Preliminary results to nationwide SARS-CoV-2 molecular testing survey

The Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP), the premier global, molecular diagnostic professional society, today released the preliminary results of its April 2020 SARS-CoV-2 Testing Survey for clinical laboratories. The anonymous survey was created and administered to document clinical laboratory efforts and experiences. The results will be used to help inform future advocacy and clinical practice programs related to pandemic responses.

AMP’s 67-question survey assessed many important aspects of SARS-CoV-2 molecular diagnostic testing, including methodology, performance, capacity, supply chain, regulatory, and reporting requirements. The preliminary results today included feedback from 118 representatives from US-based academic medical centers, commercial reference laboratories and community hospitals. 85% of these respondents are currently offering SARS-CoV-2 testing to patients, while another 10% are currently in the test validation phase. 90% of the laboratories recognize the need to increase diagnostic testing capacity further, and they are working hard to make this happen in the next few months. However, more than 70% of these laboratories have experienced supply chain interruptions that have resulted in significant delays, in many cases forcing them to validate at least three different diagnostic testing methods at the same time just in case the supply of reagents or materials runs out. These supply shortages have included everything from the RNA extraction kits, primers, probes, and enzymes to the physical sample collection materials, such as the swabs and containers for storage and transportation.

“Clinical laboratories across the country are working hard and being extremely resourceful in order to provide diagnostic SARS-CoV-2 testing to Americans, with the majority running at full staffing/testing capacity seven days a week,” said Karen E. Weck, MD, AMP President and Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Professor of Genetics and Director of Molecular Genetics and Pharmacogenomics at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. “However, AMP members know more testing is needed as the country begins to reopen. We are continuing to deploy multiple testing methodologies to overcome supply shortages, increase capacity and improve turnaround times.”

Based on the common themes found in the survey results, AMP is recommending that federal, state and local governments:

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Canadian scientists testing whether cannabis can block COVID-19

Canadian scientists are testing whether compounds in marijuana can prevent coronavirus from ‘hijacking’ human cells

  • Researchers from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada looked at 400 cannabis strains and focused on about a dozen
  • They studied how extracts high in CBD, the main nonpsychoactive ingredient in, interacted with receptors coronavirus uses to attack cells
  • The extracts lowered the number of receptors the virus uses to infects cells and multiply by more than 70%
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

A team of Canadian scientists is testing whether or not marijuana compounds can block coronavirus infection.

Researchers at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta looked at 400 cannabis strains and focused on about a dozen that showed promise in preventing the virus from ‘hijacking’ our cells.

They say extracts of cannabidiol (CBD), the main non-psychoactive component of pot – helped lower the number of cell receptors available for coronavirus to attach to by more than 70 percent.  

However, the team says people should not rush out and by cannabis products and that clinical trials are needed to confirm the results. 

Researchers from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada looked at 400 cannabis strains and focused on about a dozen (file image)

They studied how extracts high in CBD, the main nonpsychoactive ingredient in, interacted with receptors coronavirus uses to attack cells. Pictured: A nurse suctions the lungs of a COVID-19 patient at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Yonkers, NY, April 20

For the study, published the pre-peer reviewed journal Preprints, the scientists partnered with Pathway Rx, a cannabis therapy research company, and Swysh Inc, a cannabinoid-based research company.

The team created artificial 3D human models of oral, airway and intestinal tissues with a sample of high CBD extracts from Cannabis Sativa plants. 

The extracts were low in THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.   

Next, researchers tested the effect the extracts had on angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), the receptors required for the virus to enter human cells. 

Results showed that the extracts helped reduce the number of receptors that are the  ‘gateway’ for the coronavirus to ‘hijack’ host cells.

‘A number of them have reduced the number of [virus] receptors by 73 percent, the chance of it getting in is much lower,’ lead researchers Dr Igor Kovalchuk, CEO of Pathway Rx, told The Calgary Herald.

‘If they can reduce the number of receptors, there’s much less chance of getting infected.’ 

They also looked at other receptors such as TMPRSS2, which allows the virus to invade cells more easily and multiply quickly.   

‘Imagine a cell being a large building,’ Kovalchuk told CTV News. 

‘Cannabinoids decrease the number of doors in the building by, say, 70 percent, so it means the level of entry will be restricted. So, therefore, you have more chance to fight it.’  

However, the team says this does not mean that people should go out and buy marijuana products as prophylactics. 

Cannabis and CBD products that are currently on the market are not designed to treat or prevent infection from COVID-19. Therefore, clinical trials are needed. 

‘Given the current dire and rapidly developing epidemiological situation, every possible therapeutic opportunity and avenue needs to be considered,’ Kovalchuk said in an April press release. 

‘Our research team is actively pursuing partnerships to conduct clinical trials.’ 

If trials proves to be successful, he says the CBD strains may be used as mouth wash, gargle, inhalants or gel caps,

‘It would be cheaper for people and have a lot less side-effects,’ Kovalchuk told The Herald.  

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