Developing a vaccine or a treatment for a newly discovered virus is a slow and detailed endeavour. The coronavirus has changed that. From Asia to Europe, North America, and Africa, infectious disease experts are trialling vaccines, developing new tests for the virus or devising innovative public health strategies to control the outbreak. A global race to search for a coronavirus vaccine is underway. We take a look at a few countries working flat-out to save us from the pandemic.
In China, where doctors and scientists played pivotal roles in alerting the world about what would come to be called Covid-19, few deserve more credit for sounding the alarm than Ai Fen, head of the emergency department at Wuhan Central Hospital. On 30th December, she received a lab report on a patient with unexplained pneumonia. She immediately notified her superiors and began warning fellow doctors to take precautions, she sent screenshots of the report to her old medical school classmates. While Ai was putting fellow doctors on alert, researchers in Shanghai led by Zhang Yongzhen were studying a specimen from a patient from Wuhan with an unexplained fever. Zhang’s team concluded the specimen was a novel coronavirus.
” . . . from around the world
pounced on the puzzle.”
With this release, infectious disease experts from around the world pounced on the puzzle in a rush to understand how quickly this new virus might spread.
In Britain, as soon as the Shanghai scientists released the genetic sequence for the virus, several researchers responded to a call from the World Health Organization to propose methodologies for developing vaccines. Researchers are working around the clock to develop plans to eliminate the coronavirus.
United States of America
In the United States, scientists are closely watching clinical trials led by Andre Kalil, a physician specializing in pneumonia. The trial, with more than 100 patients at dozens of hospitals, will yield initial results in a week or so. As soon as Kalil saw the reports about coronavirus in China, he and his team began investigating potential therapies and offering real science trials.
In Senegal, an infectious disease expert Mr Sall began hearing about the mysterious pneumonia in China. Sall has been working 18-hour days with colleagues from across Africa since 27 February when he heard Nigeria confirmed the first case in sub-Saharan Africa and four days later when Senegal reported its first infection.
“results in 10 minutes”
With a partner in Britain, Sall is developing a test for Covid-19 that can yield results in as little as 10 minutes.
In Singapore, coronavirus testing is among the most aggressive. As of last week, Singapore had conducted more than 39,000 tests. Singapore can administer more than 2,000 tests daily and is working to expand that. Patients who show symptoms are quarantined before they transmit the disease. Singapore’s tactic of aggressively testing while tracing and isolating has worked because they have a dedicated place to quarantine patients.
Recovery from Covid-19
What the world has observed is that the vast majority of people who catch Covid-19 will make a complete recovery; 184,965 people have recovered globally from the coronavirus (as at 1 April 2020).