Efforts to design a safe vaccine for Covid-19 are moving forward at full throttle, yet experts agree that it’s likely to be a year, at least, before an immunisation is ready. Meanwhile, scientists around Europe are exploring ingenious ways – including with the help of alpacas – to use the latest techniques in molecular manipulation to repair coronavirus-induced lung damage or to block the virus before it wreaks havoc.
Transfusing antibodies from Covid-19 survivors into seriously ill patients could provide a quick treatment win, but a more selective approach may both treat and prevent the disease. A single, highly-effective antibody that is mass-produced like a drug could combine the benefits of antivirals and a vaccine for at-risk individuals such as health workers.
Europe urgently needs to make its food system more sustainable – or else face growing food insecurity and health impacts – and the coronavirus pandemic offers us an opportunity to push for change, according to Professor Peter Jackson.
A recording of a cough, the noise of a person’s breathing or even the sound of their voice could be used to help diagnose patients with Covid-19 in the future, according to Professor Cecilia Mascolo, an expert in mobile health at data analysis at the University of Cambridge, UK.
In March, a study revealed that between 50,000 and 100,000 deaths could be avoided this year in China if air pollution stayed at the same level as during the coronavirus lockdown. While other parts of the world have also seen improvements in air quality, the impact in Europe is likely to be less dramatic than for China, according to Dr Kristin Aunan from the Centre for International Climate Research (CICERO) in Norway, who conducted the study.
What makes the Covid-19 pandemic so difficult to contain? Silent transmission by asymptomatic patients is partly responsible, but research emerging from Germany suggests the SARS-CoV-2 virus has developed a second impressive strategy for ensuring its success: the ability to establish two separate communities within a host – the first in the throat, the second in the lungs. Early colonisation of the throat is responsible for the dangerous lag between a person being infectious and the onset of symptoms.
The rapidly changing coronavirus pandemic means governments and health authorities need to act fast. But medical advice — and pleas for help — are being hindered by language barriers and misinformation online. Improving communication for vulnerable communities in particular has become a race against time.
A vaccine is likely to take at least a year. A new drug could be a decade away. Even with the world’s resources focused, treatments against a new disease are difficult to create from scratch. However, repurposing existing drugs for other conditions could provide a much-needed shortcut.
A team that has spent the last five years developing a pipeline of technologies that can churn out a remedy for almost any newly emerging virus may have treatments ready for safety trials on Covid-19 patients by the end of the year.
We know that outbreaks like coronavirus will become more common in the future and tackling them is the Apollo programme of our time, according to Professor Marion Koopmans, head of the viroscience department at Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Scientists are drawing on nature’s clever ways to build structures and produce iridescence.
Infection-halting therapies being explored include neutralising antibodies.
Metagenomics can help us spot emerging diseases such as coronavirus, says virologist Marion Koopmans.