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Results from Chinese drug trials for coronavirus due in weeks – Expert
13 February 2020, 1:31 AM

Chinese scientists are testing two antiviral drugs against the new coronavirus and preliminary clinical trial results are weeks away, the co-chair of a World Health Organization (WHO) meeting said on Wednesday.

Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, a former WHO virologist, co-chaired the two-day, closed-door research forum in Geneva of more than 300 scientists and researchers, including some who took part virtually from China and Taiwan.

“The Chinese colleagues are very eager to participate in protocols which are being defined so that all the clinical trials are done according to the same standards and are looking towards the same outcome,” she told a news conference. “They were very interested in working on such a master protocol.”

The coronavirus, now dubbed COVID-19, that emerged in central China in December has infected more than 44 000 people and killed over 1 100 in China and has spread to at least 24 other countries.

Kieny said quite a number of patients have already been dosed with a combination of the antiviral drugs Ritonavir and Lopinavir, but she did not have an exact count.

It “would be excellent if it would work because this drug is available in particular as a generic formulation for the treatment of HIV, so this would clearly be a drug that would be available,” Kieny said.

The combination HIV therapy is sold under the brand name Kaletra by AbbVie Inc.

It remains to be seen whether the treatment will prove effective against the new virus, she said. “We don’t know the result, and we still have to wait for a few days, or a few weeks to have a result.”

A state-run Chinese research institute applied last week fora patent on the use of the experimental antiviral drug Remdesivir  from US-based Gilead Sciences Inc, which scientists hope may be effective against the coronavirus.

“They will very soon start to dose patients on Remdesivir… which had been tested without much success with Ebola, but Ebola virus and coronavirus are different and it may have a better success with corona,” Kieny said.

“But we will have to wait for a few weeks whether this gives any positive signal.”

Esther Mahlangu’s artwork displayed on Rolls Royce Phantom
13 February 2020, 1:05 AM

Veteran and acclaimed artist, Dr. Esther Mahlangu has become the first South African to have her distinctive artwork displayed on a customised Rolls Royce Phantom.

The 84-year-old self-taught artist is known for her bold, large-scale contemporary art.

In 1991, she became the first African and first female artist to paint a BMW Art Car, following in the footsteps of the likes of Andy Warhol and others.

Born in Middleburg, Mpumalanga, in 1935,  Esther Mahlangu has become the ambassador of South Africa’s South Ndebele heritage and art.

She started painting at the age of 10, taught by her mother and grandmother in the tradition of decorating walls.

Fast-forward a few decades, she has travelled the world, and has collaborated with numerous museums and global brands.

She wants the heritage preserved.

“I want the younger generation to understand. I don’t want it lost through the generations. The younger generation needs to know about art and their heritage. I am trying to teach them something new and hopefully they will be excited as much as I am about art and preserving my heritage.”

WATCH | In the video below, Dr. Esther Mahlangu explains the importance of preserving her heritage through art:

One person dead, multiple injuries after trains collide in Horizon View
12 February 2020, 11:51 PM

One person has died and many others injured after a goods train and a passenger train collided in Horizon View, west of Johannesburg this evening.

ER 24 spokesperson Russel Meiring says emergency personnel are still at the scene of the collision.

“Further assessment by emergency services and ER24 paramedics on scene show approximately 5 other patients have sustained injuries ranging from minor to serious. The exact details surrounding this incident are not yet known but local authorities are on scene and a full investigation will take place.”

New coronavirus cases lowest since Jan but experts disagree over peak
12 February 2020, 5:12 AM

China’s Hubei province on Wednesday reported its lowest number of new coronavirus cases since January, lending credence to a prediction from the country’s senior medical adviser that the outbreak could be over by April.

International experts, however, remain alarmed by the spread of the flu-like virus which has now killed more than 1 100 people, all but two in mainland China.

China’s foremost medical adviser on the outbreak, Zhong Nanshan, said on Tuesday numbers of new cases were falling in some provinces and forecast the epidemic would peak this month.

“I hope this outbreak or this event may be over in something like April,” Zhong, an epidemiologist whose previous forecast of an earlier peak turned out to be premature, told Reuters.

Hubei, the province at the epicentre of the outbreak that has been under virtual lock down, reported 94 people had died on Tuesday and there were 1 638 new coronavirus cases, down from a peak of over 3 000 new cases on February 4 and the lowest number of new infections since January 31.

While Chinese health officials said the situation was under control, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned the newly identified coronavirus posed a global threat potentially worse than terrorism.

The world must “wake up and consider this enemy virus as public enemy number one,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Tuesday, adding the first vaccine was 18 months away.

Asked about Zhong’s prediction, Australia’s chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, said: “I think it’s far too premature to say that”.

“I think we’ve just got to watch the data very closely over the coming weeks before we make any predictions,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp on Wednesday, while praising China’s efforts to contain the virus.

Total cases of the new coronavirus in China have now hit 44 653, according to Chinese health officials, including 2 015 new confirmed cases on February 11.

Hundreds of cases have been reported in dozens of countries and territories around the world, including one fatality in Hong Kong and another in the Philippines.

The biggest cluster of cases outside of China was aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined off the Japanese port of Yokohama with about 3 700 people on board.

Japanese officials on Wednesday said another 39 people had tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total to 175.


US Senator Bennet drops out of 2020 Democratic presidential race
12 February 2020, 4:14 AM

Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, a moderate who has stressed improving education for Americans, abandoned his bid on Tuesday for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Bennet, 55, told supporters shortly after polls closed in New Hampshire that it was “fitting” to end his presidential effort in the state, where he had campaigned energetically.

Bennet encouraged voters to remain engaged and improve turnout in the November election when Democrats will seek to unseat Republican President Donald Trump.

“I want you to be optimistic tonight, you have to be optimistic tonight” this is in our hands,” Bennet said.

The 2020 race was an uphill climb for Bennet, who was largely unknown to the American public and failed to break out of a crowded field.

Bennet qualified for the party’s debates in June and July but failed to meet tougher standards for the six debates since then.

Bennet had focused his campaign on New Hampshire, holding 50 town-hall events between early December and Tuesday’s primary election, but his efforts failed to gain traction.

He began his long-shot Democratic primary campaign a month after announcing that he had prostate cancer.

He underwent surgery during a legislative break and jumped into the Democratic race in May.

As a presidential candidate, Bennet had his roots in the party’s establishment at a time when progressives and political newcomers were grabbing the political spotlight.

He grew up in Washington, the son of a former State Department official, and his grandfather advised President Franklin Roosevelt.

A graduate of Wesleyan University and Yale Law School, he served in the Clinton Justice Department before moving west.

Bennet was appointed to the Senate in 2009 after his predecessor, Ken Salazar, was named secretary of the interior by President Barack Obama.

He won re-election in 2016.





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