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Daily briefing: Malaria vaccine made of live parasites shows early success

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GIF from a video showing a 3D model of a probable Silesaurus coprolite with Triamyxa beetles.

3D model of a likely Silesaurus coprolite with Triamyxa beetles.Qvarnström et al.

Ancient beetle species found in fossil faeces

The only known members of an extinct family of beetles have been found in the fossilized faeces of a Triassic reptile. Several Triamyxa coprolithica were spotted in the coprolite, some still sporting their delicate legs and antennae. Researchers used synchrotron microtomography to construct a 3D image of the interior of dung presumed to have been excreted by Silesaurus opolensis, an ancestor of the dinosaurs.

Science | 5 min read

Reference: Current Biology paper

Promising live-parasite malaria vaccine

An experimental vaccine containing live malaria parasites protected nearly all recipients from infection in a small clinical trial. People were given a shot containing Plasmodium falciparum parasites, along with drugs to kill any parasites that reached the liver or bloodstream, where they can cause malaria symptoms. Participants were then intentionally infected with malaria three months later to test the vaccine’s efficacy. Producing this type of vaccine on the scale needed to combat malaria would present a challenge: the parasites would have to be harvested from mosquito salivary glands and then stored at extremely low temperatures.

Nature | 5 min read

Reference: Nature paper

COVID-19 coronavirus update

Mix-and-match COVID vaccines: the facts

Evidence is building that one dose of the Oxford–AstraZeneca jab and one dose of the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine trigger an immune response similar to — or even stronger than — two doses of either vaccine. Mixing the two types of vaccine — one based on an adenovirus, the other on messenger RNA — could provide best-of-both-worlds protection: a strong T-cell response and high levels of antibodies. Mixing could also keep roll-outs on track when there are supply issues. Scientists emphasize that there is still more to learn about the real-world efficacy and safety of this mix-and-match approach.

Nature | 8 min read

Reference: SSRN preprint, medRxiv preprint 1 & medRxiv preprint 2

Long-sought marker for vaccine success

For the first time, researchers have identified a ‘correlate of protection’ for a COVID-19 vaccine. The team found that people who got the Oxford–AstraZeneca vaccine and did not develop a symptomatic infection had higher levels of virus-blocking ‘neutralizing’ antibodies than did vaccinated people who got COVID-19. “The power of a correlate in vaccines is profound,” says vaccine researcher Dan Barouch. “If there’s a reliable correlate, then it can be used in clinical trials to make decisions as to what vaccines are likely to work, what form of vaccines are likely to work, or how durable the vaccines are going to be.”

Nature | 6 min read

Reference: medRxiv preprint

Notable quotable

“Someone aged 80 who is fully vaccinated essentially takes on the risk of an unvaccinated person of around 50 — much lower, but still not nothing.”

Statisticians David Spiegelhalter and Anthony Masters explain why the majority of people dying in England with the now-dominant Delta (B.1.617.2) variant have been vaccinated. (The Guardian | 3 min read)

Features & opinion

Flood research must help those most at risk

Decades of research have shown that the greatest burdens of flooding fall on the most vulnerable — both in low-income nations and in poor parts of wealthy countries. Communities with higher incomes often receive more aid after disasters, note environmental social scientist Miyuki Hino and environmental-planning researcher Earthea Nance, yet those living in poverty generally lose most when the floods come. They call for better data and metrics at the intersection of flood risk and social justice.

Nature | 9 min read

Futures: Check your pockets

Ever left something important in your pocket before it went in the wash? A magician’s forgetfulness morphs into a dangerous (and funny) mistake in the latest short story for Nature’s Futures series.

Nature | 4 min read

Podcast: The crop scientist who fed billions

Yuan Longping, the ‘father of hybrid rice’, died on 22 May, aged 90. He led the development of the higher-yielding crop against the backdrop of a turbulent century. In 1999, it was estimated that the production increases brought about by hybrid rice fed an additional 100 million people in China each year. Historian Shellen Wu tells the Nature Podcast about Yuan’s life and the impact of his research.

Nature Podcast | 26 min listen

Subscribe to the Nature Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify.

Infographic of the week

Over 100 fire scientists, along with fire officials across the Pacific Northwest, are urging people to skip the fireworks on Canada Day today and US Independence Day on Sunday, because of an unprecedented heatwave. (The Conversation | 4 min read)The Conversation/CC-BY-ND, Source: Mietkiewicz et al, 2020

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-021-01850-x

We’re taking a day off tomorrow, so there won’t be a Briefing on Friday. We’ll be back in your inbox on Monday 5 July. Leif Penguinson (and chief penguin-wrangler Tom Houghton) are also taking some well-deserved time off, so Leif will be back next Friday.

In the meantime, why not enter for a chance to win a Women in Science jigsaw puzzle from author–illustrator Rachel Ignotofsky, based on her book? New and current Briefing readers are welcome to enter.

My prize is the e-mails I receive from readers. Please let us know what you think about this newsletter at briefing@nature.com.

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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