Coronavirus morning recap: Second 'key', 5 million to be tested in Chinese city, and TB threat

LATEST SCIENCE AND RESEARCH

READ | Researchers discover a second 'key' that makes the new coronavirus infectious

As the number of confirmed global SARS-CoV-2 infections nears 1.7 million, scientists are still battling to understand what makes the virus so effective and transmissive.

But a new study may have the answer: The virus is using a second protein, called neuropilin-1, to facilitate entry into human cells.

The first receptor, angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), was discovered during the early stages of the pandemic, and scientists came to understand how the virus used it to bind to the surface of cells. An enzyme called type II transmembrane serine protease (TMPRSS2) was also found to be crucial for gaining entry.

The findings of the researchers, from the Technical University of Munich in Germany and the University of Helsinki in Finland, were published in Science.

"To efficiently infect human cells, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is able to use a receptor called neuropilin-1, which is very abundant in many human tissues, including the respiratory tract, blood vessels and neurons," a news release by the University of Helsinki stated.

"The starting point of our study was the question why SARS-CoV, a coronavirus that led to a much smaller outbreak in 2003, and SARS-CoV-2, spread in such a different way even if they use the same main receptor ACE2," said University of Helsinki virologist Ravi Ojha.

CORONAVIRUS CASES LATEST

SA cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 716 759.

According to the latest update, 19 008 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 646 721 recoveries.

So far, over 4.7 million tests have been conducted, with 11 464 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 almost 43.38 million, while deaths were more close to 1.16 million.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 8.69 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 225 000.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Latest news:

READ | Miners face increased TB threat as SA focuses resources towards fighting Covid-19

Vama Jele's heart dropped every time he heard another migrant miner home from South Africa had died from tuberculosis due to skipping treatment under the lockdown. In just four months, it happened 60 times.

When Covid-19 shut South Africa's mines, workers from Jele's homeland, eSwatini, and other neighbouring nations rushed home - disrupting TB care for thousands of miners at high risk from the disease due to weakened lungs after years working underground.

Jele - the secretary-general of a migrant mineworkers' association in eSwatini - said more lives could now be lost to TB as overstretched healthcare systems prioritise Covid-19.

"There's such a strong focus on Covid-19 that everyone is forgetting about TB and other non-communicable diseases, and this contributes to more deaths," he added.

Patients, who did not consistently take the full course of several months' medication, could spread drug-resistant TB, which was TB that was resistant to common medications, according to the World Bank.

Home to the world's third-largest mining industry, South Africa draws about 45 000 mineworkers from surrounding countries such as Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe, making up about 10% of the workforce.

It was both an economy booster and a TB hotspot due to enclosed, dusty working conditions underground, said Cleopas Sibanda, the programme manager for the Wits Health Consortium, a health research unit in Johannesburg.

There were 2 500 to 3 000 TB cases reported per 100 000 mineworkers in Southern Africa, according to the World Bank, a rate 10 times higher than what the World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies as an epidemic emergency.

"Miners have a three times higher chance of getting TB than the average person," said Sibanda, a doctor.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE REST OF THE WORLD 

Latest news:

READ | China is testing all 5 million residents of a city in Xinjiang after one positive Covid-19 case

China started testing all 5 million residents of a major city for Covid-19 on Sunday after identifying one positive test the day before, state media reported.

Health authorities announced the plan to mass-test the city of Kashgar after a 17-year-old female garment worker tested positive for the virus during a routine screening on Saturday, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported. It's not clear how she was infected, Xinhua said.

More than 2.84 million people have been tested already, Reuters reported early Monday morning, adding that the remaining tests would be completed by Tuesday.

By the end of Sunday 137 people, who were all asymptomatic, had tested positive, state-run broadcaster CGTN reported. Xinhua said that all the new cases are linked to another garment factory where the teenager's parents worked, according to Reuters.

The reported new infections in Kashgar mark the largest flare-up seen anywhere in China since April 1, according to Reuters.

Kashgar lies in the Xinjiang region of western China, which is one of the most closely-surveilled parts of the country.

READ | US nursing home workers say they were kept in the dark as Covid-19 engulfed their facilities

Nursing homes have been especially hard-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and workers in those facilities have been forced to make some difficult decisions on a professional and personal level.

While nursing homes only make up 1% of the US population, according to the Associated Press, they account for a significantly larger percentage of Covid-19 infections compared to the overall population.

As of this writing, there are 8.3 million people infected with the coronavirus in the US, and over 222,000 have died.

According to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, at least 252,939 COVID-19 cases have been recorded in nursing homes nationwide, with an additional 143,848 suspected cases. More than 59,600 deaths have been recorded since the week of October 4, the date of the most recent available data.

Tamara Konetzka, a University of Chicago public health professor who has been researching the impact of COVID-19 on nursing homes, told Insider at least 80% of all nursing homes have had at least one case.

Konetzka said there's been much progress made since the start of the pandemic, and researchers have now learned that after locking down facilities, staff are one of the key ways the virus enters nursing homes.

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.

Image credit: Getty Images

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