Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Pandemic: fighting disinformation

Last update May 3, 2020 – created Apr 18, 2020 by Alfredo M. Gravagnuolo

Fighting disinformation and misinformation

The purpose of this page is to provide accurate (and scientific) information on COVID-19 from “official sources”, authorities and scientific institutions to fight disinformation and misinformation, minimize the harmful impact on psychology, politics and global economy and support sustainable development of society. It is worth noting that the World Health Organization (WHO) considers “education” as a treatment type for COVID-19 (e.g. training for wearing mask). Health misinformation expert Prof. Timothy Caulfield at the University of Alberta, Canada, has stated in his recent article on COVID-19 (web link) that:

“correcting misrepresentations should be viewed as a professional responsibility”

and quoted his colleague Dr. Claire Wardle, director of “First Draft” (at the Harvard University, USA, web link), which is a nonprofit specialised on information disorder (dis-, mis- and mal-information, web link):

“The best way to fight misinformation is to swamp the landscape with accurate information that is easy to digest, engaging and easy to share on mobile devices”.

What is information disorder? Dr. Claire Wardle provides classification:

  • Mis-information is when false information is shared, but no harm is meant.
  • Dis-information is when false information is knowingly shared to cause harm.
  • Mal-information is when genuine information is shared to cause harm, often by moving information designed to stay private into the public sphere.

Things you could do with Nanobiotechnology

In order to save lives and economies, it is necessary that (nano)scientists promptly provide answers and solutions to the pandemic (and probably on the long-term on the endemic) by focusing their effort on COVID-19, and following rigorous, high quality standards in research and development (R&D). Prof. Kostas Kostarelos of the University of Manchester, UK, shared his views on how nanoscience community should contribute (web link).

We need to maximize synergies free from any political, linguistic, financial, geographical or scientific discipline obstacles. We — the biomedical scientific community — have the responsibility to support our clinical and healthcare colleagues, who work on the frontline of the pandemic, with our technical and intellectual capabilities in generating relevant and much needed scientific knowledge.

Nanoscience and nanobiotechnology.

Nanoscientists, are working “around the clock” to deeply characterise SARS-CoV-2 (the name of the virus that causes the disease COVID-19) using cross-disciplinary approaches (e.g. biophysics web link and biomedicine, web link) in order to acquire soon the technological know-how necessary to fabricate nanobiohybrid devices for its detection (biosensors, fast diagnostic tools) as well as to boost protection/personal protective equipment (PPE) (nanoengineered antiviral surface coatings, air purifiers, face masks, advanced respirators and other types of PPE, web link), immunotherapy (vaccines, monoclonal antibodies, anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant therapies), targeted therapy medications (nanomedicines, enzyme inhibitors, antivirals) and any other types of treatments (e.g. respiratory support/ventilators and non-specific medicines to alleviate symptoms). The WHO in the situation report 99 (web link) has reviewed the landscape of drug and non-drug experimental treatments for COVID-19, however, studies are still ongoing.

Know that coronavirus.

SARS-CoV-2 is a RNA virus (web link) that has something in common with other known viruses (Bat CoV, pangolin CoV, SARS-CoV-1). A recent study carried out by a research team of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, MT, USA (web link) has revealed the stability of SARS-CoV-2 (time to decay 1000-fold at 23°C and 40% relative humidity) on surfaces and in aerosol:

  • ????✂️? Plastic: 72-96 h
  • ??⛓ Stainless steel: 48-72 h
  • ??? Cardboard: 24-48 h
  • ? ? Aerosol: 4-24 h
  • ⚱️? Copper: 4-8 h

“Nano”-engineers take advantage of the newly acquired knowledge on SARS-CoV-2 to fabricate cost-effective smart devices including reusable face masks, air filters, antiviral sanitising phisicochemical agents and additional types of low-cost personal protective equipment (PPE). Indeed, supplies of top level protective gear for SARS-CoV-2 (e.g. N95 face masks, not even considering N99) are not available to everybody. Thus, engineers will develop tailor-made affordable equipment for people, depending on the level of exposure they face related to working/living environment. Likewise, it could be possible to generate an adverse environment for the coronavirus (e.g. self-sanitizing surfaces, controlled airflow and air recirculation, temperature and humidity) in public places such as hospitals, markets and restaurants. On the other hand, sustainable (e.g. biodegradable) materials will have to replace plastic components in masks and gloves to avoid the accumulation of clinical waste residues in the environment caused by the massive use of protective kits.

Time and numbers matter.

An article constantly updated by a team of The Weizmann Institute for Science, Israel (web link), advises that once a person is infected, it takes in median ≈3 days (current best-estimate) before being able to transmit the virus, followed by ≈4 days of extraordinary infectiousness. However, scientists and mathematicians are accumulating new knowledge on COVID-19 pandemics on a regular basis. Prof. Kostas Kostarelos states that:

We know that 80% of infected individuals are asymptomatic or suffer from mild symptoms, 15% need hospitalization and 5% develop a serious illness and may need critical care. We also know though, that valid epidemiological data should be taken with great caution as different countries and health systems have very different approaches to testing and reporting.

Early detection and monitoring.

Biosensors are necessary to make “visible” the “invisible enemy”, which is spread on surfaces and by people who are asymptomatic. Thus, biosensors for rapid, cheap and portable virus tests are pivotal in order to go back to normal life soon. The scientific community working in the area of Biosensors for technologies able to detect COVID-19 related biomarkers in clinical or environment samples, aims to give prompt response to this urgent need. Prof. Arben Merkoci is one of the members of the Organising Committee at the the ICN2 that with the Phantoms Foundation presents the event Biosensors for Pandemics (web link)

“Biosensors for Pandemics: reliable and efficient nanotech-based diagnostics in emergency situations”

The development, approval, production and commercialisation of biosensors and personal protective equipment (PPE) are much faster as compared to vaccines (see video below).


Experimental treatments and clinical studies

Even though the first human trial in Europe of a vaccine has begun in Oxford in April 2020 on two volunteer scientists, the results may not be known for up to six months and require around one thousand of patients. This vaccine is based on the genetic material that encodes the spike glycoprotein (S), which protrudes from the surface of the virus and targets the cognate receptor on human cells. However, in a normal situation it may take more than one year to make a vaccine available to everyone, as stated by Dr Rino Rappuoli (see video above). The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a R&D blueprint for experimental treatments (web link) beyond vaccination. The document contains a living map of ongoing research and clinical studies (web link) (excluding Traditional Chinese medicine trials), updated every week by an international scientific team of the COVID-19 “network meta-analysis” project following a rigorous scientific protocol.

The living systematic reviews of COVID-19 study results (web link) focuses on three areas: pharmacologic treatments, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) supportive treatments, and preventive treatments.

However, the WHO does not make any warranties regarding the quality, safety and/or efficacy of any of the experimental treatments listed in the landscape documents published on 27 April 2020.

Coronavirus, separating fact from fiction (EU)

Beware of online scams (web link)


Statement by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, on disinformation during the coronavirus crisis 31/03/2020

World Health Organization (WHO)

Public Advice (web link)

Situation reports (web link)

Rolling updates (web link)

Questions & Answers on coronaviruses – COVID-19 (web link)

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

The WHO answers to your questions via WhatsApp:

  • ?? English – write “hi” to the number: +41 79 893 18 92 (web link)
  • ?? Español – escribes “hola” al número: +41 22 501 76 90 (web link)
  • ?? Italiano – scrivi “ciao” al numero: +41 22 501 78 34 (web link)
  • ?? Français – écris “salut” au nombre: +41 22 501 72 98 (web link)
  • ?? Português – escreve “oi” para o número: +41 22 501 77 35 (web link)
  • ? More languages – write “9” to any of the previous numbers (web link)

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (EU)

National information resources for the public on COVID-19 (multiple languages web link ?)

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control provides information about National authorities and public health agencies.

Selected articles for scientists

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, MT, USA. 16 April 2020. Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1 (web link)

SARS-CoV-2 was more stable on plastic and stainless steel than on copper and cardboard, and viable virus was detected up to 72 hours after application to these surfaces. […] On copper, no viable SARS-CoV-2 was measured after 4 hours […] On cardboard, no viable SARS-CoV-2 was measured after 24 hours.

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA. 14 April 2020. Projecting the transmission dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 through the postpandemic period (web link).

Our model presents a variety of scenarios intended to anticipate possible SARS-CoV-2 transmission dynamics under specific assumptions. We do not take a position on the advisability of these scenarios given the economic burden that sustained distancing may impose, but we note the potentially catastrophic burden on the healthcare system that is predicted if distancing is poorly effective and/or not sustained for long enough. The model will have to be tailored to local conditions and updated as more accurate data become available. Longitudinal serological studies are urgently required to determine the extent and duration of immunity to SARS-CoV-2, and epidemiological surveillance should be maintained in the coming years to anticipate the possibility of resurgence.

Northwestern University, IL, USA. 8 April 2020. COVID-19: A Call for Physical Scientists and Engineers

We hope researchers in the physical sciences and engineering will proactively study these challenges, develop new hypotheses, define new research areas, and work with biological researchers, healthcare, and public health professionals to create user-centered solutions and to inform the general public

The Weizmann Institute for Science, Israel. 31 March 2020. SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) by the numbers (web link)

This article is being updated on an ongoing basis. The discussion is framed around two broad themes: 1) the biology of the virus itself and 2) the characteristics of the infection of a single human host. […] Once a person is infected, it takes a period of time known as the latent period before they are able to transmit the virus. The current best-estimate of the median latent time is ≈3 days followed by ≈4 days of close to maximal infectiousness

The Scripps Research Institute, CA, USA. 17 March 2020. The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2 (web link)

“Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus”

Nature Reviews Microbiology. 12 February 2020. Novel coronavirus takes flight from bats? (web link)

In sum, these studies provide initial reports on 2019-nCoV, which could be vital in preventing its spread, and highlight bats as carriers of viruses with zoonotic and devastating potential.

The World Health Organization. 11 February 2020. WHO Director-General’s remarks at the media briefing on 2019-nCoV (web link)

First of all, we now have a name for the disease: COVID-19

University Medicine Greifswald, Germany. 6 February 2020. Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents (web link)

The analysis of 22 studies reveals that human coronaviruses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus or endemic human coronaviruses (HCoV) can persist on inanimate surfaces like metal, glass or plastic for up to 9 days

Articles collections for scientists

AAAS Science: Research, Commentary, and News (web link)

The Science journals are striving to provide the best and most timely research, analysis, and news coverage of COVID-19 and the coronavirus that causes it.

Nature Research: Basic biology and epidemiology of emerging viral diseases (web link)

Our collection includes research into the basic biology of coronavirus infection, its detection, treatment and evolution, research into the epidemiology of emerging viral diseases, and our coverage of current events.

Frontiers: A trusted source for the latest science on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 (web link)

Biosensors and Bioelectronics (Elsevier): Call for urgent publications on COVID-19 related Biosensing technologies (web link)

Biosensors are increasingly considered as the rapid and essentially diagnostic tools in providing accurate and timely guidance for case identification, prevention of the spread of infectious diseases and appropriate treatment administration to decrease the death rate of people.