close up portrait of woman

DAILY DOSE: Trifecta of viruses slamming kids in the U.S.; Ph.D. grads to academia – “Drop Dead.”


Join us in The Bullpen, where the members of the Scientific Inquirer community get to shape the site’s editorial decision making. We’ll be discussing people and companies to profile on the site. On Wednesday, November 23 at 5:30pm EST, join us on Discord and let’s build the best Scientific Inquirer possible.

During peak pandemic years, Sars-CoV-2 dominated the respiratory virus landscape thanks to social distancing, facemask use, and lockdowns. Now that the situation has eased a bit, other respiratory viruses are mounting a stunning comeback. Children are bearing the brunt of the viral trifecta. Per CNN,

About half of the US – 22 states, along with Washington, DC, New York City and Puerto Rico – is reporting high or very high respiratory illness activity, as flu season sweeps through the country weeks earlier than usual.

Multiple respiratory viruses are circulating nationwide – including flu, RSV and the virus that causes Covid-19 – and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tweeted Thursday that flu is contributing to a “significant proportion” of that circulation.

And influenza activity continues to increase: After nearly doubling in the last week of October, the number of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths this season took another significant jump in the first week of November. The CDC now estimates that there have been at least 2.8 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations and 1,300 deaths from influenza as of November 5.

Winter is coming and that means so are more respiratory infections. Buckle up everyone. Good luck.

Israel understands that there are shocks to the environment that can be avoided with effort. That’s why they have made moves to support the Mediterranean Ocean. Per the Associated Press,

Israel is blazing forward with a plan to protect sections of its 118-mile coastline, a measure experts say is crucial to maintain biodiversity and shield ecosystems from humanity. Rosh Hanikra, just south of the Lebanese border, is the centerpiece of this effort, providing what scientists believe can be a blueprint for rescuing seas ravaged by pollution, overfishing and climate change.

But there is a glimmer of hope. In recent years Israel has taken steps to better protect critical habitats along its Mediterranean coast, like the Rosh Hanikra Marine Reserve, and researchers say key species have bounced back even after just a few years of protection.

“If we won’t maintain the resilience and the functionality of the ocean, it will collapse,” said Ruth Yahel, a marine ecologist at Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority. Conservationists say the best way to do that is creating zones where human impact is reduced.

Welcome news. More countries need to follow their lead.

Even the best drugs in the world don’t make much of a difference in the light of antimicrobial resistance. One of the leading drivers of the phenomenon is suboptimal adherence which leads to erratic dosing. A recent study explored the correlation between dosing and onset of resistance. 

The emergence of drug resistance during antimicrobial therapy is a major global health problem, especially for chronic infections like human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis B and C, and tuberculosis. Sub-optimal adherence to long-term treatment is an important contributor to resistance risk. New long-acting drugs are being developed for weekly, monthly or less frequent dosing to improve adherence, but may lead to long-term exposure to intermediate drug levels. In this study, we analyse the effect of dosing frequency on the risk of resistance evolving during time-varying drug levels. We find that long-acting therapies can increase, decrease or have little effect on resistance, depending on the source (pre-existing or de novo) and degree of resistance, and rates of drug absorption and clearance. Long-acting therapies with rapid drug absorption, slow clearance and strong wild-type inhibition tend to reduce resistance caused by partially resistant strains in the early stages of treatment even if they do not improve adherence. However, if subpopulations of microbes persist and can reactivate during sub-optimal treatment, longer-acting therapies may substantially increase the resistance risk. Our results show that drug kinetics affect selection for resistance in a complicated manner, and that pathogen-specific models are needed to evaluate the benefits of new long-acting therapies.

Obviously, there’s a lot more work to do if this problem is ever going to be solved.

Having good friends has its benefits. Apparently, this holds true for all animals, not just humans. And it goes beyond the emotional. Per the Frontiers In blog,

Researchers show for the first time that monkeys that are more sociable – eg, grooming or being groomed more often, and with more grooming partners – have a healthier gut microbiome. For example, they have more of the beneficial bacteria Faecalibacterium and Prevotella, and fewer of the typically pathogenic bacteria Streptococcus. This is further evidence that in primates, social connectedness translates into good physical and mental health, and vice versa.

Social connections are essential for good health and wellbeing in social animals, such as ourselves and other primates. There is also increasing evidence that the gut microbiome – through the so-called ‘gut-brain axis’ – plays a key role in our physical and mental health and that bacteria can be transmitted socially, for example through touch. So how does social connectedness translate into the composition and diversity of the gut microbiome? That’s the topic of a new study in Frontiers in Microbiology on rhesus macaques, Macaca mulatta.

Lead author Dr Katerina Johnson, a research associate at the Department of Experimental Psychology and the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Oxford, said: “Here we show that more sociable monkeys have a higher abundance of beneficial gut bacteria, and a lower abundance of potentially disease-causing bacteria."

That’s what friends are for.

The numbers of Ph.D graduates going into academia is dropping at an alarming rate and is actually beginning to have direct effects on scientific research. Per STAT,

The data around this tectonic shift are loud and clear. So were the many people STAT spoke with, from Ph.D. students to postdoctoral researchers to graduate program directors, labor economists, and hiring managers in the biopharma industry.

Students and postdocs lambasted a system they say exploits their long hours at the lab bench to advance the careers and renown of professors. In return, they’re left powerless, overworked, and so underpaid that eking out a living is difficult if not outright impossible. But those critiques go back decades. What has changed is that there’s now a booming biotech industry and private sector with a seemingly insatiable need for life science talent — and the willingness to offer six-figure salaries and benefits. For many young researchers, the allure of these jobs is irresistible.

Problems that have percolated for years are now coming to a head. Faculty are reporting that they’re struggling to hire postdocs, delaying research projects and pressuring universities to consider improving salaries and benefits as endowments are shrinking.

Who wants to work for a pittance when you can make hundreds of thousands of dollars doing similar work? Nobody.

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

IMAGE CREDIT: Trinity Kubassek.

ON SALE! Charles Darwin Signature T-shirt – “I think.” Two words that changed science and the world, scribbled tantalizingly in Darwin’s Transmutation Notebooks.

Success! You're on the list.

A quarter of people are undoing the benefits of healthy meals by unhealthy snacking
A quarter of people are undoing the benefits of healthy meals with unhealthy …
Clever lapwings use cover to hide in plain sight.
Ground-nesting birds called lapwings use the shape of their nests and surroundings …

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: