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Ethiopia: COVID-19 and Scientific Endeavors

— April 23, 2020 add comment

As COVID-19 continues to threaten the world in many aspects, scientists have also continued their relentless effort to come up with solutions to halt the pandemic. While human’s understanding of the coronavirus has significantly improved since the first case, lasting solutions remains in a state of uncertainty.

On 31 December 2019, WHO was informed of a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. The COVID-19 was identified as the causative virus by Chinese authorities on 7 January. Since then various studies have been undertaken by experts to come up with a solutions.

On the other hand, The Guardian reported yesterday that “our knowledge about the Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is also remarkable. This was an organism unknown to science five months ago. Today, it is the subject of study on an unprecedented scale. Vaccines projects proliferate, antiviral drug trials have been launched and new diagnostic tests are appearing.”

The Sars-CoV-2 virus almost certainly originated in bats, which have evolved fierce immune responses to viruses, researchers have discovered. These defenses drive viruses to replicate faster so that they can get past bats’ immune defenses. In turn, that transforms the bat into a reservoir of rapidly reproducing and highly transmissible viruses. Then when these bat viruses move into other mammals, creatures that lack a fast-response immune system, the viruses quickly spread into their new hosts. Most evidence suggests that Sars-CoV-2 started infecting humans via an intermediary species.

“This virus probably jumped from a bat into another animal, and that other animal was probably near a human, maybe in a market,” says the virologist Prof Edward Holmes of Sydney University.

On 9 April, the journal Nature reported that 78 vaccine projects had been launched round the globe – with a further 37 in development. Among the projects that are under way is a vaccine program that is now in phase-one trials at Oxford University, two others at U.S. biotechnology corporations and three more at Chinese scientific groups. Many other vaccine developers say they plan to start human testing this year.

This remarkable response raises hopes that a COVID-19 vaccine could be developed in a fairly short time. However, vaccines require large-scale safety and efficacy studies. Thousands of people would receive either the vaccine itself or a placebo to determine if the former were effective at preventing infection from the virus which they would have encountered naturally. That, inevitably, is a lengthy process.

Dr. Fayisa Regassa, from Ethiopian Public Health Institute recently told Ethiopian Press Agency that still no scientific medicine or vaccine have been discovered to deal with COVID-19 and it is difficult to predict where the scientific researches lead.

So far, the only proven solutions to prevent the spread of the pandemic are maintaining good hygiene (washing hands regularly), social distancing and lockdown.

Though it is difficult, developing countries such as Ethiopia should particularly stick to preventive measures for the time being. “But the virus would only be put under control through a medicine or a vaccine discovery or if the people develop immunity.”

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