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Why has swine flu emerged in a person in the UK — and what’s next?

By Katharine Sanderson, Nature

The United Kingdom’s Health Security Agency announced on Monday, November 27th that a strain of swine flu was detected in a human patient. The 2009 swine flu pandemic killed nearly 300,000 people, and doctors in the UK remain on high vigilance for a potential resurgence. However, all signs in this case indicate that there is no need to toll the alarm bells yet. Currently, swine flu is spreading among pigs in the area, but spillovers of a virus between species are rare and often go undetected when they do happen because the person exhibits no symptoms. The patient made a full recovery and most likely didn’t spread the disease to any other humans. In the 2009 pandemic, the strain mixed swine, bird, and human flu genes within a swine flu virus, which is one of the reasons it spread so quickly between people. That doesn’t appear to be the case in the recently detected strain. Future work on the UK strain will focus on learning more about the genetics of this strain and trying to match it to known genes to see if it is related to any other viruses.

by Katie Stachowicz

Ancient redwoods recover from fire by sprouting 1000-year-old buds

By Erik Stokstad, Science

The 2020 wildfire in Santa Cruz, California appeared to have killed the redwood forests, destroying all of the trees’ needles and foliage. However, a recent study revealed that the redwoods did survive using energy reserves from years of sugar stores made from sunlight to nourish dormant buds and regrow. Adrian Rocha, an ecologist at the University of Notre Dame said, “This is one of those papers that challenges our previous knowledge on tree growth. It is amazing to learn that carbon taken up decades ago can be used to sustain its growth into the future.” The study suggests that the trees can adjust to the newly widespread wildfires using carbohydrates from 6 decades ago. In a world increasingly consumed by natural disasters and wildfires, redwoods are shockingly resilient, opening the possibility of a retainment of natural resources and reshaping what scientists previously theorized about redwood growth and life. 

by Chaya Tong

New CDC Life Expectancy Data Shows Painfully Slow Rebound from Covid

By Joel Achenbach and Dan Keating, The Washington Post

In newly published data released by the CDC, the average life expectancy in 2022 regained less than half of the years lost to the pandemic. Although the life expectancy did rise a full year to 77.5 years, this gain does not match how other countries have recovered from the pandemic. Between 2019 and 2021, life expectancy dropped by 2.4 years in the U.S. due to the pandemic and the number of individuals in the country who were at high risk due to chronic diseases. The CDC data also outlines other reasons why the U.S. falls behind many other wealthy countries in terms of life expectancy, including drug overdoses, obesity, cancer, and gun homicides. This data is especially important in documenting how minorities suffered disproportionately during the pandemic; Native Americans suffered a decline of almost four years, compared to the 1.3-year decline for White people. This new data emphasizes the need for certain public health initiatives to address death rates, including ensuring childhood vaccinations.

by Ellie Purinton

Lacking counselors, US schools turn to the booming business of online therapy

By Jocelyn Gecker, ABC News

Many faced mental health struggles during and after the pandemic and such trends are still being observed today. American parents and school administrators are turning to telehealth in response to the rising rates of mental illness among children. With a shortage of in-person and long-term care, telehealth allows for affordable and accessible counseling for the American Youth. For students in distress,  resources beyond a traditional therapist are available. Schools are dedicating more funding towards virtual counseling sessions for students. This demand has even caused a rapid growth of tech companies oriented toward providing telehealth services. Parents are calling for more contracts with such companies, deeming the virtual sessions as an ideal option for students in conflict.

by Soma Sonawane

Tiny ‘anthrobots’ built from human cells could help heal the body

By Elizabeth Pennisi, Science

Organoids, or “mini organs”, are clusters of cells cultured in a laboratory dish or plate. They serve as useful models to study cellular mechanisms in research. Scientists at Tufts University have taken these models one step further, engineering these models into “anthrobots.” Taking ciliated adult tracheal cells, they’ve made organoids that not only grow in a dish but also move around in it. What’s morethese anthrobots showed the ability to heal wounded neurons. This finding has scientists thinking about the bots’ therapeutic uses for neurodegenerative diseases and other illnesses. Furthermore, scientists are entertaining the idea of modifying these organoid’s genomes so that they can be utilized in targeted cancer therapy delivery. Unlike other treatment delivery options, these anthrobots are less likely to be rejected and are toxic to the human body. They may even have sensing and memory capabilities that could help physicians monitor the body’s health status in the future. There’s a plethora of future possibilities in personalized medicine provided by these anthrobots, making their development groundbreaking. 

by Jeeya Sharma

Items summarized by: Katie Stachowicz, Chaya Tong, Ellie Purinton, Soma Sonawane, Jeeya Sharma