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Large antibody study offers hope for virus vaccine efforts – Cochrane Today

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Antibodies that people make to fight the new coronavirus last for at least four months after diagnosis and do not fade quickly as some earlier reports suggested, scientists have found.

Tuesday’s report, from tests on more than 30,000 people in Iceland, is the most extensive work yet on the immune system’s response to the virus over time, and is good news for efforts to develop vaccines.

If a vaccine can spur production of long-lasting antibodies as natural infection seems to do, it gives hope that “immunity to this unpredictable and highly contagious virus may not be fleeting,” scientists from Harvard University and the U.S. National Institutes of Health wrote in a commentary published with the study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

One of the big mysteries of the pandemic is whether having had the coronavirus helps protect against future infection, and for how long. Some smaller studies previously suggested that antibodies may disappear quickly and that some people with few or no symptoms may not make many at all.

The new study was done by Reykjavik-based deCODE Genetics, a subsidiary of the U.S. biotech company Amgen, with several hospitals, universities and health officials in Iceland. The country tested 15% of its population since late February, when its first COVID-19 cases were detected, giving a solid base for comparisons.

Scientists used two different types of coronavirus testing: the kind from nose swabs or other samples that detects bits of the virus, indicating infection, and tests that measure antibodies in the blood, which can show whether someone was infected now or in the past.

Blood samples were analyzed from 30,576 people using various methods, and someone was counted as a case if at least two of the antibody tests were positive. These included a range of people, from those without symptoms to people hospitalized with signs of COVID-19.

In a subgroup who tested positive, further testing found that antibodies rose for two months after their infection initially was diagnosed and then plateaued and remained stable for four months.

Previous studies suggesting antibodies faded quickly may have been just looking at the first wave of antibodies the immune system makes in response to infection; those studies mostly looked 28 days after diagnosis. A second wave of antibodies forms after a month or two into infection, and this seems more stable and long-lasting, the researchers report.

The results don’t necessarily mean that all countries’ populations will be the same, or that every person has this sort of response. Other scientists recently documented at least two cases where people seem to have been reinfected with the coronavirus months after their first bout.

The new study also found:

— Testing through the bits-of-virus method that’s commonly done in community settings missed nearly half of people who were found to have had the virus by blood antibody testing. That means the blood tests are far more reliable and better for tracking spread of the disease in a region and for guiding decisions and returning to work or school, researchers say.

— Nearly a third of infections were in people who reported no symptoms.

— Nearly 1% of Iceland’s population was infected in this first wave of the pandemic, meaning the other 99% are still vulnerable to the virus.

— The infection fatality rate was 0.3%. That’s about three times the fatality rate of seasonal flu and in keeping with some other more recent estimates, said Dr. Derek Angus, critical care chief at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Although many studies have been reporting death rates based on specific groups such as hospitalized patients, the rate of death among all infected with the coronavirus has been unknown.

The news that natural antibodies don’t quickly disappear “will be encouraging for people working on vaccines,” Angus said.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Marilynn Marchione, The Associated Press

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Alberta Health no longer recommending asymptomatic testing – Edmonton Journal

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Article content continued

“I know that this has been a long pandemic. But, we have learned much and today’s change is part of how we are continually updating our approach to incorporate what we learn,” said Hinshaw.

Alberta Health spokesman Tom McMillan said they will be operating on an honour system and Albertans will be asked if they are symptomatic or part of one of the target groups.

“We are confident that Albertans will follow this recommendation, just as they have followed all public health advice,” said McMillan in an email.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, provincial labs have completed 1,169,378 tests, including 13,003 that were completed on Wednesday.

In a letter to the prime minister requesting federal funds, Premier Jason Kenney said federal money would be used in part to increase the province’s testing capacity to a peak of 22,000 test per day up from an average of 12,000 tests per day.

Hinshaw reported 146 new cases on Thursday, bringing the number of active cases in the province to 1,483. There are currently 751 cases in the Edmonton Zone.

Alberta hospitals are treating 41 COVID-19 patients, eight of whom are in intensive care. There were no new reported deaths Thursday.

Hinshaw said there have been 64 infectious cases identified at 48 schools.

Edmonton Public Schools spokeswoman Megan Normandeau said there were single cases linked to John D. Bracco School, Vimy Ridge Academy and Centre High while two cases have been linked to McNally School.

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Mouth wash COVID-19 test coming for school-aged children in B.C. – Powell River Peak

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British Columbia is introducing a new saline gargle test for students from kindergarten to Grade 12 to help make COVID-19 testing easier for children and teenagers.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said B.C. is one of the first places in the world to use a mouth rinse gargle test for the new coronavirus.

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“Unlike the (nasal) swab, this is a new saline gargle where you put a little bit of saline water, that is sterile water, in your mouth, you swish it around and spit it into a little tube,” she said at a news conference Thursday.

“This test is kind of cool and something we’ve had in the works for a while. This new method is more comfortable, particularly for our younger children.”

It is developed by a B.C. company, which reduces the province’s dependency on the global supply chain, she said.

Henry described the test as more efficient, which shortens the long lineups and wait times.

Getting tested is key in the fight against the pandemic and the test will make it easier to collect samples from young people, she said.

The test can be done without a health professional by parents or children themselves.

With schools reopening, Henry said the focus of this new and “easier” method of testing will be on children until there are more supplies.

“And we’re hoping to make it more broadly available as we go forward.”

The province announced a record daily high of 165 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and one additional death, bringing the death toll to 220.

There has been a total of 7,663 cases of COVID-19 in the province.

The uptick is caused by a combination of increased testing, awareness and contact tracing, Henry said.

“Remember that today’s cases are people who have been exposed over the last two weeks.”

The province tested 7,674 people for COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest number of COVID-19 tests ever conducted in B.C. in a single day.

Health Minister Adrian Dix reminded people to keep groups small and limit social gatherings.

“So, this weekend, and as we plan for Thanksgiving in the fall months ahead, let us once again close ranks on COVID-19, and change its course,” he said.

— By Hina Alam in Vancouver.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 17, 2020.

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Provincial health officer won't give in to bar industry's call to reinstate liquor sales after 10 p.m. – CBC.ca

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Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, is rejected calls from the bar industry to allow liquor sales until midnight.

Last week Henry issued a public health order that ended liquor sales at restaurants and bars at 10 p.m., and closed the businesses at 11 p.m., unless they are serving food.

The industry immediately appealed for more relaxed rules, and that request is now being repeated, despite Henry’s warnings about the risk of COVID-19 transmission during the later hours.

Jeff Guignard, executive director of the B.C. Alliance of Beverage Licensees, says his group’s research shows the last couple of hours of business is when establishments go from losing money to turning a profit.

Bars in downtown Vancouver make half their revenue after 10 p.m., he said, while in other areas about a quarter or a third of revue is tallied after 10 p.m. Even in rural communities, 10 per cent of revenue comes in the last couple of hours of business, he added.

Jeff Guignard is executive director of the B.C. Alliance of Beverage Licensees. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

He said 50 per cent of the industry might not make it to the end of the year and it has been surviving on government rent and wage subsidies. The situation will become more dire if the public health order isn’t changed.

“It means bankruptcy. It means you’re going to close and you’re going to have to lay off your employees,” said Guignard.

Henry told reporters on Thursday that she had received a letter from the alliance on Wednesday, but she wasn’t ready to budge on the order.

“I appreciate that this is a very challenging time for people in that industry, I also know that this virus is transmitted by people,” she said.

“These orders were done with thought and the realization that these were places right now that cannot safely operate,” said Henry.

She said environmental health officers who have been inspecting bars around the province say the businesses faces challenges to meet safety requirements. Henry also said staff at the establishments and WorkSafeBC have expressed concerns.

Preventing COVID-19 spread in drinking establishments is a challenge, says Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

“We had transmission events documented in several places around the province and it was becoming increasingly challenging for public health to try and identify and getting on top of those places that were breaking the rules,” she said.

Delay in publishing order

Guignard said bar owners are “absolutely furious” that the public health order — which was issued verbally more than a week ago — has not been published in writing. That means details aren’t clear for a highly regulated industry with various types of liquor licenses. 

Businesses don’t know, for instance, whether off-sales of alcohol are also banned after 10 p.m.

Henry said her office has answered questions that have popped up since the verbal order was issued and she hopes to have the details in writing by Friday after a careful legal vetting to ensure the order isn’t overly broad.


With files from Tina Lovgreen

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