A Brief History of Plagues (Abstract Science, Feb. 23 – 29)
Also: efforts step up for a universal flu vaccine, and the cognitive effects of being widowed
(David M. Morens, M.D., Peter Daszak, Ph.D., and Jeffery K. Taubenberger, M.D., Ph.D., The New England Journal of Medicine, 2/26/20)
The authors of this perspective piece explain the coronavirus in historic and scientific terms. Some of the factors contributing to the crisis, according to the authors, include population growth, ecological changes, and government response to fast-spreading viruses. Parallels are drawn to the global response to HIV and the Spanish flu.
(Shahla Farzan, NPR, 2/27/20)
The article discusses research efforts to create a universal flu vaccine. Though we are years from making it a reality, places like Saint Louis University's "Hotel Influenza” are on the case. The quarantine unit hosts people who volunteer to be infected with flu strains in order to study human immune response to the flu.
(Ian Sample, The Guardian, 2/20/20)
A recent study showed that among older people with high levels of beta-amyloid – a key Alzheimer’s biomarker – cognitive decline was three times faster for widows and widowers. The study also showed higher dementia risks for those who had been widowed. More research is needed to determine the cause of these higher rates, though stress hormones are a leading suspect.
—Stories compiled by Senior Scientific Writer Mary Parker