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Health Highlights, Nov. 6, 2020

By Ernie Mundell and Robin Foster HealthDay Reporters

Below are newsworthy items compiled by the HealthDay staff:

Nasal Spray Blocks Coronavirus in Animals

An experimental nasal spray against the new coronavirus is effective in animals, researchers report.

The spray completely protected ferrets from the virus, according to the new study.

The international team of scientists said the spray is nontoxic and stable and, if effective in humans as a daily treatment that would act almost like a vaccine, could provide a new way to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. However, animal research doesn't always pan out in humans.

The protective spray attaches to cells in the nose and lungs and lasts about 24 hours, study author Dr. Anne Moscona, a pediatrician and microbiologist at Columbia University, told The New York Times.

"If it works this well in humans," she said, "you could sleep in a bed with someone infected or be with your infected kids and still be safe."

The work was posted to the preprint server bioRxiv on Thursday, and has been submitted to the journal Science for peer review, the Times reported.

"Having something new that works against the coronavirus is exciting. I could imagine this being part of the arsenal," Dr. Arturo Casadevall, chair of immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, told the Times. He was not involved in the study.

The work was conducted by scientists from Columbia University Medical Center in New York, Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and the University of Campania in Italy. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Columbia University Medical Center, the Times reported.

Regulators Discuss Approval of New Alzheimer's Drug

An advisory panel of experts is meeting Friday to discuss whether the U.S. Food And Drug Administration should approve an experimental drug that developers claim is the first to slow mental decline in Alzheimer's patients.

Aducanumab, from Cambridge, Mass.-based Biogen Inc. and Eisai Co. in Japan, doesn't cure or reverse Alzheimer's. Still, the companies say it modestly slows the rate of mental decline, the Associated Press reported.

However, there's no firm evidence that the drug works. Last year, the companies halted two studies when the drug didn't appear to be effective, but then claimed that additional findings from one study suggest it's effective at a high dose. No results have been published.

The consumer group Public Citizen has also warned that the drug could be very expensive and "could bankrupt our health care system" while giving patients false hope, the AP reported.

Children Clear Coronavirus Faster Than Adults: Study

There's new evidence that children clear the new coronavirus from their bodies much faster than adults.

Compared to adults, infected children produce weaker antibodies and fewer types of them, according to a study published Nov. 5 in the journal Nature Immunology.

This weaker immune response in children suggests that they eliminate the virus before it causes serious harm, and it may help explain why children are less likely to have severe symptoms and to spread the virus to others, The New York Times reported.

"They may be infectious for a shorter time," study leader Dr. Donna Farber, an immunologist at Columbia University in New York City, told the Times.

Children had "less of a protective response, but they also had less of a breadth of an antibody response," Farber said. "It's because those kids are just not getting infected as severely."

The study looked at children's antibody levels at a single point in time, and was too small to provide insights into how the levels may vary with age. But it does suggest that some antibody tests may be missing children who have been infected.

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