The Daily Dose: Heartbreaking news from Europe’s second wave; Mammals found to glow in the dark.

Europe continues to struggle under COVID-19’s second wave. There are beginning to be serious echoes of the worst days of their first encounter si5 SARS-CoV-2. Per the Associated Press, “Virus pressure is mounting at French nursing homes, where more than 400 people with COVID-19 have died in the past week and some residents are again being confined to their rooms and cut off from their families. ‘I cry every day,’ said Patricia Deliry, 81, whose daughter usually provides daily assistance at her Paris care home but has been kept away for the past two weeks as part of the home’s virus protection efforts. Deliry hasn’t been able to see fellow residents either. ‘We’re confined, closed in from morning to night.’” Most disturbingly, it’s still relatively early days for the winter pandemic. https://bit.ly/38k32do


Researchers have developed a novel approach to eliciting an immune response to SARS-CoV-2. Per Nature, “David Veesler and Neil King at the University of Washington in Seattle and their colleagues designed microscopic ball-shaped particles that mimic the structure of a virus (A. C. Walls et al. Cell https://doi.org/fg6r; 2020). The researchers fused 60 copies of SARS-CoV-2’s spike protein — the part of the virus that allows it to infect human cells — to the outside of each of these ‘nanoparticles’… When the team injected mice with the nanoparticle vaccine, the animals produced virus-blocking antibodies at levels comparable to or greater than those produced by people who had recovered from COVID-19.” Next step is to take it out of the lab and into trials should it continue to prove effective. https://go.nature.com/33PgaTF


News of a mutated coronavirus jumping from minks to humans made headlines. However, the truth is a little more restrained, at least for now. Per STAT, “‘This hits all the scary buttons,’ noted Carl Bergstrom, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Washington. But Bergstrom and others argued that while the virus’s penchant for infecting mink bears watching, it isn’t likely to lead to a nightmare strain that is more effective at infecting people than the current human virus.” https://bit.ly/354iTL6


As long as we’re on the topic of mammals, did you know that more and more of them are discovered to actually glow? Per Science News, “Platypuses’ dense, waterproof fur absorbs ultraviolet light and emits a blue-green glow, mammologist Paula Spaeth Anichand colleagues discovered somewhat serendipitously. A chance sighting of a fluorescent flying squirrel in the wild had led the researchers to the mammal collection at the Field Museum in Chicago. After examining the museum’s preserved squirrel skins and finding that fluorescence occurred in at least three flying squirrel species, the team decided to examine pelts from marsupials too, as those were the only mammals previously known to possess fluorescent fur.” We’ll abstain from glowing, orange man references here… https://bit.ly/2U6SV2Z


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