Cold and stale air conditions allowed coronavirus particles to travel more than 8 meters (26 feet) at a German slaughterhouse, a study showed, giving an insight into how meat plants turned into hotspots for infections across the world. Meat plants from the U.S. to the U.K. and South America have seen the rapid spread of the virus, infecting thousands of employees who often work in close proximity on processing lines. Dozens of workers have died, and labor advocates have said that a lack of social distancing could continue to put people at risk. Outbreaks also forced American meat plants to close earlier this year, sparking some protein shortages. [Related Study]
Four Minute Audio at the Link – As the number of coronavirus cases started spiking again this month, the White House keyed in on a different number — one that paints a more rosy picture of the pandemic: the case fatality rate.
ne of the bigger riddles of the global pandemic lies in South-East Asia. Despite being close to the source of covid-19, in China, and to one of the current hotspots of the outbreak, India, the partly or largely Buddhist countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam have scarcely sneezed.
It wasn’t greed, or curiosity, that made Li Rusheng grab his shotgun and enter Shitou Cave. It was about survival. During Mao-era collectivization of the early 1970s, food was so scarce in the emerald valleys of southwestern China’s Yunnan province that farmers like Li could expect to eat meat only once a year–if they were lucky. So, craving protein, Li and his friends would sneak into the cave to hunt the creatures they could hear squeaking and fluttering inside: bats.
Two pharmaceutical companies announced a nearly $2 billion contract for 600 million doses of a vaccine, with the first 100 million promised before the end of the year.
3 Minute Audio at the link – As the pandemic drags on, researchers are increasingly doubtful that so-called “herd immunity” can be reached without a vaccine. Many now believe COVID-19 may be around forever.
4 min audio at the link – Dr. Louis Tran, an emergency physician, spend much of May in New York City ICUs treating patients with COVID-19. Now, he’s back at home in San Bernardino County in California, fighting the same virus on a different coast.
So many people are counting on a vaccine to help end the coronavirus pandemic that any hint of bad news gets a lot of attention. That’s proving to be the case for a series of studies examining how long antibodies persist in people who have been infected with the coronavirus.
Pediatric SARS-CoV-2 infection can be complicated by a dangerous hyperinflammatory condition termed multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). The clinical and immunologic spectrum of MIS-C and its relationship to other inflammatory conditions of childhood have not been studied in detail.
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a strain of coronavirus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) and has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. Total cases of SARS-CoV-2 worldwide exceed 10.2 million, with over 503,000 deaths recorded. Little is known about the body’s immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection.
As communities struggle with the decision over whether to open up schools, the research so far offers unsatisfying answers. Every year, children are a major driver of transmission for the viruses that cause the flu and the common cold. So this March, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, Tina Hartert of the Vanderbilt School of Medicine expected the same to be true for the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. But months later, Hartert and other respiratory disease experts are still trying to pin down the elusive virus, which has surrendered only hints about its effects on children and their ability to spread the infection. [Related Study]
The global surge in COVID-19 cases is mainly driven by intense transmission in a relatively few countries, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said today, with South Africa now among the five hardest-hit countries.
Official Reporting for July 24, 2020
World Health Organization
Confirmed Cases: 15,296,926
Confirmed Cases: 15,477,472
Confirmed Cases: 15,594,551
Total deaths: 143,868
Michigan: Nursing homes make up 15% of Michigan COVID-19 cases, 32% of deaths – WWMT
California: COVID-19 Deaths Set New Daily Record; Total Tops 8,000 – SF Bay CBS
Texas: More than 90 babies have tested positive for COVID-19 in Travis County, Austin Public Health reports – KXAN
Ohio: Ohio county fair tied to 22 coronavirus cases, with more fairs still to come – NBC
Sweden: Swedish Covid Policy Slammed by CEO on Front Line of Crisis – Bloomberg
Spain: Spain’s Reopening Stumbles as Virus Cases Rise Among Young People – NYT
Nicaragua: Nicaragua’s COVID-19 crisis demands a response – Science
Hong Kong: Fresh Virus Wave Worsens Hong Kong’s Already Disastrous Outlook – Bloomgerg
Vietnam: Vietnam took drastic early action to fight the coronavirus — and has reported zero deaths – NBC
Japan: As Japan Nears 1,000 Daily Coronavirus Infections, It Shies From Restrictions – NYT
Jordan: Prime Minister Says His Country Contained COVID-19 By ‘Helping The Weakest’ – NPR
Uganda: Reports its first death from Covid-19 – CNN
South Africa: South Africa to Close Schools Again as Covid Infections Surge – Bloomberg
Science and Tech
The scientists resolved the structure of an enzyme called nsp16, which the virus produces and then uses to modify its messenger RNA cap, said Yogesh Gupta, PhD, the study lead author from the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio. [Related Study]
A new study found that lung ultrasound was highly sensitive for detecting abnormalities in patients with coronavirus disease (COVID-19), with B-lines, a thickened pleural line, and pulmonary consolidation the most commonly observed features. Additionally, the authors found that lung ultrasound features can be used to reflect both the infection duration and disease severity.
Dogs have smell receptors up to 10,000 times more powerful and accurate than humans. That allows certain trained dogs to sniff out diseases like cancer, malaria and viral infections. [Related Study]
On July 20, 2020, Oxford University’s Jenner Institute and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca reported preliminary results from phase I/II clinical trials assessing the safety and efficacy of a vaccine candidate against SARS-CoV-2. [Lancet Study on AstraZenica Vaccine]
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to accelerated efforts to develop therapeutics and vaccines. A key target of these efforts is the spike (S) protein, which is metastable and difficult to produce recombinantly. Here, we characterized 100 structure-guided spike designs and identified 26 individual substitutions that increased protein yields and stability. Testing combinations of beneficial substitutions resulted in the identification of HexaPro, a variant with six beneficial proline substitutions exhibiting ~10-fold higher expression than its parental construct and the ability to withstand heat stress, storage at room temperature, and three freeze-thaw cycles. A 3.2 Å-resolution cryo-EM structure of HexaPro confirmed that it retains the prefusion spike conformation. High-yield production of a stabilized prefusion spike protein will accelerate the development of vaccines and serological diagnostics for SARS-CoV-2. [Related Study]
The Long Game of Coronavirus Research. Warp-speed vaccine trials grab our attention, but more deliberate work is just as urgent.
The emergence of the novel SARS coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in 2019 has triggered an ongoing global pandemic of severe pneumonia-like disease designated as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)1. The development of a vaccine is likely to require at least 12-18 months, and the typical timeline for approval of a novel antiviral therapeutic can exceed 10 years.
Hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin have been used to treat patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19). However, evidence on the safety and efficacy of these therapies is limited.
Social and Psychological Impact
Investigation of a superspreading event preceding the largest meat processing plant-related SARS-Coronavirus 2 outbreak in Germany – SSRN
Structural basis of RNA cap modification by SARS-CoV-2 – Nature
Scent dog identification of samples from COVID-19 patients – a pilot study – BMJ
Presence of Genetic Variants Among Young Men With Severe COVID-19 – JAMA
Structure-based design of prefusion-stabilized SARS-CoV-2 spikes – Science
What we know so far about Coronavirus Disease 2019 in children: A meta‐analysis of 551 laboratory‐confirmed cases – NIH
Pre-Pub (not yet peer reviewed, should not be regarded as conclusive)
Coping in Quarantine
WARNING – If you are on the fence about getting a new puppy, this will throw you over the fence and into a pile of puppies. [Do not click this link Jeff Miller]