Death by Liquorice

A blog post for the non-expert The media is reporting a 54-year-old construction worker from Massachusetts has died of liquorice poisoning. Not for the first time when dealing with such issues, the press reports are so similar that they were likely all cloned from the original source, a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine.Continue reading “Death by Liquorice”

Cannabis tyres

I started my post-graduate scientific career as a plant biochemist (phytochemist to be more precise). Once talking to a geologist about how fascinating plants are, he replied, “plants just get in the way of the rocks,” and so I guess your interests very much depend on your viewpoint. I moved up the career evolutionary  treeContinue reading “Cannabis tyres”

What is interferon and is it effective against Covid-19?

A blog post for the non-expert Our best hope against Covid-19 is an effective vaccine, and efforts in that direction are galloping along like no other time in history. There are so many vaccines being investigated, it’s hard to keep up with the numbers, but at the time of writing there appear to be wellContinue reading “What is interferon and is it effective against Covid-19?”

A sober look at dexamethasone

A Covid-19 blog post for the non-expert It stared with a 16th June 2020 press release  from the University of Oxford “Low-cost dexamethasone reduce death by up to one third in hospitalised patients with severe respiratory complications of COVID-19” – which triggered the equivalent of a media cytokine storm (pun explained shortly). I do not want,Continue reading “A sober look at dexamethasone”

What is Remdesivir and how does it work?

Another Covid-19 blog post for the non-expert. Parts of the media are claiming a drug called remdesivir has arrived to save us The BBC: “Remdesivir: Drug has ‘clear-cut’ power to fight coronavirus” RFI – Radio France Internationale, live news: “US claims major breakthrough after positive trial of coronavirus drug remdesivir” The Express: “Hope of coronavirusContinue reading “What is Remdesivir and how does it work?”

Covid-19 and blood pressure

As well as a vaccine, studies are being conducted into drugs which might stop, or at least inhibit, the effects of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Modern drugs are designed to target specific sites, called receptors, in the body and the right choice of receptor is often the difference between a successful drug and a dud. IContinue reading “Covid-19 and blood pressure”

What is herd immunity?

We’ve all heard a lot recently about herd immunity (pun intended), but it’s a term which seems to cause a lot of confusion. First off, let me tell you what it’s not. It’s not about a population becoming exposed to the Covid-19 virus and those with some resistance or those being “fitter” surviving while othersContinue reading “What is herd immunity?”

Antimalarials for Covid-19

Another post concerning topics on Covid-19 aimed at the non-expert. Scientists are cautious by nature, some politicians and political journalists are not. While scientists say there’s no convincing evidence antimalarial drugs such as hydroxychloroquine have any effect on Covid-19, President Trump says, “there are some very strong, powerful signs of hydroxychloroquine as a Covid-19 therapy”.Continue reading “Antimalarials for Covid-19”

SARS-CoV-2 : the virus

I’ll say one thing for the coronavirus outbreak, it has prompted a lot of curiosity. Whether you believe we are going back to the days of the plague pit, or it’s nothing but a severe cold, I have been asked a lot of questions about viruses in general and the coronavirus in particular. I’m notContinue reading “SARS-CoV-2 : the virus”