Plus: A faster cheaper test for COVID-19, and a the bacteria lurking in empty schools
(Nature, Ewen Callaway, Aug. 27, 2020)
For quite some time now, scientists have been exploring the possibility of using re-engineered mosquitoes to battle disease-bearing counterparts. But it’s only been recently that they have known just how effective this strategy could be. New data from a trial of a biological technology that aims to stop the spread of mosquito-borne diseases has the authors using terms such as “staggering” and “epochal”. The study, conducted in an Indonesia city, showed that releasing mosquitoes modified to carry a bacterium called Wolbachia, which stops the insects from transmitting some viruses, led to a steep drop in cases of dengue fever.
(Science, Robert F. Service, Aug. 27, 2020)
This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave an emergency use authorization to Abbott Laboratories for a 15-minute test that should ease bottlenecks. Analogous to tests that detect HIV and influenza, the new diagnostic detects viral proteins, or antigens, that are unique to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Unlike conventional coronavirus diagnostics, Abbott’s test requires no specialized laboratory equipment. Abbott says the new assay will cost $5, and the company intends to produce tens of millions of the tests in September and 50 million in October.
(New York Times, Max Horberry, Aug. 27, 2020)
The new coronavirus is not the only illness that teachers, students, parents and staff will have to worry about as some schools attempt to reopen this fall. Legionella could lurk in the water supplies of school buildings, and some measures to keep people in schools safe from coronavirus may even increase risks from deadly illnesses caused by the bacteria.
Compiled by Senior Scientific Writer Regina Kelder