Nuclear scientists in Austria are closing in on new coronavirus testing kits that could dramatically lower the cost and time it takes to diagnose people for the disease. Covid-19 diagnosis could drop to 10 to 15 euros a person.
We need to test as many people as possible. If we know who is infected, who is not and who has recovered, we could greatly relax social isolation requirements and send both the uninfected and the recovered back to work. Although our health-care system is now struggling to produce enough tests even for those who are likely infected, we recommend a massive mobilization that would allow hundreds of millions to be tested. There are two types of tests, and expanding both would be necessary. The polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test now in use identifies the genetic signature of the live virus and can identify those very recently infected. It requires someone to take swabs and package them, use of a PCR machine and trained professionals to run those machines. The second type of test, a serology test, looks for antibodies or other proteins in the blood formed by the immune reaction to infection. These tests, still in development, could reveal those who had the disease and recovered, and confirm infection of some still with symptoms. It could probably be self-administered and produce results in minutes. With enough of both kinds of tests, a variety of complementary strategies would be possible. Because live disease carriers would be more readily identified, it would be easier to trace and test their contacts and to quarantine the infected, particularly if a period of high isolation now greatly lowers infection rates. In addition, with widespread serology tests, those recovered and presumably now immune and unable to transmit the virus could return to work and resume many social interactions. Although no one is absolutely sure the recovered cannot be reinfected and then infect others, they will almost certainly have substantial resistance. [Washington Post]
The coronavirus is slowly mutating. But experts say that so far, there’s no sign it’s becoming more harmful to humans — and that slow change is potentially good news for treatments and vaccines.
Italian researchers are looking at whether a higher than usual number of cases of severe pneumonia and flu in Lombardy in the last quarter of 2019 may be a signal that the new coronavirus might have spread beyond China earlier than previously thought.
Variation in state quarantine laws and regulations may create differences in the effectiveness of each state’s response to COVID-19, at least to the degree that those laws and regulations are relevant and enforced.
If we do the testing of every single case, rapid isolation of the cases, you should be able to keep cases down low. If you simply rely on the big shut down measures without finding every case, then every time you take the brakes off, it could come back in waves. So that future frankly, may be determined by us and our response as much as the virus.
“If 30% of the population has already been exposed to this then that number will go to 70% in two weeks,” James said. Assuming that having the disease left you with immunity to it, the crisis would then be as good as over
If you have a smartphone, you’re probably contributing to a massive coronavirus surveillance system. And it’s revealing where Americans have — and haven’t — been practicing social distancing. A company called Unacast that collects and analyzes phone GPS location data launched a “Social Distancing Scoreboard” that grades, county by county, which residents are changing behavior at the urging of health officials. It uses the reduction in the total distance we travel as a rough index for whether we’re staying put at home. Comparing the nation’s mass movements from March 20 to an average Friday, Washington, D.C., gets an A, while Wyoming as a whole earns an F. [Washington Post]
A new study of the inner workings of our muscles finds that if muscles have been trained in the past, they seem to develop a molecular memory of working out that lingers through a prolonged period of inactivity, and once we start training again, this “muscle memory” could speed the process by which we regain our former muscular strength and size. [NY Times]
The saliva of COVID-19 patients can harbor half a trillion virus particles per teaspoon, and a cough aerosolizes it into a diffuse mist. [...] Viruses have been multiplying inside his body ever since. And as he talks, the passage of his breath over the moist lining of his upper throat creates tiny droplets of virus-laden mucus that waft invisibly into the air over your table. Some settle on the as-yet-uneaten food on your plate, some drift onto your fingers, others are drawn into your nasal sinus or settle into your throat. By the time you extend your hand to shake good-bye, your body is carrying 43,654 virus particles. By the time you’re done shaking hands, that number is up to 312,405. [...] What she doesn’t know is that an hour before, you went to the bathroom and neglected to wash your hands afterward. The invisible fecal smear you leave on the arm of her jacket contains 893,405 virus particles. [...] Fighting for breath, you order an Uber and head to the nearest emergency room. (You leave 376,345,090 virus particles smeared on various surfaces of the car and another 323,443,865 floating in aerosols in the air.) [NY mag]
Researchers found that most coronavirus transmissions had occurred in regions with low temperatures, between 37.4 and 62.6 degrees Fahrenheit (or 3 and 17 degrees Celsius). While countries with equatorial climates and those in the Southern Hemisphere, currently in the middle of summer, have reported coronavirus cases, regions with average temperatures above 64.4 degrees Fahrenheit (or 18 degrees Celsius) account for fewer than 6 percent of global cases so far. The temperature dependency is also clear within the United States, Dr. Bukhari said. Southern states, like Arizona, Florida and Texas, have seen slower outbreak growth compared with states like Washington, New York and Colorado. Coronavirus cases in California have grown at a rate that falls somewhere in between. [...] At least two other studies published on public repositories have drawn similar conclusions for the coronavirus. One analysis by researchers in Spain and Finland found that the virus seemed to have found a niche in dry conditions and temperatures between 28.3 degrees and 49 degrees Fahrenheit (or minus 2 and 10 degrees Celsius). [...] Warmer temperatures might make it harder for the coronavirus to survive in the air or on surfaces for long periods of time, but it could still be contagious for hours, if not days, Dr. Bukhari said. Even seasonal viruses like influenza and the viruses that cause the common cold don’t completely disappear during summer. [NY Times ]
South Korea has emerged as a sign of hope and a model to emulate. The country of 50 million appears to have greatly slowed its epidemic; it reported only 74 new cases today, down from 909 at its peak on 29 February. And it has done so without locking down entire cities or taking some of the other authoritarian measures that helped China bring its epidemic under control. [...] Behind its success so far has been the most expansive and well-organized testing program in the world, combined with extensive efforts to isolate infected people and trace and quarantine their contacts. South Korea has tested more than 270,000 people, which amounts to more than 5200 tests per million inhabitants—more than any other country except tiny Bahrain, according to the Worldometer website. The United States has so far carried out 74 tests per 1 million inhabitants, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show. [...] Yet whether the success will hold is unclear. [...] New clusters are now appearing. Since last week, authorities have reported many new infections, including 129 linked to a Seoul call center. [Science]
Once inside a cell, a virus can make 10,000 copies of itself in a matter of hours. Within a few days, the infected person will carry hundreds of millions of viral particles in every teaspoon of his blood. The onslaught triggers an intense response from the host’s immune system: Defensive chemicals are released. The body’s temperature rises, causing fever. Armies of germ-eating white blood cells swarm the infected region. Often, this response is what makes a person feel sick. [...] viruses function through us. With no cellular machinery of their own, they become intertwined with ours. Their proteins are our proteins. Their weaknesses are our weaknesses. Most drugs that might hurt them would hurt us, too. [...] For all its evil genius and efficient, lethal design, Kirkegaard said, “the virus doesn’t really want to kill us. It’s good for them, good for their population, if you’re walking around being perfectly healthy.” Evolutionary speaking, experts believe, the ultimate goal of viruses is to be contagious while also gentle on its host. [Washington Post]
46% of the city’s COVID-19 patients are over 50 while 54% are 18-49. The remaining 2% of cases are people age 5 to 17. [...] men account for 59% of infected people. Men are more than twice as likely as women to die from the pathogen. [NY Post]
Twenty-first century science played a relatively small role in controlling SARS; nineteenth-century techniques continued to prove their value [ [SARS: how a global epidemic was stopped]