The Indian Express | 1 week ago | 05-08-2022 | 03:35 am
Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday urged people to take their precautionary doses of vaccine against Covid-19 at a time when India has been seeing a rise in the number of cases. “I urge all present here to take a precautionary dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. On the completion of 75 years of independence, the government has started a campaign of giving free vaccine doses for 75 days,” Modi said as he virtually addressed a huge gathering while inaugurating Shrimad Rajchandra Multispecialty Charitable Hospital in the tribal area of Dharampur taluka of Valsad Thursday.“We should ensure that everybody in our family and our area or village takes the precaution dose,” the PM added. The PM’s reminder comes as the Central government commenced free supply of the Covid vaccines for 75 days as part of the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ campaign.The PM highlighted that in addition to the Covid vaccine campaign, India was also carrying out a nation-wide vaccination for animals, including cows and buffaloes, against the food and mouth disease. Around “12 crore vaccinations have been done of which 90 lakh were done in Gujarat”, the PM claimed. His statements came as Gujarat has been battling Lumpy Skin Disease, a viral disease that has been spreading across cattle population in the state and has claimed at least 1,838 cattle lives until Thursday.Praising the hospital, the PM said people in the tribal-dominated Dharampur and its nearby talukas will benefit from the new facility. “The commitment to serve the poor will become stronger through such a hospital,” Modi said, adding he was “glad that doctors and staff from Surat, Ahmedabad, Mumbai and foreign countries have come here to serve the people”.The Prime Minister also laid the foundation stone of a Centre of Excellence for Women and Animal Hospital in Dharampur. “The Centre of Excellence for Women by Shrimad Rajchandra Mission will change the lives of many women in the tribal areas. Shrimad Rajchandraji had emphasised more on education and skill development. At a younger age, he had pressed his views on women empowerment,” he said.Newsletter | Click to get the day’s best explainers in your inboxHe said the Centre’s endeavours were directed at ensuring to remove all obstacles that “prevented our sisters and daughters from moving forward”.Modi also praised Shrimad Rajchandra, the 19th century Jain philosopher and poet, for making “huge contributions to the country’s history”. “It is unfortunate that we lost bright leaders who could have made the world aware of the knowledge and strength that India has, too soon,” Modi said about Rajchandra, who inspired Mahatma Gandhi.
AHMEDABAD: The daily Covid cases in the city and Gujarat recorded a dip on Friday - against 183 cases in Ahmedabad on Thursday, the city recorded 161 new cases. For Gujarat, the figures were 552 and 459, respectively. Compared to two deaths on Thursday, Friday recorded zero mortalities. Sources said that more than the virus spread, this had to do with fewer tests. Compared to 25,000 tests on August 10, 18,300 tests were done on August 12.
US scientists have identified antibodies in monkeys that may help in the development of next-generation vaccines which can offer additional protection against emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants and other SARS-related viruses.The team from Scripps Research Institute in California identified the antibodies, from rhesus macaque monkeys, that are effective against many different SARS-CoV-2 variants, as well as other SARS viruses like SARS-CoV-1, the highly lethal virus that caused an outbreak in 2003.They found these neutralising antibodies recognise a viral spike region that is relatively more conserved, meaning that it is present across many different SARS viruses and is therefore less likely to mutate over time.The findings, published in Science Translational Medicine, showed that certain animals are surprisingly more able to make these types of “pan-SARS virus” antibodies than humans, giving scientists clues as to how to make better vaccines.”If we can design vaccines that elicit the similar broad responses that we’ve seen in this study, these treatments could enable broader protection against the virus and variants of concern,” said senior author Raiees Andrabi, an investigator in the Department of Immunology and Microbiology.In the study, rhesus macaque monkeys were immunised with the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein — the outside portion of the virus that allows it to penetrate and infect host cells.Two shots were administered, resembling a similar strategy used with currently available mRNA vaccines in humans. Unlike these vaccines, however, the macaques were shown to have a broad neutralising antibody response against the virus-including variants such as Omicron.Exploring the antibody structures, the team found these antibodies recognise a conserved region on the edge of the site where the spike protein binds to host cells, called the angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor binding site. This is different from the region where the majority of human antibodies target, which overlaps more with the ACE2 receptor binding site and is more variable to change.”The antibody structures reveal an important area common to multiple SARS-related viruses. This region to date has rarely been seen to be targeted by human antibodies and suggests additional strategies that can be used to coax our immune system into recognising this particular region of the virus,” said Ian Wilson, DPhil, Professor at the Institute.Further, the team said it’s important to note that the macaque’s gene coding for these broad neutralising antibodies — known as IGHV3-73 — is not the same in humans. The dominant immune response in humans is related to the IGHV3-53 gene, which produces a potent but much narrower neutralising antibody response.However, the scientists say this discovery opens the door to rationally design and engineer vaccines or vaccine-adjuvant combinations that elicit more broad protection against SARS-CoV-2 and its many variants.”According to our study, the macaques have an antibody gene that offers them more protection against SARS viruses. This observation teaches us that studying the effect of a vaccine in monkeys can only take us so far but also reveals a new target for our vaccine efforts that we might be able to exploit by advanced protein design strategies,” added Dennis Burton, co-senior author and chair of the Department of Immunology and Microbiology.
Dr. Atul Patel is a director and chief consultant for the Department of Infectious Diseases, Sterling Hospital. He is a visiting assistant professor at the Medicine Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of South Florida, Tampa, US. He has a special interest in HIV/TB co-infections. His group is researching on an effective programme to prevent mother-to-child transmission at the ID Clinic, AhmedabadThe past two years were largely uneventful with respect to swine flu and/or seasonal influenza cases and related mortality. We are again witnessing a surge this year. What is driving it?The term, swine flu, is used for the 2009 H1N1 strain, which was a recombinant of influenza viruses in birds, pigs and humans. The strain evolves every year, which is why these subsequent strains are termed under the broad category of seasonal influenza. The surge in seasonal influenza cases in a specific year depends on the general population’s immunity to the specific strain circulating in a specific year. We are seeing swine flu patients and seasonal influenza patients at present as both the viruses are in circulation. If we look at the epidemiology of seasonal influenza, it circulates in the community in tropical countries throughout the year with two big spikes — first in winter and the second in the monsoon. So this is the time when we expect an increase in the number of seasonal influenza cases. This is a major difference compared to temperate countries such as the US or Europe where only one surge is seen in the year that is winter.Right now we can say we are seeing an equal number of Covid-19 and seasonal influenza patients. In fact, the number of seasonal influenza cases is more compared to the last two years. That may be because we are not strictly wearing masks and sanitising hands, something that we did consistently through the two years during Covid-19. These are two important non-pharmaceutical interventions, which reduce the susceptibility to seasonal influenza as well as Covid-19. Furthermore, routine vaccination for seasonal influenza has gone down. It is not being highly recommended in high-risk groups by the government unlike pre Covid-19 years and has now taken a backseat following Covid-19. We can control the number of seasonal influenza patients in the community through vaccination and post-exposure prophylaxis with Oseltamivir (Tamiflu). We should promote an annual shot of the seasonal influenza vaccine in the media also.How does seasonal influenza impact an individual’s morbidity risk?Like Covid-19, those with co-morbidities are at a high risk of disease progression and complication when it comes to seasonal influenza. We are seeing that there is mortality in patients with significant co-morbidities. The sensitivities are almost the same as those for Covid-19 — haemato-oncological problems, malignancy, post-transplant cases, chronic obstructive lung disease, obesity, diabetes and so on.In terms of susceptibility to seasonal influenza, it is more or less equal across all age groups, except in paediatric patients and those aged above 65 years. These two groups are such that even without any co-morbid conditions, they are more prone to disease severity. For a majority of youngsters, most of whom are immuno-competent, seasonal influenza is a self-limiting disease. Symptoms include high grade fever, throat pain, headache, body pain, runny nose, which last for five to seven days or so. Then they report spontaneous and uneventful recovery. Taking fever-reducers such as Paracetamol work for healthy immuno-competent individuals but for paediatric and aged people, and those with comorbidities, we generally prescribe the antiviral drug Tamiflu, a very effective agent for influenza.With fever being the first symptom and the monsoon known for the resurgence of viral infections, seasonal influenza, vector-borne diseases, and now Covid-19, what should one look out for?With most viral infections, including dengue fever, the first episode is usually self-limiting in immuno-competent people. Such individuals report an uneventful recovery without much medical intervention. But those in high risk and co-morbid groups, should not ignore their fever, visit their doctor, get tested and secure a definite diagnosis.They should get a diagnostic evaluation done on the first day of the onset of symptoms rather than waiting for a few days as by then the disease can progress and complications may crop up. For healthy individuals who do not have many symptoms, except for fever and body pain, there is not much cause for worry. Their assessment and evaluation should be symptom-driven.With Covid-19 and seasonal influenza circulating in the population, how do we go about the diagnosis, given that most individuals just opt for a Covid-19 test? Surely a negative Covid-19 test doesn’t rule out an individual’s probability of seasonal influenza instead?We usually recommend the RT-PCR for both COVID-19 and seasonal influenza. In clinical practice, we have multiplex PCR. This assay includes a target panel of all the common viruses producing respiratory symptoms. So a single multiplex PCR can confirm whether it’s influenza A, influenza B, parainfluenza, COVID19, swine flu or other respiratory viruses. But it is very expensive, costing around Rs 11,500 or so, as it checks multiple pathogens. The results come within two-and-a-half hours and are highly reliable.How is a confirmed diagnosis of the type of seasonal influenza one is afflicted with significant for health management?Knowing the final and confirmed diagnosis is very important, as for the three viruses — influenza A, B and swine flu — Tamiflu is highly effective. Besides, most of these patients will respond to the antiviral drug within 48 hours of taking it. This is also one of the diagnostic traits that can be an indicator. So basically if someone improves markedly after taking Tamiflu, it can be said that he/she has been affected by one of the three viruses. That apart, a PCR test can tell you which kind it is because symptoms are more or less the same for seasonal influenza, swine flu or influenza B virus. From a clinical examination perspective, one can say that an individual has seasonal influenza but for the specific virus, only a PCR test can give a final and confirmed diagnosis.
AHMEDABAD: Data tabled in the Lok Sabha recently shows a 5% year-on-year increase in child adoptions in Gujarat in 2020-21, the year with the worst of Covid, going from 116 in 2019-20 to 122 in 2020-21. This was third lowest number in the past seven years and 30% lower than 174 adoptions in 2018-19. The government of India said that a total of 979 children have been adopted from institutions in the state from 2014-15. The number of specialized adoption agencies (SAAs) was 19 in 2014-15, which has come down to 16 since 2017-18. The response said that 12 children had died at SAAs in 2021-22, whereas from 2014-15, a total of 84 children have died at SAAs. Apart from SAAs, the state also has 125 child care institutions (CCIs), a government reply said. In 2020, the state police had recorded 65 cases of human trafficking of persons below 18 years, it said. City-based organizations associated with child rights and adoption said several factors such as financial upheavals during Covid had disrupted adoption cycles. "It often takes 2-3 years from registration with the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) to getting a child. People often prefer girls and relatively younger children," said an official on condition of anonymity. "A child with health problems has especially reduced chances of adoption by local parents and such children are mainly adopted by foreign nationals." The centralized system has increased options for the parents looking to adopt, they added.
Rakshabandhan turned out to be a truly festive occasion for sweet shops in Ahmedabad with a reported 20% to 25% surge in the sale of sweets this year during the festival.The jump in sales compared to last year is due to Covid-19 being under control which made people comfortable about moving out and shopping for family and friends.Jay Sharma, Director, Gwalia Sweets said there is a 25% rise in the sale of sweets this Rakshabandhan compared to the last two years as people rise above fear of Covid.Gwalia has around 14 branches in Ahmedabad“Traditional sweets like Motichoor Ke Ladoo, Rasgulla, Kaju Katli, milk cake and Peda were the hot selling ones this festival.”Those in the business said most customers prefer boxes of 250 grams to 500 gms of sweets.Ashwin Mehta, senior member of Ahmedabad Mithai, Farsaan, Dudh and Mava Vepari Mahajan said customers usually buy in smaller quantities of 250 to 500 grams as sisters have to buy sweets for all their brothers including cousins.“He said sales of traditional sweets are positive compared to the last couple of years. Chocolate packs, homemade chocolates and bakery items like pastries and cakes also account for 30% market share,” said Mehta.Those in the know said rain on the day of Rakshabandhan and a day before dampened the celebrations. As per pandits, the muhurat (auspicious time) this Rakshabandhan was also limited so many families did not celebrate it.Kamlesh Kandoi, owner of Kandoi Bhogilal Mulchand, a premium sweetshop said demand for Kaju Katli and various types of Penda was high this festival followed by other sweets made of dry fruits. Zero sugar sweets were also in demand.When asked to share sales figures, he said, “It will be difficult to share the exact sales figures but it was positive.”.