CoronaCast: Raising awareness through researched content
CoronaCast, a Facebook-based online platform initiated by five Bangladeshi students from the University of Oxford, shares just the right information on the novel coronavirus via LIVE sessions, every day. Initially, the team wanted to start a discussion based on valid and updated research, which is important for COVID-19, as it is termed to be a novel virus, and research on it is still on at the preliminary level.
Noticing the importance and necessity of valid and verified information to help people in Coronavirus pandemic, Monzilur Rahman, a computational neuroscientist who is currently at the final stage of his doctoral study camu up with this idea. "Knowledge about the virus is evolving rapidly as we are uncovering new facts and learning new information almost every day," he shares.
The first season of CoronaCast, consisting of 10 episodes, became a success as it reached around 18000 views. The first episode dealt with 'Passive Antibody Therapy for CoVID-19' where they talked about the use of serum from immune individuals to treat the vulnerable ones. The second episode 'What makes CoVID-19 so dangerous?' discussed the features of the virus that makes it more infectious compared to other pathogens. In the third episode, 'Potential Therapeutic Options for CoVID-19', the team shared that anti-malaria drug can be used against the virus and talked about the different strategies for designing a drug against viral infection. They also asserted on the efficiency of black cumin seed (kalijira) in terms of fighting the virus. The fourth episode was on 'Updates on the Development of Vaccine Against CoVID-19, featuring a discussion on the vaccine strategies in the presence of Shajedur Rahman Shawon, Research Associate at University of New South Wales. The fifth episode was a question-answer round.
During the sixth episode, 'PPE and Personal Protective Measures for CoVID-19', they answered questions like, how PPE works and how we could protect ourselves. It concluded with the team emphasising on the fact that not everyone needs a N-95 mask. This session was overviewed by Fazle Rabbi Chowdhury, Assistant Professor, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.
The seventh episode dealt with the effect of temperature and humidity on the virus, whereas, the eighth episode, 'Origin of the Novel Coronavirus' disregarded the accusation of the virus being a biological weapon made by China. Mir Khalid, a PhD student at Gladstone Institutes shared his opinion over the evolution of the virus and human infection during the episode.
The ninth episode, 'Can BCG vaccine be a Potential New Tool to fight CoVID-19?" was a question and answer session. Asma Aziz, Research investigator, International Center for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh joined the broadcast. The final episode, 'COVID-19 Pandemic: where we are at and where we are heading' discussed the policy making, current status and future of the pandemic.
"We are going through the most recent scientific papers on CoVID-19 and wanted to share our knowledge with others eradicating some of the most common myths. This is also why we tried to keep our discussion very casual in our mother language," said Mohammad Ali Kochi, who is currently doing his PhD in Clinical Medicine. His research primarily focuses on the metabolic functions of immune cells of our body and their changes in presence of several pathogens. He is also serving as an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in Bangladesh Civil Service and is currently attached to the office of Directorate General of Health Services, Dhaka.
The response they have received so far has been overwhelming and the team is glad to see so many eager minds coming up with creative questions and constructive comments. "I believe that our initiative has helped people understand how science works, especially how questioning outcomes forms a crucial part of interpreting scientific results," says Hassan Saad Ifti, an aerospace engineer by training and a member of CoronaCast.
Through this initiative, the team anticipates that people would protect themselves by gaining scientifically accurate information and expects the audience to appreciate the rigorous and slow advancement of science that solves rapidly emerging situations, encouraging more funding in scientific studies in future. "Science never delivers fast and it takes time and immense effort to come up with a cure," asserts Shamir Montazid, who is currently working on a research on stem cells. "We need to remember that science is our only hope right now."
While discussing the impact of their work, Mohammad Anisul Karim discussed about the impact of their initiative. "A small proportion of people among the audience would exercise their ability to critically think about things and entertain possibilities without accepting them," mentions Anisul, who is a PhD student and is also working as a Computational Biologist at the Centre for Therapeutic Target Validation in Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.
CoronaCast has started streaming its second season on Facebook. All episodes of the first season can be found on their official YouTube channel.