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New variants could lead to resurgence of Covid-19 cases: DAK

(Asian News Hub) – With India reporting mutated strains of the novel Coronavirus, Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Saturday said the new variants could lead to resurgence of Covid-19 cases.

“New variants could trigger a new wave of Covid-19 that could reignite the pandemic,” said DAK President and influenza expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan.

“After the UK variant, South African and Brazilian variants have found their way into India,” he said.
“At least 4 people have tested positive for South African variant of the virus and one has tested positive for the Brazilian variant.”

“While we struggle to come to grips with the foreign strains, a “new Indian mutant strain” has been found in Maharashtra which is seeing a spike in cases after a two month lull,” DAK President said.

“The new variants are on the move and they can sneak into the valley anytime,” he said adding Kashmir being the favorite tourist destination, the mutant strains could spread into the region through tourists.”

“The variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants which could lead to surge in new Covid-19 cases,” Dr Nisar said.

“People who have recovered from Covid-19 infection could be re-infected with the new mutated strains of the novel virus.”

Quoting a study published in the preprint server bioRxiv, he said that antibodies elicited by natural Covid-19 infection may not be able to neutralize emerging strains that display mutations in their genetic sequence.

“The new strains have been found to evade the effectiveness of the existing vaccines that have been developed against the original strain of the novel virus,” Dr Nisar said.

“Researchers from Johannesburg have shown that Oxford vaccine had significantly reduced efficacy against the South African variant.”

“Vaccine trials carried out by Janssen and Novavax too showed a significant drop in efficacy due to the variant,” he said.

“The variants loom at a time when Covid-19 cases are declining and people are weary of precautions. People must realize that the downward trend could quickly reverse if new variants take hold.”

“The fact of the matter is we are kind of in the dark. We don’t know whether the variants have sneaked in as there is no rigorous genetic surveillance system for tracking the variants.

Detecting variants and knowing where and how widely they are spreading could be critical to preventing another deadly wave of Covid-19 like the one we saw earlier,” said Dr Nisar.

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Serosurvey would determine impact of possible 3rd Covid wave on children: DAK

(Asian News Hub) – Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Saturday said serosurvey of pediatric population in the valley would determine the impact of possible third Covid-19 wave on children.

Serosurvey of children will give us a fair estimate of their vulnerability in predicted third wave,” said DAK President and influenza expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan.

“Serosurvey involves testing blood samples of individuals for antibodies that are developed after an infection,” he said.

“This will give us an idea about the percentage of pediatric population who might have developed natural immunity.”

Dr Hassan said recently, a serosurvey of general population including children aged 7 to 17 years has been completed in Kashmir, the results of which are awaited.  The sample size per district in the age group 7 to 11 was 40 and it was 80 in 12-17 age group.

“The survey needs to be extended to the age group of 0 to 6 years and the sample size per district should be 500 to 1000 to get a clearer picture of the actual percentage of children who have developed immunity against Covid-19,” he said.

Dr Hassan said there are speculations that children would be affected more than adults in possible third wave as this is the population group in which there is no vaccine yet.

“However, various serosurveys have dismissed the claim that the next wave will be affecting children exclusively,” he said.

“A pediatric serological study conducted by AIIMS, New Delhi at five different sites found that 55.7 percent children had developed antibodies,” DAK President said.

“The study found that seroprevalence of children and adults in the same regions were almost similar.”

“Another study conducted by PGI Chandigarh revealed that 69 percent of children had antibodies against Covid-19,” he said.

“These children had remained either asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic during the infection.”

“The data of the two surveys prove that children have acquired natural immunity against the virus and it is highly unlikely that the third wave will affect children more than adults,” said Dr Nisar.

“This is a big relief. Because the apprehensions expressed by several health experts about the third wave primarily targeting children had left people worried,” he said.

“But, we can’t derive conclusions on the data from other regions. We need to have our own data based on which decisions can be made ahead of the feared third wave,” he added.

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Israel reports Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness against infection down to 40%

(Asian News Hub) – The Health Ministry said Thursday that the effectiveness of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in preventing infection and mild symptoms has dropped to 40%, according to new data collected over the past month as the delta variant spreads in Israel.

In a televised address, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meanwhile called on Israelis who haven’t been vaccinated to do so as soon as possible.

“The Israeli government is investing billions so that there is a vaccine available in every location in the country, and there are still a million Israelis who simply refuse to be vaccinated,” he said. “The vaccine refusers are endangering their health, their surroundings and all Israeli citizens. If a million Israelis continue to be unvaccinated, this will force the others to shut themselves in at home.”

The effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing hospitalizations and severe symptoms stands at 88% and 91%, respectively, the ministry said.

With inputs from Haaretz

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Scientists discover more than 30 viruses frozen in ice, most never seen before

(Asian News Hub) – A group of scientists discovered ancient viruses frozen in two ice samples taken from the Tibetan Plateau in China, and most of them are unlike anything ever seen before.

The findings, published Wednesday in the journal Microbiome, came from ice cores taken in 2015 that scientists said began to freeze at least 14,400 years ago.

“These glaciers were formed gradually, and along with dust and gases, many, many viruses were also deposited in that ice,” Zhi-Ping Zhong, lead author and researcher at the Ohio State University Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, said in a statement. “The glaciers in western China are not well-studied, and our goal is to use this information to reflect past environments. And viruses are a part of those environments.”

When researchers analyzed the ice, they found genetic codes for 33 viruses. Of the 33, genetic codes for four of them showed they are part of virus families that typically infect bacteria. Up to 28 were novel, meaning they had never before been identified.

The group said it doesn’t believe the viruses originated from animals or humans but came from the soil or plants. The scientists said roughly half of them survived because of the ice.

“These are viruses that would have thrived in extreme environments,” said Matthew Sullivan, co-author of the study and director of Ohio State’s Center of Microbiome Science.

“These viruses have signatures of genes that help them infect cells in cold environments – just surreal genetic signatures for how a virus is able to survive in extreme conditions.”

Sullivan said the technology used to study microbes and viruses inside the ice would lead to looking for similar genetic sequences in other extreme ice environments, possibly on Mars.

Senior author of the study Lonnie Thompson said the discovery of the viruses in glaciers of ice will help researchers understand how they respond to climate change.

“We know very little about viruses and microbes in these extreme environments and what is actually there,” Thompson said. 

“The documentation and understanding of that is extremely important.”

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