To help society mount a collective defence against pathogens, researchers say that leaders should enlist human-behaviour specialists to play a much bigger part in health policy. This has been the Achilles heel of governments during the COVID-19 pandemic, says Armand Balboni, an infectious-disease researcher and chief executive of pharmaceutical firm Appili Therapeutics in Halifax, Canada. “Social scientists, anthropologists and psychologists were not used nearly enough,” Balboni says.
When a handful of authors were caught reviewing their own papers, it exposed weaknesses in modern publishing systems. Editors are trying to plug the holes.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led people to wear face masks daily in public. Although the effectiveness of face masks against viral transmission has been extensively studied, there have been few reports on potential hygiene issues due to bacteria and fungi attached to the face masks. We aimed to (1) quantify and identify the bacteria and fungi attaching to the masks, and (2) investigate whether the mask-attached microbes could be associated with the types and usage of the masks and individual lifestyles. We surveyed 109 volunteers on their mask usage and lifestyles, and cultured bacteria and fungi from either the face-side or outer-side of their masks. The bacterial colony numbers were greater on the face-side than the outer-side; the fungal colony numbers were fewer on the face-side than the outer-side. A longer mask usage significantly increased the fungal colony numbers but not the bacterial colony numbers. Although most identified microbes were non-pathogenic in humans; Staphylococcus epidermidis, Staphylococcus aureus, and Cladosporium, we found several pathogenic microbes; Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus saprophyticus, Aspergillus, and Microsporum. We also found no associations of mask-attached microbes with the transportation methods or gargling. We propose that immunocompromised people should avoid repeated use of masks to prevent microbial infection.
The present coronavirus crisis caused a major worldwide disruption which has not been experienced for decades. The lockdown-based crisis management was implemented by nearly all the countries, and studies confirming lockdown effectiveness can be found alongside the studies questioning it. In this work, we performed a narrative review of the works studying the above effectiveness, as well as the historic experience of previous pandemics and risk-benefit analysis based on the connection of health and wealth. Our aim was to learn lessons and analyze ways to improve the management of similar events in the future. The comparative analysis of different countries showed that the assumption of lockdowns’ effectiveness cannot be supported by evidence—neither regarding the present COVID-19 pandemic, nor regarding the 1918–1920 Spanish Flu and other less-severe pandemics in the past. The price tag of lockdowns in terms of public health is high: by using the known connection between health and wealth, we estimate that lockdowns may claim 20 times more life years than they save. It is suggested therefore that a thorough cost-benefit analysis should be performed before imposing any lockdown for either COVID-19 or any future pandemic.
While our understanding of viral transmission mechanisms leads to the assumption that lockdowns may be an effective pandemic management tool, this assumption cannot be supported by the evidence-based analysis of the present COVID-19 pandemic, as well as of the 1918–1920 H1N1 influenza type-A pandemic (the Spanish Flu) and numerous less-severe pandemics in the past. The price tag of lockdowns in terms of public health is high: we estimate that, even if somewhat effective in preventing death caused by infection, lockdowns may claim 20 times more life than they save. It is suggested therefore that a thorough cost-benefit analysis should be performed before imposing any lockdown in the future.
Although titanium dioxide (TiO2) is a suspected human carcinogen when inhaled, fiber-grade TiO2 (nano)particles were demonstrated in synthetic textile fibers of face masks intended for the general public. STEM-EDX analysis on sections of a variety of single use and reusable face masks visualized agglomerated near-spherical TiO2 particles in non-woven fabrics, polyester, polyamide and bi-component fibers. Median sizes of constituent particles ranged from 89 to 184 nm, implying an important fraction of nano-sized particles (< 100 nm). The total TiO2 mass determined by ICP-OES ranged from 791 to 152,345 µg per mask. The estimated TiO2 mass at the fiber surface ranged from 17 to 4394 µg, and systematically exceeded the acceptable exposure level to TiO2 by inhalation (3.6 µg), determined based on a scenario where face masks are worn intensively. No assumptions were made about the likelihood of the release of TiO2 particles itself, since direct measurement of release and inhalation uptake when face masks are worn could not be assessed. The importance of wearing face masks against COVID-19 is unquestionable. Even so, these results urge for in depth research of (nano)technology applications in textiles to avoid possible future consequences caused by a poorly regulated use and to implement regulatory standards phasing out or limiting the amount of TiO2 particles, following the safe-by-design principle.
Nature published a comprehensive study this week on cardiovascular risk including a total of over 11 million patients that has made a few headlines. The aim was to identify the cause of increased cardiac pathology. It should have been a very simple study comparing four groups:
Not infected and never vaccinated
Not infected and vaccinated
Infected but not vaccinated
Infected and vaccinated
It is hard to believe the authors did not look at these groups, but whatever was found when comparing them remains a mystery.
Instead, the following groups were compared:
Not infected and never vaccinated data from 2017
Not infected, including vaccinated and not vaccinated
Infected but not vaccinated
Infected with vaccinated people included but using modelled adjustments
When studies with huge datasets use modelling and fail to share data prior to their adjustments alarm bells should start ringing. Therefore, I took a deeper dive to see what else was questionable.
Diesel cars tend to be more fuel-efficient with lower emissions, and Mr Brown hailed them as the greener and cheaper option. Over a decade and a half, the number of such vehicles on British roads quadrupled.
What didn’t emerge until much later — although it was no secret in the motor industry or among government officials — was that diesel cars also emitted greater quantities of other pollutants, nitrogen oxides and particulates that damage air quality and human health.
…What [the Government] fails to tell us, however, is that electric cars are not the answer for many people, for a host of practical reasons. These include their upfront cost, limited range, the time it takes to charge batteries, the new infrastructure needed for charging points and the extra power required to supply them.
Even more alarmingly, a report in the journal Nature suggests that because electric cars are heavier than other vehicles, they will likely kill more occupants of other vehicles in traffic accidents.
As for climate change, electric cars will do little to arrest it. So for now, at least, they are one of the least effective and most expensive ways to cut carbon — and economically they are a bad bet.
The cardiovascular complications of acute coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are well described, but the post-acute cardiovascular manifestations of COVID-19 have not yet been comprehensively characterized. Here we used national healthcare databases from the US Department of Veterans Affairs to build a cohort of 153,760 individuals with COVID-19, as well as two sets of control cohorts with 5,637,647 (contemporary controls) and 5,859,411 (historical controls) individuals, to estimate risks and 1-year burdens of a set of pre-specified incident cardiovascular outcomes. We show that, beyond the first 30 d after infection, individuals with COVID-19 are at increased risk of incident cardiovascular disease spanning several categories, including cerebrovascular disorders, dysrhythmias, ischemic and non-ischemic heart disease, pericarditis, myocarditis, heart failure and thromboembolic disease. These risks and burdens were evident even among individuals who were not hospitalized during the acute phase of the infection and increased in a graded fashion according to the care setting during the acute phase (non-hospitalized, hospitalized and admitted to intensive care). Our results provide evidence that the risk and 1-year burden of cardiovascular disease in survivors of acute COVID-19 are substantial. Care pathways of those surviving the acute episode of COVID-19 should include attention to cardiovascular health and disease.
Cross-reactive immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 have been observed in pre-pandemic cohorts and proposed to contribute to host protection. Here we assess 52 COVID-19 household contacts to capture immune responses at the earliest timepoints after SARS-CoV-2 exposure. Using a dual cytokine FLISpot assay on peripheral blood mononuclear cells, we enumerate the frequency of T cells specific for spike, nucleocapsid, membrane, envelope and ORF1 SARS-CoV-2 epitopes that cross-react with human endemic coronaviruses. We observe higher frequencies of cross-reactive (p = 0.0139), and nucleocapsid-specific (p = 0.0355) IL-2-secreting memory T cells in contacts who remained PCR-negative despite exposure (n = 26), when compared with those who convert to PCR-positive (n = 26); no significant difference in the frequency of responses to spike is observed, hinting at a limited protective function of spike-cross-reactive T cells. Our results are thus consistent with pre-existing non-spike cross-reactive memory T cells protecting SARS-CoV-2-naïve contacts from infection, thereby supporting the inclusion of non-spike antigens in second-generation vaccines.
There is “no evidence” that school closures significantly reduced the spread of Covid, a study has found.
The research, published in the journal Nature Medicine, used data from Japan, where each municipality is responsible for the closure of schools in their areas.
…”Empirically, we find no evidence that school closures in Japan caused a significant reduction in the number of coronavirus cases,” they said.
“If opening schools leads to the spread of Covid-19, spikes of cases would occur in the control group; however, these were not observed. The implication is the same: school closures do not help reduce the spread of Covid-19 significantly.”
…Separate research, published earlier this year, found the UK had closed schools for longer than anywhere in Europe other than Italy over the past 18 months.
Government agencies such as health departments might be more inclined to intervene if findings from a study they commissioned are not as expected or if they are heavily invested in the health intervention — such as an education or health programme — being trialled, she adds.
A 2016 inquiry into the delayed publication of research commissioned by UK government agencies identified cases in which publication was “manipulated to fit with political concerns”. More recently, the British Medical Journal reported four instances of politicization and suppression of science in the United Kingdom during the COVID-19 pandemic.
So it is curious that since the Covid pandemic began, this hugely influential figure has been at the heart of the scientific establishment’s efforts to stifle debate on the origins of the virus that emerged in Wuhan.
The Oxford, Edinburgh and London-educated infectious diseases expert has claimed scientists ‘know’ Covid was not created in a lab, suggested such an idea was a ‘conspiracy theory’ and insisted that ‘evidence’ indicates it spilled over naturally from animals.
Now, The Mail on Sunday can reveal that emails from America’s top infectious disease chief, Anthony Fauci, show how Farrar played a key role behind the scenes in marshalling top scientists’ response to concerns over the virus’s origins, even demanding secrecy on their discussions.
Crucially, he was a central figure behind two landmark statements published by leading science journals that helped to silence dissident views, arguing against the plausibility of ‘any type of laboratory-based scenario’.
Science journals have encouraged and enforced a false Covid narrative
Bear in mind that in the heat of this pandemic, papers printed in important journals were peer-reviewed within 10 weeks; one rattled through the process in just nine days for Nature. But, like Petrovsky, I have heard similar stories from many other frustrated experts who confronted the conventional wisdom that this lethal virus was a natural spillover event. Some could not even get letters published, let alone challenge those key papers promoting the Chinese perspective which have since turned out to be flawed or wrong.
Only now is acceptance emerging that the science establishment colluded to dismiss the lab leak hypothesis as a conspiracy theory, assisted by prominent experts with clear conflicts of interest, patsy politicians and a pathetic media that mostly failed to do its job. And yet, at the heart of this scandal lie some of the world’s most influential science journals. These should provide a forum for pulsating debate as experts explore and test theories, especially on something as contentious and fascinating as the possible origins of a global pandemic. Instead, some have played a central role in shutting down discussion and discrediting alternative views on the origins, with disastrous consequences for our understanding of events.
Published 17 August 2011
Many scientists believe the remarkable properties of graphene could lead to the development of technology such as super-fast computers, flexible mobile phones and even transparent planes among other things. But will the nanomaterial live up to the hype?
…Why all the excitement? When graphite is broken down into graphene, the ultra-thin flakes take on unusual and exciting new properties. Three million of these sheets stacked on top of one another would stand just one millimetre high, and yet graphene is the strongest material ever measured, some 200 times stronger than steel. It is also the most conductive. At the atomic level, it resembles a chicken wire lattice of carbon molecules that is so fine that not even a hydrogen molecule can pass through it.
Young children account for only a small percentage of COVID-19 infections — a trend that has puzzled scientists. Now, a growing body of evidence suggests why: kids’ immune systems seem better equipped to eliminate SARS-CoV-2 than are adults’.
“Children are very much adapted to respond — and very well equipped to respond — to new viruses,” says Donna Farber, an immunologist at Columbia University in New York City. Even when they are infected with SARS-CoV-2, children are most likely to experience mild or asymptomatic illness.
Another clue that children’s response to the virus differs from that of adults is that some children develop COVID-19 symptoms and antibodies specific to SARS-CoV-2 but never test positive for the virus on a standard RT-PCR test. In one study, three children under ten from the same family developed SARS-CoV-2 antibodies — and two of them even experienced mild symptoms — but none tested positive on RT-PCR, despite being tested 11 times over 28 days while in close contact with their parents, who had tested positive.
COVID-19 is caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which jumped into the human population in late 2019 from a currently uncharacterised animal reservoir. Due to this recent association with humans, SARS-CoV-2 may not yet be fully adapted to its human host. This has led to speculations that SARS-CoV-2 may be evolving towards higher transmissibility. The most plausible mutations under putative natural selection are those which have emerged repeatedly and independently (homoplasies). Here, we formally test whether any homoplasies observed in SARS-CoV-2 to date are significantly associated with increased viral transmission. To do so, we develop a phylogenetic index to quantify the relative number of descendants in sister clades with and without a specific allele. We apply this index to a curated set of recurrent mutations identified within a dataset of 46,723 SARS-CoV-2 genomes isolated from patients worldwide. We do not identify a single recurrent mutation in this set convincingly associated with increased viral transmission. Instead, recurrent mutations currently in circulation appear to be evolutionary neutral and primarily induced by the human immune system via RNA editing, rather than being signatures of adaptation. At this stage we find no evidence for significantly more transmissible lineages of SARS-CoV-2 due to recurrent mutations.
We do not identify a single recurrent mutation in this set convincingly associated with increased viral transmission. Instead, recurrent mutations currently in circulation appear to be evolutionary neutral and primarily induced by the human immune system via RNA editing, rather than being signatures of adaptation. At this stage we find no evidence for significantly more transmissible lineages of SARS-CoV-2 due to recurrent mutations.
Stringent COVID-19 control measures were imposed in Wuhan between January 23 and April 8, 2020. Estimates of the prevalence of infection following the release of restrictions could inform post-lockdown pandemic management. Here, we describe a city-wide SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid screening programme between May 14 and June 1, 2020 in Wuhan. All city residents aged six years or older were eligible and 9,899,828 (92.9%) participated. No new symptomatic cases and 300 asymptomatic cases (detection rate 0.303/10,000, 95% CI 0.270–0.339/10,000) were identified. There were no positive tests amongst 1,174 close contacts of asymptomatic cases. 107 of 34,424 previously recovered COVID-19 patients tested positive again (re-positive rate 0.31%, 95% CI 0.423–0.574%). The prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in Wuhan was therefore very low five to eight weeks after the end of lockdown.
Now, evidence suggests that about one in five infected people will experience no symptoms, and they will transmit the virus to significantly fewer people than someone with symptoms. But researchers are divided about whether asymptomatic infections are acting as a ‘silent driver’ of the pandemic.
A slew of studies from around the world has reported a disturbing trend: since the coronavirus pandemic started, there has been a significant rise in the proportion of pregnancies ending in stillbirths, in which babies die in the womb. Researchers say that in some countries, pregnant women have received less care than they need because of lockdown restrictions and disruptions to health care. As a result, complications that can lead to stillbirths were probably missed, they say.