Sunday, May 31, 2020

For the times they are a-changing (Musings on COVID-19 global news)

Stay tuned: Revisions are sure to come
What to write about during COVID-19? It initially stumped me. Possibilities I considered include how coronavirus has impacted the blood supply worldwide and increased pressure from paid plasma advocates to promote paying for all plasma and other body tissues. 

Finally settled on a mini-survey of coronavirus news featured in May's TraQ's newsletter to see what, if anything, that might reveal..

The blog's title is based on a 1965 ditty by Bob Dylan, and yes, it can be read many ways given the news.

The mini-survey is based on news items I selectively collated for TraQ's newsletter during March, April, and May 2020. As past blogs will show, the blogs are mine alone and reflect my personal biases. 

For May's blog I arbitrarily organized COVID-19 news items into four topics, which have some overlap:
  • General (Information, industry news, search for treatments and vaccines)
  • Blood supply (Risk of shortages)
  • Convalescent plasma
  • Journal articles
Results of TraQ's March to May survey:
Blood supply
6 3 4 13
Convalescent plasma
6 14 7 27
Journal articles
0 23 1538

I could have calculated results incorrectly. My search alerts may not have identified all possible news items in each category. Also, in May the number of convalescent plasma news items soared and I decided not to include  many in the newsletter, as they often involved only a few people and were repetitive of earlier news. It's possible I haven't yet been alerted to the existence of more COVID-19 research articles published in May. 

So, as I recall from the 1966 film Alfie, it's time to ask, 'What's it all about Alfie?' Or as I once told my Med Lab Sci students, you should try to identify the 'so what' message of research papers. So too should blogs have a point. My biased musings on the results:
  • So much money is being poured into research for a vaccine and improved COVID-19 testing. It's a race to get there first among nations, including to have the vaccine manufactured in a country, as presumably that would give priority access to its citizens. 
  • Seems a rush to strike gold first. Potential for industrialized nation to get priority access and developing nations to be left out as often is the case. Think of recombinant FVIII being unavailable for ages in developing nations. Also countries like India where blood banks still use ELISA to test for HIV, Hepatitis B and C, rather than NAT.
  • Convalescent plasma is the flavour of the year of COVID-19. Results look promising but final results not in yet. More troubling is the notion that having antibodies allows you to return to work as you are protected. But scientists don't know yet whether people who've been exposed will be immune for life, as for measles, or if COVID-19 can return again and again, like the common cold. 
  • Big Pharma wants mega-money up front to fund COVID-19 research (Further Reading). Quote from article:
    • Particular concern over poorer countries’ access to medical supplies was highlighted by G20 health ministers’ failure at the weekend to issue a declaration of solidarity after this was blocked by the US
I chose this Bob Dylan song as it reflects what's called the 'new normal' during COVID-19 and also reflects the current protests happening in the USA over the killing of a black man by a police officer. Somehow I suspect, with zero evidence, that the protests may be stronger and more widespread because of the coronavirus lockdown. Or perhaps because murder of black people by police has become all too common in America?

Chose Joan Baez to sing it for several reasons, the most important being she has a much better voice than Dylan. Also this version has the song's lyrics. Tidbit: Joan and Bob were once an item (Further Reading).
As always comments are most welcome.

TraQ's newsletters
Big Pharma calls for ‘billions’ in upfront coronavirus funding (20 Apr. 2020)

Joan Baez finally gets her public apology from Dylan (21 Sept. 2009)