[COVID-19 Update]: Bio-Bubble For IPL Players; New Low-Cost Antibody Detection Platform; China’s Unique Vaccine Approach

IPL players are required to follow strict regulations in the tournament which will be held in UAE. IPL governing council has designed a bio-bubble protocol to minimize the risk of infection.

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2020 has been an uncertain year for everyone. COVID-19 has profoundly impacted everything from the economy to the world of sport. Mid-way into 2020, news channels were flooded with headlines of canceled events to maintain player and spectator safety. However, there was a ray of sunshine for the sports enthusiasts when the government permitted BCCI to conduct the Indian Premier League 2020 in the United Arab Emirates. Crucial precautionary measures are being imposed to ensure that the players and supporting staff remain healthy and safe during the tournament. 

Major Precautions

The tournament will be held between 19th September and 8th November. Before the commencement of the tournament, players and the supporting staff will be required to undergo four COVID-19 tests in the span of two weeks. 

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Commentators will also undergo tests, and they will have to maintain social distancing in the commentator box. Social distancing will have to be maintained even in the post-match awards ceremony. 

In addition, the dressing room will be mandatorily sanitised every hour. At a given time, no more than 15 players can be present in a single dressing room. The players will also have to install UAE’s COVID-19 tracking application, DXB. 

A media report also stated that each franchise would provide its own accommodation within the country. BCCI will co-ordinate with the UAE officials to organize the intra-UAE travel for matches. 

The IPL governing council has also decided on the protocols of bio-secure bubbles.

So what is a bio-bubble?

A bio-bubble protocol has been designed to isolate the cricket players so as to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. 

Per the protocol, players from the England-West Indies series will only be allowed to access the ground and their places of stay. Another mandate of the bio-bubble protocol states that players will not be allowed to visit family members, friends, or relatives during the entire tournament. Violation of this rule will have direct consequences, as seen in the case of England’s fast-bowler, Jofra Archer, who visited a friend during the test series. 

IPL

Players will be required to compulsorily self-quarantine once they reach the UAE. Therefore, the teams will fly to the country well in-advance for extended practice sessions. 

Renowned player and Royal Challenger Bangalore’s captain, Virat Kohli, in a virtual meeting on Monday, warned his colleagues to adhere to the bio-bubble protocol without any violations. Talking about the repercussions of a violation, Kohli stated:

We have followed what’s been told to us, and I would expect everyone to be on the same page in terms of securing the bubble at all times and making sure that nothing is compromised. Because I think one mistake by any one of us could literally spoil the whole tournament. And none of us want to do that.

However, the biggest aspect of the bio-secure environment will be the sight of empty stadiums instead of the usual visuals of thousands and thousands cheering for their favorite teams and players. A stunning six, an impeccable duck-out or a legendary century will be met with silence from the lifeless stadium. 

If the bio-bubble experiment works out as planned, it will turn out to be an effective approach in future tournaments of various sports. 

COVID-19 Antibody Detection Platform

Meanwhile, scientists have devised a quick, low-cost COVID-19 diagnostic and antibody testing platform, UCI, to conduct rigorous testing for the virus and its antibodies.

This is an attempt from the scientists from the University of California to conduct low-cost and accurate testing as many believe that something is just not right with the COVID-19 testing in America.

Antibody Testing Platform

The UCI system will probe the finger-prick blood of the person being tested to test the antibody responses to 14 respiratory virus including that of COVID-19. The results will be produced in a span of two-four hours.

The test results will be printed on a low-cost imaging platform. A 3D printed prototype, an off-the-shelf LED and a 5 mp camera will be used to identify many kinds of antibodies at the same time.

This technology is compact-enough to operate everywhere – at a cost of only $200 – and promises the same accuracy as the pricey imaging systems that cost around $10,000 to $100,000.

The system has already conducted 5,000 tests in Orange County and the ultimate goal is to test as many as 20,000 people everyday. Scientists from Uruguay, Russia and Thailand are working on developing the system for their own countries.

Perhaps this will be of great use for low and middle income countries as the system is cheap and easy-to-manufacture.

Niklas Hedde, a lead researcher of the project, stated:

We need to test millions of people a day, and we’re very far from that. This accurate testing platform enables public health officers to implement individualized mitigation strategies that are needed to safely reopen the country and economy.

The detailed report of the study has been published in the journal Lab on a Chip.

China’s Crude Approach in Developing Inoculation

About 160 vaccine candidates are in the race to beat the pandemic, of which 6 are already in the Phase 3 trials. All these candidates are based on different approaches and technologies like messenger RNA or genetically modified cold viruses. 

Among these, China’s leading vaccine candidate developed by Sinovac Biotech Ltd. relies on an inactive version of the virus to modulate the immune system response against the real virus. 

Notably, Sinovac’s vaccine approach is similar to the one developed by the 18th-century British scientist Edward Jenner, against smallpox. While being a relatively simpler approach, experts believe that the vaccine might work just fine, or even better than the other candidates. 

Researcher and vaccine specialist, Michael Kinch stated:

We’ve got to learn about the history and not forget what’s worked in the past. Don’t get fancy when simple will do it for you just as well.

Most of the other vaccines are designed based on the replication of the spike protein on the surface of the virus. However, a whole-virus approach paves the way for a wider choice of potential vulnerabilities. 

Sinovac began developing its vaccine earlier this year when China’s condition was dreadful. The company began evaluating its options from the various approaches that could be employed for this particular vaccine. 

Sinovac collected samples of the COVID-19 pathogen and allowed it to replicate into Vero cells – derived from the monkeys’ kidneys. The virus was then inactivated using formaldehyde-derived beta-propiolactone. After refining, the product was injected into mice, rats, and primates and humans in the later studies. 

Currently, Sinovac is awaiting data on the final-stage trials, including testing on 9,000 people in Brazil. Should the results be in the company’s favor, Sinovac will roll out 300 million doses every year while expanding production in other countries. 

Chinese regulators are speeding up regulatory approvals and allowing experimental immunizations in human trials. This is reflected in Sinovac’s speed of development of the vaccine. 

Sinovac is eager to prove that it can adhere to the standards of Western Pharmaceuticals. This is important to instill confidence in the Chinese citizens as well the other countries. 

The results from animal testing have been published in journal Science. However, it is important to note that a peer-reviewed journal publication has not been made with regard to the human trials. In response to this, Sinovac stated the results would soon be available publicly to make every test, every product, and every result transparent. 

First Official COVID-19 Reinfection Case

According to a report from New York Times, Hong Kong observed the first official COVID-19 reinfection case. A 33-year old techie was reinfected after being infected for the first time about four months ago. The Chinese man tested positive via an airport screening while he was returning to Hong Kong from Europe.

A recent study conducted by King’s College shows that antibodies developed in a recovered patient begin to decline after three months. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also stated that antibody-based immunity may begin to decline post three months of recovery. However, researchers from Honk Kong have stated that far more resarch will be required to draw staunch conclusions on COVID-19 immunity and reinfection.


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