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Science + Tech

Pandemic Sex Misses the Mark for Women. And More Science Info Straight from Journals

The latest roundup of COVID-19 findings gathered by Hakai Magazine.

Brian Owens 19 May 2020 | Hakai Magazine

Brian Owens is a freelance science writer and editor based in St. Stephen, New Brunswick. His work has appeared in Hakai Magazine, Nature, New Scientist, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, The Lancet and others.

Compiled by veteran medical journalist Brian Owens, this roundup of some of the newest science on the COVID-19 pandemic, straight from the scientific journals, is presented by Hakai Magazine in partnership with The Tyee.

One in four YouTube videos contains misinformation

More than one-quarter of the top 150 most viewed English-language videos about COVID-19 on YouTube contain misleading or inaccurate information. Professional and government agency videos scored significantly higher for accuracy, usability and quality than any other sources. But these more official videos didn’t feature prominently among viewing figures. Of the misleading videos, many are from entertainment news sources and include inaccuracies such as the belief that pharmaceutical companies already have a cure but refuse to sell it, or that certain countries have stronger strains of coronavirus. Many of the videos also contain inappropriate recommendations for the general public, racist and discriminatory remarks, and conspiracy theories.

BMJ Global Health, May 13, 2020

Women’s sexual desire increases, but satisfaction goes down during pandemic

According to a survey of women in Turkey, women’s sexual desire and frequency of intercourse increased during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the six month to one-year period prior. However, their self-reported quality of sexual life decreased over this same period, with reported levels of sexual satisfaction falling significantly. The researchers also found that far fewer women reported wanting to get pregnant during the pandemic, which aligns with previous research on other natural disasters. However, the women’s use of contraceptives also fell sharply, possibly because they are having difficulty acquiring them.

International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, May 11, 2020

COVID-19 linked to rare disorder in kids

An analysis of the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy has found an unexpected increase in young children with symptoms similar to a rare inflammatory disease called Kawasaki disease. Symptoms include fever and rash, red eyes, dry or cracked lips or mouth, redness on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, and swollen glands. Similar symptoms have been seen in New York and southeast England.

The Lancet, May 13, 2020

Pandemic will disrupt millions of surgeries around the world

More than 28 million elective surgeries — scheduled procedures that include everything from hip replacements to kidney transplants — could be cancelled or postponed because of disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The estimate is based on calculations that assume a 12-week period of disruption to hospital services in 190 countries. With each additional week of disruption, 2.4 million more elective surgeries will be cancelled or postponed.

British Journal of Surgery, May 12, 2020


Still a long way from herd immunity

According to a mathematical model, around 4.4 per cent of the population in France had been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, by the time lockdown restrictions were eased on May 11. This is far short of the 65 per cent that researchers estimate will be required to create herd immunity in a population. Another study, which concluded that as much as 29 per cent of the United Kingdom population had been infected by mid-April, has been widely criticized for using unproven methods to estimate infection rates.

Science, May 13, 2020

International Journal of Clinical Practice, May 7, 2020

Cats and dogs can get infected

SARS-CoV-2 can infect cats and dogs. One study of cats in the laboratory found that they could be infected with the isolated virus and pass it on to other cats. Another study, of pet dogs from houses where a person had a confirmed case of COVID-19, found that some were infected with the virus, likely by their owners. None of the animals showed any signs of illness. Though people can give cats and dogs the virus, it is not yet known whether they can transmit the virus to humans.

New England Journal of Medicine, May 13, 2020

Nature, May 14, 2020

Promising immune response seen in recovered patients

Researchers have documented a robust antiviral immune response to SARS-CoV-2 in a group of 20 people who had recovered from COVID-19. They found the immune system can recognize many different parts of the virus, which is good news for those working on developing a vaccine. The discovery should help reduce fears that the virus does not induce immunity.

Cell, May 14, 2020

Speech droplets stay airborne for several minutes indoors

Speaking moistly is thought to be a way of transmitting COVID-19, and a new study has shown how long those speech droplets remain in the air. Observations using lasers have found that loud speech can produce thousands of droplets per second, and in closed, stagnant air, they can remain suspended for up to 15 minutes. The findings reinforce the need to maintain physical distance indoors, and the benefits of wearing a non-medical mask to cut down on the spray.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, May 13, 2020

COVID-19 deaths underestimated in Italy

The official COVID-19 death count in Italy is likely to be a substantial underestimate, according to a new study. Looking at the city of Nembro in Lombardy, which was hit hard by the pandemic, the researchers found that more residents died in March 2020 than in the entire previous year, or in any single year since 2012. Only about half of the deaths were reported as confirmed COVID-19 deaths.

BMJ, May 14, 2020

Carbon emissions fall during pandemic

Daily global carbon dioxide emissions fell by 17 per cent in early April, compared with the 2019 average. The drop is a result of efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19: emissions from surface transport and aviation fell by 36 per cent and 60 per cent, respectively. But the long-term effects are likely to be small. If activity recovers to pre-crisis levels by mid-June, the average total decline for the year will be around four per cent.

Nature Climate Change, May 19, 2020

SARS antibody shows activity against COVID-19

An antibody isolated from a person who recovered from SARS in 2003 can inhibit related coronaviruses, including the one that causes COVID-19. The antibody is now on a fast track to clinical trials as a treatment for COVID-19. But another study has found that while most antibodies to either the 2003 SARS virus or the COVID-19-causing version can recognize the other virus, they do not provide any cross-protection.

Nature, May 18, 2020

Cell Reports, May 17, 2020  [Tyee]

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