Singapore team develops one-minute coronavirus test – dpa international

DUBLIN — Mention of a breathalyzer typically evokes images of a bedraggled five o’clock shadow peering bloodshot-eyed through a driver’s window after being pulled over by police. That could change if a new test for the novel coronavirus gets a second wind after successful first-round trials.. According to a Tuesday statement by the National University of Singapore (NUS), the device, which resembles a drink-driving breathalyzer, generates a result in around 60 seconds. The outcomes, which NUS reports as having proven 90 per cent accurate among the 180 people tested, “are generated in real-time” by analysis of “Volatile Organic Compounds” in a person’s breath. Jia Zhunan, doctor and chief executive officer of NUS spin-off company Breathonix, said the test is “is easy to administer,” needing neither trained staff nor laboratory processing.

New research could help doctors sniff out coronavirus infections – dpa international

Socially-distant queue to enter a shop in Sligo in the northwest of Ireland (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Failing to pick up the waft of garlic, coffee or perfume could be a clearer coronavirus warning than previously thought, according to research by University College London (UCL). The findings, published Thursday in the journal PLOS Medicine, were based on novel coronavirus antibody tests taken by 567 people whose senses of taste or smell deteriorated over the previous month. Some 78 per cent of those tested were carrying antibodies, meaning they had likely been infected. Anosmia, or loss of sense of smell, was three times more prevalent among the group than loss of taste. Most of those with antibodies otherwise felt only mild symptoms of Covid-19, with 40 per cent suffering neither cough nor fever – listed by the World Health Organization as among the “most common symptoms.” The WHO ranks loss of senses of smell or taste as “less common symptoms.”

More hints of inconsistency in virus antibody tests – dpa international

Coronavirus-related distancing in force in a church in Ireland (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Analysis of commercially available coronavirus antibody tests shows a “broad range of performance,” with patients suffering “severe disease” after infection later showing a more “readily detectable antibody response” compared to milder cases. The research, published in the journal PLOS Pathogen on Thursday, was funded by Britain’s Department of Health and carried out by a team from institutions including Kings College London and the University of Amsterdam. The team assessed 10 antibody test kits by “using blood from patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19 throughout the peak of the epidemic in London.” The test kits “all gave the best results when used 20 days or more” after illness.

DNA analysis suggests some Vikings were not Scandinavian – dpa international

Round tower at Clonmacnoise, a monastery raided by Vikings and located near the River Shannon in Ireland.

DUBLIN — DNA sequencing of Viking remains suggests not all the axe-swinging pillagers were blonde-haired, blue-eyed Nordics, according to research published Wednesday in the journal Nature. After analysing 442 skeletons buried across Europe and Greenland, a multinational team of academics from the University of Cambridge and the University of Copenhagen concluded that “Viking identity was not limited to people with Scandinavian genetic ancestry.” Team leader Eske Willerslev said the analysis showed “significant gene flows” into Scandinavia from southern Europe and Asia before the start of the Viking Age, which is often dated to the 793 sacking of the monastery at Lindisfarne on Britain’s North Sea coast. Over the next three centuries, “Scandinavian diasporas” set up trading posts and towns “stretching from the American continent to the Asian steppe.”

Under-fire Chinese app TikTok to set up European hub in Ireland – dpa international

DUBLIN — Video-sharing app TikTok will invest 420 million euros (500 million dollars) in a European data storage centre in Ireland, the company announced on Thursday. The proposed hub will house European user data, according to Roland Cloutier, TikTok’s global chief information security officer, who said the move will strengthen “safeguarding and protection of TikTok user data” in a “state of the art physical and network security defence system.” Cloutier said “hundreds” of jobs will be created – an announcement welcomed by IDA Ireland, the state investment promotion agency, as “good news.” IDA Ireland Chief Executive Officer Martin Shanahan said IikTok’s statement “postions Ireland as an important location in the company’s global operations.” Banned in China, US online giants Facebook, Google and Twitter have substantial operations in low-tax Ireland.

No sweat for British scientists sniffing out cause of body odour – dpa international

Antiperspirants for sale in Dublin pharmacy (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Researchers at the University of York in Britain have found a “unique” enzyme deemed responsible “for the pungent characteristic smell we call body odour or BO.” The research, published Monday in the journal Scientific Reports, describes a “BO enzyme” that occurs in a handful of bacteria and causes “the characteristic armpit odour” that has in turn spawned a lucrative market in deodorants and antiperspirants. The research was carried out by the university in partnership with the research and development wing of Unilever, an Anglo-Dutch conglomerate that counts among its brands the antiperspirant Axe, Lifebouy soaps and Lux perfumes. Michelle Rudden of the University of York’s Department of Biology said the discovery marks “a key advancement in understanding how body odour works,” which in turn “will enable the development of targeted inhibitors.”

Amazon announces 1,000 new jobs and cloud investment in Ireland – dpa international

Outside an Amazon office in Dublin (Smon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Retailer Amazon will hire 1,000 people in Ireland over the next two years, according to a Monday statement by the country’s official investment promotion agency, IDA Ireland. The jobs are expected to take Amazon’s Irish headcount to 5,000 and are mostly in engineering and technical roles. “We have seen a surge in demand for cloud services in Ireland and globally, and we are excited to add 1,000 highly skilled roles,” said Mike Beary, Amazon’s country manager in Ireland. US-based Amazon will also invest in a cloud computing centre due to open in 2022 in Dublin, according to the IDA Ireland statement. Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin said that the announcement bolsters Ireland’s “reputation as a leading nation in global technology.”

Scottish Catholic shrine gets tech salvation for holy water drought – dpa international

DUBLIN — With concerns about coronavirus leaving most Catholic churchgoers without their cherished holy water, a prototype contactless dispenser is being trialled at a shrine in Scotland. In use starting this week at Carfin Grotto in the town of Motherwell, the device resembles a water-cooler or liquid soap dispenser and is activated by cupping a hand near a sensor positioned under the water. A video posted on the Carfin Grotto Facebook page shows the dispenser in action, with the narrator thanking a parishioner named Paul Lawlor and a local tech firm known as Lawlor Techologies for the device. “One of the things we’ve been missing the most,” the narrator said, “is blessing ourselves with holy water.”

British team announces ‘major breakthrough’ in Covid-19 treatment – dpa international

At the entrance to a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. Face masks are widely-used in some countries as a preventive measure against the novel coronavirus - a disease for which there is no vaccine (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — A steroid called dexamethasone should be given to patients affected by Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, British researchers reported on Tuesday. Tests on 2,104 patients showed that low doses of the drug cut deaths by a third among patients on ventilators and by a fifth among those receiving oxygen, findings described by the researchers as a “major breakthrough” that “will save lives.” “One death would be prevented by treatment of around eight ventilated patients or around 25 patients requiring oxygen alone,” said the research team, which is testing a range of drugs on 11,500 Covid-19 patients at 175 British hospitals/ Martin Landray of the University of Oxford, one of the trial’s leaders, said that dexamethasone, a drug in use since the 1960s to treat inflammations and conditions such as asthma, could prove a “remarkably low cost” means of combatting the coronavirus pandemic.

Face masks ’79-per-cent effective’ in slowing coronavirus spread at home – dpa international

Lining up to enter a Kuala Lumpur hardware shop after Malaysia ended its lockdown on May 4 (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Wearing face masks at home can prevent pre-symptomatic transmission of the new coronavirus in households, according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal. The findings, based on interviews with Chinese families carried out by doctors and academics in Australia, China and the United States, suggest that “precautionary [non-pharmaceutical interventions], such as mask use, disinfection and social distancing in households can prevent Covid-19 transmission during the pandemic.” The authors contend that the research shows wearing masks at home to be “79-per-cent effective at curbing transmission before symptoms emerged in the first person infected.” The work was led by the Beijing Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and involved the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada and the University of New South Wales’ Faculty of Medicine.