New York- Covid-19 infection during pregnancy leads to distinct immune changes in mothers and babies, according to a study.
The researchers found that Covid-19 dysregulates maternal immune response, with different immune signatures between mothers with asymptomatic and severe disease.
"We know that pregnancy increases maternal risk for Covid-19, but relatively little is known about the long-term consequences of in-utero exposure for infants," said Jae Jung, Director of the Cleveland Clinic Global Center for Pathogen & Human Health Research.
The study highlights "how important it will be for long-term follow-up after pregnancy to catch and hopefully prevent any unforeseen long-term health conditions related to prenatal infection,"Jung added.
For the study, published in the journal Cell Reports Medicine, the team involved 93 mothers with Covid-19 and 45 of their infant children who were exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
The research team studied immune profiles for more than 1,400 cytokines and other inflammatory proteins collected from peripheral and cord blood samples.
The researchers compared maternal blood specimens collected close to the initial detection of SARS-CoV-2 and at different time points throughout pregnancy and delivery.
They found that compared to mild or moderate disease, pregnant women with severe Covid-19 exhibited significantly more inflammation and elevated levels of a protein called IFNL1 (interferon lambda 1) and the receptor it binds with, IFNLR1, which plays a critical role in protecting against viruses.
"This increase in interferon lambda signaling may help explain why we see relatively little direct transmission of Covid-19 between mother and baby during the period right before or after birth -- what we call vertical transmission," explained Suan-Sin (Jolin) Foo, a research associate in Dr. Jung's lab and co-first author on the paper.
Despite the lack of evidence for robust vertical transmission, the researchers found that SARS-CoV-2 infection alters maternal immunity at delivery and that gestational SARS-CoV-2 exposure alters infant immunity at birth.
At delivery, the women exhibited dysregulated levels of several cytokines that are associated with pregnancy complications, including MMP7, MDK, ESM1, BGN and CD209.
Among infants, prenatal exposure induced the expression of cytokines related to T cells, which are a type of immune cell involved in recognising and attacking specific antigens.
The majority of births within the cohort were healthy, but there was a high incidence of some complications, including preeclampsia and foetal growth restriction.
More research will be necessary to understand the extent to which the observed immune changes are related to these clinical outcomes, the team said.
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While wearing double masks, which helps create a strong barrier against Covid-19 infection spread via airborne viral particles, has become the new normal, prolonged wearing of masks can develop hydration issues or other nagging breathing troubles, health experts said on Wednesday.
There has been enough evidence through the pandemic to show the importance of masks for effective pandemic control. At the start of the pandemic, it was seen that countries (primarily Asian nations) which enforced early masking had lesser mortality rates as compared to countries in the West where compulsory mask wearing was introduced quite late.
"Prolonged mask wearing can be associated with certain problems the most common being headaches, dehydration, acne and difficulty in breathing," Radhika Banka, Consultant Pulmonologist at P.D. Hinduja Hospital & MRC, Mumbai, told IANS.
Breathing issues are "usually seen in mouth breathers and in people with underlying respiratory problems such as COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)", she added.
According to Ravi Shekhar Jha, Additional Director and HOD, Pulmonology, at Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad, wearing double mask for long hours can also lead to dryness.
"It is because natural humidification of nasal mucosa gets impaired," Jha said.
There are various masks available in the market, including cloth masks, surgical masks and respirators such as N-95s.
The cloth mask has the least protection and the US Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a disposable surgical mask along with a cloth mask for additional protection. For surgical masks, the knotted technique (that is knotting the ear loops to provide better fit and prevent leakage from the sides) is recommended.
But with full vaccination rolled out in most countries, are double masks still required?
"Even after double dose vaccination, people can get breakthrough infections and can still be asymptomatic carriers and spread the infection. Hence masking is important even after double vaccination," Banka said.
The health experts stated that for people living in India, double masks become more important as vaccination of children has not yet begun in the country, and asymptomatic transmission is the highest from children. Added to this is a high population density, where social distancing is not practically possible in many cases.
Most of the countries which have made masks voluntary are those in the West with low population density, where social distancing is feasible. These countries have managed to vaccinate more than 80 per cent of their population with two doses. Also, masks in these countries are still recommended in enclosed spaces, public transports, healthcare facilities etc.
"With only 48 per cent of our population being vaccinated with one dose and 25 per cent being vaccinated with two doses, I do not think India can yet take the risk of removing the mandatory use of masks," Banka said.
However, according to Jha, "A single mask, if worn properly, is sufficient."
"People who wear double masks, have this tendency of adjusting their masks repeatedly due to breathing issues, and that way the whole purpose of wearing a mask is defeated," he said.
Jha added that for someone like a healthcare worker, who is in an area with high concentration of Covid viral droplets, an N-95 mask should be worn all the time. For other situations, a normal surgical mask (single) is sufficient.
"We need to ensure that masks are worn properly, with proper seal at nose. Improperly worn masks are more dangerous. It is also important to keep in mind that a mask alone may not protect. One needs to follow hand hygiene as well as maintain social distancing," Jha advised.
Although several countries have loosened mask restrictions citing vaccine efficacy, various studies and health experts have stressed on the need for continuing wearing masks, even after being fully vaccinated, including booster shots; and following other protective measures such as physical distancing and handwashing.
A recent study led by researchers from the Monash University and the University of Edinburgh analysed more than 30 studies from around the world and found a statistically significant 53 per cent reduction in the incidence of Covid with mask wearing, and 25 per cent reduction with physical distancing. Handwashing also indicated a substantial 53 per cent reduction in Covid incidence.
Most people are able to wear masks fairly well for a few hours, but if your job requires you to wear masks for a prolonged period, it is essential to take adequate breaks to hydrate oneself and prevent any skin problems, Banka suggested. (Agency)
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While most people have been affected by Covid-19 infections, some have naturally resisted the infectious disease, despite clearly being exposed to the virus.
According to researchers at the University College London, understanding this mechanism of resistance can lead to the development of universal vaccines against the debilitating virus, the BBC reported.
In the study published in the journal Nature, the team closely monitored hospital staff during the first wave of the pandemic -- including by taking regular blood samples.
The results showed one-in-10 had signs of being exposed, but never had symptoms, never tested positive, and never developed Covid-fighting antibodies in their blood.
This Covid-immunity likely came from the body learning how to fight viruses. Part of their immune system was able to get on top of the virus before it managed to take hold -- what's known as an "abortive infection", the team said.
Blood samples showed these people already had (as in before the pandemic) protective T-cells, which recognise and kill cells infected with Covid.
Their immune systems were already "poised" to fight the new disease, Dr Leo Swadling, one of the researchers was quoted as saying.
These T-cells were able to spot a different part of the virus than the bit most of the current vaccines train the immune system to find, the report said.
Vaccines are largely aimed at the spike protein, which covers the outer surface of the Covid virus. However, these rare T-cells were able to look inside the virus and find the proteins that are necessary for it to replicate.
"The healthcare workers that were able to control the virus before it was detectable were more likely to have these T-cells that recognise the internal machinery before the start of the pandemic," Swadling said.
These internal proteins are very similar in all related species of coronavirus, including the ones that are widespread and cause common cold symptoms. It means targeting these proteins with a vaccine could give some protection against all coronaviruses and new Covid variants.
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Moscow, Sep 5 (IANS) Russia has confirmed 18,780 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, taking the nationwide tally to 6,993,954, the official monitoring and response centre said on Saturday.Meanwhile, the nationwide death toll grew by 796 to 186,407, while the number of recoveries increased by 18,737 to 6,255,475, Xinhua news agency reported.During the same period, Moscow reported 1,549 new cases, taking the city's total to 1,573,813.According to media reports, more than 38.1 million Russians have been fully vaccinated so far. --IANSint/pgh
Beijing, Aug 16 (IANS) The Chinese mainland on Sunday reported 13 new locally transmitted Covid-19 cases, the National Health Commission said in its daily report on Monday.Among the local cases, six each were reported in Jiangsu and Henan, and one in Hunan, Xinhua news agency reported.Also reported were 38 new imported cases, including 11 in Yunnan, five each in Zhejiang, Shandong and Guangdong, four in Fujian, two each in Beijing and Shanghai, and one each in Tianjin, Shanxi, Liaoning and Heilongjiang.No new suspected cases or deaths related to Covid-19 were reported on Sunday, the commission added. --IANSint/pgh
Moscow, Aug 15 (IANS) Russia registered 22,144 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours as the Delta variant continues to spread, taking the nationwide tally to 6,579,212, the official monitoring and response centre said on Saturday.Russia registered a record number of 819 daily deaths, taking the nationwide death toll to 169,683, Xinhua news agency reported.The number of recoveries increased by 19,550 to 5,867,890.Moscow, Russia's worst-hit region overall, reported 2,317 new cases, taking its total to 1,540,205.On Friday, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin canceled rules that require employers in the capital to ensure at least 30 percent of unvaccinated staff work remotely. --IANSint/pgh