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Hydroxychloroquine Research Is Hampered By Politics, Furor Over The Drug : Shots

Hydroxychloroquine, a drug used to prevent malaria and treat certain autoimmune conditions, is being studied to treat or prevent COVID-19.

George Frey/AFP via Getty Images

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George Frey/AFP via Getty Images

Hydroxychloroquine, a drug used to prevent malaria and treat certain autoimmune conditions, is being studied to treat or prevent COVID-19.

George Frey/AFP via Getty Images

Publicity around the drug hydroxychloroquine spiked this week when President Donald Trump revealed that he’s taking it to prevent COVID-19.

All the attention on the drug in recent months is increasingly spilling into science, and making it harder for some researchers to actually study whether the drug has potential for COVID-19.

Doctors have used hydroxychloroquine for decades to treat auto-immune conditions and to prevent malaria.

While the Food and Drug Administration has given emergency use authorization for doctors to try the treatment on COVID-19 patients, the agency has also cautioned about its possibly deadly side effects.

On Wednesday, the executive director of the World Health Organization’s emergencies program, Dr. Mike Ryan echoed other leading medical experts, saying at a press briefing that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have “yet to be found effective in the treatment of COVID-19” or for preventing the disease.

Because of potential side effects, Ryan says the WHO advises the drug “be reserved” for use in the context of clinical trials, which are now underway in many places.

But for some researchers, running such trials is becoming more difficult because of the controversy around the drug.

Missed opportunity

Dr. Jon Giles didn’t expect to have any problems drumming up interest in his clinical trial testing if hydroxychloroquine can help prevent COVID-19.

“We were getting calls all the time from people who were interested,” says Giles, an epidemiologist and rheumatologist at Columbia University.

For his study, Giles planned to give a short course of the medication to people who were “household contacts” of COVID-19 patients. Like many of the ongoing trials, it would be randomized with a control group.

By the end of April, Giles was ready to start enrolling people. But his team ran into a problem when they started calling potential participants.

“Pretty much everybody said, Well that’s the drug that’s dangerous to your heart, or, I talked to my friends and they said don’t take it, or that I saw on TV it’s dangerous,” says Giles.

Just a month earlier, he says demand for the drug was soaring. Some patients with auto-immune conditions couldn’t even get their prescriptions filled, after President Trump spoke enthusiastically about the drug.

In April, the FDA issued a warning about using the drug for COVID-19 patients without strict medical supervision in a hospital or as part of a clinical trial. The agency had received reports of serious heart-related adverse events and death in patients with COVID-19 receiving hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine.

But the back and forth headlines and the ongoing political wrangling seemed to make people wary of the medication, Giles says, even in the context of a carefully run clinical trial.

“It became almost impossible to get anyone interested,” says Giles.

Giles says the committee overseeing his study added a new requirement: that study participants needed to have had an ECG within the last year.

As a rheumatologist, Giles knows the medication better than most doctors because he prescribes it to many of his patients.

“It’s a very, very safe drug, it’s been used for over 75 years,” he says. “When I give someone hydroxychloroquine, I don’t get an ECG or do blood monitoring.”

Giles was planning to enroll otherwise healthy people and screen out anyone who could be at risk of heart problems. But that new requirement, plus the negative press, made it too difficult to find study subjects.

He gave up on doing the study. He says it’s a missed opportunity.

“It’s not unreasonable to think that a short course of this drug might have some protective ability,” he says.

Risks and potential

The concern over cardiac risk for hospitalized patients is real, says Dr. Mark Poznansky, director of the Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center in the Infectious Disease Division of Massachusetts General Hospital. Even though the drug has been used safely to prevent malaria, he says, “that is very different from using the drug in acutely ill patients with COVID-19.”

He recently published a review of the evidence for using hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 that casts doubt on its effectiveness.

“The data up to date … doesn’t make one entirely optimistic that we are going to find something different in a clinical trial,” he says.

Poznansky notes a recent study of nearly 1,400 people with moderate to severe COVID-19 found no benefit and concluded that the drug should not be routinely used on patients.

He says the drug should only be used in the context of clinical trials, “or under strict compassionate use, in order to do no harm.”

Still, Poznansky doesn’t rule out that further well-designed trials could turn up better results.

‘The virus doesn’t care about politics’

At Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, cardiologist Dr. William O’Neill says enrollment for their clinical trial studying hydroxychloroquine to prevent COVID-19 plummeted in late April.

“It really caused a huge problem for us,” O’Neill says. “It set us back probably a month.”

O’Neill attributes the drop in enrollment to the FDA warning and a highly publicized study of over 300 hospitalized veterans with COVID-19. The authors of that study found the drug did not reduce the need for a ventilator and even linked hydroxychloroquine to higher death rates. However, the study wasn’t a rigorous controlled trial and the results weren’t peer reviewed.

“That was interpreted as a warning that the drug is dangerous,” says O’Neill. But he says, using it for prevention is a different matter than treating already sick patients. “Everything that we see about hydroxychloroquine suggests that the earlier you use the drug, the more likely it is to be effective.”

O’Neill says the fact that President Trump is touting this drug means it now has become a political flashpoint.

“It has made people absolutely committed to proving him wrong,” he says.

“The problem with that is this is not politics, this is life and death,” he says. “We’re talking about a treatment. Who would be rooting for us not to find a therapy, for God’s sakes?”

Multiple clinical trials involving hydroxychloroquine are underway at the University of Washington in Seattle. But Dr. Christine Johnston says recruitment has become a major challenge.

“We are hearing now from some participants that the study and the drug feel too political and they just don’t want to participate at all,” says Johnston. “As physicians, we would not do something that we thought was harmful.”

Johnston’s colleague, professor Dr. Ruanne Barnabas, is trying to recruit 2,000 patients to test whether the drug can prevent COVID-19.

“A clinical trial is the only way that we will be able to answer this question quickly and with high confidence,” she says.

Researchers at Duke University are also testing if hydroxychloroquine can be a new tool for prevention during the pandemic. But Duke professor of medicine Dr. Susanna Naggie says they need to be able to recruit enough people.

“I do worry that there are many well controlled trials that are underway where we won’t get an answer,” says Naggie. “That, I think, would be a shame.”

Another researcher conducting large trials, Dr. Wesley Self, says the coverage of hydroxychloroquine has felt a bit like an “emotional roller coaster,” which has led to more questions from patients.

“I actually find it helpful,” says Self, an emergency physician at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. We’re giving people relatively low doses of hydroxychloroquine, which we believe are quite safe. And we’re monitoring for side effects very closely.”

Self is the lead investigator of the ORCHID trial that focuses on hydroxychloroquine in treating hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

“This is a perfect situation for a clinical trial to really understand what the balance of those benefits and risks are,” he says.

Another large clinical trial is looking at whether hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin can keep people with COVID-19 from being hospitalized or dying.

“We think the way that this medication works, it would be better to take it early, rather than later, especially when somebody is really really sick already,” says Dr. Davey Smith, head of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health at University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

“In reality, the virus doesn’t care about politics and science should also not care about politics,” Smith says. “I just want an answer one way or the other.”

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Coindesk News

EU Supercomputers Hijacked From COVID-19 Research to Mine Cryptocurrency

European supercomputers programmed to search for a vaccine for the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) were remotely hijacked last week for the purpose of mining cryptocurrency.

According to a report by ZDNet, multiple supercomputers across the EU were compromised by a string of malware attacks that required a shut down after it was discovered they were being used for crypto mining – also known as cryptojacking. The hackers had gained entry via stolen SSH (remote access) credentials from individuals authorized to operate the machines.

Security researcher Chris Doman, co-founder of Cado Security, told ZDNet that the malware was designed to use the supercomputers’ processing power to mine monero (XMR). It is also believed a number of the compromised supercomputers were being used to prioritize research for a coronavirus vaccine, although details surrounding the hacks and the computer’s purpose appear to have been left deliberately vague.

Security incident reports came from Germany, the U.K and Switzerland, with a potential hijack also said to have occurred at a high-performance computer located in Spain.

The first reported incident took place on May 11 at the University of Edinburgh, which operates the ARCHER supercomputer. “Due to a security exploitation on the ARCHER login nodes, the decision has been taken to disable access to ARCHER while further investigations take place,” the university announced in a public update.

To date, the ARCHER supercomputer is still down pending further security purges, as well as a reset of its system and passwords. “The ARCHER and Cray/HPE System Teams continue to work on ARCHER and getting it ready to return to service. We anticipate that ARCHER will be returned to service later this week,” the university said.

Germany-based bwHPC, an organization that coordinates research projects across supercomputers in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg, declared five of its high-performance computing clusters had to be shut down due to similar “security incidents.

A supercomputer located in Barcelona, Spain, was also impacted on May 13, with researcher Felix von Leitner declaring in a blog post that the computer had a security issue and had to be shut down.

On May 14, further incidents began cropping up with the first one coming from Leibniz Computing Center (LZR), an institute with the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The Academy said it had disconnected a computing cluster from the internet after its security was breached.

On Saturday, German scientist Robert Helling published an analysis on the malware that was infecting a high-performance computing cluster at the Faculty of Physics at the Ludwig-Maximillian University University in Munich, Germany.

And in Switzerland, the Swiss Center of Scientific Computations (CSCS) in Zurich also shut down external access to its supercomputer infrastructure following a “cyber-incident” on Saturday.

Similar incidents have occurred in the past. Earlier this year a group of hackers known as “Outlaw” began infiltrating Linux-based enterprise systems in the U.S. in order to hijack personal computing power and mine XMR.

Disclosure Read More

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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News Sputnik

Coronavirus Pandemic Has Had ‘Enormous Impact’ on Productivity of Academic Research, Professor Says

A study has revealed that over twenty-eight million surgeries throughout the world could be cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. But just what impact will the virus have on scientific research and health care going forward?

Stephanie Burton, a professor in Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, gave her views on the matter.

Sputnik: How has the coronavirus pandemic affected academic research?

Stephanie Burton: An enormous amount of research has been focused immediately on the pandemic itself, on not only the search for vaccines and treatments, but also of course on the epidemiology, the modelling, the predicting, and the social aspects of it.

What it has also done of course is to change the way that people are living, it has had a real impact on how people access their workplaces, so people are not able to go to research facilities, they are not able to travel in the same way, and they are certainly not able to interact in the same way.

Looking at what we have experienced ourselves, there has been an enormous impact on the productivity in certain aspects of research, there have been many programmes that have been closed down, and others where you simply cannot maintain the, for example, biological samples, plant collection, animal populations, and so on, so there have been some programmes that have been closed down.

Some of them have been delayed, for example, research on seasons for climate change, which have been postponed to the point where they have possibly lost a year or so of data, so there will be programmes of that sort that have been delayed.

There has been a change in the way we publish. Hitherto it has been long term and sometimes many months from the point of an article being submitted to the point where it is published, that has turned around, and people are using a different approach of not waiting for peer review, but putting so-called pre-prints onto a database, and they become open to the public, there are pros and cons to that, but that has been one of the changes.

Sputnik: Are scientists from different countries throughout the world now more willing to collaborate on projects?

Stephanie Burton: Absolutely. We have already seen that. We already know that in the search for a coronavirus vaccine and in characterising the disease, there has been some tremendous collaboration, and I think that we are seeing that continue.

There has been sharing of data, sharing of capacity, working together on how we might be dealing with other impacts of the virus, so yes I think that there has been a very positive impact on the way in which people collaborate.

There has perhaps also been a little bit less competition between groups, and a bit more cooperation.

Sputnik: How long will it be before a coronavirus vaccine is created?

Stephanie Burton: I have no doubt that the cooperation will help. I’m optimistic that we are talking months to a year, rather than longer, and that’s because we have got quite a lot of expertise around the world in developing vaccines.

If you read some of the publications, there are many approaches being taken, there is not only one way to make a vaccine, and I think that the other part of that is that the manufacturing side of it, as once you design a vaccine, you then need to manufacture enough of that vaccine.

We already know that there are pharma companies across the world who are putting in place facilities that would allow them to produce large amounts of vaccines quite quickly, once we know what the vaccine is, so working in parallel rather than working in succession is going to speed up that process.

The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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News Veterans Today

COVID-19 Brings Health Disparities Research to the Forefront – Veterans Today


COVID-19 Brings Health Disparities Research to the Forefront

NIH Director’s Blog

The coronavirus 2019 (COVD-19) pandemic has brought into sharp focus many of the troubling things that we already knew about health disparities in the United States but have failed to address. With the bright light now shining on this important issue, it is time to talk about the role research can play in reducing the disproportionate burden of COVID-19, as well as improving the health of all people in our great nation.

In recent weeks, we’ve seen a growing list of disturbing statistics about how blacks, Hispanics, tribal communities, and some other racial, ethnic, and disadvantaged socioeconomic groups are bearing the brunt of COVID-19. One of the latest studies comes from a research team that analyzed county-by-county data gathered about a month ago. Their findings? The 22 percent of U.S. counties that are disproportionately black accounted for 52 percent of our nation’s COVID-19 cases and 58 percent of COVID-19 deaths. In a paper awaiting peer review, the team, led by Emory University, Atlanta, and amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, Washington, DC., noted that neither the size of the county nor whether it was urban or rural mattered [1].

Recently, I had an opportunity to discuss the disparate burden of COVID-19 with Dr. Eliseo Pérez-Stable, Director of NIH’s National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). Besides leading an institute, Dr. Pérez-Stable is a widely recognized researcher who studies various factors that contribute to health disparities. Our conversation took place via videoconferencing, with him linking in from his home in Washington, D.C., and me from my home in nearby Maryland. Here’s a condensed transcript of our chat:

Read Full Chat:

Carol graduated from Riverside White Cross School of Nursing in Columbus, Ohio and received her diploma as a registered nurse. She attended Bowling Green State University where she received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Literature. She attended the University of Toledo, College of Nursing, and received a Master’s of Nursing Science Degree as an Educator.

She has traveled extensively, is a photographer, and writes on medical issues. Carol has three children RJ, Katherine, and Stephen – two daughters-in-law; Suzy and Katie – two granddaughters; Isabella Marianna and Zoe Olivia – and one grandson, Alexander Paul. She also shares her life with husband Gordon Duff, many cats, and two rescue pups.

Carol’s Archives 2009-2013

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News RT

Cold War nuclear tests had heavy impact on weather & rainfall, new research finds — RT World News

A flurry of nuclear weapons tests carried out amid the Cold War arms race may have had a profound impact on weather patterns across the planet, increasing rainfall thousands of miles away from testing sites, a new study found.

Using historic records from a research facility in Scotland dating back to the peak of the Cold War, a team of scientists compared day-to-day changes in the electric charge flowing through clouds following “the release of artificial radioactivity” – unleashed by nuclear explosions, that is – to determine how the bomb tests affected rainfall. Their findings were published in the Physical Review Letters journal on Wednesday.

Also on
Even ‘small-scale’ nuclear war between India & Pakistan would DEVASTATE global food supply – study

The team assessed data gathered between 1962 and 1964 – around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, during which the United States and the former Soviet Union carried out hundreds of bomb tests – finding that on days with greater radioactivity, rainfall was up by 24 percent on average and clouds were “optically thickened.”

“By studying the radioactivity released from Cold War weapons tests, scientists at the time learnt about atmospheric circulation patterns. We have now reused this data to examine the effect on rainfall,” said Giles Harrison, the study’s lead author and a professor of atmospheric physics at the University of Reading.

The politically charged atmosphere of the Cold War led to a nuclear arms race and worldwide anxiety. Decades later, that global cloud has yielded a silver lining, in giving us a unique way to study how electric charge affects rain.

While largely confined to remote areas of the world, such as deserts and uninhabited islands, the nuclear bomb blasts ionized the atmosphere and generated an electric charge which could alter weather patterns thousands of miles away from test sites, the researchers found.

Also on
Pity they don’t work against Covid-19: US drives RECORD global spending on atomic weapons, report shows

Since the first successful test in the summer of 1945, some 2,058 nuclear bombs have been detonated all over the planet – including the two American devices dropped on Japanese cities during World War II – according to the Arms Control Association. While the majority of the trials were conducted underground, over 500 atmospheric tests were carried out between 1945 and 2017.

Though the Cold War and its associated arms race waned with the dissolution of the USSR, nuclear tests haven’t ceased entirely, and the new findings could shed light on their ecological impact going forward. The research could also advance the field of geoengineering, providing insight into how electricity might be used to influence weather patterns.

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News Sputnik

Washington State Research Institute Projects Coronavirus May Kill Over 147,000 in US

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – The Seattle-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects over 147,000 coronavirus fatalities in the United States by early August, increasing its previous estimate by more than 10,000.

According to its model, updated to reflect increasingly relaxed restrictions, 147,040 Americans may die as of 4 August. A week ago the forecast was 134,475 through the last month of summer.

The daily death rate in the country reached its peak on 16 April, when 2,229 citizens diagnosed with COVID-19 died, the university says. It also projects a possible 1,803 fatalities on Tuesday.

The US administration has declared that the pandemic passed its peak and is encouraging states to gradually lift lockdowns.

In total, the United States now has 82,227 deaths from coronavirus and nearly 1.4 million diagnosed disease cases, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally. The state of New York has been most affected by the novel virus. According to the New York State Department of Health, 338,485 people have tested positive for the virus statewide, while 21,845 have died.

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Beware Of China And Others Trying To Steal COVID-19 Research : NPR

A pharmacist gives Jennifer Haller a shot in the first-stage safety clinical trial of a potential vaccine for COVID-19 on March 16 at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. U.S. officials say they are already seeing efforts by foreign actors to steal information from U.S. firms working on a vaccine and treatments for the virus.

Ted S. Warren/AP

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Ted S. Warren/AP

A pharmacist gives Jennifer Haller a shot in the first-stage safety clinical trial of a potential vaccine for COVID-19 on March 16 at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. U.S. officials say they are already seeing efforts by foreign actors to steal information from U.S. firms working on a vaccine and treatments for the virus.

Ted S. Warren/AP

As researchers around the globe race to develop a coronavirus vaccine, U.S. authorities are warning American firms to exercise extreme caution in safeguarding their research against China and others with a track record of stealing cutting-edge medical technology.

“We are imploring all those research facilities and hospitals and pharmaceutical companies that are doing really great research to do everything in their power to protect it,” Bill Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said in an interview with NPR.

“We don’t want that company or the research hospital to be the one a year from now, two years from now, identified as having it all stolen before they finished it,” said Evanina, whose center falls under the director of national intelligence.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Britain’s National Cyber Security Center recently issued a statement saying hackers are “actively targeting organisations … that include healthcare bodies, pharmaceutical companies, academia, medical research organisations, and local government.”

The statement did not name China or any other country. Reuters reported that hackers linked to Iran tried to break into email accounts at the U.S. drugmaker Gilead Sciences, which has a potentially promising drug to treat the COVID-19 virus. Iran denied the report.

China’s record

Meanwhile, Evanina says China, far more than any other country, has been aggressively stealing valuable medical technology for years. Information on a possible vaccine would be a huge prize.

“We have full expectation that China will do everything in their power to obtain any viable research that we are conducting here in the U.S.,” Evanina said. “That will be in line with their capabilities and intent the last decade plus, and we are expecting them to continue to do so.”

A number of drug makers, research labs and government health bodies have announced efforts to seek a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19. That’s made them a target, FBI Deputy Assistant Director Tonya Ugoretz said recently.

“We certainly have seen reconnaissance activity, and some intrusions, into some of those institutions,” she said. “It kind of makes them a mark for other nation-states that are interested in gleaning details about what exactly they’re doing and maybe even stealing proprietary information.”

China has long denied involvement in corporate espionage and has called for international cooperation to accelerate progress on COVID-19 vaccines and therapies. Beijing points to its sharing of the coronavirus’ gene sequence as evidence of its sincerity. Meanwhile, Chinese labs say they are racing ahead to find a homegrown vaccine.

President Trump and his administration have frequently criticized China for its handling of the coronavirus. Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have said the virus may have escaped from a lab in the central city of Wuhan. But they have not provided evidence, and this has led to skepticism about some administration claims regarding what has happened inside China in recent months.

‘Made in China 2025’

However, the U.S. national security community has shared a broad consensus for years about what they say is a sustained Chinese government effort to acquire, lawfully or not, a wide range of intellectual property, including medical research.

U.S. officials often point to China’s President Xi Jinping and his “Made in China 2025” plan, which calls for the country to be a world leader in the most important technologies of the 21st century — artificial intelligence, renewable energy, quantum computing, driverless cars and wide range of medical technologies.

In the past couple years, the Justice Department has filed charges in multiple cases involving Chinese nationals or people suspected of working for China to steal medical technology, often involving cancer research.

U.S. officials describe these efforts as taking several different forms.

One is widespread and persistent hacking attempts directed at tech companies or research labs working on technology China has identified as important.

A second method is sending students or researchers to work in the U.S., often for extended periods. In a case last year, the Justice Department filed charges against a Chinese couple that worked for 10 years at an Ohio lab that researches pediatric diseases, including childhood cancers. U.S. authorities accuse the couple of stealing research at the Ohio lab for use in a company the husband-and-wife team had established back in China.

U.S. officials say a third path is China’s Thousand Talents Program. China identifies promising research, often at a U.S. university, then offers funding through its Thousand Talents Program with the expectation it will get access to the research as well. U.S. academics are required to tell the U.S. government if they receive such foreign funding.

Security briefings

To combat the theft of U.S. technology, Evanina works with law enforcement and other government partners to brief company CEOs, university presidents and other leaders of organizations that are being targeted.

This began several years ago, and includes senior leaders in the medical community. Sometimes they are called to Washington for a briefing where the organizations may also hear from Sen. Richard Burr, the North Carolina Republican who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat.

“We provide (the organizations) a one-day classified briefing. We make sure they understand the complexity of the threat. We’ve done that for multiple sectors that include hospitals, medical centers and research institutions and the pharmaceutical community as well,” said Evanina.

Greg Myre is an NPR national security correspondent. Follow him @gregmyre1.

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News Veterans Today

Found: The Source of the Pandemic, Pentagon Run Bat Research Lab in Caucuses (formatting fixed) – Veterans Today

smiling COVID bat, Lugar Center 2018

By Dilyana Gaytandzhieva

Project G-2101: Pentagon biolab discovered MERS and SARS-like coronaviruses in bats
The Lugar Center scientists collected 450 bats in total in 2012 and 2014 (photos: Lela Urushadze, Zoonotic pathogens and their molecular epidemiological characteric in Georgian bats, Dissertation, Ilia State University, Tbilisi, Georgia, 2018)

Bat samples were shipped to CDC, Atlanta, for screening for pathogens (source: Lela Urushadze, The First Bat Survey for Emerging Zoonotic Pathogens in Georgia)

Project G 2101 by Gordon Duff on Scribd


Project G-2101: Pentagon biolab discovered MERS and SARS-like coronaviruses in bats

Two years ago, I investigated an alleged laboratory accident at the Lugar Center, the Pentagon biolaboratory in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, which had resulted in the death of two Filipinos working in the laboratory. The death cases were hidden by the local authorities but I recorded on camera witnesses who testified about this tragic incident.

However, what then seemed to me to be a local issue, turned out to be part of a bigger story. The Lugar Center in Georgia is just one of the many Pentagon biolaboratories in 25 countries across the world. They are funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) under a $ 2.1 billion military program – Cooperative Biological Engagement Program (CBEP), and are located in former Soviet Union countries such as Georgia and Ukraine, the Middle East, South East Asia and Africa. Much of their work is classified and includes projects on bio-agents and pathogens with pandemic potential.

bagged COVID research bats, Georgia 2018

The first known case of use of biological weapons in our history was 250 years ago when the British gave blankets infected with smallpox to the indigenous people of North America.  As a result, a great many of them died and the British Empire gained control over the whole continent. Biological weapons are definitely much more effective than nuclear weapons.

The use of nuclear weapons leaves traces: an airplane taking off from an aerodrome and launching a rocket, a large number of participants in preparation of an attack. Therefore, the perpetrators can be easily detected and held to account. Conversely, viruses can be used as weapons, though, they do not leave such immediate or discernible traces and it takes only a few crazy people who have decided to kill millions.

friendly COVID research bat, Georgia 2018 (Lugar Center)

According to some scientific estimates, biological weapons can potentially destroy up to two thirds of the global population in just a year. Our world is one big metropolis and even one virus engineered in a laboratory would be able to fulfil this goal in a short period of time, at a minimal cost and without leaving traces to the perpetrator.

sorting bats for COVID virus ‘research’ Lugar Center, Tbilisi, Georgia 2018

Below, I am presenting information about what I have discovered while investigating Pentagon biolaboratories abroad.

Genetic Study on Bats

The Lugar Center, a $161 million Pentagon-funded biolaboratory in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, discovered coronaviruses in bats with presumably pandemic potential as early as 2014, documents have revealed.

smiling COVID bat, Lugar Center 2018

Furthermore, in 2017 the Pentagon launched a $6.5 million program in cooperation with the Lugar Center involving genetic studies on coronaviruses in 5,000 bats collected in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Jordan.

Collecting Bats for COVID ‘research’, Georgia 2018

Coincidentally, the same Pentagon contractor tasked with the US DoD bat-research program – Eco Health Alliance, USA, also collected bats and isolated coronaviruses along with Chinese scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Eco Health Alliance received a $3.7 million grant from the US National Institute of Health (NIH) to collect and study coronaviruses in bats in China from 2014 to 2019.

Novel Coronaviruses

The Lugar Center sparked controversy about possible dual-use research in 2018 when leaked documents revealed that US diplomats in Georgia were involved in trafficking of frozen human blood and pathogens for a secret military program.

COVID bats, Lugar Center

Documents reveal that the Lugar Center also studied coronaviruses in bats.

In 2012 the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) collected and sampled 236 bats for research in Georgia in cooperation with the Lugar Center. The project was funded by the US DoD Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). Part of the samples were shipped to CDC (Atlanta), for screening for multiple pathogens, another part was stored at the Lugar Center for further studies.

In 2014 the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) launched a second project “Emerging zoonotic pathogens in Georgian bats” along with Georgian scientists at the Lugar Center. The project was funded by the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC).

Project G 2101 by Gordon Duff on Scribd

Former Bioweapon Scientists working at the Lugar Center

ISTC, the organisation that funded the bat project in Georgia in 2014, was established in 1992 as a non-proliferation international program, providing former biological and chemical weapons scientists with new opportunities for sustainable, peaceful employment.

Seven of the Georgian scientists involved in the ISTC bat research project in Georgia turn out to be former bioweapon scientists who had previously worked on the development of bioweapons, according to the ISTC project documents. Among them is Paata Imnadze, the deputy-director of the Georgian National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) where the Lugar Center is located.

df” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>published on the University of Michigan’s website. He analysed the data collected under the ISTC G-2101 project.

Pathogens with pandemic potential

The Georgian National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) did mention briefly the ISTC Project G-2101 in its 2016 annual report.

The Lugar Center discovered coronaviruses, similar to the epidemic SARS and MERS coronaviruses, according to the ISTC project manager and Lugar Center virologist Lela Urushadze. These results were published by Urushadze in her dissertation submitted to the Ilia State University in 2018.

30 % of the bat samples tested positive for coronaviruses, some of which closely related to the epidemic MERS and SARS CoV (photo: Lela Urushadze, Zoonotic pathogens and their molecular epidemiological characteric in Georgian bats, Dissertation, Ilia State University, Tbilisi, Georgia, 2018)

Both SARS and MERS CoV have a pandemic potential and already caused global epidemics in 2003 and 2013 respectively.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated the overall fatality rate for SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) patients at 14% to 15%, and for MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) – at 35 %. Below are excerpts from the Urushadze’s dissertation:

“Based on our research, we can say that bats in Georgia are reservoirs for such bacterial and viral pathogens as Bartonella, Coronavirus, Leptospira and Brucella, which are likely to have pandemic potential”, according to Lela Urushadze. She explains: “In total we have captured 450 bats using nets and hand nets from eight different roosts. The experimental materials were collected twice in 2012 and 2014. They were transported in a field laboratory or BSL 3 Laboratory for further processing and research for presence of the above mentioned pathogens”.

According to the study, three samples tested positive for beta coronaviruses and were closely related to the MERS-beta coronavirus isolated in an infected patient in Saudi Arabia who died, as well as to MERS coronaviruses in camels in Saudi Arabia and Dubai.

The Georgian coronaviruses were similar to beta coronaviruses discovered in bats in Spain, Italy, Bulgaria and to the pandemic SARS coronavirus with lethal outcome in Amsterdam, China, Florida and Colorado. The Lugar Center scientists also discovered SARS-like coronaviruses similar to those in bats in China and Thailand.

In her dissertation Lela Urishadze thanks the Pentagon Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) for the material assistance. Lela Urushadze is a member of the DTRA-supported organisation – BOHRN (Bat One Health research Network) which studies viruses in bats.

$6.5 million US military program on bats and coronaviruses

In 2017 the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) itself launched a $6.5 million project on bats and coronaviruses in Western Asia with the Lugar Center being the local laboratory for this genetic research. The duration of the program is 5 years and has been implemented by the non-profit US organisation Eco Health Alliance.

The project’s objectives are: 1. Capture and non-lethally sample 5,000 bats in 5-year period (2017-2022) 2. Collect 20,000 samples (i.e. oral, rectal swabs and/or feces, and blood) and screen for CoVs using consensus PCR at regional labs in Georgia and Jordan.

According to the project presentation, Eco Health Alliance already sampled 270 bats of 9 species in three Western Asian countries: 90 individual bats in Turkey (Aug 2018), Georgia (Sept 2018), and Jordan (Oct 2018).

$3.7 million for coronavirus research in China

Eco Health Alliance was also awarded a $3.7 million grant from the US National Institute of Health (NIH) to collect bats and isolate coronaviruses in China. The duration of the project was 5 years (2014 – 2019) and was implemented at the Wuhan Institute of Virology – a BSL4 biolaboratory located in Wuhan, Hubei province. This is the same province from where the current coronavirus pandemic is believed to have started in December 2019 before spreading around the world.

The US National Institute of Health (NIH) spent $3.7 million on bat studies in China (2014-2019) (source: US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)’ Tracking Accountability in Government Grants System (TAGGS)The US coronavirus project R01AI110964 in China included the following activities: screening wild-caught and market sampled bats from 30 or more species for CoVs using molecular assays; genomic characterization and isolation of novel CoVs; virus infection experiments across a range of cell cultures from different species and humanized mice.

Peter Daszak, president of Eco Health Alliance, told Democracy Now that he had collected bat samples with Chinese colleagues but the Wuhan laboratory did not house the culture of bat viruses but rather their genetic sequencing. If the viruses were not stored in the Wuhan lab in China, then where were they transported and stored?

This is not the only US-funded project under which Eco Health Alliance collected bats and coronaviruses in China. The US scientists studied bats in Eastern Asia (mainly China) and Africa from 2009 to 2019 under the $200 million USAID Predict program whose primary objective was to exactly predict pandemics.

Eco Health Alliance has been awarded both civil and military contracts by the US Government for one and the same activity – searching for novel coronaviruses in bats around the world. This raises questions as to why the US Government has funded both civil and military programs on viruses in bats abroad.

In 2016 Eco Health Alliance, US scientists and USAID launched the The Global Virome Project. The ambitious project was estimated to cost at least $1.6 billion for 10 years. Its main objective is to identify emerging diseases lurking in the wild that could spread to humans and become pandemic.

The Global Virome Project (GVP) Bellagio forum attendees at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Conference Center in Italy, 8-11 August 2016 (photo: Eco Health Alliance)

The Rockefeller Foundation has long been supporting such projects. The foundation has even provided the dangerous Zika Virus for sale online for research purposes.

Ironically, the project was presented at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Conference Center in Bellagio, Italy which 4 years later became the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in Europe.

P.S. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world have already died in the pandemic. All countries on all continents have been severely affected. If you have any information and would like to share it, please send a message to: [email protected]. If you wish to provide information anonymously, I will not disclose your identity and you will be protected.  

I would like to thank all volunteers who have already provided information. I would like also to thank all of you who have supported my work by donations. Thank you to @BMBPeeters who made the first donation. If you want to support Arms Watch, please go to the DONATION page or BECOME VOLUNTEER. Your help matters. This is the battle of our civilization. Thank you.

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New research shows 1 in 5 children in US face food insecurity amid Covid-19 lockdowns — RT USA News

A new study has found that children in the United States are suffering the highest rate of food insecurity ever recorded in the country, as tens of millions of Americans are barred from working under coronavirus-induced lockdowns.

Food insecurity for American children was significantly worse in April than during any year since 2001, before which point no comparable data is available, according to research published on Wednesday by the Brookings Institution.

“Looking over time, particularly to the relatively small increase in child food insecurity during the Great Recession, it is clear that young children are experiencing food insecurity to an extent unprecedented in modern times.” wrote Brookings researcher Lauren Bauer, who called the findings “alarming.”

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Citing two nationally representative surveys, Bauer found that by the end of April, one in five US households – and two in five households with children 12 and under – could not afford enough food “often,” or “sometimes,” figures she said were “higher than they have ever been on record.” Compared to 2018, food insecurity for households with children under 18 had seen a 130 percent spike.

While the research did not investigate the causes of the surge in food shortages for households with children, the soaring figures come as more than 30 million Americans file for unemployment benefits, thrown out of work by Covid-19 containment measures that have shuttered wide swaths of the US economy. The true number of workers out of a job is likely higher, however, given that some are not eligible for benefits, while others simply never apply to receive them. And though Congress has passed a number of relief packages worth trillions of dollars, many have found the aid insufficient to keep their families afloat for weeks, or even months, under lockdown.

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Thousands of residents have taken to the streets to protest the containment policies across a handful of states, demanding they be allowed to return to work. The demonstrations have been spurred on by US President Donald Trump, who has urged some governors to “liberate” their citizens, arguing that “we can’t let the cure be worse than the problem itself.”

Despite the pressure from the commander in chief and their own citizens, the governors have approached reopening cautiously, fearing a resurgence of the virus, which has infected more than 1.2 million people in the US and killed in excess of 73,000. According to federal guidelines, states should not lift their containment policies before observing a steady fall in new infections for two weeks straight, and are expected to carry out widespread testing for the virus.

Short of ending the lockdowns keeping millions from earning a livelihood, Bauer recommended ways the government could mitigate the country’s fast-growing food insecurity problem – including increasing food benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as well as broadening eligibility for the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, which provides low-income residents with funds for food and other essentials.

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Covid-19 crisis could trigger global food shortage, UN warns

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