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.
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.
New prosthetic technologies that stimulate the nerves could pave the way for prostheses that feel like a natural part of the body and reduce the phantom limb pain commonly endured by amputees.
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.
Patients with rare diseases often suffer a long and lonely path as they struggle to find out what the cause of their debilitating symptoms are, but recent advances in diagnostics are helping to give them new hope of identifying their illness, and perhaps even finding a treatment, according to Dr Lucia Monaco of Italy's Fondazione Telethon and chair of the International Rare Diseases Research Consortium (IRDiRC).
As more people live for years and even decades after being diagnosed with cancer, the question of how best to support survivors is a challenge now facing health systems in Europe. More research into survivors’ specific care and support requirements is now needed, say experts.
A strange species of cavefish is helping to reveal why heart attacks cause permanent damage.
‘Industrial symbiosis’ is encouraging industry byproducts to be used for new purposes.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.