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Mar 17, 2020

On mission to eradicate virus germs, China firms see the UV light

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

Ultraviolet light is being beamed through public buses and lifts in China to wipe out any possible germs as part of efforts to clear the country of the deadly coronavirus epidemic.

With companies under pressure to meet strict prevention measures for the virus, which has killed more than 3,100 people in China, some are turning to new technology to keep everything clean.

Shanghai public transport firm Yanggao has converted a regular cleaning room into a UV light disinfection chamber for buses — cutting a 40-minute process down to just five minutes.

Mar 17, 2020

Israeli company Kamada working on ‘passive vaccine’ for coronavirus

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

Rehovot based biopharmaceutical company Kamada has announced that they have started to work on developing a blood-plasma derived treatment against the coronavirus.

“The concept that we are developing is not new: people that are exposed to a virus develop antibodies for that virus. If patients who have recovered from the disease and are in convalescence donate plasma, there is a very good likelihood that in that plasma there are going to be antibodies,” Amir London, Chief Executive Officer of Kamada, told The Jerusalem Post.

Mar 17, 2020

Researchers Will Deploy AI to Better Understand Coronavirus

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, information science, robotics/AI

More than 2,000 papers have been published about the virus since December. It will take some smart algorithms to mine insights from them.

Mar 17, 2020

Top Coronavirus Doctor in Wuhan Says High Blood Pressure Is Major Death Risk

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

Patients with hypertension appear to be at a higher risk of dying from the coronavirus, said a top Chinese intensive care doctor who’s been treating critically ill patients since mid-January.

While there’s been no published research yet explaining why, Chinese doctors working in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the virus first emerged, have noticed that infected patients with that underlying illness are more likely to slip into severe distress and die.

Of a group of 170 patients who died in January in Wuhan — the first wave of casualties caused by a pathogen that’s now raced around the world — nearly half had hypertension.

Mar 17, 2020

When a Virus Goes Viral — Life with COVID-19

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, existential risks

Imagine the following scenario. You are a doctor working in a hospital in a very large and relatively polluted city, normally subject to a high level of seasonal respiratory ailments. Moreover, your healthcare system is stretched because of budget cuts and the devolution policies of central government. As a medical doctor you also know that flu viruses routinely mutate and may even be transferred from animals to humans. Exactly how all this happens varies from year to year – as does the exact mortality rate, though the pattern of infection and mortality is relatively well understood. In all these cases, the vast majority of people remain uninfected, asymptomatic or subject to mild symptoms that pass within a week. However, if the number of those requiring intensive hospital-based treatment rises above a certain percentage, the healthcare system can be quickly challenged. At that point, the doctor may panic, and armed with social media, he can now spread his concern around the world. But is the sheer appearance of a new virus strain the overriding cause?

The only part of this story that is really new is the availability of social media to spread news about any outbreak of such flu-like diseases. But one should not underestimate a general background awareness of overstretched public healthcare systems around the world, due partly to an ageing population but mainly due to the neoliberal policy horizon. Actions like the initial Chinese response to suppress the ‘whistleblower’ Li Wenliang have happened at the start of previous outbreaks – but now whistleblowers can communicate directly with the world. It is easy to forget that various new strains of flu are routinely reported in the media each year, with greater or lesser morbidity than earlier ones. Governments around the world normally monitor the situation in their own way, which means that the real figures have probably always been much higher than officially stated – both who catches the flu and who dies from it. Much depends on the motivation of the national health authorities to test specifically for the flu’s presence. After all, flu typically operates as a ‘nudge’ to worsen existing health conditions, and those conditions may be the primary medical focus.

We clearly don’t know everything we need to know about COVID-19. But the same applied to all the previous flu epidemics, which humanity has so far managed to survive. What is different now is the level of scrutiny and accountability of the response, mostly due to the recent information technology revolution, especially social media. This very basic socio-technical point has made it easier for the World Health Organization to designate COVID-19 a pandemic. The WHO’s insistence on mass testing (even if it doesn’t catch those who have recovered) also fits the same logic. What is striking so far about the global response are the efforts that societies have taken to reorganize themselves in order to protect those who are perceived as most vulnerable. It is quite unprecedented, especially in a world that is so otherwise imbued with capitalist values.

In the end, COVID-19 is the first virus to go properly ‘viral’, starting with Li Wenliang. That start has anchored the subsequent response. In particular, it has triggered a chain reaction that has exposed the different cultures of risk management around the world, as well as the varying conditions of national health care systems. Think of it as Nature’s brute audit on humanity’s sustainability. Indeed, that may be the virus’ main direct legacy – which means that public health care is bound to improve all round in the long run. However, if the lockdown continues long enough, the virus may end up questioning the modus operandi of contemporary capitalism in a way that long-standing complaints about inequality have failed to do. I expect that the vast majority of the population will manage to cope reasonably well during our period of ‘species captivity’, while consuming significantly less of the planet’s resources – that is, assuming that the increasing energy demands of online activities don’t first cause a short-circuit!

Continue reading “When a Virus Goes Viral -- Life with COVID-19” »

Mar 17, 2020

Amid pandemic, Energy Department labs close to tens of thousands of users

Posted by in category: futurism

None has announced a full closure, and some big facilities seem likely to continue to run.

Mar 17, 2020

Can This American Biotech Company Save the Global Economy?

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, economics

Gilead’s antiviral medication remdesivir could radically change the course of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

Mar 17, 2020

New CRISPR Tool Fixes CFTR Mutations in CF Patients’ Stem Cells, Study Finds

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, genetics

A new variation of the gene-editing technology CRISPR-Cas9 can correct mutations in the CFTR gene — the genetic cause of cystic fibrosis (CF) — in stem cells from CF patients, a study shows.

The new approach has the ability to correct mutations without the need to excise the affected region, the researchers said.

The study, “CRISPR-Based Adenine Editors Correct Nonsense Mutations in a Cystic Fibrosis Organoid Biobank,” was published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

Mar 17, 2020

Researchers want to trial drug ‘cure’ for coronavirus on patients

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

A team of Australian researchers say they’ve found a cure for the novel coronavirus and hope to have patients enrolled in a nationwide trial by the end of the month.

University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research director Professor David Paterson told today they have seen two drugs used to treat other conditions wipe out the virus in test tubes.

He said one of the medications, given to some of the first people to test positive for COVID-19 in Australia, had already resulted in “disappearance of the virus” and complete recovery from the infection.

Mar 17, 2020

Cleantech Includes UV Roombas To Kill The Coronavirus

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, robotics/AI

Cleantech is usually focused on electric cars, batteries, clean electrical generation, and the like. But clean also has a more direct connotation for humans of being free from disease.

Danish company UVD Robotics makes germ-, virus-, and mold-killing ultraviolet robots for hospitals. The product has been in existence for a while, but now it’s signed contracts with Chinese hospitals and is shipping units to that country.