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Young children carry high amounts of the virus; securing the opening of colleges will be a challenge

By Nancy Lapid

(Reuters) – The following is a brief overview of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Open https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/yxmvjqywprz/index.html in an external browser for a Reuters graphic of vaccines and developmental treatments.

The youngest child carries the highest viral loads

While COVID-19 loading viruses have been shown to be similar in children and adults, a new study found that younger children – those in the age of five ̵

1; carry particularly large amounts of coronavirus in the nose and throat. Researchers in Chicago tested swab samples from 145 individuals aged one month to 65 years with mild to moderate COVID-19. Their analysis suggests that in younger children, the viral load in the upper respiratory tract is 10-fold to 100-fold greater than in adults. Virus load test results do not distinguish between infectious virus particles and non-infectious genetic material from the virus, so it is unclear whether younger children are more likely to spread the virus. However, researchers said Thursday at JAMA Pediatrics, studies suggest that in children, levels of non-infectious genetic material may be linked to levels of active virus, and thus these adolescents will “be an important driver of SARS-CoV-2 spread to the general population.” (https://reut.rs/3gkLsam; https://bit.ly/2PcRttE)

It is possible to have a safe college opening but it will be difficult

If among the 5,000 residential college students there are 10 with undiagnosed coronavirus infection, all 5,000 need to be tested for the virus every two days to control the spread of COVID-19 on campus in one reasonable costs, the researchers said. Their computer models assume that students with a positive test or with COVID-19 symptoms will move to a secluded dormitory. “Having an adequate supply of testing equipment would be a challenge,” the researchers acknowledge. “On a campus with 5,000 enrollees, screening students every two days will require more than 195,000 test kits” in a shortened semester, they estimated. The opening of college campuses poses risks to students, teachers, administrative staff and facilities, and the surrounding community, researchers said in a report on Friday at the JAMA Network Open . “We believe there is a safe way for students to return to college in the fall of 2020,” they said. In this study, screening every two days with a quick, inexpensive, and even less sensitive diagnosis, along with rigorous intervention can yield a moderate number of infectious infections and be effective, the researchers added. But logically, financially, and morally, it “may not be accessible to many university administrators,” they concluded. (https://bit.ly/3jXBzS3)

Antibody drug, J&J vaccine candidate can claim

A small study of an antibody drug in patient care patients in Cuba and one of a Johnson & Johnson vaccine experiment with primates each was added to hope that additional effective treatments for COVID-19 is on the horizon. The antibody drug, itolizumab, given in combination with standard therapy, helped reduce inflammation and lowered the risk of intensive care admission and death in 19 sick home care residents. All have chronic conditions such as hypertension, dementia, heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, increasing their risk for severe COVID-19. When the researchers compared similar elderly COVID-19 patients who did not receive itolizumab, they estimated that treating three such patients with medication could prevent an intensive care unit (ICU) admission and a death. The study, which did not directly compare itolizumab with a placebo or other treatments, has not been evaluated by a peer. Meanwhile, J&J, launched US human safety tests for COVID-19 vaccine candidate after data released Thursday in Nature showed that monkeys being vaccinated are strongly protected by a single dose . The drugmaker said it started with the first human trials about the vaccine in the United States and Belgium and will test it on more than 1,000 healthy adults aged 18 to 55, as well as adults aged 65 older and older. (https://reut.rs/2XgPuZD; https://reut.rs/319SWX6; https://go.nature.com/2Xez04o; https://bit.ly/2DkbOus)

(Reporting by Nancy Lapid, Vishwadha Chander and Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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