Researchers from the NHS Foundation Trust, University of Cambridge and Cambridge Clinical Laboratories have warned that until a vaccine for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) becomes available, antigen and antibody testing should be carried out among oncology nurses as part of routine patient care.
The team’s study of 434 patient-facing oncology staff who worked during the peak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVD-19) pandemic in the UK, found that the highest seroprevalence rate for SARS-CoV-2 was among nurses.
David Favara and colleagues say that current UK guidelines recommend that all patients receiving systemic anticancer therapy should be tested for SARS-CoV-2 by PCR (polymerase chain reaction) before starting treatment, with further testing considered at intervals during treatment.
The guidance regarding healthcare workers, on the other hand, only recommends testing in the broadest sense, says the team.
“We propose that there should be a focus on routinely testing oncology nursing staff for both SARS-CoV-2 antigen and antibodies until an effective vaccine comes available,” write the researchers.
A pre-print version of the paper is available on the server medRxiv*, while the article undergoes peer review.
Cancer patients may be at greater risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2
Since the first cases of SARS-CoV-2 were first identified in Wuhan, China, late last year, the virus has now infected more than 31 million people globally and caused more than 961,000 deaths. Despite researchers’ intense efforts to develop therapies, no effective antiviral treatments or vaccines have yet been developed.
Cancer patients may be at a greater risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2 owing to the multiple hospital visits they need to attend for diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up.
Recent studies have suggested that while anticancer therapy does not increase the mortality risk among cancer patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, it may increase the risk of severe complications following infection.
Guidance is therefore needed to safeguard both patients and oncology staff, say Favara and colleagues.
However, data regarding oncology-specific SARS-CoV-2 infection and immunity rates in the UK are lacking, and the risk of transmission among staff who care for cancer patients is not known.
“To date, no large study has specifically reported and tracked patient-facing oncology staff SARS-CoV-2 exposure,” say Favara and team.
What did the current study involve?
Favara and colleagues recruited 434 patient-facing oncology staff who worked during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic at three secondary care NHS Foundation Trust hospitals in the UK, namely the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Peterborough City Hospital, and Cambridge University Hospitals.
Staff members had nasopharyngeal swabs tested for SARS-CoV-2 by PCR in June 2020 (day 1 samples) and again in July (day 28 samples). They also had their blood tested for SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies (at the same points) using a laboratory Luminex-based assay and a rapid point-of-care (POC) assay.
Of the 434 participants involved in the study, 58.3% were nurses, 21.2% were doctors, 10.4% were radiographers, and 10.1% were administrators. The overall median age of the study population was 40 years and 82% were female.
Prior to June, 26.3% of participants reported having symptoms indicating potential SARS-CoV-2 infection, and 1.4% had tested positive for infection by PCR.
What did the study find?
On day 1 and day 28 of testing, all participants tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 by PCR.
The Luminex-based assay identified 18.4% of participants as SARS-CoV-2 seropositive on day 1, 42.5% of whom also tested seropositive by PCO.
Luminex-based seropositivity rates were higher among nurses (21.3%) and doctors (17.4%), compared with among administration staff (13.6%) and radiographers (8.9%).
Of 400 participants who also underwent testing on day 28 in July, 13.3% tested seropositive by Luminex, 92·5% of whom had previously tested positive, and 7·5% of whom were newly positive.
Of all the staff groups tested, the seroprevalence rate was highest among nurses, at 16.5%.
“The daily interactions of nurses with multiple patients at close quarters will undoubtedly contribute to these stark statistics,” say Favara and colleagues.
Of the participants who tested seropositive on day 1, 32.5% became seronegative by day 28, suggesting that SARS-CoV-2 antibody seropositivity declines over time.
Nurses should be tested regularly as part of routine patient care
The researchers say that until a vaccine becomes available, the high prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 seropositivity in oncology nurses, along with the high rate of decline in seropositivity over 4 weeks supports regular antigen and antibody testing in this staff group as part of routine patient care.
“This study sets the first seropositivity baseline for UK oncology staff and provides new information to consider incorporating into international guidance on safeguarding patients,” say Favara and team. “We propose that there should be a focus on routinely testing oncology nursing staff for both SARS-CoV-2 antigen and antibodies until an effective vaccine comes available.”
The researchers suggest that since seropositivity can fluctuate within 4 weeks, testing should be carried out at least once a month. Ideally, weekly PCR-testing with fortnightly serology would be performed.
“Increasing availability of lower-cost, high sensitivity, and specificity SARS-CoV-2 testing methods should make this targeted approach viable, would help protect patients and staff and enable containment and tracking of new, asymptomatic infections,” they conclude.
medRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and, therefore, should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.
SpaceX launches 60 more satellites during 15th Starlink mission – Yahoo Lifestyle UK
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="This launch used a Falcon 9 first stage booster that twice previously, both times earlier this year, including just in September for the delivery of a prior batch of Starlink satellites. The booster was also recovered successfully with a landing at sea aboard SpaceX’s ‘Just Read the Instructions’ floating autonomous landing ship in the Atlantic Ocean.” data-reactid=”20″>This launch used a Falcon 9 first stage booster that twice previously, both times earlier this year, including just in September for the delivery of a prior batch of Starlink satellites. The booster was also recovered successfully with a landing at sea aboard SpaceX’s ‘Just Read the Instructions’ floating autonomous landing ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
Earlier this week, Ector County Independent School District in Texas announced itself as a new pilot partner for SpaceX’s Starlink network. Next year, that district will gain connectivity to low latency broadband via Starlink’s network, connecting up to 45 households at first, with plans to expand it to 90 total household customers as more of the constellation is launched and brought online.
SpaceX’s goal with Starlink is to provide broadband service globally at speeds and with latency previously unavailable in hard-to-reach and rural areas. Its large constellation, which will aim to grow to tens of thousands of satellites before it achieves its max target coverage, offers big advantages in terms of latency and reliability vs. large geosynchronous satellites that provide most current satellite-based internet available commercially.
SpaceX adds another 60 satellites to Starlink network – Spaceflight Now – Spaceflight Now
SpaceX successfully deployed 60 more Starlink internet satellites in orbit Saturday, continuing a record launch cadence while engineers assess a concern with Falcon 9 rocket engines that has delayed other missions, including the next crew flight to the International Space Station.
The 60 Starlink satellites blasted off from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 11:31:34 a.m. EDT (1531:34 GMT) Saturday. The mission was delayed from Thursday to allow time for engineers to assess a problem with a camera on the Falcon 9 rocket’s upper stage.
Nine kerosene-fueled Merlin 1D engines powered the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) launcher into the sky on a trajectory northeast from Cape Canaveral.
The rocket’s first stage shut down its engines and separated two-and-a-half minutes into the mission, beginning a controlled descent to a pinpoint landing on a floating platform parked some 400 miles (630 kilometers) northeast of the launch site.
The landing concluded the third trip to space and back for the reusable Falcon 9 booster — designated B1060 — and the touchdown occurred moments before the rocket’s upper stage delivered the 60 Starlink satellites into a preliminary parking orbit.
SpaceX did not try to catch the Falcon 9’s two-piece payload fairing as they fell back to Earth under parachutes. A nose cone structure damaged a net on one of SpaceX’s fairing recovery vessels on the company’s most recent launch Oct. 18.
Instead, SpaceX dispatched one of the boats from its fleet to retrieve the fairing structures from the Atlantic Ocean for inspections, refurbishment, and potential use on a future flight.
After coasting across the Atlantic Ocean, Europe and the Middle East, the Falcon 9’s upper stage briefly reignited its single engine at T+plus 44 minutes to inject the Starlink satellites into a near-circular orbit at an altitude of roughly 170 miles (275 kilometers) with an inclination of 53 degrees to the equator.
All 60 satellites, which were flat-packed on top of the Falcon 9 rocket for launch, separated from the upper stage at 12:34 p.m. EDT (1634 GMT). A live video feed from the rocket showed the flat-panel satellites receding from view as they flew south of Tasmania.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 11:31am EDT (1531 GMT) with 60 more Starlink internet satellites, darting through clouds in an autumn sky on the way to orbit.
— Spaceflight Now (@SpaceflightNow) October 24, 2020
The satellites, built by SpaceX in Redmond, Washington, were expected to unfurl power-generating solar arrays and prime their krypton ion thrusters to begin raising their orbits to an operational altitude of 341 miles (550 kilometers), where they will join more than 800 other Starlink relay stations to beam broadband internet signals across most of the populated world.
SpaceX plans to operate an initial block of around 1,500 Starlink satellites in orbits 341 miles above Earth. The company, founded by billionaire Elon Musk, has regulatory approval from the Federal Communications Commission to eventually field a fleet of up to 12,000 small Starlink broadband stations operating in Ku-band, Ka-band, and V-band frequencies.
There are also preliminary plans for an even larger fleet of 30,000 additional Starlink satellites, but a network of that size has not been authorized by the FCC.
SpaceX says the Starlink network — designed for low-latency internet service — is still in its early stages, and engineers continue testing the system to collect latency data and speed tests. In a filing with the FCC dated Oct. 13, SpaceX said it has started beta testing of the Starlink network in multiple U.S. states, and is providing internet connectivity to previously unserved students in rural areas.
On Sept. 28, the Washington Military Department announced it was using the Starlink internet service as emergency responders and residents in Malden, Washington, recover from a wildfire that destroyed much of the town.
Earlier this month, Washington government officials said the Hoh Tribe was starting to use the Starlink service. SpaceX said it recently installed Starlink ground terminals on an administrative building and about 20 private homes on the Hoh Tribe Reservation.
A catalog of Starlink satellites maintained by Jonathan McDowell, a widely-respected astronomer who tracks global spaceflight activity, indicated that 53 of the Starlink satellites have been deorbited since their launch, primarily test models that launched last year. Two other satellites have failed and another 20 appear have stopped maneuvering, leaving around 820 spacecraft presumably operational, according to McDowell.
Since Oct. 6, SpaceX has shot 180 Starlink satellites into orbit on three dedicated Falcon 9 rocket missions. That’s more satellites than in the entire constellation operated by Planet, which owns the second-biggest fleet of spacecraft in orbit.
As of this week, Planet had around 150 active SkySat and Dove Earth-imaging satellites in its fleet, a company spokesperson said.
SpaceX continues Starlink launches while engine issue delays other missions
The launch of three Starlink missions on Falcon 9 rockets this month occurred as SpaceX delayed other launches to study an issue with Merlin engines that aborted a Falcon 9 countdown Oct. 2 with a U.S. military GPS navigation satellite.
Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO, tweeted after the abort that the countdown was stopped at T-minus 2 seconds after an “unexpected pressure rise in the turbomachinery gas generator,” referring to equipment used on the rocket’s nine Merlin first stage main engines. The gas generators on the Merlin 1D engines drives the engines’ turbopumps.
NASA announced Oct. 10 that the launch from the Kennedy Space Center of SpaceX’s first operational Crew Dragon flight to the International Space Station would be delayed from Oct. 31 until early to mid-November to allow time for engineers to study and resolve the engine issue.
Kathy Lueders, head of NASA’s human spaceflight programs, tweeted Oct. 21 that the space agency and SpaceX were making “a lot of good progress … on engine testing to better understand the unexpected behavior observed during a recent non-NASA launch.”
It’s too early to report findings at this point, as SpaceX continues testing to validate what’s believed to be the most credible cause,” Lueders tweeted.
She wrote that SpaceX is replacing one engine on the Falcon 9 rocket assigned to the Crew Dragon mission — known as Crew-1 — and one engine on the Falcon 9 booster designated for launch of a U.S.-European oceanography satellite next month from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
The engines being replaced displayed behavior during their ground testing that was similar to the “early-start behavior” noted during the aborted GPS launch Oct. 2., Lueders wrote.
The launch of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich oceanography satellite remains scheduled for Nov. 10 from California, Lueders said.
“We are also still working towards a mid-November launch for Crew-1,” she added. “We will want a few days between Sentinel-6 and Crew-1 to complete data reviews and check performance. Most importantly, we will fly all our missions when we are ready.”
The Crew-1 mission will launch four astronauts to begin a six-month expedition on the International Space Station. It follows a two-man Crew Dragon test flight that launched May 30 and concluded with a successful return to Earth on Aug. 2, the first orbital flight of astronauts to launch from U.S. soil since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011.
In a press briefing Oct. 16, a NASA manager said engineers from NASA, the U.S. Space Force, and SpaceX are jointly investigating the engine problem that surfaced during the Oct. 2 countdown.
“I can tell you an incredible amount of data has been looked at, to include members from our commercial crew program which also has an upcoming Falcon flight,” said Tim Dunn, NASA’s launch director for the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich mission.
In addition to testing at the launch base at Cape Canaveral, SpaceX removed engines from the Falcon 9 rocket for the GPS mission and returned them to the company’s test facility in McGregor, Texas, for detailed testing and reviews.
“We’ve learned a lot,” Dunn said. “There’s going to be some hardware implications as we move forward, depending on the engines installed on various rockets. The GPS mission obviously is affected. The NASA Crew-1 mission is affected. On Sentinel-6, we are looking at the engines that are on our first stage. We are going to work through what we need to do, but as of today, we have a path forward that allows us to do whatever necessary rework may be required and still maintain that Nov. 10 launch date.”
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NASA spacecraft leaking asteroid samples into space is 'victim of own success' – Euronews
A NASA spacecraft has been so successful in grabbing rubble from an asteroid hurtling through space millions of miles from Earth, that it collected too much and is now spilling its precious cargo back into the void.
In the space agency’s first attempt at taking samples from an asteroid, the spacecraft Osiris-Rex briefly touched asteroid Bennu earlier this week.
But scientists now know it collected far more material than was expected, and its sample container is jammed open.
“We’re almost a victim of our own success here,” said the mission’s lead scientist, Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona.
Lauretta said there is nothing flight controllers can do to clear the obstructions and prevent more bits of Bennu from escaping, other than to get the samples into their return capsule as soon as possible.
The flight team was scrambling to put the sample container into the capsule as early as Tuesday – much sooner than originally planned – for the long trip home.
Scientists were shocked on Thursday when they saw the pictures coming from Osiris-Rex following its contact with Bennu two days earlier.
A cloud of asteroid particles could be seen swirling around the spacecraft as it backed away from the asteroid.
The situation appeared to stabilise, according to Lauretta, once the robot arm was locked into place but it was impossible to know exactly how much material had already been lost.
The requirement for the mission was to bring back a minimum of 2 ounces (60 grams).
Because of the sudden turn of events, scientists won’t know how much the sample capsule is holding until it’s back on Earth.
The samples won’t make it back until 2023 – seven years after the spacecraft took off.
The complicated €675 million mission, which started with a launch back in 2016, is expected to provide information about the building blocks of the solar system.
They initially planned to spin the spacecraft to measure the contents, but that manoeuvre was cancelled since it could spill even more debris.
Japan, meanwhile, is awaiting its second batch of samples taken from a different asteroid, due back in December.
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