Your Covid-19 Daily Briefing & How To Stay Safe!

  • India on Friday reported 16,561 Covid cases and 49 fatalities. The cumulative caseload is 4,42,23,557 (1,23,535 active cases) and 5,26,928 fatalities
  • Worldwide: Over 588 million cases and over 6.43 million fatalities.
  • Vaccination in India: Over 2.07 billion doses. Worldwide: Over 12 billion doses.

    A new at-home test to check your immunity against Covid

  • By now, a great chunk of the global population, including in India, has acquired some degree of immune protection against SARS-CoV-2, be it courtesy of a prior infection, vaccination, or, both. But that immunity wanes over time.
  • So how much protection do you have right now? Neutralizing antibody (NAb) titer is a key biomarker of immunity protection against Covid-19, but so far measuring it required lab intervention.
  • What is it: Now researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US, have developed an easy-to-use test to assess circulating NAb titer rapidly at the point of care, like at home.
  • How it works: The researchers developed a device that can detect the presence of antibodies that block the SARS-CoV-2 receptor binding domain (RBD) from binding to ACE2, the human receptor that the virus uses to infect cells. More details here.
  • The test uses the same type of “lateral flow” technology as most rapid antigen tests for Covid-19 and home pregnancy tests.
  • The test kit comes with all the required paraphernalia, including a finger prick lancet to take the blood sample and the required reagents. The best bit: You get results in 10 minutes.
  • The efficacy: The team tested the device with blood samples collected in December 2020 from about 60 Covid-positive people and 30 people who had not been infected. They were able to detect neutralizing antibodies in the relevant samples with accuracy similar to that of existing lab tests.
  • The test is designed so that different viral spike proteins can be swapped in, allowing it to be modified to detect immunity against any existing or future variant, claims the study published in Cell Reports Methods journal.
  • The researchers now hope to partner with a diagnostic company that could manufacture the devices and seeks FDA approval.

    Covid-induced ‘brain fog’ affects animals too

  • It is now well established that cognitive performance can be impaired by an infection like Covid-19 across a breadth of cognitive abilities, from learning and memory to attention and problem-solving. There’s even a term for it – brain fog.
  • But this cognitive impairment post-Covid is not limited to humans; it is also seen across animal species, says a new study published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution.
  • The study by a team of researchers from Hamilton College, Virginia Tech, and the University of Nevada found that species across the animal kingdom, from rats to birds and bees, show signs of cognitive impairment with infectious diseases.
  • The reasons for this are variable, including damage by the parasite, immune response to infection, lack of motivation of sick individuals to perform a cognitive task, malnutrition, and even alterations to the host microbiome.
  • Cognitive impairment linked to disease has the potential to affect entire ecological communities. For example, bees infected with some pathogens have difficulty learning the smells and colors of the most productive flowers.
  • As wild animals continue to be affected by a changing climate and disturbed environments, cognitive impairment may exacerbate the effects of the disease.
  • At the same time, these cognitive abilities could be especially important in these changing, stressful environments, where cognitive abilities (like flexible decision-making and innovation) could give them a behavioral buffer.
  • But the researchers point out that several fundamental questions remain unresolved and require further studies, like the cognitive abilities most likely to be affected and the potential for adaptive evolution of cognition in response to the accelerating emergence of infectious diseases.

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