Hello Nature readers, would you like to get this Briefing in your inbox free every day? Sign up here
As monkeypox cases rise globally, researchers are learning more about how the disease spreads — with studies suggesting that repeated skin-to-skin contact is the main method of transmission. Since early May, monkeypox has spread to more than 90 countries and led to more than 32,000 infections, mostly in men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners. Although some researchers have suggested that the virus could spread through respiratory droplets or airborne particles, one study reported that skin-lesion samples collected at the time of diagnosis contain much more viral DNA than do those from the throat. The lesions seem to be comparatively “teeming with virus”, says infectious-disease physician Boghuma Titanji.
A new animal virus that can infect people has been identified in eastern China. But scientists are not overly concerned because the virus doesn’t seem to spread easily between people and is not fatal. The virus, named Langya henipavirus (LayV), can cause respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough and fatigue, and is closely related to two other henipaviruses that infect people: Hendra virus and Nipah virus. Researchers think LayV is carried by shrews — which might have been passing the virus to people, directly or through an intermediate animal, sporadically since 2018.
Reference: The New England Journal of Medicine paper
It’s not just in your head: a desire to curl up on the couch after a day spent toiling at the computer could be a physiological response to mentally demanding work, according to a study that links mental fatigue to changes in brain metabolism. The study found that participants who spent more than six hours working on a tedious and mentally taxing assignment had higher levels of glutamate — an important signalling molecule in the brain. Too much glutamate can disrupt brain function, and a rest period could allow the brain to restore proper regulation of the molecule, the authors note.
Reference: Current Biology paper
Features & opinion
A growing number of bystander-intervention training programmes at research and academic institutions aim to empower individuals to intervene when they witness cases of bias or harassment. Research suggests that such programmes can improve the likelihood that bystanders will intervene, particularly when the training includes role play that helps people to develop confidence to act. “It’s important for all of us to think about what sort of place we want our workplace to be,” says psychologist Leslie Ashburn-Nardo. “If people keep their heads down, that’s just a missed opportunity for changing and shaping the workplace.”
Crustaceans have evolved from a non-crab-like form into a crab-like form at least five times — an evolutionary process known as carcinization. It’s not clear why the flat and wide body structure is so popular, but researchers are trying to solve this mystery. Could the body plan enable sideways walking, help animals to evade predators by allowing them to squeeze into narrow cracks, or simply be a byproduct of natural-selection processes that favour small and hidden abdomens? “It’s a complicated story,” says evolutionary biologist Joanna Wolfe. “But that’s okay, because that’s evolution.”
In June, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ruling that the constitution does not confer the right to an abortion. Now, 13 states have greatly restricted access to the procedure, and about a dozen more are expected to follow suit. Health researchers are scrambling to predict the effects of such changes. Most expect that abortions will continue to happen, but will be harder to obtain legally — sometimes requiring extensive travel — and could become less safe. Here, Nature's news team presents seven charts that show the potential impact of abortion restrictions on pregnant people.