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Health

Remdesivir disappoints in COVID-19 study; breast milk transmission unlikely

(Reuters) - The following is a roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

New questions about remdesivir COVID-19 efficacy

A new study is raising fresh questions about the efficacy of Gilead Sciences Inc's GILD.O anti-viral medication remdesivir in COVID-19 patients. A randomized, controlled trial of remdesivir in 584 moderately ill COVID-19 patients hospitalized with pneumonia yielded disappointing results in research published on Friday in JAMA. Compared to standard care without remdesivir, a 10-day course of the drug did not show a statistically significant effect on disease course at 11 days after treatment started, the study found. A five-day remdesivir course did make a statistically significant difference, but one so small that the researchers are not sure it really matters. Several other gold-standard trials are still underway, but as of now important questions remain regarding remdesivir's efficacy, Erin McCreary and Derek Angus of the University of Pittsburgh wrote in an editorial published alongside the study. They raised questions about whether some patients get more benefit from remdesivir than others and whether it matters if patients receive remdesivir and steroids together. It is still possible that remdesivir could improve recovery for millions of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, they added, but more research is needed before that becomes clear. Remdesivir is currently sold under an emergency-use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19. Gilead has filed an application seeking full FDA approval. (bit.ly/2E59k3T; bit.ly/32cQHTF; reut.rs/34p4HfA)

Breast milk an unlikely source of COVID-19 transmission

Transmission of the novel coronavirus to infants through breast milk appears unlikely, a new study indicates. Researchers analyzed 64 breast milk samples from 18 infected mothers. One sample contained inactive genetic material from the virus, but none of the samples contained active virus particles, the researchers reported on Wednesday in JAMA. Even if breast milk became contaminated during pumping and handling, the virus is inactivated by Holder pasteurization, a standard process at human milk banks that involves heating the milk to a certain temperature and then cooling it. In theory, mothers could do this themselves, but "good hygiene as recommended" is the best approach, study co-author Lars Bode of the University of California, San Diego told Reuters. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised nursing mothers with possible or confirmed COVID-19 to wear a cloth face covering while breast-feeding a baby and wash hands before touching the child and any pump or bottle parts. (bit.ly/31fGoPa)

Maintain indoor humidity to limit airborne coronavirus

Keeping indoor humidity levels between 40% and 60% will help limit airborne transmission of the novel coronavirus by minimizing the presence of infectious viral droplets in the air, according to a new study. The authors said that as the amount of water vapor in the air rises, viral droplet size increases and the heavier droplets fall from the air more quickly, providing less chance for other people to inhale them and become infected. By contrast, when humidity is low, the virus-containing droplets dry out - but the small infectious virus particles survive, floating in the air for longer periods and flying further through the room, depending on ventilation conditions, the researchers said in the journal Aerosol and Air Quality Research. Dry air also dries out the mucous membranes in the nose and makes them more permeable to viruses. Authorities should include humidity factors in future indoor guidelines, study co-author Dr. Sumit Kumar Mishra of CSIR - National Physical Laboratory in New Delhi said in a press statement. The findings are relevant not just in cold winter climates, his team said. Countries in tropical and hot climates should take care that indoor rooms are not dried out by overcooling with air conditioning. (bit.ly/32eAe15)

Michigan hospital introduces telehealth volunteering

"Virtual volunteering" at hospitals via telehealth by people who formerly volunteered in-person would ease pressures on medical workers, enhance patient experiences, reduce the risk of viral infection and provide a sense of normalcy for patients and families, researchers said on Thursday in the journal Medical Humanities. They urge hospitals to adapt medical volunteering for the coronavirus pandemic by restructuring volunteer services and support networks for virtual platforms. For example, they said, many hospitals have volunteers who provide educational services. Currently, patients have lost access to these tutors. Study co-author Zachary Pickell of the University of Michigan, who has spearheaded an effort to encourage virtual volunteering, told Reuters, "Recently, we began a virtual volunteering program for multiple departments at the University of Michigan Hospital to provide support for patients and families of hospital workers. Our early implementation shows increased engagement and positive outlook." (bit.ly/2Qc4TGD)

Open tmsnrt.rs/3a5EyDh in an external browser for a Reuters graphic on vaccines and treatments in development.

Reporting by Nancy Lapid; Editing by Will Dunham

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