Digital technologies and synthetic biology are supporting the response to Covid-19 worldwide1. All countries are required by international health regulations to have core capacity to ensure national preparedness for infectious hazards that have the potential to spread internationally2. To do this properly, many tools are being used. Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are being used for screening, predicting, forecasting and contact tracing, as well as in new drug and vaccine development3. The Internet of Things (IoT) is reshaping modern healthcare systems4. IoT-enabled and linked devices and applications are being used to try to slow the spread of Covid-19. They do this by early diagnosis, monitoring patients, and practicing defined protocols after patients recover4. This is helping healthcare systems change from conventional to more personalized systems, through which patients can be diagnosed, treated, and monitored more easily, safely and effectively5. Blockchain enables the secure transfer of patient health information and helps regulate the medical distribution network6. No one can alter after a piece of information is added to the distributed network. The data saved on the blockchain is safe and secure.
At the same time, digital technologies are being combined with important advances in biology. A gene-editing technology called clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) is being used with synthetic biology to improve crops and make new organisms. In a previous article, I described how CRISPR could help feed a growing population7. CRISPR is being used to improve livestock and seafood production, create better animal models of diseases, help in the development of improved vaccines and new prescription drugs, and possibly eventually eradicate malaria. It can also be used in the field of synthetic biology to make entirely new organisms and may be able to bring back extinct species, such as the wooly mammoth7. It can also be used to diagnose and treat Covid-19 and diseases caused by other viral infections8,9. CRISPR can be combined with synthetic biology to build complex and programmable gene circuits, which can be used in industrial biotechnology10. It may even be able to engineer B-cells in our immune system to become antibody producing cells that serve as an effective vaccine against Covid-19 and other infectious diseases11. The new CRISPR-based antiviral strategy called PAC-MAN (Prophylactic Antiviral CRISPR in huMAN cells) is being combined with bioinformatics to prepare a possible treatment for Covid-198,9. Computational analysis predicted that just three CRISPR RNAs (crRNAs) could be enough to target the coronaviruses that cause SARS, MERS, and Covid-19. By using several crRNAs, mutants that emerge could be easily targeted. PAC-MAN technology may even be applied to other viruses that infect animals like bats that pose a future threat. PAC-MAN could be used to prepare potential treatments before a pandemic can occur8,9. Moreover, synthetic biology could be used in biofoundries to improve the way new vaccines are designed and produced. When combined with biodesign tools such as BioCAD, biofoundries are creating a new type of biology, digital biology. It is revolutionizing the design and production of vaccines5. So, the primary goals of this article are to describe these technologies better and tell how they are being used to stop the current pandemic and prevent future pandemics. A second goal is to criticize some pseudoscience myths that are circulating on social media. First, hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) is NOT a safe or effective treatment or way to prevent infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, despite it being recommended almost a year ago by ex-President Donald Trump and others12,13. Last April, Trump threatened India with sanctions if they did not export HCQ to the USA14.
As described by Lauren Giella in the Newsweek magazine:
After several clinical trials last spring, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institute of Health and the larger scientific community have warned against the use of the drug to treat Covid-19, citing ineffectiveness, lack of benefits and risk of heart rhythm problems. Dr. Joseph S. Alpert, editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Medicine, said the journal does not endorse HCQ treatment for Covid-19. 12
Second, no vaccine for Covid-19 will change your DNA15. These and other myths based on the politics of Donald Trump and others can have deadly consequences.
Previous outbreaks of viral diseases have also used digital technologies because innovation was an absolute necessity1. During the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, Hong Kong identified clusters of disease by using electronic data systems. During the Ebola outbreaks in West Africa in 2014–2016, mobile phone data were used to model travel patterns. Hand-held devices enabled more-effective contact tracing and a better understanding of the dynamics of the outbreaks. In the meantime, the digital revolution has transformed many aspects of life. As of 2019, 67% of the global population had subscribed to mobile devices, of which 65% were smartphones. The fastest growth was in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2019, 204 billion apps were downloaded. By January 2020, 3.8 billion people actively used social media1.
ML and AI have supported healthcare experts in controlling communicable diseases (SARS, EBOLA, HIV) and non-communicable diseases (cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and stroke) for years3. ML and AI are used to augment diagnosis and screening by analyzing data from Computed Tomography (CT), X-Ray images and the analysis of blood samples. ML and AI are used for population surveillance, case identification, contact tracing and to evaluate possible interventions. They use mobility data and communicate with the public. Researchers and healthcare professionals are using billions of mobile phones, large online datasets, connected devices, relatively low-cost computing resources and advances in ML, AI and natural language processing to respond to the pandemic. By using a deep convolution neural network (Resnet-101), Brazilian researchers were able to provide radiologists with results that had an accuracy of 86% and a specificity of 83%. That is, it’s important to be not only accurate but to be able to be specific by distinguishing between Covid-19 and other types of pneumonia. The future of public health is becoming increasingly digital3.
It’s also essential that we understand viral infection and transmission and identify risk factors to guide effective interventions. Many digital data sources are being used to enhance and interpret key epidemiological data gathered by public-health authorities for Covid-19.
Data-aggregation systems, including ProMED-mail, GPHIN, HealthMap and EIOS are providing insight into the epidemiology of this pandemic1. They use natural language processing and ML to process and filter online data. The WHO’s platform EPI-BRAIN brings together diverse datasets for infectious-disease emergency preparedness and response. Several systems found early disease reports for Covid-19, through the use of crowdsourced data and news reports, before the WHO released a statement about the outbreak. Crowdsourcing systems are also supporting surveillance of Covid-19 and other pandemics. InfluenzaNet gathers information about symptoms and compliance with a social distancing from volunteers in several European countries. Similar efforts exist in other countries, such as Covid Near You in the USA, Canada and Mexico. The Covid-19 symptom-tracker app has been downloaded by 3.9 million people in the UK and USA and is feeding data into national surveillance efforts. Data dashboards are being used extensively. They collate real-time public-health data to keep the public informed and support policymakers in refining interventions. New visualization approaches are emerging, such as the NextStrain open repository. It shows viral sequence data to create a global map of the spread of infection. This is enabled by open sharing of data and is based on open-source codes. Data has never before been shared with such speed in previous global pandemics. Point-of-care rapid diagnostic antibody tests can be used in home, in many communities or in social-care settings and give results within minutes. ML can be linked to smartphones to enable mass testing to be linked with geospatial and patient information. The results can be reported rapidly to both clinical and public health systems. For this to work effectively, standardization of data and integration of data into electronic patient records are required1.
ML and AI
ML algorithms are also being developed to identify cases by automatically distinguishing between Covid-19 and pneumonia through the use of hospital chest scans by computerized tomography1. Digital contact tracing automates tracing rapidly and on a large scale that can’t be done without digital tools. It reduces reliance on human memory or honesty, particularly in densely populated areas with mobile populations. In South Korea, contacts of confirmed cases were traced through the use of linked location, surveillance and transaction data. In China, the AliPay HealthCode app automatically detected contacts and automated the enforcement of strict quarantine measures by limiting the transactions permitted for users deemed to be high risk. Mobility data that preserve privacy have been made available recently by several technologies and telecom companies to help control the spread of Covid-19. Still, for interventions to be implemented effectively, public education and cooperation should be supported by a communications strategy that includes active community participation to ensure public trust. With 4.1 billion people accessing the internet and 5.2 billion unique mobile subscribers, targeted communication through digital platforms can billions of people and encourage community mobilization1.
Digital data sources need to be integrated and interoperable, as is done with electronic patient records1. We need systems-level approaches to link rapid and widespread testing with digital symptom checkers, contact tracing, epidemiological intelligence and long-term clinical follow-up. We need not only data sharing but also rigorous evaluation and ethical frameworks with community participation. This will occur together with the emerging fields of mobile and digital healthcare. We must build public trust through strong communication across all digital channels and show a commitment to proportionate privacy1.
ML and AI can also help with diagnosis and to identify risk factors for mortality (death) 3. Chinese researchers in Wuhan used a Random Forest algorithm to identify magnesium and 10 biochemicals in the blood that can be used for rapid diagnosis. Other Chinese researchers used a mortality prediction model called XGBoost to identify three significant key risk factors (high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, lymphocyte response and lactic dehydrogenase activity). XGBoost is a supervised multilayered recursive classifier. Scientists in Taiwan built a new model to help new find drugs that might help treat or even cure Covid-19. They used a Deep Neural Network to analyze two datasets to find eight drugs that warrant further study. These drugs are already used to treat other diseases safely. Similarly, scientists from Korea and the USA used an accessible virtual screening and molecular docking application called AutoDock Vina to evaluate 3410 existing drugs that have already been approved by the FDA to treat other diseases. Their model predicted that a popular antiretroviral drug used to treat HIV called Antazanavir and Remdisivir would work best. AI and ML have significantly improved treatment, medication, screening, prediction, forecasting, contact tracing, and drug/vaccine development process for the Covid-19 pandemic. Moreover, they reduce the need for dangerous, direct human interactions3.
Internet of Things
The term “Internet of Things” (IoT) was first coined in a presentation by Kevin Ashton about implementing radio-frequency identification (RFID) in Procter and Gamble to manage the supply chain better4. The IoT revolution is reshaping modern healthcare systems by incorporating technological, economic, and social aspects. It is personalizing healthcare systems. Patients can be diagnosed, treated, and monitored more easily. IoT-enabled and linked devices, as well as applications, are used to decrease the spread of Covid-19 by early diagnosis, monitoring patients, and practicing defined protocols after patient recovery4.
IoT can link all smart objects together within a network with no human interactions4. Any object that can be connected to the internet can be an IoT device. It is becoming a vital technology in healthcare systems. It lowers costs, provides higher quality services, and improves the experiences of users. For example, tracking Covid-19 patients after recovery enables better monitoring of returning symptoms and the potential infectivity of people who seem to have recovered completely. IoT devices can speed up the detection process by capturing body temperatures using different devices and taking samples from suspicious cases. During quarantine, IoT devices can monitor the effectiveness of treatments and clean areas without human interactions. There are already many wearable devices used for healthcare and fitness This includes Smart Themormeters, Smart Helmets, Smart Glasses, IoT-Q-Band, EasyBand, and Proximity Trace. Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), use sensors, GPS, and communication services. The combination of IoT within drones is known as the Internet of Drone Things (IoDT). This enables drones to do a variety of tasks such as searching, monitoring and delivering. Smart drones can be operated by a smartphone and a controller with a minimum of time and energy. This makes them efficient in agriculture and healthcare. Different types of IoT-based drones, including thermal imaging drones, disinfectant drones, medical drones, surveillance drones, announcement drones, and multipurpose drones are used in healthcare and in our response to the Covid-19 pandemic. As robots are networked within the cloud, the Internet of Robot Things emerged. There are also IoT buttons. They are small, programmable buttons that are connected to the cloud through wireless communication. They can perform different repetitive tasks by pressing only one button. For example, one type of IoT button enables patients to complain if any hospital restrooms need cleaning by simply pressing a button. Many smartphone applications have been developed for the healthcare domain, and some of them have been used in response to Covid-19. This includes nCapp, DetectaChem, Stop Corona, Social Monitoring, Selfie app, Civitas, StayHomeSafe, AarogyaSetu, TraceTogether, Hamagen, Coalition, BeAware Bahrain, eRouska, and WhatsApp. There are also smart helmets that can monitor body temperature. Fever is one of the most common symptoms of Covid-19 when one's temperature exceeds 38 ◦C or 100.4 ◦F.
Wearable smart helmets with a thermal camera are safer compared to an infrared thermometer gun due to lower human interactions. Countries such as China, UAE, and Italy have implemented this wearable device to monitor crowds while staying 2 m away from other people. Moreover, smart glasses with infrared sensors like Rokid can monitor up to 200 people. Another example of this device is the combination of Vuzix smart glasses with the Onsight Cube thermal camera. These devices work together to monitor crowds and detect people with high temperatures. Medical and Delivery drones can deliver test kits that detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus, as well as samples and medical supplies between labs and medical centers to minimize human interactions. These drones can reduce hospital visits and increase access to medical care by delivering medical treatments to patients or another medical center rapidly. Medical drones in China and Ghana have increased the speed of diagnosis by cutting delivery time. Also, robots can help keep medical staff away from isolated patients. They can monitor respiration and help patients with their treatments or to obtain food. Telerobots that are usually operated remotely by a human can provide different services such as remote diagnosis, remote surgeries, and remote treatments for the patients with no human interaction during the process. For example, a nurse can measure patients’ temperatures without having to interact with them by using these robots. Another example is the DaVinci surgical robot, which is operated by a surgeon while the patient is in the safe isolation of plastic sheeting. This helps to prevent infections by performing surgeries remotely. Collaborative robots, known as Cobots, are recommended robots if there is a need for an operation performed by humans. They are not as beneficial as telerobots for this pandemic, but they can lower healthcare workers’ fatigue as well as track their interactions with patients. For instance, Asimov Robotics in India is designed for a quarantine to help patients in isolated areas with tasks such as preparing food and providing medication and also preventing healthcare workers from being in that area. Another example of this robot is the eXtreme Disinfection robot (XDBOT). It is used by Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. This robot can disinfect areas that are hard for humans to access and can be wirelessly operated on a mobile platform to avoid any close contact between humans and contaminated areas. Autonomous robots can be used to sterilize contaminated areas in hospitals, carry patients’ treatments, and check their respiratory signs. For example, the disinfection robot created by Xenex is capable of cleaning and disinfecting areas of viruses and bacteria. Another example is UVD robots developed by the Odense University Hospital and Blue Ocean Robotics in Denmark. They are used to disinfecting hospitals with strong UV light, which destroys the RNA of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and DNA in bacteria and viruses that contain DNA. Social media can also be very useful for telemedicine healthcare support. One of the most popular applications is WhatsApp. This application provides the chance for patients to consult remotely with their physicians using virtual meetings4.
IoT and Blockchain technologies work through smart devices6. A blockchain is a distributed ledger that continues to keep processes and incident records traveling all over the framework. Blockchain ensures that no one can alter a piece of information after it is added to the distributed network. Databases are essential in modern healthcare and research. Moreover, the hash function of blockchain technology has made it possible to authenticate users. The Hardware Layer is composed of sensors and/or devices that gather and transmit data to the upper section. Devices and sensors collect data that will be processed in the blockchain network. Various communication methods are being used to facilitate the exchange of information between devices connected to the internet. The data are captured by transmitting it to mobile devices used by consumers as well as healthcare professionals. The application layer enables the cooperation of several applications and services. Modern healthcare systems are becoming information-intensive. They need vast quantities of regularly generated, analyzed, and transmitted information. In conclusion, the WHO brings together researchers and government officials worldwide to promote the cycle of research and innovation and create international policies to control the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and increase support for everyone who is infected. Testing for the virus that causes Covid-19 might be widely available through mobile applications in the future. Testing HIV, malaria and Tuberculosis are already being done through mobile apps6.
Synthetic biology is a multidisciplinary field that is redesigning viruses and organisms for useful purposes, such as producing new types of bacteria and fungi that can consume and destroy toxic pollutants to help clean our environment16. A distributed manufacturing model can be combined with synthetic biology to improve the design of more effective vaccines5. Biofoundries are highly automated facilities that use laboratory robots that are programmed to perform specific tasks according to a workflow. Typically, different platforms within the biofoundries perform different tasks; for example, liquid handling, genetic assembly, characterization functions. Biofoundries are based on information infrastructures that allow the robots and other equipment within the biofoundries to be programmed to follow detailed, complex workflows.
Biofoundries separate design from manufacturing, a hallmark of modern engineering. Once designed in a biofoundry, digital code can be transferred to a small-scale manufacturing facility close to the point of care, rather than physically transferring cold-chain-dependent vaccine. Thus, biofoundries and distributed manufacturing may open up a new era of biomanufacturing, one based on digital biology and information systems. Vaccine production would benefit from the systematic workflow approach of synthetic biology. The technology of mRNA is amenable to optimization through almost limitless combinations of ribonucleic acids. Biofoundries can produce these combinations. An automated clinical diagnostics platform for the SARS-CoV-2 virus can be deployed and scaled quickly. The recently formed Global Biofoundries Alliance has funded biofoundries in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. They can be used to design new vaccines. The protocols and workflows can be incorporated quickly and modified when needed. Improvements in synthetic biology are currently increasing rapidly. Data from the design, build, test, learn (DBTL) cycle are being used to train ML algorithms to reduce human interventions– a hallmark of modern engineering16.
CRISPR is a gene editing method that has been predicted to become one of the key technologies that will be part of the fourth industrial revolution (along with artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, information technology (IT) and big data)7. It is a naturally-occurring defense mechanism that bacteria use to keep them from being infected by viruses. To do this, bacteria use the parts of their genomes that contain base sequences that are repeated many times, with unique sequences in between the repeats. They are called “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats” or CRISPR. They keep pieces of viral genomes in the bacterial DNA so they can recognize viruses and defend themselves against future infections. Invading DNA from viruses is cut into small fragments and incorporated into a CRISPR location with a series of short repeats (around 20 base pairs). The DNA is transcribed and processed to produce small CRISPR RNAs (crRNAs) that bind to the targeted DNA and guide effector endonucleases that hydrolyze (destroy) the invading DNA being targeted. The second part of the defense mechanism is a set of enzymes called Cas (CRISPR-associated proteins), which can cut out the viral DNA sequence, hydrolyze it and destroy the invading viruses. Fortunately, the genes that code for Cas enzymes are always located near the CRISPR sequences. The best known and most useful Cas enzyme is Cas9, which comes from Streptococcus pyogenes, which causes strep throat. When combined with CRISPR, it becomes the CRISPR/Cas9 system. This is often simply abbreviated as CRISPR. So, Cas9 catalyzes the hydrolysis of DNA, while CRISPR shows it where to do the hydrolysis. The same system can be used by scientists to cut and paste almost any desired DNA sequence. Faulty genes can be cut out and replaced with the desired, functioning gene, or to insert new genes that give the recipient better qualities7.
CRISPR-Cas is being used to produce completely new organisms and to try to bring back extinct species7. For example, CRISPR-Cas is being used to make mutants of the mosquitoes that causes malaria (Anopheles genus), yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya and Zika (Aedes aegypti), as well West Nile and encephalitis (Culex quinquefasciatus). Together, these mosquitoes have killed more people than any other animal on Earth – including us, humans, with all our wars18. CRISPR-Cas9 is being used to identify genes in human hosts that can reduce viral infection when they are edited. Researchers from China and the USA did a genome-wide CRISPR-Cas9 screen that targeted 19,050 genes. The goal was to identify those human host genes that could reduce flavivirus infection. This included the West Nile, Zika, Japanese encephalitis, Dengue serotype 2 and yellow fever viruses. They found nine genes that flaviviruses needed to be infective. Genes coding for signal peptidase complex (SPC) proteins were found to be required for the proper breakdown (hydrolysis) of flavivirus structural proteins and the secretion of viral particles. When the expression of these genes was suppressed, it not only reduced viral infections but also had no adverse side effects on the human host cells. One or more of these SPC proteins could become effective therapeutic targets for new prescription drugs to protect against infections by flaviviruses7.
CRISPR can be used in synthetic biology to produce gene circuits in living cells7. One of the goals of synthetic biology is to build regulatory circuits that control cell behavior using programmable elements. Gene circuits contain three modules: sensors, processors and actuators. Sensors detect environmental conditions or cellular status, such as being transformed into cancer cells. Processors determine the appropriate response, such as delivering anticancer therapy. Actuators transmit the signals that modify cellular function. Biological systems that regulate the transcription of DNA into RNA and logic gates have been engineered into bacteria and mammalian cells using a deactivated Cas9 enzyme, abbreviated as dCas. The CRISPR-dCas9 system no longer has endonuclease activity, but it can still be able to bind to specific DNA sequences. Using dCas9 to activate or inactivate the transcription of target genes is often abbreviated as CRISPRi and CRISPRa, respectively. CRISPR was used to build a logic circuit in bladder cancer cells. It contained a promoter that was specific for bladder cancer cells. The circuit was used to express three transgenes that could be useful in cancer therapy7.
Similarly, CRISPR can be used in the field of synthetic biology, which plays a crucial role in the fields of medicine, health, food, energy, and public health17. It can be used to transform existing natural systems and construct gene circuits by building and integrating standardized components and modules. CRISPR may be able to become an important part of scalable device libraries of synthetic DNA, which are essential in creating complex genetic circuits. Genetic modifications can produce gene factories in bacteria, fungi and yeasts. Microorganisms produce many useful chemicals from low-cost feedstock such as renewable biomass and organic wastes. The goal of synthetic biology is to transform existing natural systems and construct gene circuits by building and integrating standardized components and modules. However, before the emergence of CRISPR technology, there were very few effective, programmable, secure, and sequence-specific gene editing tools. CRISPR may solve this problem because of its programmable targeting, efficacy as activator or repressor, high specificity, and rapid and tight binding kinetics16.
Vaccines should cause B-cells to produce antibodies against specific antigens (such as the S protein) of the pathogen (like the SARS-CoV-2 virus)11. B-cells do this by rearranging the three genes that code for the variable, diversity and joining regions of the antibodies. However, vaccines can fail if the gene rearrangement:
- does not occur effectively;
- is delayed;
- is not long-lasting;
- and/or is not be able to mount a sufficient and specific response.
Also, the antibodies may be depleted after a short time or may not be effective against new mutants or variants. If this occurs (as it does with the flu or influenza vaccines), the vaccine may need to be modified and administered repeatedly at definite time intervals (every year for the flu vaccine). These problems could be avoided if the genomes of B-cells could be engineered by CRISPR gene editing so they continue to produce the required antibodies when they are needed to eliminate future infections by the SARS-CoV-2 virus11.
Scientists are developing methods based on CRISPR not only to produce effective, long-lasting vaccines, but also for a diagnostic test for infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus10. Instead of using the Cas9 enzyme, similar enzymes, called Cas12 and Cas13 can be used. Technologies called Specific High sensitive Enzymatic Reporter Unlocking (SHERLOCK) technology and DNA endonuclease targeted CRISPR trans reporter (DETECTR) can rapidly and accurately diagnose infections by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. SHERLOCK is capable of detecting both DNA and RNA viruses. It has been used previously to detect Zika and dengue viruses10.
Potentially deadly pseudoscience and lies
Even though digital technologies, synthetic biology and CRISPR may help save billions of lives, hundreds of millions of people could be doomed by lies, myths and the denial of science. Sadly, the slave masters who follow ex-President Donald Trump love these lies. Science teaches us that the only race is the human race. Race is a social construct and has no genetic or scientific basis. Moreover, women are NOT inferior to men18. They are capable of the same things that have been ascribed to men. They are as intelligent and men and are often wiser. Women have the same mechanical skills, spatial visualization, strength and aggressiveness (especially when defending their children) 18. Racist, misogynistic followers of Trump deny these truths. Moreover, they deny the reality of global climate change, as they steal the future of young people. This denial could lead to the deaths of billions if allowed to continue. Sadly, Trump spread many lies about the Covid-19 pandemic. He said that it would disappear and that the anti-malarial drug hydroxyquinoline (HCQ) could cure Covid-19. Unfortunately, this lie continues to be told13. In fact, a recent clinical trial showed that neither zinc nor vitamin C (ascorbic acid) can protect against infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, prevent Covid-19 or any of the severe symptoms caused by it, including death19. Another terrible lie that has become popular on the non-scientific media is that the vaccines based on mRNA technology (from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech) will change your DNA. The people who spread this lie deny the fact that our DNA is located inside the cell nucleus, which is separated from the rest of the cell by a nuclear membrane. They also deny the fact that mRNA is translated into a protein (like the S protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus) in the cytosol of the cell. The mRNA in vaccines never enters the cell nucleus. It never gets anywhere near your DNA, so it can’t change it. Moreover, vaccines based on attenuated adenoviruses (like the ones made by CanSino Biological Inc./Beijing Institute of Biotechnology, Wuhan Institute of Biological Products/Sinopharm, Beijing Institute of Biological Products/Sinopharm, Sinovac, Oxford/Astra Zeneca and the China National Biotec Group). These adenoviruses do NOT insert themselves into your DNA. So, no vaccine or vaccine candidate can change your DNA20. Just because a person may be a pharmacist or a doctor doesn’t mean that they still follow the science. For example, a pharmacist in Wisconsin was arrested because he destroyed nearly 600 doses of the Moderna vaccine. He removed them from the freezer in his pharmacy and let them melt, thus destroying them. Fortunately, a pharmacy technician (a woman) saw him do this and turned him into the authorities. As the story developed, we discovered that the pharmacist was in the flat earth society (he thinks our planet is flat and not round)21. Also, he thought that the sky was not really the sky, but a shield put up by the government to prevent individuals from seeing God. He also believed in several conspiracy theories, including the crazy (but popular) idea that doctors, pharmacists, pharmaceutical companies, the FDA and even Bill Gates are in a conspiracy to keep us sick as they sell us drugs that don’t cure any disease but just treat the symptoms. Many people think that Bill Gates is putting microchips into the vaccines, so he can control people. Some also think that Bill Gates controls the WHO because he donates over $100 million to them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Still, hatred, prejudice and stupidity thrive in the hearts and minds of men (especially uneducated old white men in the USA).
So, I hope that I have helped the reader understand how digital technologies, CRISPR and synthetic biology are being used to diagnose, prevent and treat Covid-19 and develop safe, effective vaccines that will someday soon be able to prevent infection by all coronaviruses.
1 Budd, J. et al. Digital technologies in the public-health response to Covid-19. Nature Medicine, Volume 26, p. 1183-1192, 2020.
2 World Health Organization. International Health Regulations (2005) Third Edition.
3 Lalmuanawma, S. et al. Applications of machine learning and artificial intelligence for Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic: A review. Chaos, Solitons and Fractals, Volume 139, Article 110059, 2020.
4 Nasajpour, M. et al. Internet of Things for current Covid-19 and future pandemics: an exploratory study. Journal of Healthcare Informatics Research, Volume 4, p. 325–364, 2020.
5 Kitney, R.I. et al. Build a sustainable vaccines industry with synthetic biology. Trends in Biotechnology, 2021.
6 Alam, T. Internet of Things and Blockchain-based framework for Coronavirus (Covid-19) Disease. 4 Aug., 2020.
7 Smith, R.E. Using CRISPR gene editing to create new foods. An important part of the fourth Industrial Revolution. Wall Street International, 24 May, 2019.
8 Abbott, T.R. et al. Development of CRISPR as an antiviral strategy to combat SARS-CoV-2 and influenza. Cell, Volume 181, pp. 865-876, 2020.
9 Nalawansha, D.A. and Samarasinghe, K.T.G. Double-bareled CRISPR technology as a novel treatment strategy for Covid-19. ACS Pharmacology & Translational Science, Volume 3, 790-800, 2020.
10 Safari, F. et al. CRISPR systems: Novel approaches for detection and combating Covid-19. Virus Research, Vol. 294, Article 198282, 2020.
11 Faiq, M.A. B-cell engineering: A promising approach towards vaccine development for Covid-19. Medical Hypotheses, Vol. 114, Article 109948, 2020.
12 Giella, L. Fact check: Did the American Journal of Medicine recommend hydroxychloroquine for COVID? Newsweek, 29 Jan., 2021.
13 Rabin, M.J. Dear President Biden. Covid and the economy: a holistic approach. Wall Street International, 11 Feb., 2021.
14 The Hindu. Trump talks tough, warns of ‘retaliation’ if India doesn’t export Hydroxychloroquine to U.S. 7 April, 2020.
15 Forster, V. Covid-19 vaccines can’t alter your DNA, here’s why. Forbes, 11 Jan, 2021.
16 National Institute of Health (NIH), National Human Genome Research Institute. Synthetic biology. 2021.
17 Zhang, S. et al. Recent advances of CRISPR/Cas9-based genetic engineering and transcriptional regulation in industrial biology. Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, Vol. 7, Article 459, 2020.
18 Smith, R.E. The myth of gender differences in intelligence. We should all have equal opportunities to lead full, rich lives. Wall Street International, 24 Aug., 2020.
19 Tomas, S. et al. Effect of high-dose zinc and ascorbic acid supplementation vs usual care on symptom length and reduction among ambulatory patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection. The Covid A to Z randomized clinical trial. JAMA Open Network, Vol. 4, Article e201369, 2021.
20 Forster, V. Covid-19 vaccines can’t alter your DNA, here’s why. Forbes, 11 Jan, 2021.