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Daily briefing: Fecal transplant linked to patient’s death

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Aerial view of the Neolithic crannog at Loch Bhorgastail, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides.

Prehistoric farmers toiling in about 3500 BC erected an island roughly the size of a basketball court, as well as a causeway, in Scotland’s Loch Bhorgastail.Credit: J. Benjamin/Flinders Univ.

Farmers built this island over 5,000 years ago

Prehistoric farmers toiling in about 3500 BC erected an island roughly the size of a basketball court, together with a causeway, both pictured above, in Scotland’s Loch Bhorgastail. Lakes and inlets in Scotland and Ireland are dotted with hundreds of these purpose-built islets, called crannogs, which scientists had long thought were erected after 800 BC. Now artefacts found at four crannogs in the Outer Hebrides show they are much older.

Nature Research Highlights | 4 min read

Reference: Antiquity paper

Get more of Nature’s Research Highlights: short picks from the latest papers.

China announces hefty fines for unauthorized collection of DNA

A new law will restrict the collection and use of genetic resources from people in China — including biological samples that yield DNA, such as blood, as well as the data gleaned from sequencing them. The law formalizes restrictions put in place in 1998 after an international pharmaceutical company controversially collected blood from thousands of Chinese people for genetic research. Will the new law present an obstacle to international research? That all depends on how it is enforced, say experts.

Nature | 3 min read

NIH needs big changes to fight harassment

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) should make sweeping changes to the ways it funds research as part of its efforts to reduce sexual harassment in science, says an advisory group. Many of the NIH working group’s recommendations seek to address the power differential between senior scientists and more junior researchers, including graduate students. Agency director Francis Collins said he welcomed the boldness of the recommendations, although some are already proving controversial.

Nature | 4 min read

Faecal transplant linked to patient’s death

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that two people have contracted severe infections — one of them fatal — from faecal transplants that contained drug-resistant bacteria. The two cases involved faecal matter from the same donor, as well as patients with compromised immune systems. The FDA will halt several clinical trials until the researchers leading them confirm that they have screening measures in place.

The New York Times | 3 min read

FEATURES & OPINION

WHO health handbook shouldn’t flirt with TCM

The latest edition of the World Health Organization’s diagnostic handbook, the International Classification of Diseases, is the first to include a chapter on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Traditional medicine should certainly not be dismissed — sometimes it is all that’s available, and many life-saving therapies have come from natural products, argues a Nature editorial. Even so, the article says, the WHO chapter risks legitimizing an unscientific approach and is unlikely to do anything other than fuel the expanding sales of largely unproven treatments.

Nature | 4 min read

How to clear the fog around aerosols

Greenhouse gases are the main culprits in the rapid warming of our planet, but particles in the air also play a part. Soot, dust, sulfate and other aerosols can both cool the atmosphere and warm it, and they remain one of the greatest sources of uncertainty in climate change predictions. Atmospheric scientist Joyce Penner calls for a coordinated campaign of observations and modelling. Penner also spoke to the Nature Podcast about the challenges of understanding aerosols’ effects.

Nature | 6 min read

Nature Podcast | 24 min listen

Subscribe to the Nature Podcast on iTunes or Google Podcasts.

BOOKS & ARTS

An ode to carbon

“Once we accept that the carbon cycle involves rocks as well as water, air and living things, we vastly extend its time dimension,” writes geoscience writer Ted Nield in his review of a new book by Robert Hazen. Hazen heads the Deep Carbon Observatory, a ten-year global, multidisciplinary research project into all aspects of Earth’s carbon budget, and his book is a timely deep dive into the many aspects of the sixth element.

Nature | 5 min read

INFOGRAPHIC OF THE WEEK

Profile photographs of Microcebus rufus mouse lemurs from Ranomafana rainforest in Madagascar

These mouse lemur mugshots help scientists to track some physical traits, but also reflect the animals’ unique personalities.Credit: Jozeph L Pendleton, Caitlin Karanewsky & Mark Krasnow

SCIENTIFIC LIFE

India aims to break science’s language barrier

Science communicators across India are focused on a labour of love: sharing discoveries with the 88% of the country’s 1.3 billion citizens who don’t speak or write in English. They are producing articles, podcasts and talks in some of the nation’s 21 other official languages, including Hindi, Marathi, Kannada and Tamil. One challenge: devising a lexicon of scientific terms that maintains the cadences and sentence structure specific to each language.

Nature | 6 min read

Take our survey

A PhD programme can be daunting and difficult, yet also rewarding and intellectually stimulating. Nature wants to hear about your experiences — the good, the bad and the ugly. Take part in our biennial PhD-student survey to help shape our coverage of the obstacles and opportunities that face today’s PhD students worldwide — and be entered into a prize draw to win £250. Click here to take the survey.

“Share your struggles: you’re not alone”

“Take care of yourself first and foremost,” says psychologist Mariam Aly, who shares her own experience with mental health challenges during graduate school. “The irony is not lost on me,” she writes: “Despite studying psychology and being very aware of what maladaptive thought patterns and habits can do to people, I let maladaptive thought patterns and habits nearly kill me.”

Stories in Science | 7 min read

IMAGE OF THE WEEK

A rescued and rehabilitated spotted seal is released into the sea in Dalian, China

Credit: Xinhua/eyevine

A spotted seal is returned to the sea off the coast of Dalian in China’s Liaoning Province in the country’s northeast. In February, authorities discovered that 100 of the protected animals had been abducted by poachers. This lucky seal was among the 61 survivors that were nursed back to health before being released into their natural habitat.

See more of our picture editors’ picks for best science photos of the month.

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-019-01898-w

In Nature this week, public-health researcher Abdullah Shihipar recommends sending thank-you notes to helpful colleagues. I hope you’ll accept this little note of thanks for reading the Briefing and I’d be delighted to hear back from you — whether your feedback is positive or critical — at briefing@nature.com.

Thanks for reading!

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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