Sci/Tech en Wed Jul 14 10:38:43 IST 2021 heatwaves-have-emerged-as-a-deadly-health-hazard-in-india <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Northwestern, central and south-central India are new hotspots of intense heatwave over the past 50 years, a study has said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study also highlights the need for developing effective heat action plans in the three heatwave hotspot regions with a focus on different vulnerabilities among the inhabitants.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Heatwaves have emerged as a deadly health hazard, claiming thousands of lives across the globe in recent decades, with episodes strengthening in frequency, intensity and duration in the past half-century in India as well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This has caused severe impact on health, agriculture, economy and infrastructure. In such a scenario, it is extremely important to identify the most heatwave vulnerable regions of the country to prioritise immediate policy intervention and stringent mitigation and adaptation strategies, the Department of Science and Technology said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A team of researchers led by R K Mall, including Saumya Singh and Nidhi Singh from the Department of Science and Technology, Mahamana Centre of Excellence in Climate Change Research (MCECCR) at Banaras Hindu University, studied the change in spatial and temporal trends in Heatwaves (HW) and Severe heatwaves (SHW) over the past seven decades in different meteorological subdivisions of India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This work has been supported under the Climate Change Programme of the Department of Science and Technology. The study published in the journal 'International Journal of Climatology' links the association of HW and SHW with mortality over India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study was recently published in an international journal, 'Atmospheric Research'.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"The study showed a shift in the spatio-temporal trend of HW events from the eastern region of Gangetic West Bengal and Bihar to northwestern, central and further to the south-central region of India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"The research also observed an alarming southward expansion and a spatial surge in SHW events in the last few decades that may put a greater population at additional risk of heat stress in a region already characterised by low diurnal temperature range (DTR), or the difference between the maximum and minimum temperatures within one day and high humidity," the statement added.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Importantly, the HW and SHW events were found to be positively correlated with mortality in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, highlighting that human health is highly susceptible to severe heatwave disasters.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With an ever-increasing extreme-temperature threshold, a heat resilient future is the need of the hour.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dense population with an intensive outdoor work culture calls for equitable heat resilient mitigation and adaptation strategies covering each section of the society depending on their vulnerability, it said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study highlights the need for developing effective heat action plans in the three heatwave hotspot regions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To mitigate future disastrous implications of exacerbated heat extremes and frame adequate adaptation measures in the wake of possible emergence of new hotspots, reliable future projections are needed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This motivated the research team consisting of Saumya Singh, Jiteshwar Dadich, Sunita Verma, J V Singh, and Akhilesh Gupta, and R K Mall to evaluate the regional climate models (RCM) over the Indian subcontinent to find the best performing RCM.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This will help study the frequency, intensity, and spatial surge of heatwaves in the future.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study found models LMDZ4 and GFDL-ESM2M to be the best-performing ones in simulating heatwaves over India in the present scenario, which can be reliably used for future projections as well. The two models have laid the grounds for preparation for a heatwave resilient future, it said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a separate study by meteorologists published earlier this year, heatwaves have claimed more than 17,000 lives in 50 years from 1971-2019. The paper, authored by M Rajeevan, former secretary of Ministry of Earth Science along with scientists Kamaljit Ray, S S Ray, R K Giri and A P Dimri, said there were 706 heatwave incidents from 1971-2019.&nbsp; Kamaljit Ray is the lead author of the paper.</p> Thu Sep 09 09:31:09 IST 2021 covid-19-may-not-impair-lung-function-in-young-adults <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>COVID-19 infection does not appear to impair the lung function of children and adolescents, according to a study presented at the virtual European Respiratory Society International Congress on Tuesday.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A team led by researchers at the Karolinska Institute, Sweden, found that even patients with asthma did not show a statistically significant deterioration in lung function.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, such patients showed slightly lower measurements for the amount of air they could exhale forcibly in one second&nbsp; known as forced expiratory air volume in one second (FEV1), which is one of the measures of lung function.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A second study presented at the conference on Sunday showed that the lung function in children and adolescents was also unimpaired after COVID-19 infection, apart from those who experienced a severe infection.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"The COVID-19 pandemic has raised questions about if and how the lung is affected after clearance of the coronavirus infection, especially in young people from the general population with less severe disease," said Ida Mogensen, a post-doctoral fellow at the Karolinska Institute.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The first study gathered information from 661 young people with an average age of 22 years who were part of a large research that enrolled children born between 1994 and 1996 in Stockholm, and who have been followed by researchers ever since.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Collected data included measurements of lung function, inflammation and white blood cells called eosinophils, which are part of the immune system.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of the 661 participants, 178 had antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, indicating they had been infected.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers measured FEV1, forced vital capacity (FVC) which represents the volume of air in the lungs that can be exhaled after a taking the deepest breath possible, and FEV1/FVC ratio, which is an indicator of narrowed airways.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They calculated the changes in lung function between the period before the and during the pandemic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers then compared the percentage change with participants who had not been infected.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"Our analysis showed similar lung function irrespective of COVID-19 history," said Mogensen.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When the researchers included 123 participants with asthma in the analysis, the 24 per cent who had had COVID-19 showed a slightly lower lung function, but this was not statistically significant.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There was no difference in lung function among patients who had had COVID-19 with respect to eosinophils, indicators of inflammation, allergy responses or use of inhaled corticosteroids, they said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The second study, presented by Anne Schlegtendal, from the University Children's Hospital in Germany, looked at the long-term effects of COVID-19 infection between August 2020 and March 21 in 73 children and adolescents aged between five and 18 years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Schlegtendal and colleagues carried out lung function tests between two weeks and six months following COVID-19 infection and compared the results with a control group of 45 children who had not been infected with the coronavirus but may have had some other infection.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The participants had different severity of disease. An infection was considered severe if patients suffered breathlessness, a fever above 38.5 degrees Celsius for more than five days, bronchitis, pneumonia or stayed in hospital for more than a day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nineteen children and adolescents in the COVID-19 group had persistent or new symptoms following SARS-CoV-2 infection, the researchers found.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Eight reported at least one respiratory symptom, six of whom suffered ongoing breathing problems and two had a persistent cough.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Two of these eight patients showed abnormal lung function, they said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"When we compared the COVID-19 patients with the control group, we found no statistically significant differences in the frequency of abnormal lung function," Schlegtendal said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers acknowledged some limitations in their study, including the small number of participants.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The participants were recruited at a single hospital, patients reported their symptoms, and a lack of information on long-term outcomes in the control group, they said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In addition, the COVID-19 group did not include those with severe breathing problems during the acute phase of the infection.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"The findings from these two studies provide important reassurance about the impact of COVID infection on lung function in children and young adults," said Anita Simonds, a professor at Imperial College London, UK, who was not involved in the research.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"We know already that this group is less likely to suffer severe illness if they contract the virus, and these studies, which importantly include comparator groups without COVID-19, show that they are also less likely to suffer long-term consequences with respect to lung function," Simonds added.&nbsp;</p> Thu Sep 09 09:05:14 IST 2021 environmental-groups-call-for-postponement-of-climate-talks <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A coalition of environmental groups on Tuesday called for this year's climate summit to be postponed, arguing that too little has been done to ensure the safety of participants amid the continuing threat from COVID-19.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Climate Action Network, which includes more than 1,500 organizations in 130 countries, said there is a risk that many government delegates, civil society campaigners and journalists from developing countries may be unable to attend because of travel restrictions. The U.N. climate conference, known as COP26, is scheduled for early November in Glasgow, Scotland.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our concern is that those countries most deeply affected by the climate crisis and those countries suffering from the lack of support by rich nations in providing vaccines will be left out of the talks and conspicuous in their absence at COP26,'' said Tasneem Essop, the network's executive director. There has always been an inherent power imbalance within the U.N. climate talks and this is now compounded by the health crisis.''</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The British government, which is hosting the event, quickly rejected calls for postponement, saying a recent scientific report shows the urgency for leaders to tackle the issue without further delay.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>COP26 President-Designate Alok Sharma said the conference had already been delayed a year because of the pandemic, but climate change has not taken time off.'' We are working tirelessly with all our partners, including the Scottish government and the U.N., to ensure an inclusive, accessible and safe summit in Glasgow with a comprehensive set of COVID mitigation measures,'' he said in a statement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The European Union's climate monitoring service said Tuesday that average temperatures across the continent this summer were the warmest on record.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Measurements by the EU's Copernicus satellite monitoring program showed that June to August temperatures across Europe were about 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than the 1991-2020 average, and 0.1 C warmer than the previous record recorded during the summers of 2010 and 2018.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mediterranean countries in particular saw record-breaking temperatures this summer, along with devastating wildfires that prompted Greece this week to appoint a new minister of climate crisis and civil protection.&nbsp;</p> <p>(AP)&nbsp;</p> Wed Sep 08 13:13:29 IST 2021 chandrayaan-2-detects-presence-of-water-ice-on-shadowed-regions- <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Chandrayaan-2, ISRO's second lunar mission, has detected the presence of water ice in the regions of the Moon that do not receive sunlight. Scientists have been trying to find water in the form of ice from Permanently shadowed regions(PSRs) since they are exremeley cold.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Dual Frequency Synthetic Aperture Radar (DFSAR) has detected an unambiguous presence of water ice at the permanently shadowed regions of the Moon, revealed scientists of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Tuesday, the second day of a two-day lunar science workshop</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>PSRs have not been studied before as sunlight does not fall on them and getting images are extremly difficult.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>DFSAR, one of the eight payloads on board Chandrayaan-2, has capability to combine radar images from two wavelengths, making it possible to differentiate surface roughness properties from water ice properties.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>DFSAR is the only full polarimetric radar sent on a planetary mission in the world so far. Compared to previous studies using hybrid-polarimetric SAR data that led to ambiguous detection of water ice regions, full polarimetric DFSAR uses measurements of electrical properties of materials that can decouple the effect of water ice and surface roughness. The new study has given "encouraging results on unambiguous detection of water ice in some PSRs”, said ISRO chairperson K Sivan in a public document.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The radar instrument has located potential patches of “dirty ice” within the Cabeaus crater on the lunar south pole.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Patchy dirty ice are ice crystals mixed with the lunar regolith that covers the bedrock of moon extending upto three to four metres. They consist of loose depositsand are not continuous sheets of ice.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“This is very very essential to get information on what kind of impact cratering took place and how the impact melts distributed around the craters,” said Anup Das of Ahmedabad’s SAC and part of the DFSAR science team, during his presentation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"We are seeing better resolution so we are seeing more number of smaller craters and scattering mechanism is more prominent here… this data gets finer details of smaller craters compared to Mini-RF (miniature radio frequency on the lunar reconnaissance orbiter launched by NASA in 2009),” said Das.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chandrayaan-2 mission director Ritu Karidhal expressed the confidence that after two years of operation, the propellant is enough to support four more years of life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Planned to land on the South Pole of the moon, Chandrayaan-2, the most complex mission ever attempted by India's space agency, was launched on July 22, 2019. However, lander Vikram hard-landed on September 7, crashing India's dream to become the first nation to successfully land on the lunar surface in its maiden attempt.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, the orbiter of the mission is working fine and has been sending data to Chandrayaan-1, the first lunar mission.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Wed Sep 08 12:59:56 IST 2021 antibody-levels-decreased-more-than-80-pc-after-six-months <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>COVID-19 antibodies produced by the Pfizer vaccine decreased more than 80 per cent in senior nursing home residents and their caregivers six months after receiving their second dose, a US study has found.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The research led by Case Western Reserve University and Brown University in the US studied blood samples of 120 nursing home residents and 92 health care workers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers particularly looked at humoral immunity -- also called antibody-mediated immunity -- to measure the body's defences against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The yet-to-be published study, posted on the preprint server medRxiv, found that individuals' antibody levels decreased more than 80 per cent after six months.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The results were the same in seniors, with a median age of 76, and caregivers, with a median age of 48, and old alike, according to the researchers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Earlier research by the team found that within two weeks of receiving the second dose of vaccine, seniors who had not previously contracted COVID-19 already showed a reduced response in antibodies that was substantially lower than the younger caregivers experienced.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By six months after vaccination, the blood of 70 per cent of these nursing home residents had "very poor ability to neutralise the coronavirus infection in laboratory experiments," said David Canaday, a professor at the Case Western Reserve University.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The results support the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC), recommendation for booster shots&nbsp; especially for the elderly&nbsp; due to fading immunity, Canaday said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study noted that the boosters are even more important as the Delta variant spreads.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Early in the pandemic, higher COVID-19 mortality among nursing home residents in the US led to making them a priority for vaccination, the researchers said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most nursing home residents received the Pfizer vaccine under the emergency use authorisations because it was the first available vaccine on the market, they said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"With nursing home residents' poor initial vaccine response, the rise of breakthrough infections and outbreaks, characterisation of the durability of immunity to inform public health policy on the need for boosting is needed," the authors of the study added.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Tue Sep 07 14:10:53 IST 2021 climate-action-cannot-wait-for-covid-pandemic-to-end--220-journa <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The world leaders need to take immediate action to limit climate change, restore biodiversity, and protect health, according to an editorial published in over 220 leading journals, including The Lancet and the National Medical Journal of India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The editorial is being published ahead of the UN General Assembly, one of the last international meetings taking place before the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, UK in November.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It warns that the greatest threat to global public health into the future is the continued failure of world leaders to take adequate action to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius and to restore nature.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"The recent examples of extreme weather all over the globe have brought into focus the reality that climate change is," said Peush Sahni, Editor-in-Chief of the National Medical Journal of India, and one of the co-authors of the editorial.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"We must act now lest it is too late. We owe it to the future generations," Sahni said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The authors warn that while recent targets to reduce emissions and conserve nature are welcome, they are not enough and are yet to be matched with credible short and longer term plans.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They urge governments to intervene to transform societies and economies, for example, by supporting the redesign of transport systems, cities, production and distribution of food, markets for financial investments, and health systems.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet, said urgently addressing the climate crisis is one of the greatest opportunities for advancing the wellbeing of people worldwide.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"The health community must do more to raise its critical voice in holding political leaders accountable for their actions to keep global temperature rises below 1.5 degrees Celsius," Horton explained.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The editorial argues that sufficient global action can only be achieved if high-income countries do far more to support the rest of the world and to reduce their own consumption.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Developed countries must commit to increasing climate finance: fulfilling their outstanding commitment to provide USD 100 billion a year, have a dual focus on mitigation and adaptation, including improving the resilience of health systems, it said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The editorial argues that this money should be provided in the form of grants, rather than loans, and should come alongside forgiving large debts, which constrain the agency of so many low-income countries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Additional funding must be marshalled to compensate for inevitable loss and damage caused by the consequences of the environmental crisis, the authors noted.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"While low and middle income countries have historically contributed less to climate change, they bear an inordinate burden of the adverse effects, including on health," said Professor Lukoye Atwoli, Editor-in-Chief of the East Africa Medical Journal, and one of the co-authors of the editorial.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"We therefore call for equitable contributions whereby the world's wealthier countries do more to offset the impact of their actions on the climate, beginning now, and continuing into the future," Atwoli said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fiona Godlee, Editor-in-Chief of The BMJ, and one of the co-authors of the editorial noted that going above mean temperature of 1.5 degrees Celsius and allowing the continued destruction of nature will bring far deadlier crisis than COVID-19.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"Wealthier nations must act faster and do more to support those countries already suffering under higher temperatures. 2021 has to be the year the world changes course -- our health depends on it," said Godlee.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Eric J. Rubin, Editor-in-Chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, and one of the co-authors of the editorial, the environment and health are inextricably intertwined.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"The changing climate is endangering us in many ways, including its critical impacts on health and health care delivery," said Rubin.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"As medical and public health practitioners, we have an obligation not only to anticipate new health care needs but also to be active participants in limiting the causes of the climate crisis," the added.&nbsp;</p> Tue Sep 07 14:05:03 IST 2021 covid-19-vaccines-produce-immunity-that-works-against-virus-vari <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Over the past year or so, ordinary people have learnt a lot about viruses, vaccines and the immune system. We have all had to digest a lot of complex specialist knowledge about how safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines are.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But one important&nbsp; and positive&nbsp; aspect of the vaccines hasn't been well communicated. The statistics about COVID-19 vaccine efficacy have only focused on one aspect of immunity: antibodies. But there's another aspect too: T-cells, a key part of our immune systems. And the good news is that the current vaccines stimulate your T-cells to fight against both the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its emerging variants in the long term.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Let's recap how the immune system works.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The immune system protects us from various infectious diseases, caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites. To do this, it first determines what type of infectious agent, or pathogen, is causing the infection. Then it mounts an appropriate response. Crucially, at the same time it produces memory cells that can recognise the same pathogen in future. That sets the immune system up to fight potential reinfections.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If the immune system determines that an antiviral response is needed, it launches a combination of two kinds of immunity. One is mediated by antibodies and the other is mediated by T-cells, or cell-mediated. The antibodies bind to viruses and neutralise them, preventing them from infecting cells. Meanwhile, T-cells kill cells that have already been infected by the virus.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;While both kinds of immunity are important in fighting viruses, cell-mediated immunity is far more effective at eradicating viruses and more durable. This is important in the continuing fight against COVID-19.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A powerful weapon</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;Research has already established that cell-mediated immunity is a powerful weapon against human coronaviruses, the family including SARS-CoV-2. A 2016 study showed that T-cell immunity against the SARS-coronavirus persisted for up to 11 years. It provided complete, effective, and lasting protection against SARS.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our own recent research argues that a greater focus should be placed on the development of vaccines that are capable of producing antibodies, but would predominantly elicit a cell-mediated immune response against SARS-CoV-2 and its variants.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And, though most people don't know it, the existing COVID-19 vaccines offer a resilient cell-mediated immune response.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It's not just about antibodies</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The immune system is generally quite effective at eradicating most pathogens. But not everyone's immune system is equally effective at dealing with the same pathogen; sometimes it needs a little help. Vaccines train the immune system to recognise and respond to a particular pathogen, without first having to be infected by it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;Traditionally, most vaccines contain only a small part of the pathogen. This prepares the immune system by mimicking the natural infection.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The current COVID-19 vaccines used in South Africa contain small portions of the wild-type SARS-CoV-2 spike protein - this coronavirus was responsible for the initial COVID-19 outbreak and spread during the early stages of the pandemic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, as the pandemic progressed, the virus mutated. Mutations in the spike protein confer certain selective advantages to the virus. Some of these mutations have made the virus easier to transmit, or helped it to escape the immune system. The emergence of variants has raised concerns over the effectiveness of the existing COVID-19 vaccines.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During the course of the pandemic, news reports and press releases have informed on the efficacy and effectiveness of various COVID-19 vaccines against emerging variants. But reports have focused almost exclusively on the ability of the vaccine-induced antibodies, and how effective they are at neutralising the variants.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A resilient cell-mediated immune response</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This focus on antibodies means that any news of decreasing antibody efficacy against emerging variants is seized upon as evidence that vaccines may not work well in the long term. This can foster a lack of trust from the public in the science behind the design of COVID-19 vaccines. And this lack of trust could contribute to vaccine hesitancy. After all, some might argue, why take a vaccine that appears less effective against each emerging variant?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In fact, several recent papers have demonstrated that while SARS-CoV-2 variants could escape neutralising antibodies, the cell-mediated immune response induced by most currently used COVID-19 vaccines is very resilient and remained effective.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While antibodies induced by the vaccine were able to bind to the variants, they were less capable of neutralising them. The T-cells, on the other hand, were largely as responsive to the variants as they were to the wild-type virus. They were still able to recognise and respond effectively to the variants, conferring resilient protection against the disease.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To date, only Johnson &amp;amp; Johnson has released a media statement that includes statistics about both kinds of immune responses induced by its vaccine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Research shows that antibody levels produced from different vaccines decrease over time and, although immunity varies from person to person, immunity from the Pfizer and the Johnson &amp;amp; Johnson vaccines typically last for at least six months.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Build public trust</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Vaccine hesitancy is a major hurdle in fighting the pandemic. A recent survey showed that only 72% of South Africans were willing to be vaccinated against COVID-19.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The idea that the vaccine will be ineffective was one of the most common reasons people gave for vaccine hesitancy. Hesitancy isn't surprising if people hear only about how part of the immune response becomes less effective against emerging variants.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Public trust in the vaccine relies on people understanding the complete efficacy of the vaccine-induced immune response and communicating the statistics about both kinds of responses to the variants. The existing COVID-19 vaccines offer a resilient cell-mediated immune response. Knowing this can help people make an informed decision about vaccination.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(The Conversation: By Dewald Schoeman and Burtram C Fielding, University of the Western Cape)&nbsp;</p> Tue Sep 07 08:59:12 IST 2021 -mindfulness-is-cornerstone-of-happiness-curriculum- <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The Happiness Curriculum, launched in July 2018, was brought with a vision to strengthen the foundations of happines</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Calling the Delhi government's Happiness Curriculum in schools a "massive success", Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Saturday claimed that every day 16 lakh children in Delhi schools start their day with mindfulness.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Happiness Curriculum, launched in July 2018, was brought with a vision to strengthen the foundations of happiness and well-being for all students through a 35-minute class conducted every day for all students in kindergarten to class 8 across 1,030 government schools in the national capital.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"Mindfulness is the cornerstone of the Happiness Curriculum and its biggest beauty is that every day 16 lakh children in Delhi start their studies in school with mindfulness. It has come as a turning point in the lives of students studying in Delhi schools and has relieved children from stress and increased their focus in studies," Sisodia said during the "Mindful Education Awards 2021" programme in New Delhi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By practising mindfulness even in the difficult times of the Covid pandemic, children have worked to keep themselves as well as their families stress free, he noted.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Describing mindfulness as a "gift" given by India to the world in the field of emotional science, the deputy chief minister said it has been limited to 15 minutes of meditation from its actual goal of focusing on one's life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"People have learned to meditate very well but have not learned how to focus on their life. If we practise mindfulness by understanding its true meaning and start paying attention in our life too, then we can never do anything wrong," he advised.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He said the Delhi government's aim is to make mindfulness a mass movement and a part of everyone's life in the city.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"And in fulfilling this dream and making mindfulness a mass movement, the school children will play the role of ambassadors and messengers of mindfulness," a statement quoting Sisodia said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The "Mindful Education Awards 2021" is an initiative to recognise, support and honour the efforts of schools in creating a mentally and physically healthy environment for the growth and development of children.</p> Mon Sep 06 14:39:17 IST 2021 efforts-grow-to-stamp-out-use-of-parasite-drug-ivermectin-for-co <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Health experts and medical groups are pushing to stamp out the growing use of a decades-old parasite drug to treat COVID-19, warning that it can cause harmful side effects and that there's little evidence it helps.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With a fourth wave of infections, more Americans are turning to ivermectin, a cheap drug used to kill worms and other parasites in humans and animals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Federal health officials have seen a surge in prescriptions this summer, accompanied by worrying increases in reported overdoses. The drug was even given to inmates at a jail in northwest Arkansas for COVID-19, despite federal warnings against that use.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On Wednesday, podcaster Joe Rogan, who has been dismissive of the COVID-19 vaccine, announced he had tested positive for the virus and was taking the medication.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ivermectin has been promoted by Republican lawmakers, conservative talk show hosts and some doctors, amplified via social media to millions of Americans who remain resistant to getting vaccinated. It has also been widely used in other countries, including India and Brazil.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This week, the top US professional groups for doctors and pharmacists appealed for an immediate end to the drug's use outside of research.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We are urging physicians, pharmacists, and other prescribers&nbsp; trusted healthcare professionals in their communities&nbsp; to warn patients against the use of ivermectin outside of FDA-approved indications and guidance, said the American Medical Association and two pharmacist groups.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Large studies are now underway in the US and overseas to determine if the drug has any effect on preventing or blunting COVID-19.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The latest plea follows similar warnings from federal and state regulators who are tracking side effects and hospital admissions tied to the drug.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Louisiana and Washington issued alerts after an uptick in calls to poison control centres. Some animal feed supply stores have run out of the drug because of people buying the veterinary form to try and treat COVID-19.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There's just not any good evidence right now suggesting this is a good treatment for treating or preventing COVID-19, said Randy McDonough, a pharmacist in Iowa City, Iowa.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ivermectin is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat infections of roundworms and other tiny parasites in humans and animals like cows, horses and dogs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tablets are used for internal parasites while ointments are used to treat head lice and other skin infections. The generic drug works by paralysing the worms and killing their offspring.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The FDA has tried to debunk online claims that animal-strength versions of the drug can help fight COVID-19.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Taking large doses of this drug is dangerous and can cause serious harm, the FDA warned in a public advisory. The drug can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, delirium and even death, said the agency.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dr David Boulware of the University of Minnesota says the drug's side effects are mild at two or even three times the usual human dose. But formulations for farm animals might contain 1,000 times what's safe for humans.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It's pretty easy to get into toxic levels, said Boulware, an infectious disease specialist. All these concentrated doses that are meant for a 2,000 pound horse can certainly get people sick or hospitalized for toxicity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Boulware says he prescribes the drug to patients a few times a year in the US and more routinely when working in countries where intestinal parasites are common. But he and other experts have been alarmed by the explosive growth in US ivermectin prescribing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By mid-August, US pharmacies were filling 88,000 weekly prescriptions for the medication, a 24-fold increase from pre-COVID levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Meanwhile, US poison control centres have seen a five-fold increase in emergency calls related to the drug, with some incidents requiring hospitalisation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The CDC cited one case of a man who drank an injectable form of ivermectin intended for cattle. He suffered hallucinations, confusion, tremors and other side effects before being hospitalised for nine days.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Health and other medical experts have also recommended against using it outside of carefully controlled patient studies. An NIH panel found insufficient evidence for or against the drug for COVID-19, calling for more large, well-designed trials.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The experts noted that early laboratory research showed ivermectin slowed the replication of coronavirus when grown in monkey cells. But such studies are not useful for gauging real-world effectiveness in humans. And they noted other research suggesting the drug would need to be given at levels 100 times the standard dose to have antiviral effects in humans.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The NIH is studying the drug in a large trial comparing a half-dozen established drugs to see if they have some effect against COVID-19.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Experts say those interested in ivermectin should ask about enrolling in such studies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By participating in a clinical trial you're not going to harm yourself and you're going to help society generate the knowledge we need to know if this works or doesn't work, said Boulware.&nbsp;</p> <p>(AP)&nbsp;</p> Sat Sep 04 15:42:48 IST 2021 northern-railways-using-robots--uvc-technology-to-sanitise-coach <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Northern Railways is now using robots and UVC technology to sanitise and disinfect coaches to ensure safety of passengers amid the coronavius pandemic outbreak, it said in a statement on Friday.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The UVC technology is being used for the first time in the Indian Railways in Delhi division in the Lucknow-Shatabdi Special since July 2021, it said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"Prioritising the safety of passengers during Covid times, Northern Railways has adopted a revolutionary UVC technology on trains after rigorous testing and T\trials to disinfect the passenger coaches, Ashutosh Gangal, General Manager, Northern Railways said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"A full train is being disinfected automatically by using this machine with remote control. This method is capable of covering even crevices between the surfaces which cannot be reached by any other extant procedures, he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The official noted that UVC technology is absolutely safe and user-friendly as there is no involvement of human beings during the actual process.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The movement of the machine on the washing line is very easy. The passenger feedback has been very positive in favour of this initiative," Gangal added.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The technology utilises a robotic device with autonomous wings installed with UVC lights for 100 per cent disinfection of the compartment area.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The device is operated with the help of wireless remote control for the safety of the operator and the surroundings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"It is worth mentioning that this technology not only destroys the nucleus of coronavirus, rendering it unable to replicate, but it is also a green solution for this purpose. Lab tests have been carried out periodically after disinfection by government-certified labs showing 99.99 per cent reduction in bacteria, viruses and germs," a statement from the Northern Railways (NR) said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This technology is approved and tested by the Indian Council of Medical Research, CSIO and Tanuvas Study Centre, Government of India, and is already being used by Air India Express for cabin disinfection and by hospitals for a couple of decades.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sat Sep 04 15:32:11 IST 2021 two-gangetic-dolphins-found-dead-in-assam <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The carcasses of two Gangetic dolphins, suspected to have been killed by poachers, have been recovered from Kamrup Rural district in Assam, a forest official said on Friday. The dead aquatic mammals, 1.09 metres and 1.18 metres in length respectively, were found at Salpara under Kamrup West Division on Thursday.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Divisional Forest Officer, Kamrup West Division, Dimpi Bora said it is suspected that the dolphins may have been hunted by miscreants which is an offence under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An offence report has been lodged with the Nagarbera Range Office, the DFO said.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dolphins, included in Schedule 1 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, are frequently targeted by poachers for their skin and oil.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Assistant Conservator of Forests of the Division Uttam Basumatary was appointed as the inquiry officer and the seizure list was prepared as per the procedure.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The dead dolphins were brought to the State Veterinary Dispensary at Boko for post-mortem examination which was conducted by Dr. Hiranmayee Hazarika in the presence of Chief Wildlife Warden M K Yadava, Chief Conservator of Forests, Central Assam Circle, Hemakanta Talukdar, and others.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Samples of blood and organs of the dolphins have been sent to the State Veterinary College, Forensic Laboratory, Guwahati, and North East Disease Digenetic Research Laboratory for ascertaining the exact cause of death.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The samples have also been sent to Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, for genetic analysis and toxicological study.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The DFO said since the carcasses had started decomposing, the remains were buried in the presence of an authorised officer with proper documentation of the proceedings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a submission to the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kamrup, Bora said an investigation is underway and the report will be placed before the court in due course.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sat Sep 04 13:18:26 IST 2021 us-grounds-virgin-galactic-spaceflights-as-probes-mishap-richard-branson-flight <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In a blow to Richard Branson’s grand plans, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has said it was grounding spaceflights by Virgin Galactic while it investigates why the company's July 11 voyage carrying Branson deviated from its planned trajectory.</p> <p>This comes after a report by <i>The New Yorker </i>said the flight experienced cockpit warnings about its rocket-powered ascent that could have jeopardised the mission. The FAA, which is overseeing the probe, said the rocketship carrying Branson and five Virgin Galactic employees veered off course during its descent back to its runway in the New Mexico desert on July 11. “Virgin Galactic may not return the SpaceShipTwo vehicle to flight until the FAA approves the final mishap investigation report or determines the issues related to the mishap do not affect public safety,” the FAA said in a statement.</p> <p>The ban comes amid Virgin Galactic’s plans to launch members of the Italian Air Force in a test flight scheduled for later this month.</p> <p>According to a report by Nicholas Schmidle in The New Yorker, about a minute into the July 11 flight that had taken off from the desert in New Mexico, the on-board systems showed that the flight was veering off course. "According to multiple sources in the company, the safest way to respond to the warning would have been to abort," Schmidle wrote.</p> <p>Virgin Galactic acknowledged the space plane dropped below the protected airspace for one minute and 41 seconds. However, the company added that “at no time did the ship travel above any population centres or cause a hazard to the public.”</p> <p>It further said: "Our pilots responded appropriately to these changing flight conditions exactly as they have been trained and in strict accordance with our established procedures."</p> Fri Sep 03 13:55:35 IST 2021 nasas-newest-mars-rover-snags-1st-rock-sample-for-return <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>NASA's newest Mars rover has successfully collected its first rock sample for return to Earth, after last month's attempt came up empty.<br> </p> <p>The Perseverance rover's chief engineer, Adam Stelzner, called it a perfect core sample.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"I've never been more happy to see a hole in a rock," he tweeted Thursday.</p> <p>A month ago, Perseverance drilled into much softer rock, and the sample crumbled and didn't get inside the titanium tube. The rover drove a half-mile to a better sampling spot to try again. Team members analyzed data and pictures before declaring success.</p> <p>Perseverance arrived in February at Mars' Jezero Crater&nbsp; believed to be the home of a lush lakebed and river delta billions of years ago&nbsp; in search of rocks that might hold evidence of ancient life. NASA plans to launch more spacecraft to retrieve the samples collected by Perseverance; engineers are hoping to return as many as three dozen samples in about a decade.</p> Fri Sep 03 12:53:45 IST 2021 security-vulnerability-fixed-in-whatsapp-s-image-filter-function <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Check Point Research (CPR) on Thursday said it had flagged a security vulnerability in WhatsApp's image filter function that could have been exploited by attackers to read sensitive information, and the same has now been fixed by the messaging platform.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"CPR exposed a security vulnerability in WhatsApp...An attacker could have exploited the vulnerability to read sensitive information from WhatsApp memory," CPR said in a statement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It added that the vulnerability was rooted in WhatsApp's image filter function and during its research study, CPR learned that switching between various filters on crafted GIF files caused WhatsApp to crash.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"CPR identified one of the crashes as memory corruption. CPR promptly reported the problem to WhatsApp, who named for the vulnerability CVE-2020-1910, detailing it as an out-of-bounds read and write issue," it noted.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Successful exploitation of the vulnerability would have required an attacker to apply specific image filters to a specially crafted image and send the resulting image, it added.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With over two billion active users, WhatsApp can be an attractive target for attackers. Once we discovered the security vulnerability, we quickly reported our findings to WhatsApp, which was cooperative and collaborative in issuing a fix. The result of our collective efforts is a safer WhatsApp for users worldwide, Check Point Head of Products Vulnerabilities Research Oded Vanunu said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When contacted, a WhatsApp spokesperson said the company regularly works with security researchers "to improve the numerous ways WhatsApp protects people's messages, and we appreciate the work that Check Point does to investigate every corner of our app".</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"People should have no doubt that end-to-end encryption continues to work as intended and people's messages remain safe and secure, the spokesperson added.&nbsp;</p> Fri Sep 03 12:06:09 IST 2021 who-warns-new-mu-variant-of-covid-19-could-be-more-vaccine-resis <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The World Health Organisation has said that it is closely monitoring a new coronavirus &quot;variant of interest&quot; named Mu, warning that the new variant shows signs of possible resistance to vaccines.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mu - also known by its scientific name as B.1.621 - was first identified in Colombia in January 2021, and since then, there have been &quot;sporadic reports&quot; of cases and some larger outbreaks in South America and Europe, the UN health agency said in its weekly bulletin on the pandemic on Tuesday.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The cases of the Mu variant have also been reported in the UK, Europe, the US and Hong Kong.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The new 'variant of interest' is being closely monitored, the UN health agency said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Although the global prevalence of the Mu variant among sequenced COVID-19 cases is currently below 0.1%, its prevalence in Colombia (39%) and Ecuador (13%) has consistently increased, it said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The new variant was added to the WHO's watchlist on August 30 after it was detected in 39 countries and found to possess a &quot;constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape,&quot; it said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Reports on the variant's prevalence should be &quot;interpreted with due consideration given the low sequencing capacity of most countries, the UN agency said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mu is the fifth variant of interest to be monitored by the WHO since March. It has a number of mutations that suggest it could be more resistant to vaccines, the WHO warned, but said that further research would be needed to confirm this.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The preliminary data shows it may evade immune defences in a similar way to the Beta variant first discovered in South Africa, the UN agency said, adding that this needs to be confirmed by further work.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;More studies are required to understand the phenotypic and clinical characteristics of this variant, it said, adding that the epidemiology of the Mu variant in South America, particularly with the co-circulation of the Delta variant, will be monitored for changes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As of August 29, over 4,500 sequences (3,794 B.1.621 sequences and 856 B.1.621.1 sequences), genome sequences, analysed samples of the virus taken from patients, have been designated as Mu in the past four weeks. The sequences are used to track how it moves through the population, on an open-source genome repository, known as GISAID.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most of these have been reported in the U.S (2,065) and Colombia (852), Mexico (357) and Spain (473).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Meanwhile, South African scientists are closely monitoring the development of another new variant there.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Scientists from National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) in South Africa said the potential variant of interest, C.1.2, was first detected in the country in May this year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>C.1.2 has since been found in China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritius, England, New Zealand, Portugal and Switzerland as of August 13, they said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, C.1.2, is not yet a variant to follow, nor a variant of concern, according to the classification of the World Health Organization.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All viruses mutate over time and most mutations have little to no impact on the virus' behaviour.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The novel coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 45 lakh people globally, according to tracking data from Johns Hopkins University.&nbsp;</p> Thu Sep 02 14:34:26 IST 2021 covid-19-vaccines-effective-at-reducing-severe-illness--hospital <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>People infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus after receiving one or two COVID-19 vaccine doses have significantly lower chance of severe disease or hospitalisation than unvaccinated individuals, according to a large-scale study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal on Tuesday.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Researchers also found that the odds of experiencing long COVID -- illness lasting 28 days or more after a positive test -- were reduced to half for people who received two vaccines doses.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>People most vulnerable to a breakthrough infection after their first vaccine dose included frail older adults, 60 years and older, and those living with underlying conditions such as obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, and lung disease, they said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study found that in all age groups, people living in deprived areas, such as densely populated urban settings, were more likely to experience a breakthrough infection.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These factors were most significantly associated with a post-immunisation infection after receiving the first vaccine dose and before receiving a second dose, it found.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"We are at a critical point in the pandemic as we see cases rising worldwide due to the Delta variant. Breakthrough infections are expected and don't diminish the fact that these vaccines are doing exactly what they were designed to do -- save lives and prevent serious illness," said study co-lead author Claire Steves of King's College London, UK.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"Other research has shown a mortality rate as high as 27 per cent for hospitalised COVID-19 patients. We can greatly reduce that number by keeping people out of the hospital in the first place through vaccination," Steves said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study highlights the crucial role vaccines play in larger efforts to prevent COVID-19 infections, which should still include other personal protective measures such as mask-wearing, frequent testing, and social distancing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers used self-reported data from the UK COVID Symptom Study through the ZOE app from December 8, 2020 through July 4, 2021.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They found that of more than 1.2 million adults who received at least one dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca, or Moderna vaccine, fewer than 0.5 per cent reported a breakthrough infection over 14 days after their first dose.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Among adults who received two vaccine doses, fewer than 0.2 per cent experienced a breakthrough infection more than seven days after their second dose, the researchers said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Among those who did experience a breakthrough infection, the odds of being asymptomatic increased by 63 per cent after one vaccine dose and by 94 per cent after the second dose, they said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Researchers also found that the odds of hospitalisation were reduced by approximately 70 per cent after one or two doses, and that the odds of experiencing severe disease were lessened by about one-third.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Also, the odds of long COVID were reduced by 50 per cent after two doses, they said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Severe disease was defined as having five or more symptoms in the first week of illness.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For those who did experience symptoms after either one or two vaccine doses, such as fatigue, cough, fever, and loss of taste and smell, almost all symptoms were reported less frequently than in unvaccinated people, according to the study.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In frail adults over the age of 60 years, the researchers said, the odds of a breakthrough infection after one vaccine dose were almost doubled, compared to healthy older adults.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The authors acknowledged some limitations of the study.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Thu Sep 02 12:56:22 IST 2021 dgci-gives-nod-for-phase-2-3-trials-of-biological-e-s-covid-vacc <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="'s-COVID-19-vaccine-reu.jpg" /> <p>The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) on Wednesday granted permission to Hyderabad-based Biological E Limited to conduct phase 2/3 clinical trials of its 'Made in India' COVID-19 vaccine on children aged between 5 and 18 years with certain conditions, sources said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The phase 2 and 3 clinical trials have be conducted as per approved protocol titled 'A Prospective, Randomised, Double-blind, Placebo controlled, Phase-2/3 Study to Evaluate Safety, Reactogenicity, Tolerability and Immunogenicity of Corbevax Vaccine in Children and Adolescents', a source said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The trial will be conducted across 10 sites in the country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The DCGI's permission was given based on the recommendations by the Subject Expert Committee (SEC) on COVID-19.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So far, indigenously developed Zydus Cadila's needle-free COVID-19 vaccine ZyCoV-D has received Emergency Use Authorisation from the drug regulator, making it the first vaccine to be administered in the age group of 12-18 years in the country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Meanwhile, the data of phase 2/3 clinical trials of Bharat Biotech's Covaxin in the age group 2 to 18 years is underway.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India's drug regulator in July granted permission to Serum Institute of India (SII) for conducting phase 2/3 trials of Covovax on children aged 2 to 17 years with certain conditions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Biological E's anti-coronavirus shot, Corbevax, which is a RBD protein sub-unit vaccine is currently undergoing phase 2/3 clinical trials on adults, sources had said earlier.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Biological E will supply 30 crore doses of Corbevax to the central government by December, as announced by the Union Health Ministry in June. The ministry finalised arrangements with the Hyderabad-based vaccine manufacturer to reserve 30 crore vaccine doses, an official statement had said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Biological E COVID-19 vaccine candidate has been supported by Government of India from preclinical stage to phase 3 studies. The Department of Biotechnology has not only provided financial assistance in terms of grant-in-aid of over Rs 100 crore but has also partnered with Biological E to conduct all animal challenge and assay studies through its Research Institute Translational Health Science Technology Institute (THSTI), Faridabad, a Health Ministry statement had stated.&nbsp;</p> Thu Sep 02 12:06:57 IST 2021 microsoft-set-to-roll-out-windows-11-update-starting-october-5-all-you-need-to-know <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Microsoft has announced that it will be releasing Windows 11 on October 5 for free to eligible PCs. The tech giant also announced the new changes that will come with the Windows 11 update.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Windows 11 is currently in beta and available to only those who are a part of the Windows Insider program. Microsoft says eligible devices will get the update first. After that, the update will then roll-out over time to in-market devices based on intelligence models that consider hardware eligibility, reliability metrics, age of device, and other factors that impact the upgrade experience.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Microsoft, it expects all eligible devices will be offered the update by mid-2022.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the same time, Microsoft has warned that it would withhold Windows 11 updates and even security patches from users who instal an ISO file to upgrade to the latest version of Windows, The Verge reported.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The tech giant had previously said it would not block millions of users with older CPUs from installing Windows 11, and had suggested downloading and manually installing the ISO file.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The update will also only come to eligible users. You can check for your device’s update to Windows 11 post-October 5 by heading to Settings &gt; Windows Update and select Check for updates.</p> <p><br> <br> <br> </p> Wed Sep 01 15:06:01 IST 2021 china-working-on-landing-astronauts-on-moon <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>China’s Lunar Exploration Program, named after the Chinese moon goddess “Chang’e”, has so far deployed lunar orbiters, landers, rovers and sample return spacecraft to the moon. Now, the country is planning to put human beings on the moon—a feat not seen since the last Apollo mission in 1972.<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to a report by Space News citing an article by the Xiamen University School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, China has appointed Yang Lei as “Chief commander of the crewed lunar landing vehicle system”. The human lunar landing project has been dubbed as a “national strategy”. The plans are for a crewed moon landing that could take place around 2030 using a Long March 5 rocket.</p> <p>The proposed mission will see two rockets, one carrying a lunar lander and the other a next-generation manned spaceship, which will rendezvous and dock in near-lunar orbit before deploying for a landing.</p> <p>Long, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and&nbsp; chief designer of Long March rockets, made the remarks at the 35th China Adolescents Science and Technology Innovation Contest, Global Times reported. The state-run news website added that the mission could see Chinese astronauts (taikonauts) on the moon for around six hours, though a specific landing site had not been mentioned in the presentation.<br> <br> </p> <p>However, the site said that the project had yet to receive approval according to sources.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the 2020 China Space Conference, a presentation had mentioned details of the “new generation spacecraft” and lunar lander, as well as a new launch vehicle., along with a potential lunar orbit module and crewed roving vehicle, Space News reported. In May that year, China tested an uncrewed spacecraft that could someday carry its astronauts to the moon and deep space. It was launched via a Long March 5B rocket.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2019, China became the first country to land a probe on the far side of the moon. It plans another mission in 2024, when the Chang’e 6 will send a lunar orbiter, lander and perform a sample return from the moon from near the lunar south pole. That year, Chang’e 7 will also have an orbiter, lander, rover and mini-flying probe. A future Chang’e 8 is planned to perform technology tests to allow the construction of a lunar science base.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In June, China launched its Shenzhou 12 spaceflight, its seventh crewed one to space, that helped set up the first module of the Chinese space station Tiangong.</p> Tue Aug 31 21:50:01 IST 2021 un-hails-end-of-poisonous-leaded-gas-use-in-cars-worldwide <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Leaded gasoline has finally reached the end of the road, the U.N. environment office said Monday, after the last country in the world halted the sale of the highly toxic fuel.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Algeria stopped providing leaded gas last month, prompting the U.N. Environment Agency to declare the official end of its use in cars, which has been blamed for a wide range of human health problems.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The successful enforcement of the ban on leaded petrol is a huge milestone for global health and our environment, UNEP's executive director, Inger Andersen, said in a statement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Petroleum containing tetraethyllead, a form of lead, was first sold almost 100 years ago to increase engine performance. It was widely used for decades until researchers discovered that it could cause heart disease, strokes and brain damage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>UNEP said studies showed leaded gas caused measurable intellectual impairment in children and millions of premature deaths.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The cost of environmental degradation is real, said Andersen, citing what she described as a very, very ballpark number of USD2.45 trillion in damage to the global economy prevented by the ban.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Janet McCabe, deputy administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said measurements showed blood lead levels plummeted, literally, literally plummeted after the fuel was banned in the United States.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most rich nations started phasing out the fuel in the 1970s and 1980s, but it was still widely used in low- and middle-income countries until 2002, when the U.N. launched a global campaign to abolish it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Leaded gas is still used in aviation fuel for small planes, an issue that McCabe said the EPA was working with the Federal Aviation Administration to address</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the successful abolition of leaded gas, like the ban on ozone-depleting chemicals, showed the impact that international treaties could have on addressing environmental issues.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We must now turn the same commitment to ending the triple crises of climate disruption, biodiversity loss and pollution, he added.&nbsp;</p> <p>(AP)&nbsp;</p> Tue Aug 31 16:13:11 IST 2021 monoclonal-antibody-treatment-combo-cuts-hospitalisation-for-cov <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A combination of two monoclonal antibody treatments keeps high-risk COVID-19 patients out of the hospital when infected with mild to moderate disease, according to an observational study published in The Lancet's EClinicalMedicine journal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-produced molecules engineered to serve as substitute antibodies that can restore, enhance or mimic the immune system's attack on pathogens.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The combination of the monoclonal antibody treatments -- casirivimab and imdevimab -- has been given emergency use authorisation (EUA) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The research enrolled nearly 1,400 patients at Mayo Clinic in the US, of whom 696 received the drug combo between December 2020 and early April while an equal matched cohort did not receive it. The disease status of the patients was evaluated at 14, 21 and 28 days after treatment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At each point, the numbers for hospitalisation were significantly lower in the treated group.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At day 14, 1.3 per cent of the treated group were in the hospital, compared to 3.3 per cent of those who had not been treated, the researchers said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At day 21, only 1.3 per cent treated were hospitalised, compared to 4.2 per cent of those who had not been treated, they said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study found that at the end of 28 days, 1.6 per cent of those treated were hospitalised versus 4.8 per cent of those who had not been treated.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This translated to 60-70 per cent relative reduction in hospitalisation among treated patients, according to the researchers. Of those who were subsequently hospitalised, the rates of ICU admission and mortality were low, they found.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"Once again, this real-world study suggests that when patients who are at high risk due to a range of comorbidities contract a mild or moderate case of COVID-19, this combination of monoclonal injections gives them a chance of a nonhospitalised recovery. In other words, they recover safely at home," said Raymond Razonable, an infectious diseases specialist at Mayo Clinic, and senior author of the study.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A previous study by Mayo Clinic researchers suggested the use of bamlanivimab reduced hospitalisations in high-risk patients by 4060 per cent.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That study involved 2,335 treated patients from Mayo Clinic between November of 2020 and February.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Comparing their outcomes with 2,335 untreated patients, the ICU admission and mortality rates also were significantly lower with monoclonal antibody treatment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers noted that the FDA in April revoked the EUA for bamlanivimab alone and now endorses use of combination monoclonal antibodies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"Our conclusion overall at this point is that monoclonal antibodies are an important option in treatment to reduce the impact of COVID-19 in high-risk patients," Razonable added.&nbsp;</p> Tue Aug 31 15:19:21 IST 2021 astronaut-gets-special-ice-cream-delivery-for-50th-birthday <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A space station astronaut is celebrating her 50th birthday with the coolest present ever a supply ship bearing ice cream and other treats.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>SpaceX's latest cargo delivery showed up Monday at the International Space Station after a day in transit. Overseeing the automated docking was NASA astronaut Megan McArthur.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No one's ever sent me a spaceship for my birthday before. I appreciate it, she radioed after the capsule arrived.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Launched Sunday from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, the capsule contains lemons, cherry tomatoes, avocados and ice cream for McArthur and her six crewmates, along with a couple tons of research and other gear.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The shipment arrived just a few days ahead of the first of three spacewalks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Starting Friday, the two Russians on board will perform back-to-back spacewalks to outfit a new laboratory that arrived in July.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then a Japanese-French spacewalking duo will venture out Sept. 12 to install a bracket for new solar panels due to arrive next year. That NASA-directed spacewalk should have occurred last week, but was postponed after U.S. spacewalker, Mark Vande Hei, suffered a pinched nerve in his neck. Station managers opted to replace him with French astronaut Thomas Pesquet.&nbsp;</p> <p>(AP)&nbsp;</p> Tue Aug 31 12:55:53 IST 2021 game-industry-in-india--biggest-employment-sector-of-the-future <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The video game industry is leading the entertainment market with 2.81 billion gamers around the world. The statistics have been showing steady growth in the game users of 5.6% per year. The main reason behind this is the dramatic rise in subscription gaming services and cloud gaming. And this opens a whole new opportunity for the gaming sectors in India as well. India being the second most populated country also holds the record of having the maximum number of youths, which means we are contributing big time towards the world Gaming revenue. Holding the title of just being a user is not enough for us, instead, India has already started building its own hub to develop games as well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Currently, there are 400+ established and indie Game companies flourishing in our country, making and distributing quality games to their users. But to keep the pace up, the gaming market is looking for more and more skilled assets. And this is the point where the industry is facing the hamartia of its story. There are so many talented minds and young people who are passionate about video games but only a quarter of them believes that they can make an actual career out of it. There can be a significant number of reasons that are responsible for this sceptical approach of youngsters towards the Gaming industry. The first one can be a lack of awareness. The gaming industry is still underrated among many segments of our country. Video games which can be a potential career option are under the shadows of being a mere source of entertainment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The second and one of the prominent reasons is the parent’s misconception about this industry. As Indian parents are only looking towards the idealized field of education that is considered to be a stable career option in the future, it is pretty difficult for youngsters to opt for a career that doesn’t involve being a doctor or an engineer. Now is the time to make parents aware of how big the gaming industry has become within a decade of time, and<a href="">&nbsp;</a>&nbsp;<a href=""></a><a href=""><u>Backstage Pass Institute of Gaming &amp; Technology</u></a>&nbsp;is actively contributing towards it. This unique college based in Hyderabad; India is setting milestones every year. Providing talented youngsters, the skill set they require for getting into the gaming industry. When it comes to playing games, you can find numerous gaming arenas across the country, but when it comes to learning game design and development, the numbers just shrink. Backstage Pass is one of the few colleges that provides game design and development courses exclusively. And when the talent of these youngsters meets with professional guidance of the mentors, outcomes are phenomenal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Students of Backstage Pass are not only proliferating the Indian Gaming market but they have marked their success abroad as well. Alumni of this college are working in countries like the US, New Zealand, Sweden, London, Germany, and many more. Overwhelmed by the Industry’s demand Mr. Surya Prakash, Director &amp; Founder of Backstage Pass says “Each company has a specific requirement, but we provide our students with an in-depth knowledge of game art, design or development, with strong basics; so, they can fit into any development team “. The remarkable achievement by Backstage Pass alumni like Anshul Soni placed as software engineer at EA Sports, Seattle USA, Asar Dhandala, Founder &amp; Head of product at Seven Summit Studios, USA, Nilesh Krishnan placed as Senior Programmer at A44, Wellington, New Zealand, Sushil George placed as Senior Software Developer at Product Madness, UK are one of the few jewels in the colleges’ crown.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And it was not always like this, a few decades ago there were no specific education requirements to get into the Gaming Industry. Candidates with minimal knowledge of coding and exceptional creativity were easily hired by the Gaming companies. But with the advancement of technology and ease of accessibility, the companies started to look for something better. Instead of hiring people and training them on game development/design tools, the hiring team started looking for freshers who are already trained in game engines and design software. That’s where Backstage Pass comes into the spotlight. The strong curriculum involving the detailed practice of game engines and updated software made the whole difference. To support the statement Mrs. Swapna Naidu (Vice Principal at Backstage Pass) added “The teaching process involves an immediate implementation of theoretical knowledge. We teach students with live examples of what they are learning, which makes us different from the rest of the colleges”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The end result of this practical teaching technique and the strong curriculum follows up with students of 4 years bachelor’s degree courses getting placed in their 3rd year itself. This assists student of Backstage Pass to get into the gaming market before their studies get over, helping them build industry experience within their course duration. Mr. Surya Prakash who aims toward early employment opportunities for their students as well as supporting the Indian Gaming market says “We are looking at a possibility wherein students start working in their 2nd year itself and start earning to support themselves with a higher salary range.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The packages that students are offered starts from 3 to 4 lakh per annum for freshers and it goes up to 15 lakh per annum for the laterals with 4 to 5 years of experience. The opportunities are limitless in the gaming industry and it awaits skilled talents. Backstage Pass is helping to build the Indian Gaming Industry by adding more &amp; more assets yearly. Mr. Surya Prakash says “The Games Industry globally is going to grow at a much faster pace in the coming years, creating more employment opportunities in future “.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Wed Sep 08 10:38:49 IST 2021 online-gaming-addiction-china-restricts-children-to-three-hours-of-play-per-week <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>If you’re below the age of 18 in China, you will now have a limit to the amount of time you can play online video games on your off-days. Chinese regulators have cut the amount of time to about three hours a week for most weeks of the year, restricting gaming platforms to offering online gaming to minors only during the 8-9pm windows on Fridays, weekends and public holidays.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>State news agency Xinhua reported the news citing a notice by the National Press and Publication Administration.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is not the first time China has sought to restrict the amount of time children spend on videogames: The new regulations are in fact an extension of earlier limits set in 2019. That year, regulators set rules that required all online game user accounts to register with their real names using valid identity information—with a one-hour limit of play for guest players who did not want to log in. The rules also barred game companies from letting minors play between the hours of 10pm-8am—and set a daily limit of 13 hours per day on statutory holidays and 1.5 hours on other days.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The rules accompany a growing crackdown by China on tech companies. Tencent, China’s most valuably publicly-traded company, happens to be the world’s largest video game vendor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tencent had earlier rushed to respond to mounting criticism after a state-run newspaper called video games “spiritual opium” and named a Tencent game that had players gaming for as much as eight hours a day. Tencent Holdings shares’ subsequently dropped by 7 per cent the next day. The report noted that “62.5 per cent of underage Internet users in the country often play games online”. The company on August 3 said it would limit gaming time for minors and ban children under the age of 12 from making in-game purchases.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By the end of 2020, China’s gaming industry brought in about $43.2 billion worth of revenue, up 20.71 per cent from the previous year, according to a report by the China Internet Network Information Center. The number of online game users was a staggering 518 million.</p> Mon Aug 30 17:18:50 IST 2021 learning-from-home-is-testing-students--online-search-skills <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, school closures meant more than 90% of the world's learners had to study virtually or from home. The internet, already an invaluable educational tool, has therefore become even more important for students. One of students' most common internet activities, both in schools and in home schooling, is online searching.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This means teachers, and those parents currently standing in for teachers, need to help students develop skills for searching online. So what can parents do to support their children when tasks sent home from school require them to search for information online? And what can they do to extend such work for gifted students or when the work sent home runs out?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Teachers and parents can have an influence on a child's internet skills. Indeed, their search success is related to the amount of adult guidance and explicit instruction they receive.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unfortunately, research suggests some teachers don't offer such explicit instruction. Some also have trouble structuring (and providing support for) student online search tasks that go beyond lower-order skills. Evidence even exists of a lack of search skills among teachers and parents themselves.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The following three tips may help</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Focus on learning to search' as well as searching to learn' Making the invisible processes behind searches more visible improves the online information-seeking of both teachers and students. In this way, educators (be they temporary or professional) should design activities that foreground the search process itself. This makes students more aware of what goes on behind the scenes of a search and of their ability to affect these processes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>How might you do this? In one Queensland study, students were asked to sort 12 picture cards. The cards were designed so three categories animals, transport modes and countries were obvious at first.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Students easily sorted the cards into these categories. But they were then challenged to recognise any other sorting options, much like Google does every second of every day. When kangaroo was removed from the animals pile and placed alongside Australia instead, for example, students were quick to assemble the remaining cards in a similar fashion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This activity encouraged discussions about just how many different ways not 12 but 200 million cards or websites - could be sorted. It's a reminder of how important it is to clearly specify what you want from Google, helping it to sort its 200 million websites.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Become more critical users of the web</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Educators sometimes set tasks that are too broad for students and likely to return millions of search results. Many will probably be irrelevent or inaccurate. Teachers may also set tasks that encourage students to use Google as a mere encyclopedia, which requires only passive lower-order learning.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If we instead want students to engage in higher-order thinking, greater structuring of search tasks is needed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Educators can start this by setting specific requirements for the results students work with. Perhaps ask them to find one website from Australia (try adding to the end of queries) and one from England this could be particularly interesting around the time The Ashes are played. Perhaps students are told to find some sources from before the year 2000 and others from the previous 12 months (select Tools then Any time in the dropdown menu).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Asking students to purposefully find websites with conflicting information and to describe how they decided which to believe requires that they compare, evaluate and analyse.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The number of results a search engine returns can help indicate the quality of your query and make finding reliable information more efficient. In school, students report that they typically don't consider the number of results returned and have little experience in limiting or increasing these results. In Australian home-schooling too, parent-educators and students rank limiting/expanding searches as one of the hardest steps in search.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Now that students know a little more about how Google must sort websites, ask them to alter their query to rearrange the top five or ten results returned. Challenge them to reduce the (likely millions of) results returned to just 10,000, 1,000 or even ten.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Students explain that when it is only the final product or outcome of searching that counts or is graded, their focus is upon that and never the search process itself. This changes when tasks are more structured and specific requirements and guidance are given. Students then focus more upon gathering quality information.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Shift your thinking about search</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Attitudes have proven more important than available resources or even teacher skill when it comes to increasing students' authentic technology-enabled learning. Many limiting attitudes about search need to be turned around to ensure students get the most out of Google.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We can start switching attitudes about what to search for and how by using the tips above. But what if your child doesn't want to listen to you during search? This is commonly reported.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Students don't always see their teachers as good information sources during search either. And it's true, some teachers and parents still have much to learn about using Google.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, my study, which tested the generational digital divide concept among Australian home-schoolers, found the parent-educators (the older generation) were stronger searchers than their kids, the so-called digital natives. Perhaps students can learn more about search from their parents.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The answer is unlikely to be forcing your children to recognise your strengths and their weaknesses. Instead, shifting young people's attitude to search, and encouraging them to realise it is sometimes hard and frustrating, can help.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When it comes to schoolwork, data from over 45,000 students in 12 countries tell us internet research is by far the most frequently recorded use of ICT. Educators who focus upon learning to search as well as searching to learn, who encourage critical use, and begin to challenge attitudes about Google will be better placed to help students capitalise on the unprecedented educational opportunities online search can provide.&nbsp;</p> <p><i>(The Conversation: By Renee Morrison, Lecturer in Curriculum Studies, University of Tasmania)</i></p> Mon Aug 30 17:14:39 IST 2021 expedition-discovers-island-believed-world-s-northernmost <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A team of Arctic researchers from Denmark say they accidentally discovered what they believe is the world's northernmost island located off Greenland's coast.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The scientists from the University of Copenhagen initially thought they had arrived at Oodaaq, an island discovered by a Danish survey team in 1978, to collect samples during an expedition that was conducted in July.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They instead wound up on an undiscovered island further north.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We were convinced that the island we were standing on was Oodaaq, which until then was registered as the world's northernmost island, said expedition leader Morten Rasch of the university's department of geosciences and natural resource management.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But when I posted photos of the island and its coordinates on social media, a number of American island hunters went crazy and said that it couldn't be true, he said in a statement on Friday.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Island hunters are known as adventurers whose hobby it is to search for unknown islands.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The yet-to-be-named island is 780 meters (about 850 yards) north of Oodaaq, an island off Cape Morris Jesup, the northernmost point of Greenland and one of the most northerly points of land on Earth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The tiny island, apparently discovered as a result of shifting pack ice, is about 30 by 60 meters (about 100 by 200 feet) in size and rises to about three to four meters (10 to 13 feet) above sea level, the university said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The research team reportedly doesn't consider the discovery to be a result of climate change and has allegedly proposed naming the island Qeqertaq Avannarleq, which means the northernmost island in Greenlandic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The island consists primarily of small mounds of silt and gravel, according to Rasch. He said it may be the result of a major storm that, with the help of the sea, gradually pushed material from the seabed together until an island formed. The island isn't expected to exist a long time, Danish researchers believe.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No one knows how long it will remain. In principle, it could disappear as soon as a powerful new storm hits, Rasch said.&nbsp;</p> <p>(AP)</p> Mon Aug 30 16:55:19 IST 2021 why-it-will-soon-be-too-late-to-find-out-where-the-covid-19-viru <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>SARS-CoV-2 has caused the greatest pandemic of the past 100 years. Understanding its origins is crucial for knowing what happened in late 2019 and for preparing for the next pandemic virus.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These studies take time, planning and cooperation. They must be driven by science not politics or posturing. The investigation into the origins of SARS-CoV-2 has already taken too long. It has been more than 20 months since the first cases were recognised in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This week US President Joe Biden was briefed by United States intelligence agencies on their investigation into the origins of the virus responsible for COVID-19, according to media. Parts of the investigation's report are expected to be publicly released within the next few days.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An early report from the New York Times suggests the investigation does not conclude whether the spread of the virus resulted from a lab leak, or if it emerged naturally in a spillover from animals to humans.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While a possible lab leak is a line of inquiry (should scientific evidence emerge), it musn't distract from where the current evidence tells us we should be directing most of our energy. The more time that passes, the less feasible it will become for experts to determine the biological origins of the virus.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Six recommendations</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I was one of the experts who visited Wuhan earlier this year as part of the World Health Organisation's investigation into SARS-CoV-2 origins. We found the evidence pointed to the pandemic starting as a result of zoonotic transmission of the virus, meaning a spillover from an animal to humans.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our inquiry culminated in a report published in March which made a series of recommendations for further work. There is an urgent need to get on with designing studies to support these recommendations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, myself and other independent authors of the WHO report have written to plead for this work to be accelerated. Crucial time is disappearing to work through the six priority areas, which include: further trace-back studies based on early disease reports</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>SARS-CoV-2-specific antibody surveys in regions with early COVID-19 cases. This is important given a number of countries including Italy, France, Spain and the United Kingdom have often reported inconclusive evidence of early COVID-19 detection trace-back and community surveys of the people involved with the wildlife farms that supplied animals to Wuhan markets risk-targeted surveys of possible animal hosts. This could be either the primary host (such as bats), or secondary hosts or amplifiers detailed risk-factor analyses of pockets of early cases, wherever these have occurred and follow up of any credible new leads.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Race against the clock</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The biological feasibility of some of these studies is time dependent. SARS-CoV-2 antibodies emerge a week or so after someone has become infected and recovered from the virus, or after being vaccinated.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But we know antibodies decrease over time so samples collected now from people infected before or around December 2019 may be harder to examine accurately.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Using antibody studies to differentiate between vaccination, natural infection, or even second infection (especially if the initial infection occurred in 2019) in the general population is also problematic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For example, after natural infection a range of SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies, such as to the spike protein or nucleoprotein, can be detected for varying lengths of time and in varying concentrations and ability to neutralise the virus.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But depending on the vaccine used, antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein may be all that is detected. These, too, drop with time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is also a need to have international consensus in the laboratory methods used to detect SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies. Inconsistency in testing methods has led to arguments about data quality from many locations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It takes time to come to agreement on laboratory techniques for serological and viral genomic studies, sample access and sharing (including addressing consent and privacy concerns). Securing funding also takes time so time is not a resource we can waste.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Distance from potential sources</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Moreover, many wildlife farms in Wuhan have closed down following the initial outbreak, generally in an unverified manner. And finding human or animal evidence of early coronavirus spillover is increasingly difficult as animals and humans disperse.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fortunately, some studies can be done now. This includes reviews of early case studies, and blood donor studies in Wuhan and other cities in China (and anywhere else where there was early detection of viral genomes).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is important to examine the progress or results of such studies by local and international experts, yet the mechanisms for such scientific cross-examination have not yet been put in place.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>New evidence has come forward since our March report. These papers and the WHO report data have been reviewed by scientists independent of the WHO group. They have came to similar conclusions to the WHO report, identifying: the host reservoir for SARS-CoV-2 has not been found the key species in China (or elsewhere) may not have been tested and there is substantial scientific evidence supporting a zoonotic origin.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Teetering back and </b>forth</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the possibility of a laboratory accident can't be entirely dismissed, it is highly unlikely, given the repeated human-animal contact that occurs routinely in the wildlife trade.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Still, the lab-leak hypotheses continue to generate media interest over and above the available evidence. These more political discussions further slow the cooperation and agreement needed to progress with the WHO report's phase two studies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The World Health Organisation has called for a new committee to oversee future origins studies. This is laudable, but there is the risk of further delaying the necessary planning for the already outlined SARS-CoV-2 origins studies.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(The Conversation: By Dominic Dwyer, University of Sydney)</p> Mon Aug 30 14:28:22 IST 2021 isro-conducts-hot-test-of-gaganyaan-service-module-propulsion-sy <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>ISRO said it successfully conducted the first hot test of the System Demonstration Model (SDM) of the Gaganyaan Service Module Propulsion System for a duration of 450 seconds at the test facility of Propulsion Complex (IPRC), Mahendragiri, Tamil Nadu, on Saturday.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The system performance met the test objectives and there was a close match with the pre-test predictions, the Bengaluru-headquartered space agency said in a statement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Further, a series of hot tests are planned to simulate various mission conditions as well as off-nominal conditions, it said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Service Module (SM) is part of the Gaganyaan Orbital module and is located below the crew module and remains connected to it until re-entry, ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) explained.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The SM Propulsion System consists of a unified bipropellant system consisting of five numbers of 440 N thrust engines and 16 numbers of 100 N Reaction Control system (RCS) thrusters with MON-3 and MMH as Oxidizer and Fuel respectively.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"The SDM, consisting of five numbers of 440 N engines and eight numbers of 100 N thrusters, was realised to qualify the propulsion system performance in ground. A new test facility is established at IPRC, Mahendragiri for testing the SDM", the statement added.&nbsp;</p> Mon Aug 30 13:24:04 IST 2021 spacex-launches-ants-avocados-robot-to-space-station <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A SpaceX shipment of ants, avocados and a human-sized robotic arm rocketed toward the International Space Station on Sunday. The delivery&nbsp; due to arrive Monday&nbsp; is the company's 23rd for NASA in just under a decade.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A recycled Falcon rocket blasted into the predawn sky from NASA's Kennedy Space Center. After hoisting the Dragon capsule, the first-stage booster landed upright on SpaceX's newest ocean platform, named A Shortfall of Gravitas.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>SpaceX founder Elon Musk continued his tradition of naming the booster-recovery vessels in tribute to the late science fiction writer Iain Banks and his Culture series.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Dragon is carrying more than 4,800 pounds (2,170 kilogrammes) of supplies and experiments, and fresh food including avocados, lemons and even ice cream for the space station's seven astronauts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Girl Scouts are sending up ants, brine shrimp and plants as test subjects, while University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists are flying up seeds from mouse-ear cress, a small flowering weed used in genetic research. Samples of concrete, solar cells and other materials also will be subjected to weightlessness.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A Japanese start-up company's experimental robotic arm, meanwhile, will attempt to screw items together in its orbital debut and perform other mundane chores normally done by astronauts. The first tests will be done inside the space station. Future models of Gitai Inc.'s robot will venture out into the vacuum of space to practice satellite and other repair jobs, said chief technology officer Toyotaka Kozuki.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As early as 2025, a squad of these arms could help build lunar bases and mine the moon for precious resources, he added.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>SpaceX had to leave some experiments behind because of delays resulting from COVID-19.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was the second launch attempt; Saturday's try was foiled by stormy weather.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>NASA turned to SpaceX and other US companies to deliver cargo and crews to the space station, once the space shuttle program ended in 2011.&nbsp;</p> Sun Aug 29 13:50:56 IST 2021 researchers-supermassive-black-holes-merging-universe <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Researchers have discovered three supermassive black holes from as many galaxies merging together to form a triple active galactic nucleus, a compact region at the centre of a newly discovered galaxy that has a much-higher-than-normal luminosity, the Department of Science and Technology said on Friday.</p> <p>This rare occurrence in the nearby universe indicates that small merging groups are ideal laboratories to detect multiple accreting supermassive black holes and increases the possibility of detecting such rare occurrences.</p> <p>"Supermassive black holes are difficult to detect because they do not emit any light. But they can reveal their presence by interacting with their surroundings," the DST said.</p> <p>When the dust and gas from the surroundings fall onto a supermassive black hole, some of the mass is swallowed by the black hole, but some of it is converted into energy and emitted as electromagnetic radiation that makes the black hole appear very luminous.</p> <p>"They are called active galactic nuclei (AGN) and release huge amounts of ionised particles and energy into the galaxy and its environment. Both of these ultimately contribute to the growth of the medium around the galaxy and ultimately the evolution of the galaxy itself," it said.</p> <p>A team of researchers from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics consisting of Jyoti Yadav, Mousumi Das, and Sudhanshu Barway along with Francoise Combes of College de France, Chaire Galaxies et Cosmologie, Paris, while studying a known interacting galaxy pair, NGC7733, and NGC7734, detected unusual emissions from the centre of NGC7734 and a large, bright clump along the northern arm of NGC7733.</p> <p>Their investigations showed that the clump is moving with a different velocity compared to the galaxy NGC7733 itself.</p> <p>"The scientists meant that this clump was not a part of NGC7733; rather, it was a small separate galaxy behind the arm. They named this galaxy NGC7733N," the DST said.</p> <p>This study, published as a letter in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, used data from the Ultra-Violet Imaging Telescope (UVIT) onboard the first Indian space observatory ASTROSAT, the European integral field optical telescope called MUSE mounted on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile and infrared images from the optical telescope (IRSF) in South Africa.</p> <p>The UV and H-alpha images also supported the presence of the third galaxy by revealing star formation along with the tidal tails which could have formed from the merger of NGC7733N with the larger galaxy. Each of the galaxies hosts an active supermassive black hole in their nucleus and hence form a very rare triple AGN system.</p> <p>According to the researchers, a major factor impacting galaxy evolution is galaxy interactions which happen when galaxies move close to each other and exert tremendous gravitational forces on each other.</p> <p>During such galaxy interactions, the respective supermassive black holes can get near each other. The dual black holes start consuming gas from their surroundings and become dual AGN.</p> <p>The IIA team explains that if two galaxies collide, their black holes will also come closer by transferring the kinetic energy to the surrounding gas.</p> <p>The distance between the blackholes decreases with time until the separation is around a parsec (3.26 light-years). The two black holes are then unable to lose any further kinetic energy in order to get even closer and merge. This is known as the final parsec problem.</p> <p>The presence of a third black hole can solve this problem. The dual merging blackholes can transfer their energy to the third blackhole and merge with each other, the DST said.</p> <p>Many AGN pairs have been detected in the past, but triple AGN are extremely rare, and only a handful has been detected before using X-ray observations.</p> <p>However, the IIA team expects such triple AGN systems to be more common in small merging groups of galaxies. Although this study focuses only on one system, results suggest that small merging groups are ideal laboratories to detect multiple supermassive black holes, it added.</p> Fri Aug 27 14:19:54 IST 2021 breast-milk-of-vaccinated-mothers-contains-antibodies-that-fight <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The breast milk of lactating mothers&nbsp; who have received the COVID-19 vaccine contains a significant supply of antibodies that may help protect nursing infants from the illness, according to a study.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The research, published in the journal Breastfeeding Medicine, strongly suggests that vaccines can help protect both mother and baby, another compelling reason for pregnant or lactating women to get immunised.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"Our findings show that vaccination results in a significant increase in antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in breast milk, suggesting that vaccinated mothers can pass on this immunity to their babies," said Joseph Larkin, a senior study author, and an associate professor at the University of Florida, US.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers noted that when babies are born, their immune systems are underdeveloped, making it hard for them to fight infections on their own.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They are also often too young to respond adequately to certain types of vaccines, they said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"During this vulnerable period, breast milk allows nursing mothers to provide infants with 'passive immunity'," said Josef Neu, study's co-author and a professor at the University of Florida.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"Think of breast milk as a toolbox full of all the different tools that help prepare the infant for life. Vaccination adds another tool to the toolbox, one that has the potential to be especially good at preventing COVID-19 illness," Neu explained.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study was conducted between December 2020 and March 2021, when the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines first became available to health care workers in the US.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers recruited 21 lactating health care workers who had never contracted COVID-19.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They sampled the mothers' breast milk and blood three times: before vaccination, after the first dose and after the second dose.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"We saw a robust antibody response in blood and breast milk after the second dose -- about a hundred-fold increase compared with levels before vaccination," said Lauren Stafford, a doctoral student in Larkin's lab.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"These levels are also higher than those observed after natural infection with the virus," added Vivian Valcarce, from the University of Florida.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Vaccinating mothers to protect babies is nothing new, Valcarce said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"Typically, expectant mothers are vaccinated against whooping cough and flu because these can be serious illnesses for infants. Babies can also catch COVID-19, so routine vaccination of mothers against the virus could be something we see in the future," he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The team is continuing to explore how breast milk containing COVID-19 antibodies gained through vaccination protects babies who consume it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"We would like to know if infants who consume breast milk containing these antibodies develop their own protection against COVID-19," Larkin said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers said many other simultaneous studies conducted around the world also show antibodies in the breastmilk of vaccinated mothers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"That means our study validates a growing body of evidence," Neu added.</p> Thu Aug 26 15:18:58 IST 2021 new-advanced-oxidation-technology-can-enhance-wastewater-reuse-a <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A new UV-photocatalysis technology can treat municipal sewage and highly polluting industrial wastewater streams, and increase its reuse, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) said on Wednesday.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The current treatment practices are inefficient because of high dependence on biological treatment systems, which are unable to bear shock loads, it said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is followed by tertiary treatment systems involving reverse osmosis and Multi Effect Evaporators (MEE), the DST said in a statement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These systems have large carbon footprint and maintenance costs making wastewater treatment highly unsustainable and unaffordable, it said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Due to this, researchers felt that there is a need to integrate novel approaches and advanced technologies in current systems, the DST said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), here has developed a technology called the Advanced Oxidation Technology or TADOX which can reduce less dependence and load on biological and tertiary treatment systems and help achieve zero liquid discharge (ZLD), it said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It can bring down capital expenditure on ZLD by 25-30 per cent and operating expense by 30-40 per cent for industrial wastewater treatment. TADOX developed by TERI, New Delhi, for wastewater treatment is an effort in this direction, the DST said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The DST-Water Technology Initiative (WTI) has supported TERI to develop this technology at bench scale collaboration in tie-up with the ONGC Energy Centre (OEC) here, the statement said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The technology involves UV-Photocatalysis as an Advanced Oxidation Process (AOP) at the secondary treatment stage leading to oxidative degradation and mineralisation of targeted pollutants, it said.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It improves biodegradability, thereby preventing bio-fouling of membranes and enhancing life span and efficiency of RO systems as also overall load on evaporators like multiple effect evaporators and mechanical vapour recompression, the DST statement said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It can reduce chemical oxygen demand, biological oxygen demand, dissolved organics, pathogens, persistent organic pollutants, and micro-pollutants, it added.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>TADOX could be integrated and retrofittable in existing treatment systems making it a viable option as a novel decentralised wastewater treatment technology (DWTT) applicable in upcoming and existing infrastructural projects, townships, commercial complexes, green buildings, and smart cities, the statement said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The technology has been adopted by an MSME company to scale up to 10 kilo litre per day continuous running plant in TERI's Gurgaon campus, it said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>TADOX technology has been chosen for pilot trials and augmentation plan for identified industrial sectors under the 'Namami Gange' Programme of the Ministry of Jal Shakti, the statement said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The rechnology is ready for commercialisation through field implementations and Technology &amp;amp; Trademark License Agreement from April 1, it added.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Thu Aug 26 12:00:48 IST 2021 study-says-covid-riskier-for-heart-than-pfizer <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A study from Israel says COVID-19 carries a far higher risk of heart inflammation than Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Researchers in Tel Aviv estimate there were three cases for every 100,000 people vaccinated with the Pfizer shot. But risk of it was 11 per 100,000 in people who were infected with the virus.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The finding were published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dr Grace Lee is an infectious disease expert at Stanford University and says the paper is the first to assess the potential risks of vaccination “in the context of understanding the potential benefits of vaccination”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Previous reports have linked the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to inflammation of the heart muscle. The problem was mainly seen in male teens and young men, who developed chest pain a few days after vaccination.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>US health officials say they have confirmed about 800 vaccine-associated cases total of two types of inflammation - in the heart muscle and in the lining of the heart.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Clalit Research Institute researchers looked at hundreds of thousands of people who were vaccinated and not vaccinated. Separately, they looked at unvaccinated people who were infected or not.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Since two different groups of people were studied, the researchers were limited in making comparisons. The study focused only on the Pfizer vaccine, and it did not provide breakdown of results by age or sex.&nbsp;</p> <p>(AP)</p> Thu Aug 26 08:04:29 IST 2021 isro-conducts-hot-test-of-gaganyaan-service-module-propulsion-system <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>ISRO said it successfully conducted the first hot test of the System Demonstration Model (SDM) of the Gaganyaan Service Module Propulsion System for a duration of 450 seconds at the test facility of Propulsion Complex (IPRC), Mahendragiri, Tamil Nadu, on Saturday.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;The system performance met the test objectives and there was a close match with the pre-test predictions, the Bengaluru-headquartered space agency said in a statement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;Further, a series of hot tests are planned to simulate various mission conditions as well as off-nominal conditions, it said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;The Service Module (SM) is part of the Gaganyaan Orbital module and is located below the crew module and remains connected to it until re-entry, ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) explained.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;The SM Propulsion System consists of a unified bipropellant system consisting of five numbers of 440 N thrust engines and 16 numbers of 100 N Reaction Control system (RCS) thrusters with MON-3 and MMH as Oxidizer and Fuel respectively.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;"The SDM, consisting of five numbers of 440 N engines and eight numbers of 100 N thrusters, was realised to qualify the propulsion system performance in ground. A new test facility is established at IPRC, Mahendragiri for testing the SDM", the statement added.&nbsp;</p> Sat Aug 28 21:00:56 IST 2021 diagnosis-of-blood-clotting-associated-with-astrazeneca-vaccine <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A group of researchers in the UK have defined criteria for the diagnosis of patients with blood clotting associated with the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccination.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The paper, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, looks at symptoms, signs and outcomes of the first 220 UK cases of vaccine-induced immune thrombocytopenia and thrombosis (VITT), a new thrombotic syndrome.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The research found that the overall mortality rate of those presenting to hospitals with definite or probable VITT was 23 per cent.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The chances of death increased significantly with lower platelet count and the greater the activation of the blood clotting system, increasing to 73 per cent in patients with a very low platelet count and intracranial haemorrhage following blood clots in the brain, a release by Sheffield University said on Tuesday.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some 85 per cent of the patients studied were under the age of 60 years, despite most of the elderly population having been vaccinated.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Almost all of those presenting to hospital experienced the condition between five and 30 days after their first vaccination with ChAdOx1 nCov-19 (AstraZeneca jab).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There was no difference in incidence between the sexes, and no prior medical condition was seen more often than expected for the general population.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Professor Mike Makris, co-author of the research from the University of Sheffield, said: This was a new serious disease that appeared for the first time in March 2021 and followed vaccination with the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. Its management was particularly challenging because some patients presented with severe thrombosis and bleeding at the same time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"We were relieved to observe that following the introduction of the age restrictions for vaccination with the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, we were no longer seeing new VITT cases. This has been almost entirely an issue associated with the first dose of this vaccine."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is important that we all get vaccinated against COVID-19 because the risks from the virus are much higher than the risks from the vaccine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dr Sue Pavord of Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Foundation Trust, who led the research, said: It's important to stress that this kind of reaction to the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is very rare. In those aged under 50, incidence is around one in 50,000 people who have received the vaccine. But our study shows that for those who develop VITT, it can be devastating: it often affects young, otherwise healthy vaccine recipients and has high mortality. It is particularly dangerous when the patient has a low platelet count and bleeding in the brain.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"VITT is a very new syndrome, and we are still working out what the most effective treatment is, but identifying prognostic markers has helped to determine what is the more effective way to manage the condition. For example, we have adapted our treatments for patients with the most severe disease, to include plasma exchange with some success."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dr Pavord added: "We have worked relentlessly to understand and manage this new condition, so that the hugely successful vaccine roll out can continue, which is the most viable solution to the global pandemic."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Researchers Drs Sue Pavord, Beverley Hunt, Marie Scully, Will Lester and Mike Makris, and Catherine Bagot (Scotland), conducted daily meetings during this period to support UK haematologists with patient diagnosis and management.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Wed Aug 25 16:35:53 IST 2021 climate-change-makes-european-flooding-more-likely <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Scientists say that global warming makes the kind of extreme rainfall that caused deadly flash flooding in western Europe last month more likely, though it remains unclear exactly how much.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At least 220 people died in Germany and Belgium on July 14-15 when swollen streams turned into raging rivers, sweeping away houses, roads and bridges, and causing billions of euros (dollars) in damage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A study released Tuesday by the World Weather Attribution group used historical records and computer simulations to examine how temperatures affected rainfall from the late 19th century to the present. While the study hasn't been assessed by independent scientists yet, its authors use widely accepted methods to conduct rapid assessments of specific weather events such as floods, droughts and heat waves.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It found that across a large strip of western Europe—stretching from the Netherlands to Switzerland—the amount of rainfall in a single day increased by 3% to 19% over the period, during which global temperatures increased by 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Experts say that for every 1 degree Celsius (1.8 F) the planet warms, the air can absorb 7% more water. When that water is released, it causes more extreme rainfall.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study, conducted by almost 40 researchers from six European countries and the United States, calculated that downpours of the kind that caused last month's floods are now 1.2 to 9 times more likely—and this will increase further if the planet continues to heat up.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Frank Kreienkamp of Germany's nation weather service DWD, who co-wrote the study, said the findings supported forecasts in a recent U.N. climate report.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Humans are clearly changing and warming up the Earth's climate,” he said. “And with this warming we are also seeing a change in weather extremes.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The authors said the damage and loss of life seen in this disaster highlight how nations need to do more to curb greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for such disasters.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“These floods have shown us that even developed countries are not safe from severe impacts of extreme weather that we have seen," said Friederike Otto, associate director of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University. "This is an urgent global challenge and we need to step up to it. The science is clear and has been for years.”&nbsp;</p> <p>(AP)</p> Tue Aug 24 07:36:51 IST 2021 oregon--once-a-virus-success-story--struggles-with-surge <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Oregon was once the poster child for limiting the spread of the coronavirus, after its Democratic governor imposed some of the nation's strictest safety measures, including mask mandates indoors and outdoors, limits on gatherings and an order closing restaurants.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But now the state is being hammered by the super-transmissible delta variant, and hospitals are getting stretched to the breaking point. The vast majority of hospitalized COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The intensive care unit at Salem Hospital in Oregon's capital city is completely full, with 19 of the 30 beds occupied last week by COVID-19 patients, the youngest only 20 years old. It's the same at a hospital in Roseburg, a former timber town in western Oregon. A COVID-19 patient died in its emergency room last week while waiting for an ICU bed to open, an event that was deeply distressing to the medical staff.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We need your help, grace and kindness,” the staff of CHI Health Medical Center said on Facebook. They are reeling “from the extraordinary onslaught of new cases and hospitalizations."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Oregon is among a handful of states, including Florida, Arkansas and Louisiana, that have more people hospitalized with COVID-19 than ever before.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“This is really a dire situation,” said Jeff Absalon, chief physician executive for St. Charles Health System in Bend. National Guard troops were deployed to the mountain town's hospital last week to assist medical workers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some 1,500 guard troops have been dispatched to hospitals around the state by Gov. Kate Brown, who warned of the “seriousness of this crisis for all Oregonians, especially those needing emergency and intensive care.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Oregon keeps breaking records for the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, reaching 937 on Monday. That's a 50 percent increase over last year's record, when vaccines were not yet available. More than 90 percent of Oregon's adult hospital and ICU beds are currently full.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And on Monday Legacy Health, a hospital system in Portland that includes six hospitals, said it was pausing all non-urgent surgical procedures for two weeks to create bed capacity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lisa, a nurse in Salem Hospital's ICU, told a small group of visiting journalists Friday that she is both frustrated and sad to see a record number of COVID-19 patients, even though vaccines are widely available. She spoke on the condition that her last name not be used, because the pandemic and how to fight it have become highly politicized.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We've been dealing with the second wave when we thought — I guess we hoped — it wouldn't come. And it's come. And it's harder and worse, way worse, than before," she said. Hours earlier, a COVID-19 patient died in the ICU.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As she spoke, a patient's heart monitor beeped. A mechanical ventilator occasionally added a higher-pitched tone. Fifteen of the COVID-19 patients were on ventilators. The hospital's wellness department, which normally recommends yoga and deep breathing for relaxation, recently set up a booth and filled it with dinner plates for a different kind of stress relief.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We put on safety glasses,” Lisa said. “And we took plates and we shattered them. And I kept going back. I kept going back, and they told me I had enough turns.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She said one advantage over last year's surge is that she's vaccinated, so she is not as scared of dying. Another improvement is that there are plenty of masks, gowns and other personal protective equipment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Other than the beeping monitors, the ICU was quiet. The COVID-19 patients are heavily sedated and behind closed doors. Outside their rooms stand poles draped with IV bags, the tubes running through a crack in the door so nurses can change the bags without exposing themselves to the virus.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Beds outside the unit can be upgraded to ICU-level care by adding monitors and life-support machines, said Martin Johnson, the ICU medical director. A rapid-response team composed of an ICU nurse and an ICU-level respiratory therapist provide backup support, he said, stressing that the hospital can still take in patients.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After conferring on each patient's medical status, ICU team members, who have spent a year and a half trying to keep COVID-19 patients alive, stand in a circle, sometimes holding hands, and try to come up with positive things to say.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Sometimes it's, Their oxygen needs are less, or their fever is gone,'” Johnson said. “At other times, it's The patient opened his eyes and squeezed my hand.'”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When there is no improvement, staff will instead express gratitude for each other or for the support of patients' relatives.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Oregon's early success against the virus may have helped fuel the delta variant's toll on the state, because the aggressive measures to curb the first surge left many population pockets with no immunity. And though some 72 percent of adults statewide are at least partially vaccinated, that number drops to less than 50 percent in 10 of Oregon's 36 counties.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Oregon's low immunity level, considering previous infection rates and the number of unvaccinated people, creates a high risk for new infections, said Renee Edwards, chief medical officer at Oregon Health &amp; Science University in Portland.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Compounding the problem: Oregon has, along with Washington state, the lowest per-capita supply of hospital beds in the nation. The two states each have only 1.7 beds per 1,000 residents, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit focusing on national health issues. South Dakota ranks first, with 4.8 beds per 1,000.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It will be a race against time to see if Oregon's health care system can withstand the current surge before it eases off. Oregon Health &amp; Science University predicts the peak will be Sept. 7.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(AP)</p> Wed Aug 25 16:43:27 IST 2021 explained-whats-horizon-workrooms-facebook-first-launch-under-metaverse <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>During an earnings call in July, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg waxed eloquent about metaverse, its ambitious new initiative. “In addition to being the next generation of the Internet, the metaverse is also going to be the next chapter for us as a company. And in coming years, I expect people will transition from seeing us primarily as a social media company to seeing us as a metaverse company,&quot; he had said.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He simply made it clear that the future of the company would go far beyond its current project of building a set of connected social apps and some hardware to support them. To be clear, Facebook would strive to build a maximalist, interconnected set of experiences straight out of sci-fi — a world known as the metaverse. Coined in <i>Snow Crash</i>, Neal Stephenson’s 1992 sci-fi novel, metaverse refers to a convergence of physical, augmented, and virtual reality in a shared online space.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Close on the heels with its announcements on metaverse, Facebook launched the open beta of Horizon Workrooms, the future of work from home and remote working, on Thursday. Horizon Workrooms is a VR workplace.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In plain language, Horizon Workrooms is Facebook's first major step toward Zuckerberg’s imagined metaverse, an all-encompassing alternate reality that blends the real world with digital imaginations and enhancements.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Horizon Workrooms is a virtual reality (VR) application for remote collaboration. Think of it as a 3-D virtual office you can access with an Oculus VR headset. The platform is based on the Horizon platform, which is still in very limited invitation-only beta testing.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The basic concept is that instead of video-conferencing with a webcam, participants use virtual reality gear – like Facebook’s own Oculus Quest 2 – to meet up in a VR workspace. Spatial audio processing renders your colleagues’ voices closer or farther away depending on how close you’re “seated” to one another in virtual space. It is made up of several components that replicate activities you would do in an actual office and allows for multiple participants to join via VR or video</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There’s also the usual VR added immersion factor. Workrooms supports the usual teleconference features – whiteboards, screen-sharing, chat, in addition to virtual desks. “Workrooms will not use your work conversations and materials to inform ads on Facebook,” the company says, and it also makes an effort to limit how much data leaves your office or home office in the first place.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another feature Workrooms offers is a layered, mixed reality that incorporates “pass through” video from the Quest 2’s sensors; participants can choose to look “through” the VR headset to see a grainy, grayscale image of what’s in the real world with them.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Facebook promises neither it nor third-party apps will be allowed to access, view, or use images and videos from your real-world environment to target ads. For those who don’t have their VR gear handy – or don’t want to use it – you can call into Workrooms with a standard webcam and microphone and show up on a virtual television screen within the workspace. Workrooms support up to 50 people on a call, 16 of whom can be in full VR.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Using features like mixed-reality desk and keyboard tracking, hand tracking, remote desktop streaming, video conferencing integration, spatial audio, and the new Oculus Avatars, we’ve created a different kind of productivity experience,&quot; the company said in a blog on Oculus.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It added that Facebook has been already using Horizon Workrooms internally for its meetings.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Horizon Workrooms signifies the evolution of VR as a collaboration tool in the workplace and becoming a vital part of communications technology. Additionally, a beta version of Workrooms was made available for download in the Oculus store.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Facebook’s strategy around VR and AR is not just about consumer products but embraces the concept of the metaverse as somewhere we both play and work.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Wed Aug 25 15:47:44 IST 2021