Science — the kind that requires evidence and reason.
Pandemics and Epidemiology
October 2, 2020 at 6:47 pm #33418
I wanted to start this topic a couple months ago, but am finally motivated after hearing today’s possibly wonderful news that Trump has tested positive. If anyone “deserves” to be infected with it, it is He and His Loyal, Denialist Minions. 🙂
I feel, as I’ll bet Bill Gates would who’s publicly predicted pandemics for at least a decade now, that Covid-19 is just a practice run for the future. (I’ll still focus on Covid-19 as a case illustration of our probable future.)October 2, 2020 at 8:11 pm #33421
IMO we (and perhaps the world) has been suffering more than necessary because of 1) unpreparedness and 2) the continuing deficiency of prioritization of more massive testing regimes. Vaccinations and Trump’s actions/inactions make headlines, while our FDA and media lag behind on promotion and deployment of rapid tests.
The precision of PCR tests (which detect presence of a virus or remnants of it in patients) is overrated, especially when test results take such a long time to come back from overwhelmed laboratories. These tests are very expensive, $100 each or more, and results often aren’t timely enough to produce actionable data. An underrated potential of these sensitive tests is in using them to test pools or cohorts of the population instead of individuals. Laboratories could be less overwhelmed when several individuals at once can be tested with just one test; the actionable data on any positive result would then prompt individual retesting of pool members.
Meanwhile, less expensive and less precise tests remain imo severely underrated, especially when we’re trying to open schools and need rapid tests results every day. Such tests discover the immunological effects of viral infection, like the presence of antigens or antibodies. There’s an excellent explanation of how this kind of testing could work, originally pushed principally by Dr. Michael Mina of Harvard School of Health & Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics.
I highly recommend the following sources to learn about this kind of rapid test (as opposed to the similar Abbott tests pushed by POTUS):
- Podcast This Week in Virology, episode #640 (or just use the player, below) from mid-July. (Over two months ago!) The episode is probably longer and more technical than most people would like to listen too, but Dr. Mina’s 33 minute contribution starts [i might have to correct these times soon] at 6:31 into the 1:45:41 podcast. (I consider this a historic moment in epidemiological science.)
- Visit RapidTests.org, only a few short pages of succinct explanation. The “infectivity” graphic below came from there.
The following graph illustrates why Mina’s proposed kind of rapid test should be deployed everywhere, as an emergency measure (my words). Summarizing, the usefulness of antigen tests concerns how they can cheaply and quickly measure infectivity of each person. Imagine a test that costs only $1/day, which can be given to every school kid in the morning, with positive or negative result available within 20 minutes at home before it’s time for the kid to go to school!
October 10, 2020 at 5:36 pm #33469November 8, 2020 at 1:22 am #34220
- This reply was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by PopeBeanie. Reason: had to fudge yet again to make covid infectability curve show up properly
Now that Biden says he’s going to get a national strategy going on beating Covid-19, including improved testing, I have more to contribute to this end. Canada recently approved an approach to rapid testing, and the following link goes straight to that topic lasting only 4-1/2 minutes, or longer if you’re interested in more detail. Btw I have trouble hearing words sometimes, especially in foreign accent, but youtube closed caption works pretty well in this video:
If you listened to the end… I have a beef with the last expert interviewed. She expressed reservations about rapid tests because 1) if someone tests positive with a test-at-home kit, health officials might not be informed about every infected person; 2) the possibility of devices not being perfectly accurate.
My beef is that, as most other health administrators traditionally do, she ignores the benefits of (e.g.) quick, daily test results that would be infinitely better than no timely test results at all. For months, this has been a example of perfect is the enemy of good. Even the Abbott test that USA has approved requires very expensive equipment and a specialist to operate, which some (e.g.) schools just can’t afford… so the Abbott testers are NOT getting to where they need to be, much less handy at home for quick daily tests! (Take a look at the graph above for review of how frequent, rapid, inexpensive tests can work so much better than expensive, laborious, late result “perfect” PCR tests.)
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And for anyone who’s skipped my previous posts on this, that’s OK! I’ll just point you to https://rapidtests.org which pretty much started this very slow-starting movement months ago. It’s still imo the most succinct, informative, and up to date source of info on the kind of rapid tests we really need.
November 8, 2020 at 2:38 am #34223
- This reply was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by PopeBeanie. Reason: added My beef paragraph
We’ll stay divided for a while, at least.
Just grabbed this screenshot from PBS of Biden vs Trump supporters, from an AP survey question “Is the virus somewhat under control or not at all under control“. (I verified they mistakenly left the word “at” out. See the whole poll here.)
Meanwhile Biden’s already said he’s set to pull together scientists, and formulate a national plan to beat Covid-19.
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