The Daily Dose: WHO continues to confuse with guidance; Infectious disease modeling during the pandemic.

Since almost day 1 of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization has been a source of confusion as much as information. While they stress that they are following the science, the pace at which they are making adjustments to incoming data is atrocious. Forget about their farcical handling of the early, critical stages of the pandemic. They were slow to acknowledge how infectious SARS-CoV-2 was. They were also slow to acknowledge that COVID-19 could be spread via aerosol and only did so after a lot of arm-twisting. Now, they are being called out for offering confusing guidance regarding the risk of transmission from surfaces. While fomites may be a source of infection, data has shown it to be rare, particularly compared to aerosol transmission. The confusing guidance has real world implications. According to an opinion piece in Nature, “The New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority alone estimates that its annual COVID-related sanitation costs will be close to US$380 million between now and 2023. Late last year, the authority asked the US federal government for advice on whether to focus solely on aerosols. It was told to concentrate on fomites, too, and has so far directed more resources towards cleaning surfaces than tackling aerosols.” Considering the data, that is a massive waste of money that could have gone to better ventilation and other measures.

The Everyone blog from PLOS has published a two-part look at infectious disease modeling in the time of COVID-19. In the first installment Verrah Otiende and Lauren White discuss the modeling of other infectious diseases such as HIV and TB during the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of good data, the increasing focus of incorporating human behavior in disease models, and more.

In the second installment, Jess Liebig and Johnny Whitman discuss the modeling of human movement, the assumptions that go into creating a model, the virtue of simpler models, and the importance of understanding under-reporting in disease modeling.

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It’s pretty much established that modern food consumption based on the transport of ingredients from far away places is environmentally costly. A recent paper in Nature studied the benefits of growing and consuming traditional foods in Ecuador. The authors suggest that traditional foods are underutilized and should be promoted as a source of sustainable nutrition rather than a relic of the past. “Agroecology may be particularly effective because it is a self-expanding global movement that not only promotes the agricultural practices that are associated with TF production, but also appears to intensify affective sentiments toward TFs and inserts TFs in commercial spaces. Understanding how to promote TFs is necessary in order to scale up their potential to strengthen nutritional health.” Moving into the future does not necessarily have to mean turning our backs on the past.

The Scientist looked at what trends in the life sciences will play the biggest role in the upcoming year. According to their expert panel, the hottest life science technology will include the consumerization of healthcare, single cell technology, and the maturation of CRISPR and technologies that have CRISPR elements.

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

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