MDI Biological Laboratory
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March 18 update from MDI Biological Laboratory President

  • March 18, 2020

MDI Biological Laboratory President, Hermann Haller, M.D., is currently self-isolating for 14 days after arriving from Germany last week. As a physician scientist, he has experience treating patients with Coronavirus infections, is serving on several taskforces for COVID-19 and is consulting (virtually) with medical professionals on MDI and across the globe. Dr. Haller has been providing leadership and guidance during this time of uncertainty and worry, and we wanted to share some of his thoughts with you.*  

If you have a particular question for Dr. Haller about COVID-19/Coronavirus, you can email him at president@mdibl.org

*Note: the following statements do not constitute medical advice. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider for specific advice.

March 18, 2020

After a windy, stormy day yesterday, this morning looks like it will be a beautiful day in Salisbury Cove. But here along the coast of Maine, we are still awaiting the arrival of our COVID-19 storm. Our preparations are in place, the number of reported infections is increasing, but so far the storm has not hit us. Even in Hannover, Germany, at the Medical School we still have just one patient in ICU (and 1,000 infected cases reported around the city). 

Our MDIBL campus is quiet, but we are well prepared.

I have answered a lot of e-mails over the last couple of days with questions about the disease and prevention of infection. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and it is hard to keep up with what is true and what is suspect. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have a problem or you want more information.

One important question is about medications and how they interact with the virus — either the medications we take every day (for high blood pressure or for diabetes) or medications we use when we feel sick and have a fever (like ibuprofen).

Discussions have arisen around blood pressure medications, especially ACE-inhibitors and statins. The concern arises from the observation that the COVID-19 virus binds to a specific enzyme called ACE2 to infect cells, and ACE2 levels are increased following treatment with ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers. This is an interesting speculation and may require future research. However, this speculation about the safety of ACE inhibitor or angiotensin receptor blockers treatment in relation to COVID-19 does presently not have a sound scientific basis or the evidence to support it. Conclusion: presently we have no evidence that this mechanism leads to increased risk. On the contrary, not taking your blood pressure medication increases risk (hypertension is a concomitant disease). It is strongly recommended that patients should continue antihypertensive treatment.

The role of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen in the development of the disease has also been discussed. In France, some doctors noted that a number of patients who were admitted to ICU had been taking these drugs. It is not clear whether these patients had other conditions which put them at higher risk of being admitted to ICU, or if the NSAIDs were the only risk factor. To be on the safe side the World Health Organization recommends that patients who suspect they have COVID-19 to take acetaminophen (Tylenol), rather than ibuprofen.

During the past few days I have seen both here in the US and in Germany how we react under pressure. It is wonderful and reassuring to see that everybody at MDI Biological Laboratory is supportive and helpful in this uncertain situation. Volunteers immediately took on the task to be trained for maintain the animal facility (the fish still need feeding after all). We are taking care of our colleagues and have successfully implemented remote working for the majority of our staff.

Yesterday evening I discovered an advantage of self-isolation: enjoying wonderful smoked salmon (delivered to Cove Cottage 7, where I am self-isolating, in the rain – thank you!) and a glass of white wine I had received the day before. 

Look after yourself, protect your community and we will survive the storm.

Best,
HH


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