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UK’s coronavirus R rate has reduced, but there’s still ‘widespread growth’

Boris Johnson is expected to announce a three-tier system for local lockdowns to try to stem the spike in cases of coronavirus (David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson is expected to announce a three-tier system for local lockdowns to try to stem the spike in cases of coronavirus (David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The reproduction rate of coronavirus infection in the UK has reduced to 1.2-1.5 for the seven days to 9 October from 1.3-1.6 in the previous week.

Experts on the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) published the latest figures on Friday.

The site said: “It is SAGE’s expert view… that this week’s estimates are reliable, and that there is still widespread growth of the epidemic across the country.”

On Thursday the latest data from the test and trace scheme showed the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 in the UK had increased by 56% in a week.

The growth rate of infection was stated as between +4% and +9%.

The R rate last Friday was 1.3-1.6, with an estimated growth rate of infection of between +5% and +9%.

The news comes as it was revealed that hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people living in coronavirus ‘hotspots’ could be told to shield this winter to stop the virus “getting out of control”.

Ministers are expected to outline a three-tier lockdown system next week, which could see vulnerable people being told to stay at home.

Figures are based on epidemiological data such as hospital admissions, ICU admissions and deaths, meaning it can take up to three weeks for changes in the spread of disease to be reflected in the estimated reproduction rate due to the time delay between initial infection and the need for hospital care.

Much of the north of England including Bolton (pictured) is under local lockdown (Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images)
Much of the north of England including Bolton (pictured) is under local lockdown (Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images)

Regional leaders have criticised the government for not consulting them ahead of imposing local lockdowns, with Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham saying he would challenge any closures.

And writing in the Daily Telegraph, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the government had “lost control of the virus” and urged ministers to “get a grip”.

Boris Johnson has continued to encourage people to follow the rule of six and ‘hands, face, space’ guidelines, insisting as long as people obey the rules the country will be able to avoid another full lockdown.

On Friday, an Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection survey suggested there were almost a quarter of a million people in the UK infected with coronavirus.

This was nearly double the 116,600 people with COVID the week before.

Coronavirus: what happened today
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Metformin Linked to Reduced Cognitive Decline, Dementia Risk

Older people taking metformin, the first-line treatment for type 2 diabetes, show significantly lower rates of dementia and cognitive decline compared to those with diabetes not receiving the drug, with the former having dementia rates that are, in fact, similar to people without diabetes, new research shows.

“After controlling for dementia risk factors that might promote cognitive aging, metformin appeared to mitigate the effect of diabetes on cognitive decline in older people,” first author Katherine Samaras, MBBS, PhD, told Medscape Medical News.

The findings are notable considering the increased risk of cognitive decline that is associated with diabetes, said Samaras, leader of the Healthy Ageing Research Theme at the Garvan Institute and an endocrinologist at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, Australia.

“As they age, people living with type 2 diabetes have a staggering 60% risk of developing dementia, a devastating condition that impacts thinking, behavior, the ability to perform everyday tasks, and the ability to maintain independence,” she said in a press release issued by her institute.

And the results are particularly remarkable in that “few prior studies have controlled for multiple dementia risk factors, including the dementia susceptibility gene APOE4,” Samaras emphasized. 

As the front-line drug treatment for type 2 diabetes, metformin has been extensively studied and, with some other research also showing cognitive benefits, “these results are not surprising,” Mark E. Molitch, MD, told Medscape Medical News.

Nevertheless, “this reinforces the idea that metformin should be the first drug used to treat diabetes, and it should be continued if other drugs are added for blood glucose control,” said Molitch, of the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism & Molecular Medicine, at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois.

Significant Differences in Global Cognition, Executive Function 

In the observational, prospective study, published online in Diabetes Care, Samaras and colleagues identified 1037 community-dwelling people without dementia between the ages of 70 and 90 who were enrolled in the Sydney Memory and Ageing Study in Australia.

Among the participants, 123 (12%) had type 2 diabetes, including 67 who were treated with metformin; 34 as a single medication and 33 in combination with other medications, most commonly sulfonylureas (70%).

Of the 56 patients with diabetes who did not receive metformin, 34 were treated with diet alone, while the remainder were treated with other glucose-lowering medications.

There were no significant baseline differences between the groups in cognitive performance at baseline, after a multivariate adjustment. Their mean age was about 79.

All participants received neuropsychological testing for cognitive function every 2 years, including memory, executive function, attention, speed, and language tests.

In terms of cognitive decline over the 6 years, those treated with metformin had a significantly lower decline in global cognition compared to those with diabetes not taking metformin (P = .032), and the rate of decline of metformin-treated participants was not different compared to those without diabetes.

There was also a slower decline in executive function in those treated versus not treated with metformin (P =