Posts tagged with "EurekAlert"

Wearable air sampler assesses personal exposure to COVID-19

January 13, 2022

Masks, social distancing, proper hygiene, and ventilation can help reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in public places—but even with these measures, scientists have detected airborne SARS-CoV-2 in indoor settings, EurekAlert reports.

Now, researchers from Yale University School of Engineering and Applied Science and Yale University School of Public Health—working on behalf of the American Chemical Society—say they have developed a passive air sampler clip that can help assess personal exposure to SARS-CoV-2 that could be especially helpful for workers in high-risk settings, such as restaurants or healthcare facilities.

Reporting in the January 12 edition of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology Letters, the researchers note that COVID-19 is primarily transmitted through the inhalation of virus-laden aerosols and respiratory droplets that infected individuals expel by coughing, sneezing, speaking, or breathing.

To date, active air sampling devices to detect airborne SARS-CoV-2 have been used in indoor settings; however, these monitors are typically large, expensive, non-portable and require electricity. To better understand personal exposures to the virus, lead author Krystal Pollitt and colleagues wanted to develop a small, lightweight, inexpensive and wearable device that doesn’t require a power source.

The researchers developed a wearable passive air sampler, known as the Fresh Air Clip, that continually adsorbs virus-laden aerosols on a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) surface. The team tested the air sampler in a rotating drum in which they generated aerosols containing a surrogate virus, a bacteriophage with similar properties to SARS-CoV-2. They detected virus on the PDMS sampler using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), showing that the device could be used to reliably estimate airborne virus concentrations.

Then, the researchers distributed Fresh Air Clips to 62 volunteers, who wore the monitors for five days. PCR analysis of the clips detected SARS-CoV-2 RNA in five of the clips: Four were worn by restaurant servers and one by a homeless shelter staff person. The highest viral loads (more than 100 RNA copies per clip) were detected in two badges from restaurant servers.

Although the Fresh Air Clip has not yet been commercialized, these results indicate that it could serve as a semiquantitative screening tool for assessing personal exposure to SARS-CoV-2, as well as help identify high-risk areas for indoor exposure, the researchers say.

Research contact: @EurekAlert

New symptoms identified could help doctors diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier

November 9, 2021

Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival among all common cancers, with the five-year survival rate pegged at about 7% in the United Kingdom. The reason: Unfortunately, most people with pancreatic cancer are diagnosed at a late stage.

 But researchers at the University of Oxford now have identified a series of symptoms associated with pancreatic cancer, including two previously unrecognized warning signs—feeling thirsty and having dark urine—they announced in a study presented at Europe’s largest annual cancer conference, the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Festival on Monday, November 8, reports EurekAlert.

 The study has confirmed a further 21 signs of pancreatic cancer and shown that patients often have some symptoms of the disease up to a year before their cancers are diagnosed, and other alarming symptoms three months before diagnosis.

 The researchers hope their findings could improve survival by helping GPs diagnose the disease earlier, especially when patients present with several seemingly non-specific symptoms.

 Dr. Weiqi Liao, a data scientist at the University of Oxford, and his colleagues looked at data from 24,236 patients who were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in England between 2000 and 2017 using a large electronic database (QResearch). The researchers looked at patients’ symptoms at different time points before they were diagnosed with cancer and compared them to other patients’ symptoms who were not diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

 Yellowing of the skin (jaundice) and bleeding in the stomach or intestine were the two serious symptoms most associated with being diagnosed with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), the most common type of pancreatic cancer, and in pancreatic neuroendocrine neoplasms (PNEN), a rarer form of pancreatic cancer. In addition, researchers identified thirst and dark urine as previously unknown symptoms for PDAC.

 Dr. Liao said: “When pancreatic cancer is diagnosed earlier, patients have a higher chance of survival. It is possible to diagnose patients when they visit their GP, but both patients and GPs need to be aware of the symptoms associated with pancreatic cancer.”

 The research, which is the largest study of its kind, found 23 symptoms linked with the diagnosis of PDAC (yellowing of the skin, bleeding in the stomach or intestine, problems swallowing, diarrhea, change in bowel habits, vomiting, indigestion, abdominal mass, abdominal pain, weight loss, constipation, fat in stool, abdominal swelling, nausea, flatulence, heartburn, fever, tiredness, appetite loss, itching, back pain, thirst, and dark urine).

 Nine symptoms were linked with PNEN (yellowing of the skin, blood in stool, diarrhoea, change in bowel habits, vomiting, indigestion, abdominal mass, abdominal pain, and weight loss).

 While most symptoms were not specific to pancreatic cancer and could be due to other benign conditions, the researchers found patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer had a higher chance of experiencing some of these non-specific symptoms one year before diagnosis.

 Dr Liao said: “These new findings enable us to conduct further work on understanding symptoms that could suggest pancreatic cancer. This will help GPs to make decisions about who to refer for urgent tests, especially when patients have several seemingly non-specific symptoms.”

 The study ahs been published in the September 21, 2021 edition of the British Journal of General Practice.

 Research contact: @EurekAlert

More power to you: High intensity training is best for older people

October 9, 2020

A study conducted by the Cardiac Research Group (CERG) at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) has determined that twice-a-week high intensity interval training provides the most health benefits for people aged 70-79, EurekAlert reports.

“First of all, I have to say that exercise in general seems to be good for the health of the elderly. And our study results show that on top of that, training regularly at high intensity has an extra positive effect,” says Dorthe Stensvold, a CERG professor who has been looking forward to sharing the results of the Generation 100 study for a while now.

She says that high-intensity exercise has clear effects: “Among most 70-77-year-olds in Norway, 90% will survive the next five years. In the Generation 100 study, more than 95% of the 1,500 participants survived!” she said.

The five-year research initiative randomly divided healthy participants into three different training groups when the study started in 2012:

  • The first group was assigned to high-intensity training intervals according to the 4X4 method twice a week,
  • Group two was instructed to train at a steady, moderate intensity for 50 minutes two days a week. The participants could choose whether they wanted to train on their own or participate in group training with instructors.
  • The third group—the control group—was advised to exercise according to the Norwegian health authorities’ recommendations. This group was not offered organized training under the auspices of Generation 100, but was called in for regular health checks and fitness assessments.

Both physical and mental quality of life were better in the high-intensity group after five years than in the other two groups. High-intensity interval training also had the greatest positive effect on fitness,” says Stensvold.

But does this kind of exercise prolong life to a greater extent than moderate exercise?

In the interval training group, 3% of the participants had died after five years. The percentage was 6% in the moderate group. The difference is not statistically significant, but the trend is so clear that we believe the results give good reason to recommend high-intensity training for the elderly,” says Stensvold.

Among the participants in the control group, 4.5% had died after five years.

“One challenge in interpreting our results has been that the participants in the control group trained more than we envisioned in advance. One in five people in this group trained regularly at high intensity and ended up, on average, doing more high-intensity training than the participants in the moderate group,” says Stensvold.

This could also explain why this group ended up in between the other two groups in terms of survival.

“You could say that this is a disadvantage, as far as the research goes. But it may tell us that an annual fitness and health check is all that’s needed to motivate older people to become more physically active. In that case, it’s really good news,” says Stensvold.

As to the question of whether this study offers definitive proof that exercise prolongs life, Stensvold says, “I’d like to answer with a clear and unequivocal yes, because we believe that this is true. But training is probably not the only reason why so few of the Generation 100 participants died compared to what’s expected in this age group. The people who signed up to participate in Generation 100 probably had high training motivation to begin with. They also started with a relatively high level of activity, and most of them considered themselves to be in good health.

Stensvold points out that the participants in all three of the Generation 100 study groups managed to maintain their fitness levels throughout the five-year period. That’s quite unique for people in this age group, according to physician and PhD candidate Jon Magne Letnes.

“Normally we see a drop in fitness of 20% over a ten-year period for people in their 70s. The fact that the participants in Generation 100 have managed to maintain their strong fitness levels from start to finish indicates that all three groups were more physically active than is usual for this age group,” he says.

Letnes, who like Stensvold is affiliated with CERG at NTNU, refers to his own study which was published two weeks ago. It contains information on 1500 healthy men and women who tested their fitness level twice, at ten years apart, in connection with the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study (Hunt3).

“We found that age has the least effect on fitness level for people who exercise regularly at high intensity. This group had a drop in fitness of 5% over ten years. By comparison, fitness levels dropped by 9% individuals who exercised regularly but not at high intensity. Those who were physically inactive lost as much as 16% of their physical conditioning over ten years,” says Letnes.

The decline in fitness was greater among the elderly than in younger people. Those who maintained their conditioning best also had the healthiest status when it came to risk factors for lifestyle diseases and poor health.

“Blood pressure, waist measurement, cholesterol and resting heart rate increased less in people who maintained their conditioning than in those who had a larger drop in fitness figures,” Letnes says.

Stensvold believes that the results from Letnes’ research support the most important findings in the Generation 100 study.

“In Generation 100, the high-intensity training increased participants’ conditioning the most after the first, third and fifth years. We know that better fitness is closely linked to lower risk of premature death, so this improvement may explain why the high-intensity group apparently had the best survival rate,” she says.

She ends by saying, “By high intensity we mean training that gets you really sweaty and out of breath. Now our hope is that the national recommendations for physical activity will be modified to encourage older people even more strongly to do high intensity training – either as their only form of exercise or to supplement more moderate training.”

The study was published in the medical journal, BMJ.

Research contact: @EurekAlert