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Researchers develop smartphone-based COVID-19 test that delivers results in about 10 minutes

By University of Arizona

Researchers at the University of Arizona are developing a COVID-19 testing method that uses a smartphone microscope to analyze saliva samples and deliver results in about 10 minutes.

The UArizona research team, led by biomedical engineering professor Jeong-Yeol Yoon, aims to combine the speed of existing nasal swab antigen tests with the high accuracy of nasal swab PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, tests. The researchers are adapting an inexpensive method that they originally created to detect norovirus—the microbe famous for spreading on cruise ships—using a smartphone microscope.

They plan to use the method in conjunction with a saline swish-gargle test developed by Michael Worobey, head of the UArizona Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and associate director of the University of Arizona BIO5 Institute.

The team’s latest research using water samples—done in collaboration with Kelly A. Reynolds, chair of the Department of Community, Environment and Policy in the UArizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health—is published today in Nature Protocols.

“We’ve outlined it so that other scientists can basically repeat what we did and create a norovirus-detecting device,” said Lane Breshears, a biomedical engineering doctoral student in Yoon’s lab. “Our goal is that if you want to adapt it for something else, like we’ve adapted it for COVID-19, that you have all the ingredients you need to basically make your own device.”

Yoon—a BIO5 Institute member who is also a professor of biosystems engineering, animal and comparative biomedical sciences, and chemistry and biochemistry—is working with a large group of undergraduate and graduate students to develop the smartphone-based COVID-19 detection method.

“I have a couple of friends who had COVID-19 that were super frustrated, because their PCR results were taking six or seven days or they were getting false negatives from rapid antigen tests. But when they got the final PCR tests, they found out they had been sick, like they’d suspected,” said Katie Sosnowski, a biomedical engineering doctoral student who works in Yoon’s lab. “It’s really cool to be working on a detection platform that can get fast results that are also accurate.”

Cheaper, Simpler Detection

Traditional methods for detection of norovirus or other pathogens are often expensive, involve a large suite of laboratory equipment or require scientific expertise.

The smartphone-based norovirus test developed at UArizona consists of a smartphone, a simple microscope and a piece of microfluidic paper—a wax-coated paper that guides the liquid sample to flow through specific channels. It is smaller and cheaper than other tests, with the components costing about $45.

The basis of the technology, described in a 2019 paper published in the journal ACS Omega, is relatively simple. Users introduce antibodies with fluorescent beads to a potentially contaminated water sample. If enough particles of the pathogen are present in the sample, several antibodies attach to each pathogen particle.

Under a microscope, the pathogen particles show up as little clumps of fluorescent beads, which the user can then count. The process—adding beads to the sample, soaking a piece of paper in the sample, then taking a smartphone photograph of it under a microscope and counting the beads—takes about 10 to 15 minutes. It’s so simple that Yoon says a nonscientist could learn how to do it by watching a brief video.

The version of the technology described in the Nature Protocols paper makes further improvements, such as creating a 3-D-printed housing for the microscope attachment and microfluidic paper chip. The paper also introduces a method called adaptive thresholding. Previously, researchers set a fixed value for what quantity of pathogen constituted a danger, which limited precision levels.

The new version uses artificial intelligence to set the danger threshold and account for environmental differences, such as the type of smartphone and the quality of the paper.

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COVID19 vaccines effective enough, no need for third booster jab: Lancet

Cancer Vaccine

AFP

(Asian News Hub) – Vaccines are effective enough at preventing severe cases of Covid-19 that there is no current need for the general population to be given third doses, according to a report in The Lancet published Monday.

Some countries have started offering extra doses over fears about the much more contagious Delta variant, causing the World Health Organization to call for a moratorium on third jabs amid concerns about vaccine supplies to poorer nations, where millions have yet to receive their first jab.

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The new report by scientists, including from the WHO, concluded that even with the threat of Delta, “booster doses for the general population are not appropriate at this stage in the pandemic”.

The authors, who reviewed observational studies and clinical trials, found that vaccines remain highly effective against severe symptoms of Covid-19, across all the main virus variants including Delta, although they had lower success in preventing asymptomatic cases of the disease.

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“Taken as a whole, the currently available studies do not provide credible evidence of substantially declining protection against severe disease, which is the primary goal of vaccination,” said lead author Ana-Maria Henao-Restrepo, of the WHO.

She said vaccine doses should be prioritised to people around the world still waiting for a jab.

“If vaccines are deployed where they would do the most good, they could hasten the end of the pandemic by inhibiting further evolution of variants,” she added.

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COVID-19: Samba becomes first district to complete vaccination for all above 18 years

Cancer Vaccine

Instead of waiting for people to come, we reached out to them: DC Samba; LG congratulates for achieving milestone

(Asian News Hub) – Amid the ongoing Covid vaccination drive in Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory, Samba has become the first district in giving the first dose of Covid vaccine to all above 18 years of age.

A top health official told news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO) that there are around 241,000 persons in the district in between 18-44 age group and all of them have already got their first dose of Covid vaccine.

Also Read: DAK urges flu vaccination for children ahead of third Covid wave

He said that around 78,000 (33 percent) people have also got second dose of Covid vaccine and the process of vaccinating more and more people is going on. “It was possible only due to the efforts of health workers and front line workers who have worked tirelessly to achieve this milestone,” the official said.

District Magistrate Samba Anuradha Gupta said that since the beginning Samba district started the vaccination process strategically and Samba was among first few districts which completed vaccination process of all above 45 years of age.

“Instead of waiting for people to come to us, we went to them. We had constituted mobile teams to reach everyone. We were vaccinating above 45 age group the positivity and mortality rate started declining and people understood the importance of vaccination,” Gupta said.

Also Read: WHO says Covid will mutate like the flu and is likely here to stay

She said that then people above 18 years came on their own without need of any mobilisation and “our efforts are on complete second dose process at an earliest.”

Meanwhile LG Manoj Sinha has congratulated the Covid management team of Samba and health care workers for their tireless efforts in completing 100 percent vaccination of above 18 years of age. He hoped that other districts will catch up soon and complete this process as well.

“Congratulations to Covid mgmt team of Samba & health care workers for their tireless effort to ensure 100% vaccination of above 18 yrs of age.Samba becomes first distt. of J&K to achieve this milestone & I am sure other districts will catch up soon,” Office of LG tweeted.

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DAK urges flu vaccination for children ahead of third Covid wave

(Asian News Hub) – Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Wednesday urged parents to get their children vaccinated against flu ahead of third Covid wave which is predicted to happen sometime in the fall of this year and is expected to affect kids the most.

“Receiving a flu shot could make it easier to tell if your child has Covid-19 in the event he/she gets sick as both illnesses have similar symptoms,” said DAK President and influenza expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan.

Also Read: WHO says Covid will mutate like the flu and is likely here to stay

“This year’s flu season will likely coincide with the predicted third Covid wave. Administering flu vaccine would reduce the number of unnecessary Covid-19 tests that would limit the burden on hospitals and healthcare workers,” he added.

Quoting a recent study conducted at the University of Missouri School of Medicine Columbia, Dr Hassan said flu vaccination may offer some protection against Covid-19 in the pediatric population.

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“The study found that those Covid-19 positive patients who had been administered the flu vaccine in the 2020 flu season had reduced odds of experiencing symptoms, respiratory complications and severe disease,” he said.

The DAK President said we would be facing a double whammy of flu and Covid this fall.

​ “You can catch the flu and Covid at the same time which could increase your risk of ending up in ICU or on a ventilator. That makes this season’s flu vaccine vitally important,” he said.

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“Everyone 6 months and older should get an annual flu vaccine before the start of flu season which begins in October and can last late into May. Since it takes 2 weeks for the flu vaccine to become fully effective, it is best to get the vaccine in September,” said Dr Nisar.

“This season’s flu vaccine has been updated to better match currently circulating viruses. This year a quadrivalent influenza vaccine containing H1N1, H3N2 and two B viruses – Victoria and Yamagata is recommended,” he said.

“While the vaccine is recommended for all, it is especially needed in young children, elderly, pregnant women and people with underlying medical conditions.

Also Read: Magnitude 7.0 quake strikes Mexico, no reports of serious damage

Vaccination to expectant mothers is critically important to protect their new born babies’ upto 6 months who are too young to receive the vaccine,” he added.

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