Testing in Karachi doubled as coronavirus infects 653 more in Pakistan

NIH data shows surge in number of critical patients, active cases: Study looks at pneumococcal carriage among over 60's during Covid pandemic

By: News Desk
Published: 09:55 AM, 5 Jul, 2022
Pakistan coronavirus
Caption: A health worker taking a swab sample from a child to be tested for the Covid-19 coronavirus in Sixian county, Suzhou city, in China's eastern Anhui province.–AFP
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Pakistan has reported another 653 coronavirus infections during the last 24 hours (Monday) with the authorities doubling the everyday testing in the port city of Karachi where the positivity ration has topped 20 percent, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.

There was no death during the last 24 hours although the number of critical patients has increased to 162, showed the figures released by the statistics issued by the National Institute of Health Pakistan on Tuesday morning.

As per the NIH data, the death toll in Pakistan remained at 30,403 whereas the number of total infections now stood at 1,539,275 after adding the fresh 653 cases.

During the last 24 hours (Monday), 18,950 tests were conducted throughout Pakistan whereas the positivity ratio stood at 3.45 percent. The number of patients in critical care was recorded at 162.

During the last 24 hours (Monday), another 113 patients recovered from the Covid-19 in Pakistan and the number of total recoveries now stood at 1,500,529. As of Tuesday, the total count of active cases in the country was recorded at 8,343.

As many as 583,084 coronavirus cases have so far been confirmed in Sindh, 508,920 in Punjab, 220,132 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 136,381 in Islamabad, 35,582 in Balochistan, 43,413 in Azad Kashmir and 11,763 in Gilgit-Baltistan.

As many as 13,574 individuals have lost their lives to the pandemic in Punjab so far, 8,118 in Sindh, 6,324 in KP, 1,026 in Islamabad, 792 in Azad Kashmir, 378 in Balochistan and 191 in Gilgit Baltistan.

 

Study looks at pneumococcal carriage among over 60's

In a recent article, researchers in the United States analyzed the pneumococcal carriage in older adults in the Greater New Haven Area, United States (US), during the implementation of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) mitigation strategies.

Background 

The COVID-19 mitigation strategies significantly impacted other infectious disease incidences. Major respiratory viruses, such as respiratory syncytial virus, human metapneumovirus, and influenza, largely vanished as disease-causing agents in the Northern Hemisphere during the winter of 2020–21. All age categories experienced a substantial fall in invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) in the 2020 spring. It did not reach almost normal levels again until the 2021 spring/summer.

There was a significant rate of pneumococcus transmission across children in the initial year of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic. Yet, social distancing and other COVID-19 mitigation approaches might have decreased the frequency of interaction and pneumococcal transmission from children to adults.

The rapid decline in adult pneumococcal illness after vaccinating children with the pneumococcal conjugate vaccines made it clear that children represent a significant source of pneumococcus exposure for adults. Nevertheless, the prevalence of pneumococcus across older adults during this time is uncertain.

About the study

In the present study, the researchers at Yale University and Pfizer Inc hypothesized that some of the decreases in IPD seen in adult populations may have resulted from diminished contact between adults and children during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Therefore, the team assessed the pneumococcal carriage rates of persons aged 60 years or older who were enrolled in an active longitudinal pneumococcal carriage research and lived in the community in the US in the years 2020–21. Study objectives included measuring and identifying pneumococcal carriage rates among older adults and assessing household transmission among cohabiting older adults.

From October 2020 to August 2021, the authors recruited couples residing in the Greater New Haven Area who were both 60 years or older and without residents under 60 years in their households. The participation of the household pair in the study was postponed by around four weeks if they had signs of a respiratory infection at the time of registering, received a pneumococcal vaccination, or had recently taken antibiotics during the previous four weeks. No subjects were excluded from the investigation based on comorbidity status.

For 10 weeks, questionnaires about social activities, interactions, and health history were collected every two weeks, along with saliva samples. Additionally, all spit samples were checked for SARS-CoV-2 ribonucleic acid (RNA) utilizing the extraction-free Saliva Direct test. 

After culture enrichment, collected deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) was examined for the pneumococcus-specific sequences: lytA, and piaB, employing quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). Study volunteers were regarded positive for pneumococcal carriage when cycle threshold (Ct)-values for piaB were <40.

Results 

The authors noted that in the current research, older individuals living in the community remained pneumococcus-positive at rates comparable with other pre-pandemic experiments of elderly persons that used similar molecular techniques. This was contrary to the significant drop in reported IPD rates among adults in the first winter season of the COVID-19 pandemic, i.e., 2020–21. Moreover, the team mentioned that the current investigation was performed when SARS-CoV-2 pandemic-related transmission mitigation techniques were in effect.

The study results indicated that the scientists procured 567 saliva samples from 95 adults aged 60 years or older from one singleton and 47 household pairs. Among these samples, 7.1% were pneumococcus-positive containing either just piaB (six samples) or both lytA and piaB (34 samples), comprising 22/95, or 23.2%, of the individuals and 16/48, or 33.3%, of the households during the 10-week long trial. 

Study volunteers attended a few social gatherings during this time. Many participants, nevertheless, still had frequent interactions with children. People who regularly interacted with two to 9-year-olds, i.e., preschool and school-aged children, had a greater rate of pneumococcus carriage, i.e., 15.9% versus 5.4%.

Conclusions 

According to the study findings, the Greater New Haven Area's older adults often had pneumococcus infections in the 10-week study period, despite SARS-CoV-2-linked disruptions. Those who interacted with school-aged children notably had a higher prevalence, but this group was not the only ones affected.

The researchers discovered little indication of the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic mitigation efforts on rates of pneumococcal carriage in older individuals in the first research period of an ongoing investigation examining rates of pneumococcal carriage in Greater New Haven. The study findings imply that school-aged children were the most likely source of the pneumococcus that persisted in most study participants during the time of decreased social contact.

The high frequency of the non-specific signal found in the commonly used lytA qPCR test highlights the significance of focusing on several gene targets for accurate and precise pneumococcus detection in oral samples. Additional research using molecular serotyping of the procured samples will shed more light on this observation and the pneumococcal transmission patterns in households with only people over 60 years.

1.7 million locked down in China's Anhui province

China placed 1.7 million people under lockdown in central Anhui province, where authorities reported nearly 300 new cases Monday in the latest of a string of outbreaks testing Beijing's no-tolerance approach to Covid-19.

The country is the last major economy wedded to a zero-Covid strategy, responding to all cases with strict isolation orders and tough testing campaigns.

The outbreak in Anhui -- where officials first found hundreds of cases last week -- comes as the Chinese economy begins to rebound from a months-long lockdown in Shanghai and disruptive Covid restrictions in the capital Beijing.

Two counties in the province -- Sixian and Lingbi -- announced lockdowns last week, with more than 1.7 million residents only permitted to leave their homes if they are getting tested.

Footage from state broadcaster CCTV showed empty streets in Sixian over the weekend and people lining up for their sixth round of mass testing in recent days. 

The province reported 287 new infections on Monday, including 258 people who had no symptoms, according to China's National Health Commission, bringing the total cases found to just over 1,000. 

Provincial governor Wang Qingxian urged local authorities to "seize every minute and earnestly implement quick screening" as well as rapid quarantine and reporting of cases, in a statement published by the Anhui government on Monday.

Neighbouring Jiangsu province also reported 56 new local infections across four cities on Monday.

Photos shared widely online, verified by AFP Fact Check, showed hundreds of people in hazmat suits lining up in the city of Wuxi in Jiangsu, appearing to be waiting for buses to quarantine facilities.

Some of the shots showed babies in blue protective clothing carried by people with suitcases waiting outside a hospital in sweltering heat.

Temperatures in Wuxi have recently reached up to 36 degrees Celsius (97 degrees Fahrenheit).

While cases remain low relative to China's vast population, officials insist the zero-Covid policy is necessary to prevent a healthcare calamity, pointing to unevenly distributed medical resources and low vaccination rates among the elderly.

But the strategy has hammered the world's second-largest economy and heavy-handed enforcement has triggered rare protests in the tightly controlled country.

China's international isolation has also prompted some foreign businesses and families with the financial means to make exit plans.

National authorities announced a reduced quarantine requirement for international arrivals last month, rallying most Asian markets as investors hoped the move could provide a boost for Beijing's Covid-slumped economy.

But health official Lei Zhenglong has insisted the new quarantine policy was "absolutely not a loosening of (Covid) prevention and control".

With inputs from AFP.