SciCombinator

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

187

This analysis proposes a novel method for quantifying national responsibility for damages related to climate change by looking at national contributions to cumulative CO2 emissions in excess of the planetary boundary of 350 ppm atmospheric CO2 concentration. This approach is rooted in the principle of equal per capita access to atmospheric commons.

183

Stinging trees from Australasia produce remarkably persistent and painful stings upon contact of their stiff epidermal hairs, called trichomes, with mammalian skin. Dendrocnide-induced acute pain typically lasts for several hours, and intermittent painful flares can persist for days and weeks. Pharmacological activity has been attributed to small-molecule neurotransmitters and inflammatory mediators, but these compounds alone cannot explain the observed sensory effects. We show here that the venoms of Australian Dendrocnide species contain heretofore unknown pain-inducing peptides that potently activate mouse sensory neurons and delay inactivation of voltage-gated sodium channels. These neurotoxins localize specifically to the stinging hairs and are miniproteins of 4 kDa, whose 3D structure is stabilized in an inhibitory cystine knot motif, a characteristic shared with neurotoxins found in spider and cone snail venoms. Our results provide an intriguing example of inter-kingdom convergent evolution of animal and plant venoms with shared modes of delivery, molecular structure, and pharmacology.

183

Infection with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) poses an enormous challenge to health care systems throughout the world. Without causal treatment, identification of modifiable prognostic factors may help to improve outcomes. To explore possible associations of vitamin D (VitD) status with disease severity and survival, we studied 185 patients diagnosed with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and treated at our center. VitD status at first presentation was assessed retrospectively using accredited laboratory methods. VitD deficiency was defined as serum total 25-hydroxyvitamin D level < 12 ng/mL (<30 nM). Primary endpoint was severe course of disease (i.e., need for invasive mechanical ventilation and/or death, IMV/D). Within a median observation period of 66 days (range 2-92), 23 patients required IMV. A total of 28 patients had IMV/D, including 16 deaths. Ninety-three (50%) patients required hospitalization (inpatient subgroup). A total of 41 (22%) patients were VitD deficient. When adjusted for age, gender, and comorbidities, VitD deficiency was associated with higher risk of IMV/D and death (HR 6.12, 95% CI 2.79-13.42, p < 0.001 and HR 14.73, 95% CI 4.16-52.19, p < 0.001, respectively). Similar correlations were observed in the inpatient subgroup. Our study demonstrates an association between VitD deficiency and severity/mortality of COVID-19, highlighting the need for interventional studies on VitD supplementation in SARS-CoV-2 infected individuals.

183

Asphalt-based materials are abundant and a major nontraditional source of reactive organic compounds in urban areas, but their emissions are essentially absent from inventories. At typical temperature and solar conditions simulating different life cycle stages (i.e., storage, paving, and use), common road and roofing asphalts produced complex mixtures of organic compounds, including hazardous pollutants. Chemically speciated emission factors using high-resolution mass spectrometry reveal considerable oxygen and reduced sulfur content and the predominance of aromatic (~30%) and intermediate/semivolatile organic compounds (~85%), which together produce high overall secondary organic aerosol (SOA) yields. Emissions rose markedly with moderate solar exposure (e.g., 300% for road asphalt) with greater SOA yields and sustained SOA production. On urban scales, annual estimates of asphalt-related SOA precursor emissions exceed those from motor vehicles and substantially increase existing estimates from noncombustion sources. Yet, their emissions and impacts will be concentrated during the hottest, sunniest periods with greater photochemical activity and SOA production.

182

Until treatment and vaccine for coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) becomes widely available, other methods of reducing infection rates should be explored. This study used a retrospective, observational analysis of deidentified tests performed at a national clinical laboratory to determine if circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) levels are associated with severe acute respiratory disease coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) positivity rates. Over 190,000 patients from all 50 states with SARS-CoV-2 results performed mid-March through mid-June, 2020 and matching 25(OH)D results from the preceding 12 months were included. Residential zip code data was required to match with US Census data and perform analyses of race/ethnicity proportions and latitude. A total of 191,779 patients were included (median age, 54 years [interquartile range 40.4-64.7]; 68% female. The SARS-CoV-2 positivity rate was 9.3% (95% C.I. 9.2-9.5%) and the mean seasonally adjusted 25(OH)D was 31.7 (SD 11.7). The SARS-CoV-2 positivity rate was higher in the 39,190 patients with “deficient” 25(OH)D values (<20 ng/mL) (12.5%, 95% C.I. 12.2-12.8%) than in the 27,870 patients with "adequate" values (30-34 ng/mL) (8.1%, 95% C.I. 7.8-8.4%) and the 12,321 patients with values ≥55 ng/mL (5.9%, 95% C.I. 5.5-6.4%). The association between 25(OH)D levels and SARS-CoV-2 positivity was best fitted by the weighted second-order polynomial regression, which indicated strong correlation in the total population (R2 = 0.96) and in analyses stratified by all studied demographic factors. The association between lower SARS-CoV-2 positivity rates and higher circulating 25(OH)D levels remained significant in a multivariable logistic model adjusting for all included demographic factors (adjusted odds ratio 0.984 per ng/mL increment, 95% C.I. 0.983-0.986; p<0.001). SARS-CoV-2 positivity is strongly and inversely associated with circulating 25(OH)D levels, a relationship that persists across latitudes, races/ethnicities, both sexes, and age ranges. Our findings provide impetus to explore the role of vitamin D supplementation in reducing the risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 disease.

177

The success of a scientist depends on their production of scientific papers and the impact factor of the journal in which they publish. Because most major scientific journals are published in English, success is related to publishing in this language. Currently, 98% of publications in science are written in English, including researchers from English as a Foreign Language (EFL) countries. Colombia is among the countries with the lowest English proficiency in the world. Thus, understanding the disadvantages that Colombians face in publishing is crucial to reducing global inequality in science. This paper quantifies the disadvantages that result from the language hegemony in scientific publishing by examining the additional costs that communicating in English creates in the production of articles. It was identified that more than 90% of the scientific articles published by Colombian researchers are in English, and that publishing in a second language creates additional financial costs to Colombian doctoral students and results in problems with reading comprehension, writing ease and time, and anxiety. Rejection or revision of their articles because of the English grammar was reported by 43.5% of the doctoral students, and 33% elected not to attend international conferences and meetings due to the mandatory use of English in oral presentations. Finally, among the translation/editing services reviewed, the cost per article is between one-quarter and one-half of a doctoral monthly salary in Colombia. Of particular note, we identified a positive correlation between English proficiency and higher socioeconomic origin of the researcher. Overall, this study exhibits the negative consequences of hegemony of English that preserves the global gap in science. Although having a common language is important for science communication, generating multilinguistic alternatives would promote diversity while conserving a communication channel. Such an effort should come from different actors and should not fall solely on EFL researchers.

174

To examine the under-reporting of pharmaceutical company payments to patient organisations by donors and recipients.

174

Four persons with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection had traveled on the same flight from Boston, Massachusetts, USA, to Hong Kong, China. Their virus genetic sequences are identical, unique, and belong to a clade not previously identified in Hong Kong, which strongly suggests that the virus can be transmitted during air travel.

169

On March 8, 2020, there was a 650% increase in Twitter retweets using the term “Chinese virus” and related terms. On March 9, there was an 800% increase in the use of these terms in conservative news media articles. Using data from non-Asian respondents of the Project Implicit “Asian Implicit Association Test” from 2007-2020 (n = 339,063), we sought to ascertain if this change in media tone increased bias against Asian Americans. Local polynomial regression and interrupted time-series analyses revealed that Implicit Americanness Bias-or the subconscious belief that European American individuals are more “American” than Asian American individuals-declined steadily from 2007 through early 2020 but reversed trend and began to increase on March 8, following the increase in stigmatizing language in conservative media outlets. The trend reversal in bias was more pronounced among conservative individuals. This research provides evidence that the use of stigmatizing language increased subconscious beliefs that Asian Americans are “perpetual foreigners.” Given research that perpetual foreigner bias can beget discriminatory behavior and that experiencing discrimination is associated with adverse mental and physical health outcomes, this research sounds an alarm about the effects of stigmatizing media on the health and welfare of Asian Americans.

158

Catastrophes are known to have an impact on relationships as well as on mental health. This study evaluated differences in several mental health and well-being measures according to relationship quality during the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic and related lockdown measures. A cross-sectional online survey was launched four weeks after lockdown measures were implemented in Austria. Relationship quality was measured with the Quality of Marriage Index (QMI), and mental health measures included quality of life (WHO-QOL BREF psychological domain), well-being (WHO-5), depression (PHQ-9), anxiety (GAD-7), stress (PSS-10), and sleep quality (ISI). ANOVAs with Bonferroni-corrected post-hoc tests and Chisquared tests were applied. In all mental health scales, individuals with good relationship quality (n = 543) scored better than individuals with poor relationship quality (n = 190) or without relationship (n = 272). The odds ratios (OR) between the poor and good relationship quality groups were 3.5 for the PHQ-9, 3.4 for the GAD-7, and 2.0 for the ISI. Additionally, individuals without no relationship scored better on all scales than individuals with poor relationship quality (all p-values < .05). Relationship quality was related to mental health during COVID-19. The prevalence of depressive symptoms increased according to relationship quality from 13% up to 35%. Relationship per se was not associated with better mental health, but the quality of the relationship was essential. Compared to no relationship, a good relationship quality was a protective factor whereas a poor relationship quality was a risk factor.