Category Archives: Medicine

SARS-CoV-2 is changing at a glacial pace

SCIENTISTS have had eyes on Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, since the beginning of this pandemic. They can see it is evolving, but it is happening at a glacial pace compared with two other viruses with pandemic potential: those that cause flu and Aids. That is good news for efforts to develop vaccines and treatments, but scientists remain wary that anything could still happen…

Tiruppur, India

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 18 September 2020. To continue reading, click here.

The dirty vaccine race

TO begin with, it felt like a sleek performance from a well-honed relay team. On 11 January, only 10 days after reporting a new respiratory disease, the Chinese published the genome sequence of the virus that causes it. Researchers around the world set to work building vaccines against Covid-19, as the disease became known, and the first candidate entered human trials on 16 March; it was joined, as the months passed, by dozens of others…

Illustration by James Melaugh for The Observer

This article first appeared inThe Observer on 30 August 2020. To continue reading, click here.

On the origins of smallpox

THE death date of smallpox is clear. After killing more than 300 million people in the twentieth century, it claimed its last victim in 1978; two years later, on 8 May 1980, the World Health Assembly declared that the variola virus, which causes smallpox, had been eradicated. But the origins of this devastating virus are obscure. Now, genetic evidence is starting to uncover when smallpox first started attacking people…

Korean smallpox goddess, late Joseon era (17th-19th Centuries)

This article first appeared in Nature on 23 July 2020. To continue reading, click here (paywall).

 

On plague memory (again)

RUMINATING on why the 1918 flu pandemic wasn’t better remembered, the African historian Terence Ranger concluded in the early 2000s that the story wasn’t being told right. The vast majority of the victims—50 million of them at a conservative count—perished in a mere 13 weeks at the tail end of 1918, all over the globe. It was a planetary convulsion that was over in the blink of an eye, but whose impact reverberated through human societies for decades to come…

The Pull of the Stars, by Emma Donoghue (2020)

This article first appeared in Wired on 20 July 2020. To  continue reading, click here.