Science summary: A look at novel coronavirus research around the globe | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Science summary: A look at novel coronavirus research around the globe

A laboratory technologist demonstrates one of the steps taken when a specimen is tested for COVID-19 in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
April 01, 2020 - 1:00 AM

Thousands of scientists around the world are working on problems raised by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is a summary of some recent research from peer-reviewed academic journals and scientific agencies:

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The most recent figures from the World Health Organization list 50 candidates for a novel coronavirus vaccine. There are two ready for clinical trials, one from an American company partnering with the U.S. National Institutes of Health and one from a Chinese group at the University of Beijing. Another 48 candidates are at the preclinical evaluation stage, which determines safety and dosage levels. Two of those candidates are at the University of Saskatchewan. Dozens of other efforts are at less advanced development or are seeking ways to treat patients already suffering with COVID-19.

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The travel ban enacted by the city of Wuhan, China, at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic — which suspended public transport, entertainment and large public gatherings — probably averted hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 infections, says research from Science magazine. A study of the first 50 days of the infection found the actions delayed the arrival of the coronavirus in other cities by almost three days. Cities that used the time to prepare before the virus arrived had about one-third fewer confirmed cases. The authors estimate that without those measures, China would have seen about 744,000 cases instead of the 29,839 it reported.

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At Toronto's York University, researchers have reviewed current studies on COVID-19 to break down the most common symptoms of the illness. They say 82 per cent of sufferers had a fever, 61 per cent had a cough and 36 per cent felt muscle aches and fatigue. Shortness of breath appeared in 26 per cent of the cases, followed by a headache in 12 per cent and a sore throat in 10 per cent. Gastrointestinal symptoms appeared in nine per cent of patients. The statistics were drawn from nearly 60,000 patients in 11 countries.

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The British medical journal The Lancet has crunched through data from China to give a more thorough and exact profile of the novel coronavirus's effects. The death rate from confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country is estimated at almost 1.4 per cent. Those rates vary from 0.0016 per cent in children up to nine years old to 7.8 per cent for people 80 and older. Sickness also increases with age, going up rapidly at age 50 and over. Hospitalization rates nearly double — from 4.3 per cent in 40-to-49-year-olds to 8.2 per cent in 50-to-59-year olds. Nearly one in five patients in their 80s have gone to hospital while about one in 100 patients in their 20s got that sick.

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COVID-19 spreads too quickly to be contained by manually tracing the contacts of those carrying the virus, says research in Science magazine. Using data on how the virus was transmitted on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, the authors conclude the normal approaches for epidemic control — isolating the sick, tracking down their contacts and quarantining where necessary — take too long and are too hard to scale up. They say a cellphone app that records personal contacts and notifies people when one of their contacts has tested positive would be much faster. Such apps have already been deployed in China. The authors note that such an app raises important ethical questions about use of the data.

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Research at York University in Toronto suggests U.S. states that are responding more quickly and effectively to COVID-19 also seem to have higher levels of social capital and citizens who trust more in their governments and health agencies. The research, published in the journal Contexts, found that states with the most social capital and trust were the ones that tended to have higher testing rates. This was regardless of household income, income inequality, racial diversity or whether the states had a Republican or Democratic leaning.

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Computer engineers at the University of British Columbia have developed a computer model they say can eventually help society ease back into normal life while minimizing the risk of new outbreaks. Their model compares the impact of reduced social distancing and other measures against the availability of resources such as hospital beds. The goal is to allow for as much social and economic activity as possible without overwhelming the health-care system.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2020

News from © The Canadian Press, 2020
The Canadian Press

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