So far, SARS-CoV-2’s most devastating impacts have been in developed countries. The U.S., U.K. and European Union have accounted for about a third of deaths, compared to their roughly 10% share of the world’s population. However, it’s been in the BRICS grouping of fast-growing middle- income nations where an outsized share of new variants of concern have been isolated and analyzed for the first time. From the original strain in China, to the Delta lineage picked up in India, the Gamma variety isolated in Brazil and the Beta and latest Nu strains from South Africa, only the U.K.-related Alpha variant has emerged outside these countries.
In part, that’s just a reflection of the fact that two out of five people in the planet live in one of the BRICS nations. It’s also no coincidence that new variants were first identified in countries with the sophisticated scientific infrastructure needed to spot them. The BRICS are some of the biggest players in the global market for generic drugs, and the likes of India and South Africa have performed a key role in debates over intellectual property waivers to increase access to medicines…
As natural and vaccine-derived immunity rises, viral evolution will have to get more and more ingenious to evade our defenses. So far, scarcely more than half of the world’s population has had a dose of a Covid vaccine. That means there’s still more than 3.4 billion people out there whose bodies the virus can treat as laboratories in which to develop new mutations. Until we reduce that number further, the odds aren’t as strongly in our favor as we’d like to think.
Read both linked article. El Omari link is below the image up top. Link in the first paragraph takes you to David Fickling, this article in Bloomberg…which requires a subscription much of the time.
Imagine a lineage made up solely of women. Generation after generation, these females pilfer genes from males—not mating and reproducing in the usual way, but using sex as a means to collect genetic material that they can parcel out to their offspring in seemingly any configuration. A few genes here, a few genes there, generation after generation. It’s not some Themyscira-esque fantasy: some lady salamanders have been carrying on this way for millions of years…
“Most vertebrates that reproduce in ways that involve only females end up being sperm-dependent in one way or another,” says Maurine Neiman, associate professor in biology at the University of Iowa. Many of those lineages become “sperm parasites”, requiring sperm to penetrate their eggs in order to trigger development into embryos. They need that sperm to get things going, but they throw the genetic material away—essentially creating clone daughters while obeying the reproductive mechanics developed by their sexually reproducing ancestors.
“Superficially, these salamanders seem to have a lot in common with those other females,” Neiman says. But in fact, their “bizarre” method of reproduction has never been documented in another animal. And it’s kept them alive for much longer than other methods of makeshift asexual reproduction.
I guess this wouldn’t seem bizarre to another salamander, eh? Read on!