Science summary: A look at novel coronavirus research around the globe - InfoNews

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Science summary: A look at novel coronavirus research around the globe

June 20, 2020 - 7:00 AM

Thousands of scientists around the world are working on problems raised by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is a summary of some recent research from primarily peer-reviewed academic journals and scientific agencies:

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The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has looked at the socio-economic impact of large-scale COVID-19 lockdowns in Italy. Using data provided by Facebook, the authors found that richer municipalities followed protocols more strictly than poorer ones. They also found what they call a "segregation effect," whereby mobility was reduced more in municipalities with both rich and poor than in those with lower per-capita income.

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The Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology has introduced a new symptom of COVID-19 — pink eye. University of Alberta scientists have published a case description of an Edmonton woman that shows conjunctivitis can be a primary symptom of the infection. The woman came to the Eye Institute of Alberta to be treated for severe pink eye but showed no improvement after several days. A COVID-19 test came back positive. Conjunctivitis and keratoconjunctivitis are now recognized by Alberta Health Services as possible primary symptoms of COVID-19.

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The Mental Health Commission of Canada says animals are a good and healthy way to help deal with the stress of COVID-19 lockdowns. Pets can help owners stay active, the commission says, and because they need regular meals and exercise, they can help keep structure in daily life. And if you ever need advice on how to relax, just watch your cat. If you don't have a pet, the commission offers online mental-health services at therapydogs.ca.

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The journal Science is reporting an up to 90 per cent reduction in some air pollution emissions during COVID-19 lockdowns. Pollution from tiny particles increased, but researchers attributed that to weather conditions and uninterrupted operation of power and petrochemical plants. Satellite measurements indicated an unprecedented 93 per cent reduction in nitrogen dioxide — a gas that is a major precursor of ground-level ozone and smog. The authors say the increased particulate pollution shows that improving urban air quality by focusing on traffic and manufacturing won't be enough.

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Researchers behind an article in the journal Nano Letters are using a novel technique to fight the novel coronavirus. While others look for a way to disable the protein spike the virus uses to enter healthy cells, the scientists are trying to decoy it. They made a nanoparticle coated with the virus's normal targets in hopes of luring it away. They found that when they introduced the "nanosponges" into a petri dish with coronavirus-infected cells, the decoys neutralized the virus and slowed its ability to infect healthy cells. Researchers say the technique could even be effective against a mutated virus or an entirely new one.

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An interview in the Canadian Medical Association Journal is warning that access to any new coronavirus vaccine is liable to be regulated by money and power, not need. Three researchers interviewed suggest that Canada’s chances for getting early access to any vaccine may be reduced, given Canada's limited contribution to the more than 100 candidate vaccines in development. They say whoever is funding the research is likely to benefit first and nationalism is likely to play a role. They say the issue could be avoided if inventors decline to patent the vaccine, as Jonas Salk did with his polio vaccine.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 20, 2020

News from © The Canadian Press, 2020
The Canadian Press

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