Science conference of the AAAS in the shadow of Corona

Bill Gates also wants "first of all to talk a little bit about a very special topic and this is this new corona virus" – this is how the star guest began his speech before the conference of the world's largest scientific association AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science). "It presents us with a huge challenge." The Microsoft founder had actually prepared a lecture about the conference motto "Envisioning Tomorrow's Earth" for the conference, which is taking place this time in his hometown Seattle – but the corona virus also allows him to reschedule.

The novel lung disease could potentially put the world in a "very bad situation", Gates fears – especially if it spreads to countries with weaker health systems. "There is a lot we do not know about this epidemic, but there is also a lot we do know that shows that it could become very dramatic – especially if it spreads to areas like southern Africa or southern Asia. " With its foundation, Gates has provided around $ 100 million to fight the epidemic and develop a vaccine.

Finding for the 186th time the AAAS conference this year, around 10,000 participants came – but above all there is uncertainty and concern about the new corona virus. "A very large delegation from China had registered," says Margaret Hamburg, who chairs the board of the scientific association. "But they had to cancel again. Our thoughts and concerns are with our friends and colleagues in China." AAAS President Steven Chu, formerly Secretary of Energy under former US President Barack Obama, said the lung disease named Covid-19 was "worrying".

Experts were invited at short notice and new discussion groups set up. "It's one of the most threatening outbreaks of disease I've seen in my entire career," said Scott Dowell, who works at the Gates Foundation and has been dealing with infectious diseases for decades. The most important question that needs to be clarified now is that of "violence – how bad is this really?" The extent and number of cases are still not known in sufficient detail to make precise statements about the mortality rate. "From what we're seeing right now, the mortality rate would be very high, but we hope that a large number of mild cases are still missing from the statistics."

Trevor Bedford, a researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, is working on decoding the genome of the virus. He assumes that the virus first appeared in bats and then mutated and was transmitted to humans for the first time around mid-November via other hitherto unknown carriers. So far, many questions remain unanswered, it looks like the virus is relatively easy to transmit. Bedford denies rumors of human exposure to the virus. "We see no evidence of genetic engineering here."

But the spread of the virus has had a positive aspect, says Bedford: Researchers all over the world support each other via the Internet and published their findings extremely quickly. "It has completely changed the way the scientists communicate with each other. Researchers all over the world have come together and joined together virtually – and I observe that with a lot of humility and thanks."


. (tagsToTranslate) AAAS (t) Bill Gates (t) Coronavirus (t) Science