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There is truly no end to the variety of creatures that inhabit our world. Some are so strange they defy logic. One, however, the pangolin–an endangerd, armored mammal native to various parts of Asia–may hold the key to ending our battle with coronavirus.

Apparently there is new research that is stating COVID-19, may be a recombination of bat and pangolin coronaviruses.

Thus, the creature may be able to tell us how the virus was transmitted, but may even hold a clue to eliminating it altogether.

via Hindustan Times

pangolin coronavirus

Pangolin

A new study has suggested that the Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, might have originated from a recombination of coronaviruses in a bat and pangolin. The findings strengthen the theory that pangolins could be the intermediate host for transmission of Sars-CoV-2 to humans.

The paper, published in the journal Nature by researchers from College of Veterinary Medicine, South China Agricultural University, also flags that pangolins, being the most trafficked mammal in the world, could be a future threat to public health if wildlife trade is not controlled because they harbour Sars-CoV-2-like viruses.

A coronavirus isolated from Malayan pangolins by a team of Chinese scientists showed 100%, 98.6%, 97.8% and 90.7% amino acid identity with Sars-CoV-2 in 4 genes.

The Malayan pangolin coronavirus was found to be particularly identical to Sars-CoV-2 in its receptor binding domain of the spike protein (which SARS-CoV-2 uses to bind to its host’s cells).

Genome sequencing found that the pangolin-CoV was very similar to both SARS-CoV-2 and Bat Sars-CoV RaTG13 (from which SARS-CoV-2 is suspected to have originated) but the only difference was the spike or S gene.

Further analysis of S gene sequences has suggested recombination events on May 8.

For this study, the team used lung tissues from four Chinese pangolins and 25 Malayan pangolins in a wildlife rescue center during March-August 2019. RNA from 17 of the 25 Malayan pangolins were found to be positive for Sars-CoV-2 like viruses and they gradually showed signs of respiratory disease, including shortness of breath, emaciation, inactivity, and crying.

Out of 17, 14 pangolins later died.

Generally, a natural reservoir host does not show severe disease, while an intermediate host may have clinical signs of infection, the authors said.

Pangolins and bats are both nocturnal animals, eat insects, and share overlapping ecological niches which make pangolins the ideal intermediate host for some Sars-related coronaviruses.

The paper recommended more systematic and long-term monitoring of coronaviruses in pangolins and a complete ban on illegal pangolin trade, international cooperation and strict regulation against consumption of game meat and wildlife trade.

“Of particular interest here is that the entire genome of the pangolin coronavirus is not similar to the Sars-CoV-2 but they’re almost identical in the receptor-binding area (which the virus uses to bind to its host’s cells). Interestingly, the genome of Sars-CoV-2 is 96% similar to the bat coronavirus RaTG13 (found in the intermediate horseshoe bat) but differs in the receptor-binding site (which means that the RaTG13 cannot directly infect human lungs because its receptor cannot bind to human lung cells). Put these two pieces of information together and you arrive at the hypothesis that has the most amount of support so far,” said Rohit Chakravarty, wildlife biologist and PhD student at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, Germany who read the paper.

“Which is, a bat coronavirus jumped from a bat to a Malayan pangolin (either in the wild or in captivity), the virus recombined in the pangolin and incorporated the pangolin coronavirus’s receptor-binding region, and then it evolved into Sars-CoV-2 that causes Covid-19 in humans,” he added.

Pangolins are trafficked because it is believed that their scales and blood have medicinal properties, and their flesh is considered a delicacy in some parts of southeast Asia.

“As many reports have shown, pangolins are now the most trafficked wild animal species in the world. As with all wildlife trade, the answer to how it can be controlled is quite complicated, because the flow chain goes through several layers of society. Ultimately, we are all culpable because the scale of operations is directly correlated to wealth in consumer countries. It is very easy to say that the eating habits of the Chinese are responsible for all the current problems we face. However, it is much harder for us to acknowledge, that actually the consumerist lifestyles of all developed and developing economies is actually the engine that’s driving this thriving trade,” said Abi Tamim Vanak, Fellow, Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance Program and senior fellow at Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment.

As aforementioned pangolins are consumed in various parts of Asia, but so are bats. We hope whatever research is being done concerning these animals’ ties to COVID-19 can assist in eliminating it from the world. On a less serious note, pangolins look a lot like the Pokemon, Sandshrew and Sandslash!

Current Events

Infamous Teacher, Mary Kay Letourneau, Dead at 58 from Colon Cancer

Mary Kay Letorneau, a former teacher, known for sexually abusing her student, Vili Fualaau, and later marrying him has now passed at the age of 58. 

Mary Kay, who raped then twelve year old Vili, has died from Stage 4 colon cancer. Her now estranged husband, Vili, revealed she had been quietly battling the disease for months, losing weight, and weakening. She finally succumbed Monday. 

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mary kay letourneau dead and husband vili fualaau

Mary Kay Letorneau, a former teacher, known for sexually abusing her student, Vili Fualaau, and later marrying him has now passed at the age of 58.

Mary Kay, who raped then twelve year old Vili, has died from Stage 4 colon cancer. Her now estranged husband, Vili, revealed she had been quietly battling the disease for months, losing weight, and weakening. She finally succumbed Monday.

Her family released and official statement Tuesday night, “Mary fought tirelessly against this terrible disease,” the Letourneau and Fualaau families said in a statement provided to writer Danielle Bacher. “Mary, and all of us, found great strength in having our immediate and extended family members together to join her in this arduous struggle. We did our very best to care for Mary and one another as we kept her close and stayed close together,” the statement continued.

mary kay letourneau dead and husband vili fualaau

Mary Kay Letourneau and her estranged husband, Vili Fualaau, with their daughters, Georgia & Audrey

As aforementioned Mary began her affair with Vili when he was just twelve years old and was sentenced to serve seven years for child rape before becoming pregnant by him twice before he was fifteen, despite efforts to keep them apart. By the time Vili became an adult he petitioned the court to allow them to see each other. A restraining order against Mary was later dropped, but she remained a registered sex offender in Washington state.

Vili and Mary married in 2005, but separated in 2017, still living together and raising their daughters, Georgia and Audrey. Late last year they finally began living separately.

What Mary did was terrible, but we will be praying for her family and all of her children. Her story and legacy still serve as reminder that women too can be sexual predators.

What are your thoughts on Mary Kay Letorneau? Sound off in the comments’ section below!

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Current Events

Back To School! Morehouse College & CAU Reveal Fall Reopening Plans

The Atlanta University Centeris preparing–at least partially–to reopen this fall when it comes to HBCUs, Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University. The two institutions revealed their plans to reopen this Fall with a few accommodations and practices in place to ward off the spread of COVID-19 on their campuses.

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clark atlanta university and morehouse college reopening fall 2020 coronavirus precautions

The Atlanta University Center is preparing–at least partially–to reopen this fall when it comes to HBCUs, Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Clark Atlanta University. The three institutions revealed their plans to reopen this Fall with a few accommodations and practices in place to ward off the spread of COVID-19 on their campuses.

Clark Atlanta University (CAU), Spelman College, and Morehouse College revealed their respective upcoming semesters have been largely changed and adapted to ensure new and returning students, staff and the surrounding neighborhoods and communities are safe during the ongoing pandemic. In addition, these changes will included mandatory COVID-19 tests, temperature tracking and wearing masks.

clark atlanta university and morehouse college reopening fall 2020 coronavirus precautions

Clark Atlanta University

Below are the plans for the schools:

Clark Atlanta University:

  • Students and staff will have to be tested for COVID-19 prior to returning to campus
  • Face coverings will be mandatory while on campus
  • Daily temperature checks upon arrival to campus for all administrators, faculty and staff
  • Freshmen and sophomores will attend classes on campus in classrooms that have been reconfigured based on recommended guidelines by the CDC.
  • Juniors, seniors, and graduate students will remain home and take all of their courses online. Juniors and seniors who will live in residential halls as ambassadors/mentors will also take their courses online
  • Classes will occur on a Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday schedule. No classes will be held on Wednesdays to allow for the sanitizing and deep cleaning of offices, classrooms, residential halls, dining facilities, and labs
  • There will be an abbreviated academic calendar that will shorten the fall and spring semesters to ensure that students can travel home to spend time with their families and avoid having to return to school after Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks
  • All classrooms and residential halls have been sanitized, and the university has increased the cleaning staff to ensure that classrooms and residential buildings are regularly cleaned.

Morehouse College

  • Classes will be held in a hybrid setting, with some classes gathering for in-person instruction and virtual teaching and learning, and others meeting online only
  • The academic calendar has been modified to help make sure that students will return home before winter flu season. The Fall 2020 Semester will end before Thanksgiving. There will be no fall break. Final exams will be held between Nov. 16-20
  • Move-in for freshman and transfer students will be held from Aug. 16-17. Move-in for upperclassmen will be held on Aug. 18
  • Each student in a traditional residential house and Otis Moss Suites East will have their own room
  • Additional hand-sanitizing stations have been added in high traffic areas

Dr. David A. Thomas, president of Morehouse College, also released a letter reiterating the aforementioned guidelines and adaptions for the upcoming school year, and reassuring returning students, new students, faculty, and staff of the insitutions commitment to safety. “Morehouse is known for its strength as a community. Since 1867, we have been educating men who are dedicated to academic excellence, leadership, and service. That historic legacy will not be disrupted now. We are committed to maintaining the quality and continuity of our academic program regardless of whether our students are on campus or learning remotely. We will continue to monitor the very fluid path of the COVID-19 pandemic and make adjustments to our safety and academic plans as needed. It is imperative that every member of the Morehouse Community adhere to the guidelines that we have established. With your collaboration and pride in the community, the 2020-21 academic year will be a success for our new and returning students.”

Spelman College

At Spelman a low-density hybrid model, including both in-person and online instruction will be adopted for how classes will be conducted for the foreseeable future. The college will also be reopening in four phases, each taking place during various times of the academic year.

Phase 1

  • onboarding COVID-19 awareness and precaution training modules
  • increasing cleaning and sanitizing regimen
  • ordering personal protection equipment (PPE)
  • setting up COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and symptom monitoring
  • creating signage about face covering, physical distancing and hand washing
  • determining measures for isolation, quarantine and resurgence; size limitations of on-campus classes and meetings; and guest visitation protocol.

Phase 2

The second phase of the reopening will begin on August 1, 2020, prior to the start the fall semester on Aug. 19, 2020. During this phase, Spelman’s on-campus presence will include first-year students, who make up between 25-30 percent of the student body. ROTC students will also be given on-campus housing preference due to the requirement that they engage in early daily military practices in Atlanta.

Spelman’s aforementioned low-density hybrid model allows students and staff to have ongoing access to online course materials, while allowing some students, and faculty and staff members to return to campus in the fall.

Phases 3 and 4

Phase three is set to begin on February 1, 2021. Here, students living on campus will include freshmen students and graduating seniors.

The College plans to begin its final phase of reopening during Fall 2021. However, getting to this final part will  depend on COVID-19 being contained or a vaccine readily available, according to Sharon Davies, the vice president for academic affairs, “Last spring taught us that no matter how well we plan, the realities of this pandemic may require us act swiftly to change course,” she said. “This means that any plan to reopen must be able to flex and pivot as evolving conditions demand. We will watch these health conditions carefully and respond accordingly.”

We are glad to see these colleges are taking this seriously. It really shows just how committed they are to the safety of everyone on campus and the surrounding areas. For more information on the AUC’s reopenings check out their respective websites.

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Current Events

Something’s Up! 8 Minnesota Correction Officers of Color Blocked from Guarding George Floyd’s Killer

The fact that there is more protection for police who commit brutality than their actual victims is still astounding.

The latest bout of this is unsurprisingly coming out of Minnesota where eight guards of color have filed multiple discrimination complaints with the Minnesota’s Department of Human Rights after they have been reportedly blocked from guarding or coming into contact with Derek Chauvin–George Floyd’s killer.

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derek chauvin george floyd

The fact that there is more protection for police who commit brutality than their actual victims is still astounding.

The latest bout of this is unsurprisingly coming out of Minnesota where eight guards of color have filed multiple discrimination complaints with the Minnesota’s Department of Human Rights after they have been reportedly blocked from guarding or coming into contact with Derek Chauvin–George Floyd’s killer.

via Complex:

derek chauvin george floyd

“I understood that the decision to segregate us had been made because we could not be trusted to carry out our work responsibilities professionally around the high-profile inmate—solely because of the color of our skin,” a Black acting sergeant wrote in the racial discrimination charges. “I am not aware of a similar situation where white officers were segregated from an inmate.”

Bonnie Smith, the attorney representing the eight officers, said that the moment negatively impacted their attitudes. “I think they deserve to have employment decisions made based on performance and behavior,” she told the publication. “Their main goal is to make sure this never happens again.”

Jail Superintendent Steve Lydon tried to justify his decision to his superior, explaining that he was only warned of Chauvin’s arrival 10 minutes prior, which is when he chose “to protect and support” employees of color from Chauvin.

“Out of care and concern, and without the comfort of time, I made a decision to limit exposure to employees of color to a murder suspect who could potentially aggravate those feelings,” Lydon reportedly said in a statement given during an internal investigation. He was subsequently demoted.

Charges filed on Friday are anticipated to lead to a state inquiry and will be the second recent Department of Human Rights racism probe into a law enforcement agency. Earlier this month, the agency launched an investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department following Floyd’s death. The inquiry will look into MPD policies and procedures from the last 10 years, so it can ascertain if the department is involved in discriminatory practices.

Additionally, in one of the complaints, a officer alleged he saw a White officer allowing Chauvin to use his cell phone.

This is despicable. George Floyd deserves justice and nothing short of it. #BlackLivesMatter #StopKillingUs

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