Covid cases rising, hospitals told to allow visitors, man given pigs heart dies and Covid treatment


Covid cases rising among those aged 55 and over

Covid cases appear to be rising in older people as increased socialising, waning immunity and a more transmissible version of the Omicron variant threaten to fuel a resurgence of the virus. The suspected uptick has raised concerns as older people are more prone to severe Covid and have had more time for their immunity to wane, as many had their booster vaccines several months ago.

Tests on nearly 100,000 swabs from homes across England reveal that, while infections have fallen overall since the January peak, one in 35 people tested positive between 8 February and 1 March, with cases either level or rising in those aged 55 and over. Scientists on Imperial College’s React-1 study said the R value – the average number of people an infected person passes the virus to – remained below 1 for those aged 54 and under, meaning cases were in decline. But for those aged 55 and over, R stood at 1.04.

Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College, said the recent rise was foreseeable. “We’ll see a great deal more of this, along the lines of recent resurgent spikes in Scotland and Hong Kong,” he said. “Caseloads were by no means low or under control as we came out of all mitigations and, when you add in waning immunity and the enhanced transmissibility of BA.2, it looks like we are in for a difficult period, especially for the elderly.”

Read the full story in The Guardian.


Hospitals told to allow visitors for an hour a day under ‘living with Covid’ plan

Hospitals must allow visitors “for at least one hour per day”, new guidance says, after the NHS told leaders their policies should reflect the “living with Covid” plan. Previous guidance had said “careful visiting policies” were appropriate “while Covid-19 continues to be in general circulation“. But NHS England has now told hospital bosses to accommodate visitors “for at least one hour per day and ideally for longer”.

This comes after it was revealed that all hospitals in England still had some limits on patient visits when the government announced its “living with Covid” plan last month. The policies varied across the country, with around a quarter of hospital trusts banning all routine visits. In some cases, visitors were only allowed to see loved ones for 30 minutes per visit every other day.

NHS England’s guidance says “It is important to recognise the contribution that visiting makes to the well-being and the person-centred care of patients; lack of access to visitors causes distress to them and their families… Visiting policies need to reflect that we are living with Covid-19 in general circulation and should be accommodated for at least one hour per day and ideally for longer.”


Read the full story in The Telegraph.


Man given genetically modified pig heart dies

The first person in the world to get a heart transplant from a genetically-modified pig has died. David Bennett, who had terminal heart disease, survived for two months following the surgery in the US. But his condition began to deteriorate several days ago, his doctors in Baltimore said, and the 57-year-old died on 8 March. Mr Bennett knew the risks attached to the surgery, acknowledging before the procedure it was “a shot in the dark”.





Doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center were granted a special dispensation by the US medical regulator to carry out the procedure, on the basis that Mr Bennett – who was ineligible for a human transplant – would otherwise have died. Mr Bennett underwent the surgery on 7 January, and doctors say in the weeks afterwards he spent time with his family, watched the Super Bowl and spoke about wanting to get home to his dog, Lucky.


Mr Bennett’s son, David Jr, said he hoped his father’s transplant would “be the beginning of hope and not the end… We are grateful for every innovative moment, every crazy dream, every sleepless night that went into this historic effort,”


Read the full story in the BBC News.


Covid treatment sotrovimab can cause drug-resistant mutation, study finds

Australian virologists have uncovered a drug-resistant mutation in the Covid-19 virus associated with the drug sotrovimab and say without the monitoring of patients given the treatment the mutated virus could spread in the community. The world-first findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday, are the result of an analysis of the first 100 patients in western Sydney during the Delta outbreak in 2021 to be given sotrovimab.

Sotrovimab is a monoclonal antibody that is available in many countries to treat vulnerable patients who are at risk of severe disease and death due to Covid-19 infection. Sotrovimab must be administered via infusion within the first five days of Covid-19 infection, and prevents Covid-19 symptoms from becoming severe. It is one of the few human-engineered monoclonal antibodies that can target Omicron.

The lead author of the study, Dr Rebecca Rockett, said “We’re not sure if sotrovimab helps neutralise the virus early on in the infection before it develops resistance. But often drugs are given to treat Covid-19 patients and there’s not really any follow-up done. We realise that you can’t follow every patient with PCR testing or genomic surveillance, but we are trying to advocate for patients that progress to severe disease despite the treatment that we investigate using genomics to see whether they’ve acquired any resistance mutations.”


Read the full story in the The Guardian.

Quote of the week

Maria Caulfield, minister for Public Health and Primary Care and a practising cancer nurse, is standing up for women’s healthcare

“Women feel because they’ve had such a struggle to be heard and because they are still struggling, while we’re ensuring that everyone has their rights, women want us to make sure that women’s rights are upheld too…Even with mammograms, women are never told a simple paracetamol might help [with the discomfort]. It’s assumed that women will just take the pain and accept it as normal. We need to be talking about the menopause to schoolchildren so they know it’s a natural part of the cycle of life.”

Read more in The Telegraph.