close up of piglets being fed in a barn

DAILY DOSE: We’re still creeping towards an antibiotic resistance apocalypse; Dinosaurs were creeping toward extinction even before catastrophe.


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, December 14 at 5:30pm EST, join us on Discord and let’s build the best Scientific Inquirer possible.

In a clear case of tempting fate and waiting for disaster, the world doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo about how harmful over-use of antibiotics really is. In a sobering article about a sobering study, researchers indicate that use of antibiotics in agriculture is actually increasing. Per Nature,

The use of antibiotics in animal farming — a major contributor to antimicrobial resistance — is expected to grow by 8% between 2020 and 2030 despite ongoing efforts to curtail their use, according to an analysis1.

Overuse of antibiotics in agriculture is thought to be a major driver of the rise in humans of bacterial infections that cannot be treated with antibiotics. Although antibiotics can be necessary to treat infections in livestock, they are often used to speed up animal growth and prevent diseases among animals in crowded, unsanitary conditions.

Many governments have struggled to make or enforce rules to decrease antibiotic usage. For instance, although a number of countries, including the United States and much of Europe, ban the use of antibiotics that promote growth, manufacturers can just say they are marketing the drugs to prevent disease.

Researchers have also struggled to calculate the amount of antibiotics used in particular countries because most do not release their agricultural-antibiotic usage data publicly, says co-author of the study, Thomas Van Boeckel, a spatial epidemiologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich). Instead, many release the data to the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH), which group country’s antibiotics data into continents, so that is all that researchers can see. And around 40% of countries do not report their antibiotic use to WOAH at all. “The majority of data on antibiotic use in the world is unusable,” van Boeckel says.

Needless to say, this is terrible, terrible news.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, there is a loud and very vocal group of scientists who believe the Covid-19 pandemic most likely started in the Wuhan Institute of Virology with a lab leak. Now, they have organized themselves into a formal clique called Protect Our Future. Per Science,

Frustrated that their tweets, published commentaries, and comments to the press aren’t having enough impact, a group of scientists and others concerned about potentially risky research on human pathogens is launching a nonprofit organization today to advocate for tighter biosafety rules. The group, called Protect Our Future, wants to prevent “lab-generated pandemics that could threaten the survival of the human species,” a press release declares.

Organizers hope to rally the public to push for new laws to clamp down on work that could potentially supercharge already dangerous bacteria, viruses, and infectious agents, or transform harmless ones into pandemic threats. The vision is “a future where reckless research on pathogens is ended, and a future where public trust in science is restored,” according to its website.

Protect Our Future co-founder Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, cites the 1977 influenza pandemic, which killed more than 700,000 people, as an example of what the group hopes to prevent; some researchers believe it was sparked by a leak of influenza from a lab in the Soviet Union. And Ebright and his new group also think virology experiments at a lab in Wuhan, China, could have sparked the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite a lack of direct evidence for that scenario, Ebright has regularly tweeted that officials at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), which helped fund that work, potentially share blame for the deaths of millions in the current pandemic.

Expect virologists to react defensively. Putting the origins of Covid-19 aside, their reactions have felt like efforts at defending their turf.

In a study with not-so-surprising results, researchers have learned that athletes may be more adept at monitoring changes in their bodies when exercising than non-athletes. According to the study published in PLOS One,

Interoception, the process of detecting and interpreting bodily sensations, may facilitate self-regulation and thereby play a crucial role in achieving elite performance in competitive sports. However, there is a lack of research conducted in world-class athletes. In the present research, two studies examined self-reported (interoceptive sensibility) and behavioural (interoceptive accuracy) interoception in elite (top 100 ranking) sprint and long-distance runners, and non-athletes. Study 1 used the Multidimensional Assessment of Interoceptive Awareness Questionnaire. Sprinters reported having better regulation of attention to internal sensations, greater emotional awareness, better self-regulation, and reported a greater propensity to listen to their body for insight, than distance runners. Compared to non-athletes, sprinters and distance runners had more bodily trust, attention regulation, and self-regualtion. Additionally, elite athletes reported lower emotional awareness, self-regulation, and body listening. Study 2 examined cardioception using two tasks: The Heartbeat Counting Task, and The Heartbeat Detection Task. Elite and non-elite runners performed the tasks under two conditions; in silence, and whilst listening to pre-recorded crowd noise that simulated the live sounds of spectators during a sporting event. Sprinters and distance runners were able to maintain heartbeat detection accuracy when distracted, whereas non-athletes could not. Across both tasks, compared to non-athletes, sprinters and distance runners were more confident than non-athletes in their interoceptive percept. Additionally, elite athletes compared to non-elite athletes were less accurate when counting their heartbeat and were characterised by a higher interoceptive prediction error. Athletic populations have altered interoceptive abilities.

Heightened perceptions aside, exercise is good for you. Go do it.

A recent study has indicated that prior to the great extinction event, dinosaur populations were teetering on the ledge of catastrophe anyway. According to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,

We collected over 1,000 dinosaur eggshell samples from an ∼150-m-thick stratigraphically continuous fossil-rich sequence in the Shanyang Basin of central China, which is one of the most abundant dinosaur records from a Late Cretaceous sequence. We use biostratigraphy of dinosaurs and Bemalambda, magnetostratigraphy, and cyclostratigraphy from orbital cycles to establish a geochronological framework of the dinosaur fossils with a high resolution of 100,000 y. Our results demonstrate low dinosaur biodiversity during the last 2 million y of the Cretaceous, and those data indicate a decline in dinosaur biodiversity millions of years before the Cretaceous/Paleogene boundary. The end-Cretaceous catastrophic events, such as the Deccan Traps and bolide impact, probably acted on an already vulnerable ecosystem and led to nonavian dinosaur extinction.

So basically, the catastrophic event just sped up the process.

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

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.

DAILY DOSE: Americans a little less split over climate change; ChatGPT finds its voice.
Brain-altering parasite turns ants into zombies at dawn and dusk
Imagine coming-to, jaws gripping the top of a swaying blade of grass, …

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: