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Hormone therapy may boost working memory in women

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New York, Nov 5: Undergoing a type of hormone replacement therapy — used for menopausal treatment — may help protect as well as improve working memory for some women as they age, according to a new study.

Hormone replacement therapy uses female hormones — oestrogen and progesterone — to treat common symptoms of menopause and ageing.

The findings showed that women taking oestrogen-only therapy had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and performed better on tests of “working memory” following exposure to stress compared to women taking a placebo.

“Our study suggests that oestrogen treatment after menopause protects the memory that is needed for short-term cognitive tasks from the effects of stress,” said lead author Alexandra Ycaza Herrera, a researcher at the University of Southern California – Davis.

To measure the effect of oestrogen therapy on working memory under stress, the team recruited 42 women with an average age of 66.

Half of the postmenopausal women had been on estradiol — a type of oestrogen therapy — for approximately five years, while the others had received a placebo.

The researchers, in the paper published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, collected saliva to measure the women’s levels of cortisol, oestrogen, and progesterone.

They also ran a test of working memory called a “sentence span task”, in which the women were each given a series and then asked whether each sentence made sense. They also were asked to recall the last word of each one.

While women receiving oestrogen therapy had a smaller increase in cortisol and showed no decrease in working memory function, even after being exposed to stressful situation, those taking the placebo experienced a spike in cortisol levels as well as demonstrated a decrease in working memory function.

Previous studies have pointed to potential health risks — Ahigher risk of breast cancer, heart disease, stroke and blood clots — of the treatment.

Thus, Herrera noted that “hormone replacement therapy may not be right for every woman, but women need to be able to have the conversation with their doctors”.

IANS

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Oxford vaccine viable even at 60-70% efficacy: Serum Institute

The PM visit will be followed by a visit by ambassadors and High Commissioners from around 100 countries, Pune Divisional Commissioner Saurabh Rao said.

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The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine candidate, even at the lowest efficacy of 60-70 per cent, is a viable one against the novel coronavirus, the Serum Institute of India (SII) said on Thursday.

SII has partnered with the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca for the manufacture and distribution of the vaccine candidate.

“Even though the lowest efficacy results are at 60-70%, it is a viable vaccine against the virus. That said, varied age groups with different dosage forms will result in slight variations and efficacy. We must be patient and not panic,” SII said in a statement.

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India trial results not in

The efficacy results of AstraZeneca were based on trials being conducted in the United Kingdom and Brazil. It does not include the trials of the same vaccine being conducted by the Serum Institute in India. The results of the Indian trials are expected to come out in December.

The statement — a couple of days before PM Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit the company — comes amid an acknowledgment on Wednesday by AstraZeneca of a key error in the dosage received by some of the study participants of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate AZD1222 (named Covishield in India).

According to partial results announced on Monday from ongoing trials in the UK and Brazil, the vaccine showed a striking difference in efficacy, depending on the amount delivered. A regimen of two full doses given a month apart was 62 per cent effective while participants who received half a dose of the vaccine in the first round and then the full dose a month later were found to be 90 per cent less likely to develop Covid-19. The average efficacy was pegged around 70 per cent.

But on Wednesday, according to reports, AstraZeneca admitted that the half dose was an error since some of the vials did not have the right vaccine concentration.

In its statement, SII said there were no concerns about the trial in India.

“The Indian trials are running smoothly with strict adherence to all the necessary processes and protocols. So far, there are no concerns. However, we are going through the data that is available and will make a further statement, if needed,” the statement said.

Phase 3 trials are underway across 17 sites in the country and data on the Indian trials should be out in a month or so, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla had earlier told The Indian Express.

While scientists and experts say a vaccine with efficacy of 60 per cent and above is good, they have, however, raised concerns over the company’s communication strategy.

When contacted, Dr Gagandeep Kang, virologist and professor of Christian Medical College, Vellore, said, “You need to be absolutely straight upfront and transparent. We have learnt that the low dose in the Oxford study with higher efficacy was an accident. To first say that low dose gives 90 per cent efficacy and later say that the dose was an error creates doubt about the process that is unnecessary.”

Saying she “trusted the researchers at Oxford”, Kang said, “Usually when the researchers at Oxford work on vaccines, they go all the way through Phase 1 and sometimes through Phase 2 of the trial on their own. I understand that in this case, they were advised to not do everything on their own and as early as possible link up with a large vaccine company. Oxford started to work with AstraZeneca and this error in dosing may have happened in that switch from doing early phase studies themselves and the later trials with AstraZeneca. This would need to be informed to the regulators and in the trial registry.”

However, none of this is any reason to dismiss the vaccine, she said. “This is not a vaccine that should be put in the dustbin just because of 60 per cent efficacy. It is a good vaccine that has exceeded the WHO and FDA benchmarks. There is a lot more data to come and we will learn more when it does,” she said.

Virologist Dr Shahid Jameel said he was intrigued by the results. “As a scientist, I am now thinking what sort of response would one get if the first dose was even smaller – half of what they give — whether by design or accident, I don’t care. Would one get an equal or better response then?” Dr Jameel told.

Calling the results a “blessing in disguise”, he said, “The advantage is that if half or quarter dose gives a better response, then there would be twice as many vaccine doses to vaccinate people. That is a big plus. Many scientific discoveries have happened serendipitously,” he said.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to visit Serum Institute of India “to understand the process of vaccine production and distribution”. Officials said the PM would reach around 1 pm and depart around 2.30 pm.

The PM visit will be followed by a visit by ambassadors and High Commissioners from around 100 countries, Pune Divisional Commissioner Saurabh Rao said.

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Coronavirus: India inches closer to 93 Lakh Covid-19 cases

Apart from Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka have reported the highest number of cases.

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Coronavirus India

New Delhi, Nov 26 : With 44,489 new cases of Covid infections, India’s total cases reached 92,66,705 on Thursday. It is the 19th straight day when India reported less than 50,000 cases in a day.

The last time daily new cases crossed the 50,000-threshold was on November 7.

According to the data released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, 524 new deaths occurred due to the deadly virus in the last 24 hours taking the toll to 1,35,223.

While the active cases stood at 4,52,344, a total of 86,79,138 have recovered from the virus and have been discharged of which 36,367 were discharged in the last 24 hrs.

While the recovery rate stands at 93.66 per cent, the fatality rate is at 1.46 per cent, the Ministry data revealed.

Maharashtra remains the worst-hit state with 84,464 active cases and 46,748 deaths so far. The recoveries in the state stand at 17,95,959.

Apart from Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka have reported the highest number of cases.

The National capital is also witnessing a surge.

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Global availability of Covid vaccine for public only by mid-2021: Moody’s

The report said mass vaccination that significantly reduces individual and public health concerns would lift sentiment and present a significant upside to global growth.

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Covid 19 Vaccine

New Delhi: While recent news about the high effectiveness of two coronavirus vaccines is a promising sign in the effort to combat the pandemic, a vaccine for Covid-19 will not be widely distributed before mid-2021, Moodys Investors Service said on Tuesday.

“However, these developments do not change the assumption underpinning our economic forecasts that widespread, global availability of the vaccine to the general public is only likely by around mid-2021,” Moody’s said in a report.

It added that the recent positive news about the effectiveness of vaccines under development will do little to ease the immediate concern that the current rise in coronavirus cases across the US and Europe will dampen sentiments and economic momentum in these regions this quarter and the next.

“Our baseline economic forecasts balance the downside risks of increasing infections and new lockdowns in the next two months, against the potential for widespread vaccinations over the next 12 months. If lockdowns are more severe than we expect, the negative effect on GDP could be offset if a coronavirus vaccine is available quicker and uptake is wider than we had expected,” it added.

Although successful Phase 3 trials of vaccines are a big step, there are numerous hurdles ahead, including satisfying approval requirements by regulators in individual countries, production of the billions of doses required for mass vaccination, ensuring proper storage and building distribution networks.

Distribution will likely occur in phases once regulators approve a vaccine, with health officials prioritizing access for healthcare workers and those in other high-risk professions, as well as for people who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, such as older people and individuals in care homes.

Moody’s said two important variables in overall success of vaccines in curbing the pandemic will be the public’s willingness to get vaccinated and what percentage of the population will need to be vaccinated in order for the spread of the virus to be brought under control. Vaccine availability likely will vary across countries, with cost and access major hurdles in particular for less-developed economies.

Many advanced and a handful of middle-income emerging market countries have already secured contracts for hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccines. Residents of these countries will be among the first to get the vaccinations, with their economies benefiting from the associated easing of the public health crisis. The earlier the health crisis in a country subsides, the stronger the country’s economic recovery will be, it added.

The report said mass vaccination that significantly reduces individual and public health concerns would lift sentiment and present a significant upside to global growth.

As long as the coronavirus remains a health risk, social distancing restrictions and the reluctance of consumers to engage in high contact social and economic activity will mar the recovery of services sectors. As vaccines become broadly available, health fears and concerns about an uncertain economic and financial outlook should recede, allowing for a quicker resumption of activity in high contact sectors such as hotels, restaurants, theaters, mass transit, airlines and travel and tourism.

Moody’s said the pandemic has already inflicted enormous damage on the hardest-hit sectors and will continue to undermine their financial condition and prospects, with repeated virus outbreaks and lockdown measures suppressing demand. The risk of business failure increases exponentially the longer the pandemic prevents a return to some semblance of normal activity.

A vaccine will help accelerate the recovery. But for many of these businesses, survival will remain challenging until the virus is no longer viewed as a significant public health threat. It is difficult to know how many businesses will survive several more months of below-normal revenue, it added.

Small and midsized businesses across advanced and emerging market countries are at risk and more of them will undoubtedly close on account of the prolonged cash flow shock. And those that do survive will have the long and arduous task of rebuilding their balance sheets while also, in many cases, facing significant changes in consumer behavior and demand patterns. “Therefore, even if economic activity returns to healthy levels once a vaccine is widely available, the detrimental economic impact and transformed operating environment will be felt for years to come”, Moody’s said.

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