“Two Promising Approaches” for Drugs to Reduce Severe Cases of Covid-19

(p. A19) Americans would have the confidence to return to work, even if the virus is still circulating in the fall, if they knew that a robust screening system is in place to identify and arrest new outbreaks and medication can significantly reduce the chance of becoming severely ill. Kevin Warsh, a former Federal Reserve governor, estimates that such a drug could restore at least $1 trillion in economic activity.

. . .  There are two promising approaches, and both could be available soon if government and private industry do things right.  . . .

One approach involves antiviral drugs that target the virus and block its replication. Think of medicines for treating influenza, HIV or cold sores. The drugs work by blocking the mechanisms that viruses use to replicate.  . . .

The other approach involves antibody drugs, which mimic the function of immune cells. Antibody drugs can be used to fight an infection and to reduce the risk of contracting Covid-19. These medicines may be the best chance for a meaningful near-term success.

Antibody drugs are based on the same scientific principles that make “convalescent plasma” one interim tactic for treating the sickest Covid-19 patients. Doctors are taking blood plasma from patients who have recovered from Covid-19 and infusing it into those who are critically ill. The plasma is laden with antibodies, and the approach shows some promise. The constraint: There isn’t enough plasma from recovered patients to go around.

For the full commentary, see:

Scott Gottlieb. “Bet Big on Treatments for Coronavirus; Antivirals and antibody therapies are showing promise. The FDA needs to step up its pace.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, April 6, 2020): A19.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date April 5, 2020, and has the same title as the print version.)

Scientists Are “a Political Interest Group Like Any Other”

(p. B15) Mr. Greenberg, who spent most of his professional life in Washington, became a science journalist at a time when many practitioners seemed to view their job as advancing the cause of research — a consideration that many researchers expected.

As an author, newspaper reporter and magazine editor, and as the founding editor and publisher of Science & Government Report, a newsletter he ran for almost 30 years, Mr. Greenberg took a different view.

From his vantage point in the capital, he tracked scientific rivalries and battles over the government’s science priorities, describing research not as a uniquely worthy activity but rather as one of many enterprises competing for federal largess.

“He recognized that science, and the scientific endeavor broadly, was a political interest group like any other, and they behaved like any other, and he covered them like any other,” said Daniel Sarewitz, a congressional staffer in the science policy arena in the early 1990s and now director of the Washington-based Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes at Arizona State University.

“He was not a toady or an advocate for the science community,” Dr. Sarewitz said. “He was a journalist covering science.”

Writing in The New York Times Book Review in 1968, Robert K. Merton, the eminent 20th-century sociologist of science, said Mr. Greenberg’s “perceptive” first book, “The Politics of Pure Science,” was one that “should be read by the President, legislators, scientists and the rest of us ordinary folk.”

For the full obituary, see:

Cornelia Dean. “Daniel S. Greenberg, 88, Science Journalist.” The New York Times (Thursday, March 26, 2020): B15.

(Note: the online version of the obituary was last updated March 26, 2020, and has the title “Daniel S. Greenberg, Science Journalist and Iconoclast, Dies at 88.” Williams’s question is in bold; Achorn’s answer is not in bold.)

The second edition of the book by Greenberg, mentioned in the passage quoted above, is:

Greenberg, Daniel S. The Politics of Pure Science. Second ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

French Jobs Rise as Labor Regulations Fall

(p. A1) PARIS — One after another, the speakers in Parliament have denounced President Emmanuel Macron and his revolutionary plans, calling them “cynicism” and a “flagrant crime.” Outside, hundreds of protesters shout their fury. Other demonstrators, invoking a long French tradition, have called for his head.

. . .

(p. A6) Mr. Macron has upset the French, and he is deeply unpopular for it. So it has become the defining paradox of his rule that he remains much despised, even as his changes begin to bear fruit.

The intractable unemployment rate, slayer of his predecessors, appears finally to be bending to a French president’s touch, recently reaching its lowest rate in 12 years at 8.1 percent.

Working-age employment rates are up, worker-training programs are showing big gains, quality long-term job contracts are outpacing precarious, short-term ones.

All of those are advances plausibly attributed to Mr. Macron’s landmark loosening of the rigid French labor market.

For the full story, see:

Adam Nossiter. “As the French Call for His Head, Macron Is Reshaping the Nation.” The New York Times (Wednesday, February 26, 2020): A1 & A6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 25, 2020, and has the same title “As Emmanuel Macron’s Impact Grows, So Does French Disdain.”)

A Dynamic Industry, Like Wireless, Counsels “Greater Caution in Judicial Intervention”

(p. A13) Donald Trump’s administration likes living dangerously on 5G. It pulled an unlikely victory out of its hat when a judge approved the wireless merger of Sprint and T-Mobile that’s been in the works for nearly a decade. The judge gave the OK, he said, because his crystal ball (his words) was just as good or bad as those of the plaintiffs and defendants.

His most sensible and telling observation came on page 148, where he suggested that a dynamic and rapidly changing industry like wireless counseled “greater caution in judicial intervention.”

For the full commentary, see:

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. “Trump Outswamps the 5G Swamp.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, February 19, 2020): A13.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Feb. 18, 2020, and has the title “YOUR HEALTH; Here’s Why Health Experts Want to Stop Daylight-Saving Time.” Where there is a difference in wording in the first quoted paragraph, the online version is used.)

Daylight-Saving Time Is Bad for Brain and for Health

(p. A12) Beth Ann Malow, a professor of neurology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., wrote in an opinion piece in JAMA Neurology that switching between daylight-saving time and standard time is bad for the brain. “Going back and forth is ridiculous and disruptive, it makes no sense,” said Dr. Malow, who believes permanent standard time would be healthier for all.

. . .

Muhammad Adeel Rishi, a pulmonologist and sleep physician at the Mayo Clinic Health System in Wisconsin, is the lead author of a daylight-saving time position statement that the American Academy of Sleep Medicine intends to publish this year.

About half-a-dozen studies have found a 5% to 15% increased risk of having a heart attack during the days after shifting to daylight-saving time. “It’s a preventable cause of cardiac injury,” Dr. Rishi said. One study found the opposite effect during the fall, in the days after the transition back to standard time. “So maybe the risk stays high throughout the time when we are on daylight-saving time,” he said.

For the full commentary, see:

Sumathi Reddy. “YOUR HEALTH; Why Daylight-Saving Time Is Bad for You.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, March 5, 2020): A12.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date March 4, 2020, and has the title “YOUR HEALTH; Here’s Why Health Experts Want to Stop Daylight-Saving Time.” Where there is a difference in wording in the first quoted paragraph, the online version is used.)

The opinion piece co-authored by Beth Ann Malow, and mentioned above, is:

Malow, Beth A., Olivia J. Veatch, and Kanika Bagai. “Are Daylight Saving Time Changes Bad for the Brain?” JAMA Neurology 77, no. 1 (2020): 9-10.

Single-Use Plastic Bags Are the Best Environmental Choice

(p. A15) Popular misconceptions have sustained the plastic panic. Environmentalists frequently claim that 80% of plastic in the oceans comes from land-based sources, but a team of scientists from four continents reported in 2018 that more than half the plastic in the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” came from fishing boats—mostly discarded nets and other gear. Another study, published last year by Canadian and South African researchers, found that more than 80% of the plastic bottles that had washed up on the shore of Inaccessible Island, an uninhabited extinct volcano in the South Atlantic, originated in China. They must have been tossed off boats from Asia, the greatest source of what researchers call “mismanaged waste.”

Of the plastic carried into oceans by rivers, a 2017 study in Nature Communications estimated, 86% comes from Asia and virtually all the rest from Africa and South America.

. . .

Yet single-use plastic bags aren’t the worst environmental choice at the supermarket—they’re the best. High-density polyethylene bags are a marvel of economic, engineering and environmental efficiency. They’re cheap, convenient, waterproof, strong enough to hold groceries but thin and light enough to make and transport using scant energy, water or other resources. Though they’re called single-use, most people reuse them, typically as trash-can liners. When governments ban them, consumers buy thicker substitutes with a bigger carbon footprint.

Once discarded, they take up little room in landfills. That they aren’t biodegradable is a plus, because they don’t release greenhouse gases like decomposing paper and cotton bags. The plastic bags’ tiny quantity of carbon, extracted from natural gas, goes back underground, where it can be safely sequestered from the atmosphere and ocean in a modern landfill with a sturdy lining.

For the full commentary, see:

John Tierney. “Plastic Bags Help the Environment.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, February 19, 2020): A15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Feb. 18, 2020, and has the same title as the print version.)

The Nature Communications study mentioned in the passages quoted above, is:

Lebreton, Laurent C. M., Joost van der Zwet, Jan-Willem Damsteeg, Boyan Slat, Anthony Andrady, and Julia Reisser. “River Plastic Emissions to the World’s Oceans.” Nature Communications 8, no. 1 (June 10, 2017): 1-10.

Government Ban on Motorbikes and Rickshaws Spreads Coronavirus in Nigeria

(p. A10) “I feel scared,” said Karo Otitifore, an elementary schoolteacher waiting at a bus stop in Yaba, the Lagos suburb where the Italian patient was being treated. “I try to sit tight, squeeze my whole body so that I won’t have to have too much body contact with people.”

. . .

He waited at a crowded bus stop for a bus crammed with passengers. A recent ban — unrelated to coronavirus — on the city’s fleet of motorcycle taxis and auto-rickshaws meant that many Lagosians are in even closer contact than usual, raising the risk of exposure should the virus spread.

For the full story, see:

Ruth Maclean and Abdi Latif Dahir. “First Confirmed Diagnosis In Nigeria Adds Pressure On a Weak Health System.” The New York Times (Saturday, February 29, 2020): A10.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Feb. 29, 2020, and has the title “Nigeria Responds to First Coronavirus Case in Sub-Saharan Africa.”)