India Coronavirus Dispatch: Newer rapid antigen tests promise more accuracy

A health worker collects a nasal sample from a woman for a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) for the Covid-19 coronavirus in Srinagar.
Newer rapid antigen tests promise more accurate results, but scale of use in India a concern

Quicker and cheaper but less reliable than the “gold standard” RT-PCR, rapid antigen tests (RAT) have come a long way since they were introduced for Covid-19 testing around five months ago. They now form an important cog in Covid management as part of the Swiss Cheese Model, a strategy that underlines putting up a multi-pronged defence against the disease instead of taking piecemeal measures. 

There have been concerns about the tests as they are known to be prone to false negatives, but newer variants seem to be addressing those gaps. Read more here

EXPERT VIEW: ‘Virus Particles Piggyback On PM 2.5 Leading To Deadly Cocktail’

The record-high number of new COVID-19 cases being reported in Delhi is a “direct effect of air pollution”, says Arvind Kumar, chairperson, Centre for Chest Surgery at Sir Gangaram Hospital (SGRH), New Delhi.

Virus particles piggyback on particulate matter in the air, and enter the lungs, Kumar explains, adding that pollution is also related to heart disease, hypertension, etc., all of which increase the risk of mortality from Covid-19.

“If this deadly cocktail--the festivities which will occur over the next few days, coupled with the steep rise in pollution--has an effect on COVID and we see a massive spike, it will be disastrous for the people as well as for the healthcare sector because the ICUs are almost choked, at least in all Delhi hospitals,” Kumar says, emphasising the need to wear masks, maintain physical distance and practice hand hygiene, in addition to doing everything we can to reduce pollution. Read more here

On the Cusp of Diwali, COVID-19 Surges in Delhi Even as ICU Beds Fill Up

Delhi’s 20 million residents celebrate their biggest festival, Deepavali or Diwali, this weekend. Despite a ban, thousands of fireworks are likely to be set off, increasing already bad air pollution and raising the risk posed by Covid-19.

New Delhi’s sprawling bazaars have been swarming with shoppers ahead of Diwali and the wedding season after the government relaxed regulations in a bid to breathe life into the lockdown-hit economy. 

The capital reported 8,593 new Covid-19 infections on Wednesday, its highest daily tally yet. The average pollution reading was 299 on Thursday on a scale of 500, where any number above 300 is classified as very poor and can cause respiratory illnesses. ICU facilities in the city are in such short supply that some hospitals are squeezing more beds into existing wards ahead of the weekend. Read more here

HCQ could prevent Covid in those already exposed to virus, pilot study finds

The controversial anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine or HCQ could be effective in preventing Covid-19 in patients who have already been exposed to the virus, revealed a pilot study by researchers at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh.

HCQ as part of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) — the therapy used to prevent the virus after possible exposure — has the potential to prevent Covid-19 in at-risk individuals, the study, which was published in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents on November 6, noted. Read more here

EXPLAINED: Socialising and Covid-19, amid the festive season

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, how do you socialise during festivals? If you’re indoors, you can control the transmission of the virus by managing room occupancy, ensuring efficient ventilation and following mandatory precautions. Here are some pointers you can keep in mind to stay safe from the novel coronavirus 

Inhaling immune protein interferon beta improves recovery of Covid patients, Lancet study finds

A new study published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine Friday has found that hospitalised Covid-19 patients were twice as likely to recover from the infection by inhaling interferon beta-1a — a naturally-occurring protein that coordinates the body’s immune response to a viral infection.

Patients who received interferon beta-1a were less likely to develop severe symptoms than those who received placebos, the study noted. It was conducted on 98 hospitalised patients in the UK between 30 March and 30 May. Read more here

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