We’re only at the start of the coronavirus pandemic although the second wave may take a different form to the first one, says veteran virologist Professor Peter Piot, who has spent the past 40 years tracking down and fighting viruses.
To begin with, it was just anecdotal reports. Ear, nose and throat specialists from around the world were sharing their experiences on online message boards – they were all seeing a spike in patients experiencing anosmia, a loss of smell.
Some people’s immune systems contain pre-existing protection against coronavirus, indicating that they have encountered a similar infection to Covid-19 before, according to Dr Aleksandra Walczak, a physicist at École Normale Supérieure in Paris, France.
We are seeing a failure of global health governance in response to Covid-19 because there are too many agencies with different interests, according Professor Colin McInnes, pro-vice chancellor at Aberystwyth University in Wales, UK, who says global institutions such as the World Health Organization and World Bank should stand together in crises.
The world’s poorest – who have lost their incomes from illness or because of lockdowns – are disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and, unless they receive enough support, hunger levels will soar and some countries may see rising violence, experts say.
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.
The red planet may be our best bet for finding out whether we’re alone in the universe.
Reducing crew numbers onboard ships could overcome labour shortages and increase shipping levels.
Metagenomics can help us spot emerging diseases such as coronavirus, says virologist Marion Koopmans.