Medics examine patients for coronavirus in Hyderabad | PTI
(Representational Image) Medics examine patients for coronavirus in Hyderabad | PTI
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New Delhi: New research is being initiated in various parts of the world to study the SARS-CoV-2 virus, that has so far killed 287,529 people and infected over 4,269,704 globally.

Here are some of the latest findings on the virus from teams across the world.

New bat coronavirus may reveal how these pathogens evolve

Scientists have found a bat coronavirus that is similar to the SARS-CoV-2. This finding can help understand how coronaviruses evolve naturally.

While researchers consider bats the most likely natural hosts for SARS-CoV-2, origin of the virus is still unclear.

In a study published in the Current Biology, researchers have described a recently identified bat coronavirus that has some regions of the genome similar to the SARS-CoV-2.

While the coronavirus, named RmYN02, is not a direct evolutionary precursor of SARS-CoV-2, the findings suggest that the seemingly unusual insertion of new genetic traits can occur naturally in coronavirus evolution.

Researchers also said that the study provides strong evidence against SARS-CoV-2 being a genetically-manipulated virus leaked from a laboratory.

The researchers identified RmYN02 from an analysis of 227 bat samples collected in Yunnan province of China, between May and October of 2019. RNA from the samples was sent for metagenomic next-generation sequencing in early January 2020, soon after the discovery of SARS-CoV-2.

A close genetic relative of SARS-CoV-2 is another virus, called RaTG13, which was previously identified on bats in the Yunnan province. However, RmYN02 is even more closely related to SARS-CoV-2 in some parts of the genome.

The researchers have noted that RmYN02 is not likely to infect human cells, as the region of the genome that helps the SAR-CoV-2 to bind with human cells is not similar.


Also read: Delhi HC says can challenge extended Covid quarantine, but asks people not to rush to courts


US clinical trials to test four drug regimens against Covid-19

Scientists from the University of Kentucky in the US have launched a clinical trial to investigate the effectiveness of azithromycin, ivermectin and camostat mesylate in fighting SARS-CoV-2.

The three drugs will be tested either as stand-alone therapies or in combination with the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine.

The team plans to scale up a larger clinical trial with the most promising therapies after data on this experiment is collected.

The trial will be conducted among patients who have not developed severe symptoms that would require progression to ICU care. Patients must also have at least one high-risk feature, including hypertension, diabetes, cancer, lung disease, have an underlying heart condition, or be over the age of 50.

Participants who enroll in the trial will be randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups: one group will receive hydroxychloroquine alone; a second group will receive hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin; a third group will receive hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin; and a fourth group will receive camostat mesylate.

Hydroxychloroquine is an antimalarial drug, while azithromycin is an antibiotic. Ivermectin is a medication used to treat many types of parasite infestations and camostat mesylate is used to treat pancreatitis.

Children, teens at higher risk of severe Covid-19 complications 

An observational study of 48 children, teenagers and young adults in the US and Canada has shown that they can suffer from severe complications due to Covid-19, contrary to the earlier belief that younger populations were usually asymptomatic.

The study, published in the JAMA Pediatrics, is the first to describe the characteristics of seriously-ill pediatric Covid-19 patients in North America.

The study followed 48 patients — from newborns to 21 years old — who were admitted to pediatric intensive care units (PICUs) in the US and Canada for Covid-19 in March and April. A number of PICUs in the US were repurposed to the care of critically-ill adult patients with Covid-19.

Over 80 per cent had chronic underlying conditions, such as immune suppression, obesity, diabetes, seizures or chronic lung disease. Of these, 40 per cent depended on technological support due to developmental delays or genetic anomalies.

More than 20 per cent experienced failure of two or more organ systems due to Covid-19, and nearly 40 per cent required a breathing tube and ventilator. At the end of the follow-up period, nearly 33 per cent of the children were still hospitalised due to Covid-19, with three still requiring ventilator support and one on life support. Two of the children admitted during the three-week study period died.

The study provides a baseline understanding of the early disease burden of Covid-19 in pediatric patients, the researchers have said.


Also read: Air travel is gradually returning, but coronavirus complications remain


Pandemic-led stress can affect mental health of unborn children

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and social distancing norms may be an added stress factor for pregnant women that can have a direct, lifelong effect on an unborn child’s mental health, a study has found.

Published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry,  researchers in the study have identified prenatal stress factors experienced by pregnant women.

As much as there is anxiety during pregnancy in normal times, the on-going pandemic is an added stress factor asking expectant mothers to adapt to social distancing norms, the researchers have said.

The findings underscore the importance of providing interventions to reduce maternal depression, anxiety, or stress in the prenatal period.

Covid-19 patients can develop bowel abnormalities 

Patients with Covid-19 can develop bowel abnormalities, including ischemia — a condition in which blood flow gets reduced — according to a new study published in Radiology.

Reports have documented that gastrointestinal symptoms, liver injury and vascular findings are common in Covid-19 patients. However, abdominal imaging findings have not yet been widely reported.

For this study, researchers included 412 patients consecutively admitted to a single quaternary care centre, from 27 March to 10 April, who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2.

The patients included 241 men (58.5 per cent) and 171 women (41.5 per cent), with an average age of 57 years. The team found that 17 patients had cross-sectional abdominal imaging, including 44 ultrasounds, 42 CT scans, and 1 MRI.

Bowel abnormalities were seen on 31 per cent of CT scans (3.2 per cent of all patients) and were more frequent in intensive care unit (ICU) patients than other in-patients.

Abnormalities included thickening of the bowel, as well as pneumatosis (gas in the bowel wall). Surgery in four patients revealed unusual yellow discoloration of bowel in three of the patients, and dead bowel in two patients.

The abnormalities were more common in sicker Covid-19 patients who went to the ICU.


Also read: Finding more plasma donors for Covid therapy isn’t just science, it’s a demand-supply chain


 

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