Coronavirus : The Race To Expand Antibody Testing, Public Health Investment

Benjamin Thompson, Noah Baker, and Amy Maxmen discuss the role of antibody tests in controlling the pandemic, and how public-health spending could curtail an economic crisis. Also on the show, the open hardware community’s efforts to produce medical equipment.

In this episode:

02:08 Betting on antibodies

Antibody tests could play a key role in understanding how the virus has spread through populations, and in ending lockdowns. We discuss concerns over their reliability, how they could be used, and the tantalising possibility of immunity.

News: The researchers taking a gamble with antibody tests for coronavirus

10:25 Economy vs public health, a false dichotomy

Jim Yong Kim, former president of the World Bank, argues that strong investment in public health is crucial to halt the ongoing pandemic and to prevent a global financial crisis. We discuss his work with US governors to massively increase contact tracing, and his thoughts on how researchers can help steer political thinking.

News Q&A: Why the World Bank ex-chief is on a mission to end coronavirus transmission

19:00 One good thing this week

Our hosts talk about staying positive, and pick a few things that have made them smile in the last 7 days, including a tiny addition to the team, a newspaper produced by children in lockdown, and a gardening update.

Six Feet of Separation, the newspaper staffed by kids

22:51 Open hardware

Researchers are stepping up efforts to design and produce ventilators and personal protective equipment for frontline medical staff. We hear how the open hardware movement is aiding these efforts, and the regulations that teams need to consider if their designs are to make it into use.

Technology Feature: Open science takes on the coronavirus pandemic

COMMENTARY

Coronavirus Testing and Tracking (1) are the two pillars of surveillance which will hopefully replace the “shotgun” method of universal distancing that America has tried so far. Quarantining only those who are contagious makes much more social and economic sense than quarantining everybody, and it seemed to work in South Korea (2) and Taiwan (3).

There are problems both with testing-accuracy and availability- and tracking, which is in tension with individuality and freedom.
Still we have no choice but to try, because people and businesses need to socialize and make some money.

Some epidemiologists predict that Covid 19 will smolder on, hopefully not overtaxing our health system, until “herd immunity” gets to 60-70 percent of the population.

As a highly susceptible octogenarian, I plan to keep my distance and become one of the minority protected by herd. And maybe an effective immunization or drug will come along.

—Dr. C.

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