Conditions in the jails in which these prisoners of conscience have been kept are said to be unhealthy and the threat of spread of infection has grown. Mr Rao, who is 80 years old, has now tested positive for COVID-19 and is seriously ill with several comorbidities. His condition suggests clear neglect of his health by the authorities.
That’s from a letter signed by 146 leading academics around the world—including Naom Chomsky, Barbara Harris-White and Christophe Jaffrelot—demanding the release of the 80-year-old Telugu poet Varavara Rao. He is one of 11 human rights activists and lawyers who have been arrested for allegedly inciting violence against Dalits, and for having “Maoist links.” Illustration: Parth Savla
A ‘breakthrough’ treatment for Covid-19
The TLDR: The spectacular trial results of a new treatment is stirring great excitement—and anxiety—in the medical community. The drug appears to be highly successful in preventing patients from becoming seriously ill. But scientists worry about rushing to embrace a ‘miracle cure’ without sufficient testing.
What’s this new drug?
Developed by the UK company Synairgen, it uses a protein called interferon beta. This is something our body naturally produces when it detects a threat. There are three kinds of interferons. Here is how interferon beta works:
When a virus enters our system, each cell shoots “an emergency flare” of interferon to alert the immune system.
Interferon beta specifically activates white blood cells, natural killer cells (NK cells), and a type of T cell—all of which then target and kill the virus.
More importantly, there is evidence that this coronavirus blocks the production of interferons—and significantly weakens or delays the body’s immune response.
How the drug works: It boosts interferon beta levels by delivering it directly to the infected area, i.e. the lungs. It is literally inhaled by patients via a nebuliser.
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