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Breathing With Face Mask Does Not Alter Oxygen Level; Virus Can Last Nine Hours on Skin | Top News

(Reuters) – The following is a roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

Breathing with face masks does not affect the lungs

The average face mask may be uncomfortable but does not limit the flow of oxygen to the lungs, even in people with severe lung diseases, researchers say. They tested the effect of wearing surgical masks on gas exchange – the process by which the body adds oxygen to the blood while removing carbon dioxide – in 15 healthy physicians and 15 military veterans with severely impaired lungs via a quick paced six-minute walk on a flat, hard surface. Oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood were measured before and after the walking test. Neither the healthy doctors nor the patients with diseased lungs showed any major changes in gas exchange measurements after the walking test or up to 30 minutes later. Mask discomfort is likely not due to rebreathing of carbon dioxide and decreases in oxygen levels, the researchers reported on Friday in the journal Thorax. Instead, masks may be causing discomfort by irritating sensitive facial nerves, warming inhaled air, or inducing feelings of claustrophobia. Any such discomfort should not cause safety concerns, researchers said, as that could contribute to reduction of “a practice proven to improve public health.” (

New coronavirus survives nine hours on human skin

Left undisturbed, the new coronavirus can survive many hours on human skin, a new study has found. To avoid possibly infecting healthy volunteers, researchers conducted lab experiments using cadaver skin that would otherwise have been used for skin grafts. While influenza A virus survived less than two hours on human skin, the novel coronavirus survived for more than nine hours. Both were completely inactivated within 15 seconds by hand sanitizer containing 80% alcohol. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends using alcohol-based hand rubs with 60% to 95% alcohol or thoroughly washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Studies have shown that COVID-19 transmission largely occurs via aerosols and droplets. Still, the authors of the new study conclude in a report published on Saturday in Clinical Infectious Diseases, “Proper hand hygiene is important to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 infections.” (

Obstructive sleep apnea linked with worse COVID-19

A common sleep disorder appears to put COVID-19 patients at higher risk for critical illness, a new study finds. Using Finnish national databases, researchers found that while the rates of infection with the new coronavirus were the same for people with and without obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), among people who did become infected, those with OSA had a five-fold higher risk of hospitalization. When people with OSA are asleep, their breathing stops briefly and then restarts, often multiple times during the night. OSA is associated with health problems like obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes, but was linked with a higher risk

Nobel Prize in Medicine awarded for discovery of Hepatitis C to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice

The Nobel Prize in Medicine has been jointly awarded to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus.

a person standing in front of a television: Thomas Perlmann (right), the Secretary of the Nobel Committee, announces the winners.

Thomas Perlmann (right), the Secretary of the Nobel Committee, announces the winners.

The award is one of the most sought-after global accolades and grants entry into one of the most prestigious clubs in the world.

The Nobel Assembly said in a news release Monday that the three scientists “made seminal discoveries that led to the identification of a novel virus.”

It said the trio had “made a decisive contribution to the fight against blood-borne hepatitis, a major global health problem that causes cirrhosis and liver cancer in people around the world.”

Globally, an estimated 71 million people have chronic hepatitis C virus infection, according to the World Health Organization. A significant number of those who are chronically infected will develop cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Gilbert Thompson, professor emeritus of clinical lipidology at Imperial College London, told CNN: “It’s long overdue. Hep C arguably has caused just as much, if not more deaths, than the current coronavirus pandemic. It was a major problem and this (work) was an enormous step forward.”

diagram: The 2020 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded at Sweden's Karolinska Institutet on Monday.

© Niklaus Elmehed/Nobel Prize
The 2020 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded at Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet on Monday.

Secretary of the Nobel Assembly Thomas Perlmann said he had to call the winners several times before he finally reached Alter and Rice.

“I woke them up and they were very surprised, they were definitely not sitting by the phone because I called them a couple of times before without any answer,” he said after making the announcement.

“But once I reached them they were extremely surprised and really happy and speechless almost, so it was really fun to talk to them.”

The methodical studies of transfusion-associated hepatitis by US scientist Alter demonstrated that an unknown virus was a common cause of chronic hepatitis.

Houghton — a British scientist — used an untested strategy to isolate the genome of the new virus that was named Hepatitis C.

Rice, another American, provided the final evidence showing that Hepatitis C virus alone could cause hepatitis.

Alfred Nobel — the inventor of dynamite — in 1895 created a fund that would give the largest portion of his fortune to those who serve humanity. Today, the Nobels recognize outstanding achievements in the fields of Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, Peace and Economic Sciences. Between 1901 and 2019, almost 600 awards were given.

Nobel’s will stated that one part of his fund would be dedicated to “the person who shall have made the most important discovery within the domain of physiology or medicine.”

The main inscription on one side of the Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, and Literature Nobel Prize medals is the same: “Inventas vitam juvat excoluisse per artes,” loosely translated as: “And they who bettered life on earth by new found mastery.”

The Nobel Prizes for Medicine, Physics and Chemistry are the acme of scientific