The Week That Wasn't: COVID-19 Drug, Squatting, Laser Ultrasound

Ellie Kincaid


March 13, 2020

You may have recently seen articles about a man who recovered from COVID-19 after being treated with an HIV drug, why squatting is better than sitting, and the first human data for a laser ultrasound that could take images of patients without touching them. Here's why you didn't see them on Medscape Medical News.

HIV Drug for Coronavirus

The man who had the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Spain has been "successfully treated" with the combination antiretroviral lopinavir-ritonavir (Kaletra, AbbVie), according to news reports. The drug is currently used to treat HIV infection.

It's clear why this story is appealing right now — we would all like to hear some good news about the coronavirus pandemic. But it's hard to draw firm conclusions from these news reports. Multiple clinical trials are testing lopinavir-ritonavir as a treatment for COVID-19, and we would rather report on the data from their results than pass along secondhand information about an individual case. We think our busy readers deserve better. Instead, readers can find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

Squatting Over Sitting

The documented health risks of sitting, some say, make it "the new smoking." But this makes little sense to scientists who study human evolution, inasmuch as evolutionary pressures generally encourage behaviors that save energy, such as resting.

To understand humans' sedentary behaviors in a context different from that of modern industrial societies, scientists turned to the Hadza community of Tanzania, which lives as hunter-gatherers. They found that the Hadza spend a similar amount of time resting as industrialized populations do, but instead of sitting, they more often squat, which engages more muscles in the lower limbs. "Interventions built on this model may help reduce the negative health impacts of inactivity in industrialized populations," they write in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

These new findings are intriguing, but they are a long way from laying out a specific intervention that clinicians could prescribe to their patients and from presenting data that such an intervention is beneficial. Without that, there's not much news here that busy clinicians could use in practice, so we didn't think it was necessary to report.

First Human Data for Laser Ultrasound

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have presented what they say are the first images of a human subject that were collected with laser ultrasound technology (LUS). Such technology does not require contact between the imaging machine and the body, as ultrasound techniques typically do.

"Validation of the LUS results on human subjects is a significant step toward proving the clinical viability of LUS and motivates further LUS research and development," they write in the journal Light: Science and Applications .

Much first-in-human research is impressive, and this study is too. But a lot of work remains for scientists to develop a technology that produces first-in-human data into a useful clinical tool. It would be premature for us to tout this research to our clinician readership, so we skipped covering it.

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