You may think I’m crazy, but I still find the coronavirus fascinating – apart from the fact that it’s a major health threat. I mean, we’re talking about a nanometer-sized virus, not visible at all to the human eye, that manages to mess up the whole world. And just when you think it’s under control now, it manages to escape through even the tiniest gap. We humans can still learn something from this adaptability.
A tangle of dots
The corona virus is and remains a quick-change artist. In the meantime, it’s already in the next costume again, has changed its appearance in order to better fool the army of the immune system into multiplying undetected in the human body. There is no longer a clear family tree of the virus. It is just a tangle of countless dots lined up one after the other. Each represents a newly discovered variant.
Incidentally, it is still unclear which of these could haunt Germany in winter. There is one highly-touted candidate, however: BQ.1, also an Omicron variant, misleadingly nicknamed Hellhound Variant. You can read what is now known about this Corona version in our “What’s coming” section.
Yours, Laura Beigel
The pandemic and us
The most important news, scientific findings and tips for life in a crisis – every second Thursday.
what was important
Two studies from the USA caused a stir last week. They came to the conclusion that the new adapted corona vaccines against the omicron subtypes BA.4/BA.5 are not significantly more effective than the vaccines previously used. But experts are cautious: “I would not overestimate both studies at the moment,” said Carsten Watzl, an immunologist at the TU Dortmund.
Finally, the investigations have some weaknesses: In both there were only a few participants, including hardly any risk persons such as the elderly or immunocompromised, for whom the Omicron boosters are primarily recommended. In addition, the tests were carried out three to five weeks after the booster vaccination. However, the formation and maturation of antibodies against new virus variants takes longer and could still improve, explained vaccine researcher Leif Erik Sander from the Berlin Charité. “So it remains to be seen how the immunological effect and ultimately also the protective effect of the adapted vaccines turns out.”
Two other studies have since been published. At least one of them was able to demonstrate enhanced neutralizing antibody responses from the omicron booster. However, also has this work Limitations. For example, the number of participants is again very small. The following applies to all studies: They still have to be checked by independent experts.
The European Medicines Agency is convinced that small children and babies could also benefit from a corona vaccination.
© Source: Fabian Sommer/dpa
The corona vaccines should soon also be available for children from the age of six months. On the advice of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the EU Commission has granted the relevant approval. But does it make sense to vaccinate toddlers and babies against Covid-19?
In the younger age groups, the risk of becoming seriously ill is generally lower than in adults. The virus variant Omicron has ensured that the disease burden has fallen again. Long Covid and the PIMS inflammatory syndrome, which can occur in younger people after a corona infection, have also become rarer. Jakob Maske, federal press spokesman for the professional association of paediatricians, advises waiting for the vaccination recommendation from the Standing Vaccination Commission. “At the moment we will not be vaccinated without a recommendation,” he told RND.
Inactivated corona vaccines can affect the success of artificial insemination. That suggests a new study from China. The researchers examined patients in a fertility clinic who were vaccinated with an inactivated corona vaccine 30 days or less or between 30 and 60 days before in vitro fertilization. They had significantly lower pregnancy rates than patients who underwent artificial insemination 91 days or more after the corona vaccination.
The research team concludes that fertility treatment should be started no earlier than 60 days after the corona vaccination. However, this only applies to vaccinations with inactivated vaccines such as the active ingredients from Sinopharm and Sinovac. mRNA vaccines like those from Biontech/Pfizer and Moderna, which have been vaccinated billions of times, have no negative consequences for artificial insemination, as international studies show.
Medical staff care for corona sufferers in an intensive care unit at the Sant’Orsola Malpighi hospital in Bergamo (Italy). Vaccination is no longer compulsory at the facility.
© Source: Massimo Paolone/dpa
Italy has abolished the corona vaccination requirement in hospitals and nursing homes. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on Monday that around 4,000 employees who were not vaccinated against Covid-19 could now work in the facilities again. Actually, the measure would have applied until the end of the year. However, employees must continue to wear masks.
Germany is also discussing an end to compulsory corona vaccination in the health and care sector. The measure officially expires on January 1, 2023. It is still unclear what will happen after that. But what has compulsory vaccination achieved so far? We asked around in the medical profession and in politics. You can read the resulting interim report here.
The European disease control agency ECDC is convinced: from mid-November or early December, the omicron variant BQ.1 will dominate the infection process in the EU. It is related to the currently dominant omicron subtypes BA.5 and is also referred to as the Hellhound variant.
However, her nickname is misleading. Because so far there is no evidence that BQ.1 makes you seriously ill again. On the other hand, it seems to be even more immune-volatile and transmissible than all previous virus variants, which suggests that it could trigger another wave of infections. It also seems to be accompanied by changed symptoms: Stephan Ott from the Rendsburg-Eckernförde district health department would be more likely to experience nausea, vomiting and diarrhea “Kiel News”.
There are still only a few BQ.1 cases in Germany. In the 41st calendar week (October 10th to 16th), the Robert Koch Institute recorded 81 detections of BQ.1 and 93 detections of BQ.1.1., a subline of the virus variant. Experts are optimistic that the vaccines will help against both versions of the corona virus.
Healthy additional knowledge
You can smell Parkinson’s. The smell is musky, reported Joy Milne. The Scottish woman has an extremely sensitive sense of smell, also known as hyperosmia. She first noticed the smell from her husband, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s years later. Milne had smelled the disease before any symptoms had even appeared. She now works with researchers who are developing new tests for the early detection of Parkinson’s.
One of these tests is a skin swab that provides information about the composition of the skin sebum. In the sebum of people with Parkinson’s disease, the researchers found a typical pattern of fats that seemed to change as the disease progressed. The composition could be responsible for the Parkinson’s smell. However, the test cannot be used yet. It’s still too imprecise for that.
Which makes life easier
There are many places in the kitchen where electricity can be saved.
© Source: Christin Klose/dpa-tmn
In times of the energy crisis, a lot of electricity can be saved, especially in the kitchen. For example, by not preheating the oven. Boiling water with the kettle instead of on the stovetop also throttles the electricity meter. My colleague Heidi Becker has compiled further tips. It also provides three delicious recipes that are suitable for energy-efficient cooking.
What else is important
People from Seoul commemorate those who died in the crowds that took place in the city on Halloween.
© Source: IMAGO/NurPhoto
On Halloween, there was a crowd in the South Korean capital of Seoul. According to the authorities, 156 people died and 157 were injured. “Fortunately, such disasters are rare, but the problem is that many have no sense that a crowd can be dangerous,” said Mehdi Moussaïd from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin in conversation with my colleague Ben Kendal. (+) It is therefore important to educate people about the dangers of large crowds. In the RND interview, Moussaïd gives tips on how to increase your chances of surviving in a crowd.
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