By Alexander Freund
In supermarkets, at the weekly market, in everyday life: People are being seen more and more often wearing not only face masks but also disposable gloves to protect themselves from the highly infectious coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. In many drugstores around the world, they have been sold out for weeks.
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By Alexander Freund
Sepsis is a life-threatening organ dysfunction caused by the body's immune system overreacting in response to an infection. This overactive, toxic response can lead to tissue damage, multiple organ failure and death.
Widespread containment measures are due to go into effect across much of Germany, France and Spain starting on Tuesday. Non-essential businesses and shops will be closed and residents have been urged to remain at home.
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A central player in the fight against the novel coronavirus is our immune system. It protects us against the invader and can even be helpful for its therapy. But sometimes it can turn against us.
How does our immune system react to the coronavirus?<p>The coronavirus is — like any other virus — not much more than a shell around genetic material and a few proteins. To replicate, it needs a host in the form of a living cell. Once infected, this cell does what the virus commands it to do: copy information, assemble it, release it.</p><p>But this does not go unnoticed. Within a few minutes, the body's immune defense system intervenes with its innate response: Granulocytes, scavenger cells and killer cells from the blood and lymphatic system stream in to fight the virus. They are supported by numerous plasma proteins that either act as messengers or help to destroy the virus.</p><p>For many viruses and bacteria, this initial activity of the immune system is already sufficient to fight an intruder. It often happens very quickly and efficiently. We often notice only small signs that the system is working: We have a cold, a fever. </p>
Is there an immunity? How long does it last?<p>The good news is that it is very likely there is an immunity. This is suggested by the proximity to other viruses, epidemiological data and animal experiments. Researchers <a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.13.990226v1" target="_blank">infected four rhesus monkeys,</a> a species close to humans, with SARS-CoV-2. The monkeys showed symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, developed neutralizing antibodies and recovered after a few days. When the recovered animals were reinfected with the virus, they no longer developed any symptoms: They were immune. </p><p>The bad news: It is not (yet) known how long the immunity will last. It depends on whether a patient has successfully developed neutralizing antibodies. Achim Hörauf estimates that the immunity should last at least one year. Within this year, every new contact with the virus acts as a kind of booster vaccination, which in turn might prolong the immunity.</p><p>"The virus is so new that nobody has a reasonable immune response," says the immunologist. He believes that lifelong immunity is unlikely. This "privilege" is reserved for viruses that remain in the body for a long time and give our immune system a virtually permanent opportunity to get to know it. Since the coronavirus is an RNA (and not a DNA) virus, it cannot permanently settle in the body, says Hörauf.</p><p>The Heidelberg immunologist <a href="https://www.klinikum.uni-heidelberg.de/immunologie/immunologie" target="_blank">Stefan Meuer</a> predicts that the novel coronavirus will also mutate like all viruses. He assumes that this could be the case in 10 to 15 years: "At some point, the acquired immunity will no longer be of any use to us because then another coronavirus will return, against which the protection that has now been formed will not help us because the virus has changed in such a way that the antibodies are no longer responsible. And then no vaccination will help either."</p>
How can we take advantage of the antibody response of the immune system?<p>Researchers are already collecting plasma from people who have successfully survived an infection with SARS-CoV-2 and are using it to treat a limited number of patients suffering from COVID-19. The underlying principle: <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-drugs-can-antibodies-from-survivors-help/a-52806428" target="_blank">passive immunization.</a> The studies carried out to date have shown positive results, but they have usually been carried out on only a few people.</p><p>At best, passive immunization is used only when the patient's own immune system has already started to work against the virus, says Achim Hörauf: "The longer you can leave the patients alone with the infection before you protect them with passive immunization, the better." Only through active immunization can one be protected in the long term. At the same time, it is difficult to recognize the right point in time.</p><p>PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests are currently used to find out whether a person is infected with the coronavirus. With the help of PCR, it is not possible to tell whether or not there is reproducible viral RNA; it is just a proof of whether the virus is still present, dead or alive. A PCR test cannot tell us whether our immune system has already intervened, i.e. whether we have had contact with the virus in the past, have formed antibodies and are now protected. Researchers are therefore working on tests that check our blood for the presence of antibodies. They are already in use in Singapore, for example, and are nearing completion in the USA. With the help of these tests, it would finally be possible to gain an overview <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/corona-confusion-how-to-make-sense-of-the-numbers-and-terminology/a-52825433" target="_blank">of the unclear case numbers.</a> In addition, people who have developed antibodies against the virus could be used at the forefront of health care, for example. An "immunity passport" is even under discussion.</p>
Is it possible to become infected and/or ill several times with the coronavirus?<p>"According to all we know, it is not possible with the same pathogen," says Achim Hörauf. It is possible to become infected with other coronaviruses or viruses from the SARS or MERS group if their spike proteins look different. "As far as the current epidemic is concerned, it can be assumed that people who have been through COVID-19 will not become ill from it for the time being and will not transmit the virus any further," he says.</p>
How long before you're no longer contagious?<p>A study <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2196-x" target="_blank">carried out on the first coronavirus patients in Germany</a> showed that no viruses that are capable of replication can be found from day eight after the onset of symptoms, even though PCR can still detect up to 100,000 gene copies per sample. This could change the current quarantine recommendations in the future.</p><p>According to the Robert Koch Institute, patients can currently be discharged from hospital if they show two negative PCR samples from the throat within 24 hours. If they have had a severe case of the disease, they should remain in domestic isolation for another two weeks. For each discharge, whether from hospital or home isolation, they should have been symptom-free for at least 48 hours.</p>
Why do people react differently to the virus?<p>While some people get off with a mild cold, others are put on ventilators or even die of SARS-Cov-2. Especially people with <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-who-is-particularly-at-risk-and-why/a-52710881" target="_blank">pre-existing conditions</a> and older people seem to be worst-affected by the virus. Why? This is the hottest question at the moment.</p><p>It will still take a very, very long time to understand the mechanistic, biological basis for why some people are so much more severely affected than others, virologist Angela Rasmussen told <em>The Scientist</em>. "The virus is important, but the host response is at least as important, if not more important," her colleague Stanley Perlman told the magazine.</p><p>Stefan Meuer sees a fundamental survival principle of nature in the different equipment and activity of our immune systems: "If we were all the same, one and the same virus could wipe out the entire human species at once. Due to the genetic range, it is quite normal that some people die from a viral disease while others do not even notice it. "</p><p>Achim Hörauf also suspects immunological variants that could be genetically determined. Since interstitial pneumonia is observed with the coronavirus, the focus is probably on an overreaction of the immune system. However, it is also possible that each person affected may have been loaded with a different dose of the virus, which in turn leads to different outcomes. And finally, it makes a difference how robust the body and lungs are: Competitive athletes simply have more lung volume than long-time smokers. </p>
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By Andy Rowell
It may not come as a surprise that leading climate denier Donald Trump has made more than 10,000 false or misleading claims since he became president, according to fact-checkers at the Washington Post.
As the Post reports, Trump's "tsunami of untruths just keeps looming larger and larger."
Much of this tsunami of untruths will get reposted on Facebook as fact. Those hoping that Facebook will accurately check Trump's statements and clean up the torrent of fake news on its platform will have to think again, especially if you are concerned about climate change.
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Deanna Kelly / Moment / Getty Images
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By John R. Platt
Things are heating up — and not just because it's August. This past June was the hottest June on record, and as of this writing July was shaping up to follow. That makes this month's new books about climate change essential reading, along with other important new titles on pollution, wildlife, oceans and Indigenous peoples.
Climate Change:<p><a href="https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Kochland/Christopher-Leonard/9781476775388" target="_blank"><em>Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America</em></a> by Christopher Leonard — The scary true story of how one private company stalled action on climate change, bought influence in the government, widened the gap between rich and poor, killed unions and so much more.</p><p><a href="https://www.abc-clio.com/ABC-CLIOCorporate/product.aspx?pc=A4825C" target="_blank"><em>Leave It in the Ground: The Politics of Coal and Climate</em></a> by John C. Berg — Want to know why we need to get rid of coal — and how we do it? This book lays out the science in clear, understandable language and reveals the truth about the politics and economics of the coal industry. Berg then provides a roadmap for how activists and governments can dismantle it.</p><p><a href="https://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/bryan-walsh/end-times/9780316449618/" target="_blank"><em>End Times: A Brief Guide to the End of the World</em></a> by Bryan Walsh — This isn't strictly a climate-change book — it also covers apocalyptic volcanos, nuclear war, disease outbreaks and other terrifying scenarios — but it does showcase the people working to understand how the world could end and what they're doing to prevent it. Which, you know, is kind of an important job.</p><p><a href="https://www.grandcentralpublishing.com/titles/tatiana-schlossberg/inconspicuous-consumption/9781538747094/" target="_blank"><em>Inconspicuous Consumption: The Environmental Impact You Don't Know You Have</em></a> by Tatiana Schlossberg — How do your fashion sense, your lunch and your taste in Netflix movies contribute to climate change? A former <em>New York Times</em> science writer lays out the hidden effects of our daily lives and shows how informed and empowered consumers can make a difference.</p>
Wildlife & Conservation:<p><a href="https://jhupbooks.press.jhu.edu/title/future-bluefin-tunas" target="_blank"><em>The Future of Bluefin Tunas</em></a> edited by Barbara A. Block — Dozens of experts from 15 countries contribute to this exhaustive examination of the threats facing all three species of bluefin tuna and what's being done to save them.</p><p><a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/extinction-a-very-short-introduction-9780198807285?cc=us&lang=en&" target="_blank"><em>Extinction: A Very Short Introduction</em></a>by Paul B. Wignall — A slim book about a big topic: Why do species die out? Covering historic mass extinctions and the current biodiversity crisis, this book offers what you need to know about what we're losing.</p><p><em><a href="https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250143129" target="_blank">Science Comics: Cats</a> </em>by Andy Hirsch — A fun focus on our feline friends, looking at the science of everything from tigers to housecats. As with the rest of the "Science Comics" series, this is perfect for young readers or graphic-novel fans of all ages.</p><p><a href="https://www.bloomsbury.com/us/tracking-the-highland-tiger-9781472900920/" target="_blank"><em>Tracking the Highland Tiger: In Search of Scottish Wildcats</em></a> by Marianne Taylor — Persecution by farmers and hybridization with housecats have made the Scottish wildcat one of the <a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/extinction-countdown/scottish-wildcat-kittens/" target="_blank">rarest and most threatened felines on the planet</a>. This book comes out at a time when conservation efforts to save the species are starting to pay off. Will they be in time?</p><p><a href="https://garethstevens.com/series/Life-Without-Animals" target="_blank"><em>Life Without Animals</em></a> by Theresa Emminizer — This six-book series for young readers (available individually or as a set) asks what would happen if species such as elephants, sea otters, prairie dogs and tigers disappeared and examines the ecological effects of their extinctions.</p>
Pollution:<p><a href="https://www.ucpress.edu/book/9780520305281/wilted" target="_blank"><em>Wilted: Pathogens, Chemicals and the Fragile Future of the Strawberry Industry</em></a> by Julie Guthman — A truly eye-opening book about the often exploitative industry that produces one of the world's most mouth-watering fruits.</p><p><a href="https://www.capstonepub.com/library/products/you-are-eating-plastic-every-day-1/" target="_blank"><em>You Are Eating Plastic Every Day: What's in Our Food?</em></a> by Danielle Smith-Llera — Middle-school students may never eat at the school cafeteria again after reading this book.</p>
Oceans:<p><a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/538736/the-outlaw-ocean-by-ian-urbina/9780451492944/" target="_blank"><em>The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier</em></a> by Ian Urbina — The high seas exist outside of international law, which means they can also be quite lawless. The author spent five years reporting around the world to expose the crime and exploitation that run rampant through the fishing, oil and shipping industries.</p><p><span></span><em><a href="https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062691545/into-the-planet/" target="_blank">I</a></em><a href="https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062691545/into-the-planet/" target="_blank"><em>nto the Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver</em></a> by Jill Heinerth — Science and adventure far beneath the sea. This must-read memoir looks back at an amazing career and provides insight into parts of the world that few of us will ever see in person.</p><p><a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/ocean-recovery-9780198839767?q=ocean%20recovery&lang=en&cc=us" target="_blank"><em>Ocean Recovery</em></a> by Ray Hilborn and Ulrike Hilborn — Which of the world's fisheries are sustainable, and why? This book offers the scientific context for what we know about the status and ecological impact of global fishing operations.</p><p><a href="https://www.wwnorton.com/books/9780393635164" target="_blank"><em>Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait</em></a> by Bathsheba Demuth — The Bering Straits are known for their Arctic waters, amazing wildlife and Indigenous peoples, but they're also the site of a clash between capitalism and communism for control of the natural world's finite resources.</p>
Indigenous Peoples:<p><a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank"><em>Indigenous Food Sovereignty in the United States</em></a> edited by Devon A. Mihesuah and Elizabeth Hoover — The subtitle of this book is "Restoring Cultural Knowledge, Protecting Environments, and Regaining Health," which pretty much says it all. Noted activist Winona LaDuke provides the foreword.</p><p><a href="https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/standing-with-standing-rock" target="_blank"><em>Standing With Standing Rock: Voices from the #NoDAPL Movement</em></a> edited by Nick Estes and Jaskiran Dhillon — An essential volume to understand the history and significance of the famous resistance action, combining everything from essays and interviews to poems and photography.</p><p>That's our list for this month, but check out dozens of other recent eco-books in the <a href="https://therevelator.org/tag/revelator-reads/" target="_blank">"Revelator Reads" archive</a>.</p><p> <em>Reposted with permission from our media associate <a href="https://therevelator.org/environmental-books-august-2019/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Revelator</a>. </em><em></em></p>
Dogs with terminal bladder cancer improved with a new modified anthrax treatment. pyotr021 / iStock / Getty Images Plus
By R. Claudio Aguilar
Can the feared anthrax toxin become an ally in the war against cancer? Successful treatment of pet dogs suffering bladder cancer with an anthrax-related treatment suggests so.
On Dec. 31, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) country office in China was informed of 27 patients with pneumonia of unclear cause in Wuhan — a metropolis with 19 million inhabitants in Hubei province.
The Good News<p>Eight patients are currently considered cured and have reportedly left the hospital.</p><p>Having identified the virus, experts are one step further in their search for what is triggering the mysterious <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/unknown-lung-disease-in-china/a-51902586" target="_blank">lung disease</a>.</p><p>The pathogen's gene sequence has been deciphered, according to the head of the team of Chinese experts, Xu Jianguo.</p><p>He said the cause is a new type of coronavirus found in the blood and saliva of 15 patients. An investigation into what brought about the outbreak will continue. </p><p>Gauden Galea, a WHO representative in China, also confirmed the discovery of the new strain of the coronavirus <a href="https://www.who.int/china/news/detail/09-01-2020-who-statement-regarding-cluster-of-pneumonia-cases-in-wuhan-china" target="_blank">in a statement</a>.</p><p>According to the WHO, the quick preliminary identification of the novel virus is a notable achievement and demonstrates China's increased capacity to manage new outbreaks.</p>
What are coronaviruses?<p>Coronaviruses were first found in humans in the 1960s. The name is derived from their appearance under the microscope: The peplomers, the outwardly protruding protein structures of the virus envelope, are arranged in the form of a crown (from Latin: <em>corona</em>).</p><p>Coronaviruses are common and infections are often harmless with patients developing only flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough and shortness of breath. Gastrointestinal complaints, especially diarrhea, can also occur. The incubation time for a coronavirus can vary from a few days to two weeks. </p>
How is the virus transmitted?<p>Zoonoses can be transmitted through direct contact between animals and humans as well as — like with many germs — simply through the air, such as by coughing or sneezing.</p><p>But there are many other ways of infection, for example through food or vectors. A mosquito, tick or other insect can transport a pathogen from the host to another organism without becoming ill itself. </p><p>In addition, zoonoses can also be transmitted via food, for example when eating meat or animal products. If these are not sufficiently heated or if they were prepared under unhygienic conditions, they also represent a source of infection.</p>
Lunar New Year: Be safe<p>Compared to the major instances of SARS and MERS, the current coronavirus outbreak is small, but experts said it should not be underestimated.</p><p>China is, therefore, exercising caution regarding the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations in late January. Millions of people travel in buses, trains and airplanes to celebrate the holiday.</p><p>Wang Yang, the Chinese Transport Ministry's chief engineer, said authorities will step up efforts to prevent the pneumonia outbreak from spreading further during the holiday period, including ensuring proper disinfection in major public transportation hubs like airport and train stations.</p><p>Other Asian countries also stepped up precautions on entry, especially for travelers from Wuhan, and introduced fever controls to prevent the feared spread of the virus. To date, there are 16 suspected cases in Hong Kong, and a possible patient has been reported in Singapore. Not in all of the cases have a direct connection to Wuhan.</p>
How to protect yourself?<p>The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) <a href="https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/watch/pneumonia-china" target="_blank">released a statement warning</a> travelers to Wuhan to avoid animal markets and contact with animals or uncooked meat. People in the area should also avoid the sick and wash their hands frequently with soap and water.</p><p>Those who have been to Wuhan and feel ill should seek medical help immediately and avoid contact with others, the report said.</p><p>Before the doctor is consulted, the practice or clinic should be informed about the travel history and symptoms.</p><p>The WHO did not issue a specific travel warning.</p>
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For the past seven years, the Anishinaabe people have been facing the largest tar sands pipeline project in North America. We still are. In these dying moments of the fossil fuel industry, Water Protectors stand, prepared for yet another battle for the water, wild rice and future of all. We face Enbridge, the largest pipeline company in North America, and the third largest corporation in Canada. We face it unafraid and eyes wide open, for indeed we see the future.
Drinking Water PFAS Contamination Crisis: Ex-Koch Chemicals Executive Playing Key Role in Shaping EPA's Response
Linus Strandholm / EyeEm / Getty Images
A former chemical and fossil fuel industry executive who recently oversaw the anti-environmental agenda of the Koch brothers is playing a lead role crafting the Trump administration's plan to address the crisis of PFAS contamination in the nation's drinking water supply, according to a report Monday by Politico.
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By Wesley Rahn
Plastic byproducts were found in 97 percent of blood and urine samples from 2,500 children tested between 2014 and 2017, according to a study by the German Environment Ministry and the Robert Koch Institute.
Toxic Clothes and Cookware?<p>Plastic from cleaning products, waterproof clothing, food packaging and cooking utensils frequently comes into direct contact with the body.</p><p>Although some of the chemicals studied pose no known health risk, researchers said that they were especially concerned about high levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) that were found in the study. PFOA is frequently used in non-stick cookware and in waterproof clothing.</p><p>According to the German Environment Ministry, the chemical is dangerous for the reproductive system and is toxic to the liver. The EU will ban the substance in 2020.</p><p>Plastic byproducts are also blamed for disrupting hormone function, which could lead to obesity, reproductive disorders, cancer and development delays in children.</p>
Youngest Children Most Vulnerable<p>According to the research, younger children were reported to be the most affected by plastic ingestion. The study also showed children from poorer families had more plastic residue in their bodies than children from higher-income families, according to German public broadcaster ARD.</p><p>"It is very concerning that the youngest children, as the most sensitive group, are also the most affected," Kolossa-Gehring said.</p><p>"It can't be that every fourth child between three and five years old is so heavily burdened with chemicals that long-term damage cannot safely be ruled out," Green Party environmental health expert Bettina Hoffmann told <em>Der Spiegel.</em></p><p>According to the magazine, the study has not yet been published, and the results were made available by the government upon request by a Green Party inquiry into the effects of chemicals on public health.</p><p>Hoffmann said that there has not been enough research on how plastic chemicals affect the body, and how they are ingested. </p>
By Elliott Negin
When multibillionaire industrialist Charles Koch perceives a potential threat to his fossil fuel empire, he doesn't mess around.