The year of 2020 was full of pandemic-infused negative news, but there were some brilliant scientific breakthroughs and positive health stories last year too. From nutty drugs to new discoveries surrounding HIV, let’s have a look at some of the best stories that may have been buried in the chaos…
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FDA Approve First Peanut Allergy Drug Treatment for Children
In January 2020, the American Food and Drug Administration approved the first ever drug treatment for peanut allergies in children and adolescents, aged 4-17 years old.
Named Palforzia, this drug aims to reduce allergic reactions to accidental exposure to these nuts, especially in avoiding anaphylaxis. Interestingly, the Palforzia drug is a powder that is actually made from peanuts, and the treatment works by building up a person’s tolerance to the nuts from very small amounts.
The plan involves the Initial Dose Escalation, which is where one dose of the powder is taken mushed-up with some semi-solid food on one day. Then, following this, the up-dosing phase occurs over several months using 11 capsules of increasing dosage. All of the doses administered during these first two phases are under the supervision of a healthcare professional equipped with the tools and knowledge to combat severe allergic reaction if it happens.
This drug is a significant breakthrough as around 1 million children in America have peanut allergies and only ⅕ outgrow them. Hopefully, this drug will help mitigate the possibility that these life-threatening allergic reactions occur in these children.
Congo Was Finally Ebola-free
After 22 months of fighting it in Congo, the second largest Ebola virus outbreak the world has seen was declared over by the World Health Organisation on 25 June 2020. This was the 10th Ebola viral outbreak to occur in Congo and was tackled in 2020 for the first time using the Ebola vaccine developed and licensed in 2019.
New Blood Tests to Detect Alzheimer’s Disease
In October 2020, C2N Diagnostics announced that the first ever blood test to help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease was available in many American states, a feat previously believed by many scientists to be impossible.
If these proteins are found in a significant ratio, this test alongside other clinical tools can help detect and quantify the extent of Alzheimer’s disease development – even up to 20 years before any cognitive effects are noticed.
Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, if it can be detected well enough in advance, measures to reduce the disease severity and to preserve more cognitive function can be taken.
Fighting HIV Without Antiretroviral Treatment
In August 2020, scientists Chenyang Jiang et al published amazing findings in Nature, regarding how and why a tiny group of people called “elite controllers”, have unusual immune systems that keep HIV under control without any antiretroviral drugs.
These days, most people who are diagnosed with HIV require antiretroviral therapy throughout their lives to keep HIV under control. Control of HIV-1 without this therapy occurs in a tiny less than 0.5% of patients.
Scientists have discovered that these phenomenal elite controllers occur because the HIV’s viral DNA that normally sets up camp in an infected person’s genome is in deep sleep. This deep sleep is called transcriptional repression in these amazing unusual immune systems. Understanding how these elite controllers combat HIV opens doors to develop more effective treatments for other patients affected by the disease. Amazing!
The Fastest Vaccine in History
With the whole globe working together, 2020 marked the year that the fastest modern vaccine ever was developed to help humans fight the Covid-19 virus.
On an early Tuesday morning, the 8th December 2020, the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer vaccine was Margharet Keenan, a 90-year-old woman living in Coventry, England, originally from Northern Ireland.
Having several pharmaceutical companies and huge numbers of worldwide scientists involved in the race for vaccine development pushed the boundaries of medicine forward at the end of 2020. This has shown us that working together with a shared global focus really can help us achieve huge things for human health, a lot faster than we expected.
Let’s hope there are plenty more positive stories for health in 2021!