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Warmer temperatures might be slowing coronavirus transmission

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It is a known fact that warmer temperatures tend to reduce the transmission rates of majority of the viruses. Particularly, the ones related to respiratory issues, e.g. Influenza. A recent speculation suggests that the same is true for coronavirus.
 
In the past 8 months, coronavirus has spread to almost every country on the globe. Effecting more than half a million people and causing thousands of deaths, the virus is still actively spreading. Forcing nations into lockdown, the crisis has caused an economic crisis, along with a severe epidemic.
 
Based on the behavior of respiratory viruses, it is possible that warmer temperature might be affecting the coronavirus transmission. The impact can play a vital role in predicting if the following months would be better.

Research study

A research team from Mount Auburn Hospital, studied the effects of precipitation, temperature and UV index on the spread of the coronavirus. The analysis was primarily based on the death rate during the spring months.
A medical journal, Clinical Infectious Diseases, published the findings. Results indicated that the transmission rate of coronavirus did slow down up till 52 degrees Fahrenheit. However, increasing the temperature further had no impact on the virus.
 
Further, a greater UV index also reduced the average number of new cases per day. However, the impact was not that significant. Precipitation had no effect on the virus whatsoever.
 
The researchers evaluated regular reported instances of the coronavirus cases over the period of 2.5 months, from 22 January to 3 April. John Hopkins University’s Dashboard for coronavirus was the primary source for the data. Information about the environmental factors was taken from the National Centers for Environmental Information.

Results

Researchers analyzed the two datasets using advanced data science techniques. However, the results did not show any promise as to a possible slowing down of the disease. According to Shiv T. Sehra, Director Internal Medicine Residency Program at the hospital, it is unlikely that the coronavirus’s spread would slow down in the summers due to the increasing temperatures.
 
The study divided the data into five possible scenario categories: < 30 degrees, 30 – 40 degrees, 40 – 50 degrees, 50 – 60 degrees and > 60 degrees. All temperature measurements were in Fahrenheit. The team observed the maximum number of new cases on days when the temperature was below 30 degrees. Similarly, the least number of new cases were observed when the average temperature was above 50 degrees.
 
As per the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, as fall and winter draw near, the crisis may get worse. The drop in temperatures will most likely cause a surge in the number of cases. Sehra stated, “We also caution that the disease may get worse in the fall and winter months.”

Limitations

Even though, the research did not show promising results, it is to note that there were a lot of limitations in the process. The study extrapolated the climate related data for the whole nation. Further, the data was from a time period when the overall temperatures were below 70 degrees. Temperature in summers is generally higher in most states.
 
Moreover, there is no guarantee that the number of cases depicted the correct value. Everyday, there are hundreds of cases that go unreported. Hence, adding a bias to the results. Geographical data was also ignored, which could potentially have a vital impact on the number of cases.
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Cannabis

Cannabis Highly Popular Due To The COVID-19 Pandemic Lock-down

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Cannabis made popular by pandemic lock-downs

The year 2020 will probably go down in history as one of the strangest years in the modern age. Yes, that includes both World Wars and everything in between. You may have already guessed why. The preamble will hence come across as unnecessary then that it turns out many have turned to cannabis because of COVID-19. This deadly pandemic led to world-wide economic collapse, hundreds of thousands of fatalities and lock-downs. Not surprisingly, cannabis rapidly became a favorite coping mechanism for many.

In the US, recreational cannabis is an open secret in many places. Unless you live in a handful of progressive states, odds are the cannabis you use comes from illegal sources. We’re not here to judge. However, it seems astonishing that in the past 7 months, the nation’s cannabis industry scored surprisingly well for itself despite the odds.

The pandemic had a marked impact on the lives of most people’s habits

Even the biggest self-proclaimed extrovert must admit that the COVID-19 pandemic put a damper on life. Public gatherings, meeting places, restaurants, clubs, bars and social events in general became banned. Most work environments, those that weren’t designated ‘essential‘, kept employees at home. Hence, it became increasingly common to hear about boredom, frustration and loneliness. Video-chat platforms like Zoom became the new norm of communication.

To kill time, and grapple with unfamiliar emotions like anxiety and purposelessness, many turned to hobbies. For some, this ranged from baking, to woodwork, to video games. And for some, that became recreational cannabis. Newcomers and seasoned veterans alike flocked to dispensaries right before lock-down’s imposition. Unsure of when they would regain access to the drug, they rushed to buy up stores. And unbeknownst at the time, cannabis dispensaries would soon gain the ‘essential’ status, to keep operating.

The biggest factor behind the success of cannabis in the pandemic lies behind its appeal

Cannabis is not like other recreational drugs. When taken correctly, there are little to know repercussions. It does not cause major hangovers, and overdosing to death doesn’t happen. Also, it has few negative effects on the user’s health. It actually carries several health benefits, especially when used to treat anxiety, PTSD, depression, cancers and even arthritis!

What the main selling point for cannabis is involves its convenience, especially in states with legal and regulated retailers. Simply go to the store, purchase it and consume it in any manner desired. This could be in the form of edibles, inhaled or as oils. For many users trapped indoors with nothing else to do, the feeling of sensory escape from the comfort of home proved irresistible.

Some folks seriously believe marijuana holds a cure for COVID-19, but research shows some merit to this

A virus is a virus. It needs very specific factors to kill. These range from strong alcohol-based hand sanitizers, to the body’s own natural antibodies. Coronavirus is no exception to this. Suggesting that smoking cannabis would somehow “cure” COVID-19 is erroneous and harmful. There is no way that this is possible.

However, recent studies all indicate that cannabis may indeed be suitable as a treatment for the disease. Many new investigations into the body’s endocannabinoid system hope that the CBD and THC present in weed have use. These substances could potentially alter the body’s physiology to prevent the coronavirus from even infecting someone. As it stands, much work and time need to pass before anything comes from this theory though.

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General News

Researchers Use New Compound In Bio-engineering A Possible Cyborg

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PEDOT is used to make a possible cyborg

The word ‘cyborg’ gradually saturated itself into science fiction over the years. Just the mere mention of the word immediately conjures up images of robot-humans and superhuman comic book characters. However, a team of researchers at the University of Delaware might be close to making this a reality.

Led by Professor David Martin, the study involved connecting devices to neural tissue. The aim was to successfully maintain a strong link between the living tissue and machinery. However, this raised some issues immediately.

The main setback in bio-engineering has been tissue damage

Until now, the biggest obstacle has been tissue damage in the body. Whenever a machine is connected to the tissue, scarring by the body’s immune system can occur. Not surprisingly, this interferes with data transfer from body to machine and renders the attempt nonviable.  This scarring is largely due to reactions with materials like gold and silicon in the machinery. Until the advent of ‘PEDOT‘, that is (more on that shortly!)

Because data transfer and the transmission of electrical signals is vital for the machine, they required a solution. While hooking up a machine to a brain, they realized they needed a protective coating. They decided to experiment with different nonreactive substances to make suitable microelectrodes. The substance would have to be easy to produce, non-toxic and conductive to the electrical signals in the device.

The chosen substance was an organic chemistry goldmine, called ‘PEDOT’

The scientists tried various different alternatives to the gold and silver. Eventually, they settled upon poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene), dubbed “PEDOT“. This substance is an organic compound and its properties were exactly what they hoped for.

The PEDOT was made of conjugated polymers, which are large complex molecules. Martin claimed that PEDOT was so unique because of its electrical and ionic desirability. This means that at any given time, the compound has moving ions and electrons within it. When applied to a device, the compound had lower impedance and was quite conductive. And best of all, it greatly prevented scarring.

While PEDOT had already been available in electronic coatings, its use in bio-engineering only begins now. This is because of PEDOT’s flexibility and capacity to have its properties changed. The organic compound can have its functional groups modified. Functional groups are attached chemicals that can alter the way PEDOT reacts.

PEDOT has great implications for the future of other fields of science

Martin claims that by modifying the functional groups, PEDOT can be used in biochemistry too. If it was to be modified with a specific antigen or DNA strand, it would make a specifc biofilm. This biofilm would have countless applications, such as even making vaccines. The possibilities are endless.

To make PEDOT suitable for this bio-engineering study, it was modified accordingly. This involved using an aldehyde and maleimide compound to change the functional group. Martin noted the presence of maleimide made further reactions easier to do.

In addition to this application, Martin’s team has used PEDOT in other biological ways. They have used it to detect excess levels of normal VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) and hopefully detect tumors with it. Furthermore, PEDOT has also undergone bonding with dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in addiction. This will allow them to investigate the physiology behind addictive behaviors.

In conclusion, Martin and his team seem to have stumbled upon a miraculous compound. When utilized in advancing biochemistry, biotechnology and bio-engineering, there is no doubt the concept of a ‘cyborg’ will be realized some day!

 

 

 

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Cannabis

Study Shows More Cannabis Consumed Doesn’t Cause More of A High

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study shows amount of cannabis does not affect high

A new study from the University of Colorado, at Boulder, has found some interesting things about cannabis users. The study, which was conducted on several ‘high’ cannabis users, used different amounts in the samples. That means that the users had varying levels of cannabis in their systems. They found that the effects of cannabis regardless of the amount taken were not significantly different in the user. This means that after a minimum level of cannabis consumed, the effects of THC flatline.

The study indicates THC level in the blood doesn’t increase effects

Cannabis contains two key ingredients. Firstly, it has CBD (cannabidiol), which research has shown can have positive health effects. The other is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). This drug is the main psychoactive agent in cannabis. In other words, it is responsible for the ‘high’ users get. Common symptoms of this high include mood changes, reduced motor skills, and reduced cognition.

It was therefore surprising that each intoxicated user seemed equally impaired. All the users, regardless of THC levels in their bloodstreams, displayed similar levels of intoxication. The researchers measured the neurological and motor functioning of each individual to see the effect THC had on them.

They checked parameters like speech, memory, gait, and balance. All of these end up diminished in intoxicated people. Not surprisingly, all showed typical signs of stupefaction. The levels of this intoxication were virtually the same in all test subjects, however.

This study could drastically change the way law enforcement works against cannabis users

At the moment, the relative rarity of cannabis-related arrests in cars by law enforcement is in a strange place. On one hand, the drug is considered intoxicating enough that it is inadvisable to operate a vehicle while high. On the other hand, ‘drunk driving’ from alcohol abuse is a far more serious offense. So law enforcement has a tendency to either lump both drugs together or to give one more priority over the other.

Currently, a breathalyzer test checks blood alcohol levels. If the person is over the limit while driving it leads to prosecution. While that makes sense in the case of alcohol, the matter cannot be extrapolated onto cannabis. These users, whether they have consumed a small amount or a large amount, don’t behave accordingly. Therefore, it may be of paramount importance that legislation changes its attitudes towards said users.

Measuring CBD and THC levels in the bloodstream of cannabis users is difficult and complicates matters

The root of the matter lies in the measurement of THC and CBD in cannabis users. While alcohol is essentially a stimulant toxin that circulates in the bloodstream, THC is different. It has been proven to have several effects on the body’s physiology. This includes raising blood pressure, increasing heart rates, and affecting the lungs when inhaled. Meanwhile, CBD is still rather unclear in its mechanisms. It does have several health benefits according to several studies. However, it may or may not appear in a detectable quantity when tested for.

Furthermore, the mode of taking cannabis can change results too. Smoking it is faster acting. But the cannabis is usually more potent when eaten. So obtaining a clear and accurate reading from a cannabis user is difficult. For these reasons, law enforcement needs to reevaluate the way they treat users.

They could start by studying and encouraging more studies into the topic, as this one only indicates a correlation rather than causation. Maybe then they will be able to reliably quantify and fairly judge cannabis users.

 

 

 

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