1. PFIZER VP: “THE THING TO BE TERRIFIED OF IS YOUR GOVERNMENT”
Thailand’s Herbal Remedy Beating Mild COVID-19—90.02% Success Rate in Study with 11,800 Prison Inmates
Thailand Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine, October 1, 2021
Thailand was hit hard with the Delta variant surge, and vaccination experienced a slow start as the manufacturer granted the license to produce the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine had no real experience in vaccine production. Now reports indicate that a cheap, herbal medicine might just be working to treat SARS-Cov-2, the virus behind COVID-19. Just a couple months ago, Thailand’s national cabinet actually approved green chiretta for use in people with asymptomatic or mild COVID-19 infections following a successful study in the prison system here. Most of the nation’s jails now use the herbal remedy with a remarkable track record to the study—90.02% that took the drug got better. These are better results than Molnupiravir, ivermectin, favipiravir, and remdesivir (the latter in a hospital setting). While the drug isn’t a silver bullet nor cure, it may be just what the doctor ordered to treat the 90% of COVID-19 cases that are simply asymptomatic or mild in nature. While the data must still be substantiated, this could be game-changing, bombshell information.
An Answer to Crisis?
Often packed, overcrowded jails were infection-rich environments for the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen. With the virus rapidly spreading across the jails, in the six months since April 2021, nearly 25% of the nation’s prisoners were found positive for COVID-19.
While the standard of care here still remains antivirals (favipiravir, etc.) or hospital care, the economical and plentiful green chiretta offers the nation an alternative for the vast majority of COVID-19 patients. That is the 90% or so of COVID-19 cases that turn out to be asymptomatic or mild in nature. Now momentum builds for a pandemic killer—green chiretta to be used at early COVID-19 onset. A critically important time to care for the disease as this can limit the number of cases that progress on to the need for hospitalization.
A rush is now on to produce green chiretta in the prisons and across 24,000 villages while the Thai government continues to monitor clinical trials. Thailand’s ministry of justice Somsak Thepsuthin shared with Sky News’ Asia correspondent Siobhan Robbins at a recent event on the topic, “If we use modern medicines, the cost is 20 times, 30 times, 50 times higher…and in the prisons, it’s very crowded.”
Either way, the secret’s getting out as last month Japan’s Asia Nikkei reported that demand for the herb has absolutely surged.
The herb is known as chiretta (Andrographis paniculate), also known here as Fah talai jone. TrialSite’s Indonesian correspondent suggested a highlight today for the audience in North America and beyond. A number of jails here are using herbal medicine, including Chainat jail.
Used as a herbal medicine commonly in these parts to treat colds, now the herb features front and center in the war against COVID-19. According to one prisoner, one of the prisoners working to grow the crop told a Sky News SE Asia correspondent Siobhan Robbins that “Its properties help reduce fever and coughing,” according to one prisoner. This particular inmate locked up for narcotics must tend to the harvest, which has been used to treat 69,000 other inmates with COVID-19—talk about a real-world study.
What is Green Chiretta?
Called Andrographis paniculate (creat), the annual herbaceous plant falls in the Ancanthaceae family native to India and Sri Lanka. Widely cultivated in south and southeastern parts of Asia, the plant is traditionally used as a treatment for bacterial infections and select diseases.
Sky News reports that the government is now claiming that the recovery rate blows away Molnupiravir and even ivermectin! Out of 11,800 inmates who took the drug to treat SARS-CoV-2 infection, 99.02% recovered.
The Thai sources report that over 700 prisoners took a regimen of 15 pills a day for five days during an August Delta variant variant-driven outbreak of COVID-19 in August. Ms. Robbins reports that the staff declared “all of them recovered.”
According to the jail medic Chitsanuphong Saublaongiw, the traditional medicine is absolutely working to ease mild symptoms.
According to the medic, the herb consists of a substance known as andrographolide, which the Thai prison medical representative believes helps inhibit the viral spread. For example, he suggested, “After taking green chiretta, the prisoners had better chest x-ray results, fewer symptoms, the disease was less severe, and they returned to normal quickly.” He continued, “Asymptomatic patients didn’t develop any symptoms.”
Of course, even if it alleviates symptoms, this herbal medicine isn’t a cure to COVID-19. But remember, neither is Molnupiravir or, for that matter, Ivermectin. Authorities here acknowledge that they need more data such as what is “the suitable amount of andropgrapholide [substance in the plant that triggers the inhibitory effects].” Two ongoing studies involving 1,400 COVID-19 patients investigate the use of green chiretta—results are projected for the spring.
Some have declared this news is overblown. For example, Dr. Amporn Benjaponpitak shared reservations in an interview. The Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine director-general shared that “Fah Talai Jone can’t provide any real protection against the virus.” His point is that it can be used to treat COVID-19 symptoms, but if the herb doesn’t work in the first couple of days, one cannot depend on it to stop COVID.
But the data coming out of Thailand should not (and will not) be ignored.
The plant is grown and then harvested by the prisoners. They must cut and collect the mature stems then organize and move the plant parts to the ground to be dried by a separate group. A dark green powder is the final ingredient, which is then packed into capsules, reports Ms. Robbins before distribution to other prisons in the area.
Now 141 jails all over Thailand will produce 38 million green chiretta tablets by November—sort of a pharmacy store for prison inmates moving forward.
Moreover, the Thai government continues to study clinical trials ongoing while suggesting that up to 24,000 villages grow the crop to ensure supplies are ready for additional outbreaks.
Study: Berberine, a natural anti-staphylococcal agent, can be used to treat joint infections
Shanhai Jiao Tong University (China), October 8, 2021
Staphylococcus aureus is one of the primary pathogens responsible for prosthetic joint infection (PJI). This is a huge problem as certain strains of S. aureus are resistant to conventional antibacterial treatments. With this in mind, a group of researchers from China investigated whether berberine can be used as a treatment for PJI-related S. aureus infection.
To find an alternative treatment for S. aureus-related PJI, researchers from the Shanghai Jiao Tong University Affiliated Sixth People’s Hospital tested berberine in vitro to determine whether it can be used to fight S. aureus. The results of their studywere published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Testing berberine against PJI-related S. aureus
Berberine is an isoquinoline alkaloid that can be extracted from various plants, such as the traditional Chinese medicinal herb, huang lian (Coptis chinensis). This plant has been used for decades as an over-the-counter medicine to treat diarrhea and bowel disorders.
Studies have found that berberine possesses many beneficial properties. In fact, it can be used as an anti-tumor, antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial agent. Many studies have also tested berberine’s antimicrobial effects against S. aureus, particularly against MRSA.
To test whether berberine would work against PJI-related S. aureus, the researchers collected 18 known S. aureus strains. They used polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to sequence the bacteria’s genes and determine their multi-locus sequence type (MLST).
The researchers also conducted biofilm assay to assess bacterial attachment and biofilm formation. As part of this, they added berberine to bacterial cultures grown in tryptic soy broth (TSB). They then stained the resulting biofilms with crystal violet for 15 minutes, before rinsing them with phosphate buffered saline and measuring their absorbance at 600 nm.
In addition, the researchers conducted a growth kinetics test, which involved adding 100-microliter suspensions of the bacterial cultures to 100 microliters of serially diluted berberine. They then evaluated bacterial growth by measuring the optical density of the cultures using a microplate reader.
Berberine demonstrates bactericidal effects against PJI-related S. aureus
Following their tests, the researchers found that berberine’s minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) values against PJI-related S. aureus strains varied greatly – from 32 to 512 micrograms per milliliter (mcg/mL) – among different MLST subtypes.
Within two hours of incubation, the researchers found no significant growth in all tested S. aureus strains. After 6 hours, all the strains showed a decrease in bacterial colonies. After 12 hours, the cultures showed a dramatic reduction in the number of bacteria.
After 24 hours, however, results started to vary. The researchers reported that for cultures where berberine’s MIC was below 512 mcg/mL, S. aureus started to display substantial growth, indicating a resistance to berberine.
Based on these results, the researchers concluded that berberine has bactericidal effects against PJI-related strains of S. aureus. However, its antibacterial activities are impacted by the strains’ MLST subtype, with some strains actually showing resistance to berberine. Nonetheless, the study provides evidence that berberine can be used to treat S. aureus-induced PJI.
Common chemicals in electronics and baby products harm brain development
North Carolina State University, October 7, 2021
Chemicals increasingly used as flame retardants and plasticizers pose a larger risk to children’s brain development than previously thought, according to a commentarypublished today in Environmental Health Perspectives. The research team reviewed dozens of human, animal, and cell-based studies and concluded that exposure to even low levels of the chemicals—called organophosphate esters—may harm IQ, attention, and memory in children in ways not yet looked at by regulators.
The neurotoxicity of organophosphate esters used as nerve agents and pesticides is widely recognized, but the neurotoxicity of those used as flame retardants and plasticizers has been assumed to be low. As a result, they are widely used as replacements for some phased-out or banned halogenated flame retardants in electronics, car seats and other baby products, furniture, and building materials. However, the authors’ analysis revealed that these chemicals are also neurotoxic, but through different mechanisms of action.
“The use of organophosphate esters in everything from TVs to car seats has proliferated under the false assumption that they’re safe,” said Heather Patisaul, lead author and neuroendocrinologist at North Carolina State University. “Unfortunately, these chemicals appear to be just as harmful as the chemicals they’re intended to replace but act by a different mechanism.”
Organophosphate esters continuously migrate out of products into air and dust. Contaminated dust gets on our hands and is then inadvertently ingested when we eat. That’s why these chemicals have been detected in virtually everyone tested. Children are particularly exposed from hand-to-mouth behavior. Babies and young children consequently have much higher concentrations of these chemicals in their bodies during the most vulnerable windows of brain development.
“Organophosphate esters threaten the brain development of a whole generation,” said co-author and retired NIEHS Director Linda Birnbaum. “If we don’t stem their use now, the consequences will be grave and irreversible.”
The authors call for a stop to unnecessary uses of all organophosphate esters. This includes their use as flame retardants to meet ineffective flammability standards in consumer products, vehicles, and building materials.
For uses where organophosphate esters are deemed essential, the authors recommend governments and industry conduct alternatives assessments and make investments in innovative solutions without harmful chemicals.
“Organophosphate esters in many products serve no essential function while posing a serious risk, especially to our children,” said Carol Kwiatkowski, co-author and Science and Policy Senior Associate at the Green Science Policy Institute. “It’s urgent that product manufacturers critically reevaluate the uses of organophosphate ester flame retardants and plasticizers—many may be doing more harm than good.”
Study identifies link between certain lifestyle activities and reduced cognitive decline
Simon Fraser University (Canada), October 9, 2021
A new study by researchers from the Digital Health Circle (DHC), an innovation hub affiliated with Simon Fraser University (SFU), has determined there is a causal relationship between participating in certain lifestyle activities and preventing a decline in cognitive health. Protecting cognitive health is key for healthy aging and for deterring illnesses such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
The study, led by DHC Director Sylvain Moreno, shows that moderate-intensity physical activity, such as gardening or walking, and learning activities such as music and art classes—lower the risk of cognitive decline.
Over three years, Moreno led a team of researchers, including lead author Ali Arab—an SFU graduate student in computing science and the Computational Health Research Lab, as they tracked the brain health of more than 4,000 older adults. They used a machine-learning algorithm and the English Longitudinal Study of Aging database to study the benefits of certain lifestyle factors while also controlling for confounding effects which, in the past, have prevented researchers from making more definitive causal connections.
“The global population of older adults is growing, and the finding that lifestyle activities can help prevent cognitive health decline in seniors could lead to new clinical practices and better health outcomes for Canadians and beyond,” says Moreno, a professor in SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology, and a computational neuroscientist.
Jen Lyle, CEO of the Alzheimer Society of B.C., applauds the research team, saying that “advancing our knowledge about how we might reduce our risk of developing dementia helps all of us to start now, to do what we can to support our cognitive health.”
The study is encouraging for advocates of ‘social prescribing,’ the medical practice of prescribing lifestyle activities (such as those noted in the study) for patients to undertake along with, or instead of, medical or other interventions.
Social prescribing is already championed as a form of alternative treatment by the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the U.K. It recognizes that people’s health is determined primarily by a range of social, economic and environmental factors, and seeks to address people’s needs in a holistic way.
Social prescribing is in its infancy in North America, with only a few pilot-test sites across the continent. The study’s findings open up the potential of developing evidence-based social prescribing practices in the North American context and provide further justification for their use in the U.K.
“This study shows that even mild to moderate activity, such as gardening and walking, and learning such as music and art, can improve cognitive function in our seniors,” says Dr. Grace Park, regional medical director, Fraser Health. “Social prescribing can help seniors to engage in these activities by addressing barriers and setting achievable goals for the seniors.”
“As Dr. Park described, the research shows that social prescribing can have a positive impact on an older adult’s wellbeing when included as part of their overall health and wellness plan,” said Kahir Lalji, executive director, United Way British Columbia.
“Taking a distinctly holistic approach, social prescribing acts as a pathway for older adult patients from their doctor’s office to a local social prescribing program which connects the patient to a community program, such as a nutrition or food security program or a health or fitness program.
“What we have discovered is that older adults who would not normally seek such services are led to a local community program that has shown to improve their quality of life—helping them thrive and remain connected and independent for as long as possible. At Healthy Aging, we aim to grow this practice across British Columbia and currently we have 19 community agencies delivering the program throughout the province.”
The study builds onprofessor Moreno’s expertise in neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to change and adapt itself over the lifespan—as well as SFU computing science professor Martin Ester’s expertise in creating machine learning systems to analyze health data.
Tai chi holds promise as cardiac rehab exercise
Warren Alpert School of Medicine at Brown University, Oct. 11, 2021
The slow and gentle movements of Tai Chi hold promise as an alternative exercise option for patients who decline traditional cardiac rehabilitation, according to preliminary research in Journal of the American Heart Association, the Open Access Journal of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.
After a heart attack, more than 60 percent of patients decline participation in cardiac rehabilitation. Although the reasons include financial concerns and distance to a rehab center, many patients stay away because they perceive physical exercise as unpleasant, painful or impossible given their current physical condition.
This is the first study suggesting that Tai Chi may improve exercise behaviors in this high-risk population.
“We thought that Tai Chi might be a good option for these people because you can start very slowly and simply and, as their confidence increases, the pace and movements can be modified to increase intensity,” said Elena Salmoirago-Blotcher, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study and assistant professor of medicine at the Warren Alpert School of Medicine at Brown University. “Tai Chi exercise can reach low-to-moderate intensity levels. The emphasis on breathing and relaxation can also help with stress reduction and psychological distress.”
Researchers adapted a Tai Chi routine for use in heart disease patients from a protocol previously used in patients with lung disease and heart failure. They compared the safety and compliance of two regimes: LITE, a shorter program with 24 classes over 12 weeks and PLUS, a longer program with 52 classes over 24 weeks. All participants received a DVD to use for home practice during and after receiving the classes.
The study was conducted at The Miriam Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island and included 29 physically inactive heart disease patients (8 women and 21 men, average age 67.9 years) who expressed an interest in a Tai Chi program. Although the majority had experienced a previous heart attack (58.6 percent) or procedure to open a blocked artery (PCI – 82.8 percent; CABG – 31 percent), all had declined cardiac rehabilitation and continued to have many high-risk characteristics, including current smoker (27.6 percent), diabetes (48.3 percent), high cholesterol (75.9 percent), and overweight (35 percent) or obese (45 percent). All had received physician clearance to undergo Tai Chi training and none had orthopedic problems (such as recent joint replacement surgery) that would preclude doing Tai Chi.
Researchers found Tai Chi:
- was safe, with no adverse events related to the exercise program except for minor muscular pain at the beginning of training;
- was well liked by participants (100 percent would recommend it to a friend);
- was feasible, with patients attending about 66 percent of scheduled classes;
- did not raise aerobic fitness on standard tests after 3 months of either the programs; and
- did raise the weekly amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity (as measured by a wearable device) after three and six months in the group participating in the longer program, but not in those who took part in the shorter program.
“On its own, Tai Chi wouldn’t obviously replace other components of traditional cardiac rehabilitation, such as education on risk factors, diet and adherence to needed medications,” said Salmoirago-Blotcher. “If proven effective in larger studies, it might be possible to offer it as an exercise option within a rehab center as a bridge to more strenuous exercise, or in a community setting with the educational components of rehab delivered outside of a medical setting.”
Living near a forest keeps your brain’s amygdala healthier
Max Planck Institute for Human Development, October 10, 2021
A study conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development has investigated the relationship between the availability of nature near city dwellers’ homes and their brain health. Its findings are relevant for urban planners among others.
Noise, pollution, and many people in a confined space: Life in a city can cause chronic stress. City dwellers are at a higher risk of psychiatric illnesses such as depression, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia than country dwellers. Comparisons show higher activity levels in city dwellers’ than in country dwellers’ amygdala—a central nucleus in the brain that plays an important role in stress processing and reactions to danger. Which factors can have a protective influence? A research team led by psychologist Simone Kühn has examined which effects nature near people’s homes such as forest, urban green, or wasteland has on stress-processing brain regions such as the amygdala. “Research on brain plasticity supports the assumption that the environment can shape brain structure and function. That is why we are interested in the environmental conditions that may have positive effects on brain development. Studies of people in the countryside have already shown that living close to nature is good for their mental health and well-being. We therefore decided to examine city dwellers,” explains first author Simone Kühn, who led the study at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and now works at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE).
Indeed, the researchers found a relationship between place of residence and brain health: those city dwellers living close to a forest were more likely to show indications of a physiologically healthy amygda
The participants in the present study are from the Berlin Aging Study II (BASE-II) – a larger longitudinal study examining the physical, psychological, and social conditions for healthy aging. In total, 341 adults aged 61 to 82 years took part in the present study. Apart from carrying out memory and reasoning tests, the structure of stress-processing brain regions, especially the amygdala, was assessed using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In order to examine the influence of nature close to peoples’ homes on these brain regions, the researchers combined the MRI data with geoinformation about the participants’ places of residence. This information stemmed from the European Environment Agency’s Urban Atlas, which provides an overview of urban land use in Europe.
“Our study investigates the connection between urban planning features and brain health for the first time,” says co-author Ulman Lindenberger, Director of the Center for Lifespan Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. By 2050, almost 70 percent of the world population is expected to be living in cities. These results could therefore be very important for urban planning. In the near future, however, the observed association between the brain and closeness to forests would need to be confirmed in further studies and other cities, stated Ulman Lindenberger.