Sewage analysis suggests a New England metro area with fewer than 500 COVID-19 cases may have exponentially more

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Epidemiologists are studying wastewater to gauge rates of COVID-19 infection.

Preliminary findings released this week from a new effort to track the spread of the coronavirus through sewage data suggests that one metro region in Massachusetts that’s reported fewer than 500 positive tests actually may actually have exponentially more.

Last month, Massachusetts lab Biobot Analytics launched a partnership with Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brigham and Women’s Hospital to use its technology pro bono to map and analyze the spread of the virus through wastewater.

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How to understand – and report – figures for ‘Covid deaths’

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Every day, now, we are seeing figures for ‘Covid deaths’. These numbers are often expressed on graphs showing an exponential rise. But care must be taken when reading (and reporting) these figures. Given the extraordinary response to the emergence of this virus, it’s vital to have a clear-eyed view of its progress and what the figures mean. The world of disease reporting has its own dynamics, ones that are worth understanding. How accurate, or comparable, are these figures comparing Covid-19 deaths in various countries?

We often see a ratio expressed: deaths, as a proportion of cases. The figure is taken as a sign of how lethal Covid-19 is, but the ratios vary wildly. In the US, 1.8 per cent (2,191 deaths in 124,686 confirmed cases), Italy 10.8 per cent, Spain 8.2 per cent, Germany 0.8 per cent, France 6.1 per cent, UK 6.0 per cent. A fifteen-fold difference in death rate for the same disease seems odd amongst such similar countries: all developed, all with good healthcare systems. All tackling the same disease.

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New Vaginal Gel Reduces HIV Infection Rates by 54%

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The HIV reducing microbe.

A trial of a powerful new microbicidal vaginal gel reduced the HIV infection rate of test subjects by 54%. The gel is a 1% solution of the antiretroviral drug tenofovir, which stops HIV replication. At Scientific American, Katherine Harmon writes:

A reliable HIV-prevention method for women has thus far proved hard to come by, leaving many millions of at-risk women subject to their partner’s decision about condoms…

 

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