Hope for SARS-CoV-2 vaccine

There is hope for a vaccine. Serious hope. It will take probably 12 to 18 months until we have it. Maybe a little bit longer. But it looks like we will have it. Just continue your physical distancing, wear masks, be considerate to your fellow humans and it’ll be alright. We’ll bounce back and because we – the people – make up this extraordinary concept of economy, so shall it. After this pandemic will pass, hopefully we will not return to normal; instead, we will emerge a bit wiser, a bit more careful, a bit more compassionate. Meanwhile, throw some grateful words to your nearest scientist, whether or not they work on COIVD-19.

162 - vaccine - CopyREFERENCE: Callaway, E. (28 April 2020). The race for coronavirus vaccines: a graphical guide, Nature, 580: 576-577 (2020). doi: 10.1038/d41586-020-0121-y. FREE FULLTEXT PDF

By Neuronicus, 1 May 2020

How long does the Coronavirus last on surfaces?

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REFERENCE: Moriarty LF, Plucinski MM, Marston BJ, et al. (ePub: 23 March 2020). Public Health Responses to COVID-19 Outbreaks on Cruise Ships — Worldwide, February–March 2020. MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6912e3external icon. ARTICLE| FREE FULLTEXT PDF

By Neuronicus, 24 March 2020

Coronavirus killed by soap and UV

I was looking for what kills coronaviruses and I found this little gem in a paper by Walker & Ko (2007):

“MHV coronavirus was easily inactivated in PBS with 0.01% Tween but was relatively stable when suspended in MEM with 10% FBS”.

Tween is a relatively inexpensive standard molecular biology reagent for cell culture. Is otherwise known as POE (20) sorbitan monooleate, Polyethylene glycol sorbitan monooleate, Polyoxyethylenesorbitan monooleate, Polysorbate 80, Sigma says. It costs about $30 for 100 ml, but you could probably get it cheaper if bought in bulk, like I did a few months ago.

The paper in itself is on a different subject: comparing survival rate of the infectious agents after exposure to UV light. The one sentence about Tween was put in to emphasize differences between the infectious agents. The actual point of the paper is that while the bacteriophage MS2 and the respiratory adenovirus serotype 2 were not affected too much by UV, the murine hepatitis coronavirus was. Namely, after exposure to a dose of 599 microW s/cm2 of 254 nm UV, the coronavirus survival was only 12.2 % +/- 7.2, but to reduce the MS2 and adenovirus survival rate to around 32%, a much higher dose of UV of 2608 microW s/cm2 was needed (see Table).

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From Walker & Ko (2007).

The infectious agents were aerosolized. This is important because the “UV susceptibility is higher in viral aerosols than in viral liquid suspensions” (p. 5464).

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Of extreme importance: DO NOT SHINE UV ON SKIN! It will harm you more than it will harm the virus:

The only thing I’m a bit unclear is the duration of UV exposure. In the Methods it says: “16.2 s at 12.5 L/min airflow […] was considered the UV exposure time” (p. 5461), but elsewhere in the paper we find: “The duration of sample collection was 15 min, with the UV on  (UV dose = 2608 or 599 microWs/cm2) or off” (p. 5462). So weren’t the aerosols exposed for 15 minutes then? Or they passed away since there was an airflow in the experimental chamber and then they were only exposed for 16 sec? I dunno, it’s not my field.

Nor is cell culture my field, so I’m definitely not an expert though I have learned how to do it as a matter of principle because it keeps happening around me and in the papers I read. So perhaps the fact that Tween kills coronaviruses might be common knowledge for a good portion of the molecular biologists and immunologists, but maybe not for everybody. So here you go:

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P.S. As soon as I published, I have been thoroughly (and repeatedly!) informed that every scientist that works with viruses knows that Tween kills coronaviruses. Because… drum roll… Tween is a soap. Duh! And we know how soap kills viruses, by dissolving their protective cover. Oh well :). I’d rather be chided for repeating well-known facts than for spreading disinformation.

REFERENCE: Walker, C. M., & Ko, G. (1 Aug 2007). Effect of Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation on Viral Aerosols. Environmental Science & Technology, 41(15), 5460–5465. PMID: 17822117, DOI: 10.1021/es070056u ARTICLE

By Neuronicus, 3 March 2020

Polite versus compassionate

After reading these two words, my first thought was that you can have a whole range of people, some compassionate but not polite (ahem, here, I hope), polite but not compassionate (we all know somebody like that, usually a family member or coworker), or compassionate and polite (I wish I was one of those) or neither (some Twitter and Facebook comments and profiles come to mind…).

It turns out that it is not the case. As in: usually, people are either one or another. Of course there are exceptions, but the majority of people that seem to score high on one trait, they tend to score low on the other.

Hirsh et al. (2010) gave a few questionnaires to over 600 mostly White Canadians of varying ages. The questionnaires measured personality, morality, and political preferences.

After regression analyses followed by factor analyses, which are statistical tools fancier than your run-of-the-mill correlation, the authors found out that the polite people tend to be politically conservatives, affirming support for the Canadian or U.S. Republican Parties, whereas the compassionate people more readily identified as liberals, i.e. Democrats.

Previous research has shown that political conservatives value order and traditionalism, in-group loyalty, purity, are resistant to change, and that they readily accept inequality. In contrast, political liberals value fairness, equality, compassion, justice, and are open to change. The findings of this study go well with the previous research because compassion relies on the perception of other’s distress, for which we have a better term called empathy. “Politeness, by contrast, appears to reflect the components of Agreeableness that are more closely linked to norm compliance and traditionalism” (p. 656). So it makes sense that people who are Polite value norm compliance and traditionalism and as such they end up being conservatives whereas people who are Compassionate value empathy and equality more than conformity, so they end up being liberals. Importantly, empathy is a strong predictor for prosocial behavior (see Damon W. & Eisenberg N (Eds.) (2006). Prosocial development, in Handbook of Child Psychology: Social, Emotional, and Personality Development, New York, NY, Wiley Pub.).

I want to stress that this paper was published in 2010, so the research was probably conducted a year or two prior to publication date, just in case you were wondering.

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REFERENCE: Hirsh JB, DeYoung CG, Xu X, & Peterson JB. (May 2010, Epub 6 Apr 2010). Compassionate liberals and polite conservatives: associations of agreeableness with political ideology and moral values. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 36(5):655-64. doi: 10.1177/0146167210366854, PMID: 20371797, DOI: 10.1177/0146167210366854. ABSTRACT

By Neuronicus, 24 February 2020