Paper published in Science
looks at how travel and quarantine influence the dynamics of the spread of
COVID-19. It concludes that the travel quarantine introduced in Wuhan on
23 January 2020 only delayed epidemic progression by 3 to 5 days within China,
but international travel restrictions did help to slow spread elsewhere in the
world until mid-February. The results suggest that early detection, hand
washing, self-isolation, and household quarantine will likely be more effective
than travel restrictions at mitigating this pandemic.
This study looks at certain genetic
variations in people that are associated with susceptibility to infection and
the diverse clinical presentation of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) – including
asymptomatic cases and severe forms of the disease in younger patients.
New paper shows that
when exposed to the MERS Coronavirus (CoV) bat cells adapt—not by producing
inflammation-causing proteins but rather by maintaining a natural antiviral
response. Simultaneously, the MERS virus also adapts to the bat host cells by
very rapidly mutating one specific gene. Operating together, these adaptations
result in the virus remaining long-term in the bat but being rendered harmless.
Instead of killing bat cells as the virus does with human cells, the MERS
coronavirus enters a long-term relationship with the host, maintained by the
bat’s unique ‘super’ immune system. SARS-CoV-2 is thought to operate in the
same way. The work suggests that stresses on bats—such as wet markets, other
diseases, and possibly habitat loss—may have a role in coronavirus spilling
over to other species.
This study mapped the coronavirus epidemic curve for 25 countries and modeled how the spread of the virus has changed in response to the various lockdown measures. It classifies each country’s public health response using New Zealand’s four alert system. Levels 1 and 2 represent relatively relaxed controls, whereas levels 3 and 4 are stricter. By mapping the change in the effective reproduction number (Reff, an indicator of the actual spread of the virus in the community) against response measures, the research shows countries that implemented level 3 and 4 restrictions sooner had greater success in pushing Reff to below 1.
This article in Scientific American points out that three-quarters of the emerging pathogens that infect humans leaped from animals, many of the creatures in the forest habitats that we are slashing and burning to create land for crops, including biofuel plants, and for mining and housing. The more we clear, the more we come into contact with wildlife that carries microbes well suited to kill us—and the more we concentrate those animals in smaller areas where they can swap infectious microbes, raising the chances of novel strains.
The new coronavirus is likely to keep spreading for at least another 18 months to two years—until 60% to 70% of the population has been infected, says a new report. The primary focus of these scenarios is on the Northern Hemisphere, but similar patterns could occur in the Global South, as well. The lack of robust healthcare infrastructure and comorbidities such as other infections, malnutrition, and chronic respiratory disease in certain areas of the Global South could result in the pandemic being even more severe in those areas, as was noted during the 1918-19 pandemic.
Calls to poison control centers in March surged by almost 20% compared to the same period in 2019, according to a new report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Associated with the increased use of cleaners and disinfectants is the possibility of improper use, such as using more than directed on the label, mixing multiple chemical products together, not wearing protective gear, and applying in poorly ventilated areas.
looking at impacts of coverage of COVID-19 by two Fox News shows in the United
States – Hannity and Tucker
Carlson Tonight – on viewers’ behavior and downstream health
outcomes. Carlson warned viewers about the threat posed by the coronavirus from
early February, while Hannity originally dismissed the risks associated with
the virus before gradually adjusting his position starting late
February. Hannity’s viewers changed behavior in response to the
virus later than other Fox News viewers, while Carlson’s viewers changed
behavior earlier. Greater viewership of Hannity relative to Tucker
Carlson Tonight is strongly associated with a greater number
of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the early stages of the pandemic. The
researchers say that provision of misinformation in the early stages of a
pandemic can have important consequences for how a disease ultimately affects
This is a well-written statement entitled “When Confronting a Pandemic, We Must Save Nature to Save Ourselves” from the Centre for American Progress. The statement says COVID-19 outbreak has laid bare the need for a more proactive and integrated approach to fight infectious disease epidemics, which are becoming more common in many regions around the world. Specifically, we need to address the problem at its root: the destruction of nature. Nature is connected to human health, from the inherent mechanisms through which ecosystems regulate the emergence of new pathogens to the health benefits of spending time outdoors. But in our destruction of earth’s natural resources, we are losing these free services and reducing our resilience to new diseases.
A pre-print of the results of a study of 386 coronavirus patients in a US government hospital for military veterans found more deaths among those treated with hydroxychloroquine than those treated with standard care. These findings highlight the importance of awaiting the results of ongoing prospective, randomized, controlled studies before widespread adoption of this drug, say the authors of the study.
This is an article in National Geographic and not a scientific paper but it shows with graphs and a lot of references that social distancing isn’t a new idea and it saved thousands of American lives during the last great pandemic in 1918.
New evidence has emerged from China indicating that the large
majority of coronavirus infections do not result in symptoms. Experts say that
it was quite likely that the virus had been circulating for longer than
generally believed and that large swathes of the population had already been
New important research shows early ‘evolutionary paths’ of COVID-19 in humans – as the infection spread from Wuhan out to Europe and North America – using genetic network techniques. The research revealed three distinct ‘variants’ of COVID-19, consisting of clusters of closely related lineages, which they label ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’. Variant ‘A’, most closely related to the virus found in both bats and pangolins, is described as ‘the root of the outbreak’. Type ‘B’ is derived from ‘A’, separated by two mutations, then ‘C’ is in turn a “daughter” of ‘B’.
MIT has developed a model to determine the efficacy of quarantine
measures and better predict the spread of the virus. The model found that in places where strong
measures were implemented quickly, the quarantine effort could effectively curb
the spread of the virus. In places where the quarantine efforts were rolled out
slowly, the effort to slow the spread has been less effective. The model
predicts when the coronavirus ‘plateau’ will take place, finding that the cases
aren’t likely to start stagnating until some time between April 15 and April
20. It says that restrictions on quarantine can only be made when multiple
conditions are met, including when the transmission is controlled, hospitals
have capacities to meet all the needs of the public, workplaces have effective
preventative measures in place, and more.
International Monetary Fund (IMF) has released its Economic Outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa. The health crisis has precipitated
an economic crisis reflecting three large shocks: disruption of production and
a sharp reduction in demand; spillovers from a sharp deterioration in global
growth and tighter financial conditions; and a severe decline in commodity
prices. As a result, the region’s economy is projected to contract by 1.6
percent this year—the worst-reading on record. Some economies such as this highly
dependent on tourism are expected to shrink further.
The paper published on March 27 by the American Enterprise Institute compared the economic costs of businesses staying closed, which causes a steep drop in the gross domestic product, with the economic benefits of a lockdown. The research found that for at least two more months, the economic benefits of controlling the virus and preventing illness and death are greater than the economic cost of closing most non-essential businesses. It also found that even after the lockdown is lifted, we must keep in place more moderate measures, such as wearing face masks and limiting public gatherings, until a vaccine or an effective drug or treatment becomes widely available.
New genetic analysis of
SARS-CoV-2 and related coronaviruses suggests the ancestor of
COVID-19 and its nearest relative — a bat coronavirus — infected the intestine
of dogs, most likely resulting in a rapid evolution of the virus and its jump
into humans. This suggests the importance of monitoring SARS-like coronaviruses
in feral dogs. It is to be noted however that other experts have doubts.
The paper projects that the US may have to endure social distancing measures — such as stay-at-home orders and school closures — until 2022, unless critical care capacity is increased substantially or treatment or vaccine becomes available. Another round of the virus is possible once social distancing measures are lifted. Even in the event of apparent elimination, SARS-CoV-2 surveillance should be maintained since a resurgence in contagion could be possible as late as 2024.
Paper shows that wild mammals that were at risk of extinction owing to human activities carried twice the zoonotic diseases compared to animals that were not at the same risk. Among threatened wildlife species, those with population reductions owing to exploitation and loss of habitat shared more viruses with humans. This has increased opportunities for animal-human interactions and facilitated zoonotic-disease transmission.
Link to article: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2019.2736
About half of all Covid-19 deaths appear to be happening in care homes in some European countries, according to early figures. Snapshot data from varying official sources shows that in Italy, Spain, France, Ireland and Belgium between 42% and 57% of deaths from the virus have been happening in care homes (non-acute residential and nursing facilities that house people with some form of long-term care needs).
Study shows that by the end of February 2020 without non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) in China– such as early detection, isolation of cases and social distancing – the number of infected people would have been 67 times larger than that which occurred. If NPIs could have been conducted one week, two weeks, or three weeks earlier in China, cases could have been reduced by 66%, 86%, and 95%, respectively, together with significantly reducing the number of affected areas. Improved disease detection, isolation of cases and social distancing are likely to a far greater positive impact on containment than travel restrictions, says the study.
In a joint statement on April 8, the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology, and the Heart Rhythm Society cast doubts as to the safety of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin for potential prophylaxis or treatment for COVID-19; both drugs are listed as definite causes of torsade de pointes” and increase in the risk of other arrhythmias and sudden death”, the statement says. In addition “seriously ill patients often have comorbidities that can increase risk of serious arrhythmias,” including hypokalemia, hypomagnesemia, fever, and systemic inflammation, the groups said.
How does COVID-19 kill? Uncertainty over whether it is the virus itself — or the response by a person’s immune system — that ultimately overwhelms a patient’s organs, is making it difficult for doctors to determine the best way to treat patients who are critically ill with the coronavirus. Clinical data suggest that the immune system plays a part in the decline and death of people infected with the new coronavirus, and this has spurred a push for treatments such as steroids that rein in that immune response. But some of these treatments act broadly to suppress the immune system.
A new preliminary study shows a single 200 mL dose of convalescent plasma (CP) from COVID-19 patients who recently recovered shortened the duration of symptoms, improved oxygen levels and increased the clearance of the virus in patients who were still suffering from the disease. “One dose of convalescent plasma with a high concentration of neutralizing antibodies can rapidly reduce the viral load and tends to improve clinical outcomes”.
antibody recovered from a survivor of the SARS epidemic in the early 2000s has
revealed a potential vulnerability of the new coronavirus at the root of
Published in Science, the study is the first to map a human antibody’s interaction with the new coronavirus at near-atomic-scale resolution. Although the antibody was produced in response to an infection of SARS, which is caused by the SARS-CoV virus, it cross-reacts with the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.
Study showed that a single dose of the drug, Ivermectin, could stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus growing in cell culture – effectively eradicating all genetic material of the virus within 48 hours. Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic drug that has also been shown to be effective in vitro against a broad range of viruses including HIV, Dengue, Influenza and Zika virus.
Cats can be infected with COVID-19 and can spread it to other cats, but dogs are not really susceptible to the infection, say researchers in China. The team, at Harbin Veterinary Research Institute, also concludes that chickens, pigs, and ducks are not likely to catch the virus. Other scientists say the findings are interesting but note the results are based on lab experiments in which a small number of animals were deliberately given high doses of the virus, SARS-CoV-2, and do not represent real-life interactions between people and their pets.
Disinformation and misinformation around COVID-19 continue to proliferate around the world, with potentially harmful consequences for public health and effective crisis communication. In the EU and elsewhere, coordinated disinformation messaging seeks to frame vulnerable minorities as the cause of the pandemic and to fuel distrust in the ability of democratic institutions to deliver effective responses.
Comparison of face mask use recommendations by different health authorities. Despite the consistency in the recommendation that symptomatic individuals and those in health-care settings should use face masks, differences in recommendations were observed for the general public and community settings. Evidence that face masks can provide effective protection against respiratory infections in the community is scarce. However, face masks are widely used by medical workers as part of droplet precautions when caring for patients with respiratory infections. The study suggests vulnerable individuals avoid crowded areas and use surgical face masks rationally when exposed to high-risk areas.
In this pre-print a team from Harvard using mathematical model found that one-time interventions will be insufficient to maintain COVID-19 prevalence within the critical care capacity of the United States. Seasonal variation in transmission will facilitate epidemic control during the summer months but could lead to an intense resurgence in the autumn. Intermittent distancing measures can maintain control of the epidemic, but without other interventions, these measures may be necessary into 2022.
This study analyzed l data from 311 regions across 116 countries with reported cases of COVID-19 by March 12, 2020, and found that temperature, humidity, and wind speed were inversely associated with the incidence rate of Covid-19. This means that it is likely that as temperature, humidity and wind speed increase the spread of COVID-19 decreases.
The authors have built human mobility models, for which they are experts, and attach a virus infection dynamics to it. This results in a virus spreading dynamics model. The preliminary model shows that complete lockdown works. About 10 days after lockdown, the infection dynamics die down in the model. Infections in public transport play an important role, they say. The simulations say that complete removal of infections at child care, primary schools, workplaces and during leisure activities will not be enough to sufficiently slow down the infection dynamics.
This study formulates a conceptual mathematical model on the transmission dynamics of COVID-19 between the frontliners (e.g. healthcare workers, customer service and retail personnel, food service crews) and the general public. The take-home message of this preliminary model is that everyone in the community, whether a frontliner or not, should be protected or should implement preventive measures to avoid being infected.
This is a systematic literature review summarizing the available evidence regarding the role of chloroquine in treating coronavirus infection. It says there is theoretical, experimental, preclinical and clinical evidence of the effectiveness of chloroquine in patients affected with COVID-19. There is adequate evidence of drug safety from the long-time clinical use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in other indications. More data from ongoing and future trials will add more insight into the role of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19 infection it concludes.
New study in JAMA Cardiology says COVID-19 can not only be deadly for people with existing heart conditions, but it can also cause cardiac injury for people without pre-existing heart conditions. The study looked at 416 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Wuhan, China and found that 19.7% suffered a cardiac injury, which put them at higher risk for a fatal version of Coronavirus.
There are several genetic strains of COVID-19 circulating around the world. Information is found on NextStrain, an online resource for scientists that uses data from academic, independent and government laboratories all over the world to visually track the genomics of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It currently represents genetic sequences of strains from 36 countries on six continents.
A wide-ranging study points out that simple public health measures seem to be highly effective at reducing the transmission of respiratory viruses. It recommends implementing the following interventions: frequent handwashing (with or without antiseptics), barrier measures (gloves, gowns, and masks), and isolation of people with suspected respiratory tract infections.
The authors are of the opinion that evidence regarding the complete loss of smell, or anosmia and the loss of taste or dysgeusia in people who had no other symptoms but who tested positive for COVID-19 are mostly anecdotal and therefore should be treated as preliminary and with caution.
Link to article: https://www.cebm.net/covid-19/what-is-the-evidence-for-anosmia-loss-of-smell-as-a-clinical-feature-of-covid-19/
A Statement from ENT UK at The Royal College of Surgeons of England, the association of ear, nose and throat physicians in the United Kingdom says a growing body of data from COVID-19 patients in several countries strongly suggests that “significant numbers” of those patients experienced the complete loss of smell known as anosmia as one of the disease’s symptoms.
A new paper, 26 March, describes multiple lineages of pangolin coronavirus and their similarity to the SARS-CoV-2. A previous study had suggested that Pangolins could be intermediate hosts. Although bats are likely reservoir hosts for SARS-CoV-2, this study says that pangolins should be considered as possible hosts in the emergence of novel coronaviruses and should be removed from wet markets to prevent zoonotic transmission. The study was done on Malayan pangolins (Manis javanica) seized in anti-smuggling operations in southern China. Pangolins are the world’s most trafficked animals.
This paper finds that Inadequate risk assessment regarding the urgency of the situation, and limited reporting on the virus within China has, in part, led to the rapid spread of COVID-19. Compared with SARS and MERS, COVID-19 has spread more rapidly, due in part to increased globalization and the focus of the epidemic. The conclusion is that we did not learn from the two prior epidemics of coronavirus and were ill-prepared to deal with the challenges the COVID-19 epidemic has posed. Future research should attempt to address the uses and implications of the internet of things (IoT) technologies for mapping the spread of infection.
Prof Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine, University of East Anglia, U.K, talks to the Science Media Centre on whether its advisable expert to have sex while either socially distancing or self-isolating with symptoms.
Mutation. The word naturally conjures fears of unexpected and freakish changes. Ill-informed discussions of mutations thrive during virus outbreaks, including the ongoing spread of SARS-CoV-2. In reality, mutations are a natural part of the virus life cycle and rarely impact outbreaks dramatically say virologists writing in the journal Nature Microbiology.
Viruses are kind of mysterious – there is debate on whether on not they are “alive”. At a basic level, viruses are proteins and genetic material that survive and replicate within their environment, inside another life form. In the absence of their host, viruses are unable to replicate and many are unable to survive for long outside the host. Therefore, if they cannot survive independently, can they be defined as being ‘alive’? Taking opposing views, two microbiologists discuss how viruses fit with the concept of being ‘alive’ and how they should be defined.
An article from the publishers of Science on 22 March on WHO megatrials. WHO is focusing on what it says are the four most promising therapies: an experimental antiviral compound called remdesivir; the malaria medications chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine; a combination of two HIV drugs, lopinavir, and ritonavir; and that same combination plus interferon-beta, an immune system messenger that can help cripple viruses.
Unusually, we include a Twitter feed here as it represents a good analysis of the efficacy of the antimalarial drug chloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19. It is from Dr. Gaetan Burgio, a geneticist at the Australian National University who dug into the available & published data and reveals that as of this date the evidence remains anecdotal and a clinical trial is incomplete and not following scientific rigour. More research is needed.
A popular article from the publishers of Nature describing ongoing research that hopes that the antibody-laden blood of those who have recovered from coronavirus might reduce severe infections. It is as yet unknown if it will work.
Review identifies 1415 species of infectious organism known to be pathogenic to humans. Out of these, 868 (61%) are zoonotic, that is, they can be transmitted between humans and animals, and 175 pathogenic species are associated with diseases considered to be ’emerging’. Out of the emerging pathogens, 132 (75%) are zoonotic.
March 17, 2020. A clinical trial of investigational vaccine for COVID-19 has begun. Phase 1 clinical trial evaluating an investigational vaccine designed to protect against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has begun at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) in Seattle. Currently (March 17, 2020) no approved vaccines exist to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2.
While many of us are social distancing and self-quarantining, we have a lot of time to wonder, how did we get in this coronavirus mess in the first place? The answer is a zoonotic disease – a disease that can leap from animal to human. In order to prevent future pandemics, we need to change our relationship with wildlife. So what does that mean exactly?
More than 800 cases of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases occurred during outbreaks on three cruise ship voyages, and cases linked to several additional cruises have been reported across the United States. Transmission occurred across multiple voyages from ship to ship by crew members; both crew members and passengers were affected; 10 deaths associated with cruise ships have been reported to date.
A new study shows people with blood group A have a significantly higher risk for acquiring COVID-19 whereas blood group O has a significantly lower risk for the infection. However, the paper has not been peer-reviewed yet. This means it has yet to be evaluated and so should not be used to guide clinical practice or to promote the results.
The World Organisation for Animal Health says that there have not been any reports of pets presenting clinical signs caused by COVID-19 virus infection and currently there is no evidence that they play a significant epidemiological role in this disease.
Asian Pangolin species, the worlds most traded wild animals, are Critically
Endangered because of illegal trade. Now the species which may be the
intermediate host of COVID-19 is in even more danger as panic killing may wipe
This book chapter reviews the available mental health literature concerning the most impactful global infectious disease outbreaks. Case examples are used to illustrate mental health consequences. An overview of public health response and management of pandemic is reviewed throughout various disaster phases, and focused issues regarding mental health intervention planning for pandemics are discussed.
This article describes the Mental Health and Faith Community Partnership which is a collaboration between psychiatrists and clergy. The partnership provides an opportunity for psychiatrists and the mental health community to learn from spiritual leaders, to whom people often turn in times of mental distress. At the same time, it provides an opportunity to improve understanding of the best science and evidence-based treatment for psychiatric illnesses among faith leaders and those in the faith community.
The outbreak of COVID-19 may be stressful for people. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. This CDC guide provides advice on how to cope with the stress and make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.
Decisions on how to apply quarantine should be based on the best available evidence. This paper reviews the psychological impact of quarantine using three electronic databases. Results show that in situations where quarantine is deemed necessary, officials should quarantine individuals for no longer than required, provide a clear rationale for quarantine and information about protocols, and ensure sufficient supplies are provided.
COVID-19 is creating immense psychosocial disturbances. The CDC has produced a Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) manual to instruct health responders and communicators on how to deal with the extraordinary mental and emotional stressors on people.
The data confirms that some infected people “can be highly contagious when they have mild or no symptoms. Urgent measures are needed to curb mild and asymptomatic cases that are fuelling the pandemic. This bolsters the case for closing schools, cancelling public gatherings and generally keeping people at home and out of public spaces.
Shows Taiwan as an example of how a society can respond quickly to a crisis and protect the interests of its citizens. Taiwan’s government learned from its 2003 SARS experience and established a public health response mechanism for enabling rapid actions for the next crisis. Well-trained and experienced teams of officials were quick to recognize the COVID-19 crisis and activated emergency management structures to address the emerging outbreak.
In this pre-print researchers analyzed the timing of control measures and of community spread of COVID-19 in the Chinese cities of Wuhan and Guangzhou from January 10 to February 29, 2020. Early intervention resulted in Guangzhou having “lower epidemic sizes and peaks” than Wuhan in the first wave of the outbreak.
Time magazine interviews Dr. Bruce Aylward, the senior adviser to the Director-General of the WHO, is one of the world’s top officials in charge of fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Aylward has almost 30 years of experience in fighting polio, Ebola and other diseases, and now he’s turned his attention to stopping the spread of COVID-19.
In the case of the 1918 flu pandemic, research has shown that the faster authorities moved to implement the kinds of social distancing measures designed to slow the transmission of disease, the more lives were saved.
Not a peer-reviewed paper but we deem it useful and interesting. It explores how strong coronavirus measures today should only last a few weeks, there shouldn’t be a big peak of infections afterward, and it can all be done for a reasonable cost to society, saving millions of lives along the way.
Paper on an online interactive dashboard, hosted by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA, to visualise and track reported cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in real-time.
Phyloepidemiologic analyses indicated the SARS-CoV-2 source at the Hua Nan market should be imported from other places. The crowded market boosted SARS-CoV-2 rapid circulations in the market and spread it to the whole city in early December 2019.
The Imperial College report that made the UK government change track. It says population-wide social distancing applied to the population as a whole would have the largest impact, and in combination with other interventions – notably home isolation of cases and school and university closure – has the potential to suppress transmission to rapidly reduce case incidence.