Connect with us

Living

Study names animals likely to cause next big COVID outbreak

Published

on

Study names animals likely to cause next big COVID outbreak

Cats, rabbits and hedgehogs have all been implicated in a new study that aims to predict the animals most likely to launch the next deadly COVID-19 outbreak.

With the help of artificial intelligence, biologists were able to design a prediction model that could prioritize potential hosts of virus strains already known to exist, but have not yet reached humans.

“We want to know where the next coronavirus might come from,” said Dr. Marcus Blagrove, a University of Liverpool virologist who worked on the study, BBC reported.

Their findings, published in Nature Communications on Tuesday, describe how artificial intelligence was used to predict previously unsuspected animal hosts of a novel — and potentially deadly — coronavirus strain.

Finding which of the 876 potential mammal species might host one — but often dozens — of the possible 411 strains was the easy part. The trick was parsing out species that could harbor two strains at once, creating a breeding ground for a powerful mutant virus.

“One way [viruses are] generated is through recombination between two existing coronaviruses,” said Blagrove. “So two viruses infect the same cell and they recombine into a ‘daughter’ virus that would be an entirely new strain.”

Animals such as the civet, common hedgehog, European rabbit, dromedary camel, some primate species and domesticated pigs and cats were named prime suspects for recombination of SARS-CoV2 — the strain that caused COVID-19 — with perhaps dozens of other coronaviruses. These creatures join the list of usual suspects, including bats and pangolins.

Recombination has already been observed in some of these species, according to previous studies cited in the new report. But to identify novel sources for those as-yet undiscovered “daughter” strains, the algorithm based its assessment on biologic similarities between known hosts and their related species, according to lead researcher Dr. Maya Wardeh.

“We were able to predict which species had the chance for many coronaviruses to infect them,” she explained. “Either because they are very closely related [to a species known to carry a coronavirus] or because they share the same geographical space.”

Scientists hope these findings will help encourage more thorough monitoring of how and where the wild meets the human world, as researchers point out that viral “spill over” from animals to people is mostly the result of reckless human activity.

“This is not a reason to demonize these species,” said Dr. Wardeh.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Living

Ducks escape certain death to visit NYC bagel store

Published

on

By

Ducks escape certain death to visit NYC bagel store

This fowl plot to get bread was nearly eggsecuted perfectly.

On Monday, a gang of ducklings and their mama hatched a plan to eat the bill at a Brooklyn bagel store, and were almost successful in their mission thanks to a group of supportive locals. 

“A real-life ‘Make Way For Ducklings’ scene just unfolded in Brooklyn with this mama duck and her babies trying to cross 5th Ave,” Doug Gordon captioned a video he posted to Twitter of the enterprising bird family’s journey from under an NYPD school safety van and directly into oncoming traffic. “Multiple people helped stop traffic to get them safely across the street. But it gets better . . .”

After spotting the endangered crew of bird brains lolling around in the street, locals immediately went into action. 

“A couple of us jumped out to stop traffic so they didn’t get run over, and then they got to the other side. It was adorable, a real Brooklyn-steps-up sort of moment, New Yorkers taking charge,” Gordon told Gothamist. 

Once safely on the sidewalk, the chicks and their mother beelined for Bagel World Park Slope. 

“They were in there a couple minutes, but I didn’t see what happened inside,” Gordon told the publication. “I don’t know whether they decided to come out because they didn’t see anything on the menu they liked, or if they were chased out.”

In Gordon’s video, the fledgling family exits the eatery, lured out by employees tossing breadcrumbs beyond the premises as onlookers label them “so cute.” 

Gordon and another man then trailed the ducks to ensure they made their way across Fourth Street without injury. 

Later, Gordon learned that the ducks had the good fortune of being escorted four more blocks to Prospect Park by other sympathetic humans. 

“Someone said [they had] led them up to Prospect Park, so they got there safely,” Gordon said. “They waddled into the woods, so it’s a happy ending.”

Continue Reading

Living

Endangered corpse flower blooms in Warsaw, drawing crowds

Published

on

By

The endangered Sumatran Titan arum, or the corpse flower, at the rare moment of bloom for just a few hours, and emitting rotten meat odor, at the Warsaw University Botanical Gardens, in Warsaw, Poland, on Sunday, June 13, 2021.

WARSAW, Poland — The endangered Sumatran Titan arum, a giant foul-smelling blossom also known as the corpse flower, went into a rare, short bloom at a botanical garden in Warsaw, drawing crowds who waited for hours to see it.

The extraordinary flower, which emits a dead-body odor to attract pollinating insects that feed on flesh, bloomed Sunday. It was already withering early Monday. Those wishing to avoid the smell and crowds could watch it on live video from the Warsaw University Botanical Gardens.

 The endangered Sumatran Titan arum, or the corpse flower, at the rare moment of bloom for just a few hours, and emitting rotten meat odor, at the Warsaw University Botanical Gardens, in Warsaw, Poland, on Sunday, June 13, 2021.
The endangered Sumatran Titan arum, or the corpse flower, at the rare moment of bloom for just a few hours and emitting a rotten meat odor, at the Warsaw University Botanical Gardens, on June 13, 2021.
AP

Hundreds, if not thousands, lined up long into the night Sunday and Monday morning at the conservatory just to be able to pass by the flower and take a picture.

Know also as the Amorphophallus titanum, the flowering plant has the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world, which can be up to 10 feet high. Its compound flower is composed of a hollow, tall spadix with small flowers and a spathe, with one big, furrowed petal that is green on the outside and deep burgundy red on the inside. It’s blooming is rare and unpredictable.

The plant only grows in the wild in the rainforests of Sumatra, but it is endangered there due to deforestation. Cultivation at botanical gardens, where they are a great visitor attraction, has helped its preservation. It’s first known blooming outside Sumatra was in 1889 at London’s Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew.

Continue Reading

Living

Europe carbon prices expected to soar amid tougher climate goals

Published

on

By

Steam rises from the cooling towers of the coal power plant of RWE, one of Europe's biggest electricity and gas companies in Niederaussem, Germany, March 3, 2016.

LONDON – Carbon prices in the European Union’s emissions trading system are expected to rise significantly in the next decade due to tougher climate goals, market participants said in an industry survey published on Monday.

The EU’s emissions trading system (ETS) is the largest carbon market in the world, covering around 45% of the bloc’s output of greenhouse gases and charging emitters for every tonne of carbon dioxide they emit.

The survey by the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) found members expect carbon prices in the EU ETS to average $57 a tonne between 2021 and 2025 and $71.06 a tonne between 2026 and 2030.

This is mainly due to a tougher EU goal of cutting emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

Last year’s survey predicted an average price of 31.71 euros a tonne for the third phase of the ETS which runs from 2021 to 2030. Benchmark prices in the ETS currently trade around $64.24 a tonne.

Britain’s domestic emissions trading scheme started trading in May this year. The majority of survey respondents expect it will link with the EU scheme by 2023.

Participants anticipate that the average global carbon price needed by 2030 to put the world on track to meet goals to curb global temperature rise is $76.61 a tonne, up from last year’s expectation of $67.84 a tonne.

IETA’s members include banks, exchanges and energy and industrial firms. The association received responses from 158 member representatives for the survey.

Continue Reading

Trending