Daily briefing: Evidence that cats (but not dogs) can be infected with the coronavirus

A small study shows that cats can be infected with the coronavirus — but no cats had symptoms and there is no direct evidence that cats can pass it to people. Plus, how to get your writing projects done and how the outbreak is affecting the world's biggest physics experiments.

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Nora Volkow sits on stones steps in front of a bunker-style door at the Trotsky Museum in Mexico City

Nora Volkow at her childhood home in Mexico City, now a museum to her great-grandfather, the Soviet revolutionary Leon Trotsky.Credit: Alejandra Rajal for Nature

The psychiatrist at the centre of the opioid crisis

Psychiatrist Nora Volkow is leading the world’s biggest funder of addiction research — the US National Institute on Drug Abuse — while the country is grappling with a devastating surge in drug use. Volkow’s obsession with the biological effects of excessive drug use — fuelled in part by her own family’s past — has not only shattered dogmas in neuroscience, but has helped to mitigate the stigma people with addiction face.

Nature | 14 min read

United States rolls back major emissions rule

US President Donald Trump’s administration has weakened automobile-emissions standards for cars and trucks. The policy will spare automakers from having to meet ambitious targets to reduce pollution harmful to the environment and public health. The rule might fall in the courts: the Trump administration is already locked in legal battles with California and other states that use California’s stricter emissions rules.

The Los Angeles Times | 6 min read

COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak

A woman with the Italian flag looks out of her balcony, Rome

A woman looks out of her balcony in locked-down Rome.Credit: Antonio Masiello/Getty

Quarantined Italians become citizen scientists

• For 3 nights last week, 6,000 people holed up in Italy went on their balconies to take part in an unprecedented citizen-science experiment to measure light pollution with smartphones. The effort was a rare opportunity to gather data on the ground — and to connect harried Italians with science unrelated to the outbreak. (Nature | Continuously updated)

• If governments play their cards right, 2019 could be a turning point for climate change: the year that global emissions peaked. A key factor will be whether governments are able to advance climate goals as they roll out economic-stimulus plans in response to the outbreak. Former US president Barack Obama managed to do it after the 2008 financial crisis, but evidence indicates the current administration is missing opportunities to bolster green growth. (Nature | 4 min read)

• From the United States to China, the COVID–19 pandemic is forcing some of the world’s largest projects to shut down or to delay construction. CERN’s Large Hadron Collider and the LIGO and Virgo gravitational-wave detectors are among them. For now, some experiments, including neutrino and dark-matter detectors, have been operating with a skeleton staff. (Nature | 6 min read)

• There is new evidence that cats can be infected with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and spread it to other felines, but dogs are not susceptible. Cat owners should not be alarmed just yet: there is no direct evidence that cats secreted enough virus to pass it to people. Researchers infected animals with high doses of the virus, which provided evidence for their susceptibility — but the study didn’t reproduce people’s real-world interactions with their pets. None of the infected cats showed symptoms of illness. (Nature | 4 min read)

• The coronavirus outbreak has made us all into science communicators — particularly those who are a “nerd node of trust”: the person friends and family turn to for expertise. Science communicator Liz Neely explains how science-minded people can share information effectively with humility and understanding. (The Atlantic | 6 min read)

Read the latest coronavirus news, continuously updated on Nature.

Features & opinion

We must explore the twilight zone now

In the oceans’ twilight zone, 200–1,000 metres deep, currents and ‘marine snow’ mix water from the abyss and the sunlit region above, and many organisms migrate up and down daily between layers. These poorly understood processes provide nutrient exchange and carbon sequestration. But the twilight zone is about to suffer a triple blow from carbon emissions, excessive fishing and increased sea-floor mining. Sixteen oceanographers call for scientists to seize the upcoming United Nations Decade of the Ocean, which starts next year, as an opportunity to focus on this crucial, neglected ecosystem.

Nature | 8 min read

How get that paper, thesis or grant written

When their schedules are crammed with laboratory work, teaching or administration, scientists often delay writing. Discover how productivity coaches, boot camps and online meet-ups teach researchers to avoid distractions and negative thoughts to get their writing projects done.

Nature | 8 min read

CF got its ‘miracle drug’ — what happens next

Last October, a treatment that promised to transform the lives of 90% of people with cystic fibrosis was approved in the United States. The three-part drug, Trikafta, has been spectacularly effective for some people, but it’s expensive, only available in the United States and is not suitable for everyone. With the promise of more precision-medicine successes on the horizon, Trikafta offers a case study of what happens after a long-awaited drug becomes a reality.

Elemental | 18 min read

Quote of the day

“By focusing on the people and the pretty photos, we ignore the behind-the-scenes issues surrounding animal welfare violations, and sometimes, outright cruelty.”

Popular Netflix documentary Tiger King is being embraced as an escapist guilty pleasure — but it shows the sinister reality of the US wildlife trade, says conservation biologist Imogene Cancellare. (NBC News | 7 min read)

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Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

With contributions by Davide Castelvecchi

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