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Infectious Diseases

10 October 2020

Coronavirus morning recap: 30-minute diagnosis, Western Cape disputes claims, and latest on Trump

A new testing method can diagnose Covid-19 in 30 minutes; Western Cape disputes claims that hospitals are under strain; and "I was not in great shape", says Donald Trump.

LATEST SCIENCE AND RESEARCH

READ | New testing method can diagnose Covid-19 in 30 minutes

However, researchers from Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) have developed a new test that diagnoses infected patients in just 30 minutes.

The joint research team comprised of Professor Jeong Wook Lee and PhD candidate Chang Ha Woo, along with Professor Gyoo Yeol Jung and Dr Sungho Jang of the Department of Chemical Engineering at POSTECH.

Together, they developed a SENSR (SENsitive Splint-based one-pot isothermal RNA detection) technology that allows anyone to easily diagnose Covid-19, based on the RNA sequence of the virus.

The test will come in handy at particular locations, such as airports. Many countries worldwide have strict rules that require all travellers to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. With the implementation of a test like SENSR, people travelling to other countries and end up testing negative for Covid-19 won’t have to self-isolate.

Results from currently available tests for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, can take anything from a few hours to several days to become available.

Earlier this year, test result delays were causing concern among doctors, News24 reported, as this meant that infected people who should have been self-quarantining were instead putting others in danger while awaiting their results.

READ | Could more animals than previously realised be vulnerable to the coronavirus?

When headlines of the novel coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2, began to surface, there were reports of a domestic cat and a tiger at a zoo in New York testing positive for the virus.

We already knew that the virus was zoonotic in origin, even if we were not quite sure if it came from a bat or a pangolin.

But as the virus progressed, we started hearing more about domestic animals testing positive for SARS-CoV-2. Researchers found that a substantial number of dogs and cats were infected with SARS-Cov-2 along with their owners, according to a Health24 article.

Now, a new study conducted by UCL researchers and published in Scientific Reports, found that as many as 26 species of animals that have regular contact with humans may be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2

For this study, the researchers investigated how the spike protein from SARS-CoV-2 interacts with the ACE2 protein it attaches to when the virus enters the bodies of humans.

The researchers wanted to see whether mutations in the ACE2 protein in 215 different animal species could cause the virus to be less susceptible to binding its spike protein to the ACE2 protein.

READ | Remdesivir speeds recovery for Covid patients, report concludes

Remdesivir has proved its mettle against Covid-19, a final report on the antiviral concludes.

Remdesivir hastened recovery for Covid patients who were so sick they had to be hospitalised, said Dr Raymund Razonable, vice-chair of infectious diseases for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

People on remdesivir recovered in 10 days, on average, compared with 15 days for those only receiving supportive care like oxygen and IV fluids, according to the results published on 8 October in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"The time to clinical improvement for somebody who is admitted to the hospital for Covid with pneumonia is reduced significantly," Razonable said. "There is about a five-day difference in time to clinical improvement."

However, the drug did not appear to alter a person's risk of dying from Covid, noted Dr Mangala Narasimhan, senior vice president of critical care services with Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, New York.

"It adds to supportive care. I don't think it's a game-changer at all. It's something, but it's not the magic bullet," Narasimhan said. "It doesn't seem to change who goes on to a ventilator. It just seems to change how long they're sick."

CORONAVIRUS CASES LATEST

SA cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 688 532.

According to the latest update, 17 547 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 620 081 recoveries.

So far, more than 4.36 million tests have been conducted, with 20 419 new tests reported.

Global cases update:

For the latest global data, follow this interactive map from Johns Hopkins University & Medicine.

Late on Friday night, positive cases worldwide were more than 26.71 million, while deaths were more than 1.06 million.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 7.65 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 213 000.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Latest news:

READ | Covid-19: Western Cape disputes claims that hospitals are under strain

The Western Cape Department of Health has disputed claims that Cape Town's Tygerberg Hospital is running out of space for Covid-19 cases, saying it only has 17 positive cases admitted currently.

"This is way below the number of admissions seen previously," said spokesperson Mark van der Heever.

He cautioned the public from making false claims and spreading fake news.

"New Covid-19 infections, deaths and hospitalisations continue to decline in the Western Cape," he said.

"While this is good news, we must remain vigilant and continue to do everything possible to prevent a rise in Covid-19 infections in the future – as is being witnessed in other places in the world today."

"Our best defence is to adapt to the new normal by always wearing our masks when in public, keeping at least a 1.5m distance from other people, and continuing to wash and sanitise our hands."

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE REST OF THE WORLD 

Latest news:

READ | China finally joined a global effort to distribute coronavirus vaccines equally - US is still refusing

China has decided to join a global effort to distribute coronavirus vaccines fairly around the world, while the US is still refusing to commit.

The World Health Organisation launched the Covax program to ensure that 2 billion vaccine doses can be distributed to those most in need by the end of 2021. So far 157 countries, including China, have signed up.

"We have solemnly pledged to make vaccines developed and deployed by China a global public good, which will be provided to developing countries as a priority," Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China's foreign ministry, tweeted Friday.

China previously said it was opting out of Covax, with experts warning that the absence of major countries like the US and China might jeopardize the alliance's funding and political muscle.

China currently has four vaccine candidates in clinical trials, including from the state-owned pharma SinoPharm and private biotech Sinovac.

Wu Guizhen, chief biosafety expert at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said on September 15 that one of China's vaccine could be ready for the public in November. Chinese President Xi Jinping in May pledged to make any Chinese vaccine a "global public good."

READ | 'I was not in great shape.' Trump says he might not have recovered from Covid-19

US president Donald Trump revealed Friday he was worried about his COVID-19 prognosis early on, telling talk radio host Rush Limbaugh that an antibody cocktail from Regeneron is what he thinks turned things around.

"I was not in great shape," Trump told Limbaugh, whom he gave the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, back in February.

But, the president said, "I recovered immediately, almost immediately. I might not have recovered at all from Covid" were it not for the Regeneron cocktail.

Trump's line on his condition Friday marked a departure from the way he had been presenting his COVID-19 diagnosis previously, insisting that he only went to the hospital as a precautionary measure.

The night before, Trump coughed and had to clear his throat during another call-in on Fox News with Sean Hannity.

Trump's coronavirus status remains unclear, with the White House consistently refusing to disclose when he last tested negative.

HEALTH TIPS (as recommended by the NICD and WHO)

• Maintain physical distancing – stay at least one metre away from somebody who is coughing or sneezing

• Practise frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, as your hands touch many surfaces and could potentially transfer the virus

• Practise respiratory hygiene – cover your mouth with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Remember to dispose the tissue immediately after use.

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