Scientific solidarity

While some countries – such as the United States – prepare to face more challenging days ahead, and others – such as Italy or France – are showing some faint positive signs, the fight against COVID-19 continues to be the primary concern of governments and citizens in 208 countries and territories, with well over 1 million confirmed cases and more than 60,000 deaths, according to data from the World Health Organization (here are the data updated by WHO on a daily basis, with a real-time update here on the Johns Hopkins University website). A terrible state of affairs which is being fought through large and small initiatives. Many of these, and perhaps less well known, are those in the scientific world, laboratories, medical teams, as well as in virological and epidemiological research.

To navigate your way in this world, normally far from the general public, and find out the latest news in research, it is worth looking at the work of Christian Hoffmann, a specialist at the Infektionsmedizinisches Centrum in Hamburg (ICH), and Bernd Sebastian Kamps, a German doctor who manages several web portals related to medical topics and who in 2006 launched the “Amedeo Textbook Award”, recognising authors who offer their medical research in free PDF format online. You can find out the latest publications on the coronavirus on the website, with an update not only for specialists but also for those who want to know what is currently happening in the field of research. Indeed, the two German doctors have also written a mini textbook, continuously updated and downloadable free of charge in PDF format (in English, Italian and Portuguese), which explains the history of the virus from its first appearance.

This handy 100-page volume – which the authors state “is not engaged in rendering medical and current historical advice or professional services. It is not a substitute for professional care” – repeats an exercise conducted 17 years ago during the SARS epidemic. The study, which Thomas Kamradt, President of the German Society of Immunology and a task force of scientific translators, collaborated on, is a sort of “textbook” divided into eight sections. The first is a brief history of the virus with a timeline that reconstructs its evolution from 12 December 2019 when studies began on patients with viral pneumonia in Wuhan. The second chapter focuses on epidemiology; the third on the immunology of SARS-CoV-2; the fourth on diagnosis; the fifth on clinical presentation; the sixth on treatment; the seventh on updates regarding severe COVID-19 (from recommendations to protocols to intake checklists); and the eighth on comorbidities. A fantastic example of scientific education, including for different levels of knowledge (from specialists to students to ordinary citizens), but also of human solidarity.

And it is not the only example. Focusing on Italy, there has been collaboration between Tuscany and China: from 25 to 30 March, a Chinese delegation of 14 doctors, nurses and healthcare experts from the Fujian Provincial Health Commission visited Tuscany, conducting training through a series of video conferences for healthcare staff in the region involved in the management of the COVID-19 emergency. If the virus is global, then so too can human, technical and scientific solidarity exist without borders.