Some researchers and doctors have started using plasma from people recovering from COVID-19 to treat others who have developed the disease. Medical News Today spoke to Dr. Arturo Casadevall, from Johns Hopkins University, to learn more about this approach.Share on PinterestWhat is convalescent plasma therapy, and why are some doctors using it to treat COVID-19? In this Special Feature, we investigate.In the search for an effective treatment for COVID-19, an old method of fighting infectious diseases has recently resurfaced: transfusions with convalescent plasma. Plasma is a component of blood.This method has a simple premise. The blood of people who have recovered from an infection contains antibodies. Antibodies are molecules that have learned to recognize and fight the pathogens, such as viruses, that have caused disease.Doctors can separate plasma, one of the blood components that contain such antibodies, and administer it to people whose bodies are currently fighting an infectious disease. This can help their immune systems reject the pathogen more efficiently.Recently, researchers and healthcare professionals have been looking into the possibility of using this method to treat people with COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.In the United States, a group of researchers and doctors from 57 institutions, including Johns Hopkins University, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, are investigating and applying convalescent plasma therapy for COVID-19.This is a concerted initiative — called the “National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project” — born after the publication of a viewpoint paper in The Journal of Clinical Investigation in March, 2020.The paper argued for the potential merits of passive antibody therapy in the treatment of COVID-19. It was authored by immunologists Dr. Arturo Casadevall, chair of the Molecular Microbiology & Immunology Department at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Dr. Liise-anne Pirofski, professor of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.To understand more about convalescent plasma therapy, its merits, its risks, and its current use in COVID-19 treatments, Medical News Today recently spoke to Dr. Casadevall.Here is what he told us, alongside more information on the current state of convalescent plasma therapy.So, where did the idea of using convalescent plasma, or passive antibody therapy, come from?This notion was first introduced in the late 19th century when physiologist Emil von Behring and bacteriologist Kitasato Shibasaburou discovered that they could use antibodies present in serum — another blood component — to fight the bacterial infection diptheria.Since then, doctors have used passive antibody therapy, on and off, at least since the 1930s to treat or prevent both bacterial and viral infections, including forms of pneumonia, meningitis, and measles.When we asked him how the idea of using convalescent plasma therapy to treat COVID-19 came about, Dr. Casadevall told us: “I have worked on antibodies my entire life professional life […], and I knew that convalescent plasma — or sera […] — was being used for over 100 years.”“In fact, the first Nobel Prize was given [to Behring] for the use of serum to treat diphtheria, so I knew the history.” This long history of successfully using this method against different infectious diseases suggested that it might also be effective against the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2.“I knew that in epidemics when you don’t have a lot of things, […] the blood of those who recover can have antibodies that can be used [as treatment],” Dr. Casadevall explained.“So it’s an old idea, it’s been around for a long time, and I think that my contribution was, in fact, to alert my friends, authorities, that this [therapy] could be used in this epidemic.”Recent research has already shown that people who have contracted SARS-CoV-2 have developed antibodies that can react to the coronavirus.“There [are] now multiple studies that have shown that when people recover from the virus, they have in their blood neutralizing antibodies that are able to kill the virus,” Dr. Casadevall also told MNT.Although “[p]eople differ greatly in the amount of antibodies that they make — some make large amounts, some make small amounts — […] the good news is that most have [them],” he added.Given the willingness of people who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate blood, the method seems feasible right now. In fact, some doctors are already using convalescent plasma therapy in some cases.In the U.S., the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project have already been trailing this method as widely as possible.Dr. Casadevall told MNT that “in the United States, we have close to 12,000” people who have received the convalescent plasma treatment for COVID-19.Based on the data obtained from a little less than half of this cohort, Dr. Casadevall and his colleagues have concluded that this approach is safe for the patients receiving treatment — the first step necessary before ascertaining the method’s effectiveness.The team has reported these findings in a preprint that they have made available online.“[On May 14], we put out a paper on the first 5,000 [patients] showing that [this therapy] was relatively safe. That’s the first step,” Dr. Casadevall explained.“You want to show safety. And then the question of efficacy will be coming in the next few weeks. Right now, the data [is] being analyzed. We are hopeful,” he also told MNT.“And,” he added, “especially since [the] Italians are reporting already that the use of convalescent plasma was associated with a drop in mortality [due to COVID-19]. We are hopeful that similar insights [will] come from the analysis of the data in the United States.”In Europe, the European Blood Alliance — a non-profit association — report that 20 countries have initiated the use of convalescent plasma in the treatment of COVID-19 or are considering it for the near future. These include Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom, some of the European countries most aggressively hit by SARS-CoV-2.Demonstrating this procedure’s safety is essential because of the risks inherent to the transfusion of blood or blood components.“[One] of the issues that we were worried about 2 months ago [when the initiative started] was whether the administration of antibodies would make things worse. Even though there’s very little precedent about that, you have to always worry that your intervention can do harm. Fortunately, we did not see any of that, so we are now focusing on efficacy.”– Dr. Arturo CasadevallThere is also the issue that adding more liquid volume into a person’s vascular system could lead to a risky overload, Dr. Casadevall explained.“The concerns when you give plasma [include the fact that] rarely, you can get a transfusion reaction, [and] rarely, you could have a volume overload. What do I mean by that? I mean that […] you’re putting volume into blood, and if it goes in too rapidly, it could [lead to an] overload [of the] cardiac system,” he said.“So when we looked at the experience of the first 5,000 [patients], we were very reassured that we did not see any major problems.”While different centers in the U.S. are already using convalescent plasma in the treatment of COVID-19, Dr. Casadevall expressed a worry that the therapy is not as effective as it might be because most patients receive it too late in the course of the disease.Aside from its use in clinical trials, the Food And Drug Administration (FDA) have approved the administration of this form of therapy only in emergency situations to patients in a severe stage of the disease, which may not be soon enough.“Often, physicians are using the plasma on patients that are very ill, and we don’t really know whether that’s going to be as effective as if you gave it early in the course of the disease,” Dr. Casadevall pointed out.“Here in the United States, patients have been treated when they’re intubated, but we think that is relatively late. Many physicians are trying to move it earlier, that is, when people begin to decompensate,” he added.But even where there is a will, getting this treatment to the patients who need it sooner rather than later is not always straightforward. “Some of the problem […] is that it takes time,” Dr. Casadevall explained.“Because let’s say the doctor orders plasma and people are getting worse. It sometimes takes a while for the plasma to arrive. Some hospitals have it on site, others have to get it from blood banking centers.”Despite these obstacles, the use of convalescent plasma therapy is so attractive to healthcare practitioners because they can access it and use it now.Unlike with vaccines, whose development takes time, or experimental medication, which needs to go through several different stages of testing before it can obtain formal approval, this approach allows doctors to use what is already there — the blood of those who have recovered from the illness — to treat hospitalized patients.“People often get confused [about the difference between convalescent plasma therapy and some vaccines] because they both involve antibodies,” Dr. Casadevall told MNT.But while vaccines also operate on the premise of stimulating a person’s immune system to block or kill the virus, they do not use “ready made” antibodies, and testing them for safety and efficacy could take a year or more.“When you get plasma, someone else is giving you the antibodies, and you get them immediately,” Dr. Casadevall explains.Going forward, he thinks that doctors could use this therapy alongside other options as they gradually become available.“This [therapy] will provide something that is immediately available. I think what you [will] see in the United States [will be its] continuous use. I hope that there will be better options down the line. For example, [I and my colleagues] are trying to make antibodies from convalescent plasma that may become available in a few months. There is also a hope for monoclonal antibodies in the future and various antivirals.”– Dr. Arturo Casadevall“[C]onvalescent plasma provides something that can be used today with standard knowledge and standard procedures […] But we do hope that better options will be available in the future,” he reiterated.For live updates on the latest developments regarding the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, click here.
2021 Toyota Sienna first drive review: Minivan versatility, economy-car efficiency – Roadshow
Some vehicles can haul a load of passengers, others are supremely comfortable and plenty of others deliver incredible fuel efficiency. Plot these attributes on a Venn diagram and the 2021 Toyota Sienna would land smack-dab in the middle. It can accommodate up to eight adults, plus it’s appropriately cushy and amazingly economical. For drivers that…
Some vehicles can haul a load of passengers, others are supremely comfortable and plenty of others deliver incredible fuel efficiency. Plot these attributes on a Venn diagram and the 2021 Toyota Sienna would land smack-dab in the middle. It can accommodate up to eight adults, plus it’s appropriately cushy and amazingly economical. For drivers that haven’t completely turned their noses up to minivans, the new Sienna makes a strong case for itself.One of the best arguments in favor of this Toyota is fuel economy. After a good ol’ thrashing on a wide variety of roads, I averaged just shy of 35 miles per gallon in my Platinum-trim, all-wheel-drive tester. That’s practically economy-car efficiency, plus it’s right in line with this Toyota’s window sticker. According to the EPA, it should return 35 mpg city, 36 mpg highway and 35 mpg combined. Front-drive models are rated at 36 mpg across the board, and all-wheel drive is available across the lineup.Delivering that astonishing real-world efficiency is a hybrid drivetrain, which is standard in all 2021 Siennas. Yep, a traditional V6 is no longer offered. This gasoline-electric propulsion system, which is built around a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a 1.9-kilowatt-hour nickel-metal hydride battery pack mounted underneath the front seats, delivers 245 horsepower, a good bit less than you get in either a Honda Odyssey (280 hp) or non-plug-in-hybrid Chrysler Pacifica (287 hp).
2021 Toyota Sienna is a hybrid-only van with lots of functionality
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As you might expect, the Sienna’s performance is perfectly adequate but hardly thrilling. It feels a bit tepid around town, exactly where you’d expect a hybrid with immediate torque provided by electric motors to shine. Paradoxically, this van seems punchier out on the open road, accelerating more vigorously. Still, a little extra giddy-up would be appreciated, especially if you’re hauling a full load or towing anywhere near this van’s 3,500-pound limit. When working hard, the Sienna’s fuel-sipping drivetrain also sounds a bit distressed, louder and more grumbly than I recall the Toyota Highlander Hybrid being, which has basically the same powertrain. Minor gripes aside, it’s hard to argue with the economy this family-hauler provides.Riding on a derivative of the automaker’s ubiquitous TNGA platform, the 2021 Sienna grows slightly compared to its predecessor. It’s a fraction of an inch wider and 3.1 inches longer. Additionally, the wheelbase is 1.2 inches longer and the floor is a bit lower. The Sienna’s new foundation also provides greater rigidity, giving it an impressively solid feel, while a new independent rear-suspension design improves handling and refinement. This minivan’s ride quality is supple, with little coarseness from the road filtering through to the cabin. Its interior also remains impressively hushed, even at highway speeds. Handling is benign and predictable, with a bit of body roll when pushed through corners, though my Platinum model’s Bridgestone Turanza tires mounted on chrome-clad 18-inch wheels give up long before you could ever get yourself in trouble, howling even when mildly pushed. Braking performance is good, though the pedal does feel rubbery and a bit unnatural as it progresses from regenerative to friction braking.
There are plenty of storage cubbies inside the 2021 Toyota Sienna.
But this is not something your passengers are ever going to notice. The Sienna’s aft accommodations are lovely, especially with the super-long-slide bucket seats, which are standard equipment on all seven-passenger models. Recliner comfortable, they move 25 inches fore and aft for stretch-out room, plus on front-drive Limited and Platinum models they also come with fold-out ottomans for even greater luxury. As for this Toyota’s third-row seat, no, it doesn’t feature any integrated leg-rests, but it is plenty spacious for adult passengers and is very cushy.
When it’s time to haul cargo instead of people, those long-slide second-row seats are, unfortunately, nonremovable — well not without some tools and a service manual. This is because they contain airbags. Ditto for eight-passenger models; their second-row seats cannot be taken out, either. The Sienna’s second-row seats do, however, fold and push all the way up to the back of the front buckets, providing a generous amount of interior space, 6.5 feet from the backrests to the rear hatch, though it still has significantly fewer cubic feet of room than either an Odyssey or Pacifica. Fortunately, this Toyota can still haul 4×8 sheets of building material, with the plywood or drywall somewhat awkwardly resting on top of the second-row seat’s headrests. The new Sienna’s cabin is thoughtfully designed and well built. Some of its interior materials are rather ordinary, but nothing is chintzy or frail feeling. There are also plenty of places to put things, with a large cubby running across the dashboard and generously sized door pockets. I love the design of the center console, which looks like a bridge running from the dashboard back between the front seats. That console also makes the Sienna feel cozy yet open at the same time.Second-row comfort is one of this minivan’s major selling points.
One disappointing aspect of this minivan is the infotainment system, which runs on a standard, 9-inch, tablet-style touchscreen. Bright and clear, it’s easy to reach, though the software is mediocre at best, unattractive and not particularly intuitive. Toyota really needs to improve its multimedia offerings these days, as well as the back-up and 360-degree cameras, which are gritty looking and quite inferior to what’s offered in other vehicles.Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. The Sienna offers plenty of other tech, much of which is very handy. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. A 10-inch color head-up display is included on the Platinum model, making it easy to keep track of vehicle speed and navigation prompts without taking your eyes off the road. A 12-speaker JBL sound system is available, as is a crisp, 11.6-inch, 1080p HD rear-seat entertainment screen. Ensuring everyone’s devices stay fully charged, seven USB ports are sprinkled throughout the cabin. Two handy standalone options the Sienna can be had with include a 1,500-watt power inverter with a household-style outlet on the back of the center console and another one in the cargo area, plus a digital rear-view mirror, which gives you a much wider field of view behind the vehicle. The 2021 Toyota Sienna can also be ordered with an integrated vacuum cleaner and a mini refrigerator, though these features will not be available immediately at launch due to supplier issues.As for driver-assistance tech, Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 is standard on every version of the Sienna. This suite includes helpful features like automatic high beams, road-sign recognition and pedestrian detection. Adaptive cruise control with lane centering is included, too, and it works as advertised, attentively adjusting speed based on traffic conditions and doing a commendable job keeping my tester in the middle of its lane. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are both standard on all grades, too, which is great news.Thanks to its crazy fuel efficiency and lounge-like interior, the new Sienna is an all-star minivan.
The Sienna’s looks have grown on me since I first checked out a prototype model, but that front end, which was inspired by Japanese bullet trains, is still a bit much, with its massive grille and swept-back headlamps. But hey, I appreciate Toyota taking a risk here, and things do get better the further back you go. This minivan’s powerful rear fenders flow neatly into its distinctive taillights, giving it a shapely look in profile. The molded-resin tailgate is also surprisingly stylish, with its integrated spoiler.A base, front-wheel-drive, LE version of the 2021 Toyota Sienna starts at $35,635, including $1,175 in destination fees. The range-topping, all-wheel-drive Platinum model shown here stickers for around $51,460, which is still a reasonable sum. I say “around” because it’s a prototype model; an official figure is not available at the time this is published.There’s not too much competition in the minivan segment right now. Having reviewed most of the available contenders, at the end of the day, I think Honda’s Odyssey is a bit better to drive and the Chrysler Pacifica more attractive, but this Toyota is still an undeniably good family transporter, especially with those throne-like second-row seats and stellar fuel economy.
2021 Toyota Sienna first-look video
Kazakhstan embraces Borat catchphrase to woo tourists
‘Very Nice!’ used by the tourism board in a light-hearted manner, but the foreign ministry says Borat sequel is racist.Ridiculed once again in a film featuring fictional Kazakh journalist Borat Sagdiyev, the ex-Soviet state of Kazakhstan has embraced the joke this time around and adopted Borat’s catchphrase to try to attract tourists. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm:…
‘Very Nice!’ used by the tourism board in a light-hearted manner, but the foreign ministry says Borat sequel is racist.Ridiculed once again in a film featuring fictional Kazakh journalist Borat Sagdiyev, the ex-Soviet state of Kazakhstan has embraced the joke this time around and adopted Borat’s catchphrase to try to attract tourists.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, a follow-up to a 2006 film featuring the same sexist and racist character, was released on Amazon Prime last week.
Like the first film, the movie has Borat on the rampage in the United States where he tries to trick US politicians and others into letting their guard down and compromising themselves.
Borat’s first outing caused anger in Kazakhstan where authorities discouraged its screening and threatened legal action over what they saw as an insult to their national character.
This time around, they have taken a different approach and adopted Borat’s catchphrase “Very Nice!” to try to promote tourism in the vast Central Asian country.
In a slick video released by the tourism board featuring spectacular mountains and lakes, exotic food market, and futuristic-looking cityscapes, a series of foreign tourists use the catchphrase to signal their appreciation for what they are seeing.
The idea to use Borat’s catchphrase belongs to Dennis Keen, a US citizen living in Kazakhstan, who is married to a Kazakh woman and has a business running walking tours.
“It was something I’d been thinking about for years as everyone who comes here is aware of the Borat thing being attached to the country’s brand,” Keen told Reuters news agency.
Borat’s “Very Nice!” catchphrase could be put to good use instead, he said.
“It’s actually the perfect description of the country in the most sincere way. The people and the food are very nice.”
COVID-19 means tourism in Kazakhstan has been hard hit by travel restrictions and border closures like many other countries.
But Kairat Sadvakassov, deputy chairman of Kazakh Tourism, said he hoped the campaign would help people see that Borat’s jokes about the country were off target when the situation improved.
“We would like everyone to come experience Kazakhstan for themselves by visiting our country in 2021 and beyond, so that they can see that Borat’s homeland is nicer than they may have heard,” Sadvakassov said in a news release.
Still, Kazakh authorities remain unimpressed with the film.
In a statement issued by the foreign ministry on Saturday, officials said the new movie was racist and xenophobic, but that an official protest was pointless because it would only generate more publicity and profits for the film’s makers.
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