DUBLIN – Man’s best friend can not only warn off burglars, herd farm animals or sniff out bombs and drugs, but can be predict epileptic seizures, according to Queen’s University Belfast (QUB). The seizures “are associated with a specific smell which is detectable by pet dogs,” a university-led research team said. Anecdotes about behaviourial changes in dogs suggested they were aware of impending seizures, but no scientific study had until now “investigated the veracity of these claims,” QUB said. Published in the journal MDPI Animals, the findings could help develop a “reliable” and potentially life-saving early warning system” for the world’s 65 million people who live with epilepsy, of which around 30 per cent “cannot control their seizures by medication.”
DUBLIN — A blend of antibody drugs has proven effective among vulnerable patients showing symptoms of Covid-19, according to the Mayo Clinic. Published by The Lancet, a British medical journal, the findings show a combination of casirivimab and imdevimab drugs help ensure “high-risk patients” do not need hospitalisation if hit with “mild to moderate Covid-19.” The clinic gave the drugs, described as “monoclonal antibody treatments under Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency use authorization,” to almost 700 patients out of 1,400 enrolled in the study. 1.6 per cent of recipients were in hospital 28 days later along with 4.8 per cent of non-recipients, the medics reported.”Once again, this real-world study suggests that when patients who are at high risk due to a range of co-morbidities contract a mild or moderate case of Covid-19, this combination of monoclonal injections gives them a chance of a non-hospitalized recovery,” said Raymund Razonable, an infectious diseases specialist with the clinic.
DUBLIN — Birth rates have fallen by almost 10 per cent in some wealthy countries since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to research published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the US. Using monthly live birth numbers from 2016 to March this year, the researchers reported “preliminary evidence” showing the pandemic has “decreased fertility” in all but 4 of 22 “high income countries” studied. The authors, from the University of Oxford, Cornell University and Universita Commerciale Luigi Bocconi in Milan, factored in seasonality and long term trends, but nonetheless estimated a 9.4 per cent fall in Italy and more than 8 per cent in Hungary and Spain. “Belgium, Austria, and Singapore also showed a significant decline in crude birth rates,” they said.
DUBLIN — The interplay of age and vulnerability to illness has been under unprecedented spotlight due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed mostly older people affected by pre-existing conditions or ‘co-morbidities.’ with huge death tolls in nursing homes in many countries. But while the conventional wisdom – that people are more likely to get sick as they get older – still holds, according to the University of Oxford, their health in general, for good or bad, is less likely to be affected by genes as Father Time catches up.
DUBLIN — Almost one-third of Americans could have been infected by the coronavirus in 2020, according to Columbia University estimates. Published in the journal Nature, the research by the Ivy League university’s Mailman School of Public Health suggests 103 million people, or 31 per cent of the population, caught the virus last year, far more than the official year-end tally of just over 20 million, of which 351,998 had died by December 31. “The vast majority of infectious were not accounted for by the number of confirmed cases,” said Jeffrey Shaman, professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia. Official numbers were accounting for only 10 per cent total estimated infections at the outset of the pandemic in March, when testing was not widely accessible, but rose to 25 per cent by December, according to the researchers.
DUBLIN — Economic restrictions aimed at slowing the coronavirus pandemic could have caused an extra 267,000 infant deaths in low and middle income countries last year, according to World Bank estimates published on Monday in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). While the virus has so far had a “small direct impact on infant mortality,” it likely caused an indirect rise through “effects on the economy and health system performance,” according to the Bank’s development research team. The estimated increase across 128 countries would account for a near-7-per-cent jump in infant mortality, they said.
DUBLIN — More work is needed to stop potential “spillover” of pathogens from animals to humans, according to scientists investigating pandemic prevention. In a report published on Wednesday by Harvard University, scientists from several continents argued governments should “integrate” public health and nature conservation measures to help prevent animal-human disease spread. The team believes that “reducing deforestation and regulating the wildlife trade” could come in at “as little” as 22 billion dollars a year, roughly around 2 per cent of “the economic and mortality costs of responding to Covid-19.”
DUBLIN –Around one-fifth of scientists working on health-related research have faced pressure from funders over “unfavourable” findings, according to survey results published on Wednesday. Eighteen per cent of those questioned said they were “asked to suppress certain findings as they were viewed as being unfavourable,” according to a summary published in science journal PLOS by Australia-based academics, including from the University of Newcastle and Swinburne University of Technology. Some of the scientists and medics who were surveyed said they faced “subtle pressure” from their research paymasters, such as conveying hopes for “positive findings,” or blunter constraints such as government funding agreements that “require researchers to obtain funder approval to publish reports.” The survey covered researchers involved in over 200 trials related to nutrition, physical activity, sexual health, smoking, and substance use. Two-thirds of those polled were based in Europe or North America, with a fifth of them listed as in Oceania.
DUBLIN — Almost 20 per cent of Americans had likely caught the coronavirus by March this year, more than double the roughly 29 million officially reported by that time, according to research published on Monday by the National Academy of Sciences. A “statistical framework” put together by University of Washington scientists suggests around 65 million Americans caught the virus by March 7. The team said they aimed to “provide a clear picture of Covid-19’s prevalence” as “access to tests, and a willingness to be tested, vary by location.” Official data for Sunday show around 34.3 million cases in the US, where 608,403 people have died after catching the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An undercount of infections could mean the virus is less deadly than official numbers suggest, as the real infection-fatality rate widens substantially beyond the official case-fatality rate, or ratio between confirmed deaths and confirmed cases.
DUBLIN — Rapid antigen tests for coronavirus likely work better for larger populations than slower but more sensitive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, Indian scientists have found. A “computational analysis” comparing testing regimes and results across India, which was recently hit hard by a virus surge, suggests “the amount of testing matters more than the sensitivity of the tests.” The findings hint that lower- and middle-income countries “might be able to achieve optimal outcomes by concentrating on ramping up testing using less sensitive tests which provide immediate results.”