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Researchers share perspectives on coronavirus pandemic

April 08, 2020

As COVID-19 ravages the globe, researchers are working tirelessly to develop new diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics. The question on the minds of scientists in many diverse fields is how they can help. Now, some researchers are publishing their thoughts on this topic in the form of editorials, perspectives and viewpoints in various ACS journals.

In an editorial in Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, Christopher Nicholas compares the current situation to the influenza pandemic of 1918, which killed 30 million people. Now, the world is in a much better position to prevent deadly diseases, Nicholas says, in part because of widespread water chlorination and chlorine-based disinfectants. Yet, a remaining challenge is developing robust, quick sensors with very low detection limits for viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, J. Justin Gooding and Sue Min Liu write in an editorial in ACS Sensors. To determine the correct course of action for healthcare workers and patients, diagnostic results are needed within minutes or even seconds, they say. In a viewpoint in ACS Chemical Neuroscience, Abdul Mannan Baig and colleagues present evidence that SARS-CoV-2 could target the central nervous system, possibly contributing to the virus' ability to cause sickness and death. A subsequent letter to the editor by Karlo Tojan expanded on possible methods for neurological involvement and short- and long-term clinical implications. And in a perspective in ACS Nano, Xiaoyuan Chen and co-workers describe promising new strategies that use cell-membrane mimics as decoys to trap viruses and other pathogens.

Meanwhile, viewpoints in Environmental Science & Technology offer ideas for how environmental scientists can help. According to Krista Wigginton and Alexandria Boehm, scientists need to gain a better understanding of how environmental conditions, such as sunlight, heat and humidity, can inactivate viruses. More research also needs to be done to ensure that wastewater treatment facilities protect against SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses excreted in urine or feces. Sewage could also be monitored to detect outbreaks before clinical cases are identified, the researchers say. Along these lines, Kang Mao, Hua Zhang and Zhugen Yang propose that portable, paper-based devices could be used to detect SARS-CoV-2 in community wastewater at an early stage, so that interventions can be taken quickly. In another perspective, Guibin Jiang and colleagues argue that there is a great need for research on how environmental factors, such as airborne dust, pollution, and aerosols from contaminated sewage, affect the transmission of SARS-CoV-2.

Relevant viewpoints and editorials are available at the hyperlinks above.

The American Chemical Society (ACS) is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS' mission is to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people. The Society is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple research solutions, peer-reviewed journals, scientific conferences, eBooks and weekly news periodical Chemical & Engineering News. ACS journals are among the most cited, most trusted and most read within the scientific literature; however, ACS itself does not conduct chemical research. As a specialist in scientific information solutions (including SciFinder® and STN®), its CAS division powers global research, discovery and innovation. ACS' main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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