The 5 Most Commonly Reported Covid-19 Symptoms


The official list of Covid-19 symptoms should be expanded as the existing one could “miss many Covid-19 cases”, experts have argued. The UK should follow other countries and include a broader range of symptoms, according to a group of scientists. Classic symptoms of Covid-19, listed on the NHS website, are a high temperature, a new continuous cough and/or a loss or change to a person’s sense of smell or taste.

But the most commonly reported symptoms by people taking part in the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Covid-19 Infection Survey are cough, headache and fatigue. The latest ONS release shows 61% of people who tested positive reported symptoms. Of these, 42% had a cough, 39% reported headache and 38% reported fatigue, according to the ONS.

Muscle ache was reported by a quarter of people and 32% reported having a sore throat. Meanwhile a third reported fever and 21% reported loss of smell and 15% reported loss of taste. A separate study – the Zoe Covid Symptom study – recently reported that a headache, sore throat and runny nose are now the most commonly reported symptoms. These are most likely symptoms of the Delta variant.

Writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), Dr Alex Crozier and colleagues – including Professor Calum Semple who is a member of Sage – suggest that limiting testing to only people with fever, cough and a change in taste or smell could “miss or delay identification of many Covid cases”.

They suggest this could “hamper efforts to interrupt transmission” of the virus. The group argue that increasing the symptom list could improve Britain’s pandemic response by expanding the criteria for self-isolation and eligibility for symptomatic testing.

The “narrow” case definition “limits” the early detection of contagious people, which restricts the efforts of the Test and Trace programme, they say. Non-traditional symptoms “often manifest earlier”, they added. The US Centres for Disease Control lists 11 more symptoms than the UK, and the World Health Organisation includes nine more. The testing capabilities are now able to facilitate people with a broader spectrum of symptoms, they added.

They say testing people with a single non-specific symptom could overwhelm capacity in the UK, but “combinations of symptoms could be used to help identify more cases sooner without overwhelming testing capacity”. The authors continue: “The UK’s decision to adopt a narrow case definition was based on ease of communication, avoiding confusion with other infections and preserving testing capacity.

People who had mild symptoms at first can still have long-term problems, says the NHS. The signs of long Covid vary from person to person, but the NHS now lists the following common symptoms: extreme tiredness (fatigue), shortness of breath , chest pain or tightness , problems with memory and concentration (“brain fog”), difficulty sleeping (insomnia), heart palpitations, dizziness , pins and needles ,joint pain, depression and anxiety, tinnitus, earaches, feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite, a high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste and rashes.

This situation is now different — testing capacity is high. “Covid-19 is associated with a wide range of symptoms. Many patients do not experience the UK’s official case-defining symptoms, initially, or ever, and other symptoms often manifest earlier. Limiting the symptomatic testing to those with these official symptoms will miss or delay identification of many Covid-19 cases, hampering efforts to interrupt transmission.

“Expanding the clinical case definition of Covid−19, the criteria for self-isolation, and eligibility for symptomatic testing could improve the UK’s pandemic response. The Department of Health and Social Care has been approached for comment by PA Media. We will update this piece if there is a response.

The reason women might be more susceptible to long Covid might lie in differences in how our immune systems work – or that’s what scientists hypothesise, anyway. Research is needed to look into this. In a 2016 review on the differences in immune responses between males and females, professor Sabra Klein, of The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and professor Katie Flanagan, of Monash University, said females’ strong immune responses result in faster clearance of pathogens and greater vaccine efficacy compared to males. But it also contributes to females’ increased susceptibility to inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.


Source: The 5 Most Commonly Reported Covid-19 Symptoms | HuffPost UK Life



Patients with COVID-19 can present with neurological symptoms that can be broadly divided into central nervous system involvement, such as headache, dizziness, altered mental state, and disorientation, and peripheral nervous system involvement, such as anosmia and dysgeusia. Some patients experience cognitive dysfunction called “COVID fog“, or “COVID brain fog”, involving memory loss, inattention, poor concentration or disorientation. Other neurologic manifestations include seizures, strokes, encephalitis, and Guillain–Barré syndrome (which includes loss of motor functions).

Other neurological symptoms appear to be rare, but may affect half of patients who are hospitalized with severe COVID-19. Some reported symptoms include delirium, stroke, brain hemorrhage, memory loss, psychosis, peripheral nerve damage, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Neurological symptoms in many cases are correlated with damage to the brain’s blood supply or encephalitis, which can progress in some cases to acute disseminated encephalomyelitis. Strokes have been reported in younger people without conventional risk factors.

As of September 2020, it was unclear whether these symptoms were due to direct infection of brain cells, or of overstimulation of the immune system. A June 2020 systematic review reported a 6–16% prevalence of vertigo or dizziness, 7–15% for confusion, and 0–2% for ataxia.


5 Key Variables That Will Impact Our Return To “Normal”

An illustration of a needle and rode - The road back to normalcy

As vaccines roll out around the world, the question on everybody’s mind, is what does the journey back to “normal” look like? A new normal won’t return at the flip of a switch. We need to understand what’s happening, and we need trusted data to do that. So what should we be tracking? What metrics do we need to make effective, data-driven decisions? And, how do we know if we’re on the path to normalcy?

We recently spoke with Dr. Sam Scarpino, complex systems scientist, and assistant professor at the Network Science Institute at Northeastern University. With his help, we’ve identified five key variables that can help us measure our progress to a state resembling normalcy. In other words, when data will tell us when and how we can return to a simpler—if not quite normal—life.

1. Vaccine effectiveness

The first variable is, of course, the vaccines themselves. In our conversation, Scarpino shared two important variables regarding vaccine rollout:

  1. Transmission: The amount that vaccines reduce transmission
  2. Deployment: How quickly we can roll out vaccines across the country and internationally

Public and private healthcare organizations will need to track these data at a granular level.

Scarpino also emphasized the need for passive, always-on surveillance for COVID-19 and for genomic variants, like the B.1.1.7 variant in the United Kingdom. “Without these surveillance systems, we’re going to be continually caught off-guard by this disease and the “new normal” will feel a lot less normal,” said Scarpino.

2. Vaccine distribution

Next, we have to consider the huge task of distributing and administering the vaccines. This of course brings production and logistical challenges from mass shipping of perishable products, to scaling delivery to patients within myriad healthcare systems. And most critical of all, prioritizing what groups should be vaccinated first, and managing follow-up to ensure second doses are administered on schedule.

“At this stage, the biggest obstacle is delivery of the vaccines,” shared Scarpino. “Given the lack of a uniform national plan, states and localities are creating their own distribution and vaccination plans. Every state has a different approach, with varying levels of success. As a result, we’re already seeing dreadfully slow uptake. What this means is that we need more federal support for community health organizations administering the vaccine and public health agencies monitoring and coordinating our responses.”

There are also concerns around equal access to vaccinations.

Communities of color and Native American populations have experienced an increased burden of COVID-19, as a direct result of generations of systemic racism that have impacted health and access to healthcare. As a country, and internationally, we need to engage with individuals in these communities to ensure they have a voice and vote in how vaccines are prioritized.”

3. Vaccine acceptance and uptake

The third key variable is vaccine acceptance and uptake, which is difficult to predict. Vaccine acceptance is about building trust within local communities, especially where vaccine hesitancy is the norm. Uptake, on the other hand, is about vaccinations itself. Is it fast, easy, and accessible? The story of COVID-19 is fundamentally a local story, so what we really need are data insights at the postal code level.

“The first step is a critical and realistic assessment of our failures and successes, which requires data,” shared Scarpino. “If we don’t have detailed enough data around uptake, we can’t see which communities are close to herd-immunity and which are further away. We’ll be in the dark trying to respond to COVID-19 flare-ups.”

4. Testing speed and availability

It’s going to take time to roll out the vaccine. But with focus shifting to the vaccine itself, we can’t forget the importance of testing. We need to address questions like:

  • How available is on-demand testing?
  • What are the barriers that prevent people from being tested?
  • How long do the results take? Hours or days?

With this data, communities can identify hot spots and businesses gain insights they need to reopen, getting us one step closer to normalcy.

Scarpino emphasized that “high-rates of testing, paired with isolation, quarantine, and contact tracing can control COVID-19 even without a vaccine,” based on models and data from countries like Vietnam and Australia. “With the proper non-pharmaceutical interventions, we could potentially reach normalcy in months instead of years,” shared Scarpino.

5. Contact tracing

Finally, even with testing, vaccines, and wide scale public health measures, nothing beats good old fashioned contact tracing.

“Contact tracing—and its vital partner, case investigation to determine the source of infections—remains our best tool for fighting this disease,” shared Scarpino.

Closely monitoring where, when, and by whom one was exposed will help people understand if they are at risk, and take the right precautions, especially if they are asymptomatic. Contact tracing is foundational to the path to normalcy, by making sure that exposed individuals are aware, they can take actions to limit further transmission.

“We’ve seen myriad countries, like Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Mongolia, China, South Korea, Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia, to name only a few, control this disease with testing, tracing, and isolation,” said Scarpino.

The vaccine also requires multiple doses, so Scarpino noted that “we need effective, and accurate systems, for monitoring uptake and ensuring individuals receive all the necessary rounds of inoculation. If our contact tracing systems aren’t working, we can’t control the disease and we can’t ensure individuals are being vaccinated properly.”

Getting back to “normal” takes all of us

Over the next few months, these factors will drive how quickly or how well things will return to normal for citizens, communities, and the economy.

“What we’ve seen over the past year is that society’s deepest challenges—from racism and its lasting effects, to chronically underfunding public health, or access to affordable healthcare and housing—largely dictated the course of this pandemic,” shared Scarpino.

“We can build a brighter, safer, and more productive future. One that will help us return to normal faster and prevent this from happening again. But it’s going to take all of us, working together and it has to start now.”

For more information, check out the Tableau COVID-19 Data Hub, where you can explore dashboards, find actionable insights, and visualize your own analyses.

From connection through collaboration, Tableau is the most powerful, secure, and flexible end-to-end analytics platform for your data. Elevate people with the power of data. Designed for the individual, but scaled for the enterprise, Tableau is the only business intelligence platform that turns your data into insights that drive action

Source: 5 Key Variables That Will Impact Our Return To “Normal”



Nigerian Filmmaker, Teniola Olatoni Premieres “The New Normal” to Rave Reviews, AP, November 18, 2020

Ford Doubling Investment In Electric Cars And Trucks To $22 Billion

Ford released its fourth quarter 2020 financial results Thursday after the markets closed and posted a net loss for the quarter of $2.8 billion and $1.3 billion for the full year. None of that was surprising. However, Ford also announced a doubling of its investment in electrified vehicles to $22 billion through 2025 and an increase in its total investment in automated driving to $7 billion from $4 billion.

Ford began delivering the Mustang Mach-E, its first purpose-built electric vehicle, in late December and plans to ramp up deliveries beginning this month. Mach-Es for North America and Europe are being produced in Mexico, but the automaker recently announced it would add production for the Chinese market from its Changan assembly plant this spring.

So far, Ford has announced three new battery electric vehicles, the Mach-E, the e-Transit commercial van coming this fall and an electric F-150 due out in 2022.

“We are accelerating all our plans – breaking constraints, increasing battery capacity, improving costs and getting more electric vehicles into our product cycle plan,” Jim Farley, Ford CEO said.

PROMOTED Jumio BrandVoice | Paid Program 5 Ways To Keep AI Bias Out Of Online Identity Verification UNICEF USA BrandVoice | Paid Program U-Report: Using UNICEF’s Social Messaging Platform To Improve Lives Civic Nation BrandVoice | Paid Program Every Child Deserves To Be Seen, Safe, And Successful

As part of the expanded commitment, Ford says that electric vehicles will be fundamental to the premium Lincoln brand. Similar strategies are being followed by many other automakers including General Motors GM +0.5% GM +0.5% GM +0.5% GM +0.5% which is targeting 2030 to have all Cadillacs be electric.

Ford hasn’t revealed any other specific electric products yet, but as part of its latest contract with the Canadian UNIFOR union, it did commit to building electric vehicles at the Oakville, Ontario assembly plant. In addition to Oakville, Cuautitlán, Mexico is building the Mach-E, Dearborn, Mich will produce the F-150 and the Kansas City assembly plant will build the e-Transit. MORE FOR YOU

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In support of growing EV sales, Ford is also expanding the charging network available through the Fordpass app from 13,500 to 16,000. Ford EV owners can set up payment through the app and then automatically get billed at chargers that are part of the network when the vehicle is plugged in.

As part of the ongoing development of its automated vehicle program, the Argo AI fleet in Miami undertook a charitable goods pilot delivery program during the fourth quarter. Vehicles completed address-to-address autonomous deliveries of groceries and school supplies. Ford and Argo AI are now testing fourth-generation prototypes based on the Ford Escape Hybrid which feature the production intent hardware configuration prior to the planned commercial launch of services in 2022. Those services are expected to debut in Miami, Washington DC and Austin, Texas.

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Sam Abuelsamid

 Sam Abuelsamid

I’ve spent my adult life working in and around the automotive industry. After earning a mechanical engineering degree from GMI I spent the next 17 years working on electronic control systems that help cars stop, go and change direction before I drove away to write about what other engineers were creating. Since then I’ve been trying to educate my readers, viewers and listeners about how the latest automotive technology works, what it can do and perhaps more importantly, what it can’t do. Since 2014 I’ve been combining my communications and engineering knowledge as a principal analyst with Navigant Research covering alternative fuels, advanced driving technologies and connected vehicles. I also co-host the Wheel Bearings podcast at

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This College Professor Became An Overnight Billionaire Fighting Covid

Every time you’re infected by bacteria or a virus, your immune system works to create treatments to defeat it. Molecularly unique to each person, these tiny cells, or antibodies, either destroy these invaders or mark them for other killer cells to track down.

Carl Hansen, 46, is geeking out as he describes the process over Zoom. “We can make 100 trillion different antibodies,” he exclaims. “The immune system is spectacular beyond description.”

If that sounds more like a college professor than the CEO of a $13 billion (market cap) biotech company, there’s a reason: Hansen was one—until 2019, when he left to focus on Vancouver-based AbCellera Biologics, cofounded with fellow researchers from the University of British Columbia in 2012. “Universities are very good at testing new ideas and looking for which road might be effective,” he says.

The team’s academic bent has played out in an even more important way. Nearly all biotech startups develop a handful of treatment targets, then spend the next 8 to 12 years developing those drugs, hoping to bring at least one of them to market. It’s not a sure thing—fewer than 10% of new drugs make it all the way. But when they do, they tend to be blockbusters: Seven of the ten top-selling drugs in 2018 were antibody treatments, including AbbVie’s $19 billion (net revenue) immunosuppressive drug Humira and Merck’s cancer drug Keytruda, which generated $11.1 billion in 2019.

AbCellera takes a vastly different approach. Instead of trying to build a vertically integrated drug company, it is focused solely on the discovery process. That’s the portion of drug development that is earliest and most essential: It’s there that the most promising treatment prospects are selected, subjected to early laboratory tests and then moved through the pipeline.

But AbCellera, which raised $105 million from investors including Peter Thiel, the University of Minnesota and OrbiMed in May—at a valuation of $4.8 billion, according to PitchBook, just six months before going public—is not interested in seeing it through from beginning to end. Instead it offers what might be described as “drug discovery as a service.” It works with 90 outside businesses, including pharma giants Pfizer, Gilead and Novartis. Those companies ask the biotech to find antibodies that meet certain criteria. AbCellera then uses its proprietary technology to find prospects.

In its highest-profile success to date, AbCellera examined thousands of antibodies derived from the blood of people who had recovered from Covid-19 in order to identify the antibodies that did the best job fighting the virus. It then turned over the most promising antibodies to drug company Eli Lilly. Clinical trials of one of those antibodies, bamlanivimab, began in May—just 90 days after the partnership started. Tests found patients with mild or moderate cases had good results, and in November, the antibody received emergency-use authorization from the FDA.

The federal government has contracted to purchase 950,000 doses of the drug for $1.2 billion. Eli Lilly issued guidance in mid-December expecting up to $2 billion in revenue from Covid-19 therapeutics in 2021, the bulk of which will come from bamlanivimab; AbCellera, which booked $25 million through the end of September 2020, will earn estimated royalties of $270 million on those sales, according to Credit Suisse.

AbCellera is also looking to speed up the time it takes to develop its antibody therapies. The shorter time frame saves millions in development costs while enabling revenues to come in sooner than expected. “From a financial perspective, every year that you save is a huge opportunity cost for investors,” says Gal Munda, an analyst at Berenberg Capital Markets.

Hansen is now worth $3 billion, thanks to the company’s white-hot December IPO. Asked about his meteoric rise into the three-comma club, Hansen is low-key: “It feels just a little bit surreal.” He’s more articulate about the biotech’s success: “If this example of Covid shows one thing, to me, it’s the proof point of the business model and the technology.”Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website. Send me a secure tip

Alex Knapp

Alex Knapp

I’m a senior editor at Forbes covering healthcare, science, and cutting edge technology. 


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AbCellera Biologics CEO Carl Hansen joins ‘Closing Bell’ to discuss the company’s partnership with Eli Lilly in developing monoclonal antibody treatment and the company’s Covid-19 treatments. For access to live and exclusive video from CNBC subscribe to CNBC PRO:​ » Subscribe to CNBC TV:​ » Subscribe to CNBC:​ » Subscribe to CNBC Classic:​ Turn to CNBC TV for the latest stock market news and analysis. From market futures to live price updates CNBC is the leader in business news worldwide. The News with Shepard Smith is CNBC’s daily news podcast providing deep, non-partisan coverage and perspective on the day’s most important stories. Available to listen by 8:30pm ET / 5:30pm PT daily beginning September 30:…​ Connect with CNBC News Online Get the latest news:​ Follow CNBC on LinkedIn:​ Follow CNBC News on Facebook:​ Follow CNBC News on Twitter:​ Follow CNBC News on Instagram:

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Sewage Signals Covid-19 Outbreaks, A Project Led By The U.K. Government Says

Fragments of Covid-19 can be successfully detected in sewage, providing an early warning mechanism for disease outbreaks and a useful means of identifying large outbreaks of asymptomatic carriers, the British government said on Friday.

Key Facts

A government-led project, which was first launched in June, has now confirmed that fragments of Covid-19 genetic material can be detected in sewage. 

The government said it is sharing the information with NHS Test and Trace — England’s contact tracing system — and local authorities, who can prepare for an increase in cases and encourage greater care and more testing. 

The project is already a success, with sewer data identifying a spike in Covid-19 cases in one region despite there being relatively low numbers of people seeking tests.  

With this early success, the project has already been rolled out to cover around 22% of England’s population, with plans to expand in the future. 

Though fragments of Covid-19 can be detected in sewage, the WHO says the likelihood of contracting the disease through the sewer system is extremely low.

Key Background

There are now a number of studies documenting traces of Covid-19 in waste water, with early ones signalling the potential of this finding to track infections across a geographic area. The early successes of the English project highlight this potential, particularly in identifying otherwise hidden outbreaks. 


Crucial Quote

Environment Secretary George Eustice said the findings are a “significant step forward in giving us a clearer idea of infection rates… particularly in areas where there may be large numbers of people who aren’t showing any symptoms.”

Further Reading

Sewage can reveal COVID outbreaks, UK project finds (Reuters)

MIT Spinoff Raises $4.2 Million To Estimate Scope Of Coronavirus Cases By Analyzing Poop (Forbes)

Full coverage and live updates on the CoronavirusFollow me on Twitter. Send me a secure tip

Robert Hart

Robert Hart

I am a London-based reporter for Forbes covering breaking news. Previously, I have worked as a reporter for a specialist legal publication covering big data and as a freelance journalist and policy analyst covering science, tech and health. I have a master’s degree in Biological Natural Sciences and a master’s degree in the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge. Follow me on Twitter @theroberthart or email me at 



Data about the coronavirus found in sewage can warn of an outbreak up to seven days before clinical testing shows signs of a spike, say wastewater epidemiologists. That can give public health workers time to get ready – prepare hospitals, ramp up closures and take other measures. “You’re seeing it in sewage before people are really showing the symptoms, days and weeks before,” said Eileen White, director of wastewater for EBMUD, a utility that serves 685,000 households in San Francisco’s East Bay area. Since the pandemic began, the field of wastewater epidemiology, which tracked polio and Ebola viruses, has grown rapidly in response. An international alliance of more than 400 researchers is collaborating to share findings and methods, in an attempt to bring the most accurate information about the disease’s spread to leaders. ————————— LINK:…

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How to Make Smart Bets in Business

Business is full of bets, especially where investing is concerned. If you’re interested in rolling the dice by purchasing a business, making an angel investment in a startup or even allocating your hard-earned money for your first employee, it’s important to know what makes a smart bet and how to protect yourself from a worst-case scenario. It’s worth stating that even deciding to go into a business of your own is a form of a bet, and merits the same type of background due-diligence.

This may require testing or gaining new knowledge, but a thorough understanding is critical, especially with glaring statistics regarding the failure rate for startups at a whopping 50 percent, according to Small Biz Genius. With statistics like these, there’s no way to ensure success. However,  there are definitely ways to think through potential pitfalls in business models and feel more secure regarding where you invest your money and your time.

Related: Make Your Money Grow: How to get wealthy by Smart Investment

Verify demand through popularity

When it comes down to it, a sure bet in business is dependent upon how much customers want what it is that you’re selling. If you can do some market research and verify demand, you’re in good shape. Demand can come from the product’s value — such as its ability to solve a problem — or even from the person who’s selling the product, like a major celebrity who has established trust with millions of followers online. 

This is one of the reasons why big influencers and celebrities can land lucrative book deals. Publishers know that whatever they release will fly off the shelves. The demand from their fanbase is verifiable. Take comedian Amy Schumer, who landed a rumored $8-10 million book deal for 2016’s The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo.

Verify demand through testing

If a celebrity or big-time influencer isn’t included in the equation and you’re just trying to figure out how a product will sell, try a “market as if it were real” test approach. According to Ron Rule from the Entrepreneur’s Handbook, this is because “the only way to truly know if someone is going to fork over their hard-earned cash to buy your product is to get it in front of them.” Otherwise, market research is all mere guesswork. It gets you more clarity than you would otherwise have, but it doesn’t mean much until a target customer’s wallet is involved. 

Rather than going through the hassle and added investment of actually building out the product and then seeing if there’s a demand, Rule recommends creating a prototype of the product in Photoshop, setting up an ecommerce website and then leaving your payment processing in test mode so that it doesn’t actually charge a potential customer’s credit card for a fictional item. 

Then, begin to direct ads to the page to see if customers actually buy. “Personally I would spend around $10,000 on a proper marketing test, but you can start with a lot less if you aren’t comfortable going that high right away,” Rule elaborates in his book. “I do recommend spending at least $1,000 because you want to get enough clicks and conversions for the data to mean something — trust me, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper to lose $1,000 on a marketing test than it is to lose tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars producing a product nobody wants.” 

Sometimes, the best bets require a smaller upfront investment first for a big payout on the back end.

Engulf yourself into the industry

The more you know about what you’re investing in, the more educated your bets can be, which usually pays off on the back end. This piece of advice comes from sports gambler Zach Hirsch. At 18 years old, Hirsch is regarded as one of the top-performing sports analysts in sports gambling, with a 90 percent accuracy rate in his predictions (which is over 20 percent higher than the industry average). 

Hirsch’s best advice on making sound bets is to “engulf yourself in the industry.” For Hirsch, he takes this piece of advice within the type of sport he’s betting on, but the advice carries for business investments, as well. “Learn everything there is to know, engage with the experts, and do whatever it takes to further your understanding of the craft,” Hirsch recommends. This advice can be extended to getting to know the founder of the startup you’re investing in or just ensuring you know as much as you can about your new industry, so you can see clearly how a product or service will perform. Do your backup research, then research some more. Keep having important conversations.

Related: How to Invest Your Hard-Earned Money in the Right Project

Even with verified demand and a thorough understanding of your industry, there’s no guarantee that your investment is 100 percent safe, but you’ll at least have the perspective to see potential bumps in the road or glaring stop signs in your betting decisions. These insights may make all the difference.

By: Aimee Tariq / Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

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A New Test May Show Whether Your Immune System Can Neutralize The Coronavirus


Many of us are asking: Have I already been exposed to the coronavirus, and am I immune to further infection?

A fast, easy, and sensitive new antibody test detects the specific biomarkers of long-term immune protection against SARS-CoV-2 that can answer that question.

If Covid is here for the foreseeable future—and the waves of infections from Brazil to the US and India suggest it is—then we’re going to have to find ways to keep the economy safely going despite it.

One way is to try to understand how much of the population is immune to the virus, and how long that immunity lasts. This could help us understand both whether a vaccine might be effective in the long run, and also whether solutions such as immunity passports might be a viable option.

Unfortunately, not one test can currently give us any assurance of that. We know from related coronaviruses, such as those which cause the common cold, that immunity is often very short-lived, and people can be reinfected with the same virus.

Some studies also suggest that antibodies reduce to undetectable levels within just a few months of Covid infection, spurring the widely circulated perception in recent weeks that immunity to the disease is only temporary. The antibody tests currently being used miss this vital part of the picture.

GenScript, a leading life sciences company, has a new antibody test that could raise the standard for testing and give us clearer insights on how to fight the coronavirus. Today, in the prestigious scientific journal Nature, GenScript describes early results from the test, which targets specialized virus-thwarting antibodies known as neutralizing antibodies. The results suggest we can rethink our understanding of long term immunity to Covid, and offers hope for the effectiveness of a future vaccine.

Neutralizing a pathogen

When a virus infects our body, our immune system kicks into action to combat it in a number of ways. One part of that immune response involves antibodies, the tiny proteins which recognize a virus and stick to it. But not all antibodies are made equal.

“When you have a virus, you generate all these antibodies, but only a small fraction bind to the virus in a way that prevents it from infecting a cell,” GenScript’s Eric Wang explains. “Those are the neutralizing antibodies.”

Neutralizing antibodies make up less than 1% of the total antibodies measured by current commercial tests, and Wang says they’re being missed. That means we could be underestimating just how many people are already protected against reinfection with the virus.

Neutralizing antibodies are not sufficient in all cases. But based on the body’s response to other viruses, neutralizing antibodies are a good indicator of protective immunity in most patients who have recovered from a disease.

“All the antibody tests at the moment look at total antibodies, and these can reduce significantly just a few months after a patient recovers from Covid,” says Wang. “But as long as you have a small amount of neutralizing antibody, the patient may still be immune to the virus.”

Recent studies have indicated that total antibodies, including neutralizing antibodies, do indeed reduce in both asymptomatic and symptomatic Covid survivors. A UK team suggested last week that this seemingly transient immune response, which included a reduction in neutralizing antibodies, might well be linked to the severity of the initial illness.

However, a study led by Dr. Lin-fa Wang, Director of the Duke-NUS’ Emerging Infectious Diseases program, suggests that we might rethink what this means for long-term immunity to Covid.

The research shows GenScript’s novel, specific, and more sensitive antibody test could detect significant levels of neutralizing antibodies, even in patients who show low levels of antibodies overall. This effect was confirmed across patient cohorts in two different countries: Singapore and China.

Another promising finding was gleaned from the blood serum of patients previously infected with the SARS virus of 2003, which still had detectable neutralizing antibodies 17 years after recovery, indicating the potential for long-term protection against a similar virus.

Introducing the first SARS-CoV-2 Neutralization Test

According to GenScript, the cPass test, or SARS-CoV-2 Surrogate Virus Neutralization Test (sVNT), is safer, faster, easier, and more sensitive than traditional virus or cell-based tests with comparable specificity. It’s under review by FDA, but it already has CE-IVD clearance in Europe, and received provisional authorization for clinical use in Singapore.

David Martz, Vice President of new product development in GenScript’s Life Science Group, said, “this paper demonstrates that sVNT can detect neutralizing antibodies, better known as a biomarker of immunity, with 95-100% sensitivity and  99.93% specificity.  Additionally, this new method also provides the means for standardized testing.”

So how does it work?

“It uses a different principle,” says Wang. “We don’t detect the antibody itself, but instead we check the blood for anything which blocks the binding of the virus [spike protein] to the hACE2 receptor on human cells. It’s a functional assay that specifically looks for the neutralizing antibody.”

At the moment, the company can’t say for sure that this test—even if it detects neutralizing antibodies—guarantees immunity against reinfection with Covid. That still requires further research. However, the test could offer a vital step when trying to figure out our current levels of herd immunity, for example, or whether that’s even achievable without a vaccine. When a vaccine does come along, it can also help show whether it is effective.

“We need something to test whether the people who receive vaccinations generate neutralizing antibodies,” Wang explains. “And not just any antibody. It has to be the neutralizing antibody.”


It’s neutralizing antibodies that will offer long term protection against Covid, stopping the disease before it can take hold.

The plaguing mysteries of Covid

recent study from Spain published in the Lancet found that 5% of the population carried antibodies for Covid. The study was carried out using non-specific antibody tests, which is useful in measuring how much the virus had spread through the Spanish population. But no conclusions can be drawn on potential herd immunity among those already exposed.

“Imagine if scientists had access to the cPass test. Not only they would have been able to accurately determine the total level of neutralizing antibodies but also use this test to assess herd immunity,” added Martz. “We are very excited to see how this will shed new light on the current plaguing mysteries of Covid.”

Covid is still an enigma in many ways, and it is still unclear how long immunity to the virus will last. However, neutralizing antibodies are a pretty good indicator of  immunity, and improved antibody tests provide us with a far more detailed understanding of the effects the virus is having on the population as a whole, helping us in the continued fight against the pandemic.

Follow me on Twitter at @johncumbers and @synbiobeta. Subscribe to my weekly newsletters in synthetic biology. Thank you to Peter Bickerton for additional research and reporting in this article. I’m the founder of SynBioBeta, and some of the companies that I write about—including GenScript—are sponsors of the SynBioBeta conference and weekly digest. Here’s the full list of SynBioBeta sponsors

I am the founder and CEO of SynBioBeta, the leading community of innovators, investors, engineers, and thinkers who share a passion for using synthetic biology to build a better, more sustainable universe. I publish the weekly SynBioBeta newsletter, host the SynBioBeta Podcast, and wrote “What’s Your Biostrategy?”, the first book to anticipate how synthetic biology is going to disrupt virtually every industry in the world. I am an operating partner & investor at the hard tech investment fund DCVC and have been involved with multiple startups. I’m a former bioengineer at NASA and earned my PhD in Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry from Brown University. I’m originally from the UK.



Here’s How Scientists and Public-Health Experts Recommend the U.S. Gets Back to ‘Normal’

There is both promise and peril in being a pioneer, and the people of Hokkaido have learned both lessons well over the past few months. After infections of COVID-19 on the Japanese island exploded following its annual winter festival this year, officials in February declared a state of emergency to control the disease. Soon after, new daily cases plummeted, and Hokkaido’s quick action was heralded as a beacon for the rest of Japan to follow.

But it wasn’t just infections that dropped; over the next month, agriculture and tourism business also dried up, and Hokkaido’s governor decided to ease social restrictions. However, compliance with limits on social interaction after weeks of sequestering was harder this time around. Within a month, Hokkaido’s new COVID-19 infections jumped by 80%, and the governor had to reinstate lockdown policies.

There are similar stories from Singapore, Hong Kong and Germany, and all serve as sobering lessons for the decision-makers in the U.S. who are under increasing pressure to reopen the country to reactivate its stalled economy. The tension is built into the pandemic: while public-health metrics all point toward extended social isolation and a more gradual reopening of society, the decisions are made by politicians. Already, some state governors are allowing businesses such as nail salons, barbershops and gyms to reopen to prevent bankruptcies and economic ruin.

How to proceed? The U.S. urgently needs to restart, but no economy can function if an infectious disease like COVID-19 continues to sicken the workforce and keep customers to a trickle. More than a million Americans have had the disease, but it is not yet known whether recovering can provide lasting, or any, immunity. Which means much of the country’s nearly 330 million people remain at risk for infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the illness, in a too-sudden return to normal.

“Even in the hardest-hit places [in the U.S.], fewer than 1 in 10 people have been infected. So not only could COVID-19 come roaring back, but it could get five times or close to 10 times worse than it is now,” says Dr. Tom Frieden, president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives and former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “The only way forward is to suppress cases and clusters of cases rapidly.”

Under President Trump’s guidelines for Opening Up America Again, states would move through three phases of gradually loosening social restrictions. The threshold for entering each stage toward normality is declines in the number of new COVID-19 cases in the previous 14 days. Gyms, movie theaters and sports stadiums would be the first to reopen, although people would have to remain 6 ft. from one another and avoid intimate gatherings of more than 10.

Next, schools and bars could reopen with limitations, and finally, if cases continued to decline, most people could return to work. Health experts warn, however, that the return to normality can’t be only a straight progression–if cases start to inch upward, then social distancing and shelter-in-place directives will have to be renewed.

The only way to calibrate those decisions is to know where the new infections are. When it comes to conquering an infectious disease, the adage “know your enemy” is remarkably apt. Or, even more important, know where your enemy is. Tracking an invisible virus is the key to controlling it, and the quickest and most reliable strategy for that is to build a robust system to test anyone who might be infected.

For the U.S. to reopen its economy, “We’re going to have to find those people who are infected, and not just wait for them to come to us,” says Barry Bloom, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “The bottom line is, it’s testing, testing, testing–so we know where the epidemic is before we can relax any stringencies in a stepwise fashion.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, tells TIME, “We must have in place the capability that when we do start to see cases come back–and I’ll guarantee you that they will–to identify by testing, [and then] isolate and contact-trace to get people out of circulation who are infected.”

It may take tens of millions of tests per week to do that, and the problem is the U.S.’s testing capacity may not be ready yet. “There is absolutely no way on earth, on this planet or any other planet, that we can do 20 million tests a day, or even 5 million tests a day,” says Admiral Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health who is overseeing the government’s testing response.


Widespread testing can yank away the curtain that hides SARS-CoV-2, revealing where there are clusters of people who are infected by the virus but not showing symptoms, and thus aren’t aware they might be spreading it to others. That, in turn, will lead to more targeted efforts to isolate anyone who is infectious. And, if all the people who came in contact with an infected person were also tested, it would help local health authorities trace how the virus is moving through a community. It’s basic, boots-on-the-ground disease control.

The U.S., however, stumbled on testing in the early days of the pandemic, and those failures led to a dramatic surge in cases that climbed more quickly than in other countries. Thanks to a combination of contamination issues that delayed the original test from the CDC, and regulatory requirements that prevented commercial and academic labs from immediately developing their own assays, “It’s still the case that testing isn’t nearly as readily available as it needs to be,” says Frieden. As of this writing, just over 1 million tests for COVID-19 are performed in the U.S. each week, which is woefully inadequate, Fauci says.

Public-health experts estimate that the current U.S. testing rate has to triple simply to include all the people who are considered highest priority for testing, including health care workers and nursing-home residents. To fold in all of those who should be tested if gyms and restaurants reopen, the number of daily tests has to increase by tens of millions.

Ideally, anyone with symptoms like a cough, fever or shortness of breath should be tested, as should anyone who is sick and living in a group facility like a dormitory, along with any patient admitted to a hospital for any reason. Family members and others with close contact to someone who tests positive should also be tested.

Boosting testing volume is about not just manufacturing more tests but also ensuring that they’re relatively easy to take. So at-home testing kits that are just becoming available–which still require a doctor’s prescription but won’t require people to go to a doctor’s office or health facility to provide a sample–will become more critical as states gradually reopen.

Several companies are also offering COVID-19 tests, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), that don’t require doctors or patients to sample from deep in the back of the nose and throat, but instead swab the inside of the nostrils or provide a small amount of saliva, making it easier even for non–health professionals to provide samples.

While testing capacity in the U.S. is gaining ground, the road ahead remains long. The health system has never had to manage testing at the scale needed to control this pandemic, and doing so may require equally unprecedented solutions. Anticipating that the gap between testing need and testing capacity will only yawn wider as states reopen, the Rockefeller Foundation, for example, has proposed a coordinated regional command system for testing that would track and redirect supplies to where they are needed.

The foundation’s action plan, backed by a $15 million initial investment, also calls for engaging hundreds, even thousands, of smaller labs that currently don’t perform tests for the public. So far, leaders from California and five U.S. cities are working to implement the plan and increase access to testing. (The foundation sponsored a recent TIME 100 Talk.)


Once testing at scale is in place, local trends should dictate when and how a particular region might begin to emerge from self-isolation. Loosening of social-distancing policies won’t happen universally across the nation, since the burden of disease is vastly different from New York to Nevada. Each region–whether defined as a community, a state or a group of states–will have to make customized decisions about releasing its residents in phases based on its specific disease trajectory as well as its population density, among other factors.

There are, however, some universal benchmarks. Bloom and others believe new daily cases, identified by wide-scale testing, would have to fall consistently in a given region for at least two weeks before leaders can start discussing reopening businesses and schools. At that point, health experts would investigate where the new cases are. If they’re confined to local and sporadic clusters, that’s a sign that the virus’s circle of transmission is limited and potentially shrinking.

Such scenarios would mean not that the virus is necessarily going away, but that the local health system is in a decent position to manage the load of people who get infected. “We are not just staying home in the magical belief that the virus is going to go away,” says Frieden. “We are staying home so we can strengthen the health care and public-health systems.” The idea isn’t to eradicate coronavirus completely–at least not yet–but to bring its spread to manageable levels.

As flare-ups occur, they can be doused with another critical contagion-fighting public-health technique: contact tracing. It doesn’t help to know who is infected if you’re not also investigating who else that person might have infected. In a study conducted in Shenzhen, China, researchers found that tracing contacts of people who tested positive helped reduce the time it took to isolate those who were infectious by nearly half.

Few riders are seen on the U-Bahn in Berlin in March 2020

Few riders are seen on the U-Bahn in Berlin in March 2020
Anja Lehmann—VISUM/Redux

This is the foundation of infectious-disease containment, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Google and Apple are collaborating on a digital solution to contact-trace at scale using smartphone and search data, but concerns about privacy remain. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has formed a partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the nonprofit Vital Strategies to build a first-of-its-kind training program to teach and certify contact tracers.

The program will rely on call centers, digital technology and historical best practices to identify the contacts of people who are infected, track their whereabouts and the contacts of those contacts–and then educate those who need to self-isolate about how best to do that to protect the public’s health.


Testing, isolation and contact tracing, however, are all essentially a backup plan for fighting an infectious virus like SARS-CoV-2. The only way to ensure that the virus won’t burn through a global population again is to build a better defense. And the most impenetrable fortress against a virus is immunity, gained–at the individual level–either by becoming infected and recovering or by getting vaccinated. “It doesn’t matter how much virus is out there, if people aren’t susceptible to getting it, then the virus will go away,” says Lisa Lee, associate vice president for research and innovation at Virginia Tech. Smallpox, for example, was eradicated thanks to immunization.

The goal is herd immunity: when nearly every person around the world develops these protections, the “herd” is able to protect the few, such as newborns, who aren’t protected or cannot be vaccinated. At this point, it is unclear if the human body naturally develops any after recovering from COVID-19. So as researchers work to figure that out, they are also racing to develop a vaccine. But although there are a variety of vaccine candidates in development and testing, it will likely take at least 12 months before the first people can be inoculated against SARS-CoV-2.

Without widespread immunity, public-health officials can only keep a close watch on new cases as they pop up, and suppress them so they don’t morph into widespread outbreaks. Which means that until the population at large is protected, some amount of social distancing will become a routine part of our lives.

Even if a region shows all the right numbers–declining curves of new COVID-19 cases, fewer deaths and more hospital discharges than admissions–that doesn’t mean restaurants, sports arenas, shopping centers and workplaces should go back to the status quo. “Locking down isn’t just to lock down,” says Fauci. “It’s to give you time so that when you open up again, you can come out swinging … when the virus rears its head, you have the capability to identify, isolate and contact-trace and snuff it down before [cases turn into] outbreaks.”


Especially in hard-hit, densely populated areas like New York City, at minimum, everyone might need to wear face masks in public to prevent the spread of virus-containing respiratory particles; public-transit riders may not be sitting shoulder to shoulder; diners at restaurants might need to be seated 6 ft. apart; and we might significantly cut back on physical contact. “This may turn out to be the death of the handshake,” says Dr. Hilary Babcock, an infectious-disease specialist at Washington University School of Medicine.

Accepting these changes to daily life is accepting the reality that emerging from this pandemic won’t be like flipping a switch. “This is a public-health emergency, and only public health is going to get us out of this,” says Frieden. “The economy, and society, depend on public health getting this right.” And that means not just testing and identifying people who are infected, along with their contacts, but rethinking how self-isolation fits into broader policy decisions. The massive quarantine of these past few months was unprecedented, but more limited isolation, on a case-by-case or family-by-family basis, may become the norm for at least a while.

And public-health officials may have to work with local community leaders to accommodate more formal, structured ways to self-isolate in order to effectively balance the public good of such measures with the rights and dignity of individuals. For example, Frieden says, “we should be offering voluntary isolation for every person infected,” in the form of designated hotels or living quarters to support people who cannot stay in their current homes without putting others at risk.

These, of course, won’t be the only new ubiquities in a post-COVID-19 world. Microbial threats like coronaviruses will inevitably move from the bottom to the top of public-health priority lists, and the dangers of infectious diseases will loom larger in our collective conscious. They will have to, if we have any hope of avoiding further drastic lockdowns and forever changing the way we interact with each other.

By Alice Park April 30, 2020 6:15 AM EDT

Source: Here’s How Scientists and Public-Health Experts Recommend the U.S. Gets Back to ‘Normal’

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From the US to Europe and Asia, many countries are looking to ease COVID-19 lockdowns and restart their economies. However, there have been warnings of a second wave of infections. Dr Ramanan Laxminarayan from The Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy shared his thoughts on the challenges of lifting restrictions and the various types of COVID-19 tests. Subscribe to our channel here: Subscribe to our news service on Telegram: Follow us: CNA: CNA Lifestyle: Facebook: Instagram:… Twitter:
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