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New Scientist Australian Edition 1-May-21

New Scientist covers the latest developments in science and technology that will impact your world. New Scientist employs and commissions the best writers in their fields from all over the world. Our editorial team provide cutting-edge news, award-winning features and reports, written in concise and clear language that puts discoveries and advances in the context of everyday life today and in the future.

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51 Issues

in this issue

2 min
elsewhere on new scientist

Virtual events The first stars We know precious little about the first billion years of the universe’s life. Back then, a generation of stars shone that were hundreds of times bigger and a million times brighter than the sun. In this talk, Emma Chapman explains how we are beginning to get to know these lonely giants. Join us on 22 July at 6pm BST or watch on demand. Tickets available now. newscientist.com/events Podcasts Weekly New Scientist Weekly was named podcast of the year at the Publisher Podcast Awards 2021. In the latest episode, to mark Earth Day, we assembled a special panel to discuss two tightly linked runaway crises that will make each other’s effects worse: biodiversity loss and climate change. Escape Pod This week, the team escape everyday life and explore things unseen: from how bats echolocate…

2 min
india’s crisis deepens

THE covid-19 situation in India is terrible and is likely to get worse. The country has set one new record after another for the most daily coronavirus cases reported in any country. Just as the world was hoping the worst of the pandemic was over, we are seeing its biggest outbreak. Why is this happening now? The short answer, as with so many key questions about the pandemic, is that no one knows for sure (see page 7). On paper, India’s outbreak isn’t that exceptional. It is reporting around 200 daily cases and two deaths per million people, which is similar to the current situations in the US, Germany and Canada. In January, the UK was reporting nearly 900 cases and 18 deaths per million people. However, while the official figures in every…

3 min
india at breaking point

“OXYGEN Express” trains are rerouting supplies across India to meet a severe shortage of medical-grade oxygen, as the country’s new coronavirus cases hit record peaks for six days in a row. At Dr Zakir Hussain Hospital in Maharashtra, 24 people with covid-19 died due to disruptions in oxygen supply on 21 April. Many such deaths continue to be reported across the country. “So many people, including my grandmother, died before my eyes,” says Vicky Jadhav, whose grandmother was at the hospital in Maharashtra. “I tried to revive her after borrowing an oxygen cylinder from a dead patient. But she did not live. I tried to do that for other patients too, but none of them survived. Many of those dead were young.” India reported 352,991 new coronavirus cases and 2812 deaths on 25…

6 min
children’s immunity at risk

THE coronavirus pandemic has left children vulnerable to other infections, in part due to reduced interactions as a result of lockdowns and social distancing. In Australia, which has largely been covid-free for the past six months, there has been a delayed surge in cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common, flu-like illness that causes a lung infection called bronchiolitis and often has the most serious effects in children under the age of 2. RSV infections typically peak in winter, but in 2020, the RSV season in Australia was curtailed by covid-19 stay-at-home orders and public health measures. In Western Australia, a recent analysis of hospital presentations shows that RSV cases dropped by 98 per cent during the winter months of 2020 compared with the same period in previous years, but began to…

1 min
asthma and allergies

It is too early to know for certain, but extended coronavirus lockdowns could have a long-term effect on the development of children’s immune systems, affecting allergic responses. The majority of the components of the immune system go through a process of maturation between birth and the age of 6. “Immune systems learn to regulate themselves during these early years,” says Byram Bridle at the University of Guelph in Canada. Regular exposure to the natural environment and a variety of microbes enables immune systems to learn to differentiate between things that are foreign but not dangerous and foreign things that are pathogenic. A failure to properly differentiate between the two may result in hypersensitivities including allergies and asthma. Bridle suspects that for “covid kids” – children who have spent a significant proportion of their life…

4 min
we’ll soon be able to tell whether you are immune to covid-19

WE ARE getting closer to answering one of the most important remaining questions in the pandemic: how can we quickly test whether somebody is immune to the virus? This elusive measurement of immunity is known as the correlate of protection: a simple, surrogate appraisal of the entire immune response that tells you whether somebody is protected against disease or infection. “So, for example, you measure the number of antibodies in blood and find that if you have a specific number you are protected,” says Christine Dahlke at the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany. That number is a correlate of protection, or CoP. We don’t yet have one for SARS-CoV-2, says Dahlke, but we urgently need one. “ A measure that shows if we are immune to covid-19 would help us deal…