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On science of Covid-19 — drugs, threat to diabetics and why it’s killing more Italians

In episode 421 of #CutTheClutter, Shekhar Gupta explains some of the new developments on coronavirus.

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New Delhi: Chloroquine, which is available over the counter in many countries, has been found to be effective in treating COVID-19.

The drug was patented in 1934 to deal with the malaria parasite and not for any virus. But it was tested on coronavirus patients as it has shown positive results in treating monkeys infected by the SARS virus, which is similar to COVID-19.

Chloroquine has been found to reduce the number of cells COVID-19 infects, but the mechanism is still questionable. Three Italian patients, who recovered from COVID-19 in Jaipur, were treated using Chloroquine.

Bayer has given away three million tablets of Chloroquine to test its effectiveness on COVID-19. Favipiravir and Remdesivir have also been found to be effective in treating the virus.

Another treatment at the experimental stage is plasma cure. Plasma extracted from the blood of a patient who has recovered may be helpful when injected into another who is recovering. This is under the assumption that the recovering patient created antibodies to fight the virus, which still remain in his or her plasma.

Also read: How Trump, Johnson response shows sensible conversations on coronavirus have finally begun

What explains Italy’s fatality rate

Italy’s fatality rate is much higher than China’s. The total number of deaths in Italy has surpassed those in China even when the number of confirmed cases is less than a third.

The age structure of Italy may explain this. The mean age of people who died in Italy of the virus is about 80 years. Italy has 23 per cent of people above the age of 65 and life expectancy is 83 years. In contrast, China has 10.6 per cent of people above 65 and in India, only 6 per cent of people live for more than 65 years.

Another indicator is the median age. Italy’s median age is 45.3, and this is very high when compared to other countries like India whose median age is 27.9.

Some new developments in the scientific community

A study by scientists Soumya Easwaran and Sitabhra Sinha at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Chennai have found that COVID-19 has an R0 — R-naught or reproduction number — of 1.7 in India. This is considerably lower than Iran’s 2.73, Italy’s 2.34 and Wuhan’s 2.14.

Several Stanford Medicine Data scientists are working on various aspects of COVID-19. It was found that of the 49 positive SARS-COV-2 results, 11 (22.4 per cent) also had some co-infection.

Of the 127 people positive for other viruses, 11 (8.66 per cent) had a SARS-COV-2 co-infection. It’s a good time to take flu shots

There is a lot of fear around diabetics getting infected with COVID-19. The chances of a diabetic getting the disease are not different from that of any other person. The issue is that if diabetes is not under control, then the patient is likely to suffer more severely from the infection.

You can watch the full episode of CTC here:

Also read: China’s love for wildlife meat to its authoritarianism — how coronavirus got out of hand


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