Rapid lateral flow tests 95% effective at detecting COVID if used when symptoms start, study shows


Rapid lateral flow tests are 95% effective at detecting coronavirus if they are used at the onset of infection or as soon as symptoms start, a new study suggests.

Scientists have previously said that lateral flow tests (LFTs) are less sensitive at picking up COVID-19 cases than laboratory tested PCR swabs.

But a study of more than 2,500 people with flu-like symptoms has shown that LFTs picked up 95% of the coronavirus cases that the PCR tests did.

It also correctly identified 89% of COVID cases as negative.

LFTs function like pregnancy tests and look for coronavirus proteins to detect cases and take just 30 minutes.

PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) tests are laboratory tested and can take up to three days to process.

The research, carried out by experts at Queen Mary University of London, Oxford University, the Institute for Advanced Studies in Vienna and the Medical University of Graz, is the first to compare the two forms of testing on a group of this scale.

Study of Pfizer in Israel shows 72% effective at preventing death after 1st dose


A real-world test of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in more than half a million people confirms that it’s very effective at preventing serious illness or death, even after one dose.

Wednesday’s published results, from a mass vaccination campaign in Israel, give strong reassurance that the benefits seen in smaller, limited testing persisted when the vaccine was used much more widely in a general population with various ages and health conditions.

The vaccine was 92% effective at preventing severe disease after two shots and 62% after one. Its estimated effectiveness for preventing death was 72% two to three weeks after the first shot, a rate that may improve as immunity builds over time.

It seemed as effective in folks over 70 as in younger people.

“This is immensely reassuring … better than I would have guessed,” said the Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Gregory Poland.

Strong decline in coronavirus across England since January, React study shows


There has been a “strong decline” in levels of coronavirus infections in England since January, say scientists tracking the epidemic.

Imperial College London’s React study found infections have dropped by two-thirds across England since lockdown began, with an 80% fall in London.

But virus levels are still high, with one in 200 testing positive between 4 and 13 February.

This is similar to levels seen in late September 2020.

Although these are interim findings, based on more than 85,000 swab tests from randomly selected people, they suggest social distancing and restrictions are having an impact.

Prof Paul Elliott, director of the programme at Imperial, said the drop in infection rates was “really encouraging”.

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares to receive new data on the effect of vaccines on the spread of coronavirus, ahead of Monday’s publication of a roadmap for easing the lockdown in England.

Covid vaccine impact revealed in over-80s blood tests


England’s vaccination programme is starting to pay off, with the over-80s age group now the most likely to test positive for coronavirus antibodies, Office for National Statistics testing suggests.

Blood tests reveal more over-80s than any other age group in England are showing signs of some immunity against Covid infection.

People have antibodies to Covid if they’ve had an infection in the last few months or if they have been vaccinated.

Previously, younger age groups who were more likely to be exposed to the virus were the most likely to test positive for antibodies.

In England, 41% of over-80s tested positive for antibodies, which the ONS said was “most likely due to the high vaccination rate in this group”.

Two weeks ago that figure was 26%.

It takes two to three weeks for immunity to build after vaccination.

Oxford vaccine could substantially cut spread


The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine could lead to a “substantial” fall in the spread of the virus, say scientists.

The impact of Covid vaccines on transmission has been a crucial unknown that will dramatically shape the future of the pandemic.

The study, which has not been formally published, also showed the vaccine remained effective while people waited for a second dose.

It was 76% effective during the three months after the first shot.

The impact on transmission is critical.

If a vaccine only stops you getting severely ill, but you can still catch and pass on the virus, then everyone will need to be immunised to be protected.

But if it also stops you spreading the virus then it would have a far greater impact on the pandemic as each person who is vaccinated indirectly protects other people too.

The study by the University of Oxford swabbed participants every week to test them for the presence of the virus.

If there is no virus then they cannot spread it. In the study, the numbers testing positive halved in people once they had been given two doses of the vaccine.

“The data indicate that [the vaccine] may have a substantial impact on transmission by reducing the number of infected individuals in the population,” the report said.

Oxford scientists preparing vaccine versions to combat emerging virus variants


Oxford scientists are preparing to rapidly produce new versions of their vaccine to combat emerging more contagious COVID-19 variants discovered in the UK, South Africa and Brazil, The Telegraph reported on Wednesday.

The team behind the vaccine from Oxford and AstraZeneca Plc is undertaking feasibility studies to reconfigure the technology, the newspaper said, citing a confirmation from Oxford University.

The scientists were working on estimating how quickly they could reconfigure their ChAdOx vaccine platform, the report said.

Recent laboratory tests have indicated that the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and partner BioNTech SE is likely to work against the UK variant spreading around the world.

BioNTech has said it plans to publish a more detailed analysis of the likely effect of its vaccine on the South African variant within a few days.

AstraZeneca Plc, Moderna Inc and CureVac NV are also testing whether their respective shots will protect against the fast-spreading variants.

Australia on track to record zero COVID-19 cases for second straight day


Australia is on course to record its second straight day of zero local COVID-19 cases, helped by tougher restrictions on public movement and internal borders, but authorities continued to urge more people to get tested to track undetected cases.

Australia has been seeking to contain fresh virus outbreaks since last month with impacted regions placed under lockdown and masks made mandatory indoors but infection rates seem to have stabilised after low cases in recent days.

New South Wales (NSW), the country’s most populous state, flagged it could ease restrictions soon if testing numbers rise as more tests could help trace all unknown infections.

Australia to roll out Covid vaccine in February, with goal for 4m jabs by March


The rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine in Australia has been brought forward to mid-to-late February with the Morrison government aiming to have four million receive the jab by March.

Announcing the accelerated rollout on Thursday, the prime minister Scott Morrison also indicated it would be up to the states and territories to decide whether the vaccine could be made compulsory for some groups, such as aged care workers.

Australia is aiming to complete Therapeutic Goods Administration approval of the Pfizer vaccine by late January, after which it will take up to two weeks to be delivered and up to a week for batch-testing. The AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be approved in February.

Morrison set out a process to begin vaccination, with the first recipients being high-priority groups including 700,000 frontline workers in the health sector, border enforcement, hotel quarantine, aged care, and disability care; and residents of aged and disability care.

Morrison said starting with 80,000 vaccinations a week, Australia would aim to ramp that up in order to vaccinate four million people by the end of March.

The second tier of six million recipients is made up of Australians aged over 70, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders over 55, healthcare workers, younger adults with underlying health conditions and emergency services workers.

Fauci: Vaccinations are ramping up in a `glimmer of hope’


The U.S. ramped up COVID-19 vaccinations in the past few days after a slower-than-expected start, bringing the number of shots dispensed to about 4 million, government health officials said Sunday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, also said on ABC’s “This Week” that President-elect Joe Biden’s pledge to administer 100 million shots of the vaccine within his first 100 days in office is achievable.

And he rejected President Donald Trump’s false claim on Twitter that coronavirus deaths and cases in the U.S. have been greatly exaggerated.

“All you need to do … is go into the trenches, go into the hospitals, go into the intensive care units and see what is happening. Those are real numbers, real people and real deaths,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The U.S. death toll has climbed past 350,000, the most of any country, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, while more than 20 million people nationwide have been infected. States have reported record numbers of cases over the past few days, and funeral homes in Southern California are being inundated with bodies.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the pandemic is getting worse in his city as the virus spreads rapidly within households and people let their guard down. “This is a virus that preys off of our weakness, preys off of our exhaustion,” he said.

Experts believe that the real numbers of U.S. deaths and infections are much higher and that many cases were overlooked, in part because of insufficient testing.

Fauci said he has seen “some little glimmer of hope” after 1.5 million doses were administered in the previous 72 hours, or an average of about 500,000 per day, a marked increase in vaccinations. He said that brings the total to about 4 million. US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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New coronavirus variant does not cause illness more severe than others -Public Health England study


A new variant of the novel coronavirus does not appear to cause more severe illness than other variants, according to a matched study by Public Health England.

Scientists say the new variant can spread more rapidly. It was found in England in mid December and led to other countries imposing travel restrictions to the United Kingdom. Several other countries have reported variants.

Under the study, researchers compared 1,769 people infected with the new variant with 1,769 who had what they described as “wild-type” virus. The two groups were matched 1:1 on the basis of age, sex, area of residence and time of testing.

Of the 42 people who were admitted to hospital, 16 were infected with the new variant while 26 cases had wild type infection, according to the study. In terms of fatality, there were 12 deaths in variant cases compared to 10 deaths in wild-type cases.

“Preliminary results from the cohort study found no statistically significant difference in hospitalisation and 28-day case fatality between cases with the variant and wild-type comparator cases,” the study said.

There was no significant difference in the likelihood of reinfection with the new variant as compared with the other variants, it said. US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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