SINGAPORE: Singapore on Friday reported 327 new coronavirus infections, including nine community cases and the rest being foreign workers living in dormitories, according to the Ministry of Health.
Out of the nine community cases, six are Singaporeans (citizens) or Permanent Residents (foreigners) and three are foreigners holding work passes but staying outside the dorm, the ministry said.
In addition, there are three imported cases who have been placed on Stay-Home Notice upon arrival in Singapore.
As of Friday, the total number of cases in Singapore reached 47,453 and the death toll stands at 27.
There are 146 confirmed cases who are still in the hospitals as of Thursday. Of these, most are stable or improving, and none is in the intensive care unit, the ministry said.
It said 3,697 cases are isolated and cared for at community facilities for mild symptoms, or those who are clinically well but still test positive for COVID-19.
A total of 43,256 people have fully recovered from the infection and have been discharged from the hospitals or community care facilities, the ministry said.
Meanwhile, researchers in Singapore have discovered the specific sites on the novel coronavirus that trigger the body to produce antibodies that can prevent further COVID-19 infection, Channel News Asia reported.
The National Centre of Infectious Diseases (NCID) and the A*STAR’s Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN), said in a statement on Friday that antibodies produced during the infection attach to many parts of the virus, but only some antibodies are capable of eliminating the virus or offering protection against infection.
Whether the antibodies produced are able to counteract the virus after attaching to its surface depends on where exactly they attach, the agencies said. The specific sites are called epitopes.
The findings come from two studies comprising tests on more than 100 convalescent COVID-19 patients, and could help in the development of treatments and vaccines as well as more accurate diagnostic testing, they said.
During a press briefing on the findings, Professor Leo Yee Sin, NCID’s executive director, said that the while patients’ bodies produce “all kinds of antibodies” to counter the infection, their bodies eventually refine the production of antibodies so that they are more specific to the target pathogens.
In order to identify these antibodies, “our strategy is to only start to recruit patients four weeks after the recovery”, the Channel quoted Prof Leo.
Professor Lisa Ng, senior principal investigator at A*STAR’s SIgN, said that the area the antibodies can attach to is relatively large, as the novel coronavirus, officially called SARS-CoV-2, is three times larger than the dengue virus and more than three times larger than the Zika virus.
“The identification of these specific targets on the virus is a crucial advance in the development of better diagnostics and treatments for COVID-19. There is also potential to use these targets against similar coronaviruses to address other viral outbreaks,” said Prof Ng.
She also said it could help in the development of vaccines.
“(The epitopes) would actually (make the body) generate neutralising antibodies, so it means if we were to use them as potential vaccine candidates, these would be good.”
The findings can also be used to provide an estimate of the community’s immunity to COVID-19 infection by surveying the degree in which the population carries antibodies that can counteract these epitopes, the agencies said.
The two studies were published in international scientific journals Nature Communications and EBioMedicine by The Lancet.
The findings will also be used by A*STAR in a multi-centre collaborative study for the development of the World Health Organisation International Standard for COVID-19 Antibody and Reference Panel.
Prof Leo said SARS-CoV-2 has “challenged the entire scientific world with numerous unresolved questions awaiting scientists to unravel”.
“We are pleased to share this internationally leading work by the local research team which focuses on a powerful aspect of finding out how humans can generate specific antibodies targeted against SARS-CoV-2,” she said.