Medical Notes this week…


One of the well known symptoms of a Coronavirus infection is the loss of the sense of smell. Now Johns Hopkins scientists have learned why. A study in the European Respiratory Journal finds that the virus uses a biological hook on the surface of some human cells to enter the body – a hook that’s up to 700 times more common on olfactory supporting cells in the nose than on other cells. It makes the nose a probable entry point for infection…and makes wearing a mask correctly all the more important.

The importance of the nose in coronavirus infections is also being tapped for a possible COVID-19 vaccine. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis report in the journal Cell that a new nasal vaccine has proven effective in tests on mice. Scientists attach a coronavirus spike protein to a disabled virus for the common cold… and then spray it in the nose, prompting a strong immune response without causing illness. The vaccine now will be tested on non-human primates…and ultimately people.

To keep COVID-19 from spreading indoors, scientists say we may need a new generation of air conditioners. A study in the journal MedRxiv shows that without good ventilation and filtration, droplets and aerosols build up in closed rooms, making six-foot distancing meaningless if an infected person is anywhere inside. The researchers say what’s needed are strong air conditioners that can handle better filters and increased airflow. They also advocate better use of face masks.

And finally… here’s some good news if you’ve always thought that selfish jerks get ahead quicker than nice people in this dog-eat-dog world. Scientists writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences gave personality tests to college students, then followed their careers for 10 years. Those who the tests said were selfish, deceitful and aggressive did not get ahead more often. The bad news? Jerks didn’t gain power any less than nice people, either.

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