The Daily Dose: How a CDC illustration of the coronavirus became the pandemic’s iconic image.

As the United Kingdom’s Delta-variant-driven spike appears have turned the corner in recent days, the government is moving cautiously, neither declaring the dangers over nor implementing a lockdown based on panic. Per the Guardian, “Downing Street and scientists remained cautious about declaring a turning point in the outbreak on Monday night despite a huge drop in Covid case numbers for the sixth day in a row. No 10 said it was “encouraging” that infections had fallen to their lowest level in three weeks at 24,950 confirmed cases, with Boris Johnson taking the decision to allow more double-vaccinated key workers to avoid isolation with a daily testing programme. But the prime minister’s official spokesman said he still believed the UK was “not out of the woods yet” and highlighted the fact that the full impact of the 19 July unlocking has not yet been reflected in case numbers.” Seems about right.

One of the most biodiverse spots on the planet is under threat as a result of overfishing recently popularized fish. As the crisis continues to grow and concern conservationists, people are beginning to take steps in order to mitigate the damage. An article in the BBC documents the efforts being made, including actively restock the waters of Lake Ohrid. “The lake itself is often referred to as the European Galapagos due to the high number of species found nowhere else but here. There are 212 in total, spanning the entirety of the food chain – from algae and zooplankton to plants, snails and worms. There are 17 fish species in total, of which eight are endemic. The lake is described by scientists as “a museum of living fossils”, says Spase Shumka, a professor at the Agricultural University in the Albanian capital of Tirana. In its six million years of isolation, the species within it were able to evolve uniquely. According to Unesco it is by far the most biodiverse lake in the world, if size is taken into account.”

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While the threat of a bubonic plague pandemic has receded since the days when the disease wiped out huge swaths of the world’s population, it still lingers in parts of the world such as the United States, Madagascar, and China. A recent article in the Biomedcentral looked at one particular study that investigated Yersinia pestis (the bacterium responsible for the plague) and the Human flea (Pulex irritans) which is a source of in-home infections. According to the article, The Rocky Mountain Laboratory experiment “demonstrated that blood sources alter the capacity of fleas to transmit Y. pestis, with rat blood enhancing their ability to transmit. Therefore, P. irritans role in plague epidemics or epizootics likely depends on host species selection and availability. The laboratory results substantiate the reputation of P. irritans as a poor and unreliable vector, particularly after feeding on bacteremic human blood.”

By now, just about everyone in the world has an idea what SARS-CoV-2 looks like, thanks in large part to an illustration released by the Centers for Disease Control during the early days of the pandemic. An article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences explores how that single image became an iconic representation of the coronavirus. “In late January 2020, as researchers began to gauge the public health threat posed by COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an illustration of the virus. In that memorable three-dimensional depiction, the viral envelope appeared as a textured, almost carpeted, gray sphere. Spike proteins, which help the virus bind to and invade cells in a person’s respiratory tract, emerged from the surface like a landscape of disquieting red shrubs. Other membrane proteins dotted the surface in yellow. The entire viral particle, or virion, floated before a charcoal gradient background as though it were sitting for a portrait. Just weeks after the release of the image, it had become the public face of a global menace.”

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

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