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September 4, 2020

Long weekend reads: What are the risks of rushing a vaccine? 1976 offers some troubling warnings.

Daily Briefing

    Ben Palmer's reads

    Devo co-founder Mark Mothersbaugh had Covid-19—and some 'very dark' delusions. Mark Mothersbaugh, co-founder of the band Devo, was hospitalized with Covid-19 in May, and in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, Mothersbaugh opened up about his experiencing fighting the disease while on a ventilator in the ICU. Mothersbaugh talks about the "very dark" delusions he experienced while in the hospital, including believing he was in the ICU because someone had hit him in the head with a brick. "I felt blood from being hit," he said. "I was handcuffed to a parking deck downtown. I had this whole elaborate story of how these kids sold me to an ambulance company that then got some sort of payment for delivering Covid patients to their ICUs. I totally believed it."

    The century-long history of convalescent plasma. Convalescent plasma has garnered a lot of attention in recent weeks—and last month, FDA in a controversial move issued an emergency use authorization for the therapy as potential treatment for Covid-19. Writing for the Smithsonian Magazine, Jillian Mock examines the history of convalescent plasma, which dates back to the late 19th and early 20th century, when it was used to treat measles, Spanish influenza, and a variety of other diseases.

    José Vasquez's reads

    What can happen when you fast-track a vaccine approval? History lends a forbidding answer. Writing in the New York Times, Rick Perlstein explains what happened during the 1976 election year, when former President Gerald Ford accelerated the development and approval of a vaccine against a new strain of the H1N1 virus—which appeared to be related to the pathogen that caused the 1918 flu pandemic. The vaccine, which the federal government distributed through a mass vaccination campaign, had unexpected side effects. An estimated 450 of the 45 million Americans who were inoculated with the new vaccine developed a rare disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome, which paralyzes the body, including 30 who died. In the end, the federal government ended its mass vaccination campaign—and Ford lost the election.

    Scientists discover a key to a longer and healthier life—for mice. A study published Tuesday in Cell Metabolism showed mice that were given a naturally occurring metabolite were healthier overall, and sicker for shorter periods before dying, when compared with mice in a control group. For the study, scientists at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging evaluated the effects of a metabolite called alpha-ketoglutarate (AKG)—which is naturally found in the body and a plays a role in several biological process, including stem cell growth—on 18-month-old mice, meaning they were approximately between ages 55 to 66 in human years. The scientists said they hope their research will pave the way for studies on therapies that could improve quality of life among elderly humans.

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