COVID reinfections, sneezing hamsters and huge methane emissions


People walk past a COVID-19 testing sign on the street, during the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City, New York, U.S.

Circumstances of coronavirus reinfection are rising world wide.Credit score: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

COVID reinfections surge throughout Omicron wave

Because the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 was first detected, the variety of folks reinfected with the coronavirus has been rising sharply — a pattern that was not noticed with earlier variants. Researchers say that Omicron might be driving the surge as a result of it could actually evade the physique’s immune defences.

In England, greater than 650,000 folks have most likely been contaminated twice; most of them have been reinfected previously two months, in line with information collected by the UK Well being Safety Company. The company considers an an infection a ‘attainable reinfection’ if it came about not less than three months after a earlier one. Earlier than mid-November, reinfections accounted for about 1% of reported circumstances of COVID-19, however the fee has now elevated to round 10%.

“The flexibility of Omicron to contaminate folks with both vaccine- or infection-derived immunity is a key a part of what made the current surge so massive,” says Marm Kilpatrick, an infectious-disease researcher on the College of California, Santa Cruz.

Measuring reinfection charges helps to evaluate “how infections may surge”, says Catherine Bennett, an epidemiologist at Deakin College in Melbourne, Australia.

‘Dangerously quick’ development in atmospheric methane

Methane concentrations within the environment raced previous 1,900 components per billion final 12 months, practically triple pre-industrial ranges, in line with information launched in January by the US Nationwide Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Scientists say the grim milestone underscores the significance of a pledge made finally 12 months’s COP26 local weather summit to curb emissions of methane, a greenhouse gasoline not less than 28 occasions as potent as carbon dioxide.

The expansion of methane emissions slowed across the flip of the millennium, however started a fast and mysterious uptick round 2007. The spike has brought about many researchers to fret that international warming is making a suggestions mechanism that may trigger ever extra methane to be launched, making it even more durable to rein in rising temperatures.

A worrying trend: Line chart showing the rise in atmospheric methane levels since 1985.

Supply: NOAA

“Methane ranges are rising dangerously quick,” says Euan Nisbet, an Earth scientist at Royal Holloway, College of London, in Egham, UK.

Some researchers assume that a lot of the rise previously 15 years is likely to be as a consequence of microbial sources, fairly than the extraction of fossil fuels. The emissions are a serious menace to the world’s aim of limiting international warming to 1.5–2 °C over pre-industrial temperatures.

Workers in full PPE at the Little Boss pet store in Hong Kong

A suspected outbreak at a pet store in January led to a cull of hamsters in Hong Kong.Credit score: Chan Lengthy Hei/Bloomberg/Getty

Sneezing hamsters sparked Hong Kong COVID outbreak

Pet hamsters most likely carried the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 into Hong Kong and sparked a human COVID-19 outbreak, in line with a genomic evaluation of viral samples from the rodents. The analysis confirms earlier fears {that a} pet store was the supply of the outbreak, which had, by early February, contaminated about 50 folks and led to the culling of some 2,000 hamsters throughout town.

Hamsters are extremely prone to SARS-CoV-2 and so are a preferred mannequin for learning the virus. However the Hong Kong research — posted on-line as a preprint and but to be peer reviewed — is the primary to indicate that hamsters can change into contaminated outdoors the laboratory, and that they’ll move the virus on, each to different hamsters and to people (H.-L. Yen et al. Preprint at Social Science Analysis Community https://doi.org/hh9r; 2022). Hamsters are solely the second animal recognized to have the ability to infect folks, after mink. In late 2020, small outbreaks of COVID-19 in folks in Denmark and the Netherlands have been linked to farmed mink, sparking panic and mass culls.

The newest research factors to the pet commerce as a route for viral unfold, says co-author Leo Poon, a virologist on the College of Hong Kong. However “to be truthful to the hamsters”, persons are nonetheless more likely to be contaminated by one another than by pets, he says.

Hidden black hole, COVID reinfections — the week in infographics


A distant dusty doughnut

Energetic galactic nuclei, such because the one proven on this graphic, are the luminous centres of some galaxies, and are considered powered by supermassive black holes. Researchers reported this week that that they had captured a pointy picture of a close-by energetic galactic nucleus, displaying a glowing doughnut-shaped object surrounding the hidden black gap.

Gentle emitted by most energetic galactic nuclei has key options that permit the nuclei to be classed as sort 1 or sort 2 objects. A broadly accepted unified mannequin means that this distinction arises as a result of the road of sight to sort 2 objects is obscured by a dusty torus of matter that feeds the black gap. A Information & Views article explains extra about how the researchers managed the troublesome feat of imaging the mud that hides the black gap.

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COVID reinfections on the rise

For the reason that Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 was first detected, the variety of individuals reinfected with the coronavirus has been rising sharply — a pattern that was not noticed with earlier variants. This graph exhibits how the variety of reinfections in England has spiked, utilizing knowledge collected by the UK Well being Safety Company. (The company considers an an infection a ‘potential reinfection’ if it occurred no less than three months after a earlier one, however doesn’t verify that these are separate situations by means of genetic sequencing of the virus.) Researchers say that the brand new variant might be driving the surge as a result of it is ready to evade the physique’s immune defences.

A year-long drive throughout Mars

Since touchdown on Mars one 12 months in the past, NASA’s Perseverance rover has travelled greater than 3 kilometres throughout rocky terrain, as this map exhibits. On 18 February 2021, Perseverance touched down in Jezero Crater, simply north of the Martian equator. The mission’s purpose is to seek for indicators of previous life. Perseverance has spent the 12 months rolling across the backside of the crater, and has collected six valuable rock samples that — if all goes nicely — will sooner or later be returned to Earth for examine. A Information story examines the ups and downs of Perseverance’s first adventurous 12 months.

Sampling Mars: Map showing the path and samples taken to date by NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars.

Picture supply: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS