The Daily Dose: Questionable data plagues hydroxychloroquine study; When Mars had rings

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The hydroxychloroquine-COVID-19 story gets muddier by the day. The Lancet article that appeared to settle the debate regarding how effective the anti-malarial drug is in treating coronavirus infections has been absolutely battered by researchers and Internet citizen scientists. The target of the attacks haven’t been so much the researcher’s and their intentions as the quality of the data they used to reach their conclusions. As per Science, “The Lancet results have begun to unravel—and Surgisphere, which provided patient data for two other high-profile COVID-19 papers, has come under withering online scrutiny from researchers and amateur sleuths. They have pointed out many red flags in the Lancet paper, including the astonishing number of patients involved and details about their demographics and prescribed dosing that seem implausible.” While unpleasant, this is how Science works. And that’s a good thing. The process is working.

History is important. It provides context which, in turn, allows for a “big picture” approach to understanding current problems and predicting future ones. That’s why a recent paper published in mBio is worth a look. According to its authors, “Deadly pandemics and large-scale epidemics have challenged human existence throughout history (Table 1) (2). While these crises were once separated by centuries, or at least many decades, they are now becoming much more common. Since 2003, we have experienced severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) (a near pandemic), an influenza pandemic (H1N1pdm in 2009), a chikungunya pandemic (2014), a Zika pandemic (2015), and a widespread pandemic-like extension of Ebola over five African countries, with cases exported globally (2014 to 2015).”

A recent study of mayfly genomes has resulted in surprising findings regarding the evolution of wings in insects. Among other discoveries researchers found evidence that wings may have evolved from early insect legs. As per Science, “Insect wings are a major evolutionary innovation, and their origin has been hotly debated. ‘The discovery of common genetic programming between gills and wings is another piece towards understanding the puzzling origins of insect wings—and flight,’ says Luke Jacobus, an entomologist at Purdue University who runs a mayfly website.”

Planetary rings are like a fast-track to fame, especially among lay people and curious children learning about the solar system. Saturn has them. Uranus has them. Now, it turns out Mars had them but lost them. The big tell came from studying the Red Planet’s two moons, one of which is slowly spinning toward the planet. Eventually, the two will collide, releasing sediment that would potentially form a ring. As per, “Study co-authors David Minton, a professor at Purdue University, and Andrew Hesselbrock, who was his graduate student at the time of the research, suggest that Phobos’ future is not a one-off event. Instead, after the moon is pulled apart, eventually the pieces will reform into another moon. This not only will happen to Phobos, but has happened already other times in the Martian past.”

Thanks for reading and let’s be careful out there.

IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

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