COVID-19 tracker: Melatonin emerges as promising COVID treatment

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Operation Warp Speed head Moncef Slaoui is seeking President Donald Trump’s approval to brief Joe Biden’s transition team, the Financial Times reports.

The sleep aid melatonin could help protect against COVID-19, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic found. Plus, the antidepressant fluvoxamine may reduce the risk of serious breathing problems in patients with mild disease, according to a recent study.

A prominent European medical group is recommending against the use of Gilead’s Veklury in patients requiring critical care.

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Two German brothers—and former pharma execs—have reaped a total of $8 billion this year from their investment in Pfizer vaccine partner BioNTech. State hackers from Russia and North Korea are still targeting coronavirus R&D secrets. And the U.S. on Thursday recorded more than 160,000 new cases, The New York Times reports.

The worldwide case count passed 53 million Friday afternoon, with more than 1.29 million reported deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 dashboard.

Please read below for the latest updates. Daily COVID-19 tracker entries from Aug. 11 to Oct. 30 can be found here. Entries from April 21 through Aug. 11 are here. Entries from Jan. 30 through April 20 are here.

UPDATED: Friday, Nov. 13 at 3:32 p.m. ET

Operation Warp Speed is seeking White House approval to connect with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team, Moncef Slaoui told the Financial Times. Slaoui, a GlaxoSmithKline vet who heads up the government program, said he wants to make sure the effort remains on track, no matter the administration in charge, and he needs a green light from President Donald Trump’s team to reach out to Biden’s. Trump so far has refused to concede the election, complicating the transition of power.

Qiagen kicked off marketing and distribution of its QIAreach antigen test in the U.S., where the portable diagnostic is under FDA review for emergency lab use. The company hopes to amend the authorization before year-end to enable use in hospitals and other point-of-care settings, and it’s pursuing an in-vitro diagnostic CE mark in Europe. QIAreach uses a digital hub and interchangeable test-stick cartridges to process more than 30 samples per hour. Story

The European Society of Intensive Care Medicine says Gilead’s remdesivir, now known as Veklury, should not be used in COVID-19 patients requiring critical care, the group’s president, Jozef Kesecioglu, told Reuters. The European medical association and the U.S. Society of Critical Care Medicine will state the recommendation in an upcoming paper on COVID-19 meds, Kesecioglu added. The advice follows a large WHO study that found the antiviral did little to help hospitalized patients. Gilead, for its part, has contested those results. Story

Patients taking the popular over-the-counter sleep aid melatonin were 28% less likely to test positive for COVID-19, a new study from the Cleveland Clinic found— though more testing is needed before the supplement could be widely used in treatment, the study’s senior author said. Researchers used an AI tool to screen data from 26,779 people in the clinic’s COVID registry, of whom 8,274 tested positive.  Story

The antidepressant fluvoxamine, if taken within the first week of COVID symptoms, could reduce the risk of breathing problems and hospitalization in patients with mild disease, a study from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found. The COVID-19 Early Treatment Fund will provide additional funding to the university for an 880-person trial to confirm the results.

Among those benefiting from Pfizer’s strong vaccine results this week? German brothers Andreas and Thomas Struengmann—founders of the generic drugmaker Hexal, bought by Novartis in 2005. The pair have collectively grown about $8 billion richer this year thanks to their stake in Pfizer’s German mRNA partner, BioNTech, BNN Bloomberg reports. Back in 2008, the brothers helped to give BioNTech €150 million in startup funds. They now own around half of the company.

In recent months, state hackers from Russia and North Korea have targeted “seven prominent companies directly involved in researching vaccines and treatments for COVID-19” in Canada, France, India, South Korea and the U.S., said Tom Burt, Microsoft VP of customer security and trust.

Tesla’s Elon Musk may have COVID-19, but he wouldn’t know it from the tests he’s taken. Musk was tested four times Thursday, all with the same BD rapid antigen test, receiving two positive and two negative results, he alleged on Twitter. “Something extremely bogus is going on,” he said. Musk’s view on the pandemic has been divisive—he later tweeted that the daily testing rate has gone “ballistic” in the U.S. and implied mounting case numbers were due to false positives.

The U.S. recorded more than 160,000 new cases Thursday, a little more than a week after logging 100,000 new infections in a single day for the first time, The New York Times reports. Meanwhile, COVID-19 hospitalizations reached 67,096 Thursday, setting a record for the third straight day, the news outlet said.

The U.S. has an undeniable “independent spirit,” but it’s time for the public to start following the rules when it comes to preventing the coronavirus’ spread, NIAID director Anthony Fauci said. Speaking with other health experts at Washington National Cathedral Thursday, Fauci acknowledged that it’s difficult to compare the U.S.’ coronavirus response to other nations, given the country’s size, but argued that stricter adherence to public safety guidelines would likely prevent another lockdown.

UPDATED: Friday, Nov. 13 at 9:56 a.m. ET

A vaccine ought to be required once one is proven safe and effective, Roche Chairman Christoph Franz told the Swiss newspaper Handelszeitung. He acknowledged that such a move would be controversial, but argued that a mandate would create “freedom in other areas” by halting the virus’ spread and potentially ending lockdowns. Franz’s statement is his own “personal opinion,” Roche told Reuters. The Swiss drugmaker isn’t developing a COVID shot but has teamed up with Regeneron to help produce its antibody cocktail.

The pressure is on for China to share data on its COVID-19 vaccine candidates. Brazil suspended a late-stage trial of Sinovac’s shot on Monday after a serious patient health scare—right around the time Pfizer revealed its BioNTech-partnered vaccine had so far shown more than 90% efficacy in phase 3. Now, lack of transparency threatens to put China’s vaccine diplomacy in jeopardy, health and political experts warn.

Shanghai-based Fosun, which has exclusive rights to Pfizer and BioNTech’s shot in the Greater China region, has ID’d a storage site near the Hong Kong airport that could allow the drugmaker to store large amounts of the shot at ultracold temperatures, South China Morning Post reports. Meanwhile, some experts raised concerns that cold-chain hurdles associated with Pfizer’s product may outweigh the potential benefits in China.


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