The number of COVID-19 cases around the world has just passed 1 million, and it may seem as though this pandemic will never go away. It is important to remember that, in their labs, scientists are making quiet progress every day — helping untangle the causes of this crisis and inching closer to stopping it.
Researchers are working at breakneck speed to come up with ways of treating and preventing COVID-19.
A couple of weeks ago, Medical News Today first rounded up emerging evidence that gave us reasons to be cautiously hopeful.
Social distancing measures work
A new study by Prof. Chaolong Wang and colleagues from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, in Wuhan, China, suggests that the social distancing measures implemented by Chinese officials prevented more than 90% of possible infections between January 23 and February 18, 2020.
Prof. Wang and the team reached this conclusion after having developed a method of predicting virus transmission patterns by looking at population movement, unconfirmed cases, and people in quarantine.
“Prevention is better than cure. Surgical masks, hand hygiene and social distancing are key. There is no drug that has definitely been shown to be effective yet. We are waiting for results of clinical trials.” Siddharth Sridhar pic.twitter.com/bnlRwYz4hN
— Brenten (@brentenireland) March 28, 2020
The study also predicted that nearly 60% of the people carrying the virus had no symptoms and were not self-isolating. This may have contributed to the quick spread of the virus.
These findings are consistent with those of other studies, such as one published in Eurosurveillance that looked at the spread of the virus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
Prof. Gerardo Chowell, a co-author of this study, highlights the importance of social distancing as the only way to block the chain of contagion in the context of asymptomatic cases. “Implementing strong social distancing measures is the only way to stop the virus from spreading.”
‘Megatrial’ of 4 potential new treatments
The World Health Organization (WHO) have launched SOLIDARITY, an international megatrial of four possible ways to treat COVID-19. The first trial will look at repurposing remdesivir, a drug that was developed to treat Ebola but proved ineffective for this purpose.
Repurposed drug could prevent deaths
As COVID-19 is placing an increasing strain on healthcare systems across the world, researchers led by Dr. Michael Yaffe — a David H. Koch Professor of Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge — say that repurposing a blood-thinning drug could reduce COVID-19 deaths and the demand for ventilators.
The compound in question is called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), and it is ordinarily used to break up blood clots in people who have experienced a stroke or heart attack.
In a report published in The Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, Dr. Yaffe and colleagues use existing evidence to argue for a clinical trial that would test the potential benefits of tPA.
Expert hopes for a vaccine in 6–8 months
MNT have interviewed Prof. Martin Bachmann, from the University of Bern, in Switzerland, and the Edward Jenner Institute for Vaccine Research, at the University of Oxford, in the United Kingdom.
Prof. Bachmann, a leading immunology expert and a professor of vaccinology, is currently working on a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine that he hopes to introduce to a large part of the world’s population in 6–8 months.
In this, his first interview with MNT, Prof. Bachmann spoke of the challenges of devising a vaccine during a pandemic, explaining that researchers need to work much faster than usual. He also described the specificities of his vaccine.
The vaccine would use virus-like particles that are not infectious but trigger a very strong antibody response. It would also employ a part of the spike protein that SARS-CoV-2 uses to attach to healthy cells.
Online Int’l News with additional input by GVS News Desk