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What’s more, they’re looking to eradicate infectious diseases entirely

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“Unless we’re screened for coronaviruses and then shot out into space, leaving all other animals and nature behind, we’re going to have coronaviruses.” So says Benjamin Neuman, PhD, chief virologist at Texas A&M’s Global Health Research Complex. Neuman is no stranger to coronaviruses — he has been working with them for decades. His expertise even landed him a spot on the international committee that named SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. SARS-CoV-2 is the most recent member of the coronavirus family, which also includes the viruses that caused the SARS and MERS outbreaks.

The world’s changing climate and growing population…

The next frontier of medicine is based in mRNA

Illustration by Virginia Gabrielli for Elemental

I can depend on my body. My muscles contract when I want them to — to carry me up mountains and down ski slopes, to pull my kayak paddle through the water, and move my hands across piano keys. When I drink my favorite red wine, my liver metabolizes the alcohol, and my digestive system handles all the carbonara I throw at it and then asks for more. My brain secretes adrenaline that protects me in dangerous situations and serotonin that reminds me how good it is to be alive.

My muscles, metabolism, and mind do all the things I…

Illustrations: Shira Inbar

‘The world owes him some gratitude, but he was not pleasant’

Every day, hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of molecular reactions are happening in laboratories worldwide. Small droplets of liquid that give us a lens into an individual’s respiratory pathways are analyzed for whether or not they contain the pathogen of the year: SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. The technique used for this analysis is called polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and it exploits the ability of genetic material to replicate. Although imperfect, it’s been critical in diagnosing the disease by amplifying genes specific to SARS-CoV-2. …

Plus, how to make your worries actually productive

Photo: Justin Paget/Getty Images

Worrying has become a routine part of many people’s lives these days. And while stress and anxiety are often categorized as irrational or unnecessary, it’s easy to understand why worry, in the scary universe of now, is ubiquitous.

When it comes to making decisions of any kind, there’s always some degree of uncertainty, but under normal circumstances, it’s limited. When you eat raw oysters, for example, you’ll either get food poisoning or you won’t. However, with this pandemic, there’s a great deal more uncertainty, and that creates a much more unstable scenario where you have to constantly weigh options that…

An interview with medical anthropologist Paul Farmer on his new book

Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

In 2014, an Ebola virus began to spread throughout Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. The pandemic took the lives of tens of thousands of people and offered acute lessons in infectious disease response and human nature — lessons that we would do well to remember today.

Anthropologist and physician Paul Farmer, MD, PhD, the co-founder of Partners in Health (PIH) and a Kolokotrones University Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, experienced the pandemic firsthand as PIH was one of the aid groups to respond to Ebola in West Africa. …

Exact Sciences employees, Scarlett Lee and Xavier Robinson, holding samples. Photography: Lyndon French

Colon cancer screening should begin at age 45, new guidelines say. During a pandemic, this at-home poop test has emerged as a key solution.

As the number of Covid-19 cases began to explode in the U.S. in March and April, Americans retreated to their homes and put routine medical care on the backburner. Not getting Covid-19 — and protecting health care workers against the disease — became the collective goal. Traditional doctor visits plunged, elective procedures were canceled, and any other care deemed nonessential — including cancer screenings — essentially came to a halt. Specifically, the number of colonoscopies, the bedrock of colon cancer screening, fell nationally by 90%.

The disruption at Exact Sciences was almost immediate. The company is the maker of a…

Screenings save lives, but can do serious harm too

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The coronavirus pandemic will surely prompt more death from causes beyond just Covid-19. There will also be a notable number of deaths from cancer since delayed screenings and diagnoses will mean worse outcomes for many. The Director of the National Cancer Institute predicts as many as 10,000 additional deaths from colon cancer (4,700) and breast cancer (5,300) over the next 10 years as a result of just a six-month delay in screenings.

But there is a critical element missing from such alarming statistics.

Counterintuitively, the delay in screening will also probably reduce some sickness and death, and save the health…

New Covid-19 infections are accelerating, portending a deadly fall and winter

A teacher goes over new Covid-19 safety protocols with students in her class at Trinity High School on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020 in Weaverville, CA. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

The pace of new Covid-19 infections is accelerating at exactly the wrong moment in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere, alarming scientists who envision a winter of coronavirus carnage — physical, mental, and economic — unlike anything we’ve seen so far. In America, daily new infections are surging, which could lead to an inevitable peak that will exceed the highs seen in the spring and summer, all exacerbated by the effects of colder weather.

“We face rapidly accelerating increase in Covid-19 cases across much of Europe, the USA, and many other countries across the world,” according to an October 14…

Charting the virus’ map of destruction

Cirrhosis of the liver with hepatic steatosis and chronic hepatitis. Image: OGphoto/Getty Images

Yesterday, three scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of the hepatitis C virus. The discovery led to a curative treatment for the widespread, fatal virus, which infects somewhere between 71 million and 170 million people worldwide. This chronic disease is often silent for many years, but eventually it may cause cirrhosis, skin problems, blood disorders, and weight loss. In its most severe stages, hepatitis C can lead to liver damage, liver cancer, and liver failure. While a hepatitis C diagnosis today is not necessarily a death sentence, the virus has left a centuries-long…

Judy Stokes and Ian Haydon, who are mother and son, are both participating in different phases of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine clinical trial

Image: BlackJack3D/Getty Images

One of the most highly watched events in the pandemic is the ongoing Covid-19 vaccine race, and for Ian Haydon, 29, of Seattle and Judy Stokes, 69, of Sacramento it’s a family affair. Both Haydon and Stokes are participating in clinical trials for Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine.

Moderna was the first drug company to begin human testing of its Covid-19 vaccine in the U.S. The company’s vaccine is a so-called RNA vaccine. …


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