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Coronavirus

COVID-19: Straight from the Science Journals

A roundup of new pandemic-related findings by our partner Hakai Magazine.

Brian Owens 24 Mar 2020 | Hakai Magazine

Brian Owens is a freelance science writer and editor based in St. Stephen, New Brunswick. His work has appeared in Hakai Magazine, Nature, New Scientist, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, The Lancet and others.

[Editor’s note: Look for this feature twice a week in The Tyee. Today is the first instalment, and marks a new partnership with Victoria-based Hakai Magazine, which will be publishing stories about COVID-19 in these pages during the pandemic.]

With misinformation and deliberate disinformation running almost as rampant as the virus that causes COVID-19, we thought it would be best to go to the source for the latest insights. Compiled by veteran medical journalist Brian Owens, this is a roundup of some of the newest science on the COVID-19 pandemic, straight from the scientific journals.

How does COVID-19 affect children?

A study from China identified 2,143 cases of COVID-19 in children between Jan. 16 and Feb. 8 of this year. They found that 90 percent of cases had mild, moderate or no symptoms at all, but younger children, especially infants and those who were immunocompromised or had other lung health problems, were at greater risk of complications. The study also notes that children without symptoms can still spread the disease.

Pediatrics, March 7, 2020

COVID-19 has a natural origin

An analysis of the genetic sequence of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has found that it is the product of natural evolution. There is no evidence that the virus was made in a laboratory or otherwise engineered. The researchers suggest the virus likely arose first in animals — possibly bats or pangolins — before jumping to humans via another intermediate animal host.

Nature Medicine, March 17, 2020

How long does the virus remain infectious on surfaces?

SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, can remain infectious on surfaces and in the air for several hours to several days. Researchers discovered the virus is detectable for up to three hours in aerosols, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

New England Journal of Medicine, March 17, 2020

Old medicine could be a potential treatment

Small preliminary studies in China and France have shown that the common medications chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine — used to treat malaria and certain inflammatory diseases — are effective treatments for COVID-19. The World Health Organization has added the drugs to a big worldwide study of potential treatments, but in the meantime, people are cautioned not to take the drugs on their own. People have become sick and even died while attempting to self-medicate with chloroquine, and people who currently use the drugs to treat lupus and arthritis have reported shortages.

International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, March 20, 2020

Heart disease drugs may increase risk of severe COVID-19

People with heart conditions appear to be at greater risk of complications from COVID-19, possibly because of the medications they take to manage the conditions. Researchers found that the virus uses the angiotensin converting enzyme 2, or ACE2 receptor to gain entry to lung cells. Two kinds of drugs commonly prescribed to manage heart disease, diabetes and kidney infections — angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, or ACEIs, and angiotensin receptor blockers — are thought to increase the number of ACE2 receptors in the cardiopulmonary system.

Journal of Travel Medicine, March 18, 2020

Uncertainty remains about COVID-19 fatality rate

The fatality rate from COVID-19 is still unclear. The latest data from China show a fatality rate of 1.4 per cent for people who developed symptoms, much lower than earlier reports. But a study from Italy found a fatality rate of 7.2 per cent in people with confirmed COVID-19, much higher than in other countries. This may be due to Italy’s older population, differences in how deaths are counted and attributed, or differences in testing strategies.

Nature Medicine, March 19, 2020

Journal of the American Medical Association, March 23, 2020

3D structure of virus protein could help with drug development

Researchers in Germany have determined the three-dimensional structure of one of SARS-CoV-2’s important proteins — the main protease that is responsible for the virus’s reproduction. Since the function of a protein is closely related to its physical structure, this could help with the development of new treatments or vaccines for COVID-19.

Science, March 20, 2020

SFU scientists developing COVID-19 testing kits

Researchers at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver are using a new imaging technology they developed, called Mango, to develop coronavirus testing kits. They are adapting Mango to detect coronavirus RNA in cells.

Nature Communications, March 9, 2020  [Tyee]

Read more: Coronavirus

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