A drug that’s still in the experimental stage promises to stop Covid transmission. So far, we know it works in ferrets. If you’re a ferret, you probably don’t care about this because ferrets are like young adults: They have fur and like to eat raw meat.
The similarity’s struck you before now, hasn’t it?
They also become infected with Covid and can pass the infection on, but they don’t get sick.
Strictly and importantly speaking, that’s true of ferrets but not true of young adults (see below), because some young adults get mildly sick and then get long Covid, which is a particularly nasty kick in the head. And some are hospitalized. In fact, some die, although nowhere near as many as older adults, which is where the myth of young adult immunity comes from.
So let’s say that most young adults are like ferrets, and I’m told they make excellent pets and can be quite affectionate. They’re intelligent, energetic, and shouldn’t be left in cages.
If I’ve driven that joke into the ground, we’ll move on.
How long will it be before the drug is available for humans? Well, they’ll probably want to test it in something furless before it gets to the market. I’ve read, and I’ve often written here, about all sorts of promising drugs. And that’s the last we hear about most of them. Or at least the last I hear of them. I don’t really know what you hear, do I?
I keep promising myself that I won’t write about any more early-stage drugs, but then I read about one that I can’t pass up and I break my promise. You should know better than to trust me with promises, so you have no one to blame but yourself.
This one, I think, is worth breaking a promise for. It not only stops Covid transmission, it also stops the progression of the disease. And works against the flu.
Let us all become ferrets, friends, and put an end to this plague.
The news about the Moderna vaccine is that it gives people (at least the 94% it works in) an immune response that lasts at least three months. That’s from a study run by NIAID, which is not a Greek goddess of springs, rivers, fountains, and lakes (you’ll need change the vowels a bit if you’re calling the goddess) but (more helpfully at this moment in history) the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases.
Immunity may last longer, but that’s as many pages as they’ve had time to read.
How has it been possible to develop the Covid vaccines so fast? Several factors came together.
Once the virus’s genome was decoded, it was shared immediately with the world’s scientific community. Chinese scientists published a draft of the genome of January 11. No one had to waste time repeating work that had already been done.
After that, the world’s bad luck was put to good use: With the hounds of hell nipping at their heels, governments were willing to pour immense amounts of money into research. That translated to equipment and researchers.
Next, it was easy for researchers to recruit participants for both the early and the later tests. That usually takes time, but people were motivated and anxious to sign up.
It usually takes a good long time before enough of the test subjects become infected to prove or disprove the vaccine’s effectiveness. But because Covid was so widespread, people got sick quickly. That comes to us compliments of the Department of Silver Linings.
On top of that, the pandemic hit just as scientists worked the kinks out of the mRNA vaccine process. I’m not going to try to explain that, but if you follow the link a few paragraphs back, someone who knows what they’re talking about will.
Finally, a good bit of research that had already been done gave Covid research a running start: into creating new flu vaccine; into SARS and MERS, both of which threatened to turn epidemic but didn’t; and into Zika.
Experts say no steps were missed in checking the safety and effectiveness of the Covid vaccines. I respect the well-honed skepticism that develops in a population that’s been lied to a lot, but I haven’t read any solid evidence that would lead me to wait when I’m offered a vaccine. I’m running around with one sleeve already rolled up.
The Serum Institute of India has asked for fast-track approval of the Oxford/Astra-Zeneca vaccine, which doesn’t need refrigeration and which–if it gets approval–it will sell in India for something in the neighborhood of $3 a dose.
India is the second hardest hit country in the world’s Covid disaster race. Or the third. I’ve seen it listed both ways. It probably depends on what you count and how.
A British trial will play around with mixing Covid vaccines to see if a mix creates a stronger immune response than two doses of a single vaccine. It’s due to start in January.
Less encouragingly (but entirely realistically), the World Health Organization warns that the introduction of vaccines doesn’t mean an end to the Covid crisis. The logistics and economics of getting the world’s population vaccinated are massive, especially since two of the early vaccines need super-cold storage.
And that doesn’t touch on the issue of how many people will be willing to accept vaccination or whether the vaccine will continue to circulated in spite of vaccinations.
In the meantime:
- Wear a mask
- Be careful
- Grow fur
A small study (40 people, with a control group of 58) from the University of Dayton shows that 51% of young adults who are diagnosed with mild to moderate Covid had complications (chest pain, breathing difficulty, headaches, exhaustion, brain fog, diarrhea, loss of smell or taste, etc.) for more than 28 days afterward, and 30% had complications for more than 50 days.
The lead researcher, Julie Walsh-Messinger, said, “The common belief in the U.S. is that COVID-19 is benign or short-lived in young adults. Our study, which we believe is the first to report on post-COVID syndrome in college students, almost exclusively between 18 and 21 years of age, suggests otherwise. More research needs to be done to confirm these findings, but until then, we urge the medical and scientific community to consider young adults vulnerable to post-COVID syndrome.”
For a brief description of what long Covid is like, this is a good place to start, although from what I’ve read it can get far worse.
Like ferrets, cars don’t contract Covid. Unlike ferrets, they’re inanimate. But they can spread it. They’re like schoolrooms, like bars, like supermarkets: They depend on breathing humans to help them with their work.
A study at Brown University shows that opening car windows reduces Covid transmission. This probably won’t surprise you, given what’s known about air, breath, wind, cars, and Covid. But scientists have this pesky habit of wanting to prove things instead of just asserting them. They’re the kind of people who want to know how cold it is and how long it’s been how cold before they drive the car out on the frozen lake. They’ll want to calculate the depth of the ice and find out if the lake has currents where the ice will be thinner. They can be absolute mood-killers, but if you’re driving across a frozen lake they’re the people you want to ride with.
Speaking just for myself (as if I had a choice), I appreciate them.
Asimanshu Das, co-lead author of the car window research, said, “Driving around with the windows up and the air conditioning or heat on is definitely the worst scenario, according to our computer simulations. The best scenario we found was having all four windows open, but even having one or two open was far better than having them all closed.”
But even with all the windows open and the roof sawed off, everybody should wear masks.
The article’s full of drawings and arrows. I’m not sure what they demonstrate, but they impressed the hell out of me.
Semi-relevantly, researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital are working on a vaccine for a wide range of influenza strains. Early-stage clinical trials indicate that it could give a long-lasting immunity, eliminating the need for yearly updates.
But it’s in the early stages. In the meantime, we’re all supposed to keep downloading our yearly flu shots. Or, in British, jabs.
And, completely irrelevantly, an experimental drug can reverse age-related memory loss within days. So far, unfortunately, that only applies to mice, but it may work its way up to ferrets and eventually to us.
It’s called ISRIB and it also works on traumatic injuries, noise-related hearing loss, and cognitive impairment in Down Syndrome. Yes, mice can have Down syndrome-like characteristics. I didn’t know either.
It also fights certain kinds of prostate cancer and enhances cognition in healthy animals.
And it makes coffee, but it’s pretty bad. I wouldn’t recommend drinking it.