54 pc Indians cancelling or not booking their planned travel this summer: Survey

Agencies
March 16, 2020

New Delhi, Mar 16: A recent survey across 140 districts of the country shows that about 54 per cent of Indians are finding travelling to be unsafe as the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic sweeps globally.

The big worry that people have is community transmission, something that researchers from around the world have approximated at 10 per cent of total infections and more common in places like Wuhan in China, South Korea, Iran and Italy.

The months of March to June have historically been high travel season for most Indians, largely due to the summer vacations in schools. "But it seems that Indians do not want to take a chance with this rather scary virus and are either cancelling or postponing their travel plans," concluded the survey by LocalCircles.

The survey gathered more than 22,000 responses from participants in tier one, two and three cities. It said 48 per cent Indians plan to cancel their international business travel for the next four months.

Besides, nearly 38 per cent of respondents said they had to pay cancellation fee to the website, travel agent, airline or railways.

"These are testing times for the entire travel and tourism industry -- airlines, hotels, travel agents as well as small tour and taxi operators. The best solution at this point is to adjust cost structures, stay flexible and work with a collective approach to minimise the period of impact to both citizens and business," said LocalCircles.

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Agencies
September 25,2020

A standard test that assesses blood cells can identify which patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 could face a high risk of becoming critical and die, say researchers.

"We wanted to help find ways to identify high-risk COVID patients as early and as easily as possible -- who are likely to become severely ill and which hospitalized patients are likely to get worse quickly," said study researcher John M Higgins from the Massachusetts General Hospital in the US.

Higgins noted that early reports from China indicated that the body's inflammatory response was extremely intense in some patients and very mild in others.

His own group's previous work revealed that certain changes in the numbers and types of blood cells during inflammation are associated with poor health outcomes in patients with diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

"We quickly re-focused our computational infrastructure towards the analysis of the Covid-19 patient cohort that was growing rapidly in the Boston area last spring," explained study first author Brody Foy from the Harvard Medical School.

Their analysis, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, included all adults diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 infection and admitted to one of four hospitals in the Boston area between March 4 and April 28, 2020.

Before looking for complicated changes in circulating blood cells in the 1,641 patients included in the study, the scientists first searched for patterns using currently available blood tests that are routinely performed.

"We were surprised to find that one standard test that quantifies the variation in size of red blood cells -- called red cell distribution width, or RDW -- was highly correlated with patient mortality," the researchers wrote.

The correlation persisted when controlling for other identified risk factors like patient age, some other lab tests, and some pre-existing illnesses," they added.

Patients who had RDW values above the normal range when they were admitted to the hospital had a 2.7-times higher risk of dying, with a mortality rate of 31 per cent compared with 11 per cent in patients with normal RDW values.

Also, a subsequent increase in RDW after admission was associated with an even higher risk of dying, indicating that RDW could be tracked during hospitalization to help determine whether patients are responding to treatment or getting worse.

The investigators are currently seeking to uncover the mechanisms that cause RDW elevations in severe COVID-19 cases.

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Agencies
September 13,2020

New Delhi, Sept 13: A group of scientists in India is working on genomic sequences of SARS-CoV-2 around the World, including India, to identify genetic variability and potential molecular targets in virus and human to find the best possible answer to combat the COVID-19 virus.

As per the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the study is sponsored by Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), a statutory body under the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the study has been published in the Journal called Infection, Genetics, and Evolution.

Breaking down the novel coronavirus challenge into many pieces to get to its root and see it from multiple directions, Dr. Indrajit Saha, Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering of National Institute of Technical Teachers' Training and Research, Kolkata, and his team have developed a web-based COVID- Predictor to predict the sequence of viruses online on the basis of machine learning and analysed 566 Indian SARS-CoV-2 genomes to find the genetic variability in terms of point mutation and Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP).

"They have mainly found that 57 out of 64 SNPs are present in 6 coding regions of Indian SARS-CoV-2 genomes, and all are nonsynonymous in nature. They have extended this research for more than 10 thousand sequences around the globe, including India and found 20260, 18997, and 3514 unique mutation points globally, including India, excluding India and only for India, respectively," the ministry said.

The scientists are on the track to identify the genetic variability in SARS-CoV-2 genomes around the globe including India, find the number of virus strains using Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP), spot the potential target proteins of the virus and human host based on Protein-Protein Interactions. They also carried out integrating the knowledge of genetic variability, recognize candidates of synthetic vaccine based on conserved genomic regions that are highly immunogenic and antigenic, and detect the virus miRNAs that are also involved in regulating human mRNA.

"They have computed the mutation similarity in sequences of different countries. The results show that the USA, England, and India are the top three countries having the geometric mean, 3.27 per cent, 3.59 per cent, and 5.39 per cent, respectively, of mutation similarity score with other 72 countries," the ministry said.

The scientists have also developed a web application for searching the mutation points in SARS-CoV-2 genomes globally and country wise. Besides, they are now working more towards protein-protein interactions, epitopes discovery, and virus miRNA prediction, it said.

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Agencies
September 17,2020

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New Delhi, Sept 17: Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday said that the coronavirus vaccine will be made available in the country by the start of next year. The remarks come at a time when India is recording more than 50 lakh cases and people are awaiting the vaccine with bated breath.

"Just like other countries, India is also making efforts. Three vaccines candidates are in different phases. Under Prime Minister's guidance, an expert group is looking at it and there is advanced planning in place. We are hopeful that by the start of next year a vaccine will be available in India," Harsh Vardhan said in Rajya Sabha.

Two indigenous vaccines by Zydus Cadila and Bharat Biotech have completed phase 1. Serum Institute of India (SII) has again commenced the trials after getting clearance from the Drug Controller General of India.

India is the manufacturing partner of the vaccine candidate named Covishield, developed jointly by the University of Oxford's Jenner Institute's and AstraZeneca. The Pune-based firm, SII, is looking after the trials at 17 trial sites across India.

Besides this, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and Dr. Reddy's Laboratories Limited, a global pharmaceutical company headquartered out of India, have agreed to cooperate on clinical trials and distribution of Sputnik V vaccine in India.

Sputnik V, an adenovirus vector-based vaccine, was developed by the Gamaleya Scientific Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, along with the Russian Direct Investment Fund and registered on August 11.

"On regulatory approval in India, RDIF shall supply to Dr. Reddy's 100 million doses of the vaccine. The Sputnik V vaccine, which is based on well-studied human adenoviral vector platform with proven safety, is undergoing clinical trials for the coronavirus pandemic," said a statement from the fund.

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