20,000 Years Ago, a Coronavirus Epidemic Left Its Mark in Our DNA

A crown of spike-shaped proteins make coronaviruses recognizable when viewed under a microscope. But modern genetic analysis offers another way to find evidence of coronaviruses: detecting the marks the virus leaves behind in the populations it infects.

In a study published on June 24 in the journal Current Biology, researchers analyzed the DNA of thousands of people from around the world from 26 populations to look for signs of ancient coronavirus epidemics. The researchers found that people living in China, Japan and Vietnam faced a coronavirus for about 20,000 years in an epidemic that ended 5,000 years ago…

When coronaviruses infect humans, they rely on the microscopic machinery made by human genes in order to make more virus particles. So the research team focused on a few hundred human genes that interact with coronaviruses—but not other microbes—during an infection…

In five groups of people, 42 of those genes had enough mutations to suggest they had evolved because of an epidemic. The genes may have become better at fighting off the viral infection, or less hospitable for the virus to use to copy itself. People with those mutations would have been more likely to survive an outbreak of the disease, and later, have children with the same genetic mutations.

Science like this makes me wonder about price and availability of a nice secondhand electron microscope. Probably would mess up retirement as much as a regular job. :-]

China beat the coronavirus with science and strong public health measures


By Elanah Uretsky, Brandeis University

My research suggests that the control of the virus in China is not the result of authoritarian policy, but of a national prioritization of health. China learned a tough lesson with SARS, the first coronavirus pandemic of the 21st century.

Barely less than a year ago, a novel coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China, with 80,000 cases identified within three months, killing 3,000 people.

In late January 2020, the Chinese government decided to lock down this city of 11 million people. All transportation to and from the city was stopped. Officials further locked down several other cities in Hubei Province, eventually quarantining over 50 million people.

By the beginning of April, the Chinese government limited the spread of the virus to the point where they felt comfortable opening up Wuhan once again.

Seven months later, China has confirmed 9,100 additional cases and recorded 1,407 more deaths due to the coronavirus. People in China travel, eat in restaurants and go into theaters, and kids go to school without much concern for their health. Juxtapose that to what we are experiencing in the U.S. To date, we have confirmed over 11 million cases, with the last 1 million recorded in just the last one week alone.

Affirmation in detail of modern public health measures producing the best economic results…as well as saving a heck of a lot more lives than the piecemeal failure we’re still going through in the United States.

Moral bankruptcy in the face of the pandemic

They are among the greatest victims of coronavirus, yet elderly people continue to be dismissed, despite growing evidence of the devastating effects the pandemic has had on them…

Earlier this week, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he had heard people describing high Covid-19 death rates among older people as “fine.”

“No, when the elderly are dying it’s not fine. It’s a moral bankruptcy…”

WHO figures from last week show that almost 88% of all deaths in Europe were among people aged 65 and over. And almost half of all deaths linked to Covid-19 globally have taken place in care homes…

But despite vast numbers of elderly people dying of coronavirus — and a significant drop in the quality of life of many of those forced to self-isolate — the global response to the risks they face in the era of Covid-19 has often been chilling.

RTFA. I think it likely you already know this. Ain’t nothing wrong with reinforcing the point.

Coronavirus infections increase 21% among children. Please ignore Trump!


The mask that Trump should be required to wear

A report released by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association shows 74,160 new cases of coronavirus among children from August 6 to August 20. According to the report, this is an increase of 21 percent in cases over the past two weeks…

In regard to hospitalizations, between 0.2 percent and 8.6 percent of children diagnosed with coronavirus were hospitalized. “At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is rare among children,” the report said.

They don’t get as sick as the people around them that they infect.

An entire fourth grade-class in Mississippi was forced to quarantine and move to online-only learning after multiple teachers tested positive for coronavirus. Adam Pugh, Superintendent of the Lafayette County told The Associated Press that 200 students were told to quarantine after a majority of students were exposed…

You’d think there might be rational limits to stupid. You’d be wrong. After more than 500 students, faculty and staff tested positive at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox ordered all bars in the city to close down for two weeks.

I’m not certain how useful the reasoning was.

A man was reinfected with coronavirus after recovering…!


May James/AFP/Getty

A 33-year old man was found to have a second SARS-CoV-2 infection some four-and-a-half months after he was diagnosed with his first, from which he recovered. The man, who showed no symptoms, was diagnosed when he returned to Hong Kong after a trip to Spain.

There is no published peer-review report on this man – only a press release from the University of Hong Kong – although reports say the work will be published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The author, Megan Culler Freeman, asks and answers questions raised by the news reports.

Wearing a mask, breathing in less coronavirus, means you get less sick


Greg Baker/AFP

Masks slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2 by reducing how much infected people spray the virus into the environment around them when they cough or talk. Evidence from laboratory experiments, hospitals and whole countries show that masks work, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends face coverings for the U.S. public. With all this evidence, mask wearing has become the norm in many places…

When you wear a mask – even a cloth mask – you typically are exposed to a lower dose of the coronavirus than if you didn’t. Both recent experiments in animal models using coronavirus and nearly a hundred years of viral research show that lower viral doses usually means less severe disease…

No mask is perfect, and wearing one might not prevent you from getting infected. But it might be the difference between a case of COVID-19 that sends you to the hospital and a case so mild you don’t even realize you’re infected.

Being less likely to die isn’t just a discussion for medical records, examination of procedures in hindsight. Let’s work at better odds of staying alive, folks. We are always more likely to get useful information from science – than gossip.