Science News

What Can We Learn From Ants About Epidemics?
By Sophie Putka July 13, 2020 in discovermagazine.com “They clean themselves before entering their home. They use special chemicals to disinfect. They restrict access to high-traffic areas. And no, they’re not human — they’re ants. Long before social distancing became a household term for us, ants were practicing a version of it to ward off diseases in the nest. And they’re good at it. Ants are effective at preventing epidemics within their colonies, despite their close living quarters and massive communities. In fact, epidemics and sick colonies are rarely, if ever, found in the wild. Thanks in part to this, ants are one of the most successful species on Earth.” The article cites a half dozen scientific papers. e.g. Social network plasticity decreases disease transmission in a eusocial insect by Nathalie Stroeymeyt et al.Science 23 Nov 2018: Vol. 362, Issue 6417, pp. 941-945

“A deep curiosity about the world”
By Sara Frueh on www.nationalacademies.org/ July 13, 2020. “Oceanographer Jody Deming and sculptor Adrien Segal explore how science and art connect…Oceanographer Jody Deming and sculptor Adrien Segal explore how science and art connect… The ocean may have something to teach us about the pandemic we’re grappling with, according to oceanographer and National Academy of Sciences member Jody Deming. Deming is a member of the Ocean Memory Project — a collaboration of scientists, artists, and others who are exploring how changes over time are encoded into ocean “memories.” “The ocean is filled with viruses, and most of those viruses don’t infect us — they infect marine bacteria,” said Deming. The bacteria keep a memory in their genome of viruses that have infected them, they communicate with other bacteria about what’s happening, and they keep distance from one another as a way to avoid infection. “Marine bacteria, of all things, could teach us about holding memories and learning from memories about viral infection,” she said.

Why it may be harder to catch COVID-19 from surfaces than we first thought
Adam Miller, Lauren Pelley · CBC News · Posted: Jul 11, 2020

Covid-19 expert Karl Friston: ‘Germany may have more immunological “dark matter”
Laura Spinney in The Guardian, May 31, 2020 “Neuroscientist Karl Friston, of University College London, builds mathematical models of human brain function. Lately, he’s been applying his modelling to Covid-19…”

Loss of Smell, Taste May Be Reliable Predictor of COVID-19: Study
Ashley Yeager May 12, 2020 in the Scientist. “Data from a crowdsourcing smartphone app is helping to track the spread of the disease in real time and reveals the symptom as the number one indicator of infection.”

Why is coronavirus deadly for some, but harmless in others?
By Carrie Arnold in New Scientist, May 6, 2020 “To figure out what makes some people more vulnerable to severe cases of covid-19, we need to rethink what we know about infection”
Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24632811-300-why-is-coronavirus-deadly-for-some-but-harmless-in-others/#ixzz6LeNJ8Vxg

Iceland’s Aggressive COVID-19 Testing Helped Curb Outbreak
By Julianna LeMieux, PhD -April 16, 2020 in www.genengnews.com/ “Iceland has 364,000 inhabitants. Currently, roughly 10% of them are aware of whether or not they have COVID-19. This is due to a massive undertaking by Kári Stefánsson, MD, Dr. Med., the co-founder, president, and CEO of deCODE genetics—a population genetics powerhouse that has routinely produced new discoveries in fields such as genomic architecture, cancer genetics, and mental illness. Now, deCODE has combined the most intensive targeted testing and general screening of any population to date for SARS-CoV-2. The work is published in an article titled, “Spread of SARS-CoV-2 in the Icelandic Population” published in the New England Journal of Medicine.”

Rapid Expert Consultations on the COVID-19 Pandemic: March 14, 2020-April 8, 2020
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS, April 2020. “…the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convened a standing committee of experts to help inform the federal government on critical science and policy issues related to emerging infectious diseases and other 21st century health threats. This set of Rapid Expert Consultations are the first of their kind and represent the best evidence available to the Committee at the time each publication was released.” Partial list of Topics : Rapid Severe Illness in Young Adults for the COVID-19 Pandemic, Surface Stability and Incubation for the COVID-19 Pandemic (March 15, 2020),  Social Distancing, Data Elements and Systems Design for Modeling and Decision Making for the COVID-19 Pandemic…Possibility of Bioaerosol Spread Survival in Relation to Temperature and Humidity and Potential for Seasonality for the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Tracking covid-19 excess deaths across countries
In The Economist,Apr 16, 2020

Forecasting COVID-19
Matjaž Perc et al., Frontiers in Physics, April 8, 2020. “…we here show forecasts obtained with a simple iteration method that needs only the daily values of confirmed cases as input. The method takes into account expected recoveries and deaths, and it determines maximally allowed daily growth rates that lead away from exponential increase toward stable and declining numbers. Forecasts show that daily growth rates should be kept at least below 5% if we wish to see plateaus any time soon”

Also:
A simple iterative map forecast of the COVID-19 pandemic
André E. Botha, Wynand Dednam arXiv:2003.10532 [physics.soc-ph] last revised 2 Apr 2020. (View About arXiv)
“We develop a simple 3-dimensional iterative map model to forecast the global spread of the coronavirus disease. Our model contains only one fitting parameter, which we determine from the data supplied by the world health organisation for the total number of cases and new cases each day. We find that our model provides a surprisingly good fit to the currently-available data. It predicts that the disease will run its full course over six to seven months, starting from the date on which the world health organisation provided the first ‘Situation report’ (21 January 2020 − day 1). The disease may be expected to infect approximately 24% of the global population, i.e. about 1.83 billion people, taking approximately 86 million lives. Unless drastic new interventions become possible, the global number of new cases is predicted to peak on day 129 (about the middle of May 2020), with an estimated 65 million new cases per day. Since our simple model fits the available global data so well, we suggest that the measures being taken so far to contain the pandemic may be ineffective in curbing the global spread of the virus. As such, the efficacy of these measures should be more carefully weighed against their impact on the world economy.”

Stanford researchers show how forest loss leads to spread of disease
STANFORD UNIVERSITY on EurekaAlert Apr 7, 2020 “Viruses that jump from animals to people, like the one responsible for COVID-19, will likely become more common as people continue to transform natural habitats into agricultural land, according to a new Stanford study.”

Human evolution: The astounding new story of the origin of our species
Graham Lawton in New Scientist, Apr 1, 2020. A longer term perspective! “Forget the simple out-of-Africa idea of how humans evolved. A huge array of fossils and genome studies has completely rewritten the story of how we came into being.”

Large scale testing of general population in Iceland underway
Government of Iceland, Updated Mar 21, 2020
– Iceland has tested 9 768 individuals for COVID-19, which translates to 26 762 per million, compared with 6 343 in South Korea and 13 999 in Bahrein
– Iceland has tested a higher proportion of inhabitants than any other country after deCode genetics started offering free screening among the general, non-symptomatic, non-quarantined population
– deCode has published the results of a total of 5 571 tests. Those have yielded 48 positive results (0.86%) indicating that the prevelance of the virus is modest among the general population.
– A total of 473 cases have been identified in Iceland since the first case on February 28th. One person with COVID-19 has died. Twelve individuals with COVID-19 are hospitalized.
And view comments by KNIB

The COVID-19 Coronavirus May Travel in Aerosols
Amy Schleunes, Apr 3, 2020 on the-scientist.com “A report from the National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy released on April 1 states that based on current research, SARS-CoV-2 may be spread through aerosols. The letter cites a recent study at the University of Nebraska Medical Center that found “widespread evidence of viral RNA in isolation rooms where patients with SARS-CoV-2 were receiving care” in air and surface samples. Even air collectors that were more than six feet away from patients detected the RNA, calling into question whether current social distancing guidelines are sufficient to prevent the spread of the disease.”

Not wearing masks to protect against coronavirus is a ‘big mistake,’ top Chinese scientist says
By Jon CohenMar. 27, 2020 in www.sciencemag.org/ “Science has tried to interview George Gao, director-general of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for 2 months. Last week he responded.”

‘Worse’ pandemic on horizon unless world deals with wildlife markets
Mark Gollom · CBC News · Posted: Mar 27, 2020 “The continued existence of wildlife markets, which are considered potential breeding grounds for the spread of harmful viruses, means it’s just a matter of time before the world is hit with another deadly pandemic, some scientists suggest.”

How long does coronavirus stay on surfaces and can they infect you?
By Jessica Hemzelou in New Scientist Daily Newsletter, Mar 25, 2020. Some unpleasant info about diarrhoea and aerosols..

Tackling Antibiotic Resistance: Viruses to the Rescue
The Scientist Speaks Podcast – Episode 3 Mar 25, 2020 “Antimicrobial resistant infections are a major threat to global public health. In this month’s episode, we explore using bacteriophages to combat these deadly infections.” [Not related directly to CV19, but relevant to global health issues]