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article imageEssential Science: The latest coronavirus news you need to read

By Tim Sandle     Apr 6, 2020 in Science
The coronavirus pandemic continues to be the focus of most people. We round up the latest news, including how long people potentially remain infectious for; how the virus jumped from bats to humans; and hand sanitization advice.
The coronavirus pandemic is helping to drive various different types of technological innovation, cutting across the fields of computing (artificial intelligence) and biology. We take a look at some of this week’s key developments.
How long do people remain infectious for?
Estimating the length of time that people remain infectious for is still be evaluated by scientists and medics. However, the signs are that the period might be longer than the five days that is currently estimated by some health authorities.
A Swiss soldier (R) helps to move the bed of a COVID-19 patient  at the Pourtales Hospital in Neucha...
A Swiss soldier (R) helps to move the bed of a COVID-19 patient, at the Pourtales Hospital in Neuchatel on March 25, 2020, after Switzerland deployed its army reservists to relieve hospitals under pressure from the outbreak of COVID-19
Fabrice COFFRINI, AFP/File
In relation to this, virologists based in the U.S. and China have found that half of recovered COVID-19 patients continued to carry the virus for up to eight days after their symptoms had ceased. Although this was only based on a small study, the findings indicate that further research is needed to understand the kinetics of coronavirus clearance.
This study is published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care, with the paper titled: “Time Kinetics of Viral Clearance and Resolution of Symptoms in Novel Coronavirus Infection.”
Did the coronavirus come from bats? If so, how?
The consensus is gravitating towards the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 making the jump from bats to humans (certainly the virus is zoonotic in nature). This is outlined in a publication in Nature by Edward Holmes (who is a University of Sydney, Australia).
Bracken cave  in Texas  is well known for its huge colonies of Mexican free-tailed bats.
Bracken cave, in Texas, is well known for its huge colonies of Mexican free-tailed bats.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The article looks into how an intermediate host was probably involved in facilitating the transition. This information on the origin of the virus and it could result in key information being provided for vaccine development.
The most likely host is pangolins (scaly anteaters), which are the most highly trafficked mammal in the world.
Efforts to develop a coronavirus test
There are many studies underway to improve coronavirus testing. One new one is called Mango, and it detects RNA molecules within living cells and comprises an RNA Mango aptamer that binds to a fluorescent dye.
In addition, Sight Diagnostics (Tel Aviv, Israel) has announced its OLO blood analyzer has been made available to Israel’s flagship government-run hospital, Sheba Tel Hashomer, to enable complete blood count analysis of infected samples, with minimal contamination.
Saliva challenge
Lab Manager magazine reports that Rutgers University’s RUCDR Infinite Biologics has launched a test for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, based on automation to test as many as tens of thousands of samples daily. This is a saliva based test that allows people who test positive to self-quarantine, thus limiting the spread of the virus.
What to do if you have no hand sanitizer?
If you are worried about going outside, such to visit a grocery store and there is no where for sanitize your hands, the chairman of Pharmig, David Keen, has posted a short yet informative video about how you can make something just as effective using a drinking water bottle and soap or washing up liquid.
Hand sanitizers are not as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy
Hand sanitizers are not as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy
The video has been posted on LinkedIn.
Vaccine progress
In terms of the path towards developing a vaccine, the World Health Organization (WHO) is commencing a global megatrial of four potential coronavirus treatments. This has been named the SOLIDARITY trial. The focus will involve repurposing currently available drugs. The drugs include the antiviral remdesivir, the malaria drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, plus a mix of the HIV drugs lopinavir and ritonavir, and lopinavir—ritonavir plus interferon beta. For the trial, a number of people with confirmed COVID-19 will be included.
Harnessing the power of AI
A new artificial intelligence initiative has been triggered. This is from the Digital Transformation Institute. The aim is to help tackle ‘gargantuan’ social problems. The AI will initially target coronavirus, seeking to use predictive analytics to reduce spread, speed up the discovery and development of appropriate treatments and improve public health strategy.
Essential Science
Good quality medical masks are a key element in fighting coronavirus -- but not always easy to get
Good quality medical masks are a key element in fighting coronavirus -- but not always easy to get
Bryan R. Smith, AFP/File
This article is part of Digital Journal's regular Essential Science columns. Each week Tim Sandle explores a topical and important scientific issue. The current focus of Essential Science, given the huge implications around coronavirus, is with all-things COVID-19 related.
Last week we considered a new review of certain prescribed medications indicates that some drugs may make COVID-19 symptoms worse, especially in relation to the lungs.
The week before last we looked at and dismissed the conspiracy theories and put them into a box labeled ‘fake moon landings’. The novel coronavirus sweeping the world has been proven not to be genetically engineered and it is of natural origin, as new research has shown.
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