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Read our COVID-19 research and news.

  • Update: Here’s what is known about Trump’s COVID-19 treatment

    President Trump boarding Air Force One

    President Donald Trump has maintained a steady schedule of campaign rallies, which may have exposed him to SARS-CoV-2.

    White House (Tia Dufour)

    Sciences COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center and the Heising-Simons Foundation.

    On 2 October, the White House announced President Donald Trump received an experimental antibody treatment after a test revealed he’s infected with SARS-CoV-2. At the time, he reportedly had mild COVID-19 symptoms, including fever and congestion, and he was transferred to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Later, the president’s medical team confirmed he had started a course of remdesivir, an antiviral drug shown to modestly help hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Two days later, on 4 October, the team revealed Trump had been given a steroid normally reserved for severe COVID-19 cases, although his physician offered optimism about a quick recovery, even suggesting he might soon be discharged from Walter Reed.

    What is the antibody cocktail Trump received?

  • Japan’s new prime minister picks fight with Science Council

    close-up of Takaaki Kajita

    The president of the Science Council of Japan, Nobel laureate Takaaki Kajita, speaks out against the prime minister’s decision not to appoint six nominees.

    Kyodo via AP Images

    Japan’s new prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, has disrupted the process by which scientists are appointed to serve on the governing body of the country’s leading academic society. Researchers see the move against the Science Council of Japan (SCJ) as a threat to academic freedom.

    SCJ makes policy recommendations, promotes scientific literacy and international cooperation, and represents the interests of more than 800,000 scholars in virtually all academic disciplines. Its current president is Takaaki Kajita, a 2015 Nobel Prize winner in physics who just assumed his post.

    The council’s governing body, called the General Assembly, is made up of 210 members serving staggered 6-year terms that began last week. Although the council is nominally under the jurisdiction of the prime minister, its general assembly members are traditionally appointed in a pro forma step by the prime minister after being recommended by an SCJ selection committee. But this year, Suga withheld his blessing from six academics, from a list of 105 put forward, who work in the social sciences, law, and the humanities.

  • Medicine Nobel honors three scientists for discoveries on hepatitis C virus

    Patrik Ernfors sits in front of a projection of Nobel Prize Physiology or Medicine winners Harvy Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles Rice.

    Nobel Committee Chair Patrik Ernfors sits in front of images of the three new Nobel laureates this morning in Stockholm.

    JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images

    The Nobel Committee has awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of the hepatitis C virus, one of the most common causes of liver cancer. The prize was given to Harvey Alter of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH); Michael Houghton of the University of Alberta, Edmonton; and Charles Rice of Rockefeller University.

    The hepatitis C virus is transmitted via blood. Although many people quickly clear an infection, some develop chronic inflammation of the liver that quietly destroys the organ over years or decades, ultimately leading to cirrhosis and cancer. Patients often end up needing liver transplantation—or dying.

    Half a century ago, doctors knew that recipients of blood transfusions were at higher risk of liver disease, and in 1967, Baruch Blumberg, also at NIH, discovered the hepatitis B virus, which won him one half of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. But hepatitis B did not explain all of the cases of hepatitis seen in patients who had a blood transfusion. This year’s Nobel laureates did work over 3 decades to identify the hepatitis C virus, show it was responsible for most of the unexplained cases of hepatitis in blood transfusions, and make it possible to screen blood donations for the virus.

  • Why Anthony Fauci is happy being the ‘skunk’ on the Coronavirus Task Force

     Anthony Fauci with a mask on stands next to Donald Trump without a mask.

    Anthony Fauci (right) has been an outspoken member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

    Drew Angerer/Getty Images

    Science’s COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center and the Heising-Simons Foundation.

    On 23 September at 8 p.m., Anthony Fauci was standing in his living room in Washington, D.C., still in his suit and tie, chatting on his cellphone with an assistant, exasperated that his day was far from over. It had begun at 6 a.m. and included testifying at a 3-hour Senate hearing on COVID-19. In the early evening, he spoke with actor Alan Alda about the pandemic on a livestreamed event. Fauci, head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and a key scientist on the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force, still had to read and reply to more than 200 emails. “I’m going to be up until 3 a.m.,” he said.

    Fauci, who that week appeared on the cover of Time magazine’s issue on the 100 most influential people of this year, went upstairs and changed into jeans and sweatshirt. When he came down, his wife, Christine Grady—a bioethicist at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center—brought him an India pale ale and salmon sliders out on their back deck, where he sat down for an hourlong, socially distanced interview with Science. Fauci discussed everything from his relationship with President Donald Trump and White House staff to the COVID-19 vaccines being tested by the government’s Operation Warp Speed, the emergency use authorizations (EUAs) issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and his confrontation at that day’s hearing with Senator Rand Paul (R–KY), who has a history of needling the NIAID director.

  • ‘A brutal blow’: A bill threatens dozens of trust funds that support Mexican science

    protesters wearing masks hold up signs

    “No science, no future!” researchers and grad students chanted on 1 October at a protest in Mexico City against a bill that would hurt their funding.

    Rodrigo Pérez Ortega

    Science’s COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center and the Heising-Simons Foundation.

    MEXICO CITY—Mexican scientists clad in lab coats and carrying handmade signs gathered here yesterday outside the Chamber of Deputies to protest a bill that would cut a lifeline for many Mexican research centers. The bill, which appears likely to pass, would terminate 109 trust funds run by public research centers and government institutes, one-third of them devoted to science and technology. The government plans to divert the roughly 68 billion pesos ($3 billion) in funds to help cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

    “It’s an attack against scientific research,” says political scientist Lorena Ruano from the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE), who handed deputies about to debate the bill a letter with almost 30,000 signatures. Antonio Lazcano, an evolutionary biologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, University City, calls the plan “a brutal blow” and the worst hit to Mexican science in 50 years.

  • Yuri Orlov, physicist and Soviet dissident, dies

    Yuri Orlov in 1976

    Yuri Orlov died on 27 September.

    REUTERS/Dominique Dudouble

    Yuri Orlov, the Russian physicist who championed human rights in the Soviet Union before being deported to the United States in 1986, died on 27 September at his home in Ithaca, New York, The New York Times reports. He was 96. An expert in particle accelerators, Orlov helped organize the Soviet Union’s branch of Amnesty International in 1973 and 3 years later co-founded the Moscow Helsinki Group, which monitored Soviet adherence to the civil rights provisions of the Helsinki Accords, a series of agreements between the Soviets and the West signed in 1975. In 1977, Orlov was tried and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor and exile in Siberia. He came to the United States in 1986 in a prisoner exchange orchestrated by then-President Ronald Reagan and then–Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Orlov then worked and taught at Cornell University. He didn’t think much of Russian President Vladimir Putin, writing in 2004 that “Russia is flying backward in time.”

  • How might President Donald Trump fare with COVID-19?

    Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally

    President Donald Trump has tested positive for the pandemic coronavirus.

    Evan Vucci/AP

    Sciences COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center and the Heising-Simons Foundation.

    *Update, 2 October, 4:40 p.m.: The White House released a statement regarding the treatment the president has received: “Following PCR-confirmation of the President’s diagnosis, as a precautionary measure he received a single 8 gram dose of Regeneron’s polyclonal antibody cocktail. He completed the infusion without incident. In addition to the polyclonal antibodies, the President has been taking zinc, vitamin D, famotidine [Pepcid], melatonin and a daily aspirin.”

    The overnight bombshell that President Donald Trump tested positive for the pandemic coronavirus has prompted a flood of questions. Among them: What is his risk of severe illness? And how might he be treated? To learn more, ScienceInsider spoke with Neil Schluger, a pulmonary specialist who is chair of the Department of Medicine at New York Medical College. He was among many doctors who raced to treat patients when New York City suffered a massive surge of COVID-19 cases in the spring.

  • HHMI, one of the largest research philanthropies, will require immediate open access to papers

    a pencil sits on top of a scientific paper

    An open-access requirement puts pressure on elite, subscription-only journals to make articles free to read on publication.

    PolyPloiid/shuterstock.com

    The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), one of the largest research philanthropies, said today it will begin to require its scientists to make research papers in which they played a leading role immediately free to read. HHMI now requires open access within 12 months of publica­tion.

    After the policy takes effect in January 2022, the move could block the institute’s scientists, who include some of the biggest names in biomedical research, from publishing in top-tier, subscription-only journals such as Cell, Nature, and Science. Work by more than 4700 staff members, including 256 investigators and nearly 1700 postdoctoral researchers at laboratories across the United States, could be affected, HHMI says. But if elite journals continue to join the movement toward open-access publishing, HHMI authors may gain new options for compliance.

    HHMI spends “an enormous amount of money supporting biomedical research”—$763 million in 2019—“and we feel strongly that it’s critical that the information is rapidly disseminated so that it can be reproduced and built upon,” says the institute’s president, biochemist Erin O’Shea. Like HHMI, U.S. federal science agencies require that research they fund be made free, but only after 12 months. “The delays … are a problem for science,” O’Shea says. “It’s not helping to speed up the discovery process.”

  • ‘Provocative results’ boost hopes of antibody treatment for COVID-19

    Illustration of antibodies surround a COVID-19 coronavirus

    Companies are developing COVID-19 treatments using monoclonal antibodies, Y-shaped immune proteins that target the pandemic coronavirus.

    KTSDESIGN/Science Source

    Sciences COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center and the Heising-Simons Foundation.

    A second company has now produced strong hints that monoclonal antibodies, synthetically produced versions of proteins made by the immune system, can work as treatments in people who are infected with the pandemic coronavirus but are not yet seriously ill.

    The biotech Regeneron Pharmaceuticals has developed a cocktail of two monoclonal antibodies that attach to the surface protein of that coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and attempt to block it from infecting cells. Yesterday at an investor and media webcast, the firm revealed early results.

  • This biologist helped trace SARS to bats. Now, he's working to uncover the origins of COVID-19

    Illustration of Linfa Wang

    “I am now fascinated with bats [but] I am still not an animal fan,” says Linfa Wang of the Duke-NUS Medical School.

    KATTY HUERTAS

    Science's COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center and the Heising-Simons Foundation.

    By pure chance, Linfa Wang, one of the world’s foremost experts on emerging viruses, was in the Chinese city of Wuhan in January. The biologist was visiting collaborators at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) just as SARS-CoV-2 was starting to spread from the city to the rest of the world. Even among those experts there was little fear then. “I was mixing with all the lab people,” Wang says. “We would go to a restaurant every night.”

    Only when he left on 18 January did he realize how serious the situation was. At the airport, staff checked his temperature three times before he could board his flight home to Singapore. Five days later, Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, was shut down. Wang later learned that a woman on his plane had carried the virus; luckily, he was not infected.

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