Since the discovery of the virus that causes COVID-19, the daily news cycle has become swamped with updates about how the pathogen spreads, what the bug does to the body and what solutions might finally bring an end to the pandemic.
But staying up-to-date on all the latest coronavirus news can be a challenge. To help keep you informed, we at Live Science have compiled a short list of standout news stories from the week — these are the ones that really caught our attention.
New saliva test
This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the use of an inexpensive saliva test for COVID-19 that can deliver results in less than three hours.
The test, called SalivaDirect, was developed by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health and offers several advantages over nasal swab tests. First, the saliva sample can be collected in any sterilized container, unlike nasal swab tests that require a special swab to be inserted deep inside the nose. Second, Yale expects that labs will offer the test for only $10 per saliva sample. And finally, Yale does not plan to commercialize the test and will instead release instructions for labs to conduct the test themselves, using only commercially available components.
Plasma therapy update
Federal officials announced that the FDA won't authorize the use of blood plasma to treat COVID-19 patients until more data about the treatment can be reviewed.
So-called convalescent plasma therapy uses the liquid portion of blood drawn from people who have recovered from COVID-19. While coronavirus patients can get the treatment in the context of a clinical trial, the FDA will not authorize plasma for wider use until more "gold standard" trials are completed. The trials must be randomized and controlled, meaning patients randomly receive either plasma or a standard treatment, as a point of comparison.
These trials are challenging to organize during a pandemic, due to the limited supply of eligible plasma and differences in COVID-19 prevalence in different regions.
COVID-19 pandemic could be deadlier than 1918 flu
A new study suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic could potentially become more deadly than the 1918 flu pandemic.
The 1918 flu pandemic is remembered as the deadliest pandemic in recent history, having claimed at least 50 million lives worldwide. To compare the 1918 outbreak with the current pandemic, researchers zeroed in on data from New York City.
They began by analyzing the deaths from all causes in New York City between October and November 1918, the peak of the flu pandemic, and compared those to all-cause deaths in the same months in years preceding the pandemic. They then calculated all-cause deaths during the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak, between March and May, and compared those to rates in recent years.
They found that all-cause mortality was 2.8 times higher during the 1918 flu than in the same months in preceding years, while all-cause mortality was 4.15 higher during the COVID-19 outbreak than it had been in recent years. That said, the authors note that the relative increase in deaths appears greater in 2020 because we started out at a lower baseline death rate. Overall, the all-cause mortality rate was higher during the fall of 1918 than the spring of 2020.
"All we know is that in this little slice of time that we looked at, there are certainly enough resemblances that it can't be just shrugged off," the lead researcher said.
Originally published on Live Science.