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AstraZeneca could have COVID-19 vaccine against variant by end of 2021

(Asian News Hub) – A modified version of AstraZeneca’s (AZN.L) COVID-19 vaccine tailored to combat a coronavirus variant first documented in South Africa could be ready by the end of 2021, an AstraZeneca official in Austria said in an interview published on Sunday.

Sarah Walters, AstraZeneca’s Austria country manager, told the Kurier newspaper that studies, so far, indicating the existing AstraZeneca vaccine was less effective against the more infectious variant first documented in South Africa were “too small to draw final conclusions”.

“In the meantime, AstraZeneca and Oxford University have started on modifications to the vaccine for the South African variant and we expect it will be ready by the end of the year, should it be needed,” Walters told the Kurier.

Walters blamed challenges – including delivery delays for the AstraZeneca shot in the European Union – on the “complex process” of producing a vaccine, coupled with the extremely high demand arising from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We had to work without keeping a supply in reserve. As a result, we couldn’t make up for unexpected events,” she said. “We are confident that we will fulfill our commitment to deliver 300 million doses to the European Union this year.”

The Kurier interview did not directly address ongoing investigations into health concerns over the AstraZeneca shot. The EU has put a warning label on the vaccine over its possible linkage to extremely rare blood clots, Denmark has completely halted use of the vaccine and Britain has advised people under 30 to get another brand of vaccine.

Asked about “thousands” of people in Austria who are cancelling their appointments for AstraZeneca shots, Walters said the company’s plan was “to continue to transparently provide information about efficacy and safety to doctors, so that they can adequately inform people” of benefits and risks.

British and European Union medicine regulators have said that the overall benefits of using the vaccine outweigh any risks of rare clotting.

Reuters

Medical Science

CT scan effective tool to detect, determine severity of Covid-19 cases: DAK

(Asian News Hub) – Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Saturday said chest CT scan is an effective tool to detect and determine the severity of Covid-19 cases.

“CT scan helps in diagnosing and predicting the outcome of Covid-19 patients,” said DAK President and influenza expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan.

“More Covid cases are detected with a CT scan of the chest than through RT-PCR,” he said.

Dr Hassan said we see many patients who test negative on RT-PCR test, but show CT features consistent with Covid-19 disease.

 “Many infected patients go unreported as only RT-PCR positive cases are reported. We have a large number of patients who test positive through CT, but are not reported,” he said.

Dr Hassan said RT-PCR, which uses swab for the detection of Covid-19 infection has a sensitivity of 60%-70%. That means more than 30% of positive cases may be missed by the test.

“Another swab test which is now widely used is rapid antigen test. It has a sensitivity of around 50 percent, which raises the possibility of missing more than half of the positive cases,” he said.

 “Low sensitivity of swab tests implies that many patients with Covid-19 infection may not be identified and consequently are not isolated from healthy population. And these individuals will continue to spread the disease in the community,” he added.

“Studies have shown that CT has a greater sensitivity ranging from 86% and 98% for detecting positive cases, while having a lower false negative rate than the lab tests,” Dr Nisar said

“In a study of 1,014 patients published in the Journal Radiology, researchers in china found that 88% of the patients showed chest CT findings indicative of Covid-19, while RT-PCR test detected only 59 percent of cases. Among those with negative swab test results, 75 percent had positive chest CT findings,” he said.

The DAK President said not only is CT useful in identifying Covid cases, it also tells us about the severity of the disease.

“That would guide treatment and help reduce the risk of death in Covid patients and save lives,” he said.

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Scientists have taught bees to smell the coronavirus, can identify a case within seconds

(Asian News Hub) – Scientists in the Netherlands have trained bees to identify COVID-19 through their sense of smell, according to a press release from Wageningen University.

The research was conducted on more than 150 bees in Wageningen University’s bio-veterinary research laboratory.

The scientists trained the bees by giving them a treat – a sugar-water solution – every time they were exposed to the scent of a mink infected with COVID-19. Each time the bees were exposed to a non-infected sample, they wouldn’t get a reward (a process known as Pavlovian conditioning).

Eventually, the bees could identify an infected sample within a few seconds – and would then stick out their tongues like clockwork to collect the sugar water.

Bees aren’t the first animals to detect COVID-19 by scent. Researchers have also trained dogs to distinguish between positive and negative COVID-19 samples from human saliva or sweat with fairly high levels of accuracy. A small German study found that dogs could identify positive COVID-19 samples 94% of the time.

That’s because metabolic changes from the coronavirus make an infected person’s bodily fluids smell slightly different than those of a non-infected person.But researchers still aren’t sure whether animals are the best bet for sniffing out COVID-19 cases outside the lab.

“No one is saying they can replace a PCR machine, but they could be very promising,” Holger Volk, a veterinary neurologist, told Nature.

PCR machines are what lab technicians use to process standard COVID-19 swab tests.

At the very least, certain animals could be useful for identifying COVID-19 in places or countries in which high-tech laboratory equipment is scarce or inaccessible.Wageningen scientists, for instance, are working on a prototype of a machine that could automatically train multiple bees at once, then uses their skills to test for coronavirus aerosols (tiny virus-laden particles) in the surrounding environment.

AGENCY

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Delhi hospital study finds 16 per cent vaccinated individuals tested positive for Covid-19

(Asian News Hub) – A small-scale study on 113 healthcare workers who had received at least one vaccine dose at a private hospital in Delhi found that 18 tested positive for Covid but all except one had mild symptoms.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research and Reviews on May 3, was conducted on employees of the Fortis Centre of Excellence for Diabetes, 
Metabolic Diseases and Endocrinology in Delhi.

The participants in the study by researchers at Fortis, National Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation, and Diabetes Foundation (India), New Delhi, included doctors, nutritionists, nurses, paramedical workers, and maintenance staff.

Of the 113 in the study, 107 had received the second dose of the vaccine.

Taken in percentage form, the study found that 
breakthrough infections — Covid infection in vaccinated individuals — occurred in 15.9 per cent (18 persons) of the vaccinated individuals and 95 per cent had mild symptoms. Of these, 17 incurred the infection after the second dose and one person. Except one person who required hospitalisation, all others had mild Covid-19 disease, the researchers said.

According to the study, of the breakthrough infections in 18 persons, 17 incurred the infection after the second dose. These 17 had got their second dose after a mean of 34.8 days following the first jab. All were symptomatic with fever and half of them had sore throat and cough.

The study covered 123 employees “ 75 males, 48 females with mean age 42 — 113 of whom were vaccinated. Of them, 28 people had received the 
Covaxin vaccine from Bharat Biotech, and 85 the 
Covishield preventive from the Oxford/AstraZeneca stable. Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik V are the three Covid-19 vaccines currently approved for use in India. The three vaccines claim efficacy of 81 per cent, 70 per cent, and 92 per cent respectively.

However, Sputnik V has not yet hit the market. The researchers noted that breakthrough infections after adequate vaccinations are a matter of concern but adequate data on these infections is not available. Vaccines have effectiveness risk of getting Covid-19 infections by 70-90 per cent, and also shield from severe infection. It is possible, therefore, some people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 may get Covid-19 infection, the authors of the study said.

They explained that unpublished data from India as well as published reports from other parts of the world indicate these infections are occurring but are rare. In addition, it appears that these breakthrough infections are either asymptomatic or mild in nature, the authors added. The authors acknowledged some limitations of their study: its small sample size, and absence of data on obesity and co-morbid diseases which are important determinants of severity of Covid-19. They also did not test asymptomatic infections.

PTI

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