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Coronavirus may never be eradicated — but it might be controlled

The unique characteristics of this pandemic may not allow people to completely eradicate it, but public health measures and good vaccines should bring "very good control," NIAID director Anthony Fauci said Wednesday.

Driving the news: "We are living, right now, through a historic pandemic outbreak. And, we are, right now, in a situation where we do not see any particular end in sight," Fauci told a panel hosted by the not-for-profit TB Alliance.


"It's the perfect storm," Fauci says. "We often talk about outbreaks and pandemics, be they influenza or other pathogens, that have to have a few characteristics that make them particularly formidable. Well, this particular virus has that."

  • For a public health official, this is "almost your worst nightmare," Fauci adds.
  • He points out that SARS-CoV-2 jumps species, is a new pathogen with no known innate human immunity, and is a respiratory-borne virus that is "spectacularly efficient" at spreading from human to human and has a "substantial degree of morbidity and mortality, particularly in certain populations of people."

Plus, "the spectrum of involvement with the same pathogen is very unique," Fauci says.

  • "I've never seen an infection in which you have such a broad range — of literally nothing, namely no symptoms at all, in a substantial proportion of the population; to some who get ill with minor symptoms; to some who get ill enough to be in bed for weeks and have post-viral syndromes; [to] others [who] get hospitalized, require oxygen, intensive care, ventilation and death."
  • From what doctors can tell right now, Fauci says the pathogenesis of the disease indicates "you want to block the virus and keep the immune systems intact early on. But, you want to block inflammation later on, because that assumes a much greater role."

What to watch: Several vaccines are in or will soon be entering phase 3 clinical testing, Fauci says. While the FDA gave a 50% efficacy benchmark for the vaccine, "they're shooting" for a vaccine with 70% or higher effectiveness.

  • One safety concern they're watching for during phase 3 trials are for possible "vaccine-induced immune enhancement" that can sometimes occur if there's suboptimal antibodies in a vaccine that actually enhance the infection once you're exposed later.
  • While there is no "particular reason" to believe this will happen with COVID-19 vaccines, there had been issues before with animals tested with the SARS vaccine, so "we want to pay attention to it."

Fauci says he's "cautiously optimistic" a good vaccine will be available soon.

  • "I don't really see us eradicating it. I think with a combination of good public health measures, a degree of global herd immunity, and a good vaccine ... I think we'll get very good control of this. Whether it's this year or next year, I'm not certain," Fauci says.

Meanwhile, other panel members also expressed concern that the pandemic may cause an uptick in diseases like tuberculosis, HIV and malaria.

  • Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist for the World Health Organization, pointed out that there's a need to continually address those devastating diseases as well as work on developing new antibiotics.
  • TB Alliance founding board member Ariel Pablos-Mendez, who has worked with both COVID-19 patients and multidrug resistant TB patients, says "I have seen firsthand how deadly diseases are, and the threats they pose to global health and stability."
  • "But I also see signs of hope," Pablos-Mendez added, such as with India's recent approval of Mylan's pretomanid drug to be included in a regime to fight multidrug-resistant TB.

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Why the startup world needs to ditch "unicorns" for "dragons"

When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

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Scoop: Facebook's new moves to lower News Feed's political volume

Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios has learned. It also plans to expand tests to limit the amount of political content that people see in their News Feeds to more countries outside of the U.S.

Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

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Scoop: Amazon quietly getting into live audio business

Amazon is investing heavily in a new live audio feature that's similar to other live audio offerings like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and Spotify's new live audio platform, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: As with Amazon's efforts in podcasting and music subscriptions, the company sees live audio as a way to bolster the types of content it can offer through its voice assistant, Alexa, and its smart speaker products.

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Hurricane Ida exposes America's precarious energy infrastructure

The powerful hurricane that plunged New Orleans into darkness for what could be weeks is the latest sign that U.S. power systems are not ready for a warmer, more volatile world.

The big picture: “Our current infrastructure is not adequate when it comes to these kinds of weather extremes,” Joshua Rhodes, a University of Texas energy expert, tells Axios.

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"We must go further": 70% of adults in European Union are fully vaccinated

About 70% of adults in the European Union are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The milestone makes the E.U. one of the world's leaders in inoculations, after an initially lagging vaccine campaign, the New York Times notes.

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What Elizabeth Holmes jurors will be asked ahead of fraud trial

Jury selection begins today in USA v. Elizabeth Holmes, with the actual jury trial to get underway on Sept. 8.

Why it matters: Theranos was the biggest fraud in Silicon Valley history, putting both hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of patients' health at risk.

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