San Francisco, July 29 (IANS) Twitter has announced to shut its offices in New York and San Francisco in response to the new guidelines issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).The microblogging platform reopened the offices just two weeks ago on July 12."Twitter has made the decision to close our opened offices in New York and San Francisco as well as pause future office reopenings, effective immediately," a company spokesperson told TechCrunch on Wednesday."We're continuing to closely monitor local conditions and make necessary changes that prioritise the health and safety of our Tweeps," the spokesperson added.Barely three months after suggesting that vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks, indoors or out, the US CDC has now recommended people to resume wearing masks amid the surging delta variant.The new guidance advised that people who live in high-transmission communities wear masks in indoor public spaces, even if they've been vaccinated. It also recommended that vaccinated people with vulnerable household members, including young children and those who are immunocompromised, wear masks indoors in public spaces.Other tech companies also took cognizance of the new CDC guidelines.Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said the company will require employees to be vaccinated before returning to the office in the later part of the year.From Thursday, Apple will require customers and staff at most of its more than 270 US retail stores to wear masks even if they are vaccinated.Facebook and Amazon have also confirmed similar policies around vaccination and wearing masks.Facebook will require its US employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19 when they return to the office."As our offices reopen, we will be requiring anyone coming to work at any of our US campuses to be vaccinated," Facebook's vice president of people Lori Goler told The Verge.Netflix will also require the casts and some crew on its productions in the US to be vaccinated against Covid-19.--IANSna/dpb
<br>"Modern technology companies have enabled misinformation to poison our information environment with little accountability to their users", Murthy said at a White House briefing on Thursday. "We are asking them to step up, we can't wait longer for them to take aggressive action."Murthy on Thursday released a 22-page advisory highlighting a string of false claims that have driven people away from vaccines at a time when the pace of Covid-19 vaccinations has slowed throughout the US.Murthy's advisory lists recommendations across eight stakeholder groups. It calls on teachers to focus on media literacy, it asks journalists to debunk health misinformation without spreading it further. Murthy asks doctors to "listen with empathy, and when possible, correct misinformation in personalized ways.""Misinformation poses an imminent and insidious threat to our nation's health," Murthy said. "We must confront misinformation as a nation. Lives are depending on it."Striking a personal note, Murthy said he is "concerned" as a father of two young children who aren't yet eligible for the vaccine. Murthy said he has lost 10 family members to Covid-19 and wishes "each and every day" that they had had the opportunity to get vaccinated.Murthy is calling for a national effort across tech companies, health care workers, journalists and everyday Americans to do more to address an "urgent threat" to public health.The US has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world and yet, new Covid-19 infections have doubled over the past two weeks. CNN reported on Thursday that cases are rising in 47 states.ALos Angeles County, the most populous county in the US, reported its fifth straight day this week of more than 1,000 new cases.The US continues to have the world's highest Covid-19 toll. The virus has killed more than 608,000 in this country alone since it first arrived on the West Coast in January 2020.--IANS<br>nik/pgh<br>
Tokyo, Water-jet nozzles in electric toilets may be reservoirs for multidrug-resistant superbugs, increasing the risk of dangerous germ transmission among people, according to a new research.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa or P aeruginosa naturally occurs in soil and freshwater, but it can also thrive on moist surfaces, leading to opportunistic infections in weakened and ill patients that could develop into life-threatening conditions like pneumonia or sepsis.
Because of the overuse of antibiotics, these bacteria have evolved the ability to withstand attempts to treat infections with drugs that once killed them. And infections caused by multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa (MDRP) bacteria are becoming more common in both the community and hospitals. Mortality rates among people infected with these superbug strains are double those of people infected with strains that are susceptible to treatment.
"Our findings imply that multidrug-resistant P aeruginosa bacteria were being transmitted within the patient community, and critically that the infection may be spread within hospitals via contaminated electric toilet nozzles," said lead researcher Dr Itaru Nakamura from Tokyo Medical University Hospital in Japan.
"With good hospital hygiene, which includes handwashing and environmental cleaning, we can control the spread of these pathogens, especially within settings where patients' immune systems are compromised," Nakamura added.
In this study, the team investigated the presence of multidrug-resistant bacteria recovered from the waterjet-nozzles of electric toilets in a haematology ward of Tokyo Medical University Hospital between September 2020 and January 2021.
The team made more than 10 visits to take samples from water-jet nozzles in electric toilets used by three patients with MDRP infections, including two patients with severe sepsis. MDRP strains were defined as those with resistance to at least two antibiotics such as imipenem, meropenem, amikacin and ciprofloxacin.
Using genetic fingerprinting techniques, they looked to see whether the strains of MDRP from the three infected patients were the same as the environmental MDRP strain sampled from the toilet nozzles. They found the samples matched, with strain 'ST235' dominating in all the samples -- suggesting that transfers to and from patients were happening.
The findings were presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases held online this year. (IANS)
Sydney, June 17 (IANS) Australian computer scientists have developed a novel Artificial Intelligence-based model that can hear the effects of Covid-19 in the sound of a forced cough, even when people are asymptomatic, an advance that can pave the way for detecting the infectious disease via diagnostic mobile phone apps.During the pandemic, many crowdsourcing platforms have been designed to gather respiratory sound audios from both healthy and Covid-19 positive groups for research purposes.A team of researchers from RMIT University accessed datasets from two of these platforms -- Covid-19 Sounds App and COSWARA -- to train the algorithm using contrastive self-supervised learning, a method by which a system works independently to encode what makes two things similar or different.With further development, their algorithm could power a diagnostic mobile phone app, said lead author Hao Xue, Research Fellow in RMIT's School of Computing Technologies."We've overcome a major hurdle in the development of a reliable, easily-accessible and contactless preliminary diagnosis tool for Covid-19," said Xue, Research Fellow in RMIT's School of Computing Technologies."This could have significant benefit in slowing the spread of the virus by those who have no obvious symptoms. A mobile app that can give you peace of mind during community outbreaks or prompt you to seek a Covid test -- that's the kind of innovative tool we need to better manage this pandemic," Xue added.Xue said the method they developed could also be extended for other respiratory diseases like tuberculosis.While this is not the first Covid cough classification algorithm to be developed, the RMIT model outperforms existing approaches.According to co-author Professor Flora Salim, previous attempts to develop this type of technology, like those at MIT and Cambridge, relied on huge amounts of meticulously-labeled data to train the AI system."The annotation of respiratory sounds requires specific knowledge from experts, making it expensive and time-consuming, and involves handling sensitive health information," she said.Moreover, cough samples from one hospital or one region to train the algorithm also limits its performance outside that setting."What's most exciting about our work is we have overcome this problem by developing a method to train the algorithm using unlabelled cough sound data. This can be acquired relatively easily and at a larger scale from different countries, genders and ages," Salim noted.--IANSrvt/vd
Washington, June 14 (IANS) US biotech company Vaxxinity is developing a novel coronavirus vaccine using synthetic proteins, which can also help treat neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, the media reported.The company's vaccine against Covid-19, known as UB-612, is currently in phase 2 trials. It uses the traditional recombinant protein coronavirus vaccine technology, but instead of growing proteins in large vats, Vaxxinity's proteins are made using chemicals.These so-called synthetic peptides mimic the spike protein, as other vaccines do, but also other proteins from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, that causes Covid-19, Financial Times reported on Sunday.The company uses a technique that it is also applying to its "immunotherapeutic" vaccines that "train the body to produce its own antibodies against internal targets of disease"."Some of the most successful drugs today are biologics drugs, but they are very expensive and often rather inconvenient to use. Our vision is to disrupt that class of drugs by next-tier, next-generation vaccines," Mei Mei Hu, chief executive of Vaxxinity, was quoted as saying to FT."Commercialising Covid means not only proving one aspect, one modality of our platform for infectious diseases, but also being able to fuel the development of other programmes off that technology platform," Hu said.Vaxxinity's Alzheimer's drug encourages the body to clear misfolded proteins called amyloid plaques from the brain, because genetic analysis has linked them to symptoms of the disease.As the phase 2 trial was not large enough to draw statistically valid conclusions, the company is moving on to a larger study, Hu said. Nearly 35 million people suffer from the cognitive illness worldwide, and almost all existing drugs to combat the condition only treat its symptoms.An injectable monoclonal antibody treatment developed by Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson was stopped in 2012 after a small proportion of cases developed inflammation in the brain in clinical trials. Vaxxinity said it has addressed this problem and the product is now safe and consistent, the report said.UB-612 is comparatively cheap and the vaccine does not need to be kept in deep freeze. Vaxxinity expects to sell the shot primarily to lower-income countries. However, it says that it has also had interest from developed markets, including the EU.While the shot is not yet approved, Vaxxinity already has confirmed demand for 140 million doses, the report said.--IANSrvt/in
New York, (IANS) Vitamin D deficiency strongly exaggerates the craving for and effects of opioids, potentially increasing the risk for dependence and addiction, a new study suggests.
The findings suggest that addressing the common problem of vitamin D deficiency with inexpensive supplements could play a part in combating the ongoing scourge of opioid addiction.
"Our results suggest that we may have an opportunity in the public health arena to influence the opioid epidemic," said researcher David E. Fisher from the Massachusetts General Hospital.
For the study, published in the journal Science Advances, the research team addressed the question from dual perspectives.
In one arm of the study, they compared normal laboratory mice with mice that were deficient in vitamin D (either through special breeding or by removing vitamin D from their diets).
Importantly, when the mice were conditioned with modest doses of morphine, those deficient in vitamin D continued seeking out the drug, behaviour that was less common among the normal mice.
When morphine was withdrawn, the mice with low vitamin D levels were far more likely to develop withdrawal symptoms.
The study also found that morphine worked more effectively as a pain reliever in mice with vitamin D deficiency.
The lab data suggesting that vitamin D deficiency increases addictive behaviour was supported by several accompanying analyses of human health records.
One showed that patients with modestly low vitamin D levels were 50 per cent more likely than others with normal levels to use opioids, while patients who had severe vitamin D deficiency were 90 per cent more likely.
Another analysis found that patients diagnosed with opioid use disorder (OUD) were more likely than others to be deficient in vitamin D.
Back in the lab, one of the study's other critical findings could have significant implications, said Fisher.
"When we corrected vitamin D levels in the deficient mice, their opioid responses reversed and returned to normal," he said.
In humans, vitamin D deficiency is widespread, but is safely and easily treated with low-cost dietary supplements, notes Fisher.