus can develop resistance. The downside of targeting our own molecules is that it might fritz things up. [...]

Reinfection and T cell immunity — does the common cold give us protection against Coronavirus?

The first case of a definitive reinfection was reported today

Before we look at whether a cold gives us protection let’s point out we don’t know how well a SARS 2 infection gives us protection.

A 33 year old man in Hong Kong was tested positive nearly five months after his first infection, and with a slightly different variant of the virus, so it’s very likely this was a second infection rather than a resurgence of the first.  It hints that Covid may be a bit like the common cold, and our immunity may be partial and temporary which is not good news for the herd immunity idea and the vaccine plan, but it’s only one case. On the plus side,  he had a three day fever, cough and sickness in March, but is asymptomatic this time, suggesting that maybe there is enough residual immunity to help him beat the second infection.

There have been other reports of people getting reinfected but none of the previous cases had genetic testing of both infections to show they were different.  But 13% of 4,000 doctors who were surveyed in May (even at that early stage) believed that at least one of their [...]

Australians wiped out the flu and avoided 50,000 other cases of sickness and disease

Lessons from Coronavirus

Lockdowns and border closures mean many diseases have been prevented

It’s peak season for flu here in Australia and there’s almost no sign of it.  As Chris Gillham wrote here back in May, we know lockdowns stop viruses, because flu cases are 85% down.  Now he shows that this extends to other diseases too, and Chris has used data from the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System to calculate that just shy of 200,000 fewer Australians contracted any of the notifiable diseases in the first seven months of 2020 compared to the first seven months of 2019.

Is some of that disease burden just the price of holiday-makers bringing back diseases from overseas each year?

No one wants to stop the planes returning to the skies, but it begs the question — do we have to accept the onslaught of winter germs every year?

The answer may lie with other things we’ve discovered in the Covid pandemic too — that sick people should stay home from work and school, and that we have a lot of anti-viral tools we can use. Perhaps it’s time that travellers considered taking preemptive anti-virals, which might improve their holidays and also reduce the disease [...]

Countries that use Hydroxychloroquine may have 80% lower Covid death rates

The  scandal from the Swamp: Too rich to get a cheap drug?

Poor countries all over the world are using Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and it appears to be very useful.

The new HCQTrial suggests that despite the billion dollar budgets and expert staff, people in wealthier countries are dying from Coronavirus at far higher rates than people are in lands where HCQ is being used. And the effect of HCQ apparently holds even after researchers correct for patients being older, heavier, with higher blood pressure, living in high density apartment towers, or with getting tested more.

If word ever gets out that the Politico-Academic-Corporate-Swamp buried useful drugs because they were unprofitable and out of patent, there will be hell to pay.

The HCQTrial was done anonymously by @CovidAnalysis – who say they are PhD researchers, scientists.

You can find our research in journals like Science and Nature. For examples of why we can’t be more specific search for “raoult death threats” or “simone gold fired”. We have little interest in adding to our publication lists, being in the news, or being on TV (we have done all of these things before but feel there are more important things in [...]

Major report by MPs in UK found Open Border was a ‘serious mistake’

Do 10,000 extra infections matter?

JoNova — cheaper and faster than a Parliamentary Report — said two months ago that it was baffling that the UK locked everyone down, but kept flying in the virus. Now British MP’s are saying the same.

UPDATE: Given Boris Johnson suddenly changed policy on flights from Spain last week, immediately adding a mandatory quarantine, what’s the bet someone told him this report was coming?

No 10′s ‘inexplicable’ decision to lift quarantine at height of pandemic: MPs’ damning report condemns ‘serious mistake’ that allowed 10,000 infected people into the UK

David Barett, DailyMail

Delaying quarantine measures at the border was a ‘serious mistake’ that allowed 10,000 infected people into the UK accelerated the virus spread, a major report by MPs says.

The cross-party inquiry is highly critical of the Government’s ‘inexplicable’ decision to lift its initial quarantine measures in mid-March, ten days before lockdown.

Experts from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine calculated that up to 10,000 infected people, largely from Spain, France and Italy, imported the virus into the UK.

Viruses can only survive in people temporarily, so to beat a rogue chemical code, [...]

Three quarters of mild to moderate Covid illnesses show heart damage

No wonder the Chinese lockdown a million people with every outbreak. Two thirds of these cases were not hospitalized.

These studies are small and need confirmation, but the medical specialists are asking if it is possible that Covid infections create new cases of heart failure which may trigger problems long after infection?

A startling number of COVID-19 patients suffer lasting heart damage

Fermin Koop, ZME Science

A study from the University Hospital Frankfurt looked at the cardiovascular MRIs of 100 people who had recovered from the coronavirus and compared them with heart images of people who hadn’t been infected.

Most of the patients hadn’t been hospitalized and recovered at home, with symptoms ranging from none to moderate. Two months after recovering from COVID-19, the patients were more likely to have troubling cardiac signs than people in the control group. Up to 78% of them had structural changes to the heart, while 76% had evidence of a biomarker signaling cardiac injury typically found after a heart attack, and 60% had signs of inflammation.

The Puntmann study was based in Germany, and the average age of cases was 49. Troponin is a marker used in standard [...]

Older children may spread Coronavirus even faster than adults do

New research shows that families with teenage children were three times more likely to get Covid  (odds of spread , 18%) than families with children under ten (5%). It appears that it’s more dangerous to live with teens than to live with adults (12%). It may be that teens are more likely to be asymptomatic which means people don’t realize they need to isolate from them.

The question of opening primary schools is potentially very different to high schools. Quite possibly puberty affects immune systems in ways that make teens effectively young adults.

Older Kids May Transmit COVID-19 as Much as Adults Do, New Evidence Shows

ScienceAlert

The results also showed up something unexpected, however. When index patients were categorised by age (0–9, 10–19, 20–29, 30–39, 40–49, 50–59, 60–69, 70–79, and >80 years), households with older children (index patients of 10–19 years) had the highest rate of infection spread to household contacts, with 18.6 percent of household contacts later showing the infection.

By contrast, young children (index patients 0–9 years of age) seemed to confer the least amount of spread of the virus, with just 5.3 percent of household contacts contracting the infection, which [...]

Interferon Beta reduced risk of severe Covid by 80%

Welcome to the Era of the Anti-Virals. They’re everywhere.

A legacy of the coronavirus pandemic is the dawn of new ways to stop viruses. Here’s another new (old) one — it’s only a small trial, but if it can stop 4 out of 5 people developing the severe form of the disease it will be a gamechanger. If this gets similar numbers on larger trials, then we still need mass production. But national policies will swing on a dime if a safe drug with this much potential appears.

After Coronavirus we might not be so content to accept the annual seasonal virus scourge.

Postenote: These are preliminary results, not a large trial, but at least it is placebo controlled and randomized.

Breakthrough’ treatment slashes virus death risk: study

by Patrick Galey, MedicalXpress

In a randomised trial of 100 patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19, those who received an inhaled formula of the protein interferon beta were at 79 percent lower risk of developing severe disease compared to those who received a placebo.

They were also more than twice as likely to make a full recovery compared with the control group.

The firm [...]

Go on, just eliminate it: Supression is for people who love lockdowns

Scott Morrison says eliminating the virus is not viable, despite most states in Australia effectively managing to do that already. See the chart below. Instead he talks of suppression as if it’s viable to ride an exponential curve with a default position of “moonshot”.

At the start of June, Victoria was getting 20 new cases a week.  In the last three weeks Victoria has added 3,000 cases.

State premiers are being urged to reject an elimination strategy for coronavirus, with Scott Morrison and leading business groups warning the move would double unemployment and wreck the economy.

The Prime Minister, who has conceded the lockdown of Greater Melbourne was necessary given the size of the outbreaks, warned that any pivot to an elimin­ation strategy would double­ unemployment.

Suppression sounds like a management plan but means rolling waves of infection and isolation, with outbreaks of chaos and a constant higher level of fear and avoidance. This does not seem like a jobs creation machine.

Would we prefer one lockdown or three?

1. The hospitalization rate means hospitals will be overwhelmed within weeks (see Victoria). Therefore repeat lockdowns are inevitable.

2. It’s hard to protect [...]

Coronavirus forces cells to grow tentacles to help it invade other cells

It’s a molecular monster

The SARS-Cov2 virus can take over and does some pretty cool engineering. (At least in the case of monkey cells.)

The infected cells produce hairy tentacles that poke holes in nearby cells to help spread the virus.

Coronavirus tentacles with small yellow virus particles attached.

So once a virus is inside it can not only hijack the cell to make more viruses (the little yellow prickly balls in the photo) it also forces the cell to make all these hairy tentacles to push the viruses into neighboring cells. Apart from being a neat gee-whiz moment in molecular construction, this is worth knowing because it gives us more targets to aim for. (More moving parts to throw spanners at).

To that end, the team found 87 drugs that are already either FDA approved or in clinical trials that might help. And 7 of them have already shown they can inhibit the virus in both human and monkey cells.

There are some major molecular engineering battles going on

Coronaviruses are larger RNA viruses than most, so that gives the virus more tools to work with. All up we know that there are 27 SARS Cov2 proteins which [...]

Hydroxycholoroquine *may* save half the people who were going to die of Covid

 Good news on the HCQ front

The Henry Ford HCQ study is by no means decisive, but with death rates seemingly halved (sorta, maybe, kinda) — it does show how crazy it is to ban hydroxychloroquine. It also shows it’s low risk, and with all the conflicting studies out there, that there are a lot of ways to stuff things up.

With 10 million cases around the world it seems a bit incongruous that it’s taken so many months to get a trial this basic done with 2,000 patients. When the world only had 10,000 patients in January we already knew that the three drugs that were “fairly effective” were  Remdesivir, Chloroquine and Ritonavir. As far back as February 13, the South Koreans were already recommending hydroxychloroquine and telling us the anti-virals should be “started as soon as possible.” They warned that after ten days, doctors “do not have to start antivirals”. South Korea was the experiment that worked — but we ignored it.

Speaking of slow research, the UK hydroxychloroquine trial that was stopped has restarted again as of three days ago.  This is a trial to see if HCQ can prevent coronavirus in 40,000 healthcare workers.

Perhaps [...]

Low dose radiation may save people from Coronavirus

Fascinating. Could one shot of radiation calm Covid infected lungs and stop the severe cytokine storm?

In a trial in the US, five very sick Covid patients with a median age of 90 were given a “low dose” (which is not so low) of 1.5 Grey (150 Rad) of Photon beam radiotherapy (in a front and back beam configuration.) It took only 10 – 15 minutes, and four of the five showed “rapid improvement” in 24 hours. Their oxygen levels and alertness improved. They were sent home from hospital 12 days later.

The good thing about this is that apparently most hospitals already have this equipment, so they could start helping people right away (assuming it works, which we don’t know yet).

Radiation isn’t anti-viral, it’s anti-inflammatory

In theory, the shot of radiation is not “killing the virus” but is changing the immune response — and may be able to stop the deadly cascade of the cytokine storm. It calms the immune system in at least three ways (see the chart).

Anti-inflammatory treatment for Covid-19.

 

The curious thing about this is that it is an old treatment, and an old idea. “Hormesis” is a phenomenon where low grade [...]

Sweden is trapped in an interminable deadly half-lockdown

The Swedish soft lockdown will cost a lot more in the long run

Despite the relaxed approach, Sweden still had major changes in behaviour and movement patterns. The “half lockdown” may have stopped the exponential growth, but it wasn’t enough to reduce the spread. So Sweden is now trapped into maintaining some kind of isolation measures for months while other countries open up around them, and possibly, fly right over.

Norway’s sharp hard action and closed borders cost more in the short run, but they are now tracking towards zero cases and recovery beckons. Sweden has twice as many cases per capita as Norway, and ten times as many deaths, and there’s little sign the new infections are declining, nor that herd immunity is close. Antibody tests show that by late April only 7% of Stockholm may have been exposed to the virus, much less than the 20+ percent that the Swedish Chief Epidemiologist was expecting. 

In the graph below the number of cases are on the same scale, though Sweden has twice the population. Given that viruses grow and decline on exponential scales, the Swedish curve could have still shrunk almost as fast as it rose — like [...]