Researchers are publishing and sharing coronavirus data at an unparalleled pace

There are 1581 articles and counting on Covid-19 on the preprint servers medRxiv and bioRxiv. This represents a phenomenal deluge of publications, given that the novel coronavirus Sars-CoV-2 was first described in early January and only formally named on 11 February.

Peer reviewed papers are now coming out at breakneck speed. ‘It is essential that scientific information is made available as quick as possible, but also evaluated as quickly as possible during a pandemic,’ explains Magdalena Skipper, chief editor of Nature.

…’Sharing data straight away can be crucial to people’s lives. We know this from previous epidemics,’ says Skipper, who became editor of Nature in 2018. Nature also sends new data to the World Health Organization, which is aggregating information on Covid-19.

The pace of research and presentation of research is astonishing,’ says Tom Gallagher, a coronavirus scientist at Loyola University Chicago. He says quality can be variable, but ‘some of the papers are the best of the best, and it is truly remarkable that they’ve come out so quickly.’ Under normal circumstances some of the virology papers might take years. ‘To have them completed in a month, I find truly amazing,’ says Gallagher.

The article is delightful, describing the response from the scientific community. Graphics are mind-boggling. Truly a worthwhile read.

Greenland, Antarctica, melting away, accelerating

Observations from 11 satellite missions monitoring the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have revealed that the regions are losing ice six times faster than they were in the 1990s. If the current melting trend continues, the regions will be on track to match the “worst-case” scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of an extra 6.7 inches (17 centimeters) of sea level rise by 2100.

The findings…are the most comprehensive assessment to date of the changing ice sheets. The Ice Sheet Mass Balance Intercomparison Exercise team combined 26 surveys to calculate changes in the mass of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets between 1992 and 2018…

The team calculated that the two ice sheets together lost 81 billion tons per year in the 1990s, compared with 475 billion tons of ice per year in the 2010s — a sixfold increase. All total, Greenland and Antarctica have lost 6.4 trillion tons of ice since the 1990s…

“Every centimeter of sea level rise leads to coastal flooding and coastal erosion, disrupting people’s lives around the planet,” said Andrew Shepherd [University of Leeds – led the study].

RTFA for more quantitative data. Not likely that many of our politicians will. Maybe if sufficient voters do – and act upon their understanding – we might acquire some useful politicians.

A sugar syrup in your ice cream may cause thousands of deaths/year

❝ In the early 2000s, a deadly gut infection began to surge. After decades of lurking in intestines and hospitals—more opportunistic nuisance than lethal threat—the bacterium Clostridium difficile abruptly exploded, spreading rapidly and causing more severe diarrheal disease than ever before. By 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that C. diff infected nearly half a million people in the US that year, killing approximately 29,000…

❝ There was another, cryptic factor at play, it seemed…With a study published in Nature recently, scientists think they’ve finally figured out what that enigmatic element was — and it’s even more obscure than anyone may have guessed. It wasn’t some new weapon the bacteria acquired or a waning antibiotic. It was a boring, harmless sugar — one often found in ice creams…

Nice piece of scientific research for a starter. Nothing answers all the questions – yet. But, so far, it seems clear the sugar trahalose has helped the bad guys along.