How Bats and COVID Canceled Halloween

Bats, a symbol of Halloween, may be responsible for canceling it this year.The coronavirus that has grounded trick-or-treaters likely came from bats.These creatures of the night have evolved a spooky ability to harbor a number of viruses that can kill humans — without getting sick themselves.How they do it may hold the key to immortality — or a longer life, anyway.Guilt by associationThough there is no smoking gun showing that the coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic came from bats, the virus is closely related to several others they harbor.Bats also are known to carry rabies and the Marburg hemorrhagic fever virus, and they are lead suspects as the source of Ebola and the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.It sure seems like they carry a lot of nasty viruses.But “maybe we just have a lot of bat viruses because there’s lots of bats,” said University of Glasgow researcher Daniel Streicker.Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
download this video to view it offline.Download File360p | 9 MB480p | 13 MB540p | 16 MB720p | 32 MB1080p | 66 MBOriginal | 82 MB Embed” />Copy Download AudioThere are roughly 1,400 different species around the world, Streicker noted, second only to rodents, which also carry a lot of diseases.”It isn’t the bats. They figured out how to deal with their viruses,” University of Saskatchewan microbiologist Vikram Misra said.Taking offTheir virus-resisting powers may be an unexpected byproduct of evolving to fly.Flying requires a tremendous amount of energy. Generating that energy also produces toxic byproducts that can damage cells.Normally, cell damage would trigger inflammation, the immune system’s first line of defense. The same inflammatory response kicks in whether the damage comes from toxic molecules, injury or infection. As part of the response, the body mobilizes cells to the damaged area that can blast germs or infected cells.Too much inflammation can kill. Overactive inflammatory responses are what lead to lung damage, blood clots and other fatal complications in COVID-19 patients.”Maybe bats had to down-regulate their responses just not to get inflamed every time they had to fly,” said University of Rochester biology professor Vera Gorbunova.But flight “doesn’t explain everything about bats,” she said. Another reason their immune systems are different from most mammals may be because of the way they live.Bats live in colonies that can number in the millions of individuals, roosting shoulder to shoulder. Diseases could spread quickly in those close quarters.”They probably evolved defenses because they’re exposed to a lot of viruses,” Gorbunova said.Delicate balanceFor whatever reason, their adaptations appear to be so important that they evolved independently in different bat species, a new study shows.Turning down a key immune response would seem to leave bats open to infection. But evolution has turned up another line of defense that targets viruses.Bats and viruses may have reached a “wonderfully balanced relationship where viruses don’t cause diseases and bats don’t get rid of the viruses,” Misra said. He and his colleagues at the University of Saskatchewan have found that bat cells can remain infected for months.But stress — from humans encroaching on their habitat or capturing them to sell at live-animal markets — may disrupt that relationship.”If you upset this delicate balance in such a way that the viruses now have an upper hand,” Misra said, “then the viruses start to multiply and the bats now start to shed more of these viruses. We think that that may be one of the reasons why spillovers occur” and the viruses jump into another species.”We can’t say for sure that that’s the case,” he added, but he and his colleagues are testing the idea now.Live long and prosperAside from reaching a detente with viruses, bats may have reaped another unintended reward from learning to fly. They may have discovered the fountain of youth.Bats live disproportionately long and healthy lives for their size. Take North American little brown bats, which are “about the size your thumb,” Misra said.”Normally, you would expect them to live maybe two years, three years, if you compare them to animals that are of comparable size,” he said. “These bats live 30 or 40 years.”The key may be their ability to tamp down inflammation without leaving themselves exposed to viruses.”Inflammation may be the driving force of age-related diseases,” biology professor Gorbunova said. It is a factor in Alzheimer’s disease, some forms of heart disease, diabetes and many others.With more research, she added, perhaps the bats that seem to be responsible for so much suffering can someday help us live longer.

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Rare Meteorite Contains ‘Rich Inventory’ of Organic Compounds

Researchers say a rare type of meteor recovered nearly three years ago from a frozen lake in the U.S. state of Michigan has offered one of the best glimpses yet into the organic compounds such objects carry.A study published in the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science tells the story of a bright meteor, also known as fireballs for how they light up the night sky, that fell in January 2018.Researchers say the meteors that shine with such brightness are usually larger and have traveled farther into Earth’s atmosphere without breaking up, raising hopes pieces could be recovered. Using weather radar, they were able to track the meteor’s trajectory, discovering large pieces just two days after it hit a frozen lake.University of Chicago researcher Philipp Heck said finding the meteorite (what a meteor is called once it lands on Earth) pieces so quickly and on a frozen lake was significant. He said meteors often fall into dirt or water, and if they are not discovered quickly, they can be contaminated by organic Earth material.The researchers determined they’d found an “H4 chondrite” meteorite. Only 4% of all meteorites falling to Earth are of this type, at least in recent history. Heck said it had “a rich inventory of extraterrestrial organic compounds,” which contain carbon, one of the basic ingredients of life on Earth.The discovery adds evidence to the widely held theory that compounds such as these — the so-called building blocks of life — were delivered to Earth by similar meteors shortly after Earth formed.Heck said the discovery of the Michigan meteor and subsequent analysis also helped scientists develop new analytical techniques to study meteors of its kind and gain knowledge that can be shared with other scientists around the world.

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НБУ зберігає курс у парі долар-гривня на рекордному рівні

Національний банк України встановив опівдні 30 жовтня довідкове значення курсу 28 гривень 44 копійки за долар. Це не відрізняється від офіційного курсу на сьогодні, який був рекордним за останні 26 місяців – із вересня 2018 року.

На українському міжбанківському валютному ринку торги відбуваються з мінімальними коливаннями, станом на 12:30 котирування становлять 28 гривень 44–45,5 копійки за одиницю американської валюти (долар втратив пів копійки порівняно з показниками відкриття, свідчать дані Finance.ua).

«На фоні зростання котирувань долара на вчорашніх торгах і певного дефіциту валюти, який закривав НБУ своєю інтервенцією, вчора частина клієнтів перенесла свої заявки з купівлі долара на сьогодні. Тобто вони залишили свої зовнішньоекономічні розрахунки на останній день звітного періоду, чого зазвичай по великих сумах ніхто не робить. Сьогодні тягнути їм вже немає часу, і ці компанії будуть закривати свої угоди за чинним на момент курсом», – писали аналітики сайту «Мінфін» перед початком торгів.

 

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НБУ прогнозує відновлення економіки України від «коронакризи» у 2022 році

Економіка України у 2022 році повністю надолужить втрати від кризи, спричиненої COVID-19 і запровадженими через пандемію обмеженнями, ідеться в підготовленому Національним банком України Інфляційному звіті за жовтень 2020 року.

«За підсумками цього року падіння ВВП становитиме 6%, а далі вийдемо на зростання приблизно на 4% щорічно», – стверджують експерти центробанку.

 

Також, за прогнозом регулятора, реальна заробітна плата у 2020 році зросте на 6,2%, а в 2021 році – на 9,5%.

«Доходи українців після нетривалої паузи на етапі жорсткого карантину відновили зростання. Подальше пожвавлення економіки й зростання соціальних стандартів підтримає цей процес. Номінальна зарплата зросте на майже 9% у 2020 році й на 16% у наступному. Реальна – на 6,2% і 9,5% відповідно», – ідеться в повідомленні.

Раніше у жовтні МВФ покращив оцінки падіння української економіки з мінус 8,2% в 2020 році, за оцінками, оприлюдненими у червні, до мінус 7,2% за оцінками в жовтні у зв’язку зі швидшим, ніж очікувалось, відновленням української економіки.

Загалом, за оцінками МВФ, падіння ВВП в Європі складе 7% в 2020 році, що є найбільшим падінням з часів Другої світової війни.

 

Економічне відновлення в Європі буде нерівномірним і тривалим, прогнозує фонд. В 2021-му, за прогнозами фонду, ВВП зросте на 4,7%. Більшість європейських країн вийдуть на рівень ВВП 2019 року лише в 2022-2023 роках, вважають у МВФ.

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Rising New Tide of COVID-19 Cases Worldwide Force Leaders to Consider New Lockdowns

A rising tide of new coronavirus cases worldwide is forcing leaders to consider new lockdown measures to contain an increase in infections.
 
British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said in an interview with BBC television Friday a national lockdown in his country is not inevitable to prevent the further spread of the disease, adding that a localized approach would be efficient if rules for each area were strictly observed.
 
Raab’s statment followed announcements by leaders of France and Germany earlier in the week to impose new lockdowns.
 
French President Emmanuel Macron announced a nationwide monthlong lockdown that will take effect Friday. Macron said restaurants, bars, cafes and other nonessential businesses will be closed, while citizens will only be allowed to leave their homes for work, shopping and doctor appointments.
 German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a debate about German government’s policies to combat the spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19 disease at the parliament Bundestag, in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. (Photo/Markus Schreiber)German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a set of similar measures in her own month-long lockdown which takes effect Monday. In addition to restaurants and bars, all gyms, theaters and opera houses will be shut down under Merkel’s order, while the majority of businesses, shops and hair salons will be allowed to remain open.  
 
Schools in both nations will remain open during their respective lockdowns.  
The restrictions were announced by Macron and Merkel as both nations struggle with a record number of new COVID-19 cases practically every day.
 
France and Germany joined several other European nations that have been forced to impose a new set of restrictions to deal with a second and growing wave of the virus as the cold weather season approaches in the Northern Hemisphere.
 
Ukraine reported Friday a record 8,312 new COVID-19 cases in the previous 24 hours, up from the October 23 high of 7,517, with total infections at 378,729. The deaths also jumped by a record 173, for a toll of 7,041.
 
In Japan, the health ministry said Friday that the coronavirus cases topped 100,000, nine months after the first case was reported in mid-January. Japan has more than 1,700 deaths.
 
As of early Friday, there are more than 45 million total COVID-19 cases worldwide, including over 1.18 million deaths. India has reached the milestone of over 8 million total novel coronavirus cases, second only to the United States, with 8.94 million total confirmed cases.
 
As the effort to develop a safe and effective vaccine continues, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration said it would ensure that everyone in the United States will be able to be inoculated free of charge. 

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‘Era of Pandemics’ to Intensify Without Transformative Change, Report Says

Ecological destruction and unsustainable consumption have entered humanity into an “era of pandemics,” according to a new report.”Without preventative strategies, pandemics will emerge more often, spread more rapidly, kill more people, and affect the global economy with more devastating impact than ever before,” says the report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, a global expert body advising governments.The authors say roughly $50 billion per year in pandemic prevention would spare the world about $1 trillion per year on average in economic damage, not to mention the toll in human suffering.The report suggests ways to shift the focus to prevention, rather than trying to contain pandemics after they happen.SpilloverAs of July, COVID-19’s economic toll was at least $8 trillion and counting, the authors say.It’s just the latest costly emerging infectious disease, following HIV/AIDS, SARS, Ebola, Zika, H1N1 swine flu and others.All of these deadly diseases originated in animals before “spilling over” into humans. Nearly three-quarters of all emerging diseases have animal origins. And there are hundreds of thousands more possibly infectious viruses that have not been discovered yet, the report notes.But don’t blame the animals. The rate of spillover has increased because of human activities.COVID-19 is a prime example of the problem, the authors say. The coronavirus that causes the disease likely emerged from bats in China, where expanding human populations are increasingly encroaching on wildlife habitat. It probably spread through the wildlife trade, at a market where vendors sell wild animals for food and medicine.Deforestation, agricultural expansion, urbanization and other land-use changes are responsible for about a third of all new diseases to emerge since 1960, the report says. The $100 billion-plus global wildlife trade is also responsible for the spread of new and existing diseases and is a threat to biodiversity.Not too lateHowever, “this is not a doom and gloom report saying the world’s going to end and it’s too late,” said report author Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, a global health, conservation and development organization. “This is an optimistic call for action.”The current strategy to deal with pandemics is to wait for them to emerge and try to identify them before they spread, Daszak said.COVID-19 has demonstrated the flaws in that plan. Chinese authorities tried to contain it after the disease emerged late last year, but it was too late.”And here we are waiting for a vaccine and drugs to work,” Daszak said. “It’s not a good strategy. We need to do more.”The report calls for “transformative change towards preventing pandemics.”Some of that change needs to come from consumers.One change involves eating meat.Demand for meat drives increased pandemic risk in two ways, the report says. Feeding food animals is a major driver of deforestation. Also, intensive animal agriculture, which packs many animals into small spaces, often in close proximity to people, makes it easy for germs to jump species.”We can continue to eat meat,” Daszak said, “but we need to do it in a way that is far more sustainable if we want to get rid of pandemics.”The report suggests taxes on meat or livestock or other ways to incorporate the costs of pandemics into the price of production and consumption.Consumers also can drive change by pressuring companies to reduce deforestation, for example.”Global for-profit companies care about what we, the public, think about them,” Daszak said. “They respond when people call them out.”Government policy should focus on pandemic prevention as well, the authors say.Emerging-disease risk should be factored into any large-scale land use planning. Wildlife trade enforcement should focus on reducing or removing species at high risk of spreading diseases. And increased disease monitoring should focus on the links between human health, animal health and the environment, known as the One Health approach.All these suggestions, he noted, are “easy to say, really difficult to do.”These measures and others would cost about $40 billion to $58 billion per year, the report says.But with the bill for pandemics averaging a trillion dollars per year, Daszak said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a hundred pounds of cure.”

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