Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.


Mandates for mask use in public during the recent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, worsened by global shortage of commercial supplies, have led to widespread use of homemade masks and mask alternatives. It is assumed that wearing such masks reduces the likelihood for an infected person to spread the disease, but many of these mask designs have not been tested in practice. We have demonstrated a simple optical measurement method to evaluate the efficacy of masks to reduce the transmission of respiratory droplets during regular speech. In proof-of-principle studies, we compared a variety of commonly available mask types and observed that some mask types approach the performance of standard surgical masks, while some mask alternatives, such as neck gaiters or bandanas, offer very little protection. Our measurement setup is inexpensive and can be built and operated by nonexperts, allowing for rapid evaluation of mask performance during speech, sneezing, or coughing.


Community and close contact exposures continue to drive the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. CDC and other public health authorities recommend community mitigation strategies to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 (1,2). Characterization of community exposures can be difficult to assess when widespread transmission is occurring, especially from asymptomatic persons within inherently interconnected communities. Potential exposures, such as close contact with a person with confirmed COVID-19, have primarily been assessed among COVID-19 cases, without a non-COVID-19 comparison group (3,4). To assess community and close contact exposures associated with COVID-19, exposures reported by case-patients (154) were compared with exposures reported by control-participants (160). Case-patients were symptomatic adults (persons aged ≥18 years) with SARS-CoV-2 infection confirmed by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing. Control-participants were symptomatic outpatient adults from the same health care facilities who had negative SARS-CoV-2 test results. Close contact with a person with known COVID-19 was more commonly reported among case-patients (42%) than among control-participants (14%). Case-patients were more likely to have reported dining at a restaurant (any area designated by the restaurant, including indoor, patio, and outdoor seating) in the 2 weeks preceding illness onset than were control-participants (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 2.4; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.5-3.8). Restricting the analysis to participants without known close contact with a person with confirmed COVID-19, case-patients were more likely to report dining at a restaurant (aOR = 2.8, 95% CI = 1.9-4.3) or going to a bar/coffee shop (aOR = 3.9, 95% CI = 1.5-10.1) than were control-participants. Exposures and activities where mask use and social distancing are difficult to maintain, including going to places that offer on-site eating or drinking, might be important risk factors for acquiring COVID-19. As communities reopen, efforts to reduce possible exposures at locations that offer on-site eating and drinking options should be considered to protect customers, employees, and communities.


Reports suggest that children aged ≥10 years can efficiently transmit SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) (1,2). However, limited data are available on SARS-CoV-2 transmission from young children, particularly in child care settings (3). To better understand transmission from young children, contact tracing data collected from three COVID-19 outbreaks in child care facilities in Salt Lake County, Utah, during April 1-July 10, 2020, were retrospectively reviewed to explore attack rates and transmission patterns. A total of 184 persons, including 110 (60%) children had a known epidemiologic link to one of these three facilities. Among these persons, 31 confirmed COVID-19 cases occurred; 13 (42%) in children. Among pediatric patients with facility-associated confirmed COVID-19, all had mild or no symptoms. Twelve children acquired COVID-19 in child care facilities. Transmission was documented from these children to at least 12 (26%) of 46 nonfacility contacts (confirmed or probable cases). One parent was hospitalized. Transmission was observed from two of three children with confirmed, asymptomatic COVID-19. Detailed contact tracing data show that children can play a role in transmission from child care settings to household contacts. Having SARS-CoV-2 testing available, timely results, and testing of contacts of persons with COVID-19 in child care settings regardless of symptoms can help prevent transmission. CDC guidance for child care programs recommends the use of face masks, particularly among staff members, especially when children are too young to wear masks, along with hand hygiene, frequent cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces, and staying home when ill to reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission (4).


To assess the role of in-flight transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), we investigated a cluster of cases among passengers on a 10-hour commercial flight. Affected persons were passengers, crew, and their close contacts. We traced 217 passengers and crew to their final destinations and interviewed, tested, and quarantined them. Among the 16 persons in whom SARS-CoV-2 infection was detected, 12 (75%) were passengers seated in business class along with the only symptomatic person (attack rate 62%). Seating proximity was strongly associated with increased infection risk (risk ratio 7.3, 95% CI 1.2-46.2). We found no strong evidence supporting alternative transmission scenarios. In-flight transmission that probably originated from 1 symptomatic passenger caused a large cluster of cases during a long flight. Guidelines for preventing SARS-CoV-2 infection among air passengers should consider individual passengers' risk for infection, the number of passengers traveling, and flight duration.


Although COVID-19 causes cardiac dysfunction in up to 25% of patients, its pathogenesis remains unclear. Exposure of human iPSC-derived heart cells to SARS-CoV-2 revealed productive infection and robust transcriptomic and morphological signatures of damage, particularly in cardiomyocytes. Transcriptomic disruption of structural proteins corroborated adverse morphologic features, which included a distinct pattern of myofibrillar fragmentation and numerous iPSC-cardiomyocytes lacking nuclear DNA. Human autopsy specimens from COVID-19 patients displayed similar sarcomeric disruption, as well as cardiomyocytes without DNA staining. These striking cytopathic features provide new insights into SARS-CoV-2 induced cardiac damage, offer a platform for discovery of potential therapeutics, and raise serious concerns about the long-term consequences of COVID-19.


Although COVID-19 is considered to be primarily a respiratory disease, SARS-CoV-2 affects multiple organ systems including the central nervous system (CNS). Yet, there is no consensus whether the virus can infect the brain, or what the consequences of CNS infection are. Here, we used three independent approaches to probe the capacity of SARS-CoV-2 to infect the brain. First, using human brain organoids, we observed clear evidence of infection with accompanying metabolic changes in the infected and neighboring neurons. However, no evidence for the type I interferon responses was detected. We demonstrate that neuronal infection can be prevented either by blocking ACE2 with antibodies or by administering cerebrospinal fluid from a COVID-19 patient. Second, using mice overexpressing human ACE2, we demonstrate in vivo that SARS-CoV-2 neuroinvasion, but not respiratory infection, is associated with mortality. Finally, in brain autopsy from patients who died of COVID-19, we detect SARS-CoV-2 in the cortical neurons, and note pathologic features associated with infection with minimal immune cell infiltrates. These results provide evidence for the neuroinvasive capacity of SARS-CoV2, and an unexpected consequence of direct infection of neurons by SARS-CoV-2.


Since February 12, 2020, approximately 6.5 million cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection, the cause of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), and 190,000 SARS-CoV-2-associated deaths have been reported in the United States (1,2). Symptoms associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection are milder in children compared with adults (3). Persons aged <21 years constitute 26% of the U.S. population (4), and this report describes characteristics of U.S. persons in that population who died in association with SARS-CoV-2 infection, as reported by public health jurisdictions. Among 121 SARS-CoV-2-associated deaths reported to CDC among persons aged <21 years in the United States during February 12-July 31, 2020, 63% occurred in males, 10% of decedents were aged <1 year, 20% were aged 1-9 years, 70% were aged 10-20 years, 45% were Hispanic persons, 29% were non-Hispanic Black (Black) persons, and 4% were non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native (AI/AN) persons. Among these 121 decedents, 91 (75%) had an underlying medical condition,* 79 (65%) died after admission to a hospital, and 39 (32%) died at home or in the emergency department (ED).† These data show that nearly three quarters of SARS-CoV-2-associated deaths among infants, children, adolescents, and young adults have occurred in persons aged 10-20 years, with a disproportionate percentage among young adults aged 18-20 years and among Hispanics, Blacks, AI/ANs, and persons with underlying medical conditions. Careful monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 infections, deaths, and other severe outcomes among persons aged <21 years remains particularly important as schools reopen in the United States. Ongoing evaluation of effectiveness of prevention and control strategies will also be important to inform public health guidance for schools and parents and other caregivers.


Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), also known as pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome, is a new dangerous childhood disease that is temporally associated with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). We aimed to describe the typical presentation and outcomes of children diagnosed with this hyperinflammatory condition.


Hematite (Fe2O3) is a common oxidization product on Earth, Mars, and some asteroids. Although oxidizing processes have been speculated to operate on the lunar surface and form ferric iron-bearing minerals, unambiguous detections of ferric minerals forming under highly reducing conditions on the Moon have remained elusive. Our analyses of the Moon Mineralogy Mapper data show that hematite, a ferric mineral, is present at high latitudes on the Moon, mostly associated with east- and equator-facing sides of topographic highs, and is more prevalent on the nearside than the farside. Oxygen delivered from Earth’s upper atmosphere could be the major oxidant that forms lunar hematite. Hematite at craters of different ages may have preserved the oxygen isotopes of Earth’s atmosphere in the past billions of years. Future oxygen isotope measurements can test our hypothesis and may help reveal the evolution of Earth’s atmosphere.


The Carnian Pluvial Episode (Late Triassic) was a time of global environmental changes and possibly substantial coeval volcanism. The extent of the biological turnover in marine and terrestrial ecosystems is not well understood. Here, we present a meta-analysis of fossil data that suggests a substantial reduction in generic and species richness and the disappearance of 33% of marine genera. This crisis triggered major radiations. In the sea, the rise of the first scleractinian reefs and rock-forming calcareous nannofossils points to substantial changes in ocean chemistry. On land, there were major diversifications and originations of conifers, insects, dinosaurs, crocodiles, lizards, turtles, and mammals. Although there is uncertainty on the precise age of some of the recorded biological changes, these observations indicate that the Carnian Pluvial Episode was linked to a major extinction event and might have been the trigger of the spectacular radiation of many key groups that dominate modern ecosystems.