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Covid-19 update: 27 August 2020

27 Aug 2020

A round-up of this week's coronavirus-related news and countermeasures from the photonics industry.

An LSU (Louisiana State University) Health New Orleans radiologist and evolutionary anatomist have teamed up to show the same techniques used for research on reptile and bird lungs can be used to help confirm the diagnosis of Covid-19 in patients.

Their paper published in BMJ Case Reports demonstrates that 3D models are a “strikingly clearer method” for visually evaluating the distribution of Covid-19-related infection in the respiratory system.

Emma R. Schachner, PhD, Associate Professor of Cell Biology & Anatomy, and Bradley Spieler, MD, Vice Chairman of Radiology Research and Associate Professor of Radiology, Internal Medicine, Urology, & Cell Biology and Anatomy at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, created 3D digital models from CT scans of patients hospitalized with symptoms associated with Covid-19.

Three patients who were suspected of having Covid-19 underwent contrast enhanced thoracic CT when their symptoms worsened. Two had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, but one was reverse transcription chain reaction (RT-PCR) negative. But because this patient had compelling clinical and imaging, the result was presumed to be a false negative.

Given diagnostic challenges with respect to false negative results by RT-PCR, described by Spieler as “the gold standard for Covid-19 diagnostic screening”, CT can be helpful in establishing this diagnosis. Importantly, he added, these CT features can range in form and structure and appear to correlate with disease progression. This allows for 3D segmentation of the data in which lung tissue can be volumetrically quantified or airflow patterns could be modeled.

“Previously published 3D models of lungs with Covid-19 have been created using automated volume rendering techniques,” said Dr. Schachner. “Our method is more challenging and time consuming, but results in a highly accurate and detailed anatomical model where the layers can be pulled apart, volumes quantified, and it can be 3D printed.” Schachner and Spieler are now segmenting more models for a larger follow up project.

Americans in favor of thermal temperature screening, says FLIR survey.

According to a survey conducted online by The Harris Poll, commissioned by FLIR Systems (July 28-30, 2020, among more than 2,000 adults in the USA), Americans overwhelmingly favor requiring thermal temperature screening to enter many venues to help slow the spread of Covid-19.

The survey also found that thermal temperature screening makes people feel more comfortable at airports, entering their workplace, attending public events, and visiting medical facilities, offering confidence to entrants that they are less likely to be exposed to Covid-19.

Americans support temperature screening to protect the public’s health despite potential concerns about personal freedoms. The vast majority, 82% of respondents, say thermal temperature screening is “worth it for the sake of public health” versus only 18%, who view the process as a “violation of personal freedom.”

More than any other group, Americans 65 and older say thermal imaging screening would make them more likely to attend activities by an average of 5-10 percentage points compared to other age groups.

“The general public recognizes how thermal imaging screening can help improve public health and safety,” said Chris Bainter, VP Business Development, Solutions business at FLIR. “When used properly and with the appropriate equipment, thermal imaging screening can quickly and safely identify at-risk individuals for further screening.”

Respondents cited accuracy of temperature screening as a top concern. Asked whether the readings “may not always be accurate,” 41% say this is a major concern, while 59% say it’s either a minor concern or not a concern at all. Potentially longer lines (31%) and the privacy of personal data (34%) are also mentioned as being a “major concern”.

“Thermal temperature screening does not require the collection of any personally identifiable information to be an effective solution as part of a broader health and safety program,” said Bainter. “Thermal imaging offers a quick method to screen individuals, accurate within a fraction of a degree, while enabling operators and subjects alike to maintain recommended social distances.”

'Compulsory wearing of masks at work makes no sense'

During the pandemic, the state must enforce hygiene regulations and, where necessary, make improvements. However, a general obligation to wear masks at the workplace would not make sense in mechanical engineering, argues VDMA, the German Mechanical Industry Association.

VDMA Executive Director Thilo Brodtmann explained, "A second corona wave would have a devastating effect on the economy, indeed on our entire social life. Therefore the state must enforce the existing hygiene regulations and, where necessary, improve them. The more the federal and state governments work in sync here, the greater will be the acceptance for the necessary measures.

"In our companies, as everywhere else, the usual rules of distance apply, and where they cannot be observed, the obligation to wear masks applies as a matter of course. As there is no busy public traffic in the mechanical engineering industry, such as in shops or restaurants, we do not believe that a general obligation to wear masks at the workplace makes sense.

“In our companies, as everywhere else, the usual distance rules apply, and where they cannot be observed, the wearing of masks is of course mandatory. Our companies pay attention to the observance of the rules for the very reason that a new wave of infection would also be a serious setback for them."

73 thousand scientists collaborate over Covid-19 portal

More than 73,000 users are collaborating on new online platform set up by the European Open Science Cloud Initiative, where scientists can share Covid-19 data and accelerate understanding of the virus to help develop treatments and vaccines. The website that allows scientists to share SARS-CoV-2 data from clinical trials, research centers, hospitals and national healthcare systems, reports thousands of users collaborating.

The European Covid-19 Data Platform, an open environment for researchers to share and upload data sets, has documented more than 2.6 million requests since its launch in April. Gathering clinical information, the portal brings together relevant datasets, such as raw and assembled viral sequences.

Via this new platform – described in the following video – thousands of researchers can share free resources to tackle Covid-19 in the context of the European Open Science Cloud initiative. Seeing global research collaborations, the Portal reports a wide spread of nations with the majority of its users so far coming from the UK (12%), the USA (9%), Spain (8%), Italy (8%) and Germany (7%).

Photonics firm Jenoptik, together with the Jena Alliance for Families, initiated an appeal for donations for the German city’s municipal schools. The donations will be used to purchase mobile devices that will primarily benefit socially disadvantaged families in learning at home. The first donation was handed over at Jenoptik on August 21.

The company stated, “Working parents have often been under much pressure in recent months due to the corona spread. Although many were able to work remotely at home, they also had to devote themselves to all-day childcare including homeschooling – often a great challenge for families and schools, not least because of the technical equipment required for this at home.”

A call for donations was made to Jena companies to provide financial support for the purchase of tablets and laptops, which will be made available on loan to socially disadvantaged families. Jenoptik supports this project with a donation of €10,000. President & CEO of Jenoptik Stefan Traeger presented the symbolic donation check to representatives of the Jena school administration on August 21, 2020.

Jenoptik CEO Stefan Traeger commented, “With our donation we want to contribute to providing as many children as possible with equal conditions for learning at home.” Eberhard Hertzsch, Head of the Department for Family, Education and Social Affairs of the City of Jena, added, “During the lockdown phase of the Corona pandemic, which was the first and only possible homeschooling phase, it was found that not all children had the necessary equipment.”

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