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CORONA VIRUS

Rwanda Uses Trained Dogs To Detect Covid-19 Patients

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Passengers arriving at Kigali International Airport in Rwanda can now be tested for COVID-19 without inserting swabs into their nose or throat to collect lab samples and wait for minutes to receive results.

Instead, the airport is using trained sniffer dogs to detect Covid-19 by smelling sweat samples taken from passengers with just cotton patches. The collected samples are then taken to the sniffing cabin set up in a separate area.

With an accuracy close to that of a PCR test in about one minute, a dog quickly detects which of the samples in the cabins has COVID-19.

This initiative was launched on Friday June 4, at Kigali International Airport as a three-month pilot with five dogs acquired from Police Dogs Centre Holland B.V, which supplies working dogs and related services to police, customs and security companies all over the world.

Rwanda says sniffer dogs will reduce the time and cost of testing at the Kigali International Airport. The Rwanda Biomedical Center says it has plan to scale up the use of sniffer dogs at mass gatherings based on the outcomes of this pilot phase, a partnership between Rwanda and Germany.

Germany supplied the Detection Dog Training System from Kynoscience, a German firm that also trained the dog handlers from the Canine Brigade of the Rwanda National Police.

It is believed that dogs can distinguish between more than a million different smells, they can detect even the finest traces of scent, and just a few molecules are enough for them to smell a substance.

In July 2020, researchers from Germany trained army sniffer dogs to distinguish between samples of fluids from patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 and healthy donors.

In this particular study, the researchers under the leadership of Dr. Esther Schalke, a vet at Germany’s armed forces school for service dogs and Prof. Holger Volk, Department Chair for Small Animal Diseases of Hanover’s University of Veterinary Medicine trained eight Bundeswehr (German Army) detection dogs over the period of a week to detect the saliva and secretions from the lungs and windpipe of patients who had been infected with SARS-CoV-2.

The 1st Secretary of the Germany Embassy in Rwanda, Renate Charlotte Lehner, said that Rwanda reach out to Germany to try the dogs in the effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus and create a solid foundation for future studies to investigate what the dogs smell and whether they can also be used to differentiate between different times of illness or clinical phenotypes.

The dog expert, Hans Ebbers, who is also CEO of Kynoscience, says there is no special breed but certain dogs are more talented.

CORONA VIRUS

‘Most People Don’t Need Covid Vaccine Booster’, Scientists Say

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Covid-19 vaccines work so well that most people don’t yet need a booster, an all-star panel of scientists from around the world said in a review that’s likely to fuel debate over whether to use them.

Governments would be better served to focus on immunizing the unvaccinated and to wait for more data on which boosters would be most effective and at what doses, the authors, who included two prominent U.S. Food and Drug Administration experts, argued in the medical journal The Lancet.

They based their assessment on a wide range of real-world observational studies as well as data from clinical trials.

“None of the studies has provided credible evidence of substantially declining protection against severe disease,” the authors wrote. There could also be additional side-effect risks if boosters are introduced too soon or too broadly, they said.

Most countries with ample vaccine supplies are debating whether to allocate doses for booster shots to prop up immunity and potentially help stop the spread of the more infectious delta variant.

The U.S. plans to roll out booster shots starting Sept. 20, though the proposal still needs sign-off from the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Scientists are by no means unanimous on the topic of boosters. Even a small reduction in efficacy against the spread of Covid can strain a health-care system, and “there is therefore no ‘one size fits all’ approach,” said Azra Ghani, chair in infectious disease epidemiology at Imperial College London, who wasn’t involved with the review.

Shares of vaccine makers fell after the review was published. BioNTech SE’s American depositary receipts fell as much as 7.7%, the biggest intraday decline in almost a month, while partner Pfizer Inc. dropped as much as 2.5%. Moderna Inc. also lost as much as 7.7% as of 11:12 a.m. in New York, and AstraZeneca Plc. slipped as much as 1.2% in London.

The analysis is a blow to President Joe Biden, who announced his booster program in August after an extraordinary joint statement from his top medical advisers, including CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, Anthony Fauci, the longtime head of National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock.

Biden’s advisers said then that the data supported the need for boosters and that they would begin preparing for them, noting that regulators would still need to sign off on the plan.

Some experts have questioned the need for the extra shots, while the World Health Organization has called for a moratorium on them until more people outside of rich countries can get protection.

A U.K. government advisory panel is set to soon recommend whether to move forward with broad use of a third vaccine dose.

Britain is already offering boosters to those with severely weakened immune systems, as are many European Union countries. The European Medicines Agency is also reviewing booster data from Pfizer and BioNTech, and from Moderna Inc.

Among the scientists behind the Lancet article were Marion Gruber, who leads the FDA’s Office of Vaccines Research and Review, and her deputy Philip Krause. Both have said they would step down later this year.

Gruber and Krause were two of a group of FDA staff who last year pushed back against pressure by the Trump administration to speed up the authorization of the Covid vaccines, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The WHO’s Soumya Swaminathan, Ana-Maria Henao-Restrepo and Mike Ryan also worked on the review.

The WHO said it would make better public-health sense to focus on immunizing those who haven’t gotten any shots yet — whether because of anti-vaccine sentiment in countries with ample reserves, or because they live in places with little access to shots.

“Even if boosting were eventually shown to decrease the medium-term risk of serious disease, current vaccine supplies could save more lives if used in previously unvaccinated populations,” the authors wrote.

Across the observational studies done so far, vaccination has shown an average of 95% effectiveness against severe disease, including against more infectious variants such as delta, and more than 80% effective at preventing any infection, the review found.

Even in countries with high vaccination rates, it’s unvaccinated people who are driving transmission of the virus — and who are at highest risk of becoming very ill, the study found.

 

Bloomberg

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CORONA VIRUS

President Tshisekedi Finally Takes Covid-19 Vaccine Jab

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Until DRC lost 1,068 citizens and 56,096 recorded cases to the deadly Covid-19 since its emergence in the country last year, President Félix Tshisekedi had not taken a vaccine jab.

On Sunday, Tshisekedi rolled up his sleeve on his left hand to allow a physician sink into his flesh a syringe containing the covid-19 vaccine.

Meanwhile, on the same occassion on Sunday, the DRC First Lady Denise Nyakeru also took her first Covid-19 vaccine before cameras.

However, the name of the vaccine was not released, but the Presidential Press noted that immediately after being vaccinated, Tshisekedi reiterated his support for the vaccination.

“The vaccine remains the best-indicated solution for the time being in the face of COVID-19,” President Tshisekedi said after taking his first dose at the UA city presidential clinic in Kinshasa.

The presidential couple thus launched the second phase of the national anti-Covid19 vaccination campaign.

Dr Roger Kamba, Special Advisor of the PR in charge of universal health coverage, confirmed the presence in the DRC of more than 250,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine as well as the imminent arrival of several thousand doses of the Johnson & Johnson, Astra vaccines. zeneca and Pfizer.

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CORONA VIRUS

Study Shows Moderna Creates Twice as Many Antibodies as Pfizer

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Moderna Inc.’s Covid vaccine generated more than double the antibodies of a similar shot made by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE in research directly comparing immune responses to the inoculations.

A study of almost 2,500 workers at a major Belgium hospital system found antibody levels among individuals who hadn’t been infected with the coronavirus before getting two doses of the Moderna vaccine averaged 2,881 units per milliliter, compared with 1,108 units/mL in an equivalent group who got two jabs of the Pfizer shot.

The results, published Monday in a letter to the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggested the differences might be explained by the:

higher amount of active ingredient in the Moderna vaccine — 100 micrograms, versus 30 micrograms in Pfizer-BioNTech

longer interval between doses of the Moderna vaccine — four weeks, versus three weeks for Pfizer-BioNTech

Moderna’s vaccine was associated with a two-fold risk reduction against breakthrough SARS-CoV-2 infections compared to Pfizer’s in a review of people in the Mayo Clinic Health System in the U.S. from January to July.

The results were reported in a separate study released ahead of publication and peer review on Aug. 9.

 

Bloomberg

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