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.
The race for a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2, is on, with 54 different vaccines under development, two of which are already being tested in humans, according to the World Health Organization. And among the different candidates is a new player on the scene – mRNA vaccines.
Advances in gene sequencing have allowed scientists to trace and monitor the COVID-19 pandemic faster than any previous outbreak. However, gaps in our knowledge of how coronaviruses work has made it difficult to understand what makes the new coronavirus special.
Social distancing policies, such as cancelling high-density gatherings, discouraging handshakes and asking people to increase their distance from each other will delay a coronavirus pandemic and help health authorities plan resources, according to epidemiologist Dr Vittoria Colizza who is modelling the spread of Covid-19 and the effectiveness of interventions.
To find out, scientists are investigating fish gut bacteria and feed nutrients.
Meteorologist Jadranka Šepić is working to decipher waves that can destroy in minutes.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.