UAE confirmed 63 new coronavirus cases on Saturday.
Men in their 20s top the coronavirus positive cases in the UAE, according to a senior pathologist who is in charge of a private Covid-19 testing lab in Abu Dhabi.
Dr Martine Claire McManus, group head of Pathology and Laboratory Services at VPS Healthcare, said: “We have samples from across all age groups. But what strikes the most is that the highest percentage of positive cases of coronavirus belongs to this group,” Dr McManus told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview.
Previously co-director of Pathology at the University of Colorado Cancer Centre, Dr McManus currently has clinical and administrative responsibility for 15 VPS Hospital Laboratories across the UAE and Oman.
According to her, many studies and samples from China and South Korea show that aged population are more vulnerable. So, it is a surprising trend that more younger men are contracting the virus, she said.
“But they don’t succumb to illness because they don’t have any underlying heart or lung disease. These young men will recover because they have strong immunity.”
Dr Farida Al Hosani, director of communicable diseases at the Department of Health in Abu Dhabi and the official spokesperson for the health sector in the UAE, had previously said that “most of those infected in the UAE” belong to the 22-44 age group, which is “similar to other countries”.
“There is a small rate of infection among the elderly, but the impact on them and those underlying medical issues is quite strong,” she said then.
How Covid-19 tests are done
The PCR (polymerase chain reaction) lab at the soon-to-open Burjeel Medical City is the only private facility in the UAE that conducts coronavirus tests. Dr McManus said the lab in the basement receives samples from all VPS hospitals and clinics across the UAE.
“We (have been) open just about a week now. And we are receiving up to 200 samples a day,” said the doctor.
Dr McManus said the facility is getting ready to increase its capacity of testing to up to 1,000 samples a day.
Explaining the PCR sample testing process, the pathologist said samples are swabs from back of the nose or throat received in tubes. “The tube contains a gel like substance that will keep the virus alive. The tip of the swab is submerged in the gel. What we do is extract the RNA from the virus. We then amplify it and detect the virus on it.”
“If the test is positive, we have to run the test all over again to confirm it. That is why positive tests take anything between 48 to 72 hours. Negative cases results are released within 24 hours,” Dr McManus said.
On the new rapid tests available for coronavirus, Dr. McManus said it is about striking a balance between accuracy and speed.
“People appreciate the need for faster turnaround of results. Lots of rapid tests don’t have enough quality control. We are liaising with the authorities to identify rapid tests that have scientific credibility and high accuracy.
“We are currently looking at more rapid tests like antibody and antigen tests. But we are moving cautiously. This is a serious disease,” concluded the doctor.
Key takeaways from interview with Dr Martine Claire McManus
> Surprising that more younger men are contracting the virus.
> Young men will recover, though, as they have strong immunity.
> If test result is Covid-19 positive, it is done again to confirm the finding.
> Test result and confirming it take between 48 to 72 hours.
Anjana Sankar is a journalist by profession and a humanist by passion. Her cluttered desk is not indicative of her state of mind.
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