Back on June 25, the Perpetual Notion Machine learned a little about the immune system – how it works, the organs and cells, that it can remember previous infections, and what triggers an immune response. Our guest was Matt Reynolds, an immunologist in pathobiological sciences at UW-Madison. Tonight, Matt is back to extend our conversation of the immune system to the coronavirus. One thing Matt tells PNM’er Dennis Shaffer is that COVID-19 may actually be multiple types of pathogens, which gives the immune system a hard time fighting it. As an example, some people who test positive don’t exhibit any symptoms at all, while others experience high fever and difficulty breathing. There have been treatments for those that are currently sick. But the ultimate remedy is a vaccine, or more likely, many different vaccines. Any vaccine has to go through rigorous testing and clinical trials. But any early vaccine for general distribution is better than nothing, even if it suppresses infection by only 50%, and it doesn’t cause side effects. And even if a vaccine is highly effective a year from now that eliminates the pandemic, the coronavirus, SARS CoV-2 will still be around. This may mean, like the general flu, we will need to get a vaccine every year.
There are over 300,000 research studies around the world looking for a COVID-19 vaccine. Some are in the clinical trial phase. If you would like to know about these clinical trials, the National Institutes of Health has a website to search. Go to ClinicalTrials.gov.