Author: Sara Habibipour
Number of World Cases: 5,397,342
State with most cases: Navajo Nation (surpassed NY cases although being 25 times smaller--The Guardian, May 22, 2020)
For updates: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
The Sars-Cov-2, or COVID-19 virus is an RNA virus characterized by the proteins on the surface that make it look like a crown, hence the name "Corona" (Spanish for "crown").
The FDA has issued an emergency use of the anti-viral drug, Remdesvir. This drug is known to target viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase to prevent viral replication. According to a Time article from May 21, 2020, the virus enters the cell in order to replicate, as viruses cannot reproduce on their own. The proteins on the outer surface allow them to bind to the host cell. Once inside the host cell, the virus releases a strand of RNA including its genetic material so the host cell will continue to replicate that genetic information and make more viral cells. The ribosomes of the host cell read this genetic material and produces viral proteins. The viral proteins are needed to make copies of the viral RNA and recreate the mechanisms of the original virus to go infect other cells. However, when Remdesvir is taken, that replication stops, and rather than the patient being ill for 15 days, that time period is cut down to 11 days, meaning that more ventilators and hospital beds are freed up.
Remdesvir is not a new drug. It was used to fight against Ebola, but it largely failed. Now, scientists are trying to see if it will be more effective in fighting COVID-19.
Dr. David Ho, world-renowned for his research regarding HIV has also begun research on COVID-19 protease inhibitors. According to the NIH, These protease inhibitors are like molecular scissors that cut up viral proteins and prevent newly replicated viral cells from becoming mature viral cells.
According to a Bloomberg article from May 4, 2020, scientists have created monoclonal antibodies in a lab that directly resemble naturally occurring antibodies. And, these antibodies actually have defeated COVID-19 in the lab. The antibody, known as 47D11 targets the spike proteins on the surface of the virus and directly target that site of the virus (preventing them from entering human cells).
The scientists used genetically modified mice to produce these antibodies.
Monoclonal antibodies have already sparked a revolution in cancer research.
According to a Live Science article from May 22, 2020, Chinese scientists have developed a potential vaccine against the coronavirus and appeared to generate a safe and effective response in a clinical trial containing 100 patients. However, these scientists say that although it is a milestone, more testing must be done.
As far as the USA, the government granted $1.2 billion to drugmaker companies in order to pursue a COVID-19 vaccine. According to the New York Times on May 21, 2020, the Trump administration also announced a grant to a drug company called AstraZeneca, which has licensed a vaccine to be used in clinical trials by Oxford University.
Different types of vaccines (New York Times, May 20, 2020)-
-Some companies are pursuing inactivated or weakened forms of the virus for vaccines so that antibodies will be made when the host comes in contact with the virus (ex: flu vaccine, MMR vaccine). Companies pursuing this: Sinovac
-Genetic vaccines: First, DNA vaccines. They deliver genetic instructions for building a viral protein, triggering an immune response. Companies pursuing: Inovio. DNA vaccines have only been approved for use in animals (ex: horses for West Nile virus), but not humans.
Some are creating RNA vaccines. They have never been used before in humans, but instead of injecting DNA, they inject straight messenger RNA, which also triggers an immune response. Has shown promising results. Companies pursuing: Moderna, Pfizer, and others
-Viral Vector Vaccines: These vaccines use another virus to deliver coronavirus genes into cells and contains the protein adenovirus to help slip into host cells. Adenovirus has been used in the development of HIV and Ebola vaccines in the past. Companies pursuing: Johnson&Johnson, CanSino, University of Oxford, and others.
- Protein Based vaccines: These vaccines contain pieces of viral proteins, such as the HPV vaccine. Companies pursuing: Medicago, Doherty Institute, and others.
- Recombinant vaccines: These vaccines would contain the spikes on the surface of the viral cell, similar to the shingles and Hep-B vaccine. Companies pursuing: Novavax and others
Is COVID-19 From a Lab in China?
The short answer is we don't know, but probably not.
While talking to ABC news earlier in May, Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, claimed that there was "enormous evidence" pointing towards the virus coming from a lab in Wuhan. But, there really is no concrete evidence of that happening.
In an interview with National Geographic on May 4, Dr. Fauci says that there is no evidence that the virus was artificially manipulated, and that all signs show that it developed in nature and jumped species.
According to an article by Science Daily from May 11, 2020, Scientists have also found close genetic relatives of Sars-Cov-2 in bats in China, further pointing that the virus evolved in nature. The researchers identified the virus, RmYN02 from an analysis of 227 bat samples collected in Yunnan province, China. These viruses share about 97% of their RNA, suggesting that COVID-19 evolved in nature.
Countries' Actions to Combat COVID-19
Some US states have began to open up, and Dr. Fauci warns that due to this, the total number of deaths will temporarily rise.
But, Sweden has taken a controversial, yet interesting approach to COVID-19. Instead of forcing mandatory lockdown, Sweden has allowed schools, restaurants, and workplaces to remain open (Web MD, May 1, 2020). Although the nursing homes have been devastated by the virus, the country with a population of 10 million has managed to keep its healthcare systems pretty normal (and not overwhelmed such as in the USA). The point of remaining open, as stated by Dr. Tegnell, is that in the future, Sweden will have an increased herd immunity to COVID-19, protecting them in the long run. By remaining open (with some pre-cautionary measures, such as social distancing), people will become exposed to the virus and develop their own immune response to it.
Medical Indicators to Re-Open
According to CDC and WBUR (May 18, 2020)
COVID-19 Positive Test Rate
Number of individuals who died from COVID-19
Number of patients in hospitals with COVID-19
Healthcare System Readiness
Contact Tracing Capabilities (Tracing and monitoring infected peoples)