Solving COVID

Solving COVID: October 21, 2020

Healthy volunteers to be intentionally infected, Oxford creates 5-minute COVID test, and more

1

Healthy volunteers to be infected with COVID-19 in vaccine challenge trials

Scientists will deliberately infect healthy volunteers with the coronavirus as part of the first COVID-19 human challenge trials. Imperial College London scientists are leading the research, which will be funded by the British government. Andrew Catchpole, chief science officer for a pharmaceutical company that will run the study, explained a key advantage will be that "you get efficacy data so much sooner," as researchers studying whether a potential COVID-19 vaccine is effective won't have to wait for the volunteers who receive it to become naturally exposed to COVID-19. Experts have debated the ethics of proceeding with such challenge trials for the coronavirus, and the study will need to be approved by an ethics committee before it can begin in 2021.

2

Oxford University unveils accurate 5-minute COVID-19 test

Scientists at Britain's Oxford University have developed a "simple, extremely rapid, and cost-effective" antigen test that accurately identifies COVID-19 in less than five minutes, Oxford physics professor Achilles Kapanidis said Thursday. Oxford said it hopes to start developing the test for commercial use in early 2021, with expected approval six months later. A quick and accurate COVID-19 test could allow for bulk testing at places like airports, colleges, and businesses. Public health officials expect at least one COVID-19 vaccine to be widely available by next summer, but the coronavirus will likely remain a public health concern for at least another year.

3

Blood type may affect severity of COVID-19 infection, new study suggests

Researchers in Canada found that, among 95 critically ill COVID-19 patients, 84 percent of those with the blood types A and AB required mechanical ventilation, compared to 61 percent of patients with type O or type B. The former group also remained in the intensive care unit for a median of 13.5 days, while the latter's median was nine days. Dr. Mypinder Sekhon, an intensive care physician at Vancouver General Hospital and the author of the study, said that blood type has been "at the back of my mind" when treating patients, but "we need repeated findings across many jurisdictions that show the same thing" before anything definitive is established. Either way, Sekhon doesn't believe blood type will supersede other "risk factors of severity" like age or co-morbidities, and he said people should not panic or relax depending on their group.

4

Pfizer could seek COVID-19 vaccine emergency authorization in mid-November

Pfizer could apply for emergency use authorization for its potential COVID-19 vaccine next month should it prove to be safe and effective, its CEO says. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the company estimates it will have the safety data necessary to possibly seek emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration in the third week of November. "Assuming positive data," Bourla said, "Pfizer will apply for emergency authorization use in the U.S. soon after the safety milestone is achieved." The New York Times noted that Pfizer was "ruling out President Trump's assertion that a vaccine would be ready before Election Day." Bourla said Pfizer may know whether its vaccine is effective by the end of October.

5

Pentagon study finds minimal risk of coronavirus exposure on planes

A Defense Department study released recently concluded that passengers faced little risk of catching the coronavirus on a packed commercial flight. Researchers concluded that a passenger wearing a surgical mask continuously would have to sit next to an infectious passenger for 54 hours to get a dangerous level of exposure through the air. The threat of infection is greatly reduced because of the way air is circulated and filtered on airliners. The study used a mannequin expelling simulated virus particles, and researchers conceded that this method of measuring the threat of aerosol exposure had its limitations. Still, Vice Admiral Dee Mewbourne said, "the results showed an overall low exposure risk from aerosolized pathogens like COVID-19 on these aircraft."

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