[COVID-19 Update]: Mask Filter to Kill Virus; New Symptom Tracker; Vaccine Update

Scientists have come up with a mask membrane that is capable of killing bacteria and viruses, potentially even SARS-CoV-2 virus. Researchers from Georgetown have developed a COVID-19 tracking tool to monitor those infected while ensuring privacy.

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The damage hurled by the COVID-19 pandemic is intensifying as the days go by. The latest reports show that Japan’s economy has dipped considerably. The country’s economy shrank by a record of 27.8% in April-June. Atleast 774K people across the world have succumbed to this pandemic. In India, the death toll crossed 50K at the time of writing. Amid these adverse situations, scientists are working day and night to develop groundbreaking solutions before the wait for the vaccine is finally over.

Mask Membrane That Has The Potential to Kill The Virus

Currently, disposable masks are considered as the best option to block the virus. However, these masks have their fair share of flaws. Disposable masks are a threat to the environment. Amid this, scientists are looking for more eco-friendly alternatives that are equally effective against the virus. Another disadvantage is the disposal of these masks. Some people tend to dispose of the masks on the streets or in open dustbins.  

Researchers of EPFL laboratory have designed a special mask filter made up of titanium oxide nanowires that is capable of killing bacteria and viruses, including the SARS-CoV-2 virus. 

The membrane material makes use of titanium dioxide’s photocatalytic properties. Photocatalytic disinfection is very popular when it comes to neutralizing pathogens. On exposure to the ultraviolet radiation, the fibers convert the moisture into oxidizing agents, which in turn has the ability to destroy the pathogens. 

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The study has been published in Advanced Functional Materials. It includes tests that showcase the special membrane’s ability to kill E.Coli, which is the reference bacteria in the research. The researchers are confident that the process will be equally effective against the COVID-19 virus. Although, it is essential to note that this has not been demonstrated experimentally. 

Endre Horváth, the lead author of the study, stated:

The membranes could also be used in air treatment applications such as ventilation and air conditioning systems as well as in personal protective equipment.

A startup called Swoxid is actively working to put the study into effect for real-world applications.  

COVID-19 Symptom Tracking Tool

One of the primary challenges in our fight against the virus is monitoring people that have contracted the virus. This has to be done while taking care of the privacy implications of the concerned. Keeping these things in mind, scientists from Georgetown, Washington, D.C., have devised a COVID-19 Symptom Tracker.

The tracker provides secure and active monitoring of the people who are quarantining or under house isolation. The report notes that this is done while maintaining the privacy of the user. 

The lead author of the study, Seble G. Kassaye, stated:

The lack of identifying data being collected in the system should reassure individual users and alleviate personal inhibitions that appear to be the Achille’s heel of other digital contact tracing apps that require identifying information.

The tracker assigns a unique identifier for each person who logs in his/her symptoms. One of the tracker functions includes reporting the things that people can act on, such as the symptoms that might require urgent medical care. The users will also be provided with information pertaining to the guidelines laid out by the government health agency – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

A detailed report of the tool and the pilot study has been published in the Journal of Medical Information Research (JMIR).

Vaccine Update: Indian Vaccine Expert Group to Hold Important Meeting 

The Government of India is closely monitoring the top vaccine candidates for the country – UK’s Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and America’s Moderna-NIAID vaccine. 

The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration is leading the vaccine strategy of the country. It is in discussions with the heads of the pharmaceutical companies involved in some of the top COVID-19 vaccine candidates. 

As per reports, one of the officials stated:

For now, we are looking at the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which is in co-production with Serum Institute of India for the Indian market, and the Moderna vaccine, which has also entered phase 3 trials.

India is also waiting to receive updates on the Russian vaccine – Sputnik V – which became the first COVID-19 vaccine in the world to be officially registered. 

A meeting is scheduled with the heads of pharmaceutical companies, including SII, Bharat Biotech, and Zydus Cadila. The meeting will be held on 17th August 2020 at 3:30 pm, where the experts will review the manufacturing methods and pricing of the vaccines.


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