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COVID SCIENCE UPDATES

Hydroxychloroquine fails to protect medical workers; Pandemic increases need for strength training by elderly


The malaria drug hydroxychloroquine failed to protect healthcare workers caring for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients from becoming infected themselves, according to results of a formal, placebo-controlled trial published on Saturday in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The 1,483 participants worked in emergency departments, intensive care units, and other high-risk sites in the United States and the Canadian province of Manitoba.

They were randomly assigned to receive hydroxychloroquine 400mg, once weekly or twice weekly, for 12 weeks, or a placebo.

Compared to the risk of infection in the placebo group, the risk was 28% lower with once-weekly hydroxychloroquine and 26% lower with twice-weekly dosing.

But those differences were not deemed to be statistically significant, meaning they could have been due to chance rather than to the drug.

The University of Minnesota researchers point out that recruiting participants became difficult after potential adverse heart effects of the drug were publicized, and also that the hydroxychloroquine doses may have been too low.

"Investigation into more frequent dosing may be warranted," they said.

Pandemic increases need for strength training by elderly

Older people "urgently" need to be doing resistance exercises, also known as strength training, during the pandemic, to counteract the effects of physical inactivity and to make sure they retain at least the same level of muscle function they had prior to lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, doctors advise.

Social distancing measures cause "greater time at home and consequently a reduction in general physical activity and an increase in sedentary time, which is harmful to older people," they write in the medical journal Experimental Gerontology.

Home-based resistance training can be done with exercises that simulate daily physical activities and can be adapted to each person's physical condition.

Earlier studies showed that "even minimally supervised home-based resistance training can be a safe, effective and low-cost exercise option to increase lower body muscle strength in older individuals with a variety of health conditions," the researchers say.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a pamphlet on strength training for older adults. The agency urges anyone with any medical condition discuss the exercises with their physician before starting. -- Reuters

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