It seems like we are hit with more bad news every day…
The U.S. recently passed 100,000 deaths from COVID-19, more than double of any other country… Kids missed their graduation ceremonies… Parents have lost their jobs… Clinical anxiety and depression are rampant.
There are horrific stories of the coronavirus sweeping through nursing homes, killing residents by the dozen. And there is equally heartbreaking news about doctors, nurses, and other heroes on the frontlines who gave their lives trying to save the sick.
We wonder, when will it stop?
In recent weeks we’ve started to see glimmers of hope amid the pandemic despair. They are coming from medical labs around the world.
5 Reasons for Hope in the COVID-19 Crisis
- There are no fewer than 95 vaccines in development. Among the most promising is one from the biopharmaceutical company Sinovac. Researchers say they are “99% sure” their vaccine will be effective. The drug was found to be safe in animal trials.
It provided protection against the coronavirus in macaques. That’s important, because the monkeys are biologically similar to humans.
Another promising vaccine is being developed by Moderna Therapeutics. It’s a “nucleic acid vaccine.” That means it uses genetic material—RNA—to enable the immune system to identify and fight the coronavirus. The advantage of an RNA vaccine is that it can be produced quickly.
Moderna reported in mid-May that humans given the vaccine develop antibodies.
“We’ve demonstrated that these antibodies, this immune response, can actually block the virus,” said Dr. Tal Zaks, Moderna’s chief medical officer.
- New treatments. Chinese scientists are testing a new drug they call 11a. It inhibits protease. That’s an enzyme the coronavirus needs to survive.
Researchers monitored 11a’s effect on animals and found it is safe and prevents infection. They hope to test it in humans soon.
A study published in the journal The Lancet looked at a three-drug combination—interferon beta 1b, Iopinavir-ritonavir, and ribavirin. Researchers recruited 127 COVID-19 patients. They gave 86 patients the drug combo. The rest took a placebo.
The drug group patients were clear of the virus in seven days on average. The placebo group took 12 days.
Professor Kwok-Yung Yuen was the lead researcher. He said the drug combo “may rapidly suppress the amount of virus in a patient’s body, relieve symptoms, and reduce the risk to healthcare workers” by reducing the amount of time the virus is transmissible.
He added that the treatment combination “appeared safe and well-tolerated.”
- U.S. COVID-19 cases seem to be leveling off. The number of new confirmed weekly cases has gone from 27,368 in mid-May to 19,699 in early June. The weekly deaths went from 1,779 to 995. 
- A new antibody. An international team of scientists has discovered a new coronavirus antibody. It targets the proteins on the virus’s surface that allow it to enter human cells.
“The antibody used in this work is fully human,” said study co-author Professor Frank Grosveld. That’s a breakthrough.
Researchers usually develop antibodies in animals and then have to adapt them to humans. Animal antibodies often cause side effects in people. The new human antibody could lead to a safe treatment that can be developed quickly.
- Faster testing. Lack of testing has plagued the U.S. since the beginning of the outbreak. Even when tests became available, there were often long waits for the results.
Germany has been a pioneer in coronavirus testing. It’s high testing rates are credited with the country’s lower death toll. Germany has had less than a third of the deaths per capita than the U.S.
Now, German scientists have devised a testing method that promises to make tests faster and more widely available than ever.
It’s called sample pooling. It involves combining dozens of samples before testing. Only if a positive result is found in the group would a lab need to do individual testing.
Using this method, technicians can test up to 30 people at once. Labs should be able to dramatically increase the number of people they test.
The coronavirus has the upper hand right now. It continues to spread. But there are clear reasons for optimism. Scientists are making progress in the effort to end the pandemic.
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