Life Extension Magazine
The disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus is called COVID-19.
On some days more Americans die from COVID-19 than any other illness. Those with significant disease are in need of better treatment options. As I was writing this article, there remained a lack of high-quality, rigorous data about validated treatments, especially for severe COVID-19 disease.
This dearth of knowledge prompted me to work around-the-clock to identify therapies that may reduce the risk of a patient worsening to severe or critical stage COVID-19 disease.
Avoiding Mechanical Ventilation
During the initial COVID-19 outbreak, the media focused on the shortage of hospital ventilators.It was as if intubation using mechanical ventilators would result in favorable patient outcomes or outright cures.
The reality is that large numbers of severe COVID-19 hospitalized patients did not survive the ventilator. It merely delayed death by several weeks.Those who survived often suffered significant organ damage. The purpose of this editorial is to convey possible strategies for a symptomatic COVID-19 patient to discuss with their physician.
These experimental tactics, if successful, might enable severe COVID-19 patients to avoid disease progression and invasive mechanical ventilation. I also describe why COVID-19 tests are not the panacea the government and media often portray them to be.
The lay public and medical professionals have been misled and confused by relentless reports about testing for the virus that causes COVID-19 disease.We at Life Extension® were inundated in early March 2020 with proposals from accredited laboratories to offer PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests to our readers, aimed at detecting acute COVID-19 infection.Credentialed labs also proposed that we offer blood tests to detect antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.We rejected all these tests because of concern that these tests might not be accurate.
Our apprehensions have been borne out.The initial PCR screening tests involved sticking a swab deep into the sinuses and back of the throat (nasopharyngeal swab).Another collection method involved testing samples of saliva in a cup. The objective of collecting these samples was to use PCR analysis to detect the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Although PCR is a validated technology, preliminary research by experts in lab testing suggest that up to 30% of results with PCR tests are false-negative. This is in a large degree due to inadequate specimen collection, but also related to reagent issues, machine testing peculiarities, and a variety of other problems.
The consequence of such a high false-negative rate is that many symptomatic persons were told they were not infected with the novel coronavirus when they really were.The antibody blood tests were also suspect. Reasons include false-positive test results caused by other common cold coronaviruses (cross-reactivity with the test).
LabCorp now offers a vastly improved IgG antibody test you can order yourself on their website for as low as $10-12 depending on your health insurance. As you’ll read next, we don’t know what the practical value of these antibody tests will be.
Do SARS-CoV-2 Antibodies Confer Immunity?
There is lack of medical consensus as to whether a positive IgG antibody test indicates long-term immunity that might protect against a future (whether new or relapsed) COVID-19 infection.
What immunity means after infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus is not clear at the time of this writing. Questions linger, such as: Will recovered patients have immunity? And if so, will it last a few months? A year? Can patients infected once with COVID-19 be infected again, despite having had a positive IgG antibody test?
These are but some of several unknowns related to COVID-19 immunity at the time of writing this editorial. False-positive test results are especially worrisome with blood antibody tests because this conveys a false sense of security (i.e. presence of immunity) when in fact the individual may still be at risk for infection, or re-infection, with COVID-19. We were concerned about inaccurate false-negative PCR results during screening for acute infection. Even with improved SARS/Cov-2 antibody tests, we worry about misinterpreting the results when attempting to identify individuals who have developed immunity.
We await solid data as to how effective having antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus is at conferring long-term immunity against COVID-19 disease.
NEW WEBSITE TO HELP KEEP YOU UPDATED
The emergency nature of the COVID-19 pandemic mandates an open flow of information from researchers and doctors practicing on the front lines treating COVID-19 patients.
Scattered reports from these doctors are revealing potential opportunities to spare the lives of severe and critical COVID-19 patients. Yet the media only lightly describe these data or overlook them. This motivated me to create a new website that discusses potential COVID-19 treatment options in lay language.
The objective is to provide physicians with concise information and enlighten COVID-19 patients about potential therapies to discuss with their physicians.
Please know this is not a “news” website. It serves as a channel to disseminate biomedical data. If something about COVID-19 is widely reported in the media, it might not get on this website right away because the data are already in the public domain.
Those interested in viewing these reports can visit: age-reversal-covid.net
Startling Data Published in JAMA
Severe COVID-19 patients placed on mechanical ventilators have high mortality rates. Those who survive ventilator support often encounter systemic co-morbidities along with muscle atrophy.
A study published in JAMA summarized the demographics, co-morbidities, and outcomes of 5,700 COVID-19 patients hospitalized during the first pandemic wave in New York City.
This study found that 24.5% of patients who received mechanical ventilation died and most remained hospitalized. When the study was released, the following data were reported about patients who needed mechanical ventilation:
- 72% remained hospitalized
- 1 out of every 4 died
- Only 3.3% were discharged from the hospital at time of publication
Those who survive prolonged ventilator support often suffer damage to their kidneys, heart, brain, and lungs.
These systemic injuries are likely inflicted by a combination of:
- The SARS-CoV-2 virus
- Pro-inflammatory cytokine storm
- Hyper-coagulation of blood
- Mechanical ventilation and long hospitalization
Better treatments are desperately needed to decrease the risk and progression of severe infection and reduce the need for invasive mechanical ventilation. As I was finalizing this editorial, an article was published in the Wall Street Journal on May 11, 2020 titled:
“Some Doctors Pull Back on Using Ventilators to Treat Covid-19”
This article described different hospital treatment options, including having patients lie on their front side (prone position) to receive non-invasive high flow oxygen in lieu of mechanical ventilation.
Life Extension® added this suggestion to our “Respiratory Support Protocol” on April 16, 2020.
Challenge to Keep You Informed
I wrote several versions of this editorial describing studies suggesting novel strategies to potentially avoid progression to severe disease with COVID-19. My problem is that as fast as I write something of value, new data emerge. And due to the novelty of this SARS coronavirus, there is a lack of high-quality, rigorous, peer- reviewed data on which I normally insist.
But these are not “normal” times.
Thousands of lives are lost daily to this global pandemic. Advances in our understanding of how to better treat COVID-19 with experimental interventions could spare many lives — particularly if the understanding and interventions came sooner rather than later.
In lieu of printing these rapidly evolving treatment options, these insights are available on another website: age-reversal-covid.net
Some information on this website discusses what one might do if progression from “mild/moderate” to “severe/critical” COVID-19 disease occurs. The objective of these postings is to provide updates that can be discussed with treating physicians. Much of the information about COVID-19 is subject to radical change as new and better-quality data emerge.
Why COVID-19 is Different
Back in the 1980s-1990s, Life Extension® fought a multi-decade battle with the FDA to force the approval of an anti-viral drug called ribavirin.
When ribavirin was combined with interferon-alpha, treatment outcomes in hepatitis C patients markedly improved. Today’s hepatitis C drugs (like Sovaldi®) are curing over 95% of patients.
Yet, when these drugs were approved in 2013-2014, most still relied on co-administration of ribavirin. More recent hepatitis C protocols are combining Sovaldi® with newer drugs (in lieu of ribavirin) to eradicate hepatitis C.
We have no financial interest in ribavirin. We identified its efficacy in the early 1980s and relayed this information to our supporters. The FDA did not approve ribavirin until 1998. Our efforts to accelerate approval of ribavirin may have saved thousands of American lives. The challenge with COVID-19 is there are no historic data sets to make definitive treatment suggestions like there were for ribavirin.
We are, instead, dealing with a rapidly changing series of experimental COVID-19 interventions with no tightly controlled studies to substantiate them.
You’ve likely read about the initial symptoms of today’s novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently lists them as:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
Some people may display no symptoms (asymptomatic) yet still be capable of infecting others. Those who experience symptoms sometimes describe COVID-19 as the worst viral infection they have ever encountered.
The miseries of COVID-19 disease can involve fluctuating periods of fever, often worse at night, as well as shortness of breath and extreme fatigue that may last for two weeks or longer. These sufferings are being reported by people with so-called “mild to moderate” disease that does not require hospitalization. For “severe” and “critical” COVID-19 disease, hospitalization is required.
Some reports in the medical literature at the time of this writing suggest relapses of initial infection, which implies some patients may not fully clear the viral infection for a long time, yet remain infectious.
In This Month’s Issue…
Fascinating human and animal data reveal anti-aging effects in response to low-dose intake of the mineral lithium.
The first article in this month’s issue describes an array of benefits that have been discovered about lithium’s ability to slow brain aging and enhance one’s feeling of wellbeing.
Back in 1981, Life Extension® published the first of dozens of articles about the longevity-enhancing potential of DHEA. The article on page 48 expounds on an abundance of published data revealing DHEA’s systemic health benefits.
What I like about lithium and DHEA is they are low-cost and can readily be added to one’s personal health program. On the flip side, the article on page 71 describes the enormous challenges a leukemia patient went through after undergoing brutal conventional treatments but ends on a happy note we hope you’ll appreciate.
For decades we’ve published articles about the adverse impact of immune senescence. Two articles in this month’s issue discuss non-drug approaches to help circumvent certain aspects of age-related immune decline. Nothing in these articles is meant to imply any kind of preventative effect against SARS-CoV-2, for which there is insufficient information to make science-based recommendations, based on Life Extension’s strict evidence-based publication criteria.
For longer life,