SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has the capacity to affect brain tissue and the structure of the cortex, a region of the brain responsible for functions such as memory, consciousness, and language, according to a Brazilian study released on Thursday.
According to the study, the coronavirus can affect astrocytes, the most abundant cells in the central nervous system, which perform functions such as providing support and nutrients for neurons and regulating the concentration of neurotransmitters and other substances, such as potassium.
"We demonstrated for the first time that the SARS-CoV-2 virus infects and replicates in astrocytes and this can decrease the viability of neurons," said Daniel Martins de Souza, a professor at the Institute of Biology at the University of Campinas (Unicamp).
"The infection of this cell type was confirmed through experiments done with brain tissue from 26 patients who died from COVID-19," the study said.
According to Martins de Souza, scientists used a technique known as immunohistochemistry, which involves using antibodies to detect certain antigens in a tissue sample.
The presence of the virus was confirmed in 26 of the samples studied, and in five of them, certain alterations were found that suggested possible damage to the central nervous system.
Eighty-one other patients with mild COVID-19 symptoms were also studied. The results showed a third of them exhibiting neurological or neuropsychiatric symptoms, such as memory impairment, fatigue, headache, anxiety, and others, 60 days after acquiring the disease.
The study was conducted by scientists from Unicamp and the University of Sao Paulo (USP), with collaboration from scientists at the National Laboratory of Biosciences, the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and the D'Or Institute.
Forty percent of the world’s population – or 3 billion people – do not have a handwashing facility with water and soap at home, according to new estimates from UNICEF.
The number is much higher in least developed countries, where nearly three-quarters of the population lack such facilities although the pandemic has highlighted the critical role of hand hygiene in disease prevention.
Kelly Ann Naylor, Associate Director of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at UNICEF, said that it is “unacceptable” that the most vulnerable communities are unable to use the simplest of methods to protect themselves and their loved ones.
“The pandemic has highlighted the critical role of hand hygiene in disease prevention. It has also stressed a pre-existing problem for many: Handwashing with soap remains out of reach for millions of children where they’re born, live and learn.”
“We must take immediate action to make handwashing with soap accessible to everyone, everywhere – now and in the future,” she urged.
The situation is also alarming at schools: 43 per cent of schools globally (70 per cent in least developed countries) lack a handwashing facility with water and soap, affecting hundreds of millions of school-age children, according to the estimates.
‘Hand Hygiene for All’
Against this backdrop, UNICEF, along with the UN World Health Organization launched the “Hand Hygiene for All” initiative to support the development of national roadmaps to accelerate and sustain progress towards making hand hygiene a mainstay in public health interventions.
This means rapidly improving access to handwashing facilities, water, soap and hand sanitizer in all settings, as well as promoting behavioural change interventions for optimal hand hygiene practices, said UNICEF.
The initiative brings together international, national, and local partners, to ensure affordable products and services are available and sustainable, especially in vulnerable and disadvantaged communities.
The estimates were released on Thursday, coinciding with Global Handwashing Day, which serves as a platform to raise awareness on the importance of handwashing with soap.
Despite steady progress in tackling tuberculosis (TB) in recent years, global targets for prevention and treatment will likely be missed largely due to insufficient funding and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to a latest report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday.
According to WHO's Global Tuberculosis Report 2020, the years between 2015 and 2019 have seen a nine-percent reduction in TB incidence and a 14-percent drop in deaths, together with high-level political commitments at global and national levels delivering results.
However, about 14 million people were treated for TB in the period 2018-2019, just over one-third of the way towards the five-year target of 40 million for 2018-2022. WHO's End TB Strategy, which has been adopted by all its members, aims for a 90-percent reduction in TB deaths and an 80-percent reduction in the TB incidence rate by 2030, compared to the 2015 baseline. Milestones for 2020 include a 20-percent reduction in the TB incidence rate and a 35-percent reduction in TB deaths.
Funding is a major issue, according to the report. In 2020, funding for TB prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care reached 6.5 billion U.S. dollars, representing only half of the 13 billion target agreed by world leaders in the UN political declaration on TB.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to further setbacks on access to TB service, as in many countries, human, financial and other resources have been reallocated from TB to the COVID-19 response.
Data collated from over 200 countries has shown significant reductions in TB case notifications, with 25 to 30 percent drops reported in three high burden countries, namely India, Indonesia, the Philippines, between January and June 2020, compared to the same six-month period in 2019, the report said. These reductions in case notifications could lead to a dramatic increase in additional TB deaths, according to WHO modeling.
According to WHO statistics, as in previous years, about 85 percent of TB funding in 2020 came from domestic sources, with Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China and South Africa providing 57 percent of the global total.
WHO has called for urgent action and investments to meet the global TB targets. "Equitable access to quality and timely diagnosis, prevention, treatment and care remains a challenge. Accelerated action is urgently needed worldwide if we are to meet our targets by 2022," said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Read Also: Health risks of prolonged sitting
Sitting for long periods has harmful health consequences.
A number of health researchers suggested that sitting or lying down for too long increases your risk of chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes and Colon cancer and Overproductive pancreas.
“We know sitting too much is bad, and most of us intuitively feel a little guilty after a long TV binge. But what exactly goes wrong in our bodies when we park ourselves for nearly eight hours per day, the average for a U.S. adult? Many things, say four experts, who detailed a chain of problems from head to toe,” reports Washington post.
Muscles burn less fat and blood flows more sluggish during a long sit, allowing fatty acids to more easily clog the heart. Prolonged sitting has been linked to high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, and people with the most sedentary time are more than twice as likely to have cardiovascular disease than those with the least.
The pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that carries glucose to cells for energy. But cells in idle muscles don't respond as readily to insulin, so the pancreas produces more and more, which can lead to diabetes and other diseases. A 2011 study found a decline in insulin response after just one day of prolonged sitting.
Studies have linked sitting to a greater risk for colon, breast and endometrial cancers. The reason is unclear, but one theory is that excess insulin encourages cell growth. Another is that regular movement boosts natural antioxidants that kill cell-damaging
— and potentially cancer-causing — free radicals.
When you stand, move or even sit up straight, abdominal muscles keep you upright. But when you slump in a chair, they go unused. Tight back muscles and wimpy abs form a posture-wrecking alliance that can exaggerate the spine's natural arch, a condition called hyperlordosis, or swayback.
Flexible hips help keep you balanced, but chronic sitters so rarely extend the hip flexor muscles in front that they become short and tight, limiting range of motion and stride length. Studies have found that decreased hip mobility is a main reason elderly people tend to fall.
Sitting requires your glutes to do absolutely nothing, and they get used to it. Soft glutes hurt your stability, your ability to push off and your ability to maintain a powerful stride.
Poor circulation in legs
Sitting for long periods of time slows blood circulation, which causes fluid to pool in the legs. Problems range from swollen ankles and varicose veins to dangerous blood clots called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Weight-bearing activities such as walking and running stimulate hip and lower-body bones to grow thicker, denser and stronger. Scientists partially attribute the recent surge in cases of osteoporosis to lack of activity.
Trouble at the top
Moving muscles pump fresh blood and oxygen through the brain and trigger the release of all sorts of brain- and mood-enhancing chemicals. When we are sedentary for a long time, everything slows, including brain function.
If most of your sitting occurs at a desk at work, craning your neck forward toward a keyboard or tilting your head to cradle a phone while typing can strain the cervical vertebrae and lead to permanent imbalances.
Sore shoulders and back
The neck doesn't slouch alone. Slumping forward overextends shoulder and back muscles as well, particularly the trapezius, which connects the neck and shoulders.
When we move, soft discs between vertebrae expand and contract like sponges, soaking up fresh blood and nutrients. But when we sit for a long time, discs are squashed unevenly. Collagen hardens around tendons and ligaments.
People who sit more are at greater risk for herniated lumbar disks. A muscle called the psoas travels through the abdominal cavity and, when it tightens, pulls the upper lumbar spine forward. Upper-body weight rests entirely on the ischial tuberosity (sitting bones) instead of being distributed along the arch of the spine.
The right way to sit
If you have to sit often, try to do it correctly. As Mom always said, "Sit up straight."
• Not leaning forward
• Shoulders relaxed
• Arms close to sides
• Elbows bent 90°
• Lower back may be supported
• Feet flat on floor
So what can we do? The experts recommend ………
Sitting on something wobbly such as an exercise ball or even a backless stool to force your core muscles to work. Sit up straight and keep your feet flat on the floor in front of you so they support about a quarter of your weight.
Stretching the hip flexor for three minutes per side once a day.
Walking during commercials when you're watching TV. Even a snail-like pace of 1 mph would burn twice the calories of sitting, and more vigorous exercise would be even better.
Alternating between sitting and standing at your work station. If you can't do that, stand up every half hour or so and walk.
Trying yoga poses — the cow pose and the cat — to improve extension and flexion in your back.
Here's one bit of advice for those who solely rely on a cup of strong, black coffee to galvanise them into action in mornings after a bad night's sleep — the drink on an empty stomach can have a negative effect on your blood sugar levels. So, down your coffee only after having your breakfast, not before, suggests a new study.
Researchers from the Centre for Nutrition, Exercise & Metabolism at the University of Bath in the UK have carried out the study and found that coffee on an empty stomach is actually bad for health. They came to the conclusion after looking at the effects of broken sleep and morning coffee across a range of different metabolic markers.
For their study, the researchers recruited 29 healthy men and women volunteers. All of them were asked to undergo three different overnight experiments in a random order. In one condition, the participants had a normal night's sleep and were asked to consume a sugary drink on waking in the morning.
On another occasion, the participants experienced a disrupted night's sleep (where the researchers woke them every hour for five minutes) and then upon waking were given the sugary drink. On the third occasion, the participants experienced the same sleep disruption but this time were first given a strong black coffee 30 minutes before the sugary drink.
In each of these tests, blood samples from participants were taken following the glucose drink which in energy content (calories) mirrored what might typically be consumed for breakfast.
Their findings highlighted that one night of disrupted sleep did not worsen participants' blood glucose responses at breakfast, when compared to a normal night's sleep. However, strong black coffee consumed before breakfast substantially increased the blood glucose response to breakfast by around 50%, a university release said.
Lead researcher Harry Smith said, "These results show that one night of disrupted sleep alone did not worsen participants' blood glucose response to the sugary drink compared to a normal night of sleep which will be reassuring to many of us."
"However, starting a day after a poor night's sleep with a strong coffee did have a negative effect on glucose metabolism by around 50%. As such, individuals should try to balance the potential stimulating benefits of caffeinated coffee in the morning with the potential for higher blood glucose levels and it may be better to consume coffee following breakfast."
Professor James Betts, who oversaw the study, added: "We know that nearly half of us will wake in the morning and, before doing anything else, drink coffee -- intuitively the more tired we feel, the stronger the coffee. This study is important and has far-reaching health implications as up until now we have had limited knowledge about what this is doing to our bodies, in particular for our metabolic and blood sugar control."
The findings have been published in the British Journal of Nutrition.