Exclusive: WION in conversation with Lokesh Sharma, an Indian-origin scientist working on COVID-19 diagnosis and mitigation

WION New Delhi, India Mar 29, 2020, 03.32 PM(IST) Written By: Ayushi Agarwal Edited By: Bharat Sharma

WION speaks to Lokesh Sharma from Yale University Photograph:( WION Web Team )

Story highlights

WION’s Ayushi Agarwal spoke to Lokesh Sharma, an Indian-origin scientist working on diagnostic and containment strategies

A PTI study recently claimed that people can carry and spread the virus even after recovering, or with no symptoms. WION’s Ayushi Agarwal spoke to Lokesh Sharma, an Indian-origin scientist from Yale University working on diagnostic and containment strategies.

Here’s the full interview!

WION: What can you tell us about your research?

Lokesh Sharma: We have been working on various lung infections. We have focused mostly on bacterial and viral lung infections. Since the corona outbreak happened, our focus has been the pandemic. What are the clinical characteristics of the coronavirus and how do these patients respond to these viruses? What is the visual clearance?  These are the things that we have been working on.

In pics: Countries spared by the COVID-19 inferno... so far!

WION: What were the three most significant findings?

LS: Our research shows that most of the people who have coronavirus have mild infections if they are young and if they do not have any other diseases. Secondly, even though they do not have severe infections, and even after they resolve their infections, in terms of symptoms, they can still have a persistent viral load and can infect other people.

Third interesting finding, in a different study, is that many people with the infection do not even get symptoms, but had at one point, carried the virus. For this study, we tested 16 patients. In another study where we looked at hundreds of patients and their antibody response, we found that antibody testing may be more sensitive…  In another small study, most of the people exhibited symptoms that were not serious enough.

In pics: Countries ripped apart by the COVID-19 pandemic

WION: How should we protect health-care workers from subclinical coronavirus infection?

LS: Healthcare workers are the most vulnerable population and the best way to protect them is to treat every single patient. And by practicing social distance. They must use proper personal protective equipment akin to the N-95 masks, or a complete body suit. 

We are diagnosing patients on the phone. So if you do not have any severe issues, people should just talk on the phone and try to not meet the doctor physically.

In pics: Architectural marvels of the world pay tribute to health workers

WION: Please explain why controlling the spread of the disease has been difficult and how does this study which says that patients may still have symptoms, affect our mitigation strategy?

LS: India has controlled the virus really well so far because India has conducted a really absolutely low number of testing when compared to other countries. So to control it, I think the only thing that works is limitation, (in terms of travel and social contact). I think that is the only effective way until the vaccine comes.

In pics: Life under coronavirus: 24 hours around the world in pictures

WION: One message that you want to give to Indians?

LS: Just stay at home. Don't come into contact with others, don't believe in traditional medicines, don't believe in drinking urine or something. It will just damage your liver. If you are asymptomatic, stay at home. If you have symptoms, call the doctor and don't go to the hospital. Let them know in advance that you are visiting so they know how to deal with you. If it's controlled within a few weeks, I think things will be much better and we will have more knowledge about how to deal with it and how to contain this virus.