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Covid-19: a new variant called « Mu » monitored by the WHO

PANDEMIC – The health institution is keeping an eye on this new strain of Covid-19 which presents mutations that could indicate a risk of « immune escape ».

With each new variant, the same worry. The World Health Organization (WHO) is monitoring a new strain of the coronavirus, dubbed « Mu », which was first detected in Colombia in January. This is what the institution indicated on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday. Its code name: B.1.621. For now, this variant has been classified as « variant to follow, » said the WHO in its weekly epidemiological bulletin on the evolution of the pandemic. But what do we know about this new mutation? 

The WHO specifies that the variant has mutations that could indicate a risk of  » immune escape » – in other words resistance to vaccines. However, the Geneva-based institution stresses that further studies are needed to better understand its characteristics. All viruses, including the SARS-CoV-2 responsible for Covid-19, mutate over time. Note that most mutations have little or no effect on the properties of the virus.

However, certain mutations can affect the properties of the virus and influence, for example, how easily it spreads, the severity of the disease it causes, or the effectiveness of vaccines, drugs, diagnostic tools or other social and public health measures.

The « Mu » variant detected in Latin America and Europe

The « Mu » variant was first recorded in Colombia in January. It has since been reported in other South American countries and in Europe. « Although the global prevalence of the Mu variant among sequenced cases has declined and is currently less than 0.1%, its prevalence in Colombia (39%) and Ecuador (13%) has steadily increased, » the WHO explained. .

The appearance, at the end of 2020, of variants that presented an increased risk to global public health led the WHO to characterize variants to be monitored and variants of concern, in order to prioritize surveillance and research activities at the global level. 

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Jeff Bezos is no longer the richest man in the world

Bernard Arnault in 2017. Image Jérémy Barande (CC BY-SA).

Cock-a-doodle Doo ! Jeff Bezos is no longer the richest man in the world, he was overtaken by Bernard Arnault. The latter is the majority shareholder and CEO of the LVMH group, which owns brands such as Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Tag Heuer , Sephora and Tiffany. LVMH shares have climbed more than 35% in 2021 and even 140% from a low in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic. Last Monday, the fortune of Bernard Arnault was estimated at 186.3 billion dollars, or 300 million more than that of the founder of Amazon.

MarketWatch explains that this rise is undoubtedly linked to the Covid-19 crisis, which had affected the luxury sector in 2020. Since the health situation has improved and the borders reopen, luxury is in great shape. No need to worry about LVMH anymore: the group announced 7.6 billion profit in the first half of 2021, four times more than for the same period in 2020 or 44% more than in the first half of 2019.

Source : macG

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Covid-19: Faced with the controversy, Boris Johnson is in solitary confinement

The head of the British government was finally forced to isolate himself after the positive test of his Minister of Health, Sajid Javid. A situation which adds to the confusion and concern on the eve of the total lifting of restrictions linked to the pandemic in England.

Twist in the United Kingdom: Boris Johnson will finally go into solitary confinement. Like his Minister of Finance, Rishi Sunak, the head of the British government was declared a contact case on Saturday after the positive test of the Minister of Health, Sajid Javid. 

At first, the Prime Minister had however refused complete isolation. Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak « will participate in a pilot program of daily screenings » which « will allow them to continue working » normally, was quickly justified Downing Street. However, far from convincing, this announcement has aroused real indignation in the country, the opposition denouncing a government « above the law » . 

Johnson under pressure

Faced with popular pressure, the executive finally backpedaled. Thus, Boris Johnson will settle, for several days, in Checkers, the country residence of the heads of government, in north-west London. During this time, he « will continue to hold meetings with ministers from a distance » . Labor Party leader Keir Starmer nevertheless denounced a government in « chaos » , sending conflicting messages on the eve of the lifting of nearly all remaining restrictions in England, including the requirement to wear masks or social distancing. From Monday, teleworking will no longer be the norm in the country either.

Pressured by the scientific community and the expansion of the Delta variant, Boris Johnson, however, called for vigilance. « Please be careful and take the next step tomorrow (of this deconfinement) with all the caution and respect for others, and the risks that the disease continues to present » , pleaded Sunday the manager on social networks.

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Why is there no vaccine against HIV when a year was enough to develop several against Covid-19?

In less than a year, several vaccines against Covid-19 have been created. Conversely, forty years after the discovery of the AIDS virus, there is none against the disease. people with HIV are forced to take treatment for life. How to explain such a discrepancy?

For decades, researchers have been trying to find a vaccine against HIV, but it is particularly complex for three main reasons:

1.There are several subtypes of HIV circulating in the world

The  big difficulty with HIV is the presence of many variants . Beside, those  of the coronavirus , or even the flu, look pale. « If you compare it to a virus like influenza, which is so variable that the vaccine  can never eliminate all of its forms , the number of mutations globally is the number of variations in HIV in a single individual. 

While HIV is highly variable, and unlike any other, the coronavirus family has been known for many years. The  SARS  and  MERS epidemics  in 2002 and 2013 also accelerated research on the subject. 

2. The virus mutates enormously

In the most recent PloS Biology, Cuevas and colleagues quantify the HIV-1 genome-wide rate of spontaneous mutation in DNA sequences from peripheral blood mononuclear cells. They reveal a mutation rate 4 × 10−3 per base per cell, which is the highest reported mutation rate for any biological entity. When they sequenced plasma-derived HIV-1, they found the mutation rate was 44 times lower: “indicating that a large fraction of viral genomes are lethally mutated and fail to reach plasma.” Most interestingly, the authors showed that the viral reverse transcriptase accounts for only 2% of mutations, with the remaining 98% of viral genetic variation a result from editing by host cytidine deaminases.

3.HIV integrates into the genome of the infected person and persists.

Conversely, the vaccine against Covid-19 presents fewer difficulties . « The coronavirus is not a virus that integrates into the genome. We have most people who manage to eliminate it with their natural immune system

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Nine new billionaires propelled into the Forbes rankings thanks to vaccines

According to the count of the NGO Oxfam, at least nine people have become billionaires thanks to the profits from the sale of vaccines against Covid-19.

The statement fell just before the G20 World Health Summit to be held this Friday in Rome. The NGO Oxfam, which fights for the reduction of inequalities, points to the nine new fortunes that have been built up « thanks to the huge profits of the pharmaceutical groups which have a monopoly on the production of vaccines against the Covid ».

 These figures, published by the “People’s Vaccine Alliance” which brings together organizations and personalities demanding free vaccines against Covid all over the world and of which the NGO Oxfam is a part, are based onthe ranking of the American magazine Forbes .

A cumulative fortune that would allow the poorest countries to be vaccinated

The fortune accumulated by these nine billionaires, which amounts to $ 19.3 billion, would, again according to Oxfam, « vaccinate 1.3 times all low-income countries » which « have received only 0, 2% of vaccines produced in the world, in particular due to the large deficit of available doses ”. The press release also adds that by taking into account the fortunes of eight other billionaires with « large equity portfolios » in pharmaceutical companies that have experienced a cumulative increase in their assets of $ 32.2 billion, there would be  » enough to vaccinate the entire Indian population ”.These figures revolt Sandra Lhote-Fernandes, health advocacy officer at Oxfam France, who believes that « these vaccines were financed by public funds and should above all be a global public good ». It also calls for « an urgent end to these monopolies ».

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L’Inde atteint un nouveau record sinistre avec 3689 décès dus au COVID-19 en un jour

L’Inde a enregistré son jour le plus meurtrier de la pandémie de coronavirus avec 3689 décès au cours des dernières 24 heures.

Dimanche était le quatrième jour consécutif que l’Inde a enregistré plus de 3000 décès alors que la deuxième vague de la pandémie se poursuit sans relâche et continue d’établir de nouveaux records sinistres. Au total, 215 542 personnes sont décédées du COVID-19 dans le pays.

Le nombre de cas a grimpé à 19,5 millions avec 392 488 nouvelles infections, selon les données du gouvernement. L’Inde est devenue le premier pays à traverser 400 000 cas quotidiens samedi.

Les systèmes de santé sont débordés et la pénurie d’oxygène médical est devenue le défi le plus sérieux.

Trente-quatre patients sont décédés samedi à cause de pénuries d’oxygène dans les hôpitaux de la capitale New Delhi et des États d’Andhra Pradesh et d’Haryana, a rapporté le Times of India.

Trente-et-un autres avec des symptômes de type COVID-19 et des «difficultés respiratoires» sont décédés dans un hôpital de l’État de l’Uttar Pradesh, selon le rapport cité par les autorités.

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3 million deaths from Covid-19 have been recorded worldwide since its discovery

The toll is heavy: at least 3 million deaths from Covid-19 have been recorded worldwide, since its discovery in China in December 2019, according to a count carried out by Agence France-Presse (AFP), from reports provided by health authorities, Saturday April 17. 

After a slight lull in March, the number of daily deaths is on the rise again around the world, with an average of more than 12,000 deaths per day last week, approaching the 14,500 daily deaths recorded at the end of January, at the highest of the pandemic. The situation is very heterogeneous in the different countries.

 In the  United States , the most affected country in the world with more than 566,000 deaths, the epidemic has fallen sharply since the end of January, even if the figures are on the rise again in some states. 

 The  United Kingdom , a country in Europe yet the most bereaved by the Covid-19 (with more than 127,000 deaths recorded), now deplores only around thirty deaths each day. The country launched a mass vaccination campaign at the beginning of December which allowed at least one dose to be administered to 60% of its adult population.

Conversely, several countries are struggling to contain a new epidemic outbreak. Particularly in  Brazil , where some 3,000 deaths are announced every day, or nearly a quarter of the deaths announced daily in the world.

In  India , a weekend lockdown came into effect on Saturday in New Delhi. The capital has ordered the closure of all non-essential services: historic sites, restaurants, shopping centers and sports halls are closed and the streets emptied.

Other states have also imposed traffic restrictions. But in the north of the country, the state of Uttarakhand has exempted the huge Hindu festival Kumbh Mela, which has been taking place since January, from health restrictions, and has already attracted some 25 million people without masks or distancing. The rise in Covid-19 deaths in India is extremely rapid. More than 1,000 daily deaths are recorded in this country of 1.3 billion inhabitants, nine times more than at the beginning of March.

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3 millions de morts du Covid-19 ont été recensés dans le monde depuis sa découverte

Le bilan est lourd : au moins 3 millions de morts du Covid-19 ont été recensés dans le monde, depuis sa découverte en Chine en décembre 2019, selon un comptage réalisé par l’Agence France-Presse (AFP), à partir de bilans fournis par les autorités de santé, samedi 17 avril. 

Après une légère accalmie en mars, le nombre de décès quotidiens est de nouveau en hausse dans le monde, avec en moyenne plus de 12 000 morts par jour la semaine passée, approchant des 14 500 décès quotidiens recensés fin janvier, au plus haut de la pandémie. La situation est très hétérogène dans les différents pays.

 Aux Etats-Unis, pays le plus touché au monde avec plus de 566 000 morts, ont vu l’épidémie fortement reculer depuis fin janvier, même si les chiffres sont de nouveau à la hausse dans certains Etats. 

 Le Royaume-Uni, pays d’Europe pourtant le plus endeuillé par le Covid-19 (avec plus de 127 000 morts comptabilisés), ne déplore plus aujourd’hui qu’une trentaine de décès chaque jour. Le pays a lancé dès début décembre une campagne de vaccination massive qui a permis d’administrer au moins une dose à 60 % de sa population adulte.

A l’inverse, plusieurs pays peinent à endiguer une nouvelle flambée épidémique. Notamment au Brésil, où quelque 3 000 morts sont annoncés chaque jour, soit près du quart des décès annoncés quotidiennement dans le monde.

En Inde, un confinement, le week-end, est entré en vigueur samedi à New Delhi. La capitale a ordonné la fermeture de tous les services non essentiels : sites historiques, restaurants, centres commerciaux et salles de sport sont fermés et les rues vidées.

D’autres Etats ont également imposé des restrictions de circulation. Mais dans le nord du pays, l’Etat de l’Uttarakhand a exempté de restrictions sanitaires l’immense festival hindou Kumbh Mela, qui se déroule depuis janvier, et a déjà attiré quelque 25 millions de personnes sans masques ni distanciation. La hausse des morts du Covid-19 en Inde est extrêmement rapide. Plus de 1 000 morts quotidiens sont recensés dans ce pays de 1,3 milliard d’habitants, soit neuf fois plus que début mars.

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How is it possible to be tested positive for covid-19 between the first and the second dose of the vaccine?

Illustration of a syringe with illustrations of the virus in the background.
It takes about 14 days for our bodies to make antibodies after receiving the vaccine.

Nurse Maria Angelica Sobrinho, 53, was the first to be vaccinated against covid-19 in the city of Bahia in Brazil. A few days later, she started showing symptoms and was diagnosed with a coronavirus infection.

Many of the vaccines already in use in different countries require two doses to ensure full protection, such as Pfizer, Oxford / AstraZeneca, Coronavac, Moderna or Sputnik V.

The time between doses varies depending on the manufacturer. Pfizer recommends 21 days and the University of Oxford about three months, for example.

« No vaccine available is able to protect within 14 days of the first dose, whether against covid-19 or another disease, » says Dr Isabella Ballalai, vice president of the Brazilian Immunization Society.

Regardless of the technology used, vaccines usually contain antigens, substances that interact with the immune system and create the antibodies needed to fight off a future viral invasion.

The point is, this process takes time: immune cells have to recognize the antigens, “interact” with them and create an effective response. This job usually takes about two weeks.

This is why it is necessary for a patient who receives a first dose to continue to protect himself by wearing masks, social distancing and frequent hand washing, among other measures.

Getting both doses does not mean you are free to lead a « normal life » either. As far as we know, the vaccine protects against the most serious consequences of covid-19, but immune people could still pass the virus to others, ”adds Ballalai.

Whether the vaccination will also slow the spread of the virus is the subject of preliminary studies in the first months of the campaign.

Therefore, as long as the virus continues to circulate at high levels and a large portion of the population is unvaccinated, the recommendation is to follow control measures and adhere to restrictions.

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Comment est-il possible d’être testé positif au covid-19 entre la première et la deuxième dose du vaccin ?

Illustration d'une seringue avec des illustrations du virus en arrière-plan.
Il faut environ 14 jours à notre corps pour produire des anticorps après avoir reçu le vaccin.

L’infirmière Maria Angelica Sobrinho, 53 ans, a été la première à être vaccinée contre le covid-19 dans la ville de Bahia au Brésil. Quelques jours plus tard, elle a commencé à présenter des symptômes et a été diagnostiquée avec une infection à coronavirus.

Plusieurs des vaccins déjà utilisés dans différents pays nécessitent deux doses pour assurer une protection complète, comme les vaccins Pfizer, Oxford/AstraZeneca, Coronavac, Moderna ou Spoutnik V.

Le délai entre les doses varie selon le fabricant. Pfizer recommande 21 jours et l’Université d’Oxford environ trois mois, par exemple.

« Aucun vaccin disponible n’est capable de protéger dans les 14 jours suivant la première dose, que ce soit contre le covid-19 ou une autre maladie », déclare le Dr Isabella Ballalai, vice-présidente de la Société brésilienne d’immunisation.

Quelle que soit la technologie utilisée, les vaccins contiennent généralement des antigènes, des substances qui interagissent avec le système immunitaire et créent les anticorps nécessaires pour combattre une future invasion virale.

Le fait est que ce processus prend du temps : les cellules immunitaires doivent reconnaître les antigènes, « interagir » avec eux et créer une réaction efficace. Ce travail prend généralement environ deux semaines.

C’est pourquoi il est nécessaire pour un patient qui reçoit une première dose de continuer à se protéger par le port de masques, la distanciation sociale et le lavage fréquent des mains, entre autres mesures.

L’obtention des deux doses ne signifie pas non plus que vous êtes libre de mener une « vie normale ». Pour autant que nous le sachions, le vaccin protège contre les conséquences les plus graves du covid-19, mais les personnes immunisées pourraient encore transmettre le virus à d’autres personnes », ajoute M. Ballalai.

La question de savoir si la vaccination ralentira également la propagation du virus fait l’objet d’études préliminaires au cours des premiers mois de la campagne.

Par conséquent, tant que le virus continue à circuler à des niveaux élevés et qu’une grande partie de la population n’est pas vaccinée, la recommandation est de suivre les mesures de contrôle et de respecter les restrictions.

Source : BBC