COVID-19 outbreak


Researchers sequence the genome of herb, Giloy

New Delhi, Sep 06: Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER)-Bhopal have sequenced the genome of Giloy, a medicinal herb that is extensively used in allopathic pharmaceuticals and ayurvedic formulations to treat various health conditions. What is Giloy? Giloy is an important multipurpose medicinal plant in Ayurvedic science. It has been used in various health conditions due to its immune-modulatory, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-microbial, anti-viral, and anti-cancer properties, among others. Giloy : Benefits, Precautions and Dosage It is extensively used in skin diseases, urinary tract infections, and the treatment of dental plaque. It is also found to reduce the clinical symptoms in HIV-positive patients and its antioxidant activity has anti-cancer and chemo-protective properties.  Giloy extracts are found to be potential candidates in treating various cancers like brain tumours, breast cancer, and oral cancer, as well. The plant has come into the limelight recently due to its immunomodulatory and antiviral activity after the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. A key aspect of the study is that this is the first species ever sequenced from the Menispermaceae plant family, which comprises more than 400 species having therapeutic values. It will help in various comparative genomic studies and will act as a reference for the future species sequenced from its genus and family. This research was undertaken by MetaBioSys Group in the Institute, which focuses on the Indian microbiome including gut, scalp, and skin microbiomes in healthy and diseased individuals. They also work on sequencing and functional analysis of novel eukaryotic and prokaryotic genomes by developing and employing new machine learning-based software for big data biological analysis. The research team was led by Dr. Vineet K. Sharma, Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, and comprised Ms. Shruti Mahajan and Mr. Abhisek Chakraborty, PhD Students, and Ms. Titas Sil, BS-MS Student. A report on the work has been published in the international preprint server for biology bioRxiv.  The scientists noted that previous studies have shown that a compound from Giloy targetted two proteases of the SARS-CoV-2 virus namely Mpro and Spike proteases, and another compound was predicted to inhibit SARS-CoV-2 Mpro and also disrupts viral spike protein and…

COVID-19 News

Learn! Living with diabetes, what is the risk that COVID-19 poses to you and how can you stay safe and healthy during the pandemic?

If you are living with diabetes, what is the risk that COVID-19 poses to you and how can you stay safe and healthy during the pandemic? WHO’s Dr Gojka Roglic explains in WHO’s Science in 5. If you are living with diabetes, what is the risk that COVID-19 poses to you and how can you stay safe and healthy during the pandemic? Vismita Gupta-Smith talked to Dr Gojka Roglic in WHO’s Science in 5. Dr Gojka described the risk posed by COVID-19 to people living with diabetes. Diabetes has been increasingly common in the past 30 years and there are now more than 400 million people living with diabetes in the world. Unfortunately, about one half of them do not know they have diabetes. They have not been diagnosed. And of those who are diagnosed, many do not have access to medicines nor health services that they need. This pandemic has shown that people with diabetes are at higher risk than people without diabetes of having a severe illness of COVID and also dying of COVID. The two main types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2. Type 2 is much more common. Type 1 seems to also have a higher risk than type 2 of a severe COVID illness and death. Dr Gojka explained how people living with diabetes can stay healthy during the pandemic. The pandemic and the measures to contain it are quite a challenge for people with diabetes. The main stone in treatment is physical activity and a healthy diet, and that might not be possible in pandemic conditions. People with diabetes have to be creative about how to manage to continue the recommended physical activity and a healthy diet within the constraints posed by the pandemic. Also, the health system has to ensure that people get their medication regularly. Dr Gojka explained how people living with diabetes can stay safe from COVID-19. Given that people with diabetes are considered a vulnerable group because of the higher risk of severe disease and a higher risk of death than people without diabetes, we strongly recommend all…

World Health Organization

‘Early stages’ of COVID third wave, amid Delta surge: WHO DG

The variant’s spread, along with increased social mobility and the inconsistent use of proven public health measures, is driving an increase in both case numbers and deaths, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday. The Delta variant is now in more than 111 countries: WHO DG New Delhi, 15 July 2021: WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the recent data in an address to the Emergency Committee on COVID-19, established under the International Health Regulations (IHR), a treaty that guides global response to public health risks. In opening remarks at the 8th meeting of the IHR Emergency Committee on COVID-19 – 14 July 2021 WHO DG said, “The Delta variant is now in more than 111 countries and we expect it to soon be the dominant COVID-19 strain circulating worldwide if it isn’t already. The Delta variant is one of the main drivers of the current increase in transmission, fuelled by increased social mixing and mobility, and inconsistent use of proven public health and social measures. At the same time, we continue to see a shocking disparity in the global distribution of vaccines, and unequal access to life-saving tools. This inequity has created a two-track pandemic: countries with the greatest access to vaccines are lifting restrictions and reopening their societies, although great risks remain for unvaccinated groups. Meanwhile, lack of access to vaccines leaves most of the world’s population susceptible to infection, and at the mercy of the virus. Many countries still have not received any vaccines, and most have not received enough. COVAX can work, but the scale is still far too small, with just over 100 million doses shipped.” WHO DG said, “I have called for a massive push to vaccinate at least 10% of the population of every country by September, at least 40% by the end of this year, and at least 70% by the middle of next year. To reach these targets, we need 11 billion doses. We’re grateful for the announcements made by the G7 countries that together they will donate 870 million doses, primarily through COVAX. But much more…

COVID-19 News

Careful! The second wave of COVID-19 is not over yet, Home Secretary warns 8 tourist destination states

Union Home Secretary reviewed the steps taken by State Governments for checking the spread of COVID-19 in Hill Stations and Tourist locations New Delhi. 11th JULY 2021. Union Home Secretary chaired a meeting here yesterday to review the steps taken by State Governments for checking the spread of COVID-19 in Hill Stations and Tourist locations. During the meeting, the overall management of the COVID-19 situation and the vaccination status in respect of the States of Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, and West Bengal was discussed. Union Home Secretary sounded a note of caution in view of media reports showing blatant disregard of COVID-appropriate behaviour in hill stations and other tourist locations.  He emphasised that the second wave of COVID was not yet over; and States should ensure strict adherence to the protocols prescribed in respect of wearing of masks, social distancing and other safe behaviour. It was observed that the decline of the second wave is at variable stages in the different States/UTs in the country and that while the overall case positivity rate may be declining, the case positivity rate in certain districts of Rajasthan, Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh is over 10%, which is a cause for concern.  States were also asked to follow the five-fold strategy of Test-Track-Treat-Vaccinate and COVID Appropriate Behaviour, as has been laid out in the MHA order dated 29th June 2021. Adequate health infrastructure preparedness (especially in rural, peri-urban and tribal areas) was also advised, with a view to tackling any potential future surge in cases. The meeting was attended by Dr V.K. Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog;  Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, GoI; Director-General, Indian Council for Medical Research; and Chief Secretaries, Directors General of Police and Principal Secretaries (Health) of the eight States.

COVID-19 News

COVID-19 surges with mortality increases for patients

New Delhi, 09th July 2021: A new study authored by scientists at the National Institutes of Health (USA), in collaboration with colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Harvard University, Boston, and Emory University, Atlanta, suggests that one in four COVID-19 deaths in U.S. hospitals may have been attributed to hospitals strained by surging caseloads. Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the analysis looked at data from 150,000 COVID-19 inpatients from 558 U.S. hospitals from March to August of 2020. More than half of those admissions were patients arriving at hospitals during peak COVID-19 surges. The surge–mortality relationship was stronger from June to August 2020 versus March to May 2020 (i.e., the contrast in outcomes between surging and non-surging hospitals appeared to grow over time), despite greater corticosteroid use and more judicious intubation during later and higher surging months. Surges were associated with mortality across wards, intensive care units (ICU) and intubated patients. These findings have implications for triage strategies, hospital preparedness, how healthcare facilities allocate resources and how public health authorities can assess and react to local data.  To better highlight the strain experienced by hospitals, investigators used a measure of surge that considered not only the number of patients with COVID-19 but also illness severity and the hospitals’ typical bed capacity. By tracking these data, hospitals could preemptively divert patients and ask for help sooner – potentially avoiding excess deaths. The researchers noted that despite improvements in COVID-19 survival between March-August 2020, surges in hospital COVID-19 caseload remained detrimental to survival and potentially eroded benefits gained from emerging treatments. This research suggests that bolstering preventative measures and supporting surging hospitals could save many lives.


#Health: Bengaluru scientists develop off-grid mobile oxygen concentrator

Mobile oxygen concentrator launched New Delhi, July 02nd 2021:  A team of researchers at Bengaluru-based Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), an autonomous institute under the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India, has designed a robust, mobile oxygen concentrator that can be used in rural settings and be rapidly deployed in emergencies in any location. The second wave of COVID-19 had witnessed an acute shortage of medical oxygen in different parts of the country. While the crisis in the bigger cities was more about responding by overcoming supply chain limitations, in smaller cities and villages, the crisis exposed a chronic lack of medical oxygen infrastructure.  Overcoming the crisis required combining the advantages of personalized Oxygen concentrators for home uses with a capacity of 5 to 10 litres per minute (lpm) and Oxygen plants with a capacity of 500 lpm for large hospitals. The 500 lpm plants for hospitals are robust. But, they lacked the portability required for deployment in resource-poor settings. The personal concentrators, on the other hand, were portable but too fragile to be used on a sustained basis in hospital settings. There was a need for a robust technology with necessary portability. The team at JNCASR has come up with a solution that meets the requirement, addressing, among other things, the several novel design challenges posed for the sourcing of materials. The device is based on the principles of Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) technology. The team replaced lithium zeolites (LiX) which is usually used in oxygen concentrators, with sodium zeolites which does not generate toxic solid waste and can be manufactured in India. Although the science behind is well understood, developing an engineering solution that can work with sodium in a portable device and fill this specific market gap when there are severe sourcing problems posed engineering challenges. Obstacles had to be overcome at each stage of the cycle, from working with the available zeolites to effective ways of dehumidifying and designing the right adsorption-pressure cycle. Named OxyJani, the device is modular and can deliver a range of solutions. It is an entirely off-grid…

diagram of eyes with and without glaucoma

Psychological Impact of COVID-19 on Ophthalmologists High

Shows results of an online study conducted by L V Prasad Eye Institute in collaboration with the All India Ophthalmological Society and The George Institute for Global Health India  Hyderabad, 20th May 2020: The results of an online study conducted by LV Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI) in collaboration with the All India Ophthalmological Society (AIOS) and The George Institute for Global Health India to evaluate the psychological impact of the COVID-19 crisis on trainees and practising ophthalmologists in India during lockdown demonstrated that a significantly high proportion of ophthalmologists were affected psychologically as they are at an increased risk of close contact with the patient’s eyes and face. COVID-19 outbreak has affected millions globally, both physically and mentally, causing psychological impact such as stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, denial, anger and fear. Psychological implications can be attributed to direct or indirect effects of the illness on livelihood and living conditions. Asymptomatic transmission of the disease causes fear and anxiety. Also, lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and social discrimination increases the stress and anxiety levels among healthcare professionals. Stigmatization of health care professionals during an epidemic is common. There is a need for personalized mental health care from psychologists and psychiatrists, especially for those with moderate/severe depression and/or suicidal/self-harm ideations. This study showed that even the health workers who are not in the forefront of COVID-19 care and at less risk of being affected are suffering mental health consequences due to multiple factors. Dr Rohit C Khanna, Epidemiologist and Director – rural eye care services, LV Prasad Eye Institute said, “The national and state ophthalmology societies, health administration, and the government should be cognizant of the need to support the mental health of all the healthcare workers, and not only those in the frontline of the management of COVID-19 infection.” The survey was completed by 2,355 ophthalmologists and ophthalmologists-in-training in the age group of 25 to 82 years. Depression was significantly higher in younger ophthalmologists. It was also higher in non-practising ophthalmologists, as also those who were considerably worried about their training or professional growth, and those with difficulty in meeting…

Health news

New heart attack testing protocol expedites treatment in ER

DALLAS – April 25, 2020 – A new protocol using highly sensitive blood tests to determine whether someone is having a heart attack can reduce wait times and overcrowding in emergency departments, according to a new study from UT Southwestern Medical Center. The findings, published online in JAMA Open, are particularly meaningful during the current coronavirus pandemic when many people with chest pain may be fearful of going to the hospital. “Patients are more reluctant to come to the ER with heart-related symptoms during the COVID-19 outbreak. We do not want those with medical emergencies to avoid the hospital due to concern for risk from the virus,” says cardiologist Rebecca Vigen, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern. The research team led by Vigen found that a new protocol for using high sensitivity cardiac troponin testing can improve efficiency in the ER by more quickly determining which patients are not having a heart attack. Chest pain : Most common reason for trips to the ER Troponins are proteins released when the heart muscle has been damaged. The protocol incorporates the HEART score – history, electrocardiogram, age, risk factors, and troponin – an emergency department risk assessment tool that guides decisions on discharge and stress testing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chest pain is the most common reason for trips to the ER, resulting in 7 million annual visits. “Our innovative strategy allowed us to ‘rule out’ heart attacks within one hour in more than half of the patients who were tested. This process is safe and improves the efficiency of evaluating patients with possible heart attacks,” says James de Lemos, M.D., professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and co-author of the study. “Emergency room overcrowding has become an urgent health priority that is even more pressing in the current COVID-19 pandemic. Given the large size of the study and its performance during routine operations in our county hospital, we think the findings would apply to many busy U.S. emergency rooms,” de Lemos adds. The new protocol was first implemented in December 2017 at…