Binayak Dasgupta

Binayak reports on information security, privacy and scientific research in health and environment with explanatory pieces. He also edits the news sections of the newspaper.

Articles by Binayak Dasgupta

Variant watch: What Omicron means for future immunity

Three recent studies now come to similar conclusions on post-Omicron immunity: the protection is different in people who were infected for the first time, had a repeat infection, or had a repeat infection after vaccination.
In those who got a repeat infection but were unvaccinated, the antibodies were somewhat better at neutralising other variants.
In those who got a repeat infection but were unvaccinated, the antibodies were somewhat better at neutralising other variants.
Updated on Jan 21, 2022 03:18 AM IST
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By, New Delhi

Variant watch: Why symptom link is key to Omicron

The researchers found that during the Omicron wave, close to 30% of the people who turned up had an asymptomatic infection.
Viral load is often seen as a proxy for how infectious someone is.
Viral load is often seen as a proxy for how infectious someone is.
Updated on Jan 20, 2022 07:22 AM IST
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By, New Delhi

Variant watch: Even mild cases may leave a mark on brain

The finding holds implications for rehabilitation of people with even mild cases and those suffering from so-called long Covid symptoms, which are still not properly understood.
A healthworker collects a nasal swab sample for Covid-19 test at a hospital in Amritsar. (PTI)
A healthworker collects a nasal swab sample for Covid-19 test at a hospital in Amritsar. (PTI)
Updated on Jan 19, 2022 03:19 AM IST
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By, New Delhi

No-vax? What the sceptics get wrong

In Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic’s 2010 book, Serve to Win, he writes about how he improved his performance by removing gluten from his diet
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic walks in Melbourne Airport before boarding a flight, (File image)(REUTERS)
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic walks in Melbourne Airport before boarding a flight, (File image)(REUTERS)
Updated on Jan 18, 2022 03:14 AM IST
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By, New Delhi

Variant watch: Updated UK data shows efficacy drop after 6 months

The UK Health Security Agency, in its Technical Briefing 34, said that it found vaccine efficacy against hospitalisation remained at around 64% till 24 weeks, but the protection dropped if the second doses were taken more than 24 weeks ago.
Over 700,000 Omicron cases were taken into account for the analysis.(AFP)
Over 700,000 Omicron cases were taken into account for the analysis.(AFP)
Updated on Jan 15, 2022 12:09 AM IST
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By, New Delhi:

240mn Covid-19 vaccine doses in rich nations to expire by March

The report, released by science analytics company Airfinity, came on a day when Unicef officials told Reuters that 100 million doses were rejected last month by poorer countries because they were nearing their expiry date.
Vials of Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine against the coronavirus disease Covid-19 in a social center of La Gavotte Peyret popular neighbourhood, in Septeme-Les-Vallons, near Marseille.(AFP)
Vials of Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine against the coronavirus disease Covid-19 in a social center of La Gavotte Peyret popular neighbourhood, in Septeme-Les-Vallons, near Marseille.(AFP)
Updated on Jan 14, 2022 12:39 AM IST
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By, New Delhi

New study shows how coronavirus loses infectivity once exhaled

It also suggests that most infection happens when transmission is at a shorter range. This is why outdoor spaces have consistently proven to be safer.
If the person is talking loudly or singing, they are consistently spewing out more viral particles, which increases the chances of someone getting infected.(Bloomberg)
If the person is talking loudly or singing, they are consistently spewing out more viral particles, which increases the chances of someone getting infected.(Bloomberg)
Updated on Jan 13, 2022 04:52 AM IST
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By, New Delhi:

Variant watch: Omicron likely evolved in mice, say Chinese researchers

The Omicron variant of the Sars-CoV-2 virus may have evolved within mice and jumped back into humans, according to new research by scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences
A person gets tested for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) amid a potential third wave of infections caused by the spread of the Omicron variant. (REUTERS / Representational Image)
A person gets tested for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) amid a potential third wave of infections caused by the spread of the Omicron variant. (REUTERS / Representational Image)
Published on Jan 12, 2022 12:09 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Variant watch: Ending isolation after Omicron

Now, a study from Japan, albeit with a small sample size involving 21 people, suggests people can in some cases remain infectious up to 9 days after their symptoms begin.
A person gets tested for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) amid a potential third wave of infections caused by the spread of the Omicron variant. (REUTERS / Representational Image)
A person gets tested for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) amid a potential third wave of infections caused by the spread of the Omicron variant. (REUTERS / Representational Image)
Updated on Jan 11, 2022 12:03 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

India’s true Covid toll could be over 3 million: Study

The new report, published by the journal Science early on Friday, estimates the true toll in this period was between 3.1 million and 3.4 million, with roughly 2.7 million of these happening in the April-July period, when the second wave tore through the country.
COVID-19 infected patients getting treatment at COVID care centre, Common Wealth Games Village Sports Complex, in New Delhi.(ANI/Representative image)
COVID-19 infected patients getting treatment at COVID care centre, Common Wealth Games Village Sports Complex, in New Delhi.(ANI/Representative image)
Published on Jan 07, 2022 11:52 PM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Omicron variant watch: Scientists detect key antibodies to neutralise mutations

In a study published almost exactly a year ago, scientists at the Rockefeller University found that memory B cells, which churn out antibodies, mature over time.
Healthcare workers wait for the next vehicle at a Covid-19 testing clinic as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread in Sydney, Australia. (Reuters file photo)
Healthcare workers wait for the next vehicle at a Covid-19 testing clinic as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread in Sydney, Australia. (Reuters file photo)
Updated on Jan 07, 2022 12:36 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Variant watch: Evolutionary pathways wide open for Omicron

Anthony Fauci, the top medical adviser to the US President, said it is technically possible that Omicron could hasten the end of the pandemic, if it proves true that the variant, with its high degree of transmissibility, replaces other strains of the virus that cause more severe infections.
In the last week, two studies have been noteworthy for the insight they give into the coronavirus’s evolution.(AP file photo)
In the last week, two studies have been noteworthy for the insight they give into the coronavirus’s evolution.(AP file photo)
Updated on Jan 06, 2022 05:03 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Omicron variant watch: Fast, even if not as furious, needs disciplined response

Lab studies in the recent month have shown the virus multiplies more intensely in the bronchus – the passage leading to the lungs – but less efficiently in the lungs.
The Omicron variant is up to 70% less likely to lead to hospitalisation.(File photo)
The Omicron variant is up to 70% less likely to lead to hospitalisation.(File photo)
Updated on Jan 05, 2022 12:54 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Omicron variant watch: More hospital risk insight in South African data

South African experts have submitted a new study analysing the early days of the Omicron outbreak in the province, including the first age-wise break-up of hospitalisation rates.
In terms of headline numbers, the report reinforces the conclusion that the variant is leading to less severe cases.(Bloomberg)
In terms of headline numbers, the report reinforces the conclusion that the variant is leading to less severe cases.(Bloomberg)
Updated on Jan 04, 2022 07:33 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The year ahead: A year of hope and caution

A less virulent variant and a host of new drugs and doses bring optimism, but the virus might still pack surprises
After the horror of the Delta variant, some say Omicron brings hope in the possibility that it could tear through the world, leaving a degree of baseline immunity that would help everyone deal with the virus better. (HT Photo)
After the horror of the Delta variant, some say Omicron brings hope in the possibility that it could tear through the world, leaving a degree of baseline immunity that would help everyone deal with the virus better. (HT Photo)
Published on Jan 01, 2022 05:02 PM IST
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Variant watch: Scotland study finds Omicron made a major shift

The researchers corroborate two findings that have been reported by several scientists in the last month – the variant is very resistant to antibodies from vaccinated people, and it is bad at infecting lung cells.
Representative Image
Representative Image
Updated on Dec 31, 2021 10:55 PM IST
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By, New Delhi

Reading a virus: From Alpha to Omicron

A sense of hope dominated the last few months of 2020 after the first coronavirus vaccines were approved and administered in some parts of the world
This was the story of 2021, which began in the shadow of Alpha, was consumed by Delta in spring, and spooked by Omicron at the end (AFP)
This was the story of 2021, which began in the shadow of Alpha, was consumed by Delta in spring, and spooked by Omicron at the end (AFP)
Updated on Dec 31, 2021 06:08 PM IST
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Dec 31: What we know about the Omicron variant so far

Two studies, both released this week, confirmed the T Cell connection to the theory that Omicron is likely to lead to milder disease than Delta did.
Representative Image
Representative Image
Published on Dec 31, 2021 12:10 AM IST
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By, New Delhi

Dec 29: What we know about the Omicron variant so far

On Wednesday, Delhi logged 923 new Covid-19 cases, its highest in a single-day in several months.
Crowded Sarojini Nagar market amid rising cases of Omicron variant of Covid-19 in New Delhi on Saturday, Dec 25, 2021. (PTI)
Crowded Sarojini Nagar market amid rising cases of Omicron variant of Covid-19 in New Delhi on Saturday, Dec 25, 2021. (PTI)
Published on Dec 30, 2021 12:09 AM IST
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By, New Delhi

Dec 28: What more we know about Omicron

As the second week of December began, the number of new Covid-19 cases began to inch up in Delhi.
Representative Image
Representative Image
Published on Dec 28, 2021 11:24 PM IST
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By, New Delhi

Variant watch: Time to rethink Covid metrics, open up India data

To look at it differently, if Delta variant caused 100 infections in, say, a week and led to four hospitalisations, Omicron would likely cause 300 infections with six hospitalisations in the same period.
Omicron is a threat because of the speed at which it spreads even though it is likely to cause milder disease.(AFP)
Omicron is a threat because of the speed at which it spreads even though it is likely to cause milder disease.(AFP)
Updated on Dec 28, 2021 06:03 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Variant watch: UK govt study backs lower Omicron severity risk

In its latest technical briefing on Sars-CoV-2 variants, released late on Thursday, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said there was a 50-70% reduced risk of hospital admission for Omicron infections compared to the Delta variant.
The UKHSA said the reduction in risk “is likely to be partly a reduction in intrinsic severity of the virus and partly to protection provided by prior infection”. In picture - Shoppers wear face mask on Oxford Street in London.(AP)
The UKHSA said the reduction in risk “is likely to be partly a reduction in intrinsic severity of the virus and partly to protection provided by prior infection”. In picture - Shoppers wear face mask on Oxford Street in London.(AP)
Updated on Dec 25, 2021 02:18 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

‘AstraZeneca shots, booster effective against Omicron’

The findings hold significant implication for India, where close to 90% of the 1.4 billion doses are of Covishield
A health worker administers a dose of Covid-19 vaccine to beneficiary amid fear of spread of Omicron variant in Patna, on December 15. (PTI)
A health worker administers a dose of Covid-19 vaccine to beneficiary amid fear of spread of Omicron variant in Patna, on December 15. (PTI)
Published on Dec 24, 2021 12:09 AM IST
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ByBinayak Dasgupta and Rhythma Kaul, New Delhi

Variant watch: Hospital risk for Omicron 40-45% lower, says UK study

The findings are the first encouraging scientific evidence linked to the variant of concern (VOC) discovered last month when it started tearing through parts of South Africa at a rate not seen with any other Sars-Cov-2 variant.
The detailed findings corroborate lab studies that show people with booster doses have a more adequate immune response to counter the Omicron variant.(AFP)
The detailed findings corroborate lab studies that show people with booster doses have a more adequate immune response to counter the Omicron variant.(AFP)
Updated on Dec 24, 2021 12:24 PM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Variant watch: First SA study says Omicron may be less severe but with riders

  • The study offers the first insights after standardising data based on age and gender, the two factors that dictate severity and hospitalisation risks. 
The study offers the first insights after standardising data based on age and gender, the two factors that dictate severity and hospitalisation risks.
The study offers the first insights after standardising data based on age and gender, the two factors that dictate severity and hospitalisation risks.
Updated on Dec 23, 2021 04:42 AM IST
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By, New Delhi

Dec 21: What we know about Omicron so far

  • The trend, and whether it reflects the actual outbreak dynamics, could hold some lessons for regions preparing to face an Omicron wave.
Outside of South Africa, the variant of concern has spread the furthest in the UK capital, possibly accounting for as much as 80% of new cases (if a particular testing artefact is considered) and has triggered a record surge in infections.(Reuters)
Outside of South Africa, the variant of concern has spread the furthest in the UK capital, possibly accounting for as much as 80% of new cases (if a particular testing artefact is considered) and has triggered a record surge in infections.(Reuters)
Updated on Dec 22, 2021 03:22 AM IST
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By, New Delhi

Dec 20: What more we know about Omicron today

At present, the South African experts stress, this is not enough to make a sound conclusion of Omicron being milder.
It is too early to reliably assess the severity of disease caused by Omicron, the experts said, and “some severity estimates should start to become available in about a week as hospital data accumulate”.(Reuters)
It is too early to reliably assess the severity of disease caused by Omicron, the experts said, and “some severity estimates should start to become available in about a week as hospital data accumulate”.(Reuters)
Updated on Dec 21, 2021 12:15 AM IST
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By, New Delhi

Variant watch: What more we know of Omicron today

The researchers studied the mechanism of infection of the latest variant of concern by looking at how it infected lab-grown lung cells.
The study is the second in two days to suggest the Omicron variant does not replicate as efficiently in the lung tissues as its ancestors.(Reuters)
The study is the second in two days to suggest the Omicron variant does not replicate as efficiently in the lung tissues as its ancestors.(Reuters)
Updated on Dec 20, 2021 04:55 AM IST
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By, New Delhi

What we know about Omicron variant so far

Two new outbreak analyses in UK said on Friday that early data provides no evidence of Omicron being milder.
On transmissibility, it found that Omicron currently has a reproduction number (denoted as R) of 3, while Delta had 1. This implies one Omicron infection leads to three more, and those pass on to three more each – leading to 27 cases in just two rounds of onward transmission, while Delta would cause only three.(Reuters)
On transmissibility, it found that Omicron currently has a reproduction number (denoted as R) of 3, while Delta had 1. This implies one Omicron infection leads to three more, and those pass on to three more each – leading to 27 cases in just two rounds of onward transmission, while Delta would cause only three.(Reuters)
Updated on Dec 18, 2021 04:50 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

What we know about Omicron variant so far

It is not too far-fetched to think that this Sars-CoV-2 is now only a mutation or two away from being pan-resistant to current antibodies, the authors of a study wrote
Globally, there are more than 75 countries that have confirmed cases of Omicron and scientists are racing to uncover how the mutated virus will shape the next few months of the pandemic, which is almost certain to flare in several regions of the world.(AP)
Globally, there are more than 75 countries that have confirmed cases of Omicron and scientists are racing to uncover how the mutated virus will shape the next few months of the pandemic, which is almost certain to flare in several regions of the world.(AP)
Updated on Dec 17, 2021 04:08 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
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