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Scientists Plan Vaccine; Research Shows “6 Feet Apart” Not Enough

Researchers at Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter say they could be one step closer to developing a coronavirus vaccine.

Douglas Bingham, the Executive VP and Site Head for the Jupiter campus, the Scripps method is the safest, as it requires such a small amount of the virus to trigger an immune response.

“The less of the virus we use and still get a neutralizing response, the less possibility of a side effect of some kind,” he says.

In order to trigger an immune response that could fight COVID-19, researchers injected rats with proteins found on the coronavirus. That triggered an immune response and helped the rats develop neutralizing antibodies that could kill off the disease.

Scientists are hoping to accomplish the same outcome in other mammals, and eventually, in humans.

The process begins when the body recognizes a virus as a foreign object and “starts making lots of different kinds of antibodies to the virus,” according to Bingham.

“Those antibodies work with other types of cells in your body to eliminate the virus,” he adds.

Although a fully developed vaccine is still likely months away, Bingham says the research makes it possible within 18 months.

Meanwhile, an experiment conducted by Florida Atlantic University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science shows that “six feet apart” may not be enough for social distancing.

The study demonstrated how far particles from a cough, or sneeze travel, and for how long they may linger in the air.

Researchers simulated coughs in order to show what happens to smaller particles.

“We used a mixture of distilled water and glycerin to represent synthetic fog that made up the content of the cough-jet that was expelled from the mannequin’s nose and mouth during our experiment,” says Manhar Dhanak, professor and chair of FAU’s Department of Ocean and Mechanical Engineering.

Researchers found that the heavier the cough, the farther the smaller particles traveled.

“Preliminary results from our experiment reveal that significant concentrations of small particles from a turbulent jet such as from a heavy cough, sneeze can linger in still air for more than one minute. It only took the particles a couple of seconds to travel 3 feet; in about 12 seconds it reached 6 feet and in about 41 seconds it reached around 9 feet,” explains Siddhartha Verma, an assistant professor in FAU’s Department of Ocean and Mechanical Engineering.

The heaviest coughs showed particles traveling up to 12 feet.

Dhanak and Verma say more research needs to be done, and add that their experiment reiterates the importance of covering coughs and sneezes, as well as wearing a face mask in public settings.