Reader’s Scigest: in the news this week


At the forefront of scientific this week, an outbreak of a previously unknown coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan, China, in December has caused flight cancellations and quarantines for anyone travelling from mainland China. These cancellations come after more than 130 deaths in China alone, and the spread of the disease to at least 16 other countries.

The unknown virus, much like SARS, has almost certainly emerged from an animal origin, and is a particular risk for the elderly and those with pre-existing illnesses. On January 29th, researchers in Melbourne announced their success in growing the virus in cell culture. This culture will be shared with research labs around the world, to develop more accurate tests and vaccines.

The Wuhan virus has spread to 16 countries

By sequencing the genomes of four children who lived in Africa several thousand years ago, researchers have found indications of ancient events in human history, including the emergence and spread from Africa of Homo sapiens. Geneticists at Harvard Medical School found the remains in a rock shelter in Cameroon, producing full genomes for two young boys, and partial data from a boy and girl.

A team from the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration have set out to survey Thwaites, or as it is known to glaciologists, the ‘doomsday’ glacier. A huge expanse of ice the size of Britain, it is already responsible for 4% of world sea level rise yearly, and could lead to raising the world sea level by more than half a metre.

The work being done is necessary for the accurate prediction of future sea levels. Claire O’Neill was sacked as President of the UN Climate Comittee, COP26, due to be held in Glasgow.

Image: Ben via Flickr

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