Coronavirus science | Week in review: Chicken antibodies, hand sanitisers and an antidepressant

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READ | All options are being looked at to protect against Covid-19. Next: A nose full of chicken antibodies

Creativity, flexibility and plenty of teamwork are what's helping scientists all over the world to search for ways to protect against the new coronavirus.

While some vaccine candidates are showing promising results, the search for protection against Covid-19 carries on. A new trial taking place in Australia is currently testing whether nasal drops containing antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 made by chickens can provide protection to humans.

The researchers from Stanford University say that if the phase I study is successful, we may soon see people like those working in crowded spaces, passengers about to board aeroplanes, and families getting together applying protective nasal drops.

“There is a huge opportunity,” Daria Mochly-Rosen, the leader of the study, told Science Magazine.

Although other protective nasal sprays are currently being tested to see if they can fight the virus, the Stanford study is the first of its kind relying on antibodies harvested from the egg yolks of chickens immunised with the surface protein of the Covid-19 virus.

This study is incorporating unusually low-tech elements. It will assess the safety of the intranasal (through the nose) antibodies and how long they persist in the nose.

READ | Alcohol-free sanitiser can eliminate Covid-19 too, says new study

Alcohol-free hand sanitiser has been found to be as effective as alcohol-based ones on surfaces in fighting Covid-19, according to a new study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection.

The study was conducted by Brigham Young University, where researchers tested samples of Covid-19 with benzalkonium chloride, which is commonly used in alcohol-free hand sanitisers and other quaternary ammonium compounds that are found in regular household disinfectants.

The results showed that these disinfectants wipe out at least 99.9% of the virus within 15 seconds.

As part of Covid-19 prevention guidelines, the World Health Organization recommended that people use alcohol-based hand rub product containing between 60% and 80% alcohol.

The South African health ministry also recommends alcohol-based sanitisers as a preventative tool.

READ | Why an antidepressant could be used to treat Covid-19

A commonly used drug called fluvoxamine was recently tested as a treatment for Covid-19 in the United States. The 152 patients enrolled in the trial had been confirmed to have Covid-19 using a PCR test, and had seen symptoms appear within the past seven days.

Patients who already required Covid-19 hospitalisation, or who had an underlying lung condition, congestive heart failure or other immune conditions, were excluded.

The study looked only at those who at the time had a relatively mild form of the disease.

Among these patients, the study found that taking fluvoxamine reduced the incidence of developing a serious Covid-19 condition over a 15-day period. None of the 80 patients treated with fluvoxamine deteriorated, whereas six (8.3%) of the 72 patients given a placebo saw their condition get worse.

Their symptoms included shortness of breath, pneumonia and reduced blood oxygen.

READ | During Covid-19 lockdowns, our furry friends become lifesavers

If you’re living with a pet, you’ll know that our furry friends come with a ton of benefits, including companionship, love, and affection.

But there’s an even greater benefit they have been providing during the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. These months had a huge negative impact on our social lives, denying many of us the comfort of physical touch.

According to a new study by researchers from the University of South Australia, pets have literally become lifesavers in millions of homes, where, in the absence of human-to-human contact, they have stepped in to provide comfort via cuddles, pats and a constant physical presence.

The researchers, whose findings are published in the Journal of Behavioural Economics for Policy, believe governments need to acknowledge the significant role pets play, particularly considering the serious mental health implications lockdowns are having on millions of people worldwide because of limited social contact and, consequently, physical interaction.

"In a year when human contact has been so limited and people have been deprived of touch, the health impacts on our quality of life have been enormous," lead author Dr Janette Young said in a news release by the institution.

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