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Russia releases clinical data on COVID-19 vaccine

Mounir Jamil

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Russia releases clinical data on COVID-19 vaccine

Earlier last month, Russian President Vladamir Putin shocked the scientific community when he claimed that Russian authorities had approved the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine, dubbed Gam-COVID-Vac. This was despite the fact that no specific data had been published regarding the COVID-19 vaccine safety or efficacy, and furthermore, no large scale trials were completed.

Now, the highly anticipated safety and immunity data of two initial early phase clinical trials have been published in the Lancet medical journal and experts have been quick to offer their opinions on the data. 

The trials of the COVID-19 vaccine (Gam-COVID-19 NCT04436471 and NCT04437875) that were conducted earlier this year in June, employed a sample cohort of 76 healthy individuals, ages varying from 18-60 years old. Both samples were non-randomized 42-day long trials

The results of the trial were published in The Lancet, and they indicate that the COVID-19 vaccine has been well tolerated, and produced cellular and humoral immune responses in the chosen sample. 100 percent of the sample developed an antibody response to Coronavirus, and were even presented with mean antibody titres that measured exceptionally higher than the samples that were obtained from patients that recovered from Coronavirus.

The scientific community holds a general response that these results are promising and encouraging, although some concerns have been raised regarding the size of the trials.

Senior lecturer at the SPRU (Science Policy Research Unit), University of Sussex, Dr. Ohid Yaqub commented about another possible flaw in the design of the trials, which is the lack of randomization. He said “Normally, such a study would be the basis for debating whether to proceed into larger trials and the costs that entails.”

However, Russian authorities had made previous statements regarding the next steps for the COVID-19 vaccine, and they were quite ambiguous. Yaqub mentioned that when it comes to regulatory approval, size and design of a Phase I/II study are nowhere near sufficient to be recognized as standards for wide scale approval. As the study was not randomized and was not large enough to detect rare safety issues.

Senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, Michael Head seems to agree with what Dr. Yaqub has to say. Head is aiming for transparency when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine development and deployment on a global scale, he mentions this is specifically important given the possible impact of vaccine hesitancy.

Junior social media strategist with a degree in business. Passionate about technology, film, music and video games.

MedTech

Technology might help save sports during COVID-19

Adnan Kayyali

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Sports during COVID19

Sport has contributed to society in many ways by bringing people and communities together. However, the pandemic put a sudden stop to that and devastated an industry that once thrived on human interaction. With many venues temporarily closed, the future of sport might seem bleak… But all is not lost.

In the UK, a country known for their love of sports, trial games are currently taking place in various stadiums across the country. The goal is opening up the stadiums at a safe capacity adhering to COVID-19 safety measures and precautions.

This endeavor is supervised by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), along with Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA), along with numerous tech companies bringing what they know to the table, all to allow fans to continue enjoying sports during COVID-19.

“Their major question and challenge is: what can be done to safely embed social distancing into the match-day operation? Each stadium is different and each one needs different solutions,” says Will Durden, director at Momentum Transport Consultancy.

The answer is apparently the use of data analytics, 3D imaging, contact tracing and simulations to map out, predict and organize everything that goes into a stadium. From the routes people take to their seats, how far away each ‘safety bubble’ is from the other, the path from the entrance to the ticket booth, the snack vendor or to the bathroom.

With each stadium being unique in its architecture, a plan will need to be customized. By using large amounts of old footage, AI is able to observe and analyse the movements of people in the stadium and conclude the best paths people should take to stay away from each other at all times.

The software being used can identify bottlenecks and areas of possible congestion around the stadium, and using contact racing apps exclusive to the stadium, people can be notified of anything that goes on. When one orders food from the app, they will be notified of when it is ready, and the rate of orders will be done to prevent long ques.

People who wish to watch sports during covid-19 can be confident that the avenue they choose has been created for their safety. With such technologies being driven by the passion of sports fans, it is exciting to see how such inventions will shape sports events in the not-so-distant future.

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90-minute COVID-19 testing device

Mounir Jamil

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CovidNudge-Testing-Device-scaled

Since the emergence of the novel Coronavirus, scientists, healthcare workers and physicians have stressed on the need for more rapid diagnostic testing. A recent study from Imperial College London shows that a new testing device can yield results in just 90 minutes.

The new paper, published in the Lancet Microbe, claims that the new testing device, dubbed CovidNudge, has successfully matched time-consuming laboratory test results. This means that waiting days for a COVID-19 test result will soon be a thing of the past.

The testing on the CovidNudge started back in April, when a research team led by Professor Graham Cooke began trawling three different hospitals across London and Oxford looking for noses and throats to swab. They managed to obtain 386 samples from three different groups: emergency department patients with suspected Coronavirus, self-referred healthcare workers with suspected Coronavirus, and hospital-admitted patients with or without COVID-19.

Paired samples indicated that Cooke’s group can directly compare the accuracy of their 90-minute testing device with centralized lab tests. Cooke explained in a press release that the results were remarkable. He claimed that the CovidNudge does not have a trade-off between speed and accuracy, the testing device can achieve both.

The CovidNudge is basically a portable PCR platform that is spread across two devices:

a blue container, weighing in at 40g, called the DnaCartridge, which looks similar to the container you might put your retainer in at night. A nose and throat swab are taken from the patient and are then inserted directly into the DnaCartridge. The cartridge is then placed in the NudgeBox processing unit, a box roughly the size of a shoebox and coming in at 5kg. This packs in all the testing equipment needed to run a real-time PCR test.

The CovidNudge had spectacular performance, as it achieved an overall sensitivity of 94% and a specificity of 100% when compared with lab-based tests. Out of the 386 samples collected, the CovidNudge confirmed 67 positive results, compared to 71 positive results from lab tests.

The testing device is produced by DnaNudge, an Imperial start-up that includes clinicians and doctors from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, DnaNudge, and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust. So far, it has been deployed and installed in eight London hospitals.

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Nurturing your mental health during a pandemic

Mounir Jamil

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Nurturing your Mental Health during a Pandemic

Certain COVID-19-related words such as social distancing, pandemic, and quarantine are enough to make anyone feel anxious. While maintaining a distance from others helps mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, it does take a certain toll on our mental health. Luckily technology presents possible solutions for those of us who are battling with depression and anxiety.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has surveyed upwards of 5,000 American adults and has found that symptoms for anxiety and depression skyrocketed between April and June this year. The number quadrupled, as approximately four times the amount of people have reported that they are depressed in 2020 compared to 2019.

From the population surveyed, almost 10% claimed that they seriously considered suicide over the past 30 days, and ¼ of young people aged 18-24 admitted the same. With this survey indicating that 40% of US adults are struggling with mental health conditions or substance abuse, researchers wondered if certain factors such as unemployment, lack of school structure, isolation, and other financial concerns were key stressors amid the pandemic.

CDC offers telehealth as a practical and effective means of treatment for COVID-19 mental health conditions. Earlier in March, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that it will be expanding what Medicare would pay for regarding virtual visits. Patients will have more access to e-visits after payment for doctors, clinical psychologists and licensed clinical workers have been approved.

Not everyone is comfortable with visiting a doctor for their mental health. Mobile apps offer practical and convenient methods that are applied in face to face therapy.

Take Sanvello as an example. Sanvello now has more than three million people using their app for peer support, self-care, therapy, and coaching. The app offers daily mood tracking, coping tools to manage stress, anxiety and depression, along with guided journeys. You can speak directly to a coach that is trained in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or even join a live video group class.  A study from the Oregon Health and Science University has found that adults aged over 60 that used video chat applications had almost half the risk of depression. In the survey, researchers found that using texting and social media showed little effects in boosting spirits. However Skype and FaceTime seemed to be better tools for alleviating depressive symptoms and uplifting one’s mental health.

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