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A recently published report in The Lancet stated SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is an airborne pathogen. The paper written by six experts from the US, the UK, and Canada, says that the evidence supporting airborne transmission is overwhelming, and evidence supporting large droplet transmission is almost non-existent.
Speaking to IANS Professor Srinath Reddy, president of Public Health Foundation of India said: “While the virus can spread by air even in the open, the flow of air currents will not allow large viral clouds to form and hang around while such clouds can form easily and waft around slowly in closed spaces.” He stressed wearing a proper mask and eye protection to prevent virus entering through the nose, mouth, or eyes, and ventilation a key ally in keeping the viral load low. Excerpts from the interview:
Q: A report recently published in The Lancet stated SARS-CoV-2, is an airborne pathogen, isn’t it worrying? If Covid is airborne, wouldn’t it require an overhaul of modification of established Covid-19 safety protocols?
A: I believe that both droplet and aerosol modes of transmission are important. Droplet transmission occurs in close proximity in open or closed spaces while the airborne infection is more likely as viral clouds form in closed rooms. While the virus can spread by air even in the open, the flow of air currents will not allow large viral clouds to form and hang around while such clouds can form easily and waft around slowly in closed spaces. In either case, wearing a proper mask and eye protection is likely to prevent the virus from entering through the nose, mouth, or eyes. Ventilation is a key ally in keeping the viral load low.
Q: The Lancet paper said, “Long-range transmission of SARS-CoV-2 between people in adjacent rooms but never in each other’s presence has been documented in quarantine hotels.” If this report is accepted by the broad scientific community, then it will have major implications on how people fight Covid-19?
A: Viral clouds forming in closed buildings can drift between rooms. Ventilation and facial protection are still the best safeguards. We will need better quality masks or double masking. Indoor ventilation systems have to be improved. Open cross ventilation is ideal.
Q: With infectious variants emerging, which can escape the immunity and vaccines, even after a year into the Covid pandemic. Do you think there is a possibility of a third wave, or things would finally begin to settle after this second wave?
A: It is difficult to predict the levels of infectivity and vaccine escape future variants will have. We must hope that the inactivated virus vaccine (Covaxin), which presents a bigger platter of viral antigens for invoking an immune response than vaccines that focus only on the spike protein, will have less threat of vaccine escape from variants that develop spike protein mutations. Whether there will be a third wave of serious infections will depend on how fast we strengthen our public health system and how widely we vaccinate.
Q: According to genome sequencing data “double mutant” has become the most common variant. However, patterns have not emerged to establish that the double mutant is driving a spike in cases amid the ongoing second wave. Do you think double mutant will become a dominant variant similar to Kent variant?
A: It is possible that a variant that exhibits greater infectivity than the original wild virus will become dominant over time. Given different variants operating now in different parts of India, it is possible that may see patterns of regional dominance by different variants in different parts of the country. The emerging patterns will also depend on how effectively we can contain transmission from now on, within, and between states.
Q: In the first wave, the cases peaked in September, almost one lakh every day for weeks, but later it declined. Today, there are more than two lakh cases every day. Is it the peak of the second wave and when will it begin to decline?
A: This time the pandemic resurfaced in a fully open society, with high levels of mobility and crowded events. The last time the unlocking was in stages and some restrictions continued for several months. So, the surge soared swiftly. How long it will last will not merely depend on models of how the virus behaves but on how we behave. If we can all wear the right kind of masks the right way whenever away from home and crowded events are curbed with resolve, we can see a downward trend in a few weeks. Otherwise, this wave can get stretched over some months.
Q: Today, the government claims to have a fairly good idea about which mutated variant is prevalent where, but all of them are increasing. Isn’t it a worrying situation?
A: A batsman like Rahul Dravid, with a sound ‘Wall’ like defense, can face a left-arm bowler with as much confidence as he faces a right arm bowler. If we wear the right kind of facial protection the right way and avoid super spreader events involving crowds, we can block both the wild virus and its variants from entering our bodies. If we expose ourselves and play carelessly, we can be bowled leg stump or off stump. We have to determinedly play the right kind of defense- for some months to come. (IANS/JC)
The US researchers have discovered a class of immune cells that plays a role in miscarriage, which affects about a quarter of pregnancies.
Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco found that the recently discovered subset of cells known as extrathymic Aire-expressing cells in the immune system may prevent the mother's immune system from attacking the placenta and fetus.
The researchers showed that pregnant mice who did not have this subset of cells were twice as likely to miscarry, and in many of these pregnancies fetal growth was severely restricted.
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"When you're pregnant, the immune system is seeing the placenta for the first time in decades -- not since the mother made a placenta when she herself was a fetus," said Eva Gillis-Buck, from UCSF.
"Our research suggests that this subset of immune cells is carrying out a sort of 'secondary education' -- sometimes many years after the better-known population of the educator cells have carried out the primary education in the thymus -- teaching T cells not to attack the fetus, the placenta and other tissues involved in pregnancy," she added. The findings are published in the journal Science Immunology.
The immune system has to be educated not to attack one's own tissues and organs to prevent autoimmune disease. But pregnancy presents a unique challenge since the fetus expresses proteins found in the placenta as well as proteins whose genetics are distinct from the mother.
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"It was a conceptual leap to link Aire-expressing cells, which are critical for preventing autoimmune disease, to pregnancy," said Tippi Mackenzie, Professor of Surgery at UCSF's Center for Maternal Foetal Precision Medicine.
In the thymus, Aire-expressing cells begin interacting with other immune cells very early in life to teach them what not to attack. The thymus begins to shrink and is nearly gone by adulthood, by which time most immune cells have been educated. But as the thymus shrinks, the population of eTACs in lymph nodes and the spleen expands, the researchers explained.
The study suggests a healthy pregnancy may depend on having these cells around, they added. (IANS/KB)
The tiny emojis being shared on billions of devices worldwide can play a major role in digital communication, with most people saying that emoji compels them to feel more empathy towards others, according to an Adobe report.
Adobe's global emoji study found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.
"We were surprised and delighted by the discoveries made in the survey, most notably how enthusiastic respondents were for emoji as a means to express themselves," the company said in a statement.
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Emojis sometimes get criticized for being overly saccharine, but this sweetness is key when it comes to diffusing some of the heaviness of online communication.
"Many of the emoji are focused on positive emotions, so it's easy to insert them into our conversations and lighten the mood," the Adobe study said.
It's not surprising that over half of those surveyed feel more comfortable using emojis than talking on the phone or in person.
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This applies to less intense situations too. Dating, for example, can be tricky — especially when it's online or via digital apps, as it often is now.
The study also found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.
In celebration of World Emoji Day on Saturday, Adobe's '2021 Global Emoji Trend Report' surveyed 7,000 people in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Japan, Australia, and South Korea. (IANS/KB)
Following the grand Richard Branson show where he carried Andhra Pradesh-born Sirisha Bandla and fellow space travelers on his shoulders after successfully flying to the edge of space, it is time for Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos to applaud Sanjal Gavande, one of the key engineers who designed the New Shephard rocket set to take Bezos and the crew to space on July 20.
Billionaire Bezos is set to fly to the edge of space aboard what is touted as the world's first unpiloted suborbital flight. Born in Kalyan, Maharashtra, Gavande is a systems engineer at Blue Origin who always dreamt of designing aerospace rockets.
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After completing Bachelor's in mechanical engineering from the University of Mumbai, she flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University. She also applied for an engineering job at the US space agency NASA but finally landed her dream job at Blue Origin
Sirisha flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University.IANS
Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Mary Wallace 'Wally' Funk, and other passengers are set to liftoff from west Texas and travel just beyond the edge of space on July 20. Blue Origin announced this week that Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old high school graduate from the Netherlands, would join the crew.
Oliver is the son of millionaire Joe Daemen, Founder, and CEO of the Dutch investment company Somerset Capital Partners. Blue Origin, however, did not reveal how much Daemen paid for his son's trip to space. Bezos chose July 20 as the launch date to honor the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
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The launch site for Blue Origin's first human flight will be in a remote location north of Van Horn, Texas, from where the firm had launched New Shepard for previous flights. Blue Origin has received final approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to carry humans on the New Shepard rocket into space.
On July 12, Bandla touched the edge of space with three others, including Virgin Galactic's billionaire CEO Richard Branson. Bandla vaulted into space onboard VSS Unity 22. After the successful spaceflight, Branson carried the Indian-American on his shoulders while celebrating their flight to space, at Spaceport America in New Mexico. (IANS/KB)