'Children under the age of 5 carry higher levels of Covid-19'

Agencies
August 2, 2020

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Washington, Aug 2: Children under the age of five have between 10 to 100 times greater levels of genetic material of the coronavirus in their noses compared to older children and adults, a study in JAMA Pediatrics said Thursday.

Its authors wrote this meant that young children might be important drivers of Covid-19 transmission within communities -- a suggestion at odds with the current prevailing narrative.

The paper comes as the administration of US President Donald Trump is pushing hard for schools and daycare to reopen in order to kickstart the economy.

Between March 23 and April 27, researchers carried out nasal swab tests on 145 Chicago patients with mild to moderate illness within one week of symptom onset.

The patients were divided into three groups: 46 children younger than five-years-old, 51 children aged five to 17 years, and 48 adults aged 18 to 65 years.

The team, led by Dr Taylor Heald-Sargent of the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital, observed, "a 10-fold to 100-fold greater amount of SARS-CoV-2 in the upper respiratory tract of young children."

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The authors added that a recent lab study had demonstrated that the more viral genetic material was present, the more infectious virus could be grown.

It has also previously been shown that children with high viral loads of the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are more likely to spread the disease.

"Thus, young children can potentially be important drivers of SARS-CoV-2 spread in the general population," the authors wrote.

"Behavioral habits of young children and close quarters in school and daycare settings raise concern for SARS-CoV-2 amplification in this population as public health restrictions are eased," they concluded.

The new findings are at odds with the current view among health authorities that young children -- who, it has been well established, are far less likely to fall seriously ill from the virus -- don't spread it much to others either.

However, there has been fairly little research on the topic so far.

One recent study in South Korea found children aged 10 to 19 transmitted Covid-19 within households as much as adults, but children under nine transmitted the virus at lower rates.

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News Network
September 19,2020

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New Delhi, Sept 19: Scientists examined the effectiveness of common household fabrics used in homemade masks in blocking droplets generated by coughing and sneezing, and have found that they are considerably protective even as a single layer.

While earlier studies have focussed on the transfer of tiny, nanoscale aerosol particles through masks, the researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the US said speaking, coughing, and sneezing generates larger droplets -- about one millimeter in diameter -- that can carry virus particles.

They said the larger droplets pose a problem as they can squeeze through the pores of some fabrics if they have sufficient momentum, and break into smaller droplets and become airborne.

In the study, published in the journal Extreme Mechanics Letters, the scientists filled the nozzle of an inhaler with distilled water seeded with easy-to-find ultrasmall fluorescent particles -- which happens to be the size of a novel coronavirus particle.

The inhaler forced the water through the nozzle when puffed, and generated high-momentum droplets that collected on a plastic dish placed in front of the inhaler, the study noted.

The researchers repeated this process with the various materials placed over the collection dishes to test their ability to block the particles.

"We count the number of nanoparticles landing on the dish using a high-resolution confocal microscope. We can then use the ratio of the number collected with and without the fabric to give us a measure of droplet-blocking efficiency," said study co-author Taher Saif.

However, the scientists said for an individual to feel compelled to wear a mask, the material must not only be able to block the droplets, but also be comfortable and breathable.

"A mask made out of a low-breathability fabric is not only uncomfortable, but can also result in leakage as the exhaled air is forced out around contours of a face, defeating the purpose of the mask and providing a false sense of protection," Saif said.

"Our goal is to show that many common fabrics exploit the trade-off between breathability and efficiency of blocking droplets -- large and small," he added.

The scientists tested the breathability and droplet-blocking ability of 11 common household fabrics, including new and used garments, quilted cloths, bedsheets and dishcloth material, using a medical mask as a benchmark.

They then characterised the fabrics in terms of their construction, fiber content, weight, thread count, porosity and water-absorption rate.

Their analyses revealed that droplets leave the inhaler at about 17 metres per second (mps) while those released by speaking, coughing and sneezing have velocities within the range of 10 to 40 (mps).

"We found that all of the fabrics tested are considerably effective at blocking the 100 nanometer particles carried by high-velocity droplets similar to those that may be released by speaking, coughing and sneezing, even as a single layer," Saif said.

"With two or three layers, even the more permeable fabrics, such as T-shirt cloth, achieve droplet-blocking efficiency that is similar to that of a medical mask, while still maintaining comparable or better breathability," he added.

The researchers believe the new experimental platform may offer a way to test fabrics for their blocking efficiency against the small and larger droplets that are released as people breathe, or cough.

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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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Agencies
September 18,2020

London, Sept 18: Researchers have created a 90-minute high speed COVID-19 test which does not require a laboratory and can be performed in cartridges smaller than a mobile phone with high accuracy.

The study, published in the journal The Lancet Microbe, revealed that the Lab-in-Cartridge rapid testing device, which can be performed at a patient's bedside, was shown to have over 94 per cent sensitivity and 100 per cent specificity,

It means that it had a high level of accuracy and produced very few false negatives and no false positives.

To perform the test, a paediatric-sized nose swab from a patient is inserted into the device, which then looks for traces of genetic material belonging to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.

A result is available within 90 minutes, compared to conventional COVID-19 testing which delivers a result in 24 hours.

"These results suggest the test, which can be performed at a patient's bedside without the need to handle any sample material, has comparable accuracy to standard laboratory testing," said study researcher Graham Cooke from the Kings College London in the UK.

According to the study, the device was used on 280 NHS staff members with suspected COVID-19, 15 patients in accident & emergency department with suspected COVID-19, and 91 hospital in-patients.

The samples from all individuals in the study were analysed on both the rapid-testing device, called the COVIDNudge test, and standard hospital laboratory equipment - and then the results compared.

The research team assessed sensitivity and specificity.

Sensitivity is a measure of how well a test gives a positive result for people who have disease, and is an indication of how likely a test will produce false negative results.

Specificity, on the other hand, is a measure of a test's ability to give a negative result for people who don't have the disease, and is an indication of the likelihood of false positive results.

The percentage of those found to be positive for COVID-19 was 18 per cent.

The results showed 67 samples tested positive on the COVID Nudge test, compared with 71 positive results against a range of standard laboratory machines, which represents the value of 94 per cent sensitivity.

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