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Daily briefing: Athletes’ guts host a performance-enhancing microbe

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Three mothers recently cured of Ebola waiting for a medical check at an treatment centre, Beni, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Three women who have recently been cured of Ebola wait with their children for medical checks at a treatment centre in Beni.Credit: John Wessels for Nature

He survived Ebola. Now he fights it.

Physician Maurice Kakule Kutsunga caught Ebola and lived. Of the more than 2,200 people in the ongoing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kutsunga is one of just 620 or so to survive. Now he works, alongside other survivors, to dispel misinformation that health facilities are “just another thing brought from the outside to kill” in a region scarred by years of conflict. The survivors also care for the sick, especially the youngest patients, who must be separated from their loved ones at a painful and terrifying time. “Now, most of the patients, especially the children, have a survivor caregiver,” says physician Marta Lado.

Nature | 5 min read

Iranian biologists face trial in a US court

Prominent Iranian stem-cell researcher Masoud Soleimani and two of his former students are facing trial in the United States over charges that they violated trade sanctions by attempting to bring eight vials of growth factors to Iran. The case has raised eyebrows among legal experts, who are questioning why the government did not simply fine the researchers for inadvertently violating export rules. “They may see this as an easy case,” says national-security lawyer Clif Burns. “Typically, if you say ‘Iran’ enough in front of a jury, you'll get the verdict that you want.”

Nature | 5 min read

Chinese agriculture minister to head UN food agency

Qu Dongyu — a biologist, farmer’s son and China’s vice-minister of agriculture and rural affairs — will be the next head of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Qu has said that his priorities will include improving agriculture in tropical countries — where poverty and hunger are rampant — and helping arid countries to address the agricultural challenges that come with drought and water shortages.

Nature | 2 min read

Athletes’ guts host a performance-enhancing microbe

The guts of elite marathon runners contain a particular bacterium that eats lactate and makes mice run longer. Lactate is the by-product of strenuous exercise — it’s what makes you ‘feel the burn’. The bacterium, Veillonella atypica, metabolizes lactate into propionate, which seems to have exercise- and recovery-enhancing effects. When V. atypica from one of the runners was put into mice guts, the mouse-marathoners ran on a treadmill for 13% longer than a control group.

STAT | 5 min read

Reference: Nature Medicine paper

FEATURES & OPINION

Perovskite: hope or hype?

Companies say they are close to commercializing cheap perovskite films that could lower the cost of solar power compared to today’s silicon panels. But durability and the presence of toxic lead are concerns — and conventional solar panels have been getting ever cheaper and more efficient.

Nature | 12 min read

Think globally, act locally on air pollution

Soot from cooking stoves in Asia, agricultural emissions in Europe, desert dust in the Middle East: the leading causes of deadly air pollution can vary widely, with wildly different impacts on health. To protect millions more lives, scientists need to help governments determine the most hazardous constituents of air pollution in their countries and mitigate those first, argue environmental engineer Xiangdong Li and colleagues.

Nature | 7 min read

Down into the hidden place

“The tomb is intended to outlast not only the people who designed it, but also the species that designed it,” writes Robert Macfarlane on a visit to a site soon to entomb spent nuclear fuel in Finland. “Maybe this is among the best things we can try to do, I think: to be good ancestors.”

Pacific Standard | 20 min read

This article is an excerpt from Robert Macfarlane's new book Underlandread the Nature review (from May).

QUOTE OF THE DAY

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-019-02003-x

Do you agree with statistician Darren Dahly’s advice to never, ever let people borrow your books.? I fancy mental health researcher Zachary Cohen’s solution: take an embarrassing picture of the borrower with the book as a reminder (and ransom). Tell me your techniques for holding on to your most precious tools — and share any other feedback on this newsletter — at briefing@nature.com.

Thanks for reading!

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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