COVID-19 Thread 4/1/2020 (Randomized Clinical Trial Reports on Efficacy of Hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19 Patients)

A new study has been published looking at the effects of treating COVID-19 patients with hydroxychloroquine.

Title: “Efficacy of hydroxychloroquine in patients with COVID-19: results of a randomized clinical trial”

Authors: Zhaowei Chen, Jijia Hu, Zongwei Zhang, Shan Jiang, Shoumeng Han, Dandan Yan, Ruhong Zhuang, Ben Hu, Zhan Zhang


Link to study:

From the abstract

“No difference in the age and sex distribution between the control group and the HCQ group. But for TTCR [Time to clinical recovery], the body temperature recovery time and the cough remission time were significantly shortened in the HCQ treatment group. Besides, a larger proportion of patients with improved pneumonia in the HCQ treatment group (80.6%, 25 of 32) compared with the control group (54.8%, 17 of 32). Notably, all 4 patients progressed to severe illness that occurred in the control group. However, there were 2 patients with mild adverse reactions in the HCQ treatment group. Significance: Among patients with COVID-19, the use of HCQ could significantly shorten TTCR and promote the absorption of pneumonia.” (Emphasis added)

COVID-19 Thread 3/30/2020 (FDA FDA Issues Emergency Use Authorization for Donated Hydroxychloroquine Sulfate, Chloroquine Phosphate)

There has been a lot of discussion about the use of hydrochlorquine/chloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, and many physicians around the world have been using it in treating patients, some reporting significant success. In some countries this has had approval from health authorities, in other countries, physicians have been using it in ‘off-label’ use.

Now in the United States, a Department of Health and Human Services press release announces that the Food and Drug Administration has issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for these drugs.

An Excerpt:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to BARDA to allow hydroxychloroquine sulfate and chloroquine phosphate products donated to the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) to be distributed and prescribed by doctors to hospitalized teen and adult patients with COVID-19, as appropriate, when a clinical trial is not available or feasible.

The EUA requires that fact sheets that provide important information about using chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate in treating COVID-19 be made available to health care providers and patients, including the known risks and drug interactions.

The SNS, managed by ASPR, will work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to ship donated doses to states. The SNS does not regularly stock either drug.

COVID-19 Thread 3/29/2020 (Should We All be Wearing Masks?)

Thanks to Engineer48 for bringing my attention to the following video from South Korea which features an interview with Professor Kim Woo-Ju, Professor of Infectious Diseases at the Korea University College of Medicine. He talks about the various ways that COVID-19 can be passed on from person to person and emphasizes the importance of wearing masks to limit the spread of the disease. He says that the disease is spread by virus-containing droplets coming from the mouths and noses of infected persons. Masks can help limit the spread of those droplets.

He notes that in Asian countries like Korea, everyone wears masks, and this helps prevent the spread of infection, whereas in European countries and the United States, wearing masks by the general public is not common, and COVID-19 has been spreading rapidly.

World Health Organization advice at this time is “If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected 2019-nCoV infection,” and that advice seems to have been echoed by health authorities in various countries. Bob Greenyer has informed us that this is not the case in the Czech Republic, where mask-wearing is mandatory for all persons in public places.

So maybe it is time to rethink our mask-wearing habits. However, I have read that there is a shortage of PPE (personal protective equipment) in many countries at the moment, so some people are coming up with creative ways to make masks at home out of commonly available materials.

COVID-19 Thread 3/28/2020 (French Follow-up Study of Hydrochloroquine Treatment, Plasma Treatment Study Published)

There has been a new study published by the French group of researchers studying the use of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin to treat COVID-19 patients:

“Clinical and microbiological effect of a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin in 80 COVID-19 patients with at least a six-day follow up: an observational study”

From the abstract:

We need an effective treatment to cure COVID-19 patients and to decrease the virus carriage duration. In 80 in-patients receiving a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin we noted a clinical improvement in all but one 86 year-old patient who died, and one 74 year-old patient still in intensive care unit. A rapid fall of nasopharyngeal viral load tested by qPCR was noted, with 83% negative at Day7, and 93% at Day8. Virus cultures from patient respiratory samples were negative in 97.5% patients at Day5. This allowed patients to rapidly de discharge from highly contagious wards with a mean length of stay of five days.

Also, a study has been published about treating COVID-19 patients with plasma from patients who have recovered from the disease:

“Treatment of 5 Critically Ill Patients With COVID-19 With Convalescent Plasma”
JAMA. Published online March 27, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.4783

From the Results section of the study:

All 5 patients (age range, 36-65 years; 2 women) were receiving mechanical ventilation at the time of treatment and all had received antiviral agents and methylprednisolone. Following plasma transfusion, body temperature normalized within 3 days in 4 of 5 patients, the SOFA score decreased, and Pao2/Fio2 increased within 12 days (range, 172-276 before and 284-366 after). Viral loads also decreased and became negative within 12 days after the transfusion, and SARS-CoV-2–specific ELISA and neutralizing antibody titers increased following the transfusion (range, 40-60 before and 80-320 on day 7). ARDS resolved in 4 patients at 12 days after transfusion, and 3 patients were weaned from mechanical ventilation within 2 weeks of treatment. Of the 5 patients, 3 have been discharged from the hospital (length of stay: 53, 51, and 55 days), and 2 are in stable condition at 37 days after transfusion.



COVID-19 Thread 3/26/2020 (Mats Lewan on the Case of Sweden)

Mats Lewan has written a blog post about the growth rate of COVID-19 infections and looks at it particularly from the Swedish perspective. Sweden is an interesting case because they are one of the few western countries that has not as yet introduced mandatory lockdown restrictions. Schools, restaurants and other public places are still open at this point.

He writes that in order to avoid overwhelming the health care services of countres, the growth rates of deaths (which he considers the most relevant statistic) needs to be kept below 10 per cent.

Here is an excerpt:

Now, the question is, will the mild measures in Sweden be enough to push down the spread of the disease, also pushing down the daily growth of deaths below 10 percent?

A number of favourable aspects have already helped us to keep the growth down initially (as we can see on the thin blue growth curve for Sweden):

Culturally, Swedish people have a tendency to do what they are asked to do for the common good, and we started relatively early with these behavioural recommendations, warned by Italy: Wash your hands, stay at home when you have symptoms, work from home if it is possible (and in Sweden it often is possible thanks to stable internet connections), avoid social contexts (some would claim that this comes naturally to us in Sweden…), protect the elderly by not meeting them etc.

We are reasonably helped by younger demographics compared to Southern Europe, and it probably also helps us that there is less daily contact between generations, traditionally.

BUT will this be enough to keep pushing down the daily growth below ten percent? Or will we need a lockdown too?

COVID-19 data for Sweden can be found here:


COVID-19 Thread 3/26/2020 (Bahrain Health Chief Claims Hydroxychloroquine Treatment is Effective; UK Epidemiologist Believes NHS Will Cope)

News is inevitably focused on coronavirus throughout the world these days. It seems that we are all held hostage to it to one degree of another, and it’s a problem that needs solving in order for life to progress. We have one thread that is getting very bulky with comments so I thought I would add new threads more regularly and include up-to-date stories that focus on possible solutions to the COVID-19 problem.

Thanks to Bob Greenyer for reporting on this first

Bahrain Health Chief Claims Hydroxychloroquine Treatment Effective in Treating COVID-19 Symptoms

“President of the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) Lt. General Dr. Shaikh Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, the Head of the National Taskforce to Combat Coronavirus (COVID-19), has affirmed that the therapeutic protocol of the Kingdom of Bahrain which uses Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) medication in treating COVID-19-infected cases has proved its effectiveness. He said the kingdom is one of the first countries that used the medication, pointing out its success in alleviating the symptoms of the virus and reducing its complications.”

Top epidemiologist predicts that the UK health system will be able to cope with COVID-19 cases.

“[Neil Ferguson, Imperial College London] said that expected increases in National Health Service capacity and ongoing restrictions to people’s movements make him “reasonably confident” the health service can cope when the predicted peak of the epidemic arrives in two or three weeks. UK deaths from the disease are now unlikely to exceed 20,000, he said, and could be much lower.”

Read more:

COVID-19 Solutions Thread

Naturally I am following the unfolding story of the spread and impact of the coronavirus COVID-19 across the world. It has had a massive and devastating impact to many so far and it seems like serious problems will continue.

We talk a lot about science and technology here, but this is not a medical website. However I am sure that all readers here are being impacted by this pandemic to one degree or another. I thought it might be useful to put up a thread on the site with the purpose at looking at some of the possible scientific solutions out there that could be implemented that might help ease the situation.

We all want this thing to be dealt with swiftly and effectively, and with the information and communication resources at our disposal these days, it might be that we can tackle the problem more swiftly today than has been possible in the past. There are people all over the world working as we speak to try and find ways to deal with this virus.

In my experience, ECW readers tend to be inventive, creative and inclined to solve problems. The purpose of this thread is for readers to share information about possible scientific/medical solutions to the disease, with the hope that we might be able to have some kind of positive influence on the current situation.

This thread is not meant for general news and events surrounding COVID-19, which can be found on many, many sites all over the web. I’d like this thread to be focused on sharing scientific information that could prove useful in the fight to defeat this virus.

I wish all of you the best as we face this problem together.

Australian Team Controls Nucleus of Atom Using Only Electric Fields

Thanks to the readers who alerted me to an article on the website about an article just published in Nature reporting on a Australian team of engineers who have managed to control nuclear spin exclusively with electric fields, rather than magnetic fields.

Link to the article is here:

An excerpt from the article:

“In a study published today in Nature, a team of engineers at UNSW Sydney has done what a celebrated scientist first suggested in 1961 was possible, but has eluded everyone since: controlling the nucleus of a single atom using only electric fields.

“This discovery means that we now have a pathway to build quantum computers using single-atom spins without the need for any oscillating magnetic field for their operation,” says UNSW’s Scientia Professor of Quantum Engineering Andrea Morello. “Moreover, we can use these nuclei as exquisitely precise sensors of electric and magnetic fields, or to answer fundamental questions in quantum science.”

The original article in Nature can be accessed here:

The abstract is available for free; there is a cost to read the full article.

Oil Prices Crash

I am sure all readers are very aware that the onset of the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak has had a dramatic impact on the world’s financial markets, including energy prices. Now, the failure of OPEC and Russia last week to agree to an oil production cut has triggered an even more sudden crash in oil prices.

At the time of writing, oil prices have dropped over 20 per cent since last week, with the price for Brent Crude at $35.53, and WTI Crude at $31.87. Russian president Vladimir Putin stated “I want to stress that for the Russian budget, for our economy, the current oil prices level is acceptable”.

While energy prices prices have fluctuated significantly in recent years, this is the most dramatic crash in in oil markets that I can recall since starting this website. Dramatic changes in energy markets can have big implications for producers,  governments, consumers and the overall geopolitical landscape.

Of course here at ECW, we are contemplating energy technologies that could also impact the whole energy production landscape, and could have important implications for the economics of the energy industry, and market readjustment may be something we have to get used to.



Potassium Metal Battery Emerges as a Rival to Lithium-Ion Technology (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Press Release)

The following press release was published by Rensselaer Polytechnic Instititue on March 2, 2020 here:

Potassium Metal Battery Emerges as a Rival to Lithium-Ion Technology
Rensselaer team finds solution to persistent problem facing potassium metal batteries

TROY, N.Y. — From cell phones, to solar power, to electric cars, humanity is increasingly dependent on batteries. As demand for safe, efficient, and powerful energy storage continues to rise, so too does the call for promising alternatives to rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, which have been the dominant technology in this space.

In research published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute demonstrate how they can overcome a persistent challenge known as dendrites to create a metal battery that performs nearly as well as a lithium-ion battery, but relies on potassium — a much more abundant and less expensive element.

Batteries contain two electrodes — a cathode on one end and an anode on the other. If you were to look inside a lithium-ion battery you’d typically find a cathode made of lithium cobalt oxide and an anode made of graphite. During charging and discharging, lithium ions flow back and forth between these two electrodes.

In this setup, if researchers were to simply replace lithium cobalt oxide with potassium cobalt oxide, performance would drop. Potassium is a larger and heavier element and, therefore, less energy dense. Instead, the Rensselaer team looked to boost potassium’s performance by also replacing the graphite anode with potassium metal.

“In terms of performance, this could rival a traditional lithium-ion battery,” said Nikhil Koratkar, an endowed professor of mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering at Rensselaer and the lead author on this paper.

While metal batteries have shown great promise, they have also traditionally been plagued by accumulation of metal deposits, called dendrites, on the anode. Dendrites are formed because of non-uniform deposition of potassium metal as the battery undergoes repeated cycles of charging and discharging. Over time, Koratkar explained, the conglomerates of potassium metal become long and almost branch-like.

If they grow too long, they will eventually pierce the insulating membrane separator meant to keep the electrodes from touching each other and shorting out the battery. Heat is created when a battery shorts and has the potential to set the organic electrolyte within the device on fire.

In this paper, Koratkar and his team — which included Prateek Hundekar, a doctoral student at Rensselaer, other researchers at Rensselaer, and researchers from the University of Maryland, including Chunsheng Wang, an endowed professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering — explain how their solution to that problem paves the way for practical consumer use. By operating the battery at a relatively high charge and discharge rate, they can raise the temperature inside the battery in a well-controlled manner and encourage the dendrites to self-heal off the anode.

Koratkar compares the self-healing process to what happens to a pile of snow after a storm has ended. The wind and the sun help move the flakes off the mound of snow, shrinking its size and eventually flattening it out.

In a similar way, while the temperature increase within the battery won’t melt the potassium metal, it does help to activate surface diffusion so the potassium atoms move laterally off the “pile” they’ve created, effectively smoothing the dendrite out.

“With this approach, the idea is that at night or whenever you’re not using the battery, you would have a battery management system that would apply this local heat that would cause the dendrites to self-heal,” Koratkar said.

Koratkar and his team previously demonstrated a similar method of self-healing with lithium metal batteries, but they found the potassium metal battery required much less heat to complete the self-healing process. That promising finding, Koratkar said, means a potassium metal battery could be more efficient, safe, and practical.

“I want to see a paradigm shift to metal batteries,” Koratkar said. “Metal batteries are the most efficient way to construct a battery; however, because of this dendrite problem they have not been feasible. With potassium, I’m more hopeful.”