From herpes and legionnaires’ disease in the 1970s, to AIDS, Ebola, the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and now Covid-19, contagious diseases continue to threaten and disrupt human populations. The COVID‑19 pandemic, also known as the coronavirus pandemic, is an ongoing global pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‑19), caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS‑CoV‑2). The outbreak was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020 and a pandemic on 11 March. As of 19 July 2020, more than 14.3 million cases of COVID‑19 have been reported in more than 188 countries and territories, resulting in more than 603,000 deaths; more than 8.07 million people have recovered.
Every country is now looking to develop new technological solutions to control the ongoing crisis as as prventing a resurgence. This include at-scale testing, sophisticated real-time surveillance, rigorous contact tracing, and rapid, targeted quarantine to isolate cases and contacts. This mix of tools is how Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan have rapidly contained COVID-19. An antibody test would be a powerful tool in this arsenal, since it would show which people are at risk and which aren’t.
It is also affecting military preparedness, Pentagon has taken steps to control the spread of the virus within the services, including stopping the movement of troops between installations worldwide and canceling training exercises and even delaying some basic training for recruits. Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the army to carry out drills designed to increase its readiness to fight the novel coronavirus if necessary, the Defence Ministry said. The Defence Ministry said in a statement that the drills, to be carried out from March 25-28, would include specialist medical units and nuclear, biological and chemical protection troops.
Coronavirus degrades military capability as being experienced by US Naval feet, of it’s 11 aircraft carriers the crew in three of the aircraft cariers are reported to have been affected. Military is also taking important part in its fight and control. It is also going to affect military in many other ways, as the massive aid being poured by different countries to fight this pandemic will drain many world economies and will certainly impact future military budgets and preparedness. Another effect that it will also shift to rethinking of threat assessment which will shift from space and cyber till now to more towards Biological threats. Therefore, the military budgets are expected to be more forcussed towards mitigating Biological threats. Militaries have laready actively looking for new urgent solutions developing solutions for covid and future pandemics. For example, Military needs to develop protective gear for itself to be able to fight pandemics.
The DRDO has produced a range of products, including multi-layered advanced masks and bodysuit to deal effectively with the outbreak of coronavirus, officials said. The Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) has been tracking the spread of COVID-19 since the world media started reporting its devastating impact in China’s Wuhan, they said.
The Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) has announced a few more products made by its scientists with indigenous technologies to combat coronavirus pandemic. The Centre for Fire Explosive & Environment Safety (CFEES), Delhi, developed two configurations of sanitising equipment which are spin-offs from technologies developed for fire suppression applications. First is a portable sanitisation equipment for spraying decontamination solution consisting of 1% Hypochlorite (HYPO) solution for sanitisation of suspected area. The backpack generates very fine mist and is capable of disinfecting an area up to 300 metres whereas the trolley mounted large area sanitisation equipment can spray the disinfectant liquid up to 3,000 metres.
Ahmednagar-based DRDO laboratory, VRDE, has designed full body disinfection chamber called as ‘Personnel Sanitisation Enclosure’ where a walk through enclosure is designed for personnel decontamination, one person at a time. This is a portable system equipped with sanitiser and soap dispenser. On entering the chamber, electrically operated pump creates a disinfectant mist of hypo sodium chlorite. The mist spray is calibrated for an operation of 25 seconds and stops automatically indicating completion of operation but the person has to keep eyes closed inside the chamber. Meanwhile, a DRDO lab in Hyderabad and another in Chandigarh have developed a lightweight face protection mask for healthcare professionals handling COVID-19 patients.
New Technology development
Google and Apple joined together for an ambitious emergency project, laying out a new protocol for tracking the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. It’s an urgent, complex project, with huge implications for privacy and public health. Apple and Google have built an automated contact-tracing system. It’s different from conventional contact-tracing, and probably most useful when combined with conventional methods. Most importantly, it can operate at a far greater scale than conventional contact tracing, which will be necessary given how far the outbreak has spread in most countries.
The White House has announced the launch of the Covid-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, a collaboration among various industry, government, and academic institutions which will aim to make their supercomputing resources available to the wider research community, in an effort to speed up the search for solutions to the evolving Covid-19 pandemic. Fighting COVID-19 will require extensive research in areas like bioinformatics, epidemiology, and molecular modeling to understand the threat we’re facing and form strategies to address it. This work demands a massive amount of computational capacity. The COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium helps aggregate computing capabilities from the world’s most powerful and advanced computers to help COVID-19 researchers execute complex computational research programs to help fight the virus.”
Lab-On-A-Chip COVID-19 Antibody Test Could Offer Rapid, Accurate Results
Rapid and accurate antibody tests could play an important role as governments, medical workers, scientists and private citizens alike continue to navigate the pandemic, the researchers say. Antibody tests can reveal who has already been exposed to the virus and developed immunity, at least temporarily, and can safely go back to work. If done in a widespread way, they could show the true scale of the pandemic and its death rate. And the U-M researchers say their particular approach could give doctors critical, near-real-time insights into how a patient is responding to treatment, or a vaccine once one is developed.
Small-scale antibody testing has been done in some countries. Research projects are underway in the U.S. and while kits are beginning to materialize on the market here, they’re not yet widely available. Antibody, or “serology” tests are different from the “PCR” tests being used to diagnose COVID-19. Rather than screen for the virus itself, serology tests detect antibodies—proteins the immune system manufactures to fight it.
University and industry labs around the U.S. are clambering to develop better antibody tests. The U-M approach is different in that it centers on a device, rather than the chemical mixtures, or reagents, to detect COVID-19 markers. “We are unique because we are a hardware company,” said Xudong (Sherman) Fan, U-M biomedical engineering professor and co-founder of Optofluidic Bioassay. “Anyone working on COVID-19 antibody tests can use their reagents in our device.”
COVID-19 antibody testing that’s portable, fast, cheap and highly precise—four attributes that are usually mutually exclusive—could be possible with a microfluidic device invented at the University of Michigan and developed by U-M startup Optofluidic Bioassay. A microfluidic device, or “lab on a chip,” shrinks multiple lab functions onto a single chip just millimeters or centimeters in size. The technology enables faster results with smaller sample sizes. The new system is believed to be the first microfluidic approach to a gold standard testing protocol known as “enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay,” or ELISA. The U-M researchers have previously published results showing that their device can work as well as the slower, larger, standard ELISA setup. They are currently validating it for use on COVID-19 antibodies.
The microfluidic ELISA is rapid, portable and low cost. “The estimated cost of testing is a few dollars per test of two to three different antibodies, making this a very viable option for use in hospitals, doctors’ offices, field clinics and potentially even pharmacies,” said Xiaotian Tan, a doctoral student in biomedical engineering who is working on COVID-19 antibody testing with Fan.
The majority of labs working on serology kits are making a particular type called “rapid diagnostic tests” that give a yes or no reading. These are quick, but they have drawbacks. False positives can be a problem. And because they don’t give a lot of information, they aren’t useful in monitoring the immune system’s response during treatment. Lab photo. mage credit: Optofluidic BioassayA handful of labs are making ELISA tests. These are typically quantitative and accurate, showing the concentration of antibodies. That makes them more reliable and less prone to false positives than the rapid diagnostic tests. But standard ELISA results take several hours, and the machines that provide them are the size of refrigerators. In addition, the sample needs to be sent to the test lab for analysis.
But microfluidic ELISA can give a quantitative and accurate result in just 15 minutes, with a finger-prick’s worth of blood. This combination of attributes, plus the fact that it’s portable, could make it a powerful tool. “Our approach offers the best of both worlds. We can achieve the quickness and simplicity of the rapid diagnostic test with the accuracy of the standard ELISA quantitative measure,” Fan said. “Because our device generates such sensitive and quantitative measurements, we believe its use goes beyond identifying recovered patients. Antibodies begin to show up a few days after infection, so we could use this approach to monitor patients’ immune response to infection,
US Army asks industry to develop handheld or smartphone test system to screen patients for the coronavirus
Officials of the Army Contracting Command in Natick, Mass., issued a sources-sought announcement in March 2020 for Development of Lateral Flow Immunoassays (LFI) for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Lateral flow immunoassays, otherwise known as an LFI, is a simple-to-use diagnostic device to confirm the presence or absence of viruses or other contaminants in humans or animals. The most commonly known type of an LFI test strip is the over-the-counter pregnancy test. LFIs require minimal training to operate, can be read visually, and can provide additional data when combined with reader technology like the AppDx — a smartphone app that works in any testing location to enable rapid diagnoses and decision making.
The US Navy wants to use wearable tech to fight spread of COVID-19
After struggling with outbreaks of COVID-19 on its deployed ships, the Navy is considering using wearable tech to help track the proximity of sailors to one another in an attempt to ensure social distancing and fight the spread of the virus. The service issued a request for information in July 2020 seeking commercially available proximity tracking technology based on wearables that continuously measure the distance between themselves and others nearby. Those devices will then be connected to a processing station that will upload their proximity data to “calculate the total time and at what distance two individuals with the wearables have been in close contact,” says the RFI.
“The proximity records will primarily be used to identify those individuals that were too close for too long to a person that has tested positive for COVID-19,” says the solicitation. “Secondarily, this data will be used to determine if social distancing policies put in place by the government employers are effective.” It’s unclear from the RFI where the Navy would use the wearables — on deployed ships, where the spread of the coronavirus has been most problematic, or at bases onshore — though the latter appears more likely. The devices “are only intended to be worn while at work,” the RFI says. “At some point or at multiple times during the day, the proximity records will be transferred to a station(s) that will store the records for all employees of a given organization where all of these records can be viewed and analyzed.”
Many of the Navy’s large vessels deployed before the worldwide outbreak hit its peak have been forced to stay at sea for record durations. The ships have been forbidden from docking at ports to prevent the potential spreading of the coronavirus onto aircraft carriers and cruisers. Likewise, onboard visitors are not allowed and there are strict rules in place for the delivery of supplies.
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