The Daily Dose: A COVID-19 crisis grows in Sweden; Don’t hold your breath for herd immunity.

There’s growing concern in Sweden that they are on the precipice of a COVID-19 crisis. Per Reuters, “Sweden has registered 17,395 new coronavirus cases since Friday, taking the total above 500,000 cases since the start of the pandemic, as hospitals struggled to cope with a rampant second wave of the virus, Health Agency statistics showed on Tuesday.” While the country still has 20% hospital capacity to spare, the current wave of infections has showed no sign of abating. The current numbers are as bad as the initial outbreak ever became. Public perception of the government’s mitigation efforts are also beginning to decline.

As vaccines slowly roll out around the world, herd immunity to SARS-CoV-2 remains a long ways off. Per the Associated Press, “The World Health Organization’s chief scientist warned that even as numerous countries start rolling out vaccination programs to stop COVID-19, herd immunity is highly unlikely this year. At a media briefing on Monday, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said it was critical countries and their populations maintain strict social distancing and other outbreak control measures for the foreseeable future. In recent weeks, Britain, the U.S., France, Canada, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands and others have begun vaccinating millions of their citizens against the coronavirus.” In the meantime, it would be helpful if people would cooperate when it comes to social distancing, mask wearing, and avoiding high risk indoor environments. Not holding our breath here though.

Research into using DNA as a potential data storage medium is nothing new. Most models entail using a fructose-endpoint as binary representative of a 0 or a 1. Scientists have recognized its shortcomings, one of which is its inefficiency. Now, new work has replaced the fructose element in the hopes of improving the model. According to Science, “Wang and his colleagues replaced the fructose-recognition system with one that could encode longer strings of information: an electronic input. They inserted a series of genes into E. coli that enabled the cells to increase plasmid expression in response to an electric voltage. As with the fructose setup, an increase in expression caused the digital one to be stored in the bacteria’s DNA. To read out the ones and zeros, the researchers simply sequenced the bacteria.” Bacteria’s ability to reproduce so quickly provides another advantage to using their DNA for storage.

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Antibiotics have been around for almost a hundred years and has become so common that it is taken for granted. Unfortunately, antibiotic resistance has put all that in jeopardy. One way to combat resistant bacteria is by making sure the correct antibiotic is being used. Being able to pinpoint where in the body antibiotics eventually end up is important. A team of researchers attempted to determine the pathway of an antibiotic against Tuberculosis. “We developed correlative light, electron, and ion microscopy in tissue (CLEIMiT) and used it to identify the cell type–specific accumulation of an antibiotic in lung lesions of mice infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Using CLEIMiT, we found that the anti-tuberculosis (TB) drug bedaquiline (BDQ) is localised not only in foamy macrophages in the lungs during infection but also accumulate in polymorphonuclear (PMN) cells.”

Bullfighting has been on the decline in Spain for at least a decade. There’s no doubting its cruelty to animals. It has also been a significant part of Iberian culture for hundreds of years. It’s important to continue documenting it as times change. An Associated Press photoessay documents one of the most renowned schools in Spain as it adjusts to the pandemic. “Miguel Rodríguez, a former torero, said his school has adapted like the rest of society to the pandemic era. Face masks and hand disinfectant are mandatory inside the school’s indoor workout room. When training outdoors in the sand-covered ring, masks are optional but social distancing is respected. “Considering that this world was already being hard-hit before (the pandemic), the excitement that the boys have brought back after the lockdown is incredible,” Rodríguez said.”

If you’ve ever wondered how wine would fare in zero gravity without the shield of the Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field to shield it from cosmic rays, you’re in luck. You aren’t alone. Turns out, a new bottles of vino have been stored on the International Space Station and are now headed back to home base. “The carefully packed wine — each bottle nestled inside a steel cylinder to prevent breakage — remained corked aboard the orbiting lab. Space Cargo Unlimited, a Luxembourg startup behind the experiments, wanted the wine to age for an entire year up there. None of the bottles will be opened until the end of February. That’s when the company will pop open a bottle or two for an out-of-this-world wine tasting in Bordeaux by some of France’s top connoisseurs and experts. Months of chemical testing will follow. Researchers are eager to see how space altered the sedimentation and bubbles.”

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