On the day of the survey, the reader will only have to stop the car in front of Livraria Lello and the delivery will be made by a collaborator directly through the window.
A selection of essential articles read aloud from the latest issue of The Economist. This week, the role of big government in the time of covid-19, (10:20) assessing the havoc the pandemic is causing in emerging countries, (17:45).
In just a few weeks a virus a ten-thousandth of a millimetre in diameter has transformed Western democracies. States have shut down businesses and sealed people indoors. They have promised trillions of dollars to keep the economy on life support. If South Korea and Singapore are a guide, medical and electronic privacy are about to be cast aside. It is the most dramatic extension of state power since the second world war.
On this week’s show, host Joel Goldberg gets an update on the coronavirus pandemic from Senior Correspondent Jon Cohen. In addition, Cohen gives a rundown of his latest feature, which highlights the relationship between diseases and changing seasons—and how this relationship relates to a potential coronavirus vaccine.
Also this week, from a recording made at this year’s AAAS annual meeting in Seattle, host Meagan Cantwell speaks with Alexandra Maertens, director of the Green Toxicology initiative at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, about the importance of incorporating nonanimal testing methods to study the adverse effects of chemicals.
As many businesses around the world struggle, a Canadian disinfectant company is increasing production to keep up with demand during the novel coronavirus outbreak. Photo: Ron Kolumbus/WSJ
The race is on to find a vaccine against the new COVID-19 coronavirus. Professor Jonathan Heeney explains why a cautious approach is needed and how his team is using new technology developed for influenza and Ebola viruses to target the new infection.
It is hard now to conceive that two months ago, few people had heard of the new coronavirus. Now, the virus, which causes the disease COVID-19, has spread to every corner of the globe. The World Health Organization has officially declared the outbreak a pandemic.
With the threat of hundreds of thousands – possibly millions – of people being infected and healthcare systems becoming overwhelmed, the race is on to develop a vaccine that will protect individuals and slow the spread of the disease. But Professor Jonathan Heeney, Head of the Laboratory of Viral Zoonotics at the University of Cambridge, and one of the people working on a vaccine, says that coronaviruses present a particular challenge to vaccine developers.
Coronaviruses are named after their appearance: they are spherical objects, on the surface of which sit ‘spike’ proteins. The virus uses these spikes to attach to and invade cells in our body. Once inside, the virus uses the cell’s own machinery to help itself replicate and spread throughout the body, causing disease and allowing it to transmit onwards.
Traditionally, scientists would develop vaccines that programme the body to produce antibodies that recognise and block these spikes. But this strategy can misfire with coronaviruses due to a phenomenon known as ‘antibody-induced enhancement’ or ‘vaccine-induced enhancement’, says Heeney.
“If you make antibodies against the spike, they can end up binding to it and helping the virus invade important immune cells known as monocyte-macrophages. Rather than destroying the virus, these cells can then end up being reprogrammed by the viruses, exacerbating the immune response and making the disease much, much worse than it would otherwise be.”
In order to stem the spread of the coronavirus, social interactions around the world are being restricted. This infographic, based on calculations by Robert A. J. Signer, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of California San Diego, shows how this so-called social distancing can reduce the spread of the virus.
With no changes to social behaviour, one infected person will on average pass the virus to 2.5 people within five days. After 30 days, the figure would rise to a devastating 406 new infections. The number can be significantly reduced though by engaging in less social contact. With a 50 percent reduction, the number of new infections caused by the average person after 30 days is just 15 people. A 75 percent change would result in an even lower 2.5 new cases – greatly reducing the burden on health services and, if followed by everybody, allowing a country to ‘flatten the curve’ of new infections.