Spokesman says Duterte suffering from muscle spasms but can work

Duterte appeared to be in pain during his trip to Japan. (File/AFP)
Updated 24 October 2019

Spokesman says Duterte suffering from muscle spasms but can work

  • Doctor said the pains may have been aggravated by a motorcycle fall
  • Duterte had a cane when he was in Tokyo

MANILA, Philippines: A medical checkup showed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is suffering from painful muscle spasms that prompted him to cut short a trip to Japan, his spokesman said Thursday.
Duterte was feeling better but was advised by his doctor to rest and take painkillers to relieve him of the discomfort from lower back muscle spasms, which may have been caused or aggravated by a motorcycle fall last week and another similar accident years ago, spokesman Salvador Panelo said. The doctor ruled out the need for any surgical procedure, Panelo said.
Panelo said the president would still meet Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua on Thursday to discuss Chinese financing of infrastructure projects in the Philippines.
“Despite the president’s somewhat impaired physical profile, he will continue to perform his presidential duties, which include attending to local and foreign engagements in the following days, with the same passion and dedication, in obedience to the constitutional command to serve and protect the Filipino people,” Panelo said.
Duterte’s latest health problem went public when he cut short his trip earlier this week to Japan, where he attended Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement ceremony in Tokyo but had to skip two banquets, which were attended instead by his daughter, Sara Duterte. Duterte at times used a cane and appeared to be in pain while in Tokyo.
An avid rider of big motorcycles in his younger days, Duterte, 74, sustained bruises and scratches when he fell off his parked motorcycle last week in the sprawling presidential palace complex in Manila, but Panelo said then that the president’s minor injuries would not affect his schedule.
Duterte said last year that he suffers from “perpetual pain” due to a spinal injury he sustained in a motorcycle accident years ago. He has also acknowledged using Fentanyl, an opioid used to treat chronic pain that can also be used as a recreational drug.
A lack of regular medical bulletins on the president’s health has sparked sporadic speculation about the state of his health, especially when he failed to appear in public for days.
The Philippine Constitution requires that the public be informed of the president’s state of health “in case of serious illness.”


UK, US COVID-19 vaccines show signs of immunity in patients

Updated 15 July 2020

UK, US COVID-19 vaccines show signs of immunity in patients

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci: ‘No matter how you slice this, this is good news’

LONDON: Two of the world’s most promising studies to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 have said subjects in their trials have shown early signs of immunity. 

The trials, run by teams at Oxford University in the UK and pharmaceutical company Moderna in the US, have both received significant government funding in their bids to develop their vaccines before the end of the year.

The Oxford vaccine, being manufactured by AstraZeneca, based in Cambridge, England, has already had millions of doses mass-produced in the event of the trials proving a success. The team behind it says it is “80 percent confident” of it being available by September. 

It works by injecting altered COVID-19 genetic material, attached to a similar but benign virus called an adenovirus, which causes common colds, into the body, in a process known as recombinant viral vector vaccination. 

The aim is to facilitate an immune system response by mimicking COVID-19 itself, and training antibodies to attack the spike proteins on the virus’s exterior that it uses to attach itself to human cells.

When faced with COVID-19, in theory the immune system should then act in the same fashion.

The Oxford vaccine is currently in its second, expanded trial stage, featuring 8,000 people in the UK and up to 6,000 people in Brazil and South Africa.

Though no official results have been formally published, subjects exposed to the vaccine in its early phase were found to have developed antibodies and a certain type of white blood cell, called T-cells, which help fight infection

“An important point to keep in mind is that there are two dimensions to the immune response: Antibodies and T-cells,” a source at Oxford told ITV News in the UK.

“Everybody is focused on antibodies, but there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that the T-cells response is important in the defense against coronavirus.”

Prof. Sarah Gilbert, the Oxford team leader, earlier this month said the vaccine could provide protection for several years at a time.

She told UK MPs on the House of Commons’ science and technology select committee: “Vaccines have a different way of engaging with the immune system, and we follow people in our studies using the same type of technology to make the vaccines for several years, and we still see strong immune responses.”

She added: “It’s something we have to test and follow over time — we can’t know until we actually have the data, but we’re optimistic based on earlier studies that we’ll see a good duration of immunity, for several years at least, and probably better than naturally acquired immunity.”

Moderna, meanwhile, reported that all 45 volunteers in its early phase had developed immune responses after receiving its vaccine, though with more than half its subjects experiencing mild or moderate side effects including headaches, fatigue and muscle pain.

Its vaccine, called mRNA-1273, uses ribonucleic acid to program human cells to make proteins similar to the spike proteins of COVID-19 cells, training the body’s immune system to identify and attack them.

Its initial studies found that higher doses of mRNA-1273 in the human system corresponded with higher levels of immunity in subjects, by injecting people with doses of 25, 100 or 250 micrograms of the vaccine in two instalments over 28 days.

Moderna will begin a second trial of 30,000 people later this month. The US government has so far pledged nearly half a billion dollars in funding for the Moderna vaccine.

The director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said: “No matter how you slice this, this is good news.”

Vaccines, though, are not the only potential route in the quest to find a solution to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trials have already begun for an antibody treatment, manufactured by AstraZeneca, that would see patients given a three-minute infusion of COVID-19 antibodies that could provide protection for up to six months.

This would be a potential solution if the vaccine proves less effective in some people (especially the elderly), for those who suffer adverse reactions, or for people taking immunosuppressant drugs or undergoing chemotherapy.

Sir Mene Pangalos, head AstraZeneca’s research into respiratory diseases, said: “There’s a population who are elderly that (may not) get a particularly good immune response to the vaccine.

“In those instances you might want to prophylactically treat those patients with an antibody to give them additional protection.”