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A woman in the United States has become the third person to be cured of HIV. She was treated with a new method: a transplant with umbilical-cord blood. The woman stopped antiretroviral therapy 37 months after the transplant and, more than 14 months later, still shows no signs of HIV in blood tests. Two other people have been cleared of HIV after a cancer-treating bone-marrow transplant. Transplanting cord blood, instead of bone marrow, allowed researchers to use a partially matched donor for the woman, who is mixed race, while giving her immune system a boost with blood from a close relative. This fresh approach could offer the promise of treatment to more HIV-positive people, regardless of their race or ethnicity.
A surge in Omicron cases is overwhelming the health system in Hong Kong, where officials continue to pursue a zero-COVID strategy. Hong Kong has some of the world’s tightest COVID-19 restrictions. Officials have announced that they have secured thousands of apartments and hotel rooms to isolate new cases in an attempt to curtail the spread of Omicron. Some public-health researchers say that getting people to isolate at home could be a more sustainable policy.
Zebrafish (Danio rerio) that have been genetically engineered to glow red and green have escaped fish farms in Brazil and invaded creeks in the Atlantic Forest, according to an ecological survey of the area. The neon fish, trademarked as Glofish, were the first transgenic species to be sold commercially in the 2000s, and became popular pets. They are now a rare example of transgenic animals accidentally escaping and thriving in nature. Researchers say the fish population could expand enough to threaten the local biodiversity, for example by competing with native species for the same food or preying on them. Others aren’t too worried, because the bright colour of the fish could make them a target for predators.
Features & opinion
Decades after the polio vaccine almost wiped out the disease, a proportion of survivors relapsed with post-polio syndrome. Influenza epidemics have left a long tail of neurological disabilities. Looking at the history of pandemics, science historian Laura Spinney questions how COVID-19 might force society to grasp that the body can be altered for a long period — even permanently — by infectious disease and to make the necessary accommodations.
“I remember exactly where I was,” says Barbara Campbell of the moment her retinal implant, which gave her some vision after a genetic condition called retinitis pigmentosa made her completely blind in her 30s, stopped working. She was on the New York City subway, “and all of a sudden I heard a little ‘beep, beep, beep’ sound”. The device shut down without warning when the company that made it, Second Sight Medical Products, went under. More than 350 people who use the device face an uncertain future in which it's unclear whether their implant can be repaired or maintained.
News & views
Researchers who study multiple sclerosis (MS) are split into two main camps: most see autoimmunity as the driving factor for the illness, but a minority invoke viral culprits. Last month, a study of a large group of people followed over many years found that infection with the Epstein-Barr virus increased the likelihood of developing MS by more than 32-fold. But this associative connection lacked a causal, disease-triggering link. Now, evidence might settle the debate through a compromise solution, writes neurobiologist Hartmut Wekerle. Antibodies that attack the Epstein–Barr virus also recognize GlialCAM, a protein that is in glial cells in the brain.
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Infographic of the week
Separating urine from other sewage could reduce pollution, save water, produce better fertilizers and lessen the strain on sewer systems. But there are big obstacles to radically re-engineering one of the most basic aspects of life. (Nature | 13 min read)