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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)
Scientists temporarily attached a pig's kidney to a human body and watched it begin to work, a small step in the decades-long quest to one day use animal organs for lifesaving transplants.
Pigs have been the most recent research focus to address the organ shortage, but among the hurdles: A sugar in pig cells, foreign to the human body, causes immediate organ rejection. The kidney for this experiment came from a gene-edited animal, engineered to eliminate that sugar and avoid an immune system attack.
Surgeons attached the pig kidney to a pair of large blood vessels outside the body of a deceased recipient so they could observe it for two days. The kidney did what it was supposed to do — filter waste and produce urine — and didn't trigger rejection.
"It had absolutely normal function," said Dr. Robert Montgomery, who led the surgical team last month at NYU Langone Health in New York. "It didn't have this immediate rejection that we have worried about."
This research is "a significant step," said Dr. Andrew Adams of the University of Minnesota Medical School, who was not part of the work. It will reassure patients, researchers and regulators "that we're moving in the right direction."
The dream of animal-to-human transplants, or xenotransplantation, dates to the 17th century with stumbling attempts to use animal blood for transfusions. By the 20th century, surgeons were attempting transplants of organs from baboons into humans, notably Baby Fae, a dying infant, who lived 21 days with a baboon heart.
With no lasting success and much public uproar, scientists turned from primates to pigs, tinkering with their genes to bridge the species gap.
Pigs have advantages over monkeys and apes. They are produced for food, so using them for organs raises fewer ethical concerns. Pigs have large litters, short gestation periods and organs comparable to those of humans.
Pig heart valves also have been used successfully for decades in humans. The blood thinner heparin is derived from pig intestines. Pig skin grafts are used on burns, and Chinese surgeons have used pig corneas to restore sight.
Kidney ready for transplantation from a live donor Image credit: wikimedia commons
In the NYU case, researchers kept a deceased woman's body on a ventilator after her family agreed to the experiment. The woman had wished to donate her organs, but they weren't suitable for traditional donation.
'Good could come from this'
The family felt "there was a possibility that some good could come from this gift," Montgomery said.
Montgomery himself received a transplant three years ago, a human heart from a donor with hepatitis C because he was willing to take any organ.
"I was one of those people lying in an ICU waiting and not knowing whether an organ was going to come in time," he said.
Several biotech companies are in the running to develop suitable pig organs for transplant to help ease the human organ shortage. More than 90,000 people in the U.S. are in line for kidney transplants. Every day, 12 die while waiting.
The advance is a win for Revivicor, a subsidiary of United Therapeutics, the company that engineered the pig and its cousins, a herd of 100 raised in tightly controlled conditions at a facility in Iowa.
The pigs lack a gene that produces alpha-gal, the sugar that provokes an immediate attack from the human immune system.
In December, the Food and Drug Administration approved the gene alteration in the Revivicor pigs as safe for human food consumption and medicine.
But the FDA said developers would need to submit more paperwork before pig organs could be transplanted into living humans.
"This is an important step forward in realizing the promise of xenotransplantation, which will save thousands of lives each year in the not-too-distant future," said United Therapeutics CEO Martine Rothblatt in a statement.
Experts say tests on nonhuman primates and last month's experiment with a human body pave the way for the first experimental pig kidney or heart transplants in living people in the next several years.
Raising pigs to be organ donors feels wrong to some people, but it may grow more acceptable if concerns about animal welfare can be addressed, said Karen Maschke, a research scholar at the Hastings Center, who will help develop ethics and policy recommendations for the first clinical trials under a grant from the National Institutes of Health.
"The other issue is going to be: Should we be doing this just because we can?" Maschke said. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Transplant, Pig, Human, Kidney, FDA
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Developed by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, a Decision Support System (DSS) that extends the ability of the existing air quality early warning system (AQEWS) to have decision-making capability for air quality management in Delhi-NCR was launched on Tuesday.
The website for the DSS (https://ews.tropmet.res.in/dss/) is designed to help the Commission for Air Quality Management for NCR and Adjoining Areas (CAQM) by delivering quantitative information about the contribution of emissions from Delhi and its 19 surrounding districts; the contribution of emissions from eight different sectors in Delhi; and the contribution from biomass-burning activities in the neighbouring states.
These information would assist in managing the air quality in a timely manner, a release from the Ministry of Earth Sciences said.
The need was stated by the CAQM, which was formed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, during a meeting held in January 2021.
Recently, the Commission reviewed the progress made by IITM and had in principle approved the current version of DSS for air quality management in the Delhi-NCR. The IITM has also developed a new website for DSS with the entire system made operational, the release said.
Union Minister of State for Earth Sciences, Jitendra Singh, while launching the website for AQEWS on the occasion of 'Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav' week organised by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, said, "DSS is a significant contribution to 'Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav' on behalf of MoES and IITM and suggestions are invited on this issue."
The website also has a feature whereby the users can create their own emission reduction scenarios (from 20 different districts, including Delhi) so as to examine the possible projected improvement in air quality in Delhi for the next five days.
"This information would explicitly highlight the most important emission sources responsible for the degradation of air quality in Delhi and suggest possible solutions to ameliorate the same. With a plethora of quantitative data, the AQEWS integrated with DSS could become a user-friendly tool for air-quality management in and around Delhi," the release said. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: Delhi, India, Pollution, IITM, Ministry of Earth Sciences
On the first day of the two-day meeting of BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders on Tuesday, discussions were held on important issues related to education and the National Education Policy-2020. Apart from senior RSS leader Suresh Soni, representatives of various organisations associated with the Sangh Parivar -- working in the field of education -- were present in the meeting in New Delhi.
According to sources, Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who attended the meeting on behalf of the government, shared information related to the National Education Policy-2020 and the government's policy on important issues related to the education sector. Pradhan also shared details of the efforts being made by the government in the field of education.
Discussions were also held regarding the impact of the situation arising out of Corona and how much it has affected the education sector. In the meeting, the RSS leaders asked several questions and provided suggestions to the Union Minister regarding the education policy of the government.
According to the sources, RSS wants the policy to be implemented expeditiously. All aspects related to the policy were discussed in Tuesday's meeting. On the second and the last day of the meeting on Wednesday, special issues related to education will be discussed in which representatives of various organisations of the Sangh, Union Ministers and several BJP leaders will be take part.
Meanwhile, in order to convey its point of view to the government on various issues, the Sangh keeps on calling such coordination meetings related to specific issues, in which RSS representatives -- working in that particular area -- provide feedback to the government. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: BJP, RSS, New Education Policy, Education, India