DAILY DOSE: Systemic racism cited in venerable London science institution; Feeding microbiome to treat malnutrition.


It’s no secret that Omicron is much more infectious than the other versions of the novel coronavirus. The question being investigated by researchers is: why? One possible answer may be the location of the virus’ replication in the human body. Per Reuters, “Major differences in how efficiently Omicron and other variants of the coronavirus multiply may help predict Omicron’s effects, researchers said on Wednesday. Compared to the earlier Delta variant, Omicron multiplies itself 70 times more quickly in tissues that line airway passages, which may facilitate person-to-person spread, they said. But in lung tissues, Omicron replicates 10 times more slowly than the original version of the coronavirus, which might contribute to less-severe illness.” https://reut.rs/3q1UAqh


One of the most venerable scientific learning institutions in England has been forced to confront racism within its walls. An internal investigation and report documented the various experiences of staff, faculty, and students in the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Per Nature, “Fifty-two per cent of survey respondents who were people of colour said that they had witnessed or experienced racism at the university, and the review heard of several instances in which the LSHTM had failed to act on complaints about racist behaviour. Staff and students of colour also told the reviewers that they were reluctant to challenge racist acts because they feared causing offence, or were concerned about repercussions. ‘Reports are brushed under the carpet,’ one former staff member told the reviewers. A member of the professional support staff said that senior staff members who are the subject of complaints ‘get a slap on the wrist behind a closed door’. A current staff member said the ‘blatant racism’ in their research unit was ‘out of this world’.” It will be interesting to see whether the institution makes meaningful changes or simply superficial ones. https://go.nature.com/3q6mUYN

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Malnutrition among children is a major problem around the world. Unfortunately, rectifying the situation entails more than simply putting food in front of kids and making them eat. Its much more complex than that. Recent research suggests that fostering a healthy, age-appropriate microbiome is an important aspect of bringing nutrient-deficient children back to good health. Per the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “Gordon and his team wanted to find the appropriate foods for children with severe malnutrition. They designed dietary supplements using different proportions of bananas, peanuts, chickpeas, and other common foods that in laboratory tests in mice appeared to support a ‘healthy’ microbiome. In mice carrying microbiomes of malnourished children, one specific cocktail helped transform these microbiomes to resemble those found in healthy children. When the researchers fed malnourished toddlers in Dhaka this particular supplement twice a day for three months, their health improved: The children gained height and weight in patterns similar to healthy peers—an effect not seen with the standard treatments used for malnutrition. Blood tests also showed that, compared with current remedies, children who received the microbiome-targeting supplement had higher levels of circulating proteins linked to bone growth and brain development (1). ‘It’s a nutrient substrate that benefits both the microbes and the host,’ Gordon says. ‘We have to think of their development together.’” https://bit.ly/3q0zcBK


As the world changes, its needs shift as well. As industries begin shifting away from hydrocarbons, the pace of change has increased. One element has moved toward the top of the list. Helium. Per Wired, “Helium is also very useful. It has the lowest boiling point and freezing point of any other known substance. And unlike hydrogen, its lighter and more abundant neighbor on the periodic table, it doesn’t go boom at the slightest provocation. All these characteristics have made it a critical resource in much of the technology that modern society relies on, from the semiconductor chips in computers and mobile phones to fiber-optic cables, MRI scanners, and rockets. There is no space race or high-speed internet without it… The Rukwa Basin is one potentially significant new source of helium. Here, the helium is “green”—naturally mixed with nitrogen, which can be safely vented into the atmosphere. The future of a stable helium supply is likely to depend on non-hydrocarbon sources like this, and now there’s a race to find them.” https://bit.ly/3sfVemK

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

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