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Daily briefing: COVID ‘super-immunity’ might wane over time

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A recovered Coronavirus patient performs a measurement of cardio-respiratory parameters at a rehabilitation centre

A man recovering from COVID-19 exercises at a rehabilitation centre in Genoa, Italy.Credit: Marco Di Lauro/Getty

‘Super-immunity’ might wane over time

Protection against the SARS-CoV-2 virus might decline over time, even in people who have both had an infection with the virus and been vaccinated against it — a combination that initially provides hyper-charged immunity. Research from Israel, which has not yet been peer reviewed, was conducted before the Omicron variant emerged. But it sharpens questions about how well COVID ‘super-immunity’ — also known as hybrid immunity — will fare against the latest iteration of the coronavirus.

Nature | 5 min read

Reference: medXriv preprint

What if Sci-Hub wins its court battle?

Sci-Hub is defending its operations in court for the first time — and the outcome could disrupt academic publishers’ business models. In a lawsuit presented in Delhi’s high court, the American Chemical Society, Elsevier and Wiley say the site infringes their copyright by hosting pirated research papers and books. Legal experts say there is a chance the court will rule in Sci-Hub’s favour, because of a key aspect of India’s copyright law that allows the reproduction of academic textbooks and other copyrighted material for use in education.

Nature | 6 min read

Home zookeepers reintroduce rare insects

A rewilding effort in the United Kingdom is training people to rear rare large marsh grasshoppers (Stethophyma grossum) so they can be released in the wild. Since the first release in Norfolk in 2019, several hundred hand-reared grasshoppers have kickstarted self-sustaining wild populations, says Lucas Ruzo, the chief executive of Citizen Zoo, which is running the scheme. The group hopes to someday reintroduce beavers to London, but in the meantime grasshoppers are better suited to being raised in people’s kitchens. “They’re fast breeders, they’re relatively easy to take care of, and they don’t have serious biosecurity needs,” says Ruzo.

Wired | 5 min read

Features & opinion

The loss of the world’s frozen places

Two new books add to the growing literature on the loss of the world’s frozen places: Porter Fox’s The Last Winter, which travels to the edge of the Northern Hemisphere's snow line and introduces the idiosyncratic scientists and explorers who study it, and Meltdown! by Jorge Daniel Taillant, who helped Argentina to adopt the world’s first law to protect glaciers and permafrost. But, in a crowded field, each succeeds only in part, writes reviewer and Nature reporter Alexandra Witze.

Nature | 6 min read

Borneo camera traps show life on high

The first systematic camera-trapping survey in the forest of Borneo captured 57 species in more than 8,000 photographs. These included the first reported photograph of a smoky flying squirrel (Pteromyscus pulverulentus). Researchers also snapped a northern gray gibbon (Hylobates funereus) prancing upright along a 36-metres-high tree branch, and a mother and baby orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) photographed moving through logged forest. Scientists positioned half their cameras on virgin forest and half on land that was logged before 2008, and found that logging had a lasting effect on the diversity of ground-level mammals.

Mongabay | 9 min read

Reference: Frontiers in Forests and Global Change paper

Where I work

Edmund Blades works at the Barbados Dust Observatory platform, checking exterior instruments on the top.

Edmund Blades is site manager at the University of Miami’s Barbados Atmospheric Chemistry Observatory at Ragged Point, and a microbiologist at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Bridgetown, Barbados.Credit: Micah B. Rubin for Nature

“Tourists come here to Ragged Point, at the easternmost part of Barbados, for the view,” says microbiologist Edmund Blades. “I climb the 17-metre tower of the University of Miami’s Barbados Atmospheric Chemistry Observatory and collect samples of ash, dust and microorganisms, some of which have come all the way across the Atlantic Ocean.” The observatory has been collecting dust data since 1966, and Blades climbed the tower nearly every day for ten years while earning his PhD. Blades showed that the dust was not causing asthma attacks in children — the culprit was local grass pollen and rainfall — but he did find living microbes that survived the transatlantic crossing. (Nature | 3 min read)

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-021-03765-z

Today, I’m enjoying the ‘which early hominid are you?’ quiz made by a student of palaeoanthropologist Marc Kissel. I got Homo erectus! It’s true, I do love campfires and underground tubers.

Finally, a correction: yesterday I told you the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave emergency authorization to molnupiravir, an oral antiviral drug developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. In fact, an FDA advisory panel recommended granting emergency authorization for the pill.

Thanks for reading,

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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