To battle the COVID-19, the population is majorly relying on the health care workers. Consequently, interacting with patients suffering from a contagious virus, leaves them as the most vulnerable. 20% of the globally infected cases (1,701) during the SARS coronavirus epidemic in 2003, were health care workers.
While age is a focal risk factor for the COVID-19, health workers of any age are extremely vulnerable. Hazardous consequences of the virus do not limit itself to the individuals infected. The capacity of the health care system is incredibly affected after every case of COVID-19 in a healthcare worker.
Health workers consequently risk exposure to viral particles more than the general public, and can possibly result in worse cases. For this reason, a large number of younger Chinese doctors have died.
Moreover, with the number of patients increasing, protective equipments are facing shortage. Meanwhile, less developed parts of the worlds, have fewer and/or inadequate health care facilities, along with overburdened staff that result in exceptionally high risks. The added stress and long duty hours only increases the vulnerability of the immune systems of health workers. Eventually, hospitals turn into a hub for the transmission of COVID-19.
Numerous doctors in Wuhan died due to the COVID-19, but were the first to raise the alarm, despite being silenced by Chinese authorities.
However, many institutions can fail in providing protection to their health care workers. Two nurses IN Dallas, were infected with Ebola in 2014, and while CDC had claimed it to be a result of breach in protocol, the nurses explained how there were no established protocols in the first place. The CDC repeated this with a Californian nurse who requested a test after developing symptoms of COVID-19 after dealing with an infected patient.
China had insisted that 13 was the number of infected doctors, causing everyone to think that the spread within hospitals could be prevented by the standard protocol and was not a concern – for six weeks.
However, on the day of February 14th, the number had jumped to 1,716 and by February 20th, the World Health Organization had reported 2,055 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases among health workers only. The estimated number had come up to 3,200 by March 3rd.
On the contrary, Italy had been reporting high rates of infected health care workers. They reported about 8.5 percent of their total infected cases, to be health workers, which would be 20 percent of their health care workforce. Meanwhile in Spain, over 4,000 infected cases had been found in the health care workforce.
Unfortunately, no matter what circumstances, the risk factor, less or more, will always exist for health care workers due to the nature of their job and workplace environment. Performing certain tasks like CPR, intubation, ventilation, and resuscitation, require the worker to maintain less than a safe distance between them and the patient. Hence, the best of circumstances do not exist.
Even today, there is a shortage of N95 masks, gowns, suits, and goggles, causing an increase in risks and uncertainty for the health care workers.
A shortage of staff (either the infected victims or the ones unwilling to take substantial risks) could cause redundancy of perfect supply chains, with more beds, more hospitals etc. Even If health workers were the only one to receive vaccines, it would still lessen the risk of the collapse of the health systems. However, CEO of a vaccine company has told the financiers that a potential vaccine for the COVID-19 is expected to be available to some health workers.
When there will be no doctors to treat, and no nurses to care, the death rates will increase exponentially – from COVID-19 along with the other usual killers.
Medical Cannabis Might Be Stronger Than It Needs To Be
The THC levels in medical cannabis are reported to be 15 percent, according to US researchers. These reported THC levels are double of what studies suggest are needed for medical uses such as pain relief.
A new study has found the majority of medical cannabis to be stronger than it needs to be for pain relief, by tracking the potency of cannabis products across various American states. The research further suggests the increase of negative side effects that can be caused by higher THC levels that are unnecessary for medical uses.
Alfonso Edgar Romero- Sandoval is the lead author in the new study, who explains how high-potency products should not exist in the medical realm, considering the high risk of the development of cannabis-use-disorders that are related to the exposure to high THC-content products.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis which provides pain relief and intoxication, has been increasing consistently, in herbal cannabis over the past few decades. According to one study conducted between 2006 and 2016, the THC levels rose from five percent to 10 percent, on average. Along with the spread of recreational laws, THC levels have further risen to 20 percent.
Higher THC concentrations have been believed to be linked to greater rates of psychosis, according to a study from last year. Alongside, as THC levels in plants rise, CBD (cannabidiol) levels drop. CBD is a suspected potent anti-psychotic agent. Consequently, in order to reduce the risk of negative long-term effects, a balance between THC and CBD is important.
Meanwhile, this new research aims to understand the levels of THC and CBD in various legal cannabis products, and how suitable the products may be for medical uses.
According to Romero-Sandoval, various earlier studies have shown than up to 5 percent THC levels were sufficient for the reduction of chronic pain, along with minimal side effects.
Over 8,000 cannabis products from more than 600 dispensaries in 9 American states, were examined by researchers, with results revealing that the majority of products –advertised either for medical or recreational purposes, contained over 15 percent THC. The study also reported that products with lower levels of CBD contained the highest concentrations of THC.
One study that investigated the legal cannabis market in Washington state between 2014 and 2016, reported that over 90 percent of all cannabis flower sales, consisted of a product that contained higher than 15 percent of THC concentrations. Although it was not surprising, it suggested the preference of potent products by the commercial markets, and how it subsequently ends up dominating markets, both in recreational and medical circles.
The researchers had further concluded how their findings suggested that the operation of medicinal programs is similar to the operation of recreational programs, based on the products that they sold online – that contained high concentrations of THC. While they were not adequate for medical use, they also held the possibility of contributing to risky misconceptions towards medical cannabis.
If studies suggest the 5 percent THC concentrations to be the ideal concentration to be used in medical cannabis for pain relief, and if there are potential increases in the risk factors for negative side effects and complications, with the rise of THC levels, then Romero-Sandoval, suggests the need for a clear regulation of medical cannabis products.
According to Alfonso Edgar Romero-Sandoval, it is essential to regulate the potency of medical cannabis products. Romero-Sandoval further adds that policies and regulations by the FDA could be useful in medical cannabis, something that is far more dangerous, compared to the presently regulated over the counter pain medications that have dose-specific side effects, such as ibuprofen.
PLOS ONE is the journal where the new study was recently published.
‘Recovered’ Coronavirus Patients Are Being Tested Positive Again
While the coronavirus is still creating havoc across the world, many authorities are taking active measures to overcome this pandemic. With the rapid spread of the COVID-19, the authorities have no choice but to take harsher measures, in an attempt to reduce the increasing number of COVID-19 infected cases. As the highly infectious disease takes lives of over 23,000 people worldwide with the increasing number of infected cases, the number of recovered cases is another figure that deserves just as much attention.
China has declared the recovery of over 74,000 cases alone that were recovered and virus-free. These patients could help the researchers for the invention of vaccines and treatments that could treat more severe cases. However, the doctors were puzzled as they found out that some of the recovered patients that were discharged from the hospital, were later were tested positive for the COVID-19. Thankfully, there isn’t much to panic about because there seem to be several explanations as to why a patient might test positive for the virus, even after the recovery, according to experts
According to official reports, more than 100 COVID-19 patients in China were called in for testing, after being “recovered” and discharged from the hospital, and were tested positive again. Two such cases were found in Japan and South Korea. One such case in South Korea was a patient who was tested positive after five negative results. This surprising case also occurred in Italy- the second-largest number of confirmed infected cases in the world. Another case was the 40-year old male who was “patient zero” in Turin but is now in isolation after being tested positive for the virus again.
The recovery of the patient was declared by Professor Giovanni Di Perri – the virologist and the person in charge of the infectious disease section of Amedeo Di Savoia. According to Di Perri, an oscillation between positivity and negativity can be expected to be seen in these cases, which happens after other infections. However, doctors will continue testing the patient.
Other professionals who talked to the LA Times, had somewhat shown agreement to Di Perri’s claims, about patients who were tested positive again after recovery. The general agreement was regarding the concept that the body gains immunity after an infection. Hence, an occurrence of reinfection is not the necessary possible meaning of another positive test. According to the director of Hong Kong University’s School of Public Health, Dr. Keiji Fukuda, reinfection is unusual when the patient’s immune system is revved up against a virus that the patient was infected with – unless the patient’s immune system’s functionality was questionable.
Experts say that the detection of the virus during the chemical reaction of the COVID-19 test is the possible presence of dormant fragments of the virus in the recovered patient. A sequence of genomes of both infections would be the best way to prove reinfection – to be able to look for any differences that would support the idea of the mutation of the virus that helped it avoid the immune system’s antibodies, according to Deputy Director for Clinical Research and Special Projects at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Clifford Lane.
Potential explanations for the unusual cases could also be human errors and issues with testing. Due to the overwhelming situation in hospitals in China, the possibility of patients being discharged before being fully healed also exists. Based on the statement of Chinese authorities, the general agreement would be that these cases aren’t a source of danger to the general public. However, with the existing ambiguity of the virus, it might be too early to say anything.
Experts Say Mapping of Cannabis Genome Could Potentially Improve Crops And Health
Assigning/locating a specific gene to a particular region of a chromosome, along with the determination o the location and relative distances between genes on the chromosome, is what the process of genome mapping is. Researchers are now emphasizing on the importance of cannabis genome mapping in order to improve crops and health.
According to the recently published international study that the researchers of the University of Saskatchewan led, a coordinated scientific effort to assemble and map the cannabis genome, would be required to explore the complete potential of cannabis for agriculture and human health.
Moreover, the Annual Review of Plant Biology published a statistical analysis of existing data and studies, where the authors concluded that there are indeed large gaps in the scientific knowledge of this high-demand, multi-purpose crop. According to the authors, genomics has immense importance in the development of any crop, and the analysis underlines how essential a co-ordinated effort is, in order to quantify the genetic and biochemical diversity of this species.
According to a team of scientists from The Netherlands, Germany, and the U.S., it was estimated that less than 50 percent of the cannabis genome is accurately mapped, while 10 percent of the genome is missing, leaving a further 10 to 25 percent of genome unmapped. Lead author and plant scientist in the USask College of Agriculture and Bioresources, Tim Sharbel, concluded that it shows the lack of foundation we have, to build a molecular breeding program that could be comparable to what exists for other crops.
According to Sharbel, these findings are expected to be the foundation of several types of research that the USask-led Cannabinoid Research Initiative of Saskatchewan (CRIS) will conduct. USask researchers from the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, College of Medicine, and the School of Environment and Sustainability, will also be involved in the multi-disciplinary team. The author also stressed on the importance of these data, which was required to be able to set up a core collection of genotypes so that the various cannabis traits can be further studied.
The author has been working on medicinal plants, for 15 years in Europe. He added that the emergence of the cannabis industry is a good sign for the accomplishment of the larger goal- to normalize the use of traditional medicinal plants.
Medicinal Purposes of Cannabis
The author had also talked about the increase in the interest of companies in medical applications of cannabis that the recent societal and governmental acceptance of cannabis spurred. He is currently focusing on his academic research that will map, contrast and make complete use of the closely related genome of cannabis, hemp, and hops, and is consequently on the hunt for collaborators in order to fund this research.
Cannabis as a Food Source
In the light of the limited data that currently exists, the researchers discovered the support for the potential that cannabis could have, to provide health benefits along with treatments for pain, spasticity in multiple sclerosis, and opioid use minimization.
Despite this, the negative short-term effects of THC – the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, cannot be ignored. The short-term effects include decreased cognitive function, increased anxiety and fatigue, addiction, and potential long-term consequences that include permanent loss of memory, intelligence, mental focus, and judgment.
According to the author, like any other investigation of any other novel drug, the recognition of the potential benefits and associated risks, of cannabis and cannabinoids, is essential.
Furthermore, the team had noted the evidence of the possibility of developing hemp-type cannabis, that could be highly digestible as well as a protein-rich food source, and was expected to not be the cause of any allergic reactions.
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