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Health Highlights: Feb. 3, 2020

Last Updated: February 03, 2020.

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

HIV Vaccine Ineffective, Clinical Trial Halted

A clinical trial for an HIV vaccine has been halted after it was concluded that it did not prevent infection with the AIDS-causing virus, the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said Monday.

The agency sponsored the trial, which was being conducted in South Africa, CNN reported.

"An HIV vaccine is essential to end the global pandemic, and we hoped this vaccine candidate would work. Regrettably, it does not," Dr. Anthony Fauci, NIAID director, said in a statement.

"Research continues on other approaches to a safe and effective HIV vaccine, which I still believe can be achieved," he added.

The announcement that the HIV vaccine clinical trial has been stopped is a "deep disappointment," said a news release from the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, a group formed to spur efforts to develop an HIV vaccine, CNN reported.

"Whilst this is a significant setback for the field, we need to continue the quest for a preventive vaccine. The rates of HIV infection, which continue unabated in this region, should spur greater urgency, global attention and investment to the quest," Linda-Gail Bekker, immediate past president of the International AIDS Society, said in a statement.

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Experimental Antiviral Drug to be Tested Against New Coronavirus

A clinical trial to test an experimental antiviral drug's effectiveness against the new coronavirus will be conducted in China as it battles a coronavirus outbreak there.

The drug Remdesivir -- created to fight infectious diseases such as Ebola and SARS -- will be tested by a medical team from Beijing-based China-Japan Friendship Hospital, a hospital spokeswoman told Bloomberg News.

The trial will be conduced in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak that's sickened more than 17,000 people and killed more than 360 in China.

Researchers will recruit up to 270 patients with mild and moderate pneumonia caused by the virus, according to Chinese news outlet The Paper, Bloomberg News reported.

Remdesivir is not approved for use by any drug regulator in the world, but is being given to patients infected with the new coronavirus because there are no approved treatments, drug maker Gilead said in a statement, Bloomberg News reported.

The company said it's working with Chinese health officials to organize the clinical trial to determine its effectiveness and safety of the drug in patients infected with the new coronavirus.

The HIV medication Kaletra has also been recommended by China's health regulator as an antiviral treatment for the new coronavirus, and clinical trials of that drug are also being arranged, according to The Paper, Bloomberg News reported.

Drug companies and Chinese authorities are racing to develop new treatments and vaccines to fight the new coronavirus.

On Sunday, officials reported three more cases of the new coronavirus in California, bringing the total in the United States to 11.

Worldwide, there are now 146 coronavirus cases in at least 23 countries outside China, according to the World Health Organization. One death outside China has been reported, in the Philippines.

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First Treatment for Peanut Allergy Approved by FDA

The first treatment for peanut allergy has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Palforzia -- a specially prepared peanut powder that's consumed daily in small amounts that are gradually increased over months -- helps children and teens better tolerate peanuts so that accidental exposure is less likely to cause a serious allergic reaction, the Associated Press reported.

Palforzia is not a cure, youngsters using the treatment still must avoid peanuts, and protection is lost if they stop taking the powder daily.

The treatment can cause side effects, including the risk of a severe allergic reaction. The FDA requires patients to take their first dose and each increased dose under supervision in a certified health center, and doctors and their patients must enroll in a special safety program, the AP reported.

Other treatments for peanut allergy are being developed, including a skin patch that's up for FDA review.

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Facebook, Instagram Target False Coronavirus Information

Claims about fake cures and other misinformation about the new coronavirus will be removed by Facebook, says the company's head of health, Kang-Xing Jin.

In a blog post published Thursday, Jin said Facebook will "remove content with false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations and local health authorities that could cause harm to people who believe them," CNN reported.

That includes claims "related to false cures or prevention methods" or "that create confusion about health resources that are available," Jin said.

Jin added that there will be increased fact-checking and monitoring on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, CNN reported.


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