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Interesting Autism Facts


There are many misunderstandings and myths surrounding autism, but it is worth learning the facts about this developmental disorder. It is an ongoing condition that requires a lifetime of care and attention. The puzzle ribbon is the universal symbol of autism awareness. As the world learns more about the disorder, more people are being educated about it. Fortunately, there are many resources available to help families and teachers understand and cope with the challenges that the condition can cause.

Rett syndrome affects girls

The symptoms of Rett syndrome are often subtle at first, making them easy to miss. They include decreased eye contact, a reduced interest in toys, and delay in sitting up or crawling. However, as the child grows older, the symptoms may become more severe and they may begin to exhibit seizures. In addition, some children with the condition may also show signs of scoliosis, muscle weakness, and a decreased range of motion in their joints.

The mutation causing Rett syndrome in girls is a mutation in the MECP2 gene. Boys are affected by the same mutation, but don’t display any clinical features of the syndrome when they’re first born. However, a small percentage of boys may also have a different mutation, causing them to display neurologic defects.

Autism is a lifelong condition

Autism is a neurological condition that affects how people perceive the world. People with autism tend to be hypersensitive to certain stimuli, resulting in sensory overload, which can lead to confusion and overwhelming experiences. Fortunately, most people with autism can learn to adjust to the challenges of their condition and make progress in learning and living independently.

About one-quarter of autistic children are nonverbal. In addition, half of them do not develop strong linguistic skills. Autism is a spectrum disorder and includes Asperger’s syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder.

It is caused by lack of parental warmth

One theory suggests that autism is caused by lack of parental warmth. It was first put forward by psychologist Bruno Bettelheim, who championed the theory in the 1950s. The theory posited that autistic children are the result of emotionally distant, cold, and rejecting mothers. It was widely accepted and went largely unchallenged for decades.

However, the findings are not conclusive. The study was cross-sectional in nature and therefore does not prove a definitive link between autism and parental warmth. Since the study’s participants provided information about their own families, recall bias and other factors could influence the results. It may also have missed some important factors, such as differences in regulatory systems.

It is a genetic condition

Genetic studies have identified hundreds of genes that have been associated with autism. These genes can explain as much as 10% to 20% of autism cases. These genes affect the epigenetic landscape of the genome. They can either be duplicated or deleted, causing the DNA to be altered in one or more ways. Some of these genes are common, while others have been discovered only recently. Autism is associated with higher levels of copy number variations.

While many people believe that autism is hereditary, there is no single gene that is directly responsible for autism. Researchers focus on sporadic mutations that disrupt a large portion of protein-coding genes. While these mutations may cause autism, they are relatively uncommon and do not appear to be the major cause.

It isn’t a weakness

Many people think of autism as a weakness, but the reality is that people with autism are not weak. Instead, they have exceptional strengths and are able to excel in a variety of areas, including math, arts, and science. In addition, people with autism are often strong learners and can remember specific details for extended periods of time.

Johnson & Johnson Booster Adds to COVID-19 Protection


U.S. pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson announced Wednesday that clinical trials it has conducted show a second shot of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine produced an antibody response nine times higher than the original single dose.

In a news release, the company said it conducted two Phase 1/2a studies in individuals previously vaccinated with its single-shot vaccine. The interim data from those studies showed a booster dose of the vaccine generated “a rapid and robust increase in spike-binding antibodies, which bind to and neutralize an invading virus.”

The company said the boost in antibodies was “nine-fold higher than 28 days after the primary single-dose vaccination.” It said significant increases in binding antibody responses were observed in participants between the ages of 18 and 55, and in those 65 years and older, who received a lower booster dose.

“Phase 1/2a clinical trials are smaller than the Phase 3 trials designed to show the efficacy of a vaccine,” the company’s statement said. Johnson & Johnson is also studying a two-dose vaccine in as many as 30,000 people in a Phase 3 trial, the results of which have not yet been released.

Mathai Mammen, global head of research for Johnson & Johnson, said the company is submitting the results of its studies to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and other health authorities for potential use of the vaccine as a booster eight months or later after the primary single-dose vaccination.

The Johnson & Johnson Phase 1/2a studies have been submitted to the medRxiv online medical and health science archive and distribution server ahead of peer review.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.


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Mixing Covid jabs has good immune response, study finds


A mix-and-match approach to Covid vaccines – using different brands for first and second doses – appears to give good protection against the pandemic virus, a UK study has found.

The Com-Cov trial looked at the efficacy of either two doses of Pfizer, two of AstraZeneca, or one of them followed by the other.

All combinations worked well, priming the immune system.

This knowledge could offer flexibility for vaccine rollout, say experts.

The trial results also hint that people who have already received two doses of AstraZeneca vaccine could have a stronger immune response if they were given a different jab as a booster if recommended in the autumn.

The UK’s deputy chief medical officer, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, said there was no reason to change the current successful same dose vaccine schedules in the UK, however, given vaccines were in good supply and saving lives.

But he says it might be something to look at in the future: “Mixing doses could provide us with even greater flexibility for a booster programme, while also supporting countries who have further to go with their vaccine rollouts, and who may be experiencing supply difficulties.”

Some countries are already using mixed doses. Spain and Germany are offering the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccines as a second dose to younger people who have already received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, following concerns about rare but serious blood clots, rather than about efficacy.

Two doses are important to give the fullest protection and teach the body to make antibodies and T cells to block and kill Covid.

The Com-Cov study, which looked at giving the doses four weeks apart in 850 volunteers aged 50 and above, found:

  • AZ followed by Pfizer induced higher antibodies and T cell responses than Pfizer followed by AZ
  • Both of these mixes induced higher antibodies than two doses of AZ
  • The highest antibody response was seen after two doses of Pfizer, and the highest T cell response from AZ followed by Pfizer

Lead investigator Prof Matthew Snape, from the University of Oxford, said the findings did not undermine the UK policy of giving people the same jab twice: “We already know that both standard schedules are very effective against severe disease and hospitalisations, including against the Delta variant when given at eight to 12 weeks apart.”

He said the new results showed mixed dose schedules were also effective, even though the interval of four weeks studied was shorter than the eight to 12-week schedule most commonly used in the UK.

“This longer interval is known to result in a better immune response,” he added.

Mixed dose trial results for a 12-week jab interval will be available next month.

Autumn booster dose?

Meanwhile, another pre-print study, which also came out on Monday, suggests a third dose of AZ vaccine, given more than six months after the second, boosts the immune system.

But experts say it is too early to know if people will need a booster dose this year ahead of winter. It is unclear yet how much immunity might wane over time.

Prof Paul Hunter from the University of East Anglia said: “The big question at present is whether or not we will be being offered booster vaccines in the autumn. With the evidence available from this and other sources, I suspect that will be likely for those most at risk from the virus, either due to age or being clinically vulnerable.”

He suggested people who have had a first course of AstraZeneca might be offered the Pfizer vaccine in as a booster rather than a repeat AstraZeneca, while people who had a Pfizer first course may not need an autumn booster, based on the evidence from the Com-Cov trial.

The initial results of this mix and match vaccine trial are highly encouraging and throw up some interesting options for booster doses.

Mixing first and second doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines yielded strong immune responses. Indeed, every combination of dosing – Pfizer/Pfizer, AZ/Pfizer or Pfizer/AZ produced higher antibody and cellular responses than AZ/AZ.

Does this mean that two doses of AstraZeneca is somehow inferior? Not necessarily.

It is worth remembering that two doses of AZ are already proven to reduce the chances of being hospitalised with Covid by more than 90%.

So we know from real world evidence that the AZ vaccine is highly effective. The AZ vaccine is a ‘slow burner’, and immunity levels build over time, especially when the dosing period is stretched. Currently the gap between first and second doses is between eight and 12 weeks which should give a better immune response.

What this trial suggests is that for the third, booster doses, it may be preferable to give a different brand of vaccine than the one used for the first two shots.

But it’s also worth noting that mixing vaccines does produce more short-term side effects such as chills, headaches and muscle pain.

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Covid vaccine: Rumours thrive amid trickle of pandemic facts


With a number of potential vaccines for Covid-19 now imminent, there are increasing concerns that misinformation online could turn some people against being immunized.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the world’s not only fighting the pandemic, but also what it calls an “infodemic” – where an overload of information, some of it false, makes it difficult for people to make decisions about their health.

And it’s trying to answer people’s concerns about the vaccines – as well as helping people evaluate the information they see on social media.

Nina, who is 21 and lives in London with her 82-year-old grandmother, is one of those who has concerns,

She says she has “mixed feelings” about Covid vaccines.

Nina, who is a freelance producer, isn’t sure yet if she’ll be vaccinated in the future. But she thinks the amount of information around makes it harder to understand the science behind the vaccines.

“Obviously like everyone I want this virus to go away as quickly as possible,” she says.

“But at the same time, I’m not sure how much I trust the vaccine yet, because it’s happened so quickly.”

And her view is partly coloured by what she sees on social media, although she also says she seeks out information from “traditional” news sources.

“There are quite a lot of opinions flying around on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. I think people are very easily influenced by that,” she says.

Oscar Hodgson, a trainee solicitor who is taking part in a coronavirus vaccine trial at Imperial College London, says: “It’s often very difficult with the amount of information that we are being bombarded with to make sense of what you should be doing.”

But he adds: “I think a vaccine is one of the only ways out of the situation if we want to get away from endless lockdowns and curfews.”

‘Managing hope’

Researchers have moved at record speed to develop vaccines, less than a year in to this pandemic,

The WHO is monitoring data from more than 200 vaccine trials.

“There are now several types of vaccine in the pipeline based on different technologies,” says Dr Sylvie Briand, the WHO’s director of pandemic and epidemic diseases.

They are going through the same safety tests as vaccines already used all around the world.

“It’s very expensive to do these phase three (human) trials. But many countries have come together to pay for it,” Dr Briand says. “When you have enough funds the process can go much faster.”

There are three key reasons it’s been possible to develop coronavirus vaccines so quickly:

  • New technologies which were being developed before Covid struck have been used to speed up the process
  • Billions of dollars have been ploughed into vaccine research. Securing funding can take years
  • Finding ways to fight Covid-19 has been a top priority for every government around the world

Part of the problem, is that information about this pandemic has been coming out in dribs and drabs, as scientists make new discoveries about the virus and how best to manage it.

This, researchers say, has created space for misinformation to thrive.

“People are looking for information, and they’re confronted with this confusing mix of some credible information, and then a lot of other very questioning, undermining or outright wrong information.” says Prof Heidi Larson who runs the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

She has been studying vaccine confidence around the world for more than two decades.

While vaccine hesitancy has always been an issue, she is very concerned about the impact misinformation appears to be having on people’s intention to take coronavirus vaccines.

Her team carried out a recent study looking at vaccine confidence in the UK and US.

Of 4,000 people in the UK. 54% said they definitely would be vaccinated. But after they were shown inaccurate claims about vaccine safety that figure fell by over six percentage points

And people on lower incomes and from black and minority ethnic backgrounds were most likely to reject a Covid vaccine.

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AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine early results ‘good news’ but ‘more analysis needed,’ experts say

FILE PHOTO: Vials with a sticker reading, "COVID-19 / Coronavirus vaccine / Injection only" and a medical syringe are seen in front of a displayed AstraZeneca logo in this illustration taken October 31, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Following Monday’s news of AstraZeneca and Oxford University’s announcement that their coronavirus vaccine was up to 90% effective in late-stage trials, top experts say the preliminary findings are good news but await further analysis.

“The interim analysis supports vaccine safety with no severe reactions to the vaccine and that is good news,” Dr. Andrea Cox, immunologist and professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told Fox News in an emailed statement.

Likewise, Dr. Thad Stappenbeck of Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute said there were “no significant safety concerns, which is also outstanding news.”

However, in AstraZeneca’s trial, participants who were administered a smaller dose and then a full dose one month later saw around 90% efficacy, while the rate dropped to 62% among other participants given two full doses a month apart. (“Efficacy” measures disease incidence among vaccinated participants.)

“It is not clear why the results suggest the vaccine is less effective when given at a higher dose,” Cox continued.

An AstraZeneca spokesperson elaborated on the findings to Fox News earlier this week.

“We are excited to see 90% efficacy from the half dose: full-dose regimen,” Brendan McEvoy, AstraZeneca spokesperson, said. “We see a lot of merit in this regimen and we will now start discussions with regulators into incorporating this dose combination for further clinical investigation. We will continue to follow the science to better understand these data.”

Stappenbeck advised against overinterpreting the 90% efficacy result at this point, saying the findings will have to be repeated in other trials to see if it holds up. Indeed, AstraZeneca said the preliminary results stemmed from about 11,600 people in the UK and Brazil, and trials continue in the U.S., Japan, Russia, South Africa and other places. The company expects to enroll 60,000 participants globally.

“It is simply too small of a group and may be a statistical anomaly,” Stappenbeck wrote.

Cox offered several possible explanations for the different efficacy rates from the dosing regimens. Maybe the higher dose results in unresponsiveness rather than the sought-after immune response to the spike protein, she said.

“Sometimes when a protein is present at high levels, the immune system responds by turning off rather than responding,” Cox wrote.

Finally, among other possibilities, she theorized the higher efficacy from the half-dose/full-dose regimen could be due to differences in the vaccine population rather than true differences in the vaccine strategy, and, like Stappenbeck, said, “more analysis will be needed to determine what the results mean.”

Nevertheless, both experts pointed to the positive side that there are multiple potential vaccine candidates, which will be needed to meet global demand.

“These results suggest that we can add another vaccine to the armamentarium in the fight against COVID-19,” Cox wrote.


Coronavirus face masks can be reused with ‘dry heat,’ FDA says


While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says health care workers should ideally use new personal protective equipment amid the coronavirus pandemic, strained supplies have caused the agency to weigh safe alternatives for reuse, such as dry heat.

“While [health care personnel] should continue to use a properly fitting, new, FDA-cleared or authorized respirator when available according to existing health care organization protocols, in the case that there is a supply shortage, reuse of decontaminated or bioburden-reduced respirators are [a] potential option,” per new guidance issued Wednesday.

“Under certain circumstances, single-use, disposable [filtering facepiece respirators,] [which includes N95s,] may be reused for a limited number of times if properly decontaminated or have undergone sufficient bioburden reduction,” reads the guidance.

The FDA says dry heat can help lower the bioburden (or microorganisms present) on respirators like N95s to save on supplies amid potential shortages.

The FDA said systems using dry heat are OK when:

  • Consistent temperatures of 70 degrees Celsius for at least 60 minutes for enough bioburden reduction, or 75 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes
  • Close assessment of chamber temperatures ensure even heat distribution
  • There is a “highly controlled heat transfer” (like in a lab oven or industrial convection oven)
  • The system isn’t a household appliance like an oven or pressure cooker due to imprecision in temperature control and the possibility of cross-contamination

However, the agency advised tossing masks in certain situations, like during aerosol-generating procedures (common in dentistry), masks that become difficult to breathe through and also masks contaminated with blood or other bodily fluids from patients, among other circumstances.

On a side note, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) previously advised health care workers to store used-N95s in a “breathable paper bag” after work shifts with at least five days between each use, along with frequent hand hygiene to prevent spreading the pathogen to the wearer.

“This will provide some time for pathogens on it to ‘die-off’ during storage,” the CDC wrote on its webpage. The agency also advised against wearing the same mask more than five times.

The FDA said Wednesday that its new guidance, which you can read more about here, should be followed “in conjunction with, not in lieu of, the existing CDC reuse recommendations.”


FDA authorizes new Covid-19 antibody test that quantifies specific levels of antibodies

Closeup shot of a scientist analyzing samples in a laboratory

The US Food and Drug Administration has issued an emergency use authorization for Kantaro Bioscience’s Covid-19 antibody test kit, the group announced on Wednesday. The newly authorized antibody test, called COVID-SeroKlir, identifies and measures precise levels of antibodies that are present in a person after Covid-19 recovery.

The FDA confirmed to CNN on Wednesday that the agency had authorized the test. But this is not the first test to estimate a patient’s antibodies from a past coronavirus infection. The FDA previously authorized similar tests over the summer.
“Being able to measure a patient’s relative level of antibodies in response to a previous SARS-CoV-2 infection may be useful as we continue to learn more about the virus and what the existence of antibodies may mean,” Dr. Tim Stenzel, director of the Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a news release in July around the time the tests were authorized.
“There are still many unknowns about what the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies may tell us about potential immunity,” Stenzel said at the time. “Patients should not interpret results as telling them they are immune, or have any level of immunity, from the virus.”
Kantaro Biosciences — a joint venture between Mount Sinai and RenalytixAI to scale up innovation and testing efforts — announced on Wednesday that it has partnered with Bio-Techne Corporation to manufacture its testing kits with an initial capacity of up to 10 million tests per month.
While the newly authorized Covid-19 antibody test is similar to others in that it detects Covid-19 antibody levels, it takes testing a step further by providing a number readout of the level detected — and not just a simple positive or negative result, said Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, who was not involved in the Kantaro test.
“The ability to quantify what the antibody levels are helps us understand what level of antibody is correlated with being protected from infection,” Adalja told CNN on Wednesday.
“Every test is going to have a limit of detection — meaning the test is going to have a limit where they have some level of antibodies that have to be present for the test to be positive, and when it’s below that, the test will be negative,” Adalja said. “My understanding of this test is that it actually gives you a number so that you can say your antibody titer is X, Y or Z.”
This type of data on antibody levels could help inform vaccine development, Adalja said.
“I also think that becomes important when we think about the vaccine, because we will often sometimes vaccinate someone and will want to know the levels of antibody that are generated and then follow those people over time to understand what the interval might be for boosting them,” Adalja said. “So if the antibodies fall below a certain level after three years, then you can get a booster at three years.”
Studies suggest that Covid-19 antibody levels can dwindle over time — after a period of about five to six months — but more research is needed, said Dr. Saju Mathew, an Atlanta-based primary care physician and public health specialist, who was not involved in the newly authorized Kantaro test.
“So a test like this would be exciting if it is accurate,” Mathew told CNN on Wednesday.
“This test is suggesting that it’s greater than 98% sensitive and specific, which is good,” Mathew added, referencing Kantaro’s announcement that the test has demonstrated 98.8% sensitivity and 99.6% specificity for detecting novel coronavirus antibodies against two virus antigens.
“It looks at two viral antigens, including the spike protein,” Mathew said.
“The spike protein is the protein that the virus uses to get into our lungs and infect the body. So that’s why I think that this test definitely holds some promise,” Mathew said. “Ultimately the end game is, how accurate is this test?”
Mathew added that patients must keep in mind this is a test for detecting antibodies, which suggest having a previous Covid-19 infection — not a current one. Mathew also emphasized that having antibodies does not mean someone is immune to Covid-19 for a lifetime, but perhaps they have some protection for weeks or months.

Pfizer Says COVID-19 Vaccine 90% Effective in Trials


Pharmaceutical company Pfizer says late-stage testing on its potential COVID-19 vaccine indicates it is more than 90 percent effective.

Pfizer’s chairman and chief executive, Albert Bourla, along with its partner,  BioNTech, made the announcement Monday regarding the Phase 3, late-stage study of their potential vaccine. The statement said the study showed the vaccine to be more than 90 percent effective in preventing the virus in participants without evidence of prior infection in the first interim efficacy analysis.

The analysis was conducted by an independent data monitoring board, which examined 94 infections recorded so far in a study that has enrolled nearly 44,000 people in the United States and five other countries.

In his statement, Bourla said the results demonstrate the potential vaccine can help prevent COVID-19 in the majority of people who receive it. He cautioned, however, that while this is a critical first step, these efficacy results alone will not allow the companies to apply for U.S. Food and Drug Administration ((FDA)) Emergency Use Authorization.

He said more data on safety is also needed, adding, “We are continuing to accumulate that safety data as part of our ongoing clinical study.

“We estimate that a median of two months of safety data following the second and final dose of the vaccine candidate – required by FDA’s guidance for potential Emergency Use Authorization – will be available by the third week of November,” he said.

The top infectious disease expert in the U.S., Dr. Anthony Fauci, has said he was looking for a vaccine with 70- to 75 percent efficacy and that even 50 percent was acceptable.

From his Twitter account, U.S. President Donald Trump noted the reported 90 percent efficiency, calling it “SUCH GREAT NEWS,” and that the stock market was “UP BIG” as a result.

President-elect Joe Biden praised the development announced by Pfizer in a statement Monday but warned that the “end of the battle against COVID-19 is still months away.”

The news comes as drug makers and research centers around the world scramble to deliver a safe and effective vaccine in an attempt to bring an end to the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 1.25 million lives worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

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