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Two new variants of SARS-CoV-2 not reason for surge in cases in Maha, Kerala: Govt

(Asian News Hub) – Two variants of SARS-CoV-2 — N440K and E484K — have been detected in Maharashtra and Kerala but there is no reason to believe presently on the that they are responsible for the surge in cases in some districts in these two states, the Centre said on Tuesday.


One of the two variants has also been detected in Telangana.


Addressing a press conference here, NITI Aayog Member (Health) V K Paul said that 187 people have tested positive for the UK strain of SARS-CoV-2 in the country so far, while six people have detected with the South Africa variant. Also, one person has tested positive for the Brazil variant strain.


“Both the N440K and E484K variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been detected in Maharashtra. In Kerala and Telangana also these variants have been found. Also, three other mutated strains — one each from UK, South Africa and Brazil are already present in the country. But there is no reason for us to believe, on the basis of scientific information, that they are responsible for the upsurge of the outbreak in some districts of Maharashtra and Kerala,” Paul said.


Reporting only detection does not lead to any attribution for a phenomenon on the ground because to relate the occurrence of a virus mutation to change in disease pattern, other epidemiological information and clinical information has to be linked to these mutants, Paul said, adding, “because otherwise these (mutations) happen but they have no influence on the pandemic.”

He said the behaviour of mutations is being constantly and closely watched in the country and 3,500 strains have been sequenced so far.

“When we are doing sequencing, we are looking for any abnormal shift in the virus character. We have been watching the mutants.

“Today, based on the information and as analyzed and understood by a very eminent scientific advisory group of Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), we would like to underline the fact that we do not see attribution of mutant strains to the upsurge of the infection being seen in some districts. But this is work in progress. We will continue to watch the situation with full responsibility,” Paul said.

The SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) was established in December end for laboratory and epidemiological surveillance of circulating strains of SARS-CoV-2 in the country.

Stating that a large proportion of the population is still vulnerable, Paul stressed that COVID appropriate behaviour like wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, hand washing and not getting into mass gatherings should be followed.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said that a total of 1,17,54,788 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the country till Tuesday 1 pm, with 1,04,93,205 getting the first dose and 12,61,583 being given the second dose.
Bhushan said that 12 states and union territories, including Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Odisha, have administered first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to more than 75 per cent of the registered healthcare workers, while 11 states and UTs, including Karnataka, Telangana, Delhi, Punjab and Chandigarh, have administered the first dose to less than 60 per cent of healthcare workers.

Two states, Kerala and Maharashtra, account for 75 per cent of total active COVID-19 cases in country, and six people have been detected with South Africa strain of SARS-CoV-2 in India so far.

PTI

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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.”

AGENCY

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