Thursday, April 9, 2020
ساؤتھ ہیمپٹن یونیورسٹی کے سائنس دانوں کے مطابق کرونا وائرس ایک ایسا 'بھیڑیا ہے جو بھیڑ کی کھال' پہن کر انسانی جسم میں داخل ہوتا ہے۔
ایک تازہ تحقیق کے مطابق کرونا (کورونا) وائرس بڑی ہوشیاری سے انسانی جسم میں داخل ہوتا ہے۔ یہ خود کو نشاستے سے بنے ایک لبادے میں چھپا کر'بھیڑ کی کھال میں بھیڑیا' بن جاتا ہے۔
یونیورسٹی آف ساؤتھ ہیمپٹن کے سائنس دانوں نے معلوم کیا ہے کہ انسانی خلیوں میں داخل ہوتے وقت کرونا وائرس کا پتہ نہیں چلتا کیونکہ اس کے اردگرد نشاستے کا ایک غلاف ہوتا ہے جسے 'گلائیکین' (glycans) کہتے ہیں۔
تاہم کرونا کے گرد موجود غلاف دوسرے وائرسوں، جیسے کہ ایچ آئی وی کے مقابلے میں کمزور ہوتا ہے۔ تحقیق کرنے والی ٹیم کو امید ہے کہ وائرس کے کمزور غلاف کی بدولت ویکسین کی تیاری کے لیے کوششوں میں اہم اور حوصلہ افزا معلومات ملیں گی۔
تحقیقی ٹیم کے سربراہ پروفسر میکس کرسپِن نے وضاحت کی ہے کہ کرونا وائرس انسانی خلیوں میں داخل ہونے سے پہلے خود کو ان کے ساتھ چمٹانے کے لیے ایسے کانٹے استعمال کرتا ہے جوگلائیکین میں لپٹے ہوئے ہیں۔ یہ گلائیکین وائرس کی پروٹین کو انسانی جسم کے مدافعتی نظام سے چھپانے کے قابل بناتے ہیں۔
ڈاکٹر کرسپِن نے کہا: 'خود کو نشاستے میں چھپا کر وائرس بھیڑ کی کھال میں بھیڑیا بن جاتا ہے، لیکن ہماری تحقیق کی ایک اہم بات یہ ہے کہ چاہے نشاستے کے جتنے بھی غلاف ہوں، اس کرونا وائرس کے گرد اتنی مضبوط حفاظتی تہہ نہیں ہے جتنی دوسرے وائرسوں میں ہوتی ہے۔'
انہوں نے مزید کہا کہ ایچ آئی وی جیسے وائرس گلائیکین کی حقیقی موٹی تہہ میں لپٹے ہوتے ہیں جب کہ کرونا کے گرد موجود غلاف پتلا ہے۔
پروفیسر کرسپِن نے کہا ہو سکتا ہے کہ ایسا اس وجہ سے ہو کہ یہ 'مارو اور بھاگو' (hit and run) وائرس ہو, یعنیٰ یہ تیزی سے ایک سے دوسرے شخص کو منتقل ہوتا ہے۔ گلائیکین کی پتلی تہہ کے نتیجے میں مدافعتی نظام کو وائرس پر قابو پانے کے لیے کم رکاوٹیں پار کرنی پڑتی ہیں۔
یہ ویکسین کی تیاری کی کوشش کرنے والے محققین کے لیے ایک اچھی خبر ہے۔ یونیورسٹی ساؤتھ ہیمپٹن کی تحقیق میں جو آلات استعمال کیے گئے، ان کے لیے اس سے پہلے بل اینڈ میلینڈا گیٹس فاؤنڈیشن نے ایڈز کی ویکسین کی تلاش میں مصروف عالمی اتحاد کے توسط سے گرانٹ دی تھی۔
Perhaps Pakistan’s more serious bodies dealing with the coronavirus crisis weren't up to the task. It seems the Corona Relief Tiger Force was just what the doctor prescribed.
PM’s love for tigers
Fighting coronavirus with paper tigers
Putting young in danger
Since the Black Death plague in the 14th century, when people went after Jews, beggars, and foreigners across Europe, every disease outbreak has been followed by racism and xenophobia.
Global disease, local hatred
Hyper-globalisation meets nationalism
By Caleb Larson
Bad security and a lack of cash for upgrades are among the many problems.
Unlike India, Pakistan lacks a sea-based nuclear delivery platform and thus does not have a three-pronged nuclear triad. Worst still for Islamabad, Pakistan is hindered by a lack of cash, and there are questions about how secure the nuclear missiles in Pakistan are from falling into non-state actor’s hands.
Unlike India, Pakistan does not adhere to a no-first-use nuclear policy. That is to say, Pakistan reserves the right to use nuclear weapons first, rather than in retaliation after being struck first. India is Pakistan’s main geostrategic enemy, and their nuclear arsenal exists only to deter India. A Pakistani military officer, General Khalid Kidwai, mentioned in 2002 what Pakistan’s nuclear use strategy could look like, saying that Pakistan would willingly launch nuclear missiles if the existence of the state was at risk. He outlined the following points that would merit a nuclear response from Pakistan:
India attacks Pakistan and conquers a large part of its territory;
India destroys a large part of either Pakistan’s land or air forces;
India attempts the economic strangulation of Pakistan;
India pushes Pakistan into political destabilization or creates large-scale internal subversion in Pakistan.
So while not completely ambiguous, there is also an element of strategic ambiguity in Pakistan’s policy.
Hindered by Cash
When compared to their neighbor India, Pakistan plays second fiddle. India is “more powerful than Pakistan by almost every metric of military , economic, and political power—and the gap continues to grow,” according to some experts.
This is reflected in Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, which unlike the India triad of land, air, and sea-based delivery, can only deliver payload from land, via ballistic missiles, or from the air, via jet bombers.
Like India, Pakistan has also received a large amount of assistance from abroad in developing their land-based nuclear missile program. The majority of this assistance has come from the enemy of their enemy: China. Pakistan has also reportedly received assistance from both North Korea and Iran.
In contrast to India, the majority of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is made up of “short and medium-range ballistic missiles,” though it has made significant progress in “developing cruise missiles.”
One of the concerns regarding Pakistan’s arsenal is not how destructive it could be, but rather how insecure it may be. An on-again, off-again Taliban insurgency in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border regions, as well as home-grown militant groups have raised alarm bells in Washington previously. Part of the worry is that the United States does not know for certain the exact location of all of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.
Speaking to the New York Times, some American officials expressed their concern about “new vulnerabilities for Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, including the potential for militants to snatch a weapon in transport or to insert sympathizers into laboratories or fuel-production facilities.”
Because of these concerns, the Obama administration had continued a Bush-era program reportedly worth $100 million to aid Pakistan in securing the physical protection surrounding its nuclear arsenal, and to help train up the security services that guard Pakistan’s nuclear facilities.
In the end…
…it may matter little that Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities are significantly less capable than those of their geostrategic rival, India. Still, better not to take any chances.
The country of 210 million is ill-prepared for the pandemic.Syed Mohammad Yahya Jafri, 22, a Pakistani student from Karachi, was coming to the end of a two-week pilgrimage to Iran when his head started spinning. He felt weak and feverish but decided the best thing to do was head home. It was mid-February, and most countries weren’t yet blocking people with flu-like symptoms from traveling.
No one stopped Jafri at the airport in Tehran when he arrived for his Iran Air flight, or on landing in Karachi. He went about his routine there, encouraged that his symptoms seemed to be intermittent. But when they became constant, along with a nagging cough, Jafri went to a local hospital and insisted on being tested for the novel coronavirus. He soon learned he was one of the first two confirmed cases in Pakistan.
A little more than a month later, the country has about 4,000 official cases—likely a fraction of the true figure—and is preparing for an outbreak that could drive its fragile health-care system to the breaking point. Pakistan’s health expenditures, according to the World Health Organization, are just 2.9% of gross domestic product, significantly below neighboring India and less than half the global average. The country is one of only three with ongoing polio transmission, and it’s struggled in recent years to contain AIDS and dengue outbreaks.
Health care in Pakistan “continues to suffer from coordination challenges and an acute shortage of resources,” says Arsalan Ali Faheem, a consultant at DAI, a Bethesda, Md.-based company that advises on development and health projects. “The country has been hard-pressed to find resources for health delivery.”
Pakistan’s biggest problem is money. Health care competes for scarce funds with the armed forces, which absorb a huge share of the national budget. Ambulances are funded largely by charities, and even when hospitals do have critical-care equipment, they may lack staff trained to operate it. Prime Minister Imran Khan has tried to improve services, but the government has limited influence over the provincial authorities that deliver much of the care. Together, federal and provincial health spending in the last fiscal year was the lowest since 2016, according to Asad Sayeed, an economist at the Collective for Social Science Research in Karachi.
“The camp was a breeding ground for the virus” Proximity to one of the first hot spots outside East Asia has been an important factor in the local outbreak. Shia Muslims such as Jafri represent a bit more than 10% of the Pakistani population, and thousands travel every year to holy sites in neighboring Iran. Until mid-March, when Pakistan closed its land borders, most were able to return home without disruption. At one border crossing, thousands of travelers without symptoms were waved through. Those who felt ill were sequestered in a makeshift tent city on the Pakistani side that, according to patients, had no soap or hand sanitizer. “If one is affected, everyone would get it,” says Mohammad Hussain, 42, who spent more than two weeks there. “The camp was a breeding ground for the virus.”
Khan’s administration is playing catch-up. Public gatherings have been banned and travel sharply curtailed, though the government struggled to reach a deal with religious authorities to close most mosques and shrink crowds at Friday prayers. Bolstered by the military, officials are going door to door looking for possible cases, a daunting task in one of the world’s most populous countries. In Karachi, local authorities have converted a convention hall into a 1,200-bed field hospital in anticipation of a surge in patients.
The number of tests for Covid-19 performed in Pakistan is less than 50,000
So far, Khan has ruled out a nationwide lockdown like that in India, arguing that suspending economic activity in a country where a quarter of citizens live in poverty would be a humanitarian disaster. Provincial governments in Punjab and Sindh, which contain about three-quarters of the national population, have tried to close workplaces and keep people at home, but compliance has been spotty, with residents still crowding snack carts and supermarkets.
Pakistan’s other obstacles would be familiar to doctors elsewhere. Diagnostics are in short supply: Fewer than 50,000 tests have been performed, compared with about 2 million in the U.S. The Aga Khan University Hospital, one of Karachi’s top medical facilities, closed its doors to new coronavirus patients in late March after crowds overwhelmed a screening clinic, potentially exposing staff to infection. Protective gear for physicians is a problem. One of the first Pakistanis to die from Covid-19 was a 26-year-old doctor.
With such limited resources, keeping the disease under control will fall largely to regular citizens. Jafri, now recovered, says he’s fearful that message isn’t getting through. After a slow start, “the government is doing all it can,” he says. “The biggest problem are the people who are not taking the virus seriously.”
BOTTOM LINE - With underfunded hospitals and disjointed management, the coronavirus could push Pakistan’s health-care system to collapse.