Solving COVID: October 14, 2020

The Week Staff
Nasal spray.
Illustrated | iStock
Our 'Solving COVID' newsletter is a weekly roundup of the latest scientific advancements being made against the coronavirus pandemic. It tracks developments in testing, treating, and vaccinating. To receive the newsletter every week, please enter your email below:

1.

Inhaled coronavirus vaccines are under development — and could be more effective than an injection

Dozens of COVID-19 vaccines are under development worldwide, with the ones closest to ready for public use being traditional, injectable vaccines. But scientists in the U.S., the U.K., and Hong Kong are working on an alternative: inhaled vaccines. Most of the injected vaccines in testing would require multiple shots to be effective, and it's not even clear if COVID-19 antibodies will prevent an infection. Meanwhile scientists have hypothesized inhaled immunizations could be more effective than injections because they could stop the coronavirus at the place it's often contracted: the nose. Stopping the virus' growth in the nose could then prevent its transmission. In addition, the respiratory system is full of immune system protections that an inhaled vaccine could bolster.

2.

U.S. health regulators pause Eli Lilly's coronavirus treatment trials

Federal health regulators paused enrollment in trials of Eli Lilly's coronavirus antibody treatment on Tuesday "out of an abundance of caution." Officials did not explain why the pause was recommended, but Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious diseases expert at Emory University School of Medicine, told NBC News that "pauses are not infrequent in a clinical trial." The decision comes after Johnson & Johnson paused its coronavirus vaccine trial due to an "unexplained illness." Last week, Eli Lilly said it would soon request emergency authorization for another antibody treatment it had developed. The treatment paused Tuesday was determined to reduce patients' COVID-19 viral load and help them avoid hospitalization. It's similar to the treatment from Regeneron given to President Trump.

3.

86 percent of people with coronavirus cases in the U.K. showed no major symptoms

A survey conducted by the U.K.'s Office for National Statistics revealed 86.1 percent of people who contracted COVID-19 between April and June showed no major symptoms of the disease, including cough, fever, or a loss of taste or smell, on the day they were tested. Around three quarters of those tested showed no symptoms at all, including fatigue or a shortness of breath. Due to a undersupply of tests, health officials have only suggested getting tested for coronavirus if one shows symptoms or has been around someone with the virus. But with most people asymptomatic, the virus could spread widely without detection before people show severe symptoms. The ONS tested 36,000 people for the coronavirus, with 115 cases coming back positive.

4.

Study finds coronavirus can survive on smooth surfaces for 28 days

In a study published Monday in Virology Journal, researchers at CSIRO, Australia's national science agency, write that they found at 68 degrees Fahrenheit, the SARS-COV-2 virus can stay infectious for 28 days on smooth surfaces. This is a longer amount of time than the Influenza A virus remains on surfaces; it's been found to survive for 17 days. During their research, scientists dried the coronavirus in an artificial mucus and placed it on different surfaces in concentrations similar to samples gathered by COVID-19 patients, and then returned a month later to extract the virus, Reuters reports. They conducted their experiments in a lab, and found that the higher the temperature, the lower the survival time of the virus. In a statement, CSIRO Chief Executive Larry Marshall said "establishing how long the virus really remains viable on surfaces enables us to more accurately predict and mitigate its spread and do a better job of protecting our people." [Reuters]

5.

U.K. vaccine chief says COVID-19 vaccine may be 50 percent effective

The first wave of COVID-19 vaccines probably won't end the coronavirus pandemic, but "a partially effective vaccine is better than no vaccine at all," Kate Gingham, the head of Britain's vaccine task force, told Sky News. "Flu vaccines are 50 percent effective, but they are widely used and have a big impact on reducing the clinical impacts of flu in the population." She told The Telegraph that with the COVID-19 effort, "we shouldn't assume it's going to be better than a flu vaccine." In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration won't approve any COVID-19 vaccine that is less that 50 percent effective at preventing infection or reducing severity, but Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser to the U.S. government's Operation Warp Speed vaccine initiative, predicted at least some of the dozen vaccines under development will be 75 to 90 percent effective. [The Washington Post, Sky News]