Friday Five

Diagnosis from Alexa, collaborating cancer charities and ‘Long Covid’ – this week’s Friday Five

Alexa voice assistant may be able to diagnose coronavirus

At least three research groups are working on projects which analyse audio recordings of people with Covid-19 to develop voice-analysis algorithms which can detect the virus.

“In the future, your robot, your Siri, your Alexa will simply say, ‘Oh you’ve got a cold,’” says Björn Schuller, a specialist in speech and emotion recognition with a joint position at the University of Augsburg in Germany and Imperial College London, who is leading one of the Covid-19 voice-analysis studies.

At present, this idea remains hypothetical; scientists will have to do large, long-term studies to demonstrate that voice-analysis diagnosis is accurate and can detect a disease earlier than a standard diagnostic method can. However, in the future it is likely that voice-analysis technology will be implemented widely and allow microphones to identify diseases and disorders. 

Read the full story in Nature.

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Twenty cancer charities unite to highlight the pandemic’s disruption to cancer services, with campaign partner Novartis 

Charities including Target Ovarian Cancer, Cancer 52, blood cancer charity DKMS and Sarcoma UK have launched a campaign which asks supporters to take on ’20 for 20′.

The 20 for 20 charities support over 87,000 patients diagnosed every year with rare and less common cancers in the UK. Due to the pandemic, the number of people going to their GP with symptoms of cancer and being urgently referred to a specialist is down by almost 20% compared to this time last year.

Participants of 20 for 20 are asked to complete a challenge of activity based on the number for 20 days. The campaign is supported by biopharma company Takeda and its headline sponsor and campaign partner Novartis.

Read the full story in the PharmaTimes.

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‘Long Covid’ specialist clinics will be set up, the head of NHS England has announced  

NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens has said £10 million will be invested this year to set up long Covid clinics all over England, to provide services for physical and mental health issues. This will include an online rehabilitation service called Your Covid Recovery, research on 10,000 long Covid patients to better understand the condition, and a long Covid taskforce which will include patients, medical specialists and researchers.

People with mild coronavirus symptoms, as well as those who have been treated in intensive care can have persistent health problems for months after diagnosis, known as ‘’long Covid’’. This can have debilitating effects on people’s lives, with the most common symptom of long Covid being crippling fatigue. Breathlessness, persistent pain and anxiety have also been reported.

Sir Simon said there are ‘’tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands’’ of patients affected by long Covid.

Read the full story in the BBC.

New coronavirus mutation may be more dominant and contagious 

The largest genetic study carried out in the US has suggested that a variant of the coronavirus, known as the D641G mutation is better adapted to spreading among humans, even with interventions such as mask-wearing and social distancing.

Researchers, from the University of Chicago and University of Texas found that people infected with this strain had higher ‘’loads’’ of virus in their upper respiratory tracts, which allows a virus to spread more effectively. The D641G variant is now one of the most dominant in the US, accounting for 99.9% of cases in Houston.

“Wearing masks, washing our hands, all those things are barriers to transmissibility, but as the virus becomes more contagious it statistically is better at getting around those barriers,” said David Morens, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Read the full story in The Telegraph.

 


Quote of the week

In Jo Spadaccino’s article for the PharmaTimes, she reflects on how the NHS is tackling the third phase of its Covid-19 response, and the implications for pharma. One of the key areas of focus for Phase Three of the NHS programme is learning from the first wave of Covid-19, specifically in supporting staff, guarding against inequalities and in prevention. ”The inequalities and the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities have been deeply wounding to the health service. It is a failure of one of the key pillars of the NHS constitution: namely, equal access to high-quality care for all.”

Read the full article in The PharmaTimes.