DAILY DOSE: Chinese scientists claim hard proof that Covid-19 originated in the U.S.; Pollution particulates more harmful than thought.

According to Chinese State broadcaster CGTN, researchers have proof that COVID-19 started spreading in the United States way before it appeared in Wuhan. Here’s the tweet. That’s all we have.

But wait… Wasn’t it supposed to be in Europe before appearing in China? Who knows? The only thing that is certain is that determining the origin of SARS-CoV-2 is a scientific priority. Notice, no mention of the word “political.”

The World Health Organization has acknowledged what recent research has established – that tiny particulate matter in the air is much more harmful than thought. They’ve adjusted their guidance accordingly. Per The Guardian, “In the first update for 16 years, the guideline limit for the most damaging pollution – tiny particles from burning fossil fuels – has been halved. The new limit for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), mainly produced by diesel engines, is now 75% lower. The stringent new limits reflect the large body of evidence produced in recent years of the deadly harm caused to people by much lower levels of pollution than previously thought. Air pollution kills at least 7 million people a year, the WHO said, while a recent study estimated 8.7 million early deaths a year from coal, oil and gas burning – 20% of all deaths.” Thinking about the lives lost to pollution over the last century, it’s hard to even begin to get your head around estimates. https://bit.ly/3u09Wxf

In keeping with the subject of air pollution, a recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that agriculture continues to be a major contributor to the above mentioned particulate problem. Per the PNAS, “Poor air quality is the largest environmental health risk in the United States and worldwide, and agriculture is a major source of air pollution. Nevertheless, air quality has been largely absent from discussions about the health and environmental impacts of food. We estimate the air quality–related health impacts of agriculture in the United States, finding that 80% of the 15,900 annual deaths that result from food-related fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution are attributable to animal-based foods. By estimating these impacts and exploring how to reduce them, this work fills a critical knowledge gap. Our results are relevant to food producers, processors, and distributors, and to policymakers and members of the public interested in minimizing the negative consequences of food.” https://bit.ly/3u09Wxf

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As the Covid-19 pandemic creeps forward, testing has been prioritized once again, thanks to the Delta variant. Home testing is possible now, though the availability and pricing of these tests varies from country to country. Discover spoke to an infectious disease epidemiologist about the pros and cons of at-home and other COVID-19 tests. According to the Q&A, “Rapid tests detect the virus by looking for antigens, proteins located on the surface of the virus. The speedy results of this form of testing have made it a go-to choice for many. Currently, three brands of at-home rapid tests have received emergency authorization from the FDA including Abbott’s BinaxNow, the Ellume COVID-19 home test, and  Quidel QuickVue. While these at-home kits may be the first choice for anxious individuals wanting a quick answer, we must also consider what the results mean and how much we can rely on these tests to determine whether we’ve truly been infected.” https://bit.ly/3CCQqde

Watermelons are great. They satisfy on so many levels. They taste great without being too sweet. They can quench a degree of thirst. They are FANTASTIC when you pour vodka into them and scoop out bite-sized bits for some edible shots. But where did this Godsend come from? What wild plant did our domesticated version descend from? A study in the PNAS believes they have that answered. Per the authors, “Wild progenitors of crops are important resources for breeding and for understanding domestication, but identifying them is difficult. Using an integrative approach, we discovered that a Sudanese form of melon with nonbitter whitish pulp, known as the Kordofan melon, is the closest relative of domesticated watermelons and a possible progenitor. To gain insights into the genetic changes that occurred from the progenitor to the domesticated watermelon, we assembled and annotated the genome of a Kordofan melon at the chromosome level. Our analyses imply that early farmers brought into cultivation already nonbitter watermelons, different from other domesticated Cucurbitaceae crops such as cucumber. The Kordofan melon genome is a significant new resource for watermelon breeding.” Can agronomists somehow breed vodka into watermelon plants? https://bit.ly/3u9wsnh

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

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