Ccoronavirus is more common and less deadly than it first appeared. Health experts warn large protests heighten risk of coronavirus spread. European scientists modify tobacco cells to fight COVID-19. Eli Lilly begins first human tests of an antibody drug.
Today’s update begins with some news that suggests that the response to the coronavirus will no longer be quite so intense.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading member of the Coronavirus Task Force, who established national guidelines and ensured that required resources were available and distributed, said President Donald Trump was now only rarely meeting with the team members.
In an interview with the health-news outlet STAT News published early Monday, Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was asked whether he was in frequent contact with the president on the progress of vaccine candidates.
“No,” Fauci said.
“We used to have task force meetings every single day, including Saturday and Sunday, and about 75% of the time after the task force meeting we’d meet with the president,” Fauci added. “So I was meeting with him four times a week back, a month or so ago.
“But as you probably noticed, that the task force meetings have not occurred as often lately. And certainly my meetings with the president have been dramatically decreased.”
Antibody Tests Point To Lower Death Rate For The Coronavirus Than First Thought
While the riots certainly have placed the pandemic on the priority backburner, new data suggesting it wasn’t lethal as first feared is also weighing into the revised risk assessment.
Mounting evidence suggests the coronavirus is more common and less deadly than it first appeared.
The evidence comes from tests that detect antibodies to the coronavirus in a person’s blood rather than the virus itself.
The tests are finding large numbers of people in the U.S. who were infected but never became seriously ill. And when these mild infections are included in coronavirus statistics, the virus appears less dangerous.
“The current best estimates for the infection fatality risk are between 0.5% and 1%,” says Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
That’s in contrast with death rates of 5% or more based on calculations that included only people who got sick enough to be diagnosed with tests that detect the presence of virus in a person’s body.
Health experts warn massive protests heighten the risk of coronavirus spread
Perhaps the fires associated with the looting will kill the virus?
Health experts fear carriers of coronavirus, which causes the disease, with no symptoms could unwittingly infect others at protests where social distancing is simply not taking place. The merits of the protesters’ cause “doesn’t prevent them from getting the virus,” said Bradley Pollock, chairman of the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of California, Davis.
At least one protester in Tampa, Florida, is known to have COVID-19. Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan, who expressed dismay last week about Floyd’s death, tweeted Monday that five of his officers were exposed to the protester, whom he did not identify.
Protesting – especially without a mask – can put people at higher risk for infection, said Dr. Michael Mina, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that these can become breeding grounds for this virus,” he said during a Monday media availability. “I would not be surprised to see in the next couple of weeks that we see increases that may be linked to protests.
European scientists modify tobacco cells to fight COVID-19
Tobacco cells are being used to develop new coronavirus treatments.
A rising number of European countries are using tobacco products to treat the novel coronavirus. Scientists at the Institute for Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology (IBMCP) in Valencia, Spain are now using tobacco molecules against COVID-19.
Researchers have said tobacco products were found to be highly efficient against a number of viruses in the past, including Ebola. This came after doctors in France found people who smoke cigarettes are less likely to contract coronavirus.
European scientists have said genetically modified tobacco cells can create proteins preventing the virus from entering human cells.
“Plants are very useful for researchers as they are another mean of expressing viral proteins or nucleic acids without having to actually work with the causative virus itself,” explained George Lomonossoff, a virologist at the John Innes Center in Norwich, England. “And we can use techniques of synthetic biology to make things like virus-like particles without handling the infectious virus.”
Eli Lilly begins first human tests of an antibody-drug
The pandemic has had the effect of innovating treatments for viral infections.
Researchers have begun testing what appears to be the first new medicine developed specifically against Covid-19, in a milestone for drug companies aiming to combat the disease, the medicine’s makers said Monday.
The medicine, a human-made antibody against the coronavirus that causes the disease, was discovered by a Vancouver company, AbCellera, and is being developed by Eli Lilly, the Indianapolis-based drug giant. Two other efforts, one from the biotechnology firm Regeneron and another from the partnership of Vir Biotechnology and GlaxoSmithKline, are expected to begin testing of their own antibody drugs soon. Lilly’s current study will only test the drug for obvious side effects, giving it to 32 people at various doses.
“We’re not racing against each other,” Daniel Skovronsky, the chief scientific officer at Eli Lilly, said of the other companies. “We’re racing against the death toll from the virus. I hope there will be multiple successful [antibody drugs]. I expect there will be.”
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