The New York Times, April 28, 2022

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Over the next 50 years, climate change will drive thousands of viruses to jump from one species of mammal to another, according to a study published in Nature on Thursday. The shuffling of viruses among animals may increase the risk that one will jump into humans and cause a new pandemic, the researchers said.

Continue reading “Climate Change Will Accelerate Viral Spillovers, Study Finds”

The New York Times, April 5, 2022

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This year marks the 40th anniversary of “Chimpanzee Politics,” a book that forced us to look at our simian cousins in a new light. The author, a Dutch primatologist named Frans de Waal, offered an unprecedented look at the social world of chimpanzees. Their lives are crammed with alliances, betrayals, and Machiavellian maneuvers. “Chimpanzee Politics” was also the debut of a gifted writer. De Waal turned what might have been a dry monograph into something that read more like a character-packed novel.

De Waal has been busy in the four decades since. He has studied other primates, such as bonobos, a species that split from the chimpanzee lineage about two million years ago. Unlike chimpanzee societies, in which males typically dominate, bonobo societies turn out to be run by the females.

Continue reading “Primate Societies Are Surprisingly Complex. So Are Their Gender Roles.”

The New York Times, May 1, 2022

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The British government on Friday shut down or scaled back a number of its Covid surveillance programs, curtailing the collection of data that the United States and many other countries had come to rely on to understand the threat posed by emerging variants and the effectiveness of vaccines. Denmark, too, renowned for insights from its comprehensive tests, has drastically cut back on its virus tracking efforts in recent months.

As more countries loosen their policies toward living with Covid rather than snuffing it out, health experts worry that monitoring systems will become weaker, making it more difficult to predict new surges and to make sense of emerging variants.

Continue reading “Cuts in Britain Could Cause a Covid Data Drought”

The New York Times, March 30, 2022

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The anti-parasitic drug ivermectin, which has surged in popularity as an alternative treatment for Covid-19 despite a lack of strong research to back it up, showed no sign of alleviating the disease, according to results of a large clinical trial published on Wednesday.

The study, which compared more than 1,300 people infected with the coronavirus in Brazil who received either ivermectin or a placebo, effectively ruled out the drug as a treatment for Covid, the study’s authors said.

“There’s really no sign of any benefit,” said Dr. David Boulware, an infectious-disease expert at the University of Minnesota.

Continue reading “Ivermectin Does Not Reduce Risk of Covid Hospitalization, Large Study Finds”

The New York Times, March 21, 2022

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As soon as Edward Holmes saw the dark-ringed eyes of the raccoon dogs staring at him through the bars of the iron cage, he knew he had to capture the moment.

It was October 2014. Dr. Holmes, a biologist at the University of Sydney, had come to China to survey hundreds of species of animals, looking for new types of viruses.

On a visit to Wuhan, a commercial center of 11 million people, scientists from the city’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention brought him to Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. In stall after stall of the poorly ventilated space, he saw live wild animals — snakes, badgers, muskrats, birds — being sold for food. But it was the raccoon dogs that made him pull out his iPhone.

As one of the world’s experts on virus evolution, Dr. Holmes had an intimate understanding of how viruses can jump from one species to another — sometimes with deadly consequences. The SARS outbreak of 2002 was caused by a bat coronavirus in China that infected some kind of wild mammal before infecting humans. Among the top suspects for that intermediate animal: the fluffy raccoon dog.

Continue reading “‘He Goes Where the Fire Is’: A Virus Hunter in the Wuhan Market”