COVID Booster: public signage, CRISPR tests, and unborn children

Nearly a third of older people develop new conditions after COVID infection

In 2020, 32% of US adults over 65 developed a condition that required further medical attention after COVID-19 infection, according to a study in The BMJ.

The researchers examined insurance data from 133,366 people who were diagnosed with COVID-19 in 2020. They compared this group to three control cohorts who hadn’t caught COVID: one from 2020, one from 2019, and a group diagnosed with non-COVID viral lower respiratory tract illness.

Compared to the 2019 and 2020 cohorts, the COVID-positive were more likely to develop a range of other conditions with a range of organs including the heart, kidneys, lungs and liver – as well as mental health complications.

Compared with those who had respiratory tract illnesses, the COVID-positive were only more likely to have reported respiratory failure, dementia, and fatigue.

Once again, vaccination seems safe for unborn children

We’ve talked about this many times before, but it bears repeating: another study has found that the Pfizer COVID vaccine has no effect on pregnancy or the health of unborn children.

The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, examined Israeli data from 24,288 newborn babies, 16,697 of whom had been exposed to the Pfizer vaccine in the womb.

There was no difference between the vaccinated and unvaccinated groups on rates of preterm birth, neonatal hospitalisations, postneonatal hospitalisations, birth defects, or deaths.

In their paper, the researchers state that their study “contributes to current evidence in establishing the safety of prenatal vaccine exposure to the newborns.”

What does our COVID signage say about us?

Covid-19 safety advice sign at an indoor food market
Image courtesy Flinders University.

A pair of Flinders University researchers have published an analysis of Australian public COVID signage in the Journal of Sociology.

The researchers were interested in figuring out what sorts of imagery, information, and instructions were being publicly presented over the course of the pandemic.

“We found a wide range of visual ways in which the messages are communicated – often  they were very simple in design, even emojis,” says co-author Professor Sharyn Roach Anleu.

“The effectiveness of all these signs may rest in them giving ordinary people legitimacy to ask others to comply with the instructions and even change their behaviour,” adds co-author George Sarantoulias.

“While the signs don’t usually rely on formal law administration, the enforcement therefore becomes part of every-day, ordinary social interaction,” he says.

Using CRISPR to make a better COVID test

A group of US and Nigerian scientists have used the gene-editing tool CRISPR to make a fast COVID-19 test that can tell you what variant you have – and also spot influenza and other coronaviruses.

Described in a paper published in Nature Medicine, the test relies on microfluidics: manipulating the behaviour of very small amounts of fluid.

The researchers found their test worked accurately on viral specimens from 2,088 patients.

The researchers state that this version of their test, while powerful, is currently too resource-intensive for clinical use. They’re planning to make the test more streamlined in subsequent versions.

Previous infection provides a little resistance to Omicron

Previous infection with COVID-19 may offer 56% protection against Omicron, according to Qataru research.

The study, which was published in NEJM, examined PCR results from all Qatar data for the course of the pandemic.

They found that previous infection was 90.2% effective against Alpha, 85.7% against Beta, and 92% against Delta.

Previous infection was also 87.8% effective at preventing severe Omicron.

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