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Postpone or move Olympics over Zika outbreak

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The Rio Olympic Games should be postponed or moved “in the name of public health” over the Zika outbreak in Brazil, more than 100 prominent doctors and professors said in an open letter to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“We make this call despite the widespread fatalism that the Rio 2016 Games are inevitable or ‘too big to fail,”the writers said on Friday in the letter addressed to WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.

“Our greater concern is for global health. The Brazilian strain of Zika virus harms health in ways that science has not observed before.”

However, the WHO released a statement saying that based on its current assessment, “cancelling or changing the location of the 2016 Olympics will not significantly alter the international spread of Zika virus.”zika-virusThe organisation noted that Brazil has been the epicentre of the virus and one of almost 60 countries that have reported continuing transmission of Zika by mosquitoes, CNN reported.

“People continue to travel between these countries and territories for a variety of reasons. The best way to reduce risk of disease is to follow public health travel advice,” the WHO said.

The International Olympic Committee has said it has no plans to cancel or postpone the Games.

The officials in the letter stated the Zika virus has “more serious medical consequences than previously known” and has worsened in the Rio area despite widespread mosquito treatment programmes.Zika WHO“It is unethical to run the risk,” the letter said, adding “It is therefore imperative that WHO conduct a fresh, evidence-based assessment of Zika and the Games, and its recommendations for travellers.”

The Olympics are scheduled to begin on August 5-21. More than 500,000 people are expected to travel to Brazil from around the world.

Read More at: CDC: 279 pregnant women in U.S. have Zika virus

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NIMS begins subject registration for Covid 19 Vaccine clinical trial

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Covid 19 Vaccine

Hyderabad, July 7 : The subject enrolment for Phase-I clinical trial of India’s first indigenous vaccine for COVID-19 began at Nizam’s Institute of Medical Science (NIMS) here on Tuesday.

On the direction of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), authorities at NIMS began the process to register 30-60 subjects for the trial.

Blood and swab samples of the subjects will be collected and if found fit they will be administered the first dose of the vaccine after a week.

NIMS Director Dr K. Manohar told reporters that healthy subjects will be screened and their blood and swab samples sent to ICMR-designated lab in New Delhi. After receiving the test reports, the Department of Medicine will analyse the same and issue the fitness certificates to the subjects.

The subjects would be administered two doses of the vaccine. There will be two vaccine dosage of three micrograms and six micrograms, and a placebo.

Each subject would be given the second dose of the same vaccine after 14 days.

For two days after administering the vaccine, the subjects would be monitored for two days in the ICCU at NIMS by a team of doctors, after which they would be sent home and monitored through videoconference or phone.

The phase-I clinical trial would go on for 28 days, after which the ICMR and the Drug Controller General of India (DGCI) would accord permission for Phase-II trial with more subjects.

Phase-1 would have around 375 subjects across the country and Phase-II 875.

NIMS is one of the hospitals selected by the ICMR to undertake clinical trials of Covaxin, which it is developing in partnership with Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech International Limited (BBIL).

Meanwhile, the Ethics Committee at King George Hospital (KGH) in Visakhapatnam will hold a crucial meeting on Tuesday to finalise the preparations for the clinical trials. KGH is also one of the hospitals selected by ICMR for the trials.

In a letter to the heads of the selected institutions last week, ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava asked them to fast-track all approvals related to initiation of the clinical trials and ensure that the subject enrollment is initiated no later than July 7.

“It is envisaged to launch the vaccine for public health use latest by August 15, 2020 after completion of all clinical trials. BBIL is working expeditiously to meet the target; however, the final outcome will depend on the cooperation of all clinical trial sites involved in this project,” reads the letter dated July 2.

He noted that this is the first indigenous vaccine being developed by India and is one of the top priority projects that is being monitored at the topmost level of the government.

“The vaccine is being derived from a strain of SARS-CoV-2 isolated by ICMR-National Institute of Virology, Pune. ICMR and BBIL are jointly working for the preclinical as well as clinical development of this vaccine,” he wrote.

While experts raised doubts on the August 15 target, the ICMR defended it, saying its process is in accordance with the globally accepted norms to fast-track vaccine development for diseases of pandemic potential.

The research body said the Director’s letter was intended to cut red tape, without bypassing any necessary process, and speed up recruitment of participants for human trials so that these phases can be completed at the earliest.

BBIL refused to comment on ICMR’s August 15 deadline.

The company had announced on June 29 that it had successfully developed Covaxin, India’s first vaccine candidate for COVID-19, in collaboration with the ICMR and NIV.

The SARS-CoV-2 strain was isolated in NIV, Pune and transferred to Bharat Biotech. The indigenous, inactivated vaccine has been developed and manufactured in Bharat Biotech’s BSL-3(Bio-Safety Level 3) High Containment Facility located in Genome Valley, Hyderabad, the company said.

The Drug Controller General of India – Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO), Ministry of Health & Family Welfare granted permission to initiate Phase I and II human clinical trials after the company submitted results generated from preclinical studies, demonstrating safety and immune response.

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UN urges international community to unite against terroism amid pandemic

The Secretary-General urged member states to keep the momentum in the fight against terrorism and be innovative in their responses, which must protect and promote human rights.

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Antonio Guterres

United Nations, July 7 : A week-long UN Virtual Counter-Terrorism Week has kicked off to discuss the strategic and practical challenges of countering terrorism in a global pandemic environment.

Speaking at the high-level opening session on Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: “Like the virus, terrorism does not respect national borders. It affects all nations and can only be defeated collectively.

“So, we must harness the power of multilateralism to find practical solutions.”

The UN chief warned that “IS, Al Qaeda, their regional affiliates – as well as neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups – seek to exploit divisions, local conflicts, governance failures and grievances to advance their objectives”, reports Xinhua news agency

The Secretary-General urged member states to keep the momentum in the fight against terrorism and be innovative in their responses, which must protect and promote human rights.

“We must commit to do more and better. As in every other area of our mission. Our work should be assessed by the difference we make in people”s lives,” he stressed.

The Virtual Counter-Terrorism Week encompasses a total of 10 webinars and interactive discussions, in which more than 1,000 representatives will address key counter-terrorism topics in light of the COVID-19 crisis across all four pillars of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

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High BP pills can also reduce colorectal cancer risk

“Our results provide new insights on a potential role of these medications for colorectal cancer prevention,” said study author Wai K Leung from the University of Hong Kong in Hong Kong.

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Hong Kong, July 6 : Researchers have now claimed that medications commonly prescribed to treat high blood pressure may also reduce patients’ colorectal cancer risk.

Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor (ACE-i) or angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARB) medications are prescribed for conditions such as heart failure, high blood pressure or heart disease. These medications inhibit or block angiotensin, a chemical that causes arteries to become narrow, the researchers said.

Doctors commonly prescribe these medications to people with high blood pressure to relax and open blood vessels, thereby lowering blood pressure.

The current study, published in the Hypertension, an American Heart Association journal, revealed that taking these medications may also reduce colorectal cancer risk.

“Our results provide new insights on a potential role of these medications for colorectal cancer prevention,” said study author Wai K Leung from the University of Hong Kong in Hong Kong.

“This is the first study to show the potential beneficial effects of ACE inhibitors and ARBs on colorectal cancer development, based on a large group of patients who were colorectal cancer-free at the beginning of the study,” Leung added.

The roles of ACE inhibitors and ARBs on cancer development are controversial and, in some cases, study findings are conflicting. Results of previous studies have been limited by several factors including a small number of patients and data only on short-term follow-ups.

For the present study, the research team reviewed health records of 187,897 adult patients in Hong Kong from 2005 to 2013, with a negative baseline colonoscopy for colorectal cancer. The analysis found that those who took hypertension medications such as ACE-i or ARBs had a 22 per cent lower risk of developing colorectal cancer in the subsequent three years.

The benefits of ACE-i and ARBs were seen in patients 55 or older and those with a history of colon polyps and the benefit associated with the medications were limited to the first three years after the negative baseline colonoscopy.

“While ACE-i and ARBs are taken by patients with high blood pressure, heart failure and kidney diseases, the reduction in colorectal cancer risk may be an additional factor for physicians to consider when choosing anti-hypertensive medications,” Leung said.

Researchers noted that the results should be verified with a prospective randomised controlled study, which would actively follow patients to determine the potential benefits of these medications on colorectal cancer risk.

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