COVID19 update, March 30, 2020: the quest for a vaccine, high-throughput testing

He explains (again) the various ways that it’s a challenge to apples-to-apples the numbers we’ve got, and has some numbers out of Israel.

They’re doing testing-of-those-other-than-the-already-sick, too, and are also getting about 50% asymptomatic; I don’t know if they’re going off of “possible exposure” for their testing selections.

Spin, strangeness, and charm

(1) Mrs. Arbel forwarded a long article that peeks inside the frantic efforts to develop a vaccine. An archived copy is here. Basically, the first step, coming up with a candidate vaccine, has been drastically shortened thanks to modern advances in biotech, genomics, and proteomics. What still takes almost as much time as it used to is testing in healthy subjects:

(2) Mako N12 (Hebrew news site) has an article on a novel high-throughput testing assembly developed by two PIs at the Weizmann Institute in Israel, in collaboration with two academic hospitals, Tel HaShomer in Ramat-Gan (one of the five Tel-Aviv boroughs) and Assuta Ashdod. The system can process up to 384 samples at a time, for a maximum throughput of 20,000 tests per day. Aside from automation and “massive parallelization”, one innovation is that the samples are dropped immediately into a kind-of “fixation” solution, which renders them biologically…

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Author: Foxfier

Former sailor, current geek, conservative, mother and practicing Catholic. Refugee from the Seattle blob. (No, we DIDN'T vote for those taxes!) Elf is my husband, our kids are Princess, Duchess, Baron, Empress, Chief, and Contessa.

5 thoughts on “COVID19 update, March 30, 2020: the quest for a vaccine, high-throughput testing”

  1. I have to admit, I keep seeing the 50% asymptomatic number and remembering that TOFspot post. About how if you randomly test a 5% positive population with a test that has 95% sensitivity and specificity, half of your positive results are going to be wrong.

    That… probably shouldn’t be what’s going on here? I think they’re finding that result even with contact tracing, which should at least somewhat alter the probabilities. They are probably performing multiple tests per person, although… I don’t know how many or which direction they’re erring (if you get 1 of 4 tests back positive and 3 negative, what do you report?). I don’t know what the error rates are — I saw some papers where they were not as good as 5% wrong in either direction, but I hope there’s been some improvement.

      1. Good to know….

        On the one hand, erring on the side of “yes this counts” absolutely makes sense if you’re deciding whom to quarantine and whose contacts to trace. On the other hand, it seems to me that a fair amount of current policymaking and definitely a lot of the squawking at people to “act like you’re already infected” is predicated on the idea that asymptomatic transmission is a major issue, so figuring out if it’s actually going on would be nice.

  2. 50% asymptomatic + 95% mild cases would suggest the actual mortality rate from the Kung Flu is around the same as a typical flu: except in so far rare cases as you describe, where people with no symptoms are being preemptively tested, one would expect many times as many people with mild symptoms just riding it out w/out a doctor visit (especially outside Europe and America) than those who rush in with sniffles, and none of the asymptomatic, thus not becoming ‘cases’ meaning the denominator for the mortality formula is understated by a goodly factor. This also corresponds to reality, where the virus isn’t killing nearly as many people as the ghoulish want to imagine it will.

    1. The strange thing is how it overwhelmingly kills the elderly and/or already ill.

      Well, the other strange thing is how many people apparently have never heard of basic infection avoidance and can’t grasp the idea of taking responsibility for one’s own vulnerable members, but that’s more of an exasperation thing. (Our youngest was born with a collapsed lung, and anything that hits our house tends to get everyone– I do not have any sympathy for either the “that’s racist!” screechers back in early Feb, nor the “we must lock everyone in their houses to save grandma!” folks now.)

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