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When it comes to beating COVID-19 sometime in the future, antibodies and a vaccine are the hope of scientist, as the pandemic virus races across the globe this spring, killing thousands.
The novel virus, first surfaced in China in December and over the course of a few months arrived in the U.S., surprising a population of unprepared governmental leaders and health care professionals — not enough face masks, gowns, and gloves; not enough hospital beds.
Oddly, while the virus has been killing high numbers of people middle aged and older with pneumonia, it has spared some children, teens and young adults, who became sick from the virus but were not overcome by it.
“I have been struck by how variable the clinical course can be from having no symptoms with the virus to having unusual symptoms…such as the COVID toes,” Dr. Scott Paparello said. COVID toes refers to a condition where a patient’s toes appear to have a red, frostbite-like color and no other symptoms. But the virus is relentless and not so generous with most. On May 3, there were 1,122,486 total cases in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 65,735 deaths.
Paparello, an internist at Acton Medical Associates and a consultant to Emerson Hospital, pointed to antibodies as a possible key to unlocking the mystery of COVID-19. Here he speaks with WestfordCAT News Director Joyce Pellino Crane.
Patients who want to know if they’re infected can have a nasopharyngeal swab test. The swab is the best way to diagnose an acute infection, he added, “because you’re actually finding the virus material itself.”
“It’s a swab that goes through the nose, but deeper to the back of the nose where the pharynx is –the back of the throat but up a little higher. That seems to be the best spot to detect the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid),” said Paparello.
The question with antibodies is are they protective and do they mean a patient is no longer infectious to someone else, noted the physician.
Vaccine results are just as uncertain.
“Viral vaccines can be fairly effective, such as the influenza vaccine,” Paparello said. “It’s not perfectly effective, but it does minimize and prevent the disease in many people.”
Going forward, he said, scientists will have to gauge the safety of a vaccine and whether it generates the necessary immune response.
“The bigger question is, are they protective against the actual infection,” Paparello said.
Paparello heads Infection Control at Emerson Hospital and has published more than 20 articles on the topic.
According to the Acton Medical Associates website, “Paparello lives in Groton with his wife and two children… An osteopathic physician, (he said) he embraces the holistic approach to maintaining health while incorporating the latest scientific advances in the care of patients.”
UPDATE: The head shot of Dr. Paparello was changed on May 5.