Dexamethasone for Parkinsons? Not so elementary my dear Watson

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Artificial intelligence (AI) is being applied by scientists to all aspects of Parkinson’s research. From drug discovery to protein folding, the power of these supercomputers is being utilized and it is starting to bear interesting pieces of fruit.

Recently a group of scientists in Toronto (Canada) have reported a study using AI to identify clinically available drugs that may reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s (or slow it onset).

Specifically, using IBM’s Watson super computer, they screened through a medical records database (the Ontario Drug Benefit), and identified several classes of drugs that reduced the risk of developing PD.

In today’s post, we will review the results of the recent report and consider the implications.

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Dexamethasone. Source: Sky

This week we received fantastic news from the coordinators of the UK RECOVERY Trial that they have identified an agent that appears to have a significant impact on improving survival for individuals affected by COVID19 infections.

The RECOVERY (Randomised Evaluation of COVid-19 thERapY) trial – launched across 175 NHS hospitals in the UK in March – is one of the world’s largest randomized, controlled trials for coronavirus treatments (Click here to read more about this details of the trial). The study currently has more than 11,000 patients enrolled and it is evaluating 6 agents for their ability to combat the COVID-19 virus, SARS-CoV-2.

This week the researchers conducting the study announced that the corticosteroid dexamethasone – a medicine that reduces inflammation by mimicking anti-inflammatory hormones produced by the body – was able to reduced the risk of dying in infected individuals (on receiving oxygen therapy but were not on ventilators) by 20%. The agent had no effect on people with less severe cases of COVID-19.

Source: Bloomberg

It is a remarkable achievement – involving 2,100 patients who received the drug at a low-to-moderate dose of 6 milligrams per day for 10 days and were compared against approximately 4,000 patients who received standard care for the coronavirus infection (UPDATE 22/6/2020: a manuscript of the result is now avaiable – click here to read it).

Yeah, it’s brilliant. But what does this have to do with Parkinson’s?

Well, very recently dexamethasone has been identified as potentially having an effect on another medical condition.

Care to take a wild guess as to which condition that might be?

Continue reading “Dexamethasone for Parkinsons? Not so elementary my dear Watson”

The COVID-19 post

 

I have been extremely reluctant to write a post on this topic because the nature of it is well outside of my circle of confidence. But many concerned readers have emailed me about the current SARS-CoV-2/Covid-19 crisis asking questions.

Specifically, they want to know if people with Parkinson’s are more at risk and what can be done.

My answers to these emails has been very simple: There simply isn’t enough data to know at present if people with Parkinson’s are more vulnerable, but there is ample historic evidence to suggest that social distancing is a very good course of action.

In today’s short post, we discuss the SARS-CoV-2/Covid-19 situation.

 


Crystal Mill, Gunnison County, Colorado. Source: Pinterest

In 1918, as the young men of America returned from the Great War in Europe, they brought with them a terrible souvenir: Influenzia (or “The Spanish flu”).

By early October of that year, the virus had made its way across the midwest and it had reached the great state of Colorado. And on the 8th October – sensing the invisible enemy closing in – the officials in the sparsely populated mountainous Gunnison County (Colorado – pop. 5,600), isolated themselves off from the rest of the world. They immediately closed all of their schools, and insisted visitors undergo a five-day quarantine before being allowed to walk their streets.

Gunnison 1918. Source: 9News

Barricades with lanterns went up on the major highways. They carried warning signs instructing drivers to pass straight through the county without stopping. Absolutely no interaction between these visitors and the local residents was allowed. And anyone getting off a train at the main station was immediately put into mandatory quarantine.

The county maintained the quarantine order until the morning of February 5th, 1919 (4 months). The economy suffered, but the community survived – during that period of isolation, only two people in the entire county got the flu (one of whom passed away – Source).

The point of this historical tale is that social distancing is a very good defence in a pandemic.

The goal is to simply deprive a virus of any opportunity to move from person-to-person.

Perhaps the residents of “sparsely populated” Gunnison county just got lucky?

Continue reading “The COVID-19 post”