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You may have seen earlier this week that the WHO has recommended using letters of the Greek alphabet when referring to SARS-CoV-2 variants of interest or concern.

Variants have thus far been labeled with the numerical lineage – B.1.1.7, B.1.351, B.1.617.2 – or, more commonly, referred to by their country of detection.

The WHO believes the new naming convention will make it easier and more practical for non-scientific audiences to discuss emerging variants, but it will also serve a greater purpose; language is fundamental to fighting hate during this pandemic – and labeling emerging variants by countries creates stigma and provokes profiling.

And names certainly stick – take the “Spanish flu,” for example. The origins of the 1918 pandemic are unknown, but the earliest cases are thought to have emerged in the US...

Though geographical naming of SARS-CoV-2 variants among the public may not dissipate quickly, shifting towards a neutral – and less confusing – naming system should help reduce the stigmatization of countries with emerging variants.

Until next week,

Liv Gaskill, The Curator

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Essential Reading

My oh myocarditis. Six cases of myocarditis following BNT162b2 vaccination have been investigated – and researchers believe it may be an adverse reaction to immunization. Of the “Big Ten“ college athletes with recent SARS-CoV-2 infection, 2.3 percent have also displayed evidence of clinical or subclinical myocarditis

Five C’s. Researchers have proposed “Five C’s” for tackling COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy: confidence (importance, safety, and efficacy of vaccines); complacency (perception of low risk and low disease severity); convenience (access issues dependent on the context, time, and specific vaccine being offered); communications (sources of information); and context (sociodemographic characteristics).

Seeing (infra)red. A new rapid, portable screening test that uses infrared spectrometer technology to detect SARS-CoV-2 in saliva samples. The proof-of-concept test is inexpensive and leverages self-collection of samples to minimize exposure risk and improve suitability for mass screening efforts.

Repurpose, reuse, recycle. A range of anticancer drugs are being tested in clinical trials to investigate whether they can be repurposed – alone or in combination – for COVID-19 treatment. Similarities between cancer-induced inflammation, immune dysfunction, and coagulopathy in COVID-19 make them potentially viable options.

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Worth Your Time...


Time after time. Study of 1,579 symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 patients in Lombardy, Italy, detected only five SARS-CoV-2 reinfections, with natural immunity lasting at least one year [LINK]

That’s so metal. Newly discovered mechanism of SARS-CoV-2 uses changes in metal ion concentrations to hide from immune system each time it multiplies [LINK]

One in five. Testing sera of asymptomatic pregnant women and blood donors in Sweden reveals seropositivity and high antibody responses in 19 percent of participants between March 2020 and February 2021 [LINK]


Alarming AI. Recent deep learning systems that detect COVID-19 from chest radiographs rely on confounding factors over medical pathology; results appear accurate, but fail when implemented in new hospitals [LINK]

Patient prognosis. Elevated levels of cardiac troponin I found in sample of COVID-19 patients admitted to ICU, half of whom died; may be prognostic biomarker for ICU admission and mortality [LINK]

New dog, old tricks. Electronic nose that mimics canine olfaction achieves real-time detection of symptomatic and asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 by identifying volatile organic compounds emitted by infected body [LINK]

Nothing like nanoparticles. Review finds nanomaterial-based biosensors offer selective, sensitive, reliable, reproducible, and robust SARS-CoV-2 detection while maintaining cost effectiveness [LINK]


Say hello to Sinovac. WHO validates Sinovac’s vaccine for emergency use; vaccine prevents symptomatic disease in 51 percent of vaccinated individuals and severe COVID-19 and hospitalization in 100 percent [LINK]

Important interventions. Simulations show non-pharmaceutical interventions remain important in preventing infections and deaths; vaccine coverage more important than efficacy [LINK]

No to noses. EMA review finds insufficient evidence that inhaled corticosteroids can help treat COVID-19 [LINK]

Considering colchicine. COLCORONA study shows colchicine may have benefits in reducing death or hospital admission in PCR-confirmed COVID-19 [LINK]

DNA delivery. DNA vaccine containing spike gene delivered via electroporation demonstrates immunity against SARS-CoV-2 in hamsters [LINK]
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