The United Nations has marked 2021 as the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables

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Age standardized death rate from noncommunicable diseases per 100,000 population in 2016

Across the world, almost 110,000 people die every day from a noncommunicable disease. This number has been increasing in the last ten years. In fact, deaths from noncommunicable diseases exceed deaths from all communicable diseases combined.

Deaths from noncommunicable diseases are ten times higher than the daily deaths from the communicable disease COVID-19.

NCDs are all non-infectious and non-transmissible diseases that are most often a consequence of either behavioral factors (such as smoking), or could be caused by genetic factors (such as inheritable cancers); they include include cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes. While NCDs are more prevalent in low- and middle-income countries, their impact is felt globally and most recent statistics suggest that NCDs account for more than half the global burden of disease, and almost 70% of global deaths. …


Companies developing a COVID-19 vaccine rely on a phalanx of smart and dedicated scientists conducting pathbreaking research to put an end to this pandemic

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Back on July 22 this year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense announced an agreement with Pfizer Inc. for large-scale production and nationwide delivery of 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in the United States, following the vaccine’s successful manufacture and approval. According to the agreement, Pfizer would get $1.95 billion for the 100 million doses — this would be enough vaccine for 50 million people, or about 15% of the US population. Three weeks later, on August 11, another agreement was announced — this time with Moderna, Inc. to manufacture and deliver 100 million doses of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate. As in the case of the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna vaccine will also be enough for 50 million people. In both announcements is an important point: “The vaccine would be available to the American people at no cost. …


The results from this election have made it impossible to ignore the expanding chasm in the country — it isn’t too late to bridge it

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Ausable Chasm

The Ausable chasm is located in the Adirondacks, in Upstate New York. It dates back some 500 million years, when animals were just beginning to explore land. The chasm measures 50 feet at its widest point. By the time humans came to inhabit the chasm region, rights to it had been repeatedly disputed. In the 1750s it became one of the bloodiest sites of the French and Indian War, with more than 3,000 casualties. The area came under Iroquois control when the war ended. However, at the end of the Revolutionary War the Iroquois sold the land to the State of New York for a paltry $1,600. Almost 150 years later, in 1932, a bridge was built to ford the geological chasm. Today, it is a key tourist site in Upstate New York, yet thankfully, not terribly busy. …


After being poked, prodded, and battered for four years, it might just find its foundation again.

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No matter which side of the political divide you’ve inhabited, November 7, 2020, 11.27 a.m. EST will be etched in the history of the US. Everybody is going to remember exactly what they were doing, and where they were when they learnt that the Biden-Harris ticket had won the 2020 US presidential election.

That the US holds a certain position in the world is undeniable, and the damage that has been wrought across it by the current occupant of the White House is not going to be reversible overnight. Trump and his coterie have emboldened depraved leaders of many other countries, making life absolutely unlivable for swaths of humanity. …


Answers will come from scientific data; anecdotes while sometimes helpful aren’t testable, and can often be misleading. Science is what will help us get to the other side of this pandemic

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Edwin Hooper | Unsplash

On January 26, 2020 I landed in New York via Abu Dhabi, after spending almost seventeen hours in an aluminium tube, inhaling and exhaling the same air that 300 other people breathed. A little over a month later, New York saw its first COVID-19 case, on February 29. Transmission was primarily airborne. Almost nine months later, the world has seen more than 32.5 million people infected by SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — and almost one million people have died from the disease. By mid-November, if things continue the way they are, there will be more than 40 million cases worldwide, and more than one million deaths. …


We’ve come to take nitrile gloves for granted, especially in these Covid-19 times. But did you know their pedigree?

First, there were latex gloves. Nitrile gloves were introduced only in the 1990s, and are more resilient to chemicals than are latex gloves. Besides, the introduction of nitrile gloves enabled those with latex allergies to protect themselves with much less concern when carrying out medical procedures.

Hevea brasiliensis is the primary and natural source of rubber which is used in the manufacture of latex products. Nitrile based products are made through a chemical process that involves the polymerization of a number of different chemicals which is why at the time of their introduction, nitrile gloves were extremely expensive, and for those of us who worked in laboratory settings were zealously guarded and sometimes even stockpiled! …


Epidemiologists, virologists, and immunologists had tried to warn us of the challenges of a global viral outbreak, but decision-makers ignored them and now we’re paying the price — we can still change that. We’ve worked very hard these past few months, so getting sloppy and cavalier now would be a ghastly waste.

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Data current as of May 24, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has taken the world by storm and has drawn back a curtain from civilization, exposing profound fundamental flaws. Yet, it has also revealed and inspired some positives, some of which might propel us in the direction of controlling and abating the spread of the disease — if only their reach was as expansive as the virus itself. Some of these positives might have seemed trivial last year, but today they are grounding for many — an increased awareness of the importance of good hygiene and the centrality of science; reduced occurrence of seasonal flu; discovering and improving culinary skills; (re)learning skills and (re)discovering interests; reconnecting with friends and family, are a few examples. Yet it is impossible to find comfort in these and other positives, because succumbing to the Covid-19 virus infection has been remarkably unequal — those who are financially and socially less privileged have borne the burden of this disease in many countries. …


Not all antibody tests are a readout of your capacity to fight off a potential second Covid-19 infection

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A typical COVID-19 antibody test setup

As the president of the US escalates his high throughput testing of mindless, and downright harmful ideas and thoughts about how to combat the SARS-CoV-2 a.k.a. the Covid-19 virus, researchers and clinicians continue to strive to develop effective detection tools, treatments, and preventive measures.

Thankfully, occasionally the FDA takes a stand slightly apart from the President — for example, it recently cautioned against the use of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine for Covid-19 contrary to the President’s suggestions. …


Humans are encountering the COVID-19 virus for the first time. Although research on the disease is moving at breakneck speed, it sometimes feels as though we are still figuring the virus out like the blind men who encountered an elephant.

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Medieval Jain temple Anekantavada doctrine artwork illustrating the story of the blind men and the elephant. From Wikipedia, photo credit Romana Klee

The ancient Indian parable of the blind men who encountered an elephant has spread across the globe over centuries, with unique versions of that story in many countries. …

About

Deepti Pradhan

Deepti is a scientist & now, a research analyst at Yale University. She runs Tilde Cafe, a forum to demystify science & make it accessible (www.tildecafe.org)

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