Coronavirus social distancing buying valuable time for scientists in hunt for cure: Biochemist

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Effective social distancing is buying valuable time for the medical community in its hunt for a coronavirus cure, according to Isaiah “Shy” Arkin, professor of Structural Biochemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“You see a clear correlation to infection rates to places that enacted social distancing,” he told Fox News in an emailed statement. “It results in lowering infectivity appreciably.”

As yet, there is no cure for COVID-19, although a number of research projects across the globe are racing to find one.

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Arkin is a specialist in the structural biology of membrane proteins in important human pathogens. The biochemist and his team are experimenting on a "close relative" of the coronavirus to see if one of 6,000 approved chemicals for human drug testing will inhibit enough components to make an effective vaccine.

The biochemist also noted that, while the virus has many variants, he has not seen evidence the different strains are making it more harmful.

“The virus mutates, albeit not at the speed of HIV,” he said. “However, we have no indication that the mutations have resulted in a change in virulence.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Fox News Wednesday that U.S. lockdown efforts are having an impact.

“We need to keep pushing on the mitigation strategies because there’s no doubt that that’s having a positive impact on the dynamics of the outbreak,” he said.

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Fauci, who is the face of the White House’s response to coronavirus, also said that he is starting to see “glimmers of hope” around the outbreak, citing data from the pandemic’s epicenter in New York.

“At the same time as we’re seeing an increase in death, typically what we’re seeing now from New York, over the last few days, there has been a stabilization and a decrease in the hospitalizations, admissions to intensive care, and the requirements for intubations,” he explained. “That means that, as we get further on, beyond this week, we should start to see the beginnings of a turnaround.”

New York State has 140,386 diagnosed coronavirus cases and is close to surpassing the total number of cases in Spain.

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As of Wednesday morning, at least 1.44 million coronavirus cases have been diagnosed worldwide, at least 399,929 of which are in the U.S. The disease has accounted for at least 83,471 deaths around the world, including at least 12,911 people in the U.S.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers