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Could existing drugs be used against COVID-19?

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Several drugs already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could potentially be used to alleviate the symptoms of COVID-19, biomedical researchers at Université de Montréal have found.

The team—led by doctoral student Nehme El-Hachem, working under the supervision of UdeM pharmcology associate professor Moutih Rafei in collaboration with researchers from Canada and other countries—published their findings two months ago in iScience.

Their study highlights three promising types of drugs currently being tested on patients with COVID-19: fostamatinib, baricitinib and corticosteroids. The first two have the potential to prevent excessive inflammation in the lungs in people infected with the .

Fostamatinib is used to treat chronic immune thrombocytopenia; it reduces the destruction of platelets by the immune system. Baricitinib is a molecule used to treat the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Corticosteroids (dexamethasone and betamethasone) are broad-spectrum anti-inflammatory drugs.

Another drug, colchicine, could also help reduce the symptoms of COVID-19, according to the analysis of El-Hachem and Rafei. Usually prescribed to treat gout (gouty arthritis), colchicine is the subject of the ColCorona clinical trial in Quebec.

A list of over 50 drugs

To arrive at these results, El-Hachem analyzed public databases dealing with inflammation caused by COVID-19, coronavirus-infected lung cells and the response that existing drugs could produce.

This led to a list of just over 50 drugs the researchers think could be used quickly, especially since most are already in against the coronavirus. “Our results reinforce the validity of our bioinformatics approach,” said Rafei.

“The should conduct further with these FDA-approved drugs as monotherapy or in combination with an antiviral regimen, as they could lead to significant results in acute forms of the disease.

“This new bioinformatics approach, in combination with artificial-intelligence techniques, is promising for

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The new role of artificial intelligence in NIH pregnancy research

Pregnancy can be an exciting experience for many women. But it also can be difficult and confusing, especially for women with a high-risk pregnancy.

Factors like a woman’s age, her lifestyle, and preexisting conditions can all contribute to a high-risk pregnancy. During a high-risk pregnancy, a woman and her unborn child are at increased risk of problems during pregnancy or labor, like early birth or miscarriage.   

“In a wealthy nation like the U.S., a healthy pregnancy and childbirth should be the norm, but every 12 hours, a woman dies from complications from pregnancy or giving birth,” says Diana Bianchi, M.D., director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). “Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women are about three times as likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause, compared to white women. Research also shows that up to 60% of these deaths are preventable.”

Dr. Bianchi and her colleagues at NICHD have worked to increase the focus on maternal health research and address these health disparities. One promising approach is to incorporate more data to better understand and address the pregnancy health issues of women of color.

“Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women are about three times as likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause.”

– Diana Bianchi, M.D.

“I am particularly excited about emerging technologies and big data analytic methods, such as artificial intelligence,” says NICHD researcher Nahida Chakhtoura, M.D. “I hope this will help integrate genome data [and] nutritional, social, and behavioral data so that we can learn more and inform prevention efforts and address health disparities.”

NICHD also wants to better support pregnant women who have high-risk pregnancy conditions like gestational diabetes and obesity.

Recently, NICHD researchers launched a study to see whether drugs that treat heart disease might be