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  • Fact-checking Judy Mikovits, the controversial virologist attacking Anthony Fauci in a viral conspiracy video

    Judy A. Mikovits

    Judy Mikovits (right), seen here at her lab in Reno, Nevada, in 2011 with a graduate student, has made many unfounded claims about the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

    David Calvert for AP Images

    In a video that has exploded on social media in the past few days, virologist Judy Mikovits claims the new coronavirus is being wrongly blamed for many deaths. She makes head-scratching assertions about the virus—for instance, that it is “activated” by face masks.

    Mikovits also accuses Anthony Fauci, head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and a prominent member of the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force, of being responsible for the deaths of millions during the early years of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The video claims Mikovits was part of the team that discovered HIV, revolutionized HIV treatment, and was jailed without charges for her scientific positions.

    Science fact-checked the video. None of these claims are true. The video is an excerpt from a forthcoming movie Plandemic, which promises to “expose the scientific and political elite who run the scam that is our global health system.” YouTube, Facebook, and other platforms have taken down the video because of inaccuracies. It keeps resurfacing, including on the Plandemic website, which, in “an effort to bypass the gatekeepers of free speech,” invites people to download the video and repost it.

  • ‘Finally, a virus got me.’ Scientist who fought Ebola and HIV reflects on facing death from COVID-19

    Peter Piot

    “You live in a routine from syringe to infusion and you hope you make it,” Peter Piot says about his time in a London hospital.

    Heidi Larson

    Virologist Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, fell ill with COVID-19 in mid-March. He spent a week in a hospital and has been recovering at his home in London since. Climbing a flight of stairs still leaves him breathless.

    Piot, who grew up in Belgium, was one of the discoverers of the Ebola virus in 1976 and spent his career fighting infectious diseases. He headed the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS between 1995 and 2008 and is currently a coronavirus adviser to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. But his personal confrontation with the new coronavirus was a life-changing experience, Piot says.

    This interview took place on 2 May. Piot’s answers have been edited and translated from Dutch: 

  • India’s push to relax environmental assessment rules amid pandemic draws criticism

    Looking north in the Upper Dibang Valley District, Arunachal Pradesh, June 27 2012

    The Dibang Valley, a biodiversity hot spot in northeastern India, is threatened by a proposed hydropower dam.

    Goldentakin/Flickr/CC 2.0

    Sciences COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center.

    Environmentalists in India are criticizing government moves to continue to approve major industrial projects, and to relax the nation’s environmental assessment rules, even as the COVID-19 pandemic has complicated public oversight and canceled potential field reviews.

    “They are carrying on as if there is no health emergency, hosting meetings and taking decisions including on big ticket projects,” said Kanchi Kohli, an environmental governance expert with the Centre for Policy Research. “Public engagement, ground verification—these options are all foreclosed at this time.”

  • Statisticians win $20 million to address shoddy forensic science methods

     bullets with score marks
    The Center for Statistics and Application for Forensic Evidence

    In 2015, a team of statisticians set out to help rehabilitate forensic science, a field with a reputation for flimsy methods and dubious conclusions. The Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence (CSAFE), based at Iowa State University, has grown to include more than 60 researchers at six universities working on new ways to analyze fingerprints, shoeprints, bullet marks, and other crime scene evidence. Now, CSAFE’s primary funder, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, has committed $20 million in new funding to the effort over the next 5 years. The center’s director, Iowa State statistician Alicia Carriquiry, told ScienceInsider about her vision for its second phase. The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

    Q: What’s changed since CSAFE launched?

    A: In 2015, there was nothing of this sort. There was a community of practitioners in forensic science that was quite separate from the community of academic researchers, with a few exceptions … I think the community of practitioners has come to the understanding that, first of all, were not here to tell them theyre doing everything wrong. Were here to see whether we can help them do their job better, and develop tools for them to use.

  • Unproven herbal remedy against COVID-19 could fuel drug-resistant malaria, scientists warn

    Andry Rajoelina drinks from a plastic bottle

    Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina tries Covid-Organics at a launch ceremony in Antananarivo on 20 April. Several other African leaders have expressed an interest in the unproven treatment.

    RIJASOLO/AFP via Getty Images

    Sciences COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center.

    An herbal tonic developed in Madagascar and touted as a cure for COVID-19 could fuel drug-resistant malaria in Africa, scientists warn. Several African countries have said they are placing orders for the brew, whose efficacy has yet to be shown.

    Branded Covid-Organics, the therapy was developed by the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research (IMRA). Its chief ingredient is reported to be sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua), a plant of Asian origin that gave rise to the antimalarial drug artemisinin. At its launch last month, Malagasy President Andry Rajoelina claimed the tonic had passed scientific scrutiny and cured two patients of COVID-19. The island nation has 151 confirmed coronavirus cases and no deaths.

  • Clinical trials press on for conditions other than COVID-19. Will the pandemic’s effects sneak into their data?

    A hospital staff member wearing PPE cares for a patient receiving a CT scan

    Amid COVID-19 precautions, medical centers continue to treat patients with other serious conditions.

    NEIL HALL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

    Sciences COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center.

    Myron Cohen has run clinical trials through hurricanes and civil unrest. Now, the infectious disease researcher at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, says he and his colleagues are in a new situation: trying to carry out large, international trials in the midst of coronavirus lockdowns. Cohen co-leads a network of HIV prevention trials, some of which have paused during the pandemic. But for other studies, he says, “stopping would be of grave consequence” to participants. So study teams have bought and shipped protective equipment to personnel at clinical trial sites, secured special permits where necessary for trial participants to leave their homes for medical visits, and arranged their private transportation to avoid public buses.

    Not all clinical trials have had to go through such logistical gymnastics. But across diverse fields, investigators have managed to keep treating patients who might benefit from experimental therapies. Slowdowns and pauses in recruiting new participants will delay results—but for many studies, data are still flowing in.

  • ‘It will not be easy.’ As labs begin to reopen, enormous challenges remain

    illustration of people in windows of a building with some of the lights on
    Robert Neubecker

    Science’s COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center.

    Russell Hopcroft spent much of April hunkered down in Fairbanks, Alaska, plotting how he’d return to research once the state ended its lockdown. Late last week, he finally got the call—or rather, the Zoom: The National Science Foundation was granting Hopcroft, a biological oceanographer at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, permission to set sail on his ecological expedition to collect data on critical Gulf of Alaska fishing grounds.

    But there would be some big caveats. When the vessel left port yesterday, it held only three researchers, instead of the typical 24. The voyage is limited to 1 week, not two, meaning the scientists will not be able to conduct their usual surveys of birds and marine mammals. And everyone on board is wearing face masks and physical distancing, not a simple task for crews accustomed to working hands-on in close quarters.

  • The race is on for antibodies that stop the new coronavirus

    illustration an antibody binding to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2

    An antibody (orange) bound to the surface spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 can block infection.

    (Illustration) V. Altounian/Science; (Images) W. Surya, Biochim. Biophys. Acta (2018); D. Wrapp, Science, (2020); E.O. Saphire, Science, (2001); Orientations of Proteins in Membranes database

    Sciences COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center.

    One of the first people to be diagnosed with COVID-19 in the United States hopes a legacy of her nightmare—the antibodies it left in her blood—will lead to a drug that can help others infected with the novel coronavirus that has now killed more than 250,000 people worldwide.

    Early this year, the woman had just learned of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, when she flew to Beijing to celebrate the Lunar New Year with her elderly parents and extended family. A brother from Wuhan joined the gathering on 23 January, catching one of the last flights out before the city went into lockdown. Days later, her father developed a fever, but the family wasn’t concerned. “My dad always has some fever in the winter,” says the woman, a researcher who asked to be called Dr. X to protect her privacy.

  • Should schools reopen? Kids’ role in pandemic still a mystery

    A classroom in Denmark where kids and a teacher are distanced to protect from COVID-19

    Many schools in Denmark reopened last month, including this one in Copenhagen where students are spaced far apart to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.


    Sciences COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center.

    For families eager for schools to throw open their doors, the tale of a 9-year-old British boy who caught COVID-19 in the French Alps in January offers a glimmer of hope. The youngster, infected by a family friend, suffered only mild symptoms; he enjoyed ski lessons and attended school before he was diagnosed. Astonishingly, he did not transmit the virus to any of 72 contacts who were tested. His two siblings didn’t become infected, even though other germs spread readily among them: in the weeks that followed, all three had influenza and a common cold virus.

    The story could be a bizarre outlier—or a tantalizing clue. Several studies of COVID-19 hint that children are less likely to catch the novel coronavirus, and don’t often transmit it to others. A recent survey of the literature couldn’t find a single example of a child under 10 passing the virus on to someone else, for example.

  • Pressure grows on China for independent investigation into pandemic’s origins

    aerial view the Wuhan Institute of Virology

    The Wuhan Institute of Virology in China, which includes this high-containment laboratory designed to work with the deadliest pathogens, is at the center of so far uncorroborated allegations that a lab accident released the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

    HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images

    Sciences COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center.

    China is facing growing pressure from national governments and international organizations to open its doors to an independent, international investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus causing the current COVID-19 pandemic, as well as into the nation’s early response to the outbreak. So far, however, the Chinese government has given no public sign it is interested in cooperating. Its silence, and signs that China is stifling origins research by its own scientists, have fueled theories that the virus accidently leaked from a lab there.

    “The whole world wants the exact origin of the virus to be clarified,” German Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas told reporters today, endorsing calls for China to allow an outside body to conduct field research and other studies aimed at determining how severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19, jumped into humans. The Chinese government’s response to such calls, he says, will demonstrate “how transparent it wants to be with the virus.”

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