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Few Vaccines Actually Prevent Infection – Here’s Why That’s Not Actually a Problem

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Vaccines are a marvel of medicine. Few interventions can claim to have saved as many lives. But it may surprise you to know that not all vaccines provide the same level of protection. Some vaccines stop you getting symptomatic disease, but others stop you getting infected too.

 

The latter is known as “sterilising immunity”. With sterilising immunity, the virus can’t even gain a toehold in the body because the immune system stops the virus entering cells and replicating.

There is a subtle yet important difference between preventing disease and preventing infection. A vaccine that “just” prevents disease might not stop you from transmitting the disease to others – even if you feel fine. But a vaccine that provides sterilising immunity stops the virus in its tracks.

In an ideal world, all vaccines would induce sterilising immunity. In reality, it is actually extremely difficult to produce vaccines that stop virus infection altogether. Most vaccines that are in routine use today do not achieve this.

For example, vaccines targeting rotavirus, a common cause of diarrhoea in infants, are only capable of preventing severe disease. But this has still proven invaluable in controlling the virus. In the US, there has been almost 90 percent fewer cases of rotavirus-associated hospital visits since the vaccine was introduced in 2006. A similar situation occurs with the current poliovirus vaccines, yet there is hope this virus could be eradicated globally.

 

The first SARS-CoV-2 vaccines to be licensed have been shown to be highly effective at reducing disease. Despite this, we don’t yet know whether these vaccines can induce sterilising immunity.

It is expected that data addressing this question will be available from the ongoing vaccine clinical trials soon. Although even if sterilising immunity is induced initially, this may change over time as immune responses wane and viral evolution occurs.

Immunity in individuals

What would a lack of sterilising immunity mean for those vaccinated with the new COVID vaccines? Quite simply it means that if you encounter the virus after vaccination, you may get infected but show no symptoms. This is because your vaccine-induced immune response is not able to stop every virus particle from replicating.

It is generally understood that a particular type of antibody known as a “neutralising antibody” is needed for sterilising immunity. These antibodies block virus entry into cells and prevent all replication.

However, the infecting virus may have to be identical to the vaccine virus in order to induce the perfect antibody.

 

Thankfully, our immune responses to vaccines involve many different cells and components of the immune system. Even if the antibody response isn’t optimal, other aspects of immune memory can kick in when the virus invades. These include cytotoxic T cells and non-neutralising antibodies. Viral replication will be slowed and consequently disease reduced.

We know this from years of study on influenza vaccines. These vaccines typically induce protection from disease, but not necessarily protection from infection. This is largely due to the different strains of influenza that circulate – a situation that may also occur with SARS-CoV-2.

It is reassuring to note that flu vaccines, despite being unable to induce sterilising immunity, are still extremely valuable at controlling the virus.

file 20210104 13 1xbf603The inverse relationship between coronavirus infection severity and protective immunity. (Sarah L Caddy)

Immunity in a population

In the absence of sterilising immunity, what effect might SARS-CoV-2 vaccines have on the spread of a virus through a population? If asymptomatic infections are possible after vaccination, there has been concern that SARS-CoV-2 will simply continue to infect as many people as before. Is this possible?

Asymptomatically infected people typically produce virus at lower levels. Though there is not a perfect relationship, usually more virus equals more disease. Therefore, vaccinated people are less likely to transmit enough virus to cause severe disease.

This in turn means that the people getting infected in this situation are going to transmit less virus to the next susceptible person. This has been neatly shown experimentally using a vaccine targeting a different virus in chickens; when only part of a flock was vaccinated, unvaccinated birds still showed milder disease and produced less virus.

So, while sterilising immunity is often the ultimate goal of vaccine design, it is rarely achieved. Fortunately, this hasn’t stopped many different vaccines substantially reducing the number of cases of virus infections in the past.

By reducing disease levels in individuals, this also reduces virus spread through populations, and this will hopefully bring the current pandemic under control.The Conversation

Sarah L Caddy, Clinical Research Fellow in Viral Immunology and Veterinary Surgeon, University of Cambridge.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

 



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6 Months After Infection, 76% of COVID-19 Patients Are Still Suffering Symptoms

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More than three quarters of people hospitalised with COVID-19 still suffered from at least one symptom after six months, according to a study published Saturday that scientists said shows the need for further investigation into lingering coronavirus effects.

 

The research, which was published in the Lancet medical journal and involved hundreds of patients in the Chinese city of Wuhan, is among the few to trace the long-term symptoms of COVID-19 infection.

It found that fatigue or muscle weakness were the most common symptoms, while people also reported sleeping difficulties.

“Because COVID-19 is such a new disease, we are only beginning to understand some of its long-term effects on patients’ health,” said senior author Bin Cao, of the National Center for Respiratory Medicine.

The professor said the research highlighted the need for ongoing care for patients after they have been discharged from hospital, particularly those who have had severe infections.

“Our work also underscores the importance of conducting longer follow-up studies in larger populations in order to understand the full spectrum of effects that COVID-19 can have on people,” he added.

The World Health Organization has said the virus poses a risk for some people of serious ongoing effects – even among young, otherwise healthy people who were not hospitalised.

The new study included 1,733 COVID-19 patients discharged from Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan between January and May last year.

 

Patients, who had an average age of 57, were visited between June and September and answered questions on their symptoms and health-related quality of life.

Researchers also conducted physical examinations and lab tests.

The study found that 76 percent of patients who participated in the follow-up (1,265 of 1,655) said they still had symptoms.

Fatigue or muscle weakness was reported by 63 percent, while 26 percent had sleep problems.

The study also looked at 94 patients whose blood antibody levels were recorded at the height of the infection as part of another trial.

When these patients were retested after six month, their levels of neutralising antibodies were 52.5 percent lower.

The authors said this raises concerns about the possibility of COVID-19 re-infection, although they said larger samples would be needed to clarify how immunity to the virus changes over time.

In a comment article also published in The Lancet, Monica Cortinovis, Norberto Perico, and Giuseppe Remuzzi, from Italy’s Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri IRCCS, said there was uncertainty over the long-term health consequences of the pandemic.

“Unfortunately, there are few reports on the clinical picture of the aftermath of COVID-19,” they said, adding the latest study was therefore “relevant and timely”.

They said longer term multidisciplinary research being conducted in the United States and Britain would help improve understanding and help develop therapies to “mitigate the long-term consequences of COVID-19 on multiple organs and tissues”.

© Agence France-Presse

 



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An Astronomer Who Believes in Aliens Explains Why He’s Not Convinced by UFO Sightings

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If intelligent aliens visit the Earth, it would be one of the most profound events in human history.

Surveys show that nearly half of Americans believe that aliens have visited the Earth, either in the ancient past or recently. That percentage has been increasing. Belief in alien visitation is greater than belief that Bigfoot is a real creature, but less than belief that places can be haunted by spirits.

 

Scientists dismiss these beliefs as not representing real physical phenomena. They don’t deny the existence of intelligent aliens. But they set a high bar for proof that we’ve been visited by creatures from another star system. As Carl Sagan said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

I’m a professor of astronomy who has written extensively on the search for life in the universe. I also teach a free online class on astrobiology. Full disclosure: I have not personally seen a UFO.

Unidentified flying objects

UFO means unidentified flying object. Nothing more, nothing less.

There’s a long history of UFO sightings. Air Force studies of UFOs have been going on since the 1940s. In the United States, “ground zero” for UFOs occurred in 1947 in Roswell, New Mexico. The fact that the Roswell incident was soon explained as the crash landing of a military high-altitude balloon didn’t stem a tide of new sightings.

The majority of UFOs appear to people in the United States. It’s curious that Asia and Africa have so few sightings despite their large populations, and even more surprising that the sightings stop at the Canadian and Mexican borders.

 

Most UFOs have mundane explanations. Over half can be attributed to meteors, fireballs and the planet Venus. Such bright objects are familiar to astronomers but are often not recognized by members of the public. Reports of visits from UFOs inexplicably peaked about six years ago.

Many people who say they have seen UFOs are either dog walkers or smokers. Why? Because they’re outside the most. Sightings concentrate in evening hours, particularly on Fridays, when many people are relaxing with one or more drinks.

A few people, like former NASA employee James Oberg, have the fortitude to track down and find conventional explanations for decades of UFO sightings. Most astronomers find the hypothesis of alien visits implausible, so they concentrate their energy on the exciting scientific search for life beyond the Earth.

Are we alone?

While UFOs continue to swirl in the popular culture, scientists are trying to answer the big question that is raised by UFOs: Are we alone?

Astronomers have discovered over 4,000 exoplanets, or planets orbiting other stars, a number that doubles every two years. Some of these exoplanets are considered habitable, since they are close to the Earth’s mass and at the right distance from their stars to have water on their surfaces.

 

The nearest of these habitable planets are less than 20 light years away, in our cosmic “back yard.” Extrapolating from these results leads to a projection of 300 million habitable worlds in our galaxy.

Each of these Earth-like planets is a potential biological experiment, and there have been billions of years since they formed for life to develop and for intelligence and technology to emerge.

Astronomers are very confident there is life beyond the Earth. As astronomer and ace exoplanet-hunter Geoff Marcy, puts it, “The universe is apparently bulging at the seams with the ingredients of biology.” There are many steps in the progression from Earths with suitable conditions for life to intelligent aliens hopping from star to star.

Astronomers use the Drake Equation to estimate the number of technological alien civilizations in our galaxy. There are many uncertainties in the Drake Equation, but interpreting it in the light of recent exoplanet discoveries makes it very unlikely that we are the only, or the first, advanced civilization.

This confidence has fueled an active search for intelligent life, which has been unsuccessful so far. So researchers have recast the question “Are we alone?” to “Where are they?”

 

The absence of evidence for intelligent aliens is called the Fermi Paradox. Even if intelligent aliens do exist, there are a number of reasons why we might not have found them and they might not have found us.

Scientists do not discount the idea of aliens. But they aren’t convinced by the evidence to date because it is unreliable, or because there are so many other more mundane explanations.

Modern myth and religion

UFOs are part of the landscape of conspiracy theories, including accounts of abduction by aliens and crop circles created by aliens. I remain skeptical that intelligent beings with vastly superior technology would travel trillion of miles just to press down our wheat.

It’s useful to consider UFOs as a cultural phenomenon. Diana Pasulka, a professor at the University of North Carolina, notes that myths and religions are both means for dealing with unimaginable experiences. To my mind, UFOs have become a kind of new American religion.

So no, I don’t think belief in UFOs is crazy, because some flying objects are unidentified, and the existence of intelligent aliens is scientifically plausible.

But a study of young adults did find that UFO belief is associated with schizotypal personality, a tendency toward social anxiety, paranoid ideas and transient psychosis. If you believe in UFOs, you might look at what other unconventional beliefs you have.

I’m not signing on to the UFO “religion,” so call me an agnostic. I recall the aphorism popularized by Carl Sagan, “It pays to keep an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out.” The Conversation

Chris Impey, University Distinguished Professor of Astronomy, University of Arizona.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

 



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A Short Bout of Exercise Can Boost Your Concentration, Research Shows

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Whether it’s during the post-lunch slump or just one of those days, we all struggle to concentrate on what we’re doing sometimes, whether that’s at work, school, or home.

Being able to concentrate on what we’re doing would inevitably make us more productive, but that’s often easier said than done.

 

For people looking to improve their concentration, exercise is often recommended as the antidote – and for good reason, as research shows that physical activity can improve concentration in people of all ages.

I’ll define “concentration” as our ability to focus on a task and ignore distractions. So in order to have good concentration, we need to have two important aspects of cognitive function working at their best.

The first is sustained attention, in which we’re able to focus on certain pieces of information for prolonged periods of time. The second is executive function, which is our ability to think and make decisions at a complex level.

But how does exercise help us improve these skills? Most research into the effects of exercise on concentration has studied the links in young people in schools.

This is likely because of the clear effect concentration has on academic achievement, with a key priority of schools being to improve academic achievement and exam results.

Research shows that acute bouts of physical activity (such as walking or running during break) have a positive effect on concentration in young people.

 

This effect has been shown after various forms of physical activity including walking, running, and team games (such as football and basketball). But this effect tends to only last for around one hour, so regular opportunities to be active across the school day are important.

Another really interesting discovery is that young people with higher levels of fitness demonstrate superior concentration when compared with less fit children.

For example, young people who have higher cardiorespiratory fitness display better concentration than those who are less fit. So based on current evidence, regular physical activity appears to be very important for improving concentration in children.

Although there’s less evidence in adults, research does still show that acute bouts of physical activity, such as a 20-minute walk or jog, enhance concentration for up to one hour afterwards.

Studies have also shown that having people take breaks for physical activity during the work day improves self-reported concentration and mood – both of which could improve productivity.

Physical activity and higher levels of physical fitness have even been shown to benefit many parts of brain function – including concentration – in people aged 65 and over.

 

We have less information though about the mechanisms that explain why physical activity improves our concentration.

We think that it could be caused by certain psychological mechanisms – such as feeling more alert and having better mood following physical activity – that improve concentration. Increased blood flow to the brain and changes in the parts of the brain that are activated during and after exercise have also been suggested.

Get moving

But which types of exercise are best? The simple answer to this question is that it depends on a lot of things.

Some evidence shows that any exercise which requires decision making (such as team games, like football and hockey) might be particularly beneficial to concentration, due to the fact that your brain is engaged during these types of exercise.

But research also shows that any exercise which is extremely vigorous or exhausting, such as high-intensity interval training workouts may – at least in the short-term – actually have a negative effect on concentration, due to the fact that it’s very difficult to concentrate when exhausted.

The research is clear, however, that short bouts of moderate, physical activity are great at improving concentration immediately following exercise. This might include going for a brisk walk, a run, or even a leisurely cycle.

But the best type of physical activity is one that you enjoy and can be easily incorporated into daily life. Ultimately, people need to be able to regularly perform physical activity in order to gain both immediate and long-term benefits.

So if you spend a lot of time sitting at your desk during the work day, regular activity breaks will help you to keep your concentration on the task in hand. Even just taking your dog for a short walk or running to the shop for a quick errand will help.The Conversation

Simon Cooper, Senior Lecturer in Sport Science, Nottingham Trent University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

 



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A 25-Year Study Just Identified 6 Distinct Types of Prediabetes

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People with prediabetes have a higher than normal blood sugar level, and sometimes – but not always – go on to develop type 2 diabetes. Doctors should now be able to better manage that risk, thanks to a study identifying six different subtypes of prediabetes.

 

In an analysis covering 25 years of data and 899 individuals, researchers were able to categorise these six subtypes through a series of shared biomarkers, including glucose levels, liver fat, body fat distribution, blood lipid levels, and genetic risk.

The six subtypes (or “clusters”) carry different levels of risk when it comes to developing type 2 diabetes, and that should help health professionals in tailoring treatments to match, as well as managing prediabetes and the secondary issues that come with it.

“For people with prediabetes it has not been possible until now to predict whether they would develop diabetes and be at risk for serious complications such as kidney failure, or whether they would only have a harmless form with slightly higher blood glucose levels but without significant risk,” says medical researcher Hans-Ulrich Häring from the German Centre for Diabetes Research (or DZD).

Clusters 1, 2 and 4 represent a low diabetes risk: they include participants who aren’t overweight, or who are overweight but have a relatively healthy metabolism. Clusters 3, 5 and 6, meanwhile, are linked to an increased risk of diabetes and secondary diseases. 

 

Those in cluster 3 produce too little insulin naturally, as well as showing other biomarkers such as higher intima-media thickness (IMT) in their arteries. Cluster 5 includes people more resistant to the effects of insulin and also with higher amounts of liver fat.

Those in cluster 6 have higher levels of particular types of body fat (visceral and renal sinus). While these individuals have a lower risk of developing diabetes compared with clusters 3 and 5, there is a higher mortality risk and more chance of kidney malfunction in this group.

pre sub(DZD)

“As in manifest diabetes, there are also different disease types in the preliminary stage of diabetes, which differ in blood glucose levels, insulin action and insulin secretion, body fat distribution, liver fat and genetic risk,” said diabetologist Robert Wagner, from DZD.

To further verify their results, the researchers checked their data against an analysis of 6,810 records collected in the UK as part of a different project. The same subtypes or clusters were identified there, using similar markers and methods.

Knowing how people differ in terms of their likelihood of developing diseases, diabetes and complications make a big difference compared to lumping everyone together in the same prediabetes group-specific treatments can be given to specific risk groups.

With the number of people developing diabetes on the rise – worldwide there could be as many as 700 million individuals with type 2 diabetes by 2045 – and the condition already causing millions of deaths a year, it’s important to act as fast as we can.

“Next, in prospective studies, we will first seek to determine to what extent the new findings are applicable for the classification of individual persons into risk groups,” says diabetologist Andreas Fritsche, from DZD.

The research has been published in Nature Medicine.

 



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High Pollen May Trigger Mysterious Flares of Chronic Bladder Pain in Some People

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Those of us with hay fever are painfully familiar with the frustration caused by days of high pollen – the incessant leaking of eye and nose mucus, itchy ears, eyes and throat, bursting fits of sneezes, and sometimes headaches and asthma. Now, a new study suggests that in people with a chronic pelvic condition, high pollen could also be triggering bouts of pelvic pain.

 

More than 10 million people in the US live with the mysterious set of conditions known as urologic chronic pelvic pain syndrome (UCPPS) – a cluster of problems that include bladder pain syndrome and interstitial cystitis in women, chronic pelvic pain syndrome, and chronic prostatitis in men. They can cause debilitating symptoms like an urgent and frequent need to urinate, agony within the pelvic region, and painful sex

Researchers have called UCPPS “one of the most frustrating urologic conditions to understand and manage” because its causes are still unknown as are its triggers of frustrating symptoms. A diagnosis of interstitial cystitis in women, for example, can involve bladder inflammation where all other possible known causes have been ruled out. 

Everything from bacteria to psychological causes have been examined without much clarification.

However, case reports have suggested asthma and allergy medications can relieve UCPPS symptoms and patients have reported flare-ups coinciding with other allergies. So Washington University epidemiologist Siobhan Sutcliffe and colleagues decided to take a closer look at UCPPS’s link with a well-known allergen.

The team compared 290 patient’s flare-ups with pollen levels and found that while daily changes in pollen counts didn’t seem connected, when pollen rates exceeded a “medium” threshold symptoms flared up by 22 percent one or two days later.

 

“Our study provides evidence to suggest increased pollen counts may trigger symptom flares in people living with UCPPS,” said Sutcliffe.

The well-known process of mast cell activation in allergies that releases the histamines they carry is suspected to contribute to some of these UCPPS conditions. Animal studies have shown prolonged high levels of histamine in the bladder can make the bladder’s nerves hypersensitive. And histamines in urine appear to remain elevated for longer than in our blood as our bodies use this exit pathway to remove them.

The new research adds to this evidence and could help provide patients with some much-needed relief. But further research is needed to account for possible confounding factors that may have been missed, such as other environmental factors that might coincide with higher pollen levels or things like flower bouquets which could contribute to flares.

“Patients may benefit from taking antihistamines on days with high pollen levels, or from allergy testing and immunotherapy,” said Sutcliffe.

This study was published in The Journal of Urology.

 



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Researchers Say They’ve Found The Key to Dealing With Defensive People

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A defensive attitude can cause tension and conflict in individual relationships, as well as within larger groups or even entire populations. New research has identified one way to successfully tackle it: by building up rather than breaking down social bonds.

 

As the researchers point out, defensiveness – perhaps in response to a mistake, a perceived wrong, or a different opinion – often increases if the person being defensive is made to feel like an outcast.

Treating someone you disagree with or who has wronged you with respect, and valuing their role, isn’t easy – but the researchers suggest it’s better in the long run for everyone involved, and for resolving the conflicts that came about to begin with.

“This research shows that defensiveness is strengthened by negative social responses, but is reduced when people feel secure in their group identity, respected, and valued,” says psychologist Lydia Woodyatt, from Flinders University in Australia.

The new research covers two experiments. In the first, 202 volunteers were invited to recall a time they had wronged someone else – they were asked to answer questions about it, including how ‘bad’ they thought the incident was, how close they were to the other person, and how much guilt they felt about it.

Based on the survey responses, the more important relationships – where the sense of belonging and acceptance was under greater threat – led to a more defensive attitude, as measured by a greater refusal to accept guilt over what had happened.

 

The second study went further into how defensiveness could be reduced. This time, 143 volunteers watched a documentary about unethical meat and egg production before being invited to take part in a pre-programmed chat about what had been shown and their attitudes towards it.

As in the first experiment, participants became defensive if they felt their moral or social identity was under threat. In this case, it was shown that defensiveness could be reduced through engagement, acceptance and “repair behaviours” – such as having the opportunity to donate to animal welfare causes, for example.

The researchers conclude that if those who are being defensive are still made to feel part of a group and are still treated with respect, the defensiveness on show is often reduced. Even if you disagree with someone, trying to engage with them would seem to be better than attacking them.

“Of course these responses do not always feel natural or easy – especially when faced with someone who we think has done wrong to us,” says Woodyatt. “Our instinct is also self-protective.”

“As a result, when people are caught doing something wrong in our society, we often stigmatise, reject or punish them, but this is likely only strengthening those defensive responses over time, not just of that person but of other people in similar situations.”

 

While defensiveness is understandable and does have some benefits – helping us to recover from failures and maintain self-esteem and optimism, for example – it also stops us from solving problems and has a negative impact on healthy decision-making.

We can let ourselves ‘off the hook’ by misremembering what has happened, minimising the harm caused, deflecting blame to others, or disengaging entirely from situations – behaviours you will see time and time again in social media spats, for instance.

What the new research does is give us a way through those problems, whether at the scale of a single family or a whole country. If we want to move forward through difficult situations, then we need to deal with defensiveness.

“Humans have a primary psychological need to be valued and included by others, to feel that they are good and appropriate group members or relationship partners,” says Woodyatt.

“Defensiveness creates blind spots in decision-making. When individuals and groups respond defensively problems go unrecognised, victims go unacknowledged, and relationships deteriorate.”

The research has been published in the British Journal of Social Psychology.

 



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There Are 6 Human Chronotypes, Not Just Morning Larks And Night Owls, Study Says

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Some people are morning larks. Others are night owls. But not everybody falls neatly into those two categories, scientists say – and a new study suggests there are actually multiple distinct ‘chronotypes’ that define people’s wakefulness and rest.

 

Chronotypes are the behavioural manifestations of the circadian rhythms we experience throughout the day and the night. In a sense, they’re your internal body clock, helping to determine whether you’re a morning person or a night person.

Waking life, however, isn’t perhaps quite as binary as those stereotypes might suggest, and at least some evidence suggests alternative chronotypes also exist beyond early birds and night owls.

“The research of individual chronobiological and chronopsychological differences is predominantly focused on the morning and evening chronotypes,” explains human physiology researcher Dmitry S. Sveshnikov from RUDN University in Russia.

“However, recent studies suggest that the existing classification needs to be reconsidered and expanded.”

In their new study, Sveshnikov and fellow researchers surveyed almost 2,300 participants, most of whom were university students. The participants were asked to self-assess their own chronotype based on a range of six possible types identified in previous studies conducted by some of the same researchers.

To validate the self-assessments, the participants completed a number of standard tests and questionnaires used by sleep scientists, designed to estimate participants’ level of sleepiness or alertness at various (and sometimes random) times throughout the day.

Based on the results, it looks like the vast majority of participants did identify with the six hypothetical chronotypes proposed by the researchers, with only 5 percent of people in the study not identifying with any of them.

010 chronotypes 1(RUDN University)

The six chronotypes – which the researchers now consider to be “fully confirmed” on the strength of the results – include the established morning and evening types, along with the four new chronotypes: highly active type, daytime sleepy type, daytime active type, and moderately active type.

In terms of alertness and energy levels, morning types have high alertness in the morning, which proceeds to dip to medium levels in the middle of the day, then drops to low levels in the evening.

 

By contrast, evening types exhibit low alertness in the morning, which rises to medium levels in the middle of the day, then rises to high levels at night.

The four new chronotypes display different patterns: highly active types show high alertness throughout the day; daytime sleepy types start off high in the morning, dip low in the middle of the day, then rise to a medium finish; daytime active types start low, peak at high in middle, then finish the day on middle level alertness; while moderately active types experience low energy levels all day long.

Interestingly, only a bit more than one-third (37 percent) of people in the study actually identified as early birds or night owls (13 percent and 24 percent respectively), although it’s worth noting that evening types on 24 percent were the most common chronotype.

Of the new chronotypes, covering 58 percent of the people studied, 18 percent identified as daytime sleepy, 16 percent were moderately active, 15 percent chose daytime active, and only 9 percent said they were highly active all day long.

It’s worth bearing in mind that this is a relatively small study in the grand scheme of things, but the team says future research using different kinds of experimental methods should be able to tell us more about how these six chronotypes function in people.

The findings are reported in Personality and Individual Differences.

 



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‘Surge Upon a Surge’ of Virus Cases Now Threatens to Decimate The US For One Reason

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America should prepare for a “surge upon a surge” in coronavirus cases as millions of travelers return home after the Thanksgiving holiday, top US scientist Anthony Fauci warned Sunday.

 

The United States is the worst-affected country, with 266,074 COVID-19 deaths, and President Donald Trump’s administration has issued conflicting messages on mask-wearing, travel and the danger posed by the virus.

“There almost certainly is going to be an uptick because of what has happened with the travel,” Fauci told CNN’s State of the Union.

Travel surrounding Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday made this the busiest week in US airports since the pandemic began.

“We may see a surge upon a surge” in two or three weeks, Fauci added. “We don’t want to frighten people, but that’s the reality.”

The trend is ominous, Fauci and other government scientists said, with the Christmas holidays soon bringing more travel and family gatherings.

Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, noted a surge in COVID-19 after a holiday weekend in May.

“Now we’re entering this post-Thanksgiving surge with three, four and 10 times as much disease across the country,’ she told CBS’s Face the Nation.

The US surgeon general, Jerome Adams, was equally blunt.

“I want to be straight with the American people,” he told Fox News Sunday. “It’s going to get worse over the next several weeks.”

 

Desperate wait for vaccine

Elsewhere, thousands of health workers marched in Madrid in support of the public health system in Spain, one of the European countries hardest hit by the pandemic.

And guards opened fire to quell a prison riot in Sri Lanka, where four inmates were killed while protesting a surge of coronavirus infections.

In France, the highest administrative court ordered the government to loosen rules allowing no more than 30 people at religious services, in the face of angry objections from church leaders.

Around 9,000 runners – some wearing face masks – took part in the Shanghai International Marathon, according to Chinese media, a mass-participation sports event rare during the pandemic.

And New York City again took a small step back toward normality, as Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that elementary schools would reopen for in-person instruction on December 7.

The US news media, meantime, reported that first shipments of the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19 – one of the first to claim high effectiveness, along with a Moderna product – had arrived in the United States from a Pfizer lab in Belgium.

 

Pfizer was using charter flights to pre-position vaccine for quick distribution once it receives US emergency authorization – expected as early as December 10 – the Wall Street Journal and other media reported.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, both said to be safe and perhaps 95 percent effective, have introduced a glimmer of hope after months of gloomy news.

“This is the way we get out of the pandemic. The light is at the end of the tunnel,” Admiral Brett Giroir, the US official overseeing coronavirus testing, told CNN.

But like Fauci and the other scientists, he expressed grave concerns about the months immediately ahead.

“About 20 percent of all people in the hospital have COVID, so this is a really dangerous time,” Giroir said.

Europe struggles to reopen

Until large numbers of Americans have been vaccinated – Giroir said half the eligible population might be by March – much will still depend on people taking precautions, including mask-wearing and distancing, he and Fauci said.

Giroir said it might take until the second or third quarter of next year for most Americans to be vaccinated, but that substantial benefits would accrue much sooner.

 

By first vaccinating those at highest risk, he said, “we can absolutely get 80 percent of the benefit of the vaccine by only immunizing a few percent of the population.”

Adams, the US surgeon general also expressed cautious optimism, saying, “We are mere weeks away from starting to vaccinate the vulnerable, and we can significantly protect people who are at risk for this virus.

“So hang on just a little bit longer.”

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 1,453,074 people worldwide since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Sunday.

Europe on Saturday crossed a grim barrier, registering 400,649 deaths.

Germany, once a beacon of hope in Europe’s coronavirus nightmare, reached on Friday the mark of more than one million cases.

© Agence France-Presse

 



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That Bizarre Monolith in Utah Desert Has Now Mysteriously Disappeared

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Strangely come, strangely go. Only days after the world first became aware of it, a mysterious metal monolith in the remote desert of Utah’s Red Rock Country has now seemingly vanished from sight.

 

The object made headlines last week, after authorities with the Utah Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced the discovery of the strange, shiny pillar, standing around 3 metres (about 10 feet) tall. Its origins were completely unknown.

How long had it been there? Who put it there? Why? How? Were aliens involved? (Most likely not, but as with most of our questions about the mysterious monolith, nothing was ever very certain.)

010 monolith vanishes 1(DPS)

In any case, the object – noticed during an aerial count of bighorn sheep in the region – was located in a very remote part of Utah’s red sandstone wilds. Authorities did not disclose the precise location, urging the public not to try to find or visit it, for fear people might become stranded and require rescue.

There was also the matter of the monolith’s rights to loiter on public lands at all, mysteriously or not.

“Although we can’t comment on active investigations, the Bureau of Land Management would like to remind public land visitors that using, occupying, or developing the public lands or their resources without a required authorisation is illegal, no matter what planet you are from,” a statement explained.

 

While the authorities didn’t want people to try to locate or visit the monolith, people did. One individual, David Surber, trekked to the object, and posted photos and videos of it on Instagram.

“Awesome journey out to the monolith today,” Surber wrote. “Regardless of who built it or where it came from.”

Meanwhile, local residents and authorities were becoming concerned that visitors, intrigued by media attention, might damage Native American artefacts and archaeological sites trying to find the controversial installation.

“While the monolith has better craftsmanship than graffiti, this is still vandalism,” the Utah Department of Heritage & Arts tweeted.

“It irreversibly altered the natural environment on public lands. While the monolith is interesting, we cannot condone vandalism of any type.”

All of this played out in a matter of mere days, but the latest developments on the monolith might provide an ending of sorts to the object’s strange tale.

“We have received credible reports that the illegally installed structure, referred to as the ‘monolith’ has been removed from Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public lands by an unknown party,” the BLM explained in a statement issued on the weekend.

 

While it’s not known who took the monolith or why, the BLM clarified that it did not remove the structure, which it considers to be private property – albeit private property parked on public land and cut directly into the desert bedrock, no less.

“IT’S GONE!” the DPS corroborated (in an Instagram post no longer available). “Almost as quickly as it appeared it has now disappeared.”

In its place, all that remains is the empty space where the monolith once stood, now marked by some rocks. Although now it’s the disappearance, not the appearance, that has people guessing again whether aliens were involved.

 





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