Australia has seen another jump in COVID-19 cases – almost 80,000 recorded in the last week – with 140 deaths nationwide.
The data, released by state and territory health authorities around the country, confirms the summer wave expected for Australia has arrived, driven by more cases of Omicron XBB and BQ.1 sublineages among the population.
It comes as data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics found four in five COVID-19 deaths came during the Omicron waves that have prevailed since summer 2021/22.
The data from the ABS also found that deaths during Omicron were predominant among older age groups, in contrast to the Delta wave where mortality was higher in people aged less than 80.
It also shows overseas-born Australians experienced a higher mortality rate than those born in Australia during Delta – a gap that has narrowed in this year’s waves.
“During the Delta wave Australians born overseas had a rate of death close to four times higher than that of people born in Australia, with rates particularly high for those born in the Middle East, North Africa and South Eastern Europe,” says .
“The disparity decreased during the Omicron wave, and since July 2022 the death rate of those born in Australia has been higher,” says ABS director of health and vital statistics, Lauren Moran.
“The disparity decreased during the Omicron wave, and since July 2022 the death rate of those born in Australia has been higher.”
COVID-19 by the numbers
News in brief
Nosey vaccine could improve COVID-19 protection
Australian organisations have developed a new nasal vaccine which provides strong lung immunity against the virus that causes COVID-19.
The new vaccine, which has only been tested in mice so far, is made of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and a molecule that works to trigger the body’s immune response to infection.
The study, published in Nature Communications, suggests this nasal vaccine may provide a stronger barrier to infection from the virus, compared to needle-based vaccinations currently offered.
“Current vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 substantially reduce mortality and severe disease, but protection against infection is less effective. Vaccinated individuals are still catching COVID-19 and can spread the infection, so breakthrough infections are still occurring,” says lead researcher from Sydney University, Dr Anneliese Ashhurst.
“To stop viral spread and to prevent this virus from mutating we need a new vaccine approach that blocks COVID-19 transmission. Our vaccine differs from most current COVID-19 vaccines in that it enables generation of an immune response directly in those areas of the body that are likely to be the first point of contact for the virus – the nose, airway and lungs.”
In the real world, the most severe COVID-19 cases are usually unvaccinated
Researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publishing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, have found the among patients hospitalised for severe forms of COVID-19, most were likely to be unvaccinated.
The study of over one thousand patients hospitalised between 11 March and 14 July 2021, found almost 90% had not received a vaccination course. Those who were vaccinated were often older and presented with underlying health issues, two factors associated with COVID-19 deaths among vaccinated people.
Drugs to treat COVID-19 cases show mixed results
The results are in on several therapies used to treat COVID-19.
Several Australian and British research institutions have published new findings in the British Medical Journal showing antibody treatments “substantially” lower the risk of severe illness for patients infected with COVID-19 in comparison to antiviral drugs.
It also found commonly-used heart drugs offer no benefit.
COVID-19 mRNA vaccine that only needs a fridge advances to the next stage
A durable mRNA vaccine for COVID-19, which can be kept at fridge temperatures for at least three months, has just passed Phase I trials.
Handheld lab that can make disease testing 10 times cheaper
Researchers have developed a handheld, automated device which can test for diseases in under an hour, costing between 10 to 300 times less than traditional tests. In a pilot of more than 100 people, the test produced exactly the same results as PCR testing when looking for COVID-19.
Matthew Agius is a science writer for Cosmos Magazine.
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