New drugs and a transplant offer hope
As the world anxiously awaits a vaccine, doctors and researchers are making headway on potential treatments for Covid-19 and the damage it causes to the body.
The pharmaceutical company Regeneron announced today that it was starting a clinical trial of an antibody cocktail that may one day treat and even prevent Covid-19. The treatment, similar to one shown to be effective for Ebola, would work like the antibodies that people naturally make when they’re infected. If testing is successful, thousands of doses could be produced by the end of the summer.
For the most critically ill, surgery may now be an option. Last week, a woman in her 20s whose lungs were destroyed by the virus received a double lung transplant, the first known operation of its kind in the U.S. for the virus.
The patient had no serious underlying medical conditions, and the transplant was her only chance for survival, said Dr. Ankit Bharat, who performed the surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. He said future transplants could help young, otherwise healthy people whose lungs were permanently damaged by the virus and require a ventilator.
There is also new hope for patients whose immune systems set off “cytokine storms,” causing the body to turn on itself as it fights the virus. At least a dozen treatments and several blood-purifying devices are being tested to calm the potentially fatal reaction. One promising drug from Roche is in several clinical trials, including a late-stage trial in combination with the antiviral drug remdesivir.
The view from Brazil
Daily deaths from the virus in Brazil are now the highest in the world. The president, Jair Bolsonaro, has consistently played down the threat from the virus and is using the prospect of military intervention to maintain his grip on power.
As the epicenter of the virus shifts to South America, we spoke to Ernesto Londoño, who covers the region for The Times, about the situation in Brazil.
Where is Brazil in the fight against the virus?
We’re in a really critical phase. While some parts of the world are starting to loosen up restrictions and see curves go downward, in Brazil, the number of deaths and the number of cases are still on the rise. And the president’s actions on the coronavirus have come under very sharp criticism. Pretty much every night at 8:30, I hear people outside my window banging pots and pans and screaming, “Out Bolsonaro.” It’s become kind of this nightly ritual for people to express their outrage.
What is it like in the hospitals?
The health care system has performed heroically. We haven’t seen the kind of unraveling, for example, that we saw in places like Ecuador, where bodies were literally piling up in the streets. But dozens of nurses have died from the coronavirus, which gives you a sense of the very heavy toll that it’s taken on health care professionals.
You’re based in Rio de Janeiro. How are people there handling the outbreak?
People have been compliant in wearing masks to a degree that I have found surprising; you know, this is a city where people don’t tend to follow the rules. Rio has always managed to balance out its very hedonistic side — it’s a city famous for Carnival — with grim realities like poverty, poor sanitation and terrible police violence. But now, Rio feels almost universally bleak. It’s a city that is suddenly without any joy or revelry.
What does the future for Brazil look like?
The only thing that’s clear to me and experts is that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. Economists are predicting anywhere between a 6 to 10 percent drop in G.D.P. this year. And on the health care side, it’s anybody’s guess how many tens of thousands of people will die and what kind of reckoning that’s going to mean down the line, considering how cavalier the president has been all along.
Photos of Europe’s emergence
Laetitia Vancon, a photojournalist for The New York Times, spent two weeks traveling through Europe with our international correspondent Patrick Kingsley to document the continent’s return from months of lockdown. What they found was “a world that teetered on the lip of normality but often toppled into the surreal,” Patrick wrote.
Concerned about the economic impact on tourism and universities, the European Union is recommending that all member countries in the bloc open their borders to one another by Monday.
Professional soccer resumed in Spain with one of the strangest games on record, as two teams, Rayo Vallecano and Albacete, completed a match that had been called off in December.
Five regions of New York State can begin Phase 3 of reopening on Friday, allowing indoor restaurant dining to resume and nail salons and massage parlors to operate, with restrictions.
What else we’re following
What you’re doing
I started an online movie club with three of my closest friends. Once a week we pick a movie we can rent from one of our local independent theaters. We rotate who gets to pick the movie each week. We all start the movie at the same time and then meet on Google Hangouts to talk about the movie and catch up on our lives.
— Chrissy Gilbert, Columbus, Ohio
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