Wind instruments and COVID, nasal vaccines and charities


TGA officially approves rapid antigenic testing

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has officially approved three rapid antigen self-tests for COVID-19.

Although not as accurate as standard PCR tests, these tests give results in 20 minutes and can be performed by a layperson. (Cosmos has an explanation of rapid antigen testing here.)

They have already been used in some care and senior care facilities, but this approval indicates that starting November 1, people can test themselves for COVID in private homes.

The instructions for each test stress that “a positive result means it is very likely that you have COVID-19”, but all positive results should be followed by PCR testing. Likewise, anyone who tests negative but exhibits symptoms of COVID-19 should continue to self-isolate and have another test if symptoms do not improve.

Needle-free vaccines against COVID-19?

Several research teams and companies are working on intranasal vaccines for COVID-19, with promising results.

Unlike currently available COVID vaccines, which are given by intramuscular injection, intranasal vaccines would be given as a nasal spray.

The mechanism of intranasal delivery is said to have some key advantages.

First, the intranasal approach targets one of the sites where the SARS CoV-2 virus likes to hang out and spread from person to person – the upper respiratory tract. Current COVID vaccines produce what is called a systemic (whole-body) immune response, which is very effective in preventing people who are vaccinated from getting serious illness.

However, studies indicate that current vaccines are not as effective in reducing the viral load in the nose, which means that people who are vaccinated can still transmit the virus. An intranasal vaccine that supports an immune response in the mucous tissue of the nose may be more effective at keeping these viral loads low and reducing the risk of transmission.

“It’s actually very difficult to protect the upper respiratory tract with these systemic vaccines,” says Vincent Munster of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at Rocky Mountain Laboratories.

In addition, intranasal vaccines will likely be easier to administer. They require less specialized training to administer compared to injected vaccines, and would be more acceptable to children and people afraid of needles.

“I feel a real sense of urgency to develop this vaccine for children,” said Martin Moore, CEO of Meissa Vaccines and father of a nine-year-old child affected by school closures linked to the pandemic. Meissa recently launched a Phase 1 trial of an intranasal COVID vaccine.

Seniors more likely to walk away and donate during pandemic

A paper in Natural aging found that older people were more likely to behave in a ‘prosocial’ manner (taking actions that benefit others) on two measures: social distancing during COVID-19 and willingness to donate to charities .

The researchers, based at the University of Birmingham in the UK, looked at data from a global survey of 46,576 people from 67 different countries. The survey was completed in April and May 2020.

Participants answered several questions about their social distancing behavior. They were also asked to imagine donating money to a hypothetical charity linked to COVID-19.

“Participants were asked to imagine that they received a sum of money (the median daily wage in their country) and what percentage they would: keep, donate to a national charity; and donate to an international charity, ”the researchers explain in their article.

Although overall less willing to donate, young people were more likely to donate to international charities, while older people were inclined to the local option. Interestingly, those who considered themselves wealthier said they would give a smaller proportion of their money.

Take COVID-safe music lessons

Musicians and engineers have joined in research to help understand and mitigate the risks of transmitting COVID through singing or playing musical instruments. It turns out that masking seems to work just as well for musical instruments as it does for human faces.

One of the main lessons since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the importance of aerosol transmission – the risk of infection from viral particles in the air created when people sing, speak, or breathe out.

The risk from aerosols was grimly illustrated by infamous super-diffusion events, such as a choir rehearsal held in the United States in March 2020. About 85% of participants are thought to be infected during the rehearsal. Sadly, three were hospitalized and two died from COVID.

Like vocals, playing woodwinds and brass requires exhaling a lot of air and creating aerosols. Thus, the researchers set themselves the task of scientifically measuring the formation and dynamics of aerosols while playing music.

“We knew singing was risky because there were confirmed outbreaks, but we didn’t know anything about musical instruments,” said Tehya Stockman, a graduate student at the University of Colorado and lead author of the recent study.

After measuring the aerosols, the research team then tested several ways to mitigate their spread. Based on their findings, they came up with a list of affordable strategies to make music safer against COVID. Recommendations include adding masks or filters to brass and woodwinds, maintaining a social distance between performers and the audience, limiting the duration of performances, and performing outdoors when possible.

“If we can get used to using these mitigation measures, we can continue to operate at very low risk,” said Mark Spede, national president of the College Band Directors National Association.

The data is in: COVID-19’s catastrophic run-down is bad for your mood

According to new research, it only takes a few minutes to consume negative news related to COVID to bring you down.

British and Canadian researchers have looked at the effect of “doom-scrolling” – which they define as “being caught in a never-ending cycle of negative news” – on mental health. Not all COVID news is negative, however – the pandemic has also inspired acts of solidarity and kindness.

In the study, participants were exposed to negative or positive COVID-related news, or no news, on Twitter or YouTube. They then completed questionnaires measuring their positive and negative affect (mood) and optimism.

The study found that 2-4 minutes of consuming negative COVID information resulted in an immediate and significant reduction in the positive effect on both platforms, as well as reduced optimism on YouTube.

On the other hand, consuming positive news about COVID does not appear to negatively affect participants. Researchers have suggested that, rather than having to shield ourselves from all the new COVIDs, the ‘kindness scroll’ could help balance the catastrophic scroll when it comes to our mental health.

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