Coronavirus COVID-19
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Ravaged by the pandemic, 2020 likely saw the UK economy suffer its steepest fall in GDP in more than three centuries. But we expect 2021 to see a strong recovery, pushing the UK close to the top of advanced economy (AE) growth rankings. Four themes will shape UK prospects this year: 1. Speedy vaccine rollout will allow a rapid lifting of Covid‐related restrictions. The government plans to vaccinate all vulnerable groups by the end of Q1. This should allow a meaningful relaxation of social distancing restrictions from Q2, triggering a strong, consumer‐led, recovery. 2. Services will outperform industry. 2020 was a rare year when industry has fared better than services. But the lifting of social distancing restrictions should spark a strong revival in sectors relying on social consumption. Industry will also be more heavily affected by the introduction of the new UK‐EU trading relationship, with increased costs and supply‐chain disruption likely. 3. Policymakers will stay on the accelerator. Chancellor Rishi Sunak has already loosened the fiscal stance by 2% of GDP this year relative to pre‐pandemic plans, and we think chances of more support are greater than of premature tightening. Similarly, the BoE has already committed to £150bn worth of gilt purchases this year, and the MPC's bias is towards further loosening, even though base effects will likely push inflation back to target by end‐2021. 4. Brexit will remain in the news, particularly in early‐2021. Notwithstanding the UK‐EU trade deal, the realities of life outside the single market and customs union will quickly become apparent in the early part of this year. Goods trade between the UK and EU will take longer and involve a substantial increase in bureaucracy. This will help keep Brexit in the public eye, even if the short‐term macroeconomic impact is limited.
Viral pneumonia is the most relevant clinical presentation of COVID‐19 which may lead to severe acute respiratory syndrome and even death. Eosinopenia was often noticed in patients with COVID‐19 pneumonia but its role is poorly investigated. The aim of the present study is to investigate the characteristics and clinical outcomes of patients with COVID‐19 pneumonia and eosinopenia. Methods: We revised records of consecutive patients with COVID‐19 pneumonia admitted in our ER‐COVID‐19 area in order to compare clinical characteristics and outcomes of patients with and without eosinopenia. We considered the following clinical outcomes: 4 weeks survival; need for intensive respiratory support and hospital discharge. Results: Out of first 107 consecutive patients with pneumonia and a positive COVID‐19 nasal‐pharyngeal swab, 75 patients showed undetectable eosinophil count (absolute eosinopenia). At 4 weeks, 38 patients (38.4%) had required intensive respiratory treatment, 25 (23.4%) deceased and 42 (39.2%) were discharged. Compared to patients without absolute eosinopenia, patients with absolute eosinopenia showed higher need of intensive respiratory treatment (49.3% vs. 13.3%, p <.001), higher mortality (30.6% vs. 6.2%, p .006) and lower rate of hospital discharge (28% vs. 65.6%, p <.001). Binary logistic regression analyses including neutrophil, lymphocyte, eosinophil, basophil and monocyte counts showed that absolute eosinopenia was an independent factor associated with 4 weeks mortality, need for intensive respiratory support and hospital discharge. Conclusions: Absolute eosinopenia is associated with clinical outcomes in patients with COVID‐19 pneumonia and might be used as a marker to discriminate patients with unfavorable prognosis.
Tracing the globally circulating SARS‐CoV‐2 phylogenetic clades by high‐throughput sequencing is costly, time‐consuming, and labor‐intensive. We here propose a rapid, simple and cost‐effective amplification refractory mutation system (ARMS)‐based multiplex reverse‐transcription PCR assay to identify six distinct phylogenetic clades: S, L, V, G, GH, and GR. Our multiplex PCR is designed in a mutually exclusive way to identify V‐S and G‐GH‐GR clade variants separately. The pentaplex assay included all five variants and the quadruplex comprised of the triplex variants alongside either V or S clade mutations that created two separate subsets. The procedure was optimized with 0.2 to 0.6 µM primer concentration, 56‐60°C annealing temperature, and 3‐5 ng/µl cDNA to validate on 24 COVID‐19 positive samples. Targeted Sanger sequencing further confirmed the presence of the clade‐featured mutations with another set of primers. This multiplex ARMS‐PCR assay is fast, low‐cost alternative, and convenient to discriminate the circulating phylogenetic clades of SARS‐CoV‐2.


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