LATEST SCIENCE AND RESEARCH
The new coronavirus spares most children, and researchers of a study may know why. According to their findings, children and adults produce different types and amounts of antibodies in response to infection.
The researchers from Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons wrote that the differences in antibodies suggest the period of infection, as well as the immune response, is distinct in children. They also found that most children easily clear the virus from their bodies.
"Our study provides an in-depth examination of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in kids, revealing a stark contrast with adults," Dr Donna Farber, Columbia University immunologist and co-author of the study, said in a news release.
Dr Matteo Porotto, associate professor of viral molecular pathogenesis in Columbia's Department of Pediatrics, led the study with Farber and commented that because children may clear the virus more efficiently than adults, they may not need a strong antibody immune response to get rid of it.
They also wrote that, since children's cells express fewer proteins the virus needs to infect human cells, it could explain why the virus is less able to infect children's cells compared to adults.
Since the start of the pandemic, children have been largely found to cope well with the virus, compared to the elderly and those with comorbidities.
Farber explained that children have a lot of “naive T cells”.
Global surveys have been showing worrying signs of Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy – the reluctance or refusal to be vaccinated due to safety concerns.
For scientists, this only adds to the existing stress of trying to control the pandemic, given that the safest way to reach herd immunity, or “herd protection”, is through an effective vaccine.
However, according to leading ethicist, Professor Julian Savulescu from the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford, incentivising people to be vaccinated, if one becomes available, may be the solution.
Savulescu, whose opinion piece was peer-reviewed and published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, says that to obtain the necessary level of herd immunity – which could be just over 80% of the population – an incentive (either financial or "payment in kind"), must therefore be considered by governments worldwide.
An incentive in kind, for instance, is allowing people the “freedom to travel, to not wear a mask in public places if you carried a vaccination certificate, and not to physically distance", he writes.
Herd immunity, as explained by Nature, occurs when a virus can’t spread as it keeps encountering people who are protected against infection. The form of protection is typically discussed as a result of widescale vaccination programmes.
CORONAVIRUS CASES LATEST
The latest number of confirmed cases is 738 525.
According to the latest update, 19845 deaths have been recorded in the country.
There have been 680 726 recoveries.
So far, 4.9 million tests have been conducted, with 12 641 new tests reported.
Global cases update:
For the latest global data, follow this interactive map from Johns Hopkins University & Medicine.
Late on Monday evening, positive cases worldwide were 50.7 million, while deaths were close to 1.2 million.
The United States had the most cases in the world - slightly over 10 million, as well as the most deaths - close to 238 000.
WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA
In a statement on Sunday, the SIU noted the ongoing publication of "leaked investigation reports" of ongoing probes in recent weeks.
SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago added that no presentation had been made to President Cyril Ramaphosa on 14 October, as stated in one of the reports.
"Thus, any reference to a presentation that we did to the president on the said date is inaccurate," Kganyago said.
"The SIU respects the right of the public to be informed by the media, however, we have noted that the said articles, based on so-called leaked reports, have the potential to mislead the public.
"The potential to mislead the public lies in the fact that the so-called leaked reports have not been authenticated by the SIU."
WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE REST OF THE WORLD
On March 2, a 71-year-old hospital patient with leukaemia tested positive for the coronavirus.
On average, Covid-19 patients shed infectious virus particles for about eight days. But 70 days after her diagnosis, the elderly patient was still shedding infectious particles. By mid-June, more than 100 days later, the woman was still testing positive — meaning her body still contained traces of the virus' genetic material.
"We think that at least up to day 70, this patient would have been able to spread the virus to others," Vincent Munster, a virologist at National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Business Insider. Munster is the lead author of a recent case study about the woman.Because the patient was quickly isolated in a room, she didn't spread the virus to anyone else.
According to Munster's study, published in the journal Cell earlier this week, the patient's 70-day period of infectiousness is the longest such span ever seen in an asymptomatic coronavirus patient. For comparison, the longest-known span of infectious shedding for a symptomatic person is 61 days, according to an October study.
Researchers believe the situation arose because the woman's weakened immune system was unable to mount a substantial defense against the virus. Her blood tests never showed substantial amounts of antibodies, which in most patients help fight off infections. But she also never developed symptoms.
The case study aligns with a growing body of research suggesting that immunocompromised people may shed the new coronavirus, whose clinical name is SARS-CoV-2, longer than people with healthy immune systems. A June study of 10 immunosuppressed patients with the coronavirus found that they shed viral particles for an average of 28.4 days. People with regularly functioning immune systems, by contrast, shed it for 12.2 days.
HEALTH TIPS (as recommended by the NICD and WHO)
• Maintain physical distancing – stay at least one metre away from somebody who is coughing or sneezing
• Practise frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, as your hands touch many surfaces and could potentially transfer the virus
• Practise respiratory hygiene – cover your mouth with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Remember to dispose the tissue immediately after use.
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