In this article we explore what scientists and others can do to fight the novel coronavirus SARS-COV2. The virus which infects humans causing a respiratory disease and which at the time of going to press is causing problems globally.
There are three fronts on which scientists, researchers and doctors across the world are collaborating to fight the virus.
- Epidemiologists are scientists who study the spread of infectious diseases. They create models of disease spread based on data from past epidemics such as SARS, Nipah Virus, Ebola etc. The models are used to predict how the infection will spread in the general population based on several factors, one of which is the mode of transmission. The epidemiologists advised governments and public health institutions to put in place social (physical) distancing measures to reduce the rate of infections.
- Vaccination is a powerful way to make a population immune to specific disease. For example, the polio virus, is controlled by vaccination in the UK. Another example is the smallpox virus, which has been wiped out. There have been no known cases of smallpox in the world since 1978, because of vaccination.
It is essential to study the structure of the virus, its proteins and its genetic material for developing vaccines. Researchers across the world are collaborating to gather as much information as they can to help with vaccine development. Researchers at the University of Oxford have developed a vaccine that could help our immune system recognise the viral spike proteins. The first phase of clinical trials to test the effectiveness of the vaccine began in the last week of April. While it takes at least 18 months to research, develop, test and approve vaccines, there is also a need for medicines to treat Covid-19.
- Already available antiviral and specific anti-inflammatory medications are something that scientists and doctors are exploring to see whether they can be used to effectively treat Covid-19. The UK is running the largest clinical trials to test for the effectiveness of antiviral drugs that stop the replication of the virus and immune-modulating drugs that can stop the immune system from going into overdrive.
What can we do in the fight against coronavirus?
The best way to fight coronavirus now is to follow the government guidelines on social (physical) distancing, washing hands with soap and water, staying safe at home and be as scientifically informed as possible about the pandemic. These little acts will help the NHS, the scientists and the researchers to deal with the disease and give them enough time to find a cure or treatment.