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Unborn babies may contract Covid-19 via infected mother: Study

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London: An unborn baby could become infected with Covid-19 if their gut is exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, claims a new study.

The study led by University College London researchers found that certain foetal organs, such as the intestine, are more susceptible to infection than others.

However, researchers said that opportunities for the Covid-19 virus infecting the foetus are extremely limited, as the placenta acts as a highly effective and protective shield, and evidence suggests foetal infection, known as vertical transmission, is extremely uncommon.

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“Our findings explain that clinical infection of the foetus during pregnancy is possible but uncommon and that is reassuring for parents-to-be,” said Dr Mattia Gerli, from UCL’s Division of Surgery and Interventional Science and the Royal Free Hospital.

For the study, published in BJOG – An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, researchers set out to understand how newborn babies could have developed Covid-19 antibodies, as has been reported in a small number of cases and how the virus could be passed from an infected mother to the unborn foetus.

To find out, researchers examined various foetal organs and placenta tissue, made available via the Human Developmental Biology Resource (HDBR) biobank, which assists embryonic/fetal research.

The team examined the presence of protein receptors, ACE2 and TMPRSS2 — needed for the SARS-Cov-2 virus to infect and spread.

Researchers found that the intestines (gut) and the kidney were the only foetal organs to feature both the ACE2 and TMPRSS2.

Since the foetal kidney is anatomically protected from exposure to the virus and therefore less at risk of infection, the team concluded that the Covid virus could infect the foetus via the gut and through foetal swallowing of amniotic fluid, which the unborn baby does naturally for nutrients.

After birth ACE2 and TMPRSS2 receptors are known to be present in combination on the surface of cells in the human intestine as well as the lung — also suspected to be the main routes for Covid infection. But in younger children, the intestine appears to be most important for virus infection.

“The foetus is known to begin swallowing the amniotic fluid in the second half of pregnancy. To cause infection, the SARS-CoV-2 virus would need to be present in significant quantities in the amniotic fluid around the foetus,” Gerli explained.

“However, many studies in maternity care have found that the amniotic fluid around the foetus does not usually contain the SARS-CoV2 virus, even if the mother is infected with Covid-19,” she noted.

The researchers highlighted that the biggest risk to the foetus during pregnancy is if the mother becomes very unwell with Covid-19 infection. In this instance the virus may be present in high concentration in the amniotic fluid. In addition, it could damage the placenta, which can lead to preterm birth.

“Vaccination against Covid-19 is known to be safe in pregnancy and reduces the chance of SARS-CoV-2 infection to very low levels. The results of this study provide definitive information regarding the susceptibility of the human foetus to Covid-19 infection,” said co-author Professor Anna David from UCL Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Institute for Women’s Health.

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Donald Trump tested Covid-positive three days before Biden debate, claims ex-chief of staff in book, World News

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Donald Trump’s last chief of staff has claimed that the former US president had tested positive for COVID-19 just three days ahead of his debate with Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden in 2020.

Mark Meadows, who served as Trump’s fourth chief of staff, made the shocking claim in his new memoir called ‘The Chief’s Chief,’ according to media reports that accessed the book.

Explaining how ”Nothing was going to stop [Trump] from going out there,” Meadows said Trump was aware about the norm ”to test negative for the virus within 72 hours of the start time” of the debate, which was held on September 29 last year.

Also read | Social media erupts as Trump gets featured on miniature Mount Rushmore

Yet after receiving confirmation that he had tested positive, Trump went ahead with the debate, potentially endangering several lives. He had called the novel coronavirus, which has claimed millions of lives worldwide, as a ”hoax.”

According to Meadows, ”I didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks. But I also didn’t want to alarm the public if there was nothing to worry about – which according to the new, much more accurate test, there was not.”

Also read | Donald Trump, banned on Twitter and FB, to launch his own social network

Since the positive test was done by an old kit, Trump suggested a new one be performed using the Binax system, hoping that it was a false positive. This proved beneficial as the second test came back negative.

Meadows has also provided the House of Representatives committee investigating the deadly January 6 US Capitol riot with records and agreed to appear soon for a deposition.

“Mr. Meadows has been engaging with the Select Committee through his attorney. He has produced records to the committee and will soon appear for an initial deposition,” Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House select committee, said in a statement.

Trump has urged his associates not to cooperate with the committee, calling the Democratic-led investigation politically motivated and arguing that his communications are protected by executive privilege, although many legal experts say that legal principle does not apply to former presidents.

On January 6, Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in a bid to prevent Congress from formally certifying his 2020 presidential election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

Shortly before the riot, Trump gave a speech to his supporters repeating his false claims that the election was stolen from him through widespread voting fraud and urging them to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell” to “stop the steal.”

Meadows was a Republican House member until he left in 2020 to join Trump’s administration.

(With inputs from agencies)

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Half of eligible Lucknowites fully vaccinated against Covid

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Half of the eligible Lucknowites are now fully vaccinated against Covid (taken both doses), says the health department data.

Besides, the state capital crossed the 52-lakh (5.2 million) mark in the total Covid vaccine doses administered since January 16 when the inoculation started nationwide.

Against a target of over 37.4 lakh (3.74 million), the number of Lucknowites who have taken both doses of the Covid vaccine stood at 18.82 lakh (1.88 million) till 7pm on Wednesday.

Till now, 33,35,779 people in Lucknow have got their first dose, which is over 87% of the target population.

During the day, over 18,000 beneficiaries took their second dose in the state capital on Wednesday.

Health officials say they are making efforts to administer at least one dose to all the eligible people by December-end. Several campaigns are being run to motivate people for taking the Covid vaccine jab.

“People are coming on time for their second dose. This is increasing the vaccination coverage in the state capital,” said Dr Manoj Agrawal, the chief medical officer of Lucknow.

He also said, “Apart from running Covid vaccination centres till 10pm, mobile vans facilitate vaccination under the cluster model for those who are unable to move out of their homes.”

“With a major chunk of the eligible population taking their second dose now, we can cross the 90% mark by January,” said Dr Abhishek Shukla, secretary general, association of international doctors.

Lucknow tops all 75 districts in Uttar Pradesh and experts say vaccination coverage in the state capital is essential to check the spread of the Covid infection.

“Lucknow has a major floating population that visits it for a day or two for some work and goes back. If all Lucknowites are vaccinated, they will remain safe and will not spread the infection,” said Dr PK Gupta.

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Nicolas Cage cast as Dracula in Nicholas Hoult’s movie Renfield

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Nicolas Cage

Nicolas Cage will portray the most famous vampire in history (Picture: JC Olivera/Getty Images)

Nicolas Cage is about to join the underworld and transform into the most famous vampire of all time.

The National Treasure star has been cast to play Dracula in the upcoming film Renfield.

The monster movie will see Nicholas Hoult star in the titular role of Dracula’s henchman.

While plot details are still being kept under wraps, the project is set to take place in the modern-day and have a comedic tone to it, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Sitting in the director’s chair will be Chris McKay, who recently directed Chris Pratt in Amazon Prime Video’s The Tomorrow War. 

At the helm of the movie as producers will be The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, David Alpert, Bryan Furst, Sean Furst and Samantha Nisenboim.

Nicholas Hoult during the 78th Venice International Film Festival on September 04, 2021 in Venice, Italy.

Nicholas Hoult is taking the lead in this monstrous comedy (Picture: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)

Hoult’s role is based on a character from Bram Stoker’s original 1897 Dracula novel. 

An inmate in an insane asylum, Renfield is believed to be suffering from delusions as doctors don’t realise that his trauma comes from being the vampire lord’s servant. 

The same role was previously played by Tom Waits and Sam Barnett respectively in the ‘90s classic Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Penny Dreadful.

Renfield is part of Universal’s latest efforts to put out more monster flicks after the recent success of Elisabeth Moss’s The Invisible Man. 

Also in the works are The Wolfman (starring Ryan Gosling) and an adaptation of Van Helsing.

Cage will next be seen playing a fictionalised version of himself in The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent, an action-comedy also starring Pedro Pascal, Sharon Horgan, Tiffany Haddish and Neil Patrick Harris, expected to be released next year. 

Hoult was last seen reprising his role as the former emperor of Russia, Peter, in The Great opposite Elle Fanning’s Catherine. 

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