Stay healthy! 

Michael Hengartner is President of the ETH Board - and thus something like the Chief Researcher of Switzerland. In his column he speaks about interesting facts from the world of science. This week: How ETH is fighting Corona through research.
Foto: pixabay

We're all in the same boat - and it's swaying a lot right now. The research world is no different from many of you. Students work almost exclusively from home, professors give their lectures via the Internet, and to make sure that all this works, our computer scientists work overtime.

I myself currently work mostly from home. My wife, the children and I are working hard to keep us from getting cabin fever. Meanwhile, the lecture halls at the universities are empty and the offices are deserted. But there are exceptions. Work is in full swing in the laboratories where solutions to the corona crisis are being researched.

We can only solve this crisis together, and so researchers are also working together more closely than ever before. Together they are working on quickly deployable, reusable protective masks. They are researching into quickly producible corona tests and collecting all available knowledge to be able to curb the virus even more effectively.

The best thing that could happen to us, of course, would be to find drugs or even a vaccine. And fortunately, research here does not start from scratch. We have the experience of diseases like sars, mers, ebola or HIV. We might be able to modify drugs that work on these diseases, so they also work against the new coronavirus.

In the meantime, it helps to wash your hands and keep your distance to other people to minimize the risk of infection. I’ve read exciting additional tips on the ETH Zurich website last week. They came from Viola Vogel, ETH Professor of Biomechanics.

Most of us imagine an infection like "Fangis" (play catch): Whoever comes into contact with the virus "has got it". But that is not the case. The decisive factor is how many viruses attack us at the same time and whether they can settle down. And that we can certainly influence.

If an infected person coughs close to me, the virus first enters my nose, mouth and throat while breathing in. In order for it to multiply there, however, it must be able to infect a mucous membrane cell - and this is by no means always successful!

Our mucous membranes clean themselves. Their walls consist of tiny hair that are covered by a thin layer of mucus. The hair move and thus remove the mucus and the particles deposited on them (for example the viruses) from our airways. However, if the mucus becomes thick, this conveyor belt comes to a standstill.

So what can you do? Keep your mucous membranes smooth! Drink tea, inhale, gargle with salt water and don't catch a cold. And if you smoke: Smoke less. All of which reduces the chances of the virus succeeding. In short: If you take good care of yourself, it will help you fight the virus.

And please: Stay home, wash your hands and keep your distance. Together we can get through this!

The article originally appeared in SonntagsBlick.