Rule No. 1 when it comes to contagious diseases is this: Beware the mutations.
A prime example is the South African variety of the coronavirus. It shared some mutations with its UK-based relative. It also has a change in the spike protein that helps the virus latch on to cells more easily. That’s why the UK variant is about 50% more contagious.
But there are also some nasty differences. Immunity from past infection should protect against it. But this variant has a mutation that makes it better at dodging immune responses in lab studies. It does this by changing the virus’s appearance.
In effect, the virus has put on a disguise to fool the body’s defenses.
We are seeing a similar situation in Brazil right now with its variant.
So where might this all lead? Here’s the good news for you and me and everyone else tired of this virus.
In viruses like coronaviruses, there’s evidence that evolution can eventually result in less severe variants. That’s logical – a virus that kills its hosts quickly may not spread as easily as one that causes milder infection.
Global vaccination campaigns will eventually lead to growing immunity. This will put more pressure on the virus to evolve.
History tells us this will lead to less severe strains.
The Big News
Cheap Anti-Parasitic Drug Cuts Covid-19 Deaths
A cheap, off-patent antiparasitic drug has been shown to have a significant effect in reducing deaths in patients with moderate to severe Covid-19. The University of Liverpool and others carried out a meta-analytical breakdown of 18 studies. It was found that ivermectin was associated with reduced inflammation and a faster elimination of Sars-Cov-2. In six of these trials, the Covid-19 deaths were reduced. Deaths were reduced by 75% in patients with moderate to severe Covid-19.
Pfizer Vaccine Effective Versus Variant
The Covid-19 vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer is likely to be effective against a rapidly spreading strain of the virus that was first discovered in the UK. That is the result of a lab-based, non-peer-reviewed study by the companies. Researchers at BioNTech’s headquarters found that a test-tube version of the virus carrying all the new strain’s mutations was neutralized by antibodies in the blood of 16 patients who had received the vaccine in previous trials, half of whom were over 55 years old.
Antibodies normally attack pathogens. But sometimes rogue antibodies instead attack body defenses, such as immune cells. Now, a new study (non-peer reviewed) adds to the growing body of research tying these “autoantibodies” to poor outcomes in people with Covid-19. In other words, traitorous antibodies are linked to Covid-19 deaths.
Netflix, Pandemic Winner
The pandemic has finally allowed Netflix (NFLX) to grow fast enough to outpace its debt payments. Netflix said it will no longer raise debt to fund its spending spree on television shows and films. And it may begin returning money to shareholders through buybacks. Cash outflow was $284 million in the fourth quarter. That narrowed from $1.7 billion a year ago. The company said it expected to break even this year and be cash flow positive after that.
Brazil, Covid, and Oxygen
Last week, authorities in Brazil began airlifting oxygen supplies to the Amazonian city of Manaus. A new strain of coronavirus appears to be ripping through the community. This has sparked a jump in deaths by asphyxiation. The airlift began after scenes emerged from the city of patients struggling to breathe and doctors manually pumping oxygen because of a lack of supplies.
The Coronavirus Numbers
The U.S. passed another grim milestone on Tuesday, with 4 million Americans dead from Covid-19. The latest 100,000 Covid-19 deaths came in just the last five weeks.
Here are the numbers on Covid-19 deaths from Wednesday at 8 a.m. ET from Johns Hopkins University:
- 96,275,383 Infected Worldwide
- 2,059,921 Deaths
- 24,254,737 Infected in the U.S.
- 401,777 Deaths in the U.S.
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Shares overseas traded mostly higher following a positive session on Wall Street on Tuesday. The S&P 500 was up 0.81% and the Nasdaq +1.53%.
This was helped by the dollar easing back further. Its near-term rally lost more steam, with the dollar index retreating further away from its 50-day simple moving average.
Janet Yellen’s Senate hearing confirmed that stimulus is the order of the day. The nominee for Treasury secretary stressed that worrying about battered finances and raising taxes would be for another day, once the economy has recovered.
As far as equity markets are concerned, it seems as though investors are shuffling the deck, rotating in and out of sectors ahead of the next big move for the broader market.
Pandemic winner Netflix surged 12% in after-hours trading. It posted a stronger-than-expected rise in net subscribers. And it said it’s close to returning cash to shareholders via share buybacks. The strong performance by Netflix will bolster the broader FAANGs even more. Big tech enjoyed a solid bump yesterday.
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Yours in Health & Wealth,