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Beijing says COVID-19 situation ‘controllable,’ ‘safe’

Beijing reported three new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday as officials said the virus situation was under control with the Olympic Games set to open later in the week.
The three cases reported in the 24-hour period from Tuesday to Wednesday all involved people under some sort of quarantine.
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“The current pandemic situation in the capital is overall controllable and it’s headed in a good direction,” said Xu Hejian, a spokesman for the city government, at a daily press briefing, adding: “Beijing is safe.”
The Chinese capital has been on high-alert as it prepares to host the Winter Olympics starting Friday.
Since January 15, Beijing has reported a total of 115 locally transmitted cases of COVID-19, including six cases of the highly contagious omicron variant.
In response, the city has mass tested millions of people and sealed off several neighborhoods in different parts of the city while avoiding a strict lockdown for the entire capital.
The restrictions meant that many families had to spend their Lunar New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, which were celebrated on Monday and Tuesday, cooped up in their homes. Local government officials and volunteers sent families packages of fruit, milk and nuts, according to Beijing News, a city-backed newspaper.
China has been able to keep the virus from transmitting widely within its borders through a costly and strict strategy that relies on lockdowns and mass testing.
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Morinaga Milk Obtains FDA GRAS Notification for its Probiotic

Bifidobacterium infantis M-63 for use in Infant Formula and General Foods

TOKYO–(BUSINESS WIRE/AETOSWire)– Morinaga Milk Industry Co., Ltd. (TOKYO:2264), a leading Japanese dairy product company, today announced its proprietary probiotic Bifidobacterium longum subsp. infantis M-63 has received FDA GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status relating to its use in term infant formula and general foods.

On April 26, 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued the company with a GRAS Notice known as a ‘no objection letter’, stating it has no questions regarding the safety of the probiotic strain B. infantis M-63 when used in infant formula and general foods (GRAS Notice No. GRN 001003). The probiotic strain meets the highest standards of safety and regulatory compliance and can be used as an ingredient in powdered infant formula for term infants, and in certain general foods.

Bifidobacterium infantis M-63 is a unique Human-Residential Bifidobacteria (HRB) probiotic strain with an immense capacity to utilize human milk oligosaccharide (HMOs), the component that is highly abundant in human breast milk. HMOs offer no direct nutritional value for infants, but they function in shaping a better infant gut microbiota with life-long impacts. Backed by clinical evidence, B. infantis M-63 shows great promise in improving the colonization of bifidobacteria in the infant gut and has superior potential for infant use.

All three HRB strains with Infant GRAS status
Morinaga Milk is some way ahead of the curve in the research of HRB – the natural inhabitants of the human gut that exhibit numerous superior physiological functions. The company has developed and offered three HRB strains (B. longum BB536, B. breve M-16V, and B. infantis M-63) for infant use. Morinaga Milk is highly committed to achieving global regulatory standards for its HRB probiotics range and became the only Japanese company to have obtained the Infant GRAS notification for its all three HRB probiotic strains. B. infantis M-63 is the third strain to have obtained the Infant GRAS status, following B. longum BB536 in 2019 and B. breve M-16V in 2013. The three HRB strains are now with Infant GRAS status.

“This official GRAS notification demonstrates our commitment to offering high safety and quality HRB probiotic strains. We are incredibly proud to have our probiotic strain M-63 receiving the GRAS notification. It is the third strain to have Infant GRAS status,” said Dr. Yoshihiko Ushida, General Manager of International B to B Business Department of Morinaga Milk. “This approval in the United States is a regulatory milestone. It speaks highly of the quality and safety of M-63 and its solid scientific evidence. We are looking forward to the potential implications of this new status,” he added.

M-63 is also GRAS for use in general foods
In addition to its GRAS approval for use in infant formula, B. infantis M-63 has also received the FDA GRAS notification for use in general foods and beverages. The GRAS notification covers the use of M-63 in a range of food and beverage products, including bread and baked goods; ready-to-eat and hot breakfast cereals; fruit juices, nectars, and blends; dairy products and dairy substitutes; candy; condiment sauces; gelatin desserts; peanut and other nut butter and spreads; snack foods; and infant and toddler foods. As substantiated in human clinical studies, M-63 possesses not only superior potential for infant use but also in helping to boost mental health in adults with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The potentials of M-63 in supporting human health and its application opportunities are very much exciting.

Under the Morinaga Milk Group’s 10-Year Vision, the company aims to achieve an overseas sales ratio of 15% or more by the fiscal year ending March 2029. The company will continue its effort in developing and providing effective HRB probiotics with a higher level of safety and quality and aim to strengthen its probiotic sales in the global marketplace to help achieve the goal.

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UAE reports 1,796 new COVID-19 cases, no deaths

The UAE announced 1,796 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, the official Emirates News Agency reported.

This brings the current total active cases in the UAE to 17,551 and the total number of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic to 949,384, according to data from the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA).

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The cases were determined out of 232,943 tests in the last 24 hours.

No deaths from the virus were recorded on Saturday, maintaining the total deaths caused by COVID-19 to 2,317 in the UAE.

At least 1,727 patients recovered in the previous 24 hours, bringing the total COVID-19 recoveries to 929,516.

On June 13, the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) announced it would strictly enforce its mask rules – with penalties for those flouting the protocol – and announced it would tighten its rules on the Al Hosn green pass system amid rising coronavirus cases across the country.

NCEMA said that it has recently “monitored some behaviors that have become a danger to society and public health,” referring to people not adhering to COVID-19 precautionary and preventative measures and how it has “negatively” impacted recovery efforts.

“Negligence and recklessness in following precautionary measures, and failure in the societal role in maintaining public health and acquired immunity, has resulted in a rise in the number of infections and new waves of the virus,” the authority spokesman said in the briefing.

The authority reaffirmed the need to wear masks in closed public spaces, reiterating that it was mandatory and that not adhering to this rule would result in a fine of up to $816 (AED 3,000).

According to the World Health Organization, more than 4.1 million cases were reported globally in the last week.

It added, however, that the worldwide number of deaths remained relatively similar to the week before, at about 8,500, noting that COVID-related deaths increased in three regions: the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the Americas.

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Omicron-specific COVID-19 vaccines could increase protection as boosters: EMA

Coronavirus vaccines tweaked to include the omicron variant strain can improve protection when used as a booster, the European Medicines Agency and other global health regulators said on Friday.
Following a meeting on Thursday, the EMA said global regulators had agreed on key principles for updating COVID-19 shots to respond to emerging variants.
While the existing coronavirus vaccines continue to provide good protection against hospitalization and death, the group said, vaccine effectiveness has taken a hit as the virus has evolved.
For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.
As such, an omicron-specific or bivalent booster – meaning a vaccine that includes both the new strain and the original coronavirus strain – could “increase and extend” protection, a statement from the EMA said.
The statement refers specifically to the mRNA vaccines. Both Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc have been testing retooled versions of their vaccines to include the omicron variant.
Vaccines which include other variants, for example the beta variant, might also be considered for use as boosters if clinical trial data demonstrate an adequate level of neutralization against omicron and other variants of concern, the statement said.
It follows guidance from the World Health Organization that omicron-specific boosters could restore protection against emerging strains of the coronavirus.
But it stops short of the position of the regulator in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which said on Thursday that it would seek the inclusion specifically of the newer BA.4 and BA.5 strains of omicron, currently driving a surge in new infections globally, in any new shots for use domestically.
On Tuesday, the head of a WHO advisory committee that has considered the modified shots said the group preferred BA.1-based boosters, arguing that the variant is more distinct and could generate a broader response than the more recently circulating subvariants.
Top US FDA official Peter Marks said in an interview that regulators from other countries were seriously considering using new boosters based on the BA.1 omicron variant that caused the massive surge in cases last winter, because those shots can be available sooner than the BA.4/5 based booster the United States plans to use.
The EMA said it would provide more details in coming days.
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US secures 105 million doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for fall

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