DAILY DOSE: RSV vaccine on the way; A secret forced-abortion program conducted in Africa.


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The Covid-19 pandemic has brought increased attention to the respiratory syncytial virus. While most news involves how child infections are leading to severe cases involving hospital visits, the truth is that RSV is also a serious threat to the elderly. According to Reuters, Pfizer is close to having a vaccine for older adults.

The pharma giant announced Wednesday that U.S. regulators have accepted the application for RSVpreF to prevent lower respiratory tract disease caused by RSV in people 60 years and older. The agency has also granted a coveted priority review, which means a decision on the vaccine’s approval will arrive four months earlier than normal.

That sets a decision date for May, Pfizer said. RSVpreF was previously granted a breakthrough-therapy designation for the older adult population in March.

Pfizer has put forward evidence from a phase 3 trial called RENOIR, which enrolled 37,000 people and found the vaccine outperformed placebo at protecting against RSV-associated lower respiratory tract illness. The shot also protected against more severe illness.

If approved, RSVpreF would become the first RSV vaccine for older adults. Close behind Pfizer are GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Bavarian Nordic and Moderna, which all have vaccines in the works for varying populations. https://bit.ly/3UyihUo

Science can be a low-down, cut-throat, dirty business. A recent controversy in paleontology demonstrates how the race to publish can lead to the urge to fabricate data. Per Science,

In June 2021, paleontologist Melanie During submitted a manuscript to Nature that she suspected might create a minor scientific sensation. Based on the chemical isotope signatures and bone growth patterns found in fossilized fish collected at Tanis, a renowned fossil site in North Dakota, During had concluded the asteroid that ended the dinosaur era 65 million years ago struck Earth when it was spring in the Northern Hemisphere.

But During, a Ph.D. candidate at Uppsala University (UU), received a shock of her own in December 2021, while her paper was still under review. Her former collaborator Robert DePalma, whom she had listed as second author on the study, published a paper of his own in Scientific Reports reaching essentially the same conclusion, based on an entirely separate data set. During, whose paper was accepted by Nature shortly afterward and published in February, suspects that DePalma, eager to claim credit for the finding, wanted to scoop her—and made up the data to stake his claim.

After trying to discuss the matter with editors at Scientific Reports for nearly a year, During recently decided to make her suspicions public. She and her supervisor, UU paleontologist Per Ahlberg, have shared their concerns with Science, and on 3 December, During posted a statement on the journal feedback website PubPeer claiming, “we are compelled to ask whether the data [in the DePalma et al. paper] may be fabricated, created to fit an already known conclusion.” (She also posted the statement on the OSF Preprints server today.)

It’s difficult to imagine that this is an isolated incident among the scientific community. There are just so many examples of fudged data being used to support findings in published papers. https://bit.ly/3h9AYjE

Allergies among children have led to wild speculation as to their causes, particularly by frustrated parents. A recent study indicates that there may be evidence that the recent use of nanoparticles in food production as preservatives may play a role. Per the Frontiers In Blog,

Inorganic nanoparticles used to help process food may be crossing the placental barrier and getting into breastmilk, potentially damaging intestinal regulation and compromising babies’ oral tolerance, predisposing them to food allergies.

Nanotechnologies have revolutionized food technology with changes to food production, manufacture, and processing that are intended to make our food safer and healthier. Phytosanitary products, processing aids, food additives, and surfaces that touch food in storage can all transfer nanoparticles that might be consumed by humans. In a review published in Frontiers in Allergy today, Mohammad Issa, at the Université Paris-Saclay, and colleagues pointed out that such a significant change to food production could have unforeseen health consequences. The team presented evidence that suggested that nanoparticles not only cross the placenta to reach developing fetuses but leave them at greater risk of potentially life-threatening food allergies.

“Due to the immunotoxic and biocidal properties of nanoparticles, exposure may disrupt the host-intestinal microbiota’s beneficial exchanges and may interfere with intestinal barrier and gut-associated immune system development in fetus and neonate,” said Dr Karine Adel-Patient, corresponding author of the study. “This may be linked to the epidemic of immune-related disorders in children, such as food allergies – a major public health concern.”

So Whole Foods it is… https://bit.ly/3HgRSHA

Here’s something that should come as no surprise to most Americans: the air quality ain’t all it should be. Per Nature,

Air quality in the western United States has grown markedly worse in the past decade — owing largely to wildfires that are getting bigger and more frequent with the warming climate. In 2020, more than four million hectares burnt in the United States, the second-highest amount since national records began in 1983. During summer 2020, western wildfires accounted for nearly one-quarter of the PM from particles less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter (PM2.5) in the contiguous United States.

The problem is getting worse across the world. Globally, the number of extreme wildfires is expected to increase by 14% by 2030 and by up to 30% by the end of 2050, according to a February report2 by the United Nations Environment Programme. And exposure to ambient fine particulate matter, which is rising globally, is estimated to kill up to ten million people a year.

The trends in the western United States stand out because they mark a sharp change in air-pollution levels. The country has some of the strongest environmental regulations in the world, and has made significant progress cleaning its skies since the 1970s. Regulations such as the Clean Air Act drastically cut levels of air pollution — including lead, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and fine particles — from vehicles, power plants, factories and other sources. But the air-quality success story has been swamped in the past decade by staggering environmental shifts due to a warming climate.

Beyond spurring forest fires, climate change has also made the region more susceptible to droughts that dry out soils and expose lake beds, leading to vast plumes of airborne dust. https://bit.ly/3UDn0nY

A secret mass abortion program has been conducted by the Nigerian Army. Most of the procedures involved forced compliance. According to an investigation by Reuters,

Since at least 2013, the Nigerian Army has run a secret, systematic and illegal abortion programme in the country’s northeast, terminating at least 10,000 pregnancies among women and girls, many of whom had been kidnapped and raped by Islamist militants, according to dozens of witness accounts and documentation reviewed by Reuters.

The abortions mostly were carried out without the person’s consent – and often without their prior knowledge, according to the witness accounts. The women and girls ranged from a few weeks to eight months pregnant, and some were as young as 12 years old, interviews and records showed…

The existence of the army-run abortion programme hasn’t been previously reported. The campaign relied on deception and physical force against women who were kept in military custody for days or weeks. Three soldiers and a guard said they commonly assured women, who often were debilitated from captivity in the bush, that the pills and injections given to them were to restore their health and fight diseases such as malaria. In some instances, women who resisted were beaten, caned, held at gunpoint or drugged into compliance. Others were tied or pinned down, as abortion drugs were inserted inside them, said a guard and a health worker.

The Nigerian military has denied the program’s existence. https://bit.ly/3VGliTU

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


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