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Science + Tech

Birthday Parties Accelerated the Spread of COVID-19. And More Science Journal News

The latest roundup of pandemic findings gathered by The Tyee.

Brian Owens 22 Jun 2021 | 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 and the Lancet.

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.

Common cold fights coronavirus

Catching a cold might help protect you against COVID-19. Researchers found that the rhinovirus, a common respiratory virus that is the most frequent cause of the common cold, jumpstarts the activity of interferon-stimulated genes — early-response molecules in the immune system that can halt replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus within airway tissues infected with the cold. But the timing is important: the two infections must come close enough together for the cold-induced interferon to still be around when SARS-CoV-2 arrives.

Journal of Experimental Medicine, June 15, 2021

Third vaccine dose helps protect transplant recipients

A three-dose vaccine regimen increases antibody levels against SARS-CoV-2 more than the standard two-dose regimen in people who have received solid organ transplants, according to new research. Previous studies had shown that just 17 per cent of transplant recipients produced sufficient antibodies after one dose, and 54 per cent after two. Following a third shot, recipients with low antibody levels saw an increase, and one-third of those with no antibodies began producing them. This research suggests that third doses for the general public would also increase antibody levels, should they be needed to protect against new variants.

Annals of Internal Medicine, June 15, 2021

Monkey study suggests vaccines are safe for kids

A test of the Moderna mRNA vaccine and another protein-based vaccines being developed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health on baby rhesus macaques found that both generated a strong antibody response and produced no serious adverse effects in the monkeys. This pre-clinical research indicates that the vaccines will likely be safe and effective in human children, though clinical trials in humans are still needed.

Science Immunology, June 15, 2021

Anti-science tweets could signal outbreaks

Anti-science views about COVID-19 on social media align so closely with political ideology — especially among conservatives — that their predictability offers a strategy to help protect public health. Researchers were able to track online public discourse around COVID-19 and compare it with epidemiological outcomes. For example, they found that anti-science attitudes posted between January and April 2020 were high in western and southern states that were later hit with deadly COVID-19 surges. The researchers suggest public health officials could use this kind of correlation to predict future outbreaks, and tailor messaging to those areas and attitudes to help prevent unmanageable surges.

Journal of Internet Medical Research, June 14, 2021

Keep up masking and distancing through 2021

A study of COVID-19 transmission in China suggests that, despite high levels of vaccination, people need to keep up non-pharmaceutical interventions like masks and physical distancing at least through to the end of this year as immunity builds up in the population. Continuing with these interventions for the next few months will help ensure local outbreaks don’t escalate into widespread epidemics.

Nature Human Behaviour, June 22, 2021

Inflammatory syndrome possible in adults too

A rare complication of COVID-19 that affects children, called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, can also affect adults, according to new research from the University of Calgary. The researchers describe a 60-year-old man who experienced a range of symptoms similar to those found in children suffering from the syndrome, including prolonged shortness of breath, high fever, swelling and severe fatigue. Testing found an enlarged heart and lung swelling as well as other issues. The man recovered after prompt treatment. Researchers say doctors should be aware of the possibility, and not dismiss inflammatory syndrome in adults.

Canadian Medical Association Journal, June 21, 2021


Relationship in trouble? Blame COVID to save it

Relationships often suffer from everyday stresses like financial worries and work stress — but researchers have found that people who blame their stress on the pandemic more than on their partner are happier in their relationships. Romantic partners tend to be more critical toward each other when experiencing common stressors, but because major events like pandemics are more noticeable than routine situations, people may be more aware that stress is affecting them, and so more likely to give their partner a break. This can help partners support each other more effectively and be more successful in weathering difficult times.

Social Psychological and Personality Science, June 21, 2021

Informal gatherings like birthday parties drove pandemic spread

In places with already high COVID-19 infection rates, children’s birthday parties may have fuelled the spread of infection during the peak months of the pandemic. Researchers found that in U.S. counties with high rates of COVID-19, households with recent birthdays were 30 per cent more likely to have a COVID-19 diagnosis, compared with households with no birthdays.

JAMA Internal Medicine, June 21, 2021  [Tyee]

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