First open source all-atom models of COVID-19 protein developed

Agencies
June 22,2020

A team of scientists has produced first open source all-atom models of full-length COVID-19 Spike protein that facilitates viral entry into host cells – a discovery that can facilitate a faster vaccine and antiviral drug development.

The group from Seoul National University in South Korea, University of Cambridge in the UK and Lehigh University in the US produced the first open-source all-atom models of a full-length S protein.

The researchers say this is of particular importance because the S protein plays a central role in viral entry into cells, making it a main target for vaccine and antiviral drug development.

"Our models are the first full-length SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) protein models that are available to other scientists," said Wonpil Im, a professor in Lehigh University.

"Our team spent days and nights to build these models very carefully from the known cryo-EM structure portions. Modeling was very challenging because there were many regions where simple modeling failed to provide high-quality models," he wrote in a paper published in The Journal of Physical Chemistry B.

Scientists can use the models to conduct innovative and novel simulation research for the prevention and treatment of Covid-19.

Though the coronavirus uses many different proteins to replicate and invade cells, the Spike protein is the major surface protein that it uses to bind to a receptor.

The total number of global COVID-19 cases was nearing 9 million, while the deaths have increased to over 467,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

With 2,279,306 cases and 119,967 deaths, the US continues with the world's highest number of COVID-19 infections and fatalities, according to the CSSE.

Brazil comes in the second place with 1,083,341 infections and 50,591 deaths.

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Is coronavirus spreading through air?

Agencies
July 30,2020

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New York, Jul 30: Can the coronavirus spread through the air? Yes, it's possible.

The World Health Organisation recently acknowledged the possibility that Covid-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions.

Recent Covid-19 outbreaks in crowded indoor settings — restaurants, nightclubs and choir practices — suggest the virus can hang around in the air long enough to potentially infect others if social distancing measures are not strictly enforced.

Experts say the lack of ventilation in these situations is thought to have contributed to spread, and might have allowed the virus to linger in the air longer than normal.

In a report published in May, researchers found that talking produced respiratory droplets that could remain in the air in a closed environment for about eight to 14 minutes.

The WHO says those most at risk from airborne spread are doctors and nurses who perform specialized procedures such as inserting a breathing tube or putting patients on a ventilator.

Medical authorities recommend the use of protective masks and other equipment when doing such procedures.

Scientists maintain it's far less risky to be outside than indoors because virus droplets disperse in the fresh air, reducing the chances of Covid-19 transmission.

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Biryani tops the list of most ordered dishes in India even during lockdown

Agencies
July 25,2020

The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown saw many people turning chefs overnight, but those who could not turned to online delivery of food. And not just any food, as per a new report, Indians "craved the most for Biryani" during the lockdown.

The "StatEATistics report: The Quarantine Edition" from food delivery platform Swiggy found that Indians ordered biryani over "5.5 lakh times" from their favourite restaurants.

The new normal might have opened a pandora's box of behavioral changes, but some old habits die hard like the love for Biryani, which took the top spot for overall orders. It was followed by butter naan and masala dosa at 3,35,185 and 3,31,423, respectively.

Biryani has topped the list of most ordered dishes for the fourth year in a row, the food delivery platform noted.

Indians didn't forget to indulge their sweet tooth in the uncertain months of lockdown. Their favourite comfort food during the lockdown period was the moist and decadent Choco Lava cake, ordered around 1,29,000 times.

"The humble Gulab Jamun (84,558) and chic Butterscotch Mousse cake (27,317) followed suit," said the report derived from Swiggy's order analysis in the past few months across cities that it is present in.

Also, as birthday parties moved to video calls, and virtual cake cutting sessions, according to the food delivery platform, it delivered nearly "1,20,000 cakes" to complete these celebrations.

According to the report, on average, "65,000 meal orders" were placed by 8 pm each day to make sure food arrived in time for dinner.

"It was the busiest hour for Swiggy delivery partners and restaurants. On average, they (customers) chose to tip Rs.23.65, with one particularly generous customer tipping Rs. 2500!," it added.

For those who only relied on home-made food during the quarantine, Swiggy delivered a whooping 323 million kgs of onions and 56 million kgs of bananas through its grocery section and hence ensured that its consumers were all stocked up.

That said, it also took care of the 'quick-fix meal' tribe -- consumers who resort to the evergreen college hacks of living on instant noodles.

"Around 3,50,000 packets of this ideal easy to cook meal were ordered during the lockdown," it said.

In all, Swiggy delivered 40 million orders across food, groceries, medicines and other household items during India's lockdowns. It also delivered over 73,000 bottles of sanitizers and hand wash along with 47,000 face masks as the definition of essentials' changed during these uncertain times.

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COVID-19 | Govt warns against use of N-95 masks with valved respirators

Agencies
July 21,2020

New Delhi, Jul 21: The Centre has written to all states and union territories warning against the use of N-95 masks with valved respirators by people, saying these do not prevent the virus from spreading out and are "detrimental" to the measures adopted for its containment.

The Director General of Health Services (DGHS) in the Ministry of Health, in a letter to the Principal Secretaries of health and medical education of states, said it has been observed that there is "inappropriate use" of N-95 masks, particularly those with valved respirators, by the public other than designated health workers.

The DGHS referred to the advisory on the use of homemade protective cover for face and mouth available on the website of the Ministry of Health.

"It is to bring to your knowledge that the use of valved respirator N-95 masks is detrimental to the measures adopted for preventing the spread of coronavirus as it does not prevent the virus from escaping out of the mask. In view of the above, I request you to instruct all concerned to follow the use of face/mouth cover and prevent inappropriate use of N-95 masks," DGHS Rajiv Garg said in the letter.

The government had in April issued an advisory on the use of homemade protective cover for face and mouth, asking people to wear it, particularly when they step out of their residences.

The advisory stressed such face covers must be washed and cleaned each day, as instructed, and stated that any used cotton cloth can be used to make this face cover.

The colour of the fabric does not matter but one must ensure that the fabric is washed well in boiling water for five minutes and dried well before making the face cover. Adding salt to this water is recommended, it said.

It also listed the procedures of making such homemade masks, asking to ensure it fits the face well and there are no gaps on the sides.

It urges people to wash hands thoroughly before wearing the face cover, switching to another fresh one as the face cover becomes damp or humid, and never reusing it after single use without cleaning it.

"Never share the face cover with anyone. Every member in a family should have separate face cover," the advisory stated.

India's COVID-19 case tally crossed the 11-lakh mark on Monday, while the total number of recovered patients increased to over seven lakh, according to Union health ministry data.

The death toll due to the disease rose to 27,497 with 681 fatalities reported in one day.

The ministry data updated at 8 am on Monday showed that a record single-day jump of 40,425 COVID-19 cases had taken the total number of cases to 11,18,043.

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