• COVID-19: European responseCoronavirus Measures May Have Already Averted Up to 120,000 Deaths Across Europe

    By Ryan O'Hare and Dr. Sabine L. van Elsland

    Strong social distancing measures to slow and suppress the spread of COVID-19 across Europe are estimated to have averted thousands of deaths. According to the research, up to 120,000 deaths may have already been averted in 11 countries, including the U.K., Italy and Spain. However, they add that the estimated proportion of people to have been infected with the virus may only be between 2 percent to 12 percent of the population (2.7 percent in the U.K.).

  • Pandemic drones“Pandemic Drone” to Detect Coronavirus

    A “pandemic drone” to remotely monitor and detect people with infectious respiratory conditions is being developed. The drone will be fitted with a specialized sensor and computer vision system that can monitor temperature, heart and respiratory rates, as well as detect people sneezing and coughing in crowds, offices, airports, cruise ships, aged care homes and other places where groups of people may work or congregate.

  • Pandemic drones“Pandemic Drones”: Useful for Enforcing Social Distancing, or for Creating a Police State?

    By Michael Richardson

    As COVID-19 restrictions tighten around the world, governments are harnessing the potential of drones. From delivering medical supplies, to helping keep people indoors – drones can do a lot in a pandemic. But these measures may be difficult to rollback once the pandemic passes. And safeguards will be needed to prevent unwanted surveillance in the future.

  • Blocking COVID-19An Experimental Peptide Could Block COVID-19

    In hopes of developing a possible treatment for Covid-19, a team of MIT chemists has designed a drug candidate that they believe may block coronaviruses’ ability to enter human cells. The potential drug is a short protein fragment, or peptide, that mimics a protein found on the surface of human cells. Anne Trafton writes in MIT News that the researchers have shown that their new peptide can bind to the viral protein that coronaviruses use to enter human cells, potentially disarming it.
    The MIT team reported its initial findings in a preprint posted on bioRxiv, an online preprint server, on March 20. They have sent samples of the peptide to collaborators who plan to carry out tests in human cells.

  • VaccinesRace against Time: The Complex Task of Developing a Vaccine against the New Coronavirus

    University of Munich virologist Gerd Sutter talks about the complex task of developing a vaccine against the new coronavirus – and the approach he has adopted, which is already being tested against the related coronavirus MERS. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 40 projects are already underway with the aim of producing a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. Sutter’s comments: “Yes, a lot of things are now happening. Among them are projects which, like ours, are inspired by the protective effects of the MERS vaccine, but other vector-based approaches are also being tried. Then there is a whole series of projects that involve the use of nucleic acids, such as those being pursued by Moderna or by CureVac in Tübingen. At this point, it’s important to make use of all available technologies. If you asked me a year ago, I would have said that we would be very pleased if it took less than 2 to 3 years to get from the discovery of a new virus to a Phase-I trial of a new vaccine. Now, we can probably reckon with a year or thereabouts.”

  • Hydroxychloroquine & chloroquineFDA Issues Emergency Authorization of Anti-Malaria Drug for Coronavirus Care

    The Food and Drug Administration on Sunday issued an emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, decades-old malaria drugs championed by President Donald Trump for coronavirus treatment despite scant evidence. Dan Diamond writes in Politico that the agency allowed for the drugs to be “donated to the Strategic National Stockpile to be distributed and prescribed by doctors to hospitalized teen and adult patients with COVID-19, as appropriate, when a clinical trial is not available or feasible,” HHS said in a statement, announcing that Sandoz donated 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine to the stockpile and Bayer donated 1 million doses of chloroquine.

  • AntiviralsIn the Fight against Coronavirus, Antivirals Are as Important as a Vaccine

    While many scientists are working on developing a coronavirus vaccine, others are busy testing antiviral drugs. Lisa Sedger writes in The Conversation that vaccines are generally only effective when administered prior to infection, but antiviral agents are important because they can treat people who already have COVID-19.
    Sedgernotes that chloroquine, a well-known anti-malarial drug, has also gained attention. One study tested it together with a broad-spectrum antibiotic azithromycin. While some COVID-19 patients in this small study recovered, other patients died (despite chloroquine treatment), and some patients ceased treatment for a variety of reasons – including the severity of their symptoms.
    “Nevertheless, people are interested in how chloroquine and azithromycin might work for coronavirus. Chloroquine exhibits antiviral activity and is currently used to treat autoimmune diseases because it also has anti-inflammatory properties,” she writes. “Azithromycin is an antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections, but it, too, exhibits antiviral activity, including against rhinovirus that causes the common cold. Chloroquine might need to be given early after infection to be most effective against coronavirus.”

  • Breathing aidCoronavirus: Mercedes F1 to Make Breathing Aid

    University College London engineers worked with clinicians at UCLH and Mercedes Formula One to build the device, which delivers oxygen to the lungs without needing a ventilator. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices are already used in hospitals but are in short supply.
    Fergus Walsh writes for the BBC that China and Italy used the devices to help Covid-19 patients. Forty of the new devices have been delivered to ULCH and to three other London hospitals. If trials go well, up to 1,000 of the CPAP machines can be produced per day by Mercedes-AMG-HPP, beginning in a week’s time.
    The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has already given its approval for their use.
    Meanwhile a consortium of U.K. industrial, technology and engineering businesses in the U.K. has come together to produce medical ventilators for the NHS. The “VentilatorChallengeUK” consortium includes Airbus, BAE Systems, Ford, Rolls-Royce and Siemens.

  • VaccinesA New Way of Developing Vaccines for COVID-19 Could Help the World to Prepare for Future Outbreaks

    Vaccines are one of our greatest tools to protect against infectious diseases and the world waits with bated breath for a vaccine against coronavirus (COVID-19). The wait might be much shorter if we can hone new methods of vaccine development. Charlie Weller writes for Wellcome Trust that although it has been just nine weeks since scientists around the world received the genetic code for COVID-19, a phase 1 clinical trial for a vaccine (mRNA-1273)(opens in a new tab) has already begun. This timescale from genomic sequence to clinical trial is unprecedented in vaccine development.
    This vaccine, unlike traditional vaccines, has been developed using ribonucleic acid (RNA) technology. If successful, the cutting-edge method could revolutionize vaccine development for future disease outbreaks. 

  • VaccinesCentury-Old Vaccine Investigated as a Weapon Against Coronavirus

    A vaccine that’s been used to prevent tuberculosis is being given to health-care workers in Melbourne to see if it will protect them against the coronavirus. Jason Gale writes in Bloomberg that the bacillus Calmette-Guerin, or BCG, shot has been used widely for about 100 years, with a growing appreciation for its off-target benefits. Not only is it a common immunotherapy for early-stage bladder cancer, it also seems to train the body’s first line of immune defense to better fight infections.
    The World Health Organization says it’s important to know whether the BCG vaccine can reduce disease in those infected with the coronavirus, and is encouraging international groups to collaborate with a study led by Nigel Curtis, head of infectious diseases research, at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne.

  • COVID-19: UpdateU.S. COVID-19 Death Toll Nears 3,000, Cases Exceed 160,000

    Yesterday, as the “15 days to slow the spread” campaign ends across America but citizens continue to practice physical distancing for at least another month, COVID-19 cases surged top almost 160,000 and pandemic-related deaths neared 3,000. Yesterday, White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx, MD, warned that other cities in the United States could soon look like New York. “No state or metro area will be spared,” said Birx.

  • COVID-19: VaccinesU.S. Pharmaceutical Giant Says COVID Vaccine Could Be Ready for Emergency Use by Early 2021

    U.S. pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson says human testing of its experimental coronavirus vaccine will begin by September and says the vaccine could be available for emergency use by early next year.  

    The company said Monday that it has jointly committed more than $1 billion to develop and test a vaccine along with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It said if human trials of the vaccine are successful, it is prepared to produce more than 1 billion doses of the vaccine. 

  • Pandemic bondsPandemic Bonds: The Financial Cure We Need for COVID-19?

    By Dror Etzion, Bernard Forgues, and Emmanuel Kypraios

    Like other financial players that have embraced innovation in recent years, insurers too have developed novel tools and products. One such innovation is catastrophe bonds. A catastrophe bond provides the issuer (usually either an insurer or a reinsurer) with financial protection in case of a major catastrophe. Most catastrophe bonds cover extreme natural events such as hurricanes or earthquakes, but some bonds cover pandemics like the one the world is facing now.

  • PerspectiveHow to Think about the Right to Privacy and Using Location Data to Fight COVID-19

    If asked to give up their privacy in the interests of stemming the coronavirus, many Americans may be inclined to say yes. Jay Stanley writes, however, that the answer requires more nuance, both because there are serious tradeoffs to be made, and because sacrificing privacy may actually backfire.

  • TestingFDA Authorizes 15-Minute Coronavirus Test

    Federal health officials on Friday approved a coronavirus test that can provide results in less than 15 minutes, using the same technology that powers some rapid flu tests.
    Arman Azad writes for, CNN that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the test for emergency use, signaling that federal regulators were satisfied with the test’s validation data and believe its benefits outweigh any risks, such as false positives or negatives.
    The test’s maker, Abbott Laboratories, said it expects to deliver 50,000 tests per day beginning next week. The technology behind the test looks for genes that are present in the virus, similar to PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests already on the market.