Science

Science

China’s leaders in Covid-19 vaccine race use a method shunned in the West
As China leads the race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, its scientists are largely pinning their hopes on a technology that has been used for decades. Five out of 10 potential vaccines undergoing clinical trials have been developed by Chinese scientists, while a sixth is the result of a partnership between a Chinese company and a German biotech firm, according to the World Health Organization. But China is adopting a very different approach in its hunt for a vaccine against the disease caused by the new coronavirus. It is the only country pouring resources into the use of inactivated viruses, a technique used in vaccines against numerous diseases in the past – including hepatitis A, influenza
‘Congee boiling in a pot’: the volcano in China they thought was extinct
A volcano in northeast China could be “recharging” for an eruption, with a vast amount of magma believed to be rising up underneath it, according to a team of geophysicists. The researchers say they discovered two huge magma chambers under Wei Mountain in Heilongjiang, near the border with Russia and North Korea. Their modeling suggests the chambers dwarf the volcano, which is 328 feet tall and 3 miles wide. It was a surprise discovery, since the volcano last erupted more than 500,000 years ago and was considered extinct. Geologists have been more focused on Changbai Mountain (known in North Korea as Mount Paektu), to the south, whose eruption in 946AD was one of the most powerful volcanic e
Covid-19: China must not be complacent, top expert says
China still faces the risk of a second wave of coronavirus infections, but another big outbreak is unlikely thanks to the country’s tight prevention and control measures, according to the country’s top respiratory disease specialist. “With our intensive follow-up monitoring procedures, the risks of a second wave [of coronavirus infections] exist but another peak is unlikely to occur [in China],” Zhong Nanshan said. Zhong, who heads a team of experts advising the Chinese government on the pandemic, said the authorities should not be complacent, with the coronavirus continuing to spread around the world. In addition, most people in China and East Asia had yet to develop immunity to the pathoge
Covid-19 blame game could scupper research, China’s top disease expert warns
The blame game between the US and China is putting important Covid-19 research at risk, according to China’s most renowned respiratory expert. Zhong Nanshan, 83 – who had a leading role in fighting the 2002-03 severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) epidemic and now advises the Chinese government on Covid-19 – said scientists around the world needed to team up to establish where the new coronavirus, which causes Covid-19, had come from. He said US epidemiologist Ian Lipkin, whom he had known since they worked together on the Sars outbreak, had approached him with a method to establish how the virus jumped to humans. But the work could be stalled for fear it would be distorted by political a
Chinese bat scientist says known viruses ‘just tip of the iceberg’
A Chinese virologist at the center of conspiracy theories over the coronavirus’ origin has publicly defended her work, saying it contributed to the fast identification of the new pathogen and would help protect against future outbreaks. Shi Zhengli – dubbed China’s “bat woman” for her research on coronaviruses in the mammals – told state broadcaster CGTN on Monday those studies had “enabled us to understand the cause of the unknown pneumonia a short time” after the first cases of the disease later named Covid-19 emerged late last year in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. Days after patient samples were obtained on December 30, scientists isolated the pathogen, believing it to be a new type
Inch perfect: the team trying to fix Everest’s exact height
Chinese surveyors and climbers hope to scale the summit of Mount Everest on Wednesday in the latest attempt to measure the precise height of the world’s tallest mountain. The last such survey in 2005 fixed its height at 8,844.43 meters (29,017.2 feet), but advances in technology over the past 15 years should allow for a more precise calculation this time around. By Sunday, the 12-strong expedition team had reached a camp a little more than a mile from the summit, Chinese state news agency Xinhua said on Monday. Severe weather has scuppered two previous attempts to reach the top this month, the second of them on Friday last week. The mountain lies in the Himalayas on the border between China
As coronavirus accusations fly, evidence grows that these bats were the source
The coronavirus that sparked the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to have come from bats found in Asia, according to a new study by researchers in Hong Kong. University of Hong Kong microbiologists created a group of cells that resembled the intestine of the Chinese horseshoe bat, a species found in countries including China, India, Nepal and Vietnam. They were able to infect the cell structure with the coronavirus, known as Sars-CoV-2. Previous research had found that the bat species carried a virus like the one that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and which was similar to the new coronavirus. Taken together, the findings meant that “the Chinese horseshoe bat may really be the or
Sex may spread coronavirus: Chinese study finds traces in semen
Chinese researchers have found the coronavirus in the semen of a small number of men, raising the possibility that it could be spread via sex. The study at Shangqiu Municipal Hospital in central China’s Henan province included 38 men who had tested positive for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and found that 6 had the virus in their semen. These included 2 men who had recovered, “which is particularly noteworthy,” according to the study, reported in JAMA Network Open – an online open-access medical journal published by the American Medical Association. “If it could be proved that Sars-CoV-2 [the coronavirus’s scientific name] can be transmitted sexually … [this] might be a c
Coronavirus may have been silently spreading as early as October, study says
The coronavirus that results in Covid-19 may have started its course toward a pandemic as early as October, according to a new study on the genetic make-up of the coronavirus. As debate on the origin of the virus continues, a growing body of research suggests the virus began spreading earlier than many thought. The pathogen, formally known as SARS-CoV-2, is thought to have made the jump from an animal host to humans some time between October 6 and December 11 last year, according to an article released on Tuesday and set to be published in the scientific journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution. The findings are based on analysis of more than 7,000 genome sequence assemblies collected from
Scientists make coronavirus out of brewer’s yeast. It’s not for fun
Scientists have created a fully synthesized strain of the coronavirus with brewer’s yeast, according to a new study from Europe. The development will help give health authorities and diagnostic laboratories access to the virus without needing clinical samples, said the researchers, led by Joerg Jores and Volker Thiel from the University of Bern in Switzerland, in a paper published in Nature on Monday. Experts said the man-made strain would help researchers conduct real-world experiments to find cures and improve preventive measures. However, a common problem of using artificial viruses is that their mutations may run wild and render the experiments meaningless. But the new strain, dubbed rS