The Daily Dose: French president positive for COVID-19; Ghost ship full of cocaine discovered.

Another world leader has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, this time in France. Per France24, “French President Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for Covid-19, the Élysée Palace announced on Thursday. Other French and EU leaders will be self-isolating after coming into contact with Macron over the past week, their offices said.” The country has had one of the most intense COVID-19 outbreaks on the continent.

COVID-19 has caused major changes in just about everything. You can add science publishing to that long and growing list. Per Nature, “Scientists published well over 100,000 articles about the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. By one count, from the Dimensions database, they might even have passed 200,000 by early December (see ‘Coronavirus cascade’). (Estimates differ depending on search terms, database coverage and definitions of a scientific article.) More than 4% of articles listed in the Dimensions database this year are COVID-related, and around 6% of those indexed in PubMed, which mostly covers life sciences, were dedicated to the topic.” Growing interest in mental health aspects of the pandemic have risen the most during recent times. Epidemiological papers have plateaued.

China has successfully returned lunar soil samples to Earth. The space ship landed somewhere in Inner Mongolia. The mission has undoubtedly been testament to the country’s growing space program. But rather than just soaking up the praise, they seized the opportunity to do a China-being-China. Per SCMP, “To China, the Chang’e 5 mission was not merely a demonstration of its technological progress. It has also further bolstered the Beijing leadership’s belief in its own political system – very different from the strictly-controlled former Soviet Union or the free democracies of the West.” China is now in the Big Leagues. Nobody doubts that. Our only suggestion is one that is popular in the sports world: Act like you been there.

The mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna represent major advances in drug design. Their success can be misleading. A Science article provides some good perspective. “mRNA medicines—especially those that replace beneficial proteins for chronic disease—have a tougher road to the clinic than vaccines. These drugs face the challenges of targeting mRNA to specific tissues and giving strong, lasting benefits without excessive side effects. Few have made it to clinical trials. “It’s not like you just put in another sequence and it will treat anything,” says Heleen Dewitte, a pharmaceutical scientist at Ghent University. Tailoring an mRNA medicine to a disease often means tweaking the structures of both the mRNA itself and the protective bubble commonly used to ferry it through body, known as a lipid nanoparticle.” Makes you appreciate the successful vaccines even more.

In a scene straight out of a novel, an abandoned boat fool of cocaine that has been drifting across the ocean has been discovered on a South Pacific beach. Per the BBC, “Police in the Marshall Islands have found their biggest drug haul ever, in an abandoned boat washed ashore on a small atoll.It’s thought the vessel might have drifted across the Pacific Ocean from Latin America, spending possibly months out at sea. The 649kg (1,430lb) of cocaine have an estimated street value of $80m (£61m).” Amazing.

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

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