• COVID Deniers: How Shadowy Social Media Groups Are Spreading Myths and Conspiracy about Coronavirus

    Conspiracies and fake news about Covid-19 are spreading across millions of users’ timelines.
    Two weeks ago an anti-vaccine Facebook group called ‘We Brought Vaxxed to the UK’ started to disseminate a new and dangerous contagion: misinformation about Covid-19.
    Paul Nuki writes in the Telegraph that its posts promote xenophobia, conspiracy theories and erroneous medical information about the disease and how it might be treated.
    One post claimed China was using the outbreak to cull the elderly, another suggested hand sanitiser causes cancer and a “probiotic yogurt suppository” was recommended as a cure.
    The group is just one of some 50 social media accounts being tracked by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), a charity dedicated to preventing false and divisive lies and myths spreading across the web.
    “I took our file on these groups to Facebook executives to express our deep concern”, said CCDH chief executive Imran Ahmed. “But nearly two weeks later, they have still not taken action to enforce their own policies and remove them.”

  • The Debate over Ending Social Distancing to Save the Economy, Explained

    “America will again, and soon, be open for business,” President Donald Trump said on Monday. “Very soon. A lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was suggesting. A lot sooner. We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.”
    Ezra Klein writes in Vox that the cure, in this case, is social distancing, and the mass economic stoppage it forces. The problem is Covid-19, and the millions of deaths it could cause. On Tuesday, Trump accelerated his timeline. He said he’d like to see normalcy return by Easter Sunday, which is 12 April. “Wouldn’t it be great to have all the churches full?” he asked. “You’ll have packed churches all over our country.”
    Public health experts reacted with horror. “But the question Trump is posing needs to be taken seriously,” Klein writes. “The costs of social distancing are tremendous. The economic forecasts now predict a GDP drop and an unemployment rate of Great Depression-level proportions. The human suffering that will be unleashed is real, and it is vicious.”

  • Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine: No Proof These Anti-Malarial Drugs Prevent Novel Coronavirus in Humans

    There’s worrying news around the world of people self-medicating at home with the drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19. Chloroquine is not yet proven to work against COVID-19, though news reports originating in China have speculated otherwise. But theories about chloroquine and COVID-19 have spread around the world, despite a lack of hard evidence about the value of chloroquine in preventing or treating COVID-19. No one should be self-treating with chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 as there is currently no proof they can cure the infection – and accidental harm is more likely if they are used in this way.

  • How to Model a Pandemic

    There is, however, a little known but highly successful field of science working in the background to unpick the mysteries of infectious disease. As I explore in The Maths of Life and Death, mathematical epidemiology is playing a crucial role in the fight against large-scale infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

  • Which Covid-19 Drugs Work Best?

    Results are in from the first organized trials of drugs to treat Covid-19, but so far, there’s no cure.
    Antonio Regalado writes in MIT Technology Review that as the new respiratory disease spread widely starting in January, doctors—first in China and then in the US, Italy, and France—all moved to test readily available drugs that are used for other purposes and are fairly safe. Now, just three months into the pandemic, the first medical results from organized trials—studies structured to measure whether a drug actually helps—are becoming public. We count three so far, all involving drugs with antiviral properties. He offers a detailed report on the facts about the drug studies published so far.

  • HIV Drug to Be Trialed on Coronavirus Patients to See If It Can Fight COVID-19

    Coronavirus patients will be treated with an HIV drug or steroid as part of trial to see if existing medications can beat the deadly infection. Sarah Knapton reports in The Telegraph that researchers from the University of Oxford enrolled the first patient last week, and want hospitals to sign up thousands more people in the coming weeks. The trial – which has been expedited by the chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty – would usually have taken around 18 months to organize, but red tape has been removed and researchers have worked round the clock to get the experiment up and running within just nine days.

  • There's a New Symptom of Coronavirus, Doctors Say: Sudden Loss of Smell or Taste

    A loss of a sense of smell or taste may be a symptom of COVID-19, medical groups representing ear, nose and throat specialists have warned. Ryan W. Miller reports in USA Today that the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery and ENT UK, citing a growing number of cases around the globe, each issued warnings about patients who tested positive for the new coronavirus with the only symptom being a lost or altered sense of smell or taste. 

  • FDA Updates COVID-19 Testing Guidelines to Allow Self-Swab Tests

    The FDA has updated its guidelines for COVID-19 testing procedures to make the process easier and less uncomfortable for patients, as well as to help limit the impact of testing on the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) used by healthcare workers, including protective masks, face shields, gloves and gowns. Darrell Etherington reports in Techcrunch that the change means that people taking a test will be able to conduct their own swab, which will involve swabbing shallowly in their nose. 

  • Moderna Could Make Experimental COVID-19 Vaccine Available to Healthcare Workers by Fall

    There are some hard limits to the vaccine development process that mean we are not going to see any preventative immune therapies to fight the new coronavirus for at least a year to 18 months. Darrell Etherington reports in Techcrunch, however, that Moderna, which is behind the first potential vaccine to enter human clinical trials in the U.S., provided new info on Monday that indicates it will seek to provide access to the vaccine to a limited group, likely consisting of healthcare workers, by as early as this fall.

  • Drug Recommended by Trump May Have Saved One Man in Florida, May Have Killed One Man in Arizona

    President Donald Trump last week said he was instructing the FDA to fast-track testing of hydroxychloroquine and a related drug, chloroquine, as treatment for COVID-19. Tamar Lapin reports in the New York Post that Rio Giardinieri, 52, who was being treated at the Memorial Regional Hospital in South Florida for coronavirus and pneumonia, was told by a friend about Trump’s recommendation. He took the drug and all his symptoms disappeared. His doctors believe, however, that the episodes he experienced were not a reaction to the medicine but his body fighting off the virus.
    CBS News reports that according to CBS affiliate KPHO, a Phoenix-area man has died and his wife was in critical condition after the couple took chloroquine phosphate, . The additive used to clean fish tanks that is also found in an anti-malaria medication that’s been touted by Trump as a treatment for COVID-19. CBS News notes that at a news conference last week, Trump falsely stated  that the FDA had just approved the use of an anti-malaria medication called chloroquine to treat patients infected with coronavirus. Even after the FDA chief clarified that the drug still needs to be tested for that use, Trump overstated the drug’s potential upside in containing the virus.

    On Friday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. top infectious disease expert, called Trump’s assertions about hydroxychloroquine “anecdotal” and said there is no evidence that it is effective for COVID-19 patients. But the next day, Trump was still touting the drug on social media.

  • COVID-19: Imperial College Researchers’ Model Likely Influenced Public Health Measures

    The latest analysis comes from a team modelling the spread and impact COVID-19 and whose data are informing current U,K, government policy on the pandemic. The findings are published in the 9th report from the WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Modelling within the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, J-IDEA, Imperial College London.

  • Estimates of COVID-19's Fatality Rate Might Change. And Then Change Again.

    With infections of the new coronavirus confirmed now in 114 countries or regions, people around the world are following the daily tally of COVID-19 cases, wondering exactly how lethal this new disease is. The truth is, it’s hard to know. Early in an outbreak, even good estimates of the CFR can be too high—or too low.

  • New Technologies, Strategies Expanding Search for Extraterrestrial Life

    Emerging technologies and new strategies are opening a revitalized era in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). New discovery capabilities, along with the rapidly expanding number of known planets orbiting stars other than the Sun, are spurring innovative approaches by both government and private organizations.

  • Courtrooms Seldom Overrule Bad Science

    In television crime dramas, savvy lawyers are able to overcome improbable odds to win their cases by presenting seemingly iron-clad scientific evidence. In real-world courtrooms, however, the quality of scientific testimony can vary wildly, making it difficult for judges and juries to distinguish between solid research and so-called junk science.

  • Could Invisible Aliens Really Exist among Us? An Astrobiologist Explains

    Life is pretty easy to recognize. It moves, it grows, it eats, it excretes, it reproduces. Simple. In biology, researchers often use the acronym MRSGREN (Movement, Respiration, Sensitivity, Growth, Reproduction, Excretion, and Nutrition) to describe it. It stands for movement, respiration, sensitivity, growth, reproduction, excretion and nutrition. But Helen Sharman, Britain’s first astronaut and a chemist at Imperial College London, recently said that alien lifeforms that are impossible to spot may be living among us. How could that be possible?