The Daily Dose: Society drags scientists out of the lab; Resistant bacteria in Mexican hospitals

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Sometimes, the academic lab can feel detached from the world. The events of recent weeks, specifically the murder of George Floyd, has shattered that illusion. An article in Nature gives voice to Black scientists who have long felt unequal treatment in professional settings. “Many stated ways in which institutions and colleagues, from collaborators to meeting organizers, could support Black scientists. Some pushed universities and scientific societies to release statements against racism. And several tweeted that the weight of the current events made it even harder for them to do their jobs in a profession that already marginalizes women and people of colour — and Black scientists in particular.” Solving systemic racism in academia is a long time coming and will not be easy. It’s been rampant and no secret since the late sixties. Change has met consistent resistance.

Researchers in Mexico investigated extensively resistant strains of Acinetobacter baumannii in tertiary hospitals. Their findings were not as bad as they could have been. As per the authors, “Ten genetically different, extensively drug resistant strains were identified circulating among seven wards. The genetic profiles showed resistance primarily against aminoglycosides and beta-lactam antibiotics. Importantly, no mutants conferring resistance to colistin were observed.” Thankfully, colistin-resistance failed to turn up in their profiling. A. baumannii is a major source of nosocomial infections around the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further shattered the illusion that the scientific laboratory and its findings are sheltered from society and the uneven tides of local politics. Computational epidemiologist Neil Ferguson has been embroiled in the riptides for personal reasons and more recently scientific ones. Specifically, the code used in his COVID-19 simulation has been questioned. As per Nature, “Over the past month, software engineers have sharply criticized the code underpinning an influential coronavirus simulation by scientists at Imperial College London, one of several modelling exercises that helped sway UK politicians into declaring a lockdown. Some media articles even suggested that the simulation couldn’t be repeated by others — casting further doubt on the study. Now, a computational neuroscientist has reported that he has independently rerun the simulation and reproduced its results. And other scientists have told Nature that they had already privately verified that the code is reproducible.” That won’t be the end of the controversy, unfortunately.

Genomic analysis has shed some light on the settlement of the Caribbean by Archaic Age humans. According to the study, “BP and find evidence of at least three separate dispersals into the region, including two early dispersals into the Western Caribbean, one of which seems connected to radiation events in North America. This was followed by a later expansion from South America. We also detect genetic differences between the early settlers and the newcomers from South America with almost no evidence of admixture.”


IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

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