The scientists of Brazil in the vanguard of the fight against the coronavirus

Les scientifiques du Brésil à la pointe du combat contre le coronavirus

Despite the budgetary austerity, the scientific community, the brazilian conducts cutting-edge research to combat the coronavirus, with innovative solutions to overcome the lack of equipment in hospitals, such as respirators, artificial.

As soon as the confirmation of the first case of Covid-19, Brazil, Sao Paulo, February 26, the two researchers have sequenced the genome of the virus in a record time (within 48 hours), showing the great vitality of the science in their country, despite obstacles.

“The scientific community, the brazilian brings a very important contribution, even though it has received very little funding from the federal government, especially these last six years,” says AFP Carlos Brito, chief scientific officer of the Foundation for research support of Sao Paulo (FAPESP).

Since the arrival in power of president of extreme right-wing Jair Bolsonaro in January 2019, the public universities have regularly been the target of criticism of the government and its supporters, who accuse them of promoting an “ideology of the left”, and the budget cuts have accelerated in the research.

The Face of coronavirus, the head of State has ignored all the scientific evidence challenging the containment measures recommended by WHO and adopted throughout the world, in the name of the preservation of the economy.

He almost fired him Monday, his own minister of Health, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, a doctor who says to the contrary, be based “solely on the science” to make decisions.

The posture of Jair Bolsonaro is defended by some business leaders, but also pastors of churches neo-pentecostals, including the influential Edir Macedo, for whom the idea of imposing a social distancing is “a tactic of Satan.”

Respirator at a low cost

Far from demobilizing, the brazilian researchers continue to work tirelessly in universities, public or private, against the coronavirus that has caused nearly 700 deaths, and of which the peak is expected at the end of April.

Beyond the research, groups of students and teachers dedicated to the production of material shortage currently, such a result, artificial respirators, protective equipment for health-care professionals or the gel is hydro-alcoholic.

Jurandir Nadal, head of the laboratory of engineering lung institute COPPE of the federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), develops a draft of the respirator at a low cost.

By bringing together teachers and students of various disciplines of medicine and engineering, it has developed a prototype which, if it is produced on a large scale, “can be used on an exceptional basis, in cases of emergency, in the absence of a device for lung ventilation-conventional”.

Cost: 5 000 réais (approximately 1 372 canadian dollars), ten times less than the average price of the respirators industrial.

The idea is to manufacture in a first time, approximately 1,000 devices, with funding from private and public companies.

According to the ministry of Health, Brazil, for its 210 million inhabitants, currently has 65 000 devices of ventilation of lungs. The government has ordered 15 000 18 296 canadian dollars.

Necessary investments

Despite the success of this kind of initiative, Jurandir Nadal admits that because of budget cuts, it is increasingly difficult to retain the young brazilian researchers, attracted by better working conditions in foreign universities.

Several agencies brazilian government to support research and education have begun to release funds to finance projects aimed at combating the sars coronavirus.

But Carlos Brito recalls that the Brazilian manages to pick the fruit of work carried out since several decades, particularly in areas such as virology, which is crucial in the fight against the Covid-19.

The country has faced many epidemics in recent years, including those of dengue, zika or chikungunya.

“The scientific capacity to make a real contribution in an emergency situation like this is not built in a week. We have acquired this know-how throughout the last 40 years,” he says.

“Universities are the pride of Brazil and it must be seen as well. This is the time to show our value, to show that public funding is fundamental,” says Denise Carvalho, president of the UFRJ.

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