Good News Monday #30: Parasites, Shrews, and Cures

Just a glimpse of the tomatoes coming my way.

I can’t get canning lids and the tomatoes are ripening so fast, I put them out by the street with a sign: FRESH AND FREE. A wonderful side effect is that a few neighbors stop to visit, at an acceptable physical distance, of course.

This weekend I expanded my bubble to attend church in person, rather than watch on-line. Ahh…connecting eye-to-eye, if not entirely face-to-face, felt so nourishing.

Here’s some even better news I found this week.

A treatment that could crush covid?

Over thirty years ago Osiris Therapeutics set out to develop therapies using “medicinal signaling cells” (MSC.). The two founders, Professor Arnold Caplan and Kevin Kimberlin created the first approved systemically delivered cell therapy using MSC.

Arnold describes this treatment as a “wonder drugstore” because of MSC ability to treat a wide range of human ailments.

Sounds too good to be true, I know. Here’s how it works.

MCS detects an infection or an injury in vessels and transforms into a factory to recruit and pump out immune modulating and vessel-repair agents. These cells ameliorate crippling and deadly conditions when transitional chemical or biochemical drugs fail.

The Wall Street Journal , August 14, 2020

We all know that COVID-19 does its worst damage on older people and people with underlying condition. It turns out that as we age, our vessels thin, leaving us with fewer MSC of our own. MSC decrease when we gain weight or develop chronic diseases, too. But, it turns out that MSC are a necessary component for healing the delicate lung membranes damaged by COVID-19.

Doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital treated a dozen severely ill patients on ventilators with MSC. 85% recovered. That is a repeat of a study published in Lancet, a peer reviewed medical journal. The two studies show that virus-fighting T-cells increase and inflammation falls; X-rays showed that the drug repaired lung tissue, sometimes within 48 hours. These results won FDA and NIH funding to conduct a 300 patient randomized trial which began in May. These randomized trials are the gold standard for FDA approval.

There’s already an expedited study on MSC treatment for a pediatric disease called graft-versus-host Disease, where 80% of the children afflicted have such a violent immune response that they die. Treatment with MSC calmed the immune response and caused the injured tissues to normalize.

The preliminary results for COVID-19 show such promise that Osiris believes they should have treatment available by the end of September.

This is good news, not just for COVID-19 patients, but for a wide range of maladies.

Note: The Wall Street Journal (August 14) opinion piece was written by Kevin Kimberlin.

person getting his blood check
Photo by Pranidchakan Boonrom on

Elephant shrew spotted.

No one has seen this critter for 50 years! They are not really elephants (obviously) or shews, but something call a Somali sengi. Sengis are related to elephants, aardvarks, and manatees. Three things that don’t seem that related, but I’ll trust the Global Wildlife Conservation with that assessment. According to them, the Somali sengi has been “lost to science” since 1968.

The locals in Djibouti never considered them lost, just not that interested in being seen. All it took was a little peanut butter and a bunch of traps and the Somali sengi forgot all about their shyness.

Learn more about the Somali sengi at

From BBC, August 2020

$1 a year can boost earning potential

That’s how much it costs to treat kids in the poorest countries for intestinal parasites.

Michael Kremer says he stumbled into the study while he was on vacation in Kenya. In a way, it only stands to reason. Kids with worms are too listless to concentrate in school. And sometimes they are too sick to even attend school.

Michael, an economist, decided to do a randomized controlled study comparing the long-term effects of deworming with children who received no treatment. He studied 32,000 children.

Michael’s study showed that absenteeism dropped by a fourth. But that’s not all. He continued to follow the kids until adulthood. It turns out that when the kids that received the medicine reached their 20s and 30s they earned 13% more than those who didn’t. The kids went on to take more nonagricultural jobs, which meant higher paying jobs.

One notable caveat: although the girls actually gained more in the educational measures, they did not gain economically. Michael thinks that is probably due to more insidious “barriers that women are facing in the labor market.”

He shared the Nobel Memorial Prize in economics for his pioneering study approach.

Michael’s initial results were so impressive that deworming programs spread across developing nations. Today about 150 million children get deworming pills. To find out more, visit NPR or listen here.

adult blur books close up
Photo by Pixabay on

Schools back in sesssion, either visually or in some cases face-to-face. I’m sure there’s more students than those with intestinal parasites that feel a bit listless with sunshine beckoning outside.

What’s on your good news radar this week? More is always better.