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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More cheap potential Covid treatments, Ivermectin saves 50%

Coronavirus may leave a trail of benefits in its wake. Who knew that there were so many cheap antivirals around? Will people get fed up with the limited choices on offer next time there is a quarantine.

While newspapers in Australia were pretty keen to share the discovery of an antiviral role for HCQ, not so many were interested in the followup studies.

Ivermectin, like hydroxychloroquine is a kind of superdrug — in the sense of being in worldwide mass use.  Some 3.7 billion doses are estimated to have been given since its approval. It has been called the Japanese Wonder Drug. It’s the farm drench, a head lice treatment, and works against worm, mites and ticks too.

It was estimated to reduce viral loads in vitro massively but most people didn’t think it would work at lower safe doses. Then Bangladeshi doctors claim it was “astounding”. Last month US tests suggest that it reduced deaths by 40%. (Rajter)

These are all every priminary results.  More studies are promised for Ivermectin. Especially in Peru, where a grassroots movement of Doctors has ensured it will be used.

A US clinical trial of the drug ivermectin found that it reduced [...]

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 [...]

Ivermectin, kills headlice and also coronavirus in a few early trials

Remember the Japanese wonder drug Ivermectin that killed Coronavirus in the lab? Some trials on patients in Bangladesh and the US are showing some promise. This is the drug I called “sheep dip” (but which is really more of a cow or horse drench now). It’s famous for stopping River Blindness and saving the eyesight of thousands. It’s also used against  roundworms, lungworms, mites, lice, scabies and hornflies, as well as cattle-ticks. So it’s another drug, like hydroxycholoroquine that has been road tested for safety’s sake up the kazoo.

The cost of Ivermectin is around 15c in the third world, and $50 for one round for a human in New York.  (But even that is a lot cheaper than a $5000 a day ICU bed.)

As I said — there may come a day when you can cure coronavirus and treat the kids headlice at the same time.  Handy.

So it’s good to know some trials are occurring, and even better to know that some doctors are very enthusiastic about the results. In terms of medical clinical trials, these are small. I’m not sure the enthusiasm is matched by the data. I’d only say “it’s not dead yet”. But in [...]

New York “like mass casualty event”: coronavirus and other deaths up three-fold

Across the US all-cause mortality is down as as people avoid catching the flu, getting run over, and other risks. But in New York where coronavirus has hit hardest, all-cause mortality is at record highs.

This is nothing like the seasonal flu

For the whole month of March, deaths in New York were twice as high as normal. This includes not just extra coronavirus deaths but all other causes. Deaths were even higher than the number of known coronavirus deaths, leaving cardiologists worried that there may have been an increase in other conditions like heart attacks or strokes, because people were afraid to go to hospital or couldn’t get help in time.

This is an underestimate.  The authors expect this number to rise as more paperwork gets completed. It’s still only a small excess in a giant country, but it hints at the scale of the event were no quarantine measures put in place, no flights stopped, and the virus allowed to spread naturally. The current epidemic is stabilizing in New York, but if major action wasn’t taken, this would be the early weeks of a pandemic about to sweep across all fifty states. And this would not be the [...]

Another possible cure for coronavirus, found in sheep dip: Ivermectin

“A single treatment able to effect ∼5000-fold reduction in virus at 48h in cell culture.”

–Caly et al 2020

It’s another day in freaky chemistry — researchers at Monash University found that one of the main components of sheep drench is also very good at reducing Coronavirus, at least in test tubes. Ivermectin’s an unsung hero of the world of biochemistry, called a “Wonder Drug” and a “Blockbuster” because it works against  roundworms, lungworms, mites, lice, scabies and hornflies, as well as cattle-ticks. Most importantly, it kills the worm that causes River Blindness, saving the vision of thousands in sub-saharan Africa, and places like Ecuador.

That’s doesn’t mean it will work in vivo — and it may be a month before human trials begin so we can find out.

Possibly, in a few months you might be able to kill off Coronavirus and deworm yourself at the same time.

Though the human experiment is already probably happening in countries where it is being used already and coronavirus is circulating. Surely we can track those cases?

And at least in Australia, unlike Chloroquine — which we don’t have much of — with 70 million sheep I can’t [...]

Stop with the fatalism: Don’t flatten it, Crush The Curve on Coronavirus

There is a third way — Why are we so fatalistic?

It’s not a choice between Let It Rip and the slow bleed of “Flatten the Curve”. It’s not a choice of health versus money. The third option no one is mentioning is to Crush The Curve: we go hard, fast, and do a major short sharp quarantine. It’s not radical, it’s just textbook epidemiology, it saves more lives and it saves the economy too.

SlowMo, Boris and Trump are still two weeks behind the virus. It’s time to get the Third Option on the table.

Flattening the Curve is a fatalistic slow bleed that must last months. It rescues us from the demolition derby that the Let It Rip disaster is cursing on Italian hospitals, but it’s deadly for the economy. All leaders who are keeping schools open while turning student dorms into triage units are locked into this limited thinking. It’s the Influenza-plan rejigged.

There is another way  — (as I’ve been saying) — we stop dithering and acting two-weeks-late, and jump ahead of this inanimate code. We aim for extinction — hunt every infection down, keep most people at home, reduce the spread, then finish by following [...]

Doctors in West Australia call for closure of state borders

I seem to have the uncanny ability to predict what frontline experts will recommend days in advance. It’s not genius. Just medical training and that the solution to this is so Bleeding Obvious, and politicians are still 2 to 3 weeks behind an exploding epidemic of an inanimate nucleic acid code.

WA hospitals call for state border closures to deal with coronavirus fears (COVID-19)

Top doctors across WA’s biggest hospitals are sensationally calling for the state to effectively close its borders to protect West Australians from the coronavirus pandemic.

In a remarkable letter obtained by The West Live to be discussed exclusively on this morning’s show, it can be revealed the Combined Medical Leads Advisory Group has raised concerns about the “extremely limited” availability of testing infrastructure and supplies in WA.

The group, which includes senior medicos from FSH, RPH and SCGH, also warns there is “limited evidence of effective anti-viral treatment”, “no effective vaccine” and that rationing is already in place at hospitals.

It recommends that to “flatten the curve” that attention should be paid to “extending isolation restrictions to all personal interstate travel”.

Just to spell this out, all states [...]

Doc explains how Coronavirus kills. Jo points out obvious: Stop the Flights or Close the schools, lockdown everyone

Fun subject of the day: How Coronavirus kills

No seriously, this is matter-of-fact, youtube-at-its-best, concise, cartoony, and smart.

Think of doctors as Body-Engineers. The problem to solve today Engineer-readers — is how to keep blood supply oxygenated when lungs are highly inflamed, filling with fluid, and the delicate thin membranes of lung tissue can’t cope with the sheer forces of rapid collapse and expansion. As well, if oxygen levels drop, even unconscious patients will breathe involuntarily — out of synch with artificial ventilation machines. The sensation of suffocation creates the urge to breath faster and harder. . The great news is ICU staff are getting much better at keeping people alive when they get ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome) which can happen with other diseases (like Influenza). Seems, the ICUs can keep 84% alive while they wait for the inflammation to subside and the damage to heal. Though the DIY version at home probably won’t be so effective.

Not enough beds

Obviously, this explains my obsessive interest in the percentage needing ICU care and also the Ro (rate of reproduction or spread). With a shortage of ICU beds, slowing the spread makes a life-and-death difference to state the bleeding obvious. [...]

Coronavirus — borders closing all around the world — no thanks to the WHO

 US and Australia close borders and everyone outside China starts tracking contacts…

The official deaths tally has risen to 259, but for the first time the “total recovered” at 287 now exceeds the total deaths. Evidently it’s quicker to die than to recover.

Australia remains the “leader” of the Western nations with 12 confirmed cases. Thankfully, it and the US have finally got serious and both announced today that they would stop people from China from flying straight in. Citizens can return with a two week isolation or quarantine period, but foreigners cannot. This is very good news (as far as virus control goes). Now all the same nations will be furiously, laboriously tracking and tracing the hundreds of potential contacts. In a few weeks we’ll know how contagious it is, and how deadly. And maybe, with much money and dedication we’ll even stop it.

Though in a few weeks a host of secondary countries may develop their own epidemics and virus-free countries will need to block them too.

What’s really remarkable here is how useless, to the point of negligence, the World Health Organisation is.

US and Australia close borders to Chinese arrivals

BBC News:  The US [...]

We need to protect our health system from Climate-change-doctors

Doctors are at it again trying to scare people about “climate change”. But all around the world, in every study in every city humans die more from the cold than they do from the heat (and by six to 20 times more). That’s thousands of lives and it happens every single year. Don’t these doctors know anything?

Attributable fraction of deaths: Heat, cold and temperature variability together resulted in 42,414 deaths during the study period, accounting for about 6.0% of all deaths. Most of attributable deaths were due to cold (61.4%), and noticeably, contribution from temperature variability [TV] (28.0%) was greater than that from heat (10.6%). Cheng et al.

The awful truth that incompetent self-serving doctors forgot to mention was that cooler room temperatures allow viruses to survive longer, which is just one of many reasons the Flu Season is always worse in winter.

Break my heart, if “climate change” is real the only thing the docs have to worry about is whether they’ll earn less money in winter.

Here’s the headline:

 Health system needs to be protected from climate change: doctors

Here’s the real news: The health system needs to be protected from climate-change-doctors. We can’t afford [...]

Scientist create, then cure, baldness, wrinkles and some aging in mice

Here’s a tantalizing bit of gene research. Scientists were able to switch off a central gene in the nucleus of a mouse cell. That in turn meant the mouse’s mitochondria started failing (I’m going to be talking a lot more about these fascinating bits of machinery in our cells). After two months, the poor lab mice were wrinkled, going bald and their organs were aging rapidly, but lo, after the gene in the nucleus was switched on again, the mitochondria were restored, and wow, all the hair and skin grew back to what it had been before.

Mitochondria have their own DNA loops.

Why get excited about mitochondria? These are tiny biological batteries we have inside every cell. The are the mini-factories burning sugar or fat, generating free radicals on a mass scale and churning out the chemical energy that is then used in most of the chemical reactions in our body. They are turning up in every second paper these days related to aging. These little organelles are so important and rule breaking they even have their own DNA loops with 37 genes — this is the only genetic material in us that is not part of the [...]

Your car causes salmonella and other funny global warmy stories

It’s another warmy story:

Worst year in NSW for Salmonella, E.Coli as global temperatures increase

NSW recorded its worst figures in at least five years for diseases caused by food poisoning and mosquito bites, as doctors warn climate change is looming as a public health emergency.

Statistics released last week show 2016 was the worst year on record for diseases including legionnaires’ disease, salmonellosis, listeriosis, E. coli and dengue fever, which flourish in warmer conditions.

–Harriet Alexander, Sydney Morning Herald

More scary than 4000 cases of salmonella is the state of intellectual rigor among medico-unions:

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians [RACP] has released a position paper that described climate change as a “global public health emergency”.

The RACP called for a national climate and health strategy and reduced emissions of greenhouse gases.

With reasoning like that, they could make a lot more people very sick. Are they advocating we use solar panels to stop salmonella?

There has hardly been any warming in the last 20 years anyhow. And if we are doing cosmic epidemiology, so far global warming seems to come with longer lifespans, health, wealth, food, [...]

Cure cancer with weaponized bacteria that do mass “suicide bombing” at the right site?

Bacteria multiply

In the West we could try to cure cancer faster with research like this, or we could pour billions into making expensive electricity to try to cool the world by 0.01°C for our grandchildren.  Hmm. What to do? Which activity is more likely to make citizens richer, happier and more productive?

In this approach (below) bacteria are engineered to find cancer cells, make lots of baby bacteria until they reach a large enough colony size then do a mass self-destructo at the cancer site — releasing a tumor killing drug. A few bacteria survive the micro-apocalypse and they start another round. So far, the researchers haven’t cured any cancers, but they can shrink cancers in mice and extend mousy lives by 50%. One day this might mean cancers can be “lived with”, if not actually destroyed completely.

A critical mass is reached and the colony “bombs”.

So the bacteria can be engineered into neat little machines to manage cancer. But they are still living creatures, so are messy machines. One problem is that evolution tends to make all living machines chuck out bits of DNA that don’t improve survival, so the “survivors” will gradually take over, [...]

Skin cells turned into cancer hunters: Let’s do less politically correct science and more real stuff

Why are we still wasting money trying to change the weather?

We’ve cracked the code to program biology and there are so many better things we can do. We can read the four letter alphabet, and now we’re in the early days of unpacking the operating systems. One team (below) has just reprogrammed skin cells to hunt down one particular type of brain cancer and found a way to get the cells to stick around long enough to deliver killer drug doses to the cancer cells. It’s at proof of concept stage — we can extend the life of mice with this cancer by about 200%, but we haven’t tried this in people. This may be years off, or not. Cancer is an information problem.

In one form or another this concept will change the world. Sooner or later we will figure out how to reprogram cells to seek out and destroy every last difficult-to-get cancer cell. No more mass collateral damage that kills healthy cells too. Then we’ll teach the immune system to stay alert and keep picking off any recidivists. No more recurrences.

This is just the beginning of customized, individualized medicine. Early days.


 Groundbreaking discovery made [...]