George Gao, the former director of China’s Center for Disease Control and Protection (CDC), has expressed his belief that the lab leak theory for the origins of Covid-19 should not be dismissed. Gao, a respected virologist, revealed that another branch of the Chinese government had investigated the theory, marking the first official acknowledgment of such an investigation. However, he clarified that no evidence of wrongdoing had been found.
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, leading to speculation that it may have originated from a wet market or the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Gao emphasized the importance of considering all possibilities and not ruling anything out in scientific investigations. International efforts to determine the origins of the virus have been hindered by China’s lack of cooperation and the politicization of the issue.
The lab leak theory gained renewed attention under the US presidency of Joe Biden, prompting an intelligence investigation into the hypothesis. Despite conflicting reports and the Chinese government’s denial, Gao stated that the question of the virus’s origin remains open. (The Guardian)
Amir Hossein Naroi, a 10-year-old Iranian boy with thalassemia, tragically died due to limited access to life-saving medicines caused by economic sanctions imposed on Iran. Thalassemia affects tens of thousands of people in the Sistan-Balochistan province, where Naroi’s family lived.
The supply of essential medications, such as Desferal, began to diminish in 2018 when the Trump administration intensified economic sanctions on Iran. Multinational pharmaceutical companies and banks cited the challenges of conducting transactions with Iran under the sanctions as the reason for the scarcity of supplies. Despite assurances that humanitarian trade would be exempt from sanctions, foreign companies and banks feared potential secondary sanctions and refrained from engaging in trade with Iran. These sanctions have severely impacted the lives of ordinary Iranians, especially those suffering from rare diseases, leading to a lawsuit against the US government.
The lawsuit alleges that the sanctions have caused the deaths and injuries of Iranian patients, as companies have cut off or reduced their business with Iran due to the sanctions. It calls for the reintroduction of life-saving medicines and medical devices into Iran through regular business channels. The sanctions have worsened the conditions for vulnerable individuals, emphasizing the urgent need for a resolution that enables critical medicines to reach patients within Iran. (The Intercept)
The ongoing eruption of the Mayon volcano in the Philippines, which has forced thousands to evacuate and seek shelter, could persist for several months, leading to a prolonged crisis, according to officials. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. visited the affected area to provide aid and reassurance to displaced villagers.
The eruption, the latest natural calamity to test the administration, comes in a country prone to disasters such as typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanic activity. The volcano’s activity level was raised to alert level three, indicating the possibility of a hazardous eruption in the coming weeks or days.
The lava flow from the volcano has been relatively slow, but authorities have enforced mandatory evacuations and expanded the danger zone. The displaced villagers may have to remain in emergency shelters for an extended period, depending on the duration of the eruption. (Associated Press)
The horseshoe crab population is being threatened as the demand for their blood continues to grow in the medical industry. Horseshoe crabs have blue blood that clots in the presence of bacterial toxins, making it valuable for detecting contamination in vaccines, drugs, and medical devices.
Despite the development of a synthetic alternative, the blood harvest is expanding, with over 700,000 crabs bled in 2021 by five companies along the East Coast of the US. Coast-wide regulation is limited, and there are instances of fishermen mishandling crabs and violating harvest laws without consequences. This has resulted in the depletion of horseshoe crabs along the Atlantic coast and the decline of bird populations, such as the threatened red knot species that rely on horseshoe crab eggs.
The industry operates in a regulatory gray area, and information about the bleeding process and its impact is kept confidential. The approval of synthetic tests by the US Pharmacopeia has stalled, leading to a continued reliance on the blood-derived method. However, some pharmaceutical companies have started using the synthetic alternative, recognizing its cost-effectiveness, quality, and sustainability. (NPR)
Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.
WORDS: The Biology Guy. (@thebiologyguy)
IMAGE CREDIT: 中国新闻网.