The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has previously recommended people wear cloth face coverings in public settings to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2. However, some people have been concerned about whether face coverings, such as masks, cause carbon dioxide (CO2) poisoning. Experts have now come out saying that’s impossible. Speaking about the use of cloth face masks, Prof Keith Neal, an infectious disease expert, said wearing one will not cause hypercapnia (too much carbon dioxide in the blood). Echoing these comments, Darrell Spurlock Jr., PhD, RN, the director of the Leadership Center for Nursing Education Research at Widener University, said: “Rebreathing tiny amounts of CO2 from wearing either properly fitted N95 respirators or more loosely fitted cloth or surgical masks is of no concern for the vast, vast majority of people.” Carbon dioxide molecules are tiny and do not get trapped by the breathable material used to make cloth ace masks. When you breathe out, the carbon dioxide goes through and round the mask. Surgeons and other medical professionals regularly wear much more heavy duty face coverings all day without coming to harm. Face masks can play a potentially important role in reducing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 because they can help limit it being transmitted by an infected individual. This is particularly true for people who are asymptomatic and do not actually know they have the virus. The only stipulation when it comes to the wearing of cloth face masks is that people with existing lung conditions should consult their physician before doing so. This is because masks do affect normal air entry and could make breathing difficult for people with severe lung diseases. [Related reading: COVID-19: Could a second wave already be here?]
Several studies have revealed that COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting men and the potential reasons include everything from biology to bad habits. According to the World Health Organization, men have accounted for 69% of COVID-19 related deaths in Europe. Meanwhile, reports suggest that in New York City men have been dying from COVID-19 at almost twice the rate of women. It is thought that both genetics and lifestyle choices play a part when it comes to COVID-19 outcomes in men. First and foremost, because of their extra X chromosome, women have stronger immune systems and respond better to infections than men. Then there is the fact that more elderly men suffer from heart disease than elderly women and that high blood pressure and liver disease are more prevalent in men too. All of these conditions are factors that are associated with more negative COVID-19 outcomes. In addition, men are statistically more likely to smoke than women. In fact, according to Our World in Data figures, more than one-third (35%) of men in the world smoke, compared to just over 6% of women. With smoking one of the biggest risk factors for chronic lung disease, men are at a much greater disadvantage should they get COVID-19. [Related reading: Can you catch the new coronavirus twice?]
Researchers at an Oxford hospital have developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system that can accurately diagnose heart and lung scans. The new AI could lead to more people being diagnosed earlier and prevent patients being sent home when they are still at risk of having a heart attack. It’s though the system will save the NHS billions of pounds by enabling various diseases to be detected much earlier. The heart disease technology will be available to NHS hospitals for free this summer. Currently, cardiologists use a person’s heartbeat to tell if there is a problem. However, even the most experienced doctors get it wrong in one in five cases. This leads to a patient being sent home when they are still at risk of a heart attack or undergoing an unnecessary operation. The AI system can pick up details on the scans that doctors cannot see, resulting in a more accurate diagnosis. So far, the system has been tested in clinical trials and the results aren’t expected to appear in a peer-reviewed journal until later this year. However, one of the system’s developers has said the data shows it greatly outperformed his fellow specialists. The government's healthcare tsar, Sir John Bell, has indicated that AI could "save the NHS". "There is about £2.2bn spent on pathology services in the NHS. You may be able to reduce that by 50%. AI may be the thing that saves the NHS," he said.
We recently informed you about how researchers from Cambridge University believe a chemical compound found in dogfish sharks could be used to potentially halt the onset of Parkinson's Disease (here). Now scientists in Australia hope a drug that mimics part of a shark's immune system could be used to help treat an incurable lung disease in humans. People with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) - a condition that scars lung tissue - find that their breathing becomes progressively harder and they develop a persistent dry cough. At present, there is no cure for IPF, so treatment focuses on symptom relief and slowing the progression of the disease. Initial tests with the drug, AD-114, showed that it can successfully kill the cells that cause fibrosis. Researchers hope that human trials with AD-114 can commence as early as next year. Dr Mick Foley, from the La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science, was keen to stress that no sharks were harmed during the research, and just a single blood sample was taken from a wobbegong shark at Melbourne Aquarium for the tests. "It would be very nice to say one day that 'this person is alive because of what the sharks told us,'" Dr Foley said. IPF is a disease that kills more than 5,000 people in the UK alone every year, according to the British Lung Foundation.