The Daily Dose: More high schools around the world are becoming COVID-19 clusters

Schools are proving to be the X factor around the world, only not in a good way. A high school in Japan has emerged as a COVID-19 hot spot. According to the Japan Times, “Of the total, 88 are members of the soccer team at the coeducational Rissho Shonan High School in the city of Matsue, and 82 of them live in the same dormitory. The team has played matches outside the prefecture since late July, fueling concerns about a wider spread of the virus.” The high school cluster makes up the biggest chunk of the Shimane Prefecture’s 126 COVID-19 cases.

The Philippines has been on a roll adopting unverified COVID-19 medications. First, President Rodrigo Duterte enrolls the entire country in Phase 3 clinical trials for a potential Russian vaccine. Now, the country’s FDA has approved a similarly unproven Chinese herbal medicine to treat COVID-19 infections. Per CGTN, “The Chinese Embassy in the Philippines on Wednesday welcomed the approval of the popular traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) Lianhua Qingwen, a treatment for the novel coronavirus disease, marking an important progress in the entry of TCM products into the Philippine market.”

On the Filipino end, the FDA has specified the various COVID-19 conditions Lianhua Qingwen has been approved to treat. Per GMA News, “The drug’s Certificate of Product Registration for the Philippines states that it could be used to combat heat-toxin invasion of the lungs, fever, aversion to cold, muscle soreness, and stuffy and runny nose.” In terms of pure science, the efficacy of the drug is unproven, meaning there’s neither evidence that it doesn’t work or that it does. More quality data is needed from rigorous trials. Moving forward without assurances of safety and efficacy hurts more than helps the TCM cause.

If you think psychedelic drugs are only good for partying and tripping, think again. They may have actual medical uses. A company called Eleusis has been collecting preclinical data on certain psychedelics to see how they affect inflammatory conditions. Per Fierce Biotech, “The company’s researchers screened 21 psychedelics that target the serotonin receptor 5-HT2A. Activating the receptor is known to have anti-inflammatory effects in asthma. The team discovered that the structural characteristics of one class of psychedelics known as 2,5-dimethoxyphenethylamine (2C-H) allow them to control inflammation without producing the behavioral effects of LSD and related drugs. They published their observations in the journal ACS Pharmacology & Translational Science.” More data is still needed, of course. But at least they’re testing.

Human migration is currently one of those topics that foster heated opinions, pro and con. While this may be good for cable TV talk shows, social media trolls, and legacy newspaper op-eds, it does nothing to actually understand what is really going on when vast amounts of people are on the move. That’s not to say that nobody has been studying them. There have been studies that have used contemporary demographic, sociological, economic, and psychological data. They have their shortcomings though. An article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences proposes three lines of investigation that will properly contextualize and understand the phenomenon. According to the authors, “What is clear is that if we are to create migration policies that balance the human rights of migrants with the security concerns of host populations, we will need evidence-based answers to these questions and others like them. At least some of those answers will be found in our past, and the researchers best suited for this task are archaeologists.” These type of approaches are desperately needed.

Advances in genetics continues to forward our understanding of ancient hominen behavior, in particular how they interbred with each other and modern human ancestors. A study in PLOS Genetics adds to our understanding of how much ancient DNA exists in homo sapien genomes. According to the authors, “We identify 3% of the Neanderthal genome that is putatively introgressed from ancient humans, and estimate that the gene flow occurred between 200-300kya. We find no convincing evidence that negative selection acted against these regions. Finally, we predict that 1% of the Denisovan genome was introgressed from an unsequenced, but highly diverged, archaic hominin ancestor. About 15% of these ‘super-archaic’ regions—comprising at least about 4Mb—were, in turn, introgressed into modern humans and continue to exist in the genomes of people alive today.” At least it’s nice to know that we have more ancient hominen DNA in our genomes than ancient viral DNA.

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

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