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What We're Reading

Hello loyal readers. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to find two sentences strung together that are not about COVID-19. This is for a good reason - it is critically important to stay informed about the outbreak. This week, the BMSA Communications team has selected a set of articles that will give you a diverse perspective on how the outbreak is affecting society, and how society is responding. We hope you find this valuable

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Contributor Si-Cheng Dai

With the recent COVID-19 outbreak, we’re all just hoping the vaccine comes around as soon as possible. It’s easy to visualize what will happen when it does: you will hurriedly walk into the clinic, and after an excruciatingly long wait time, you'll have a seat next to a registered nurse. Your heart rate might increase, anticipating the visceral sting of the needle; perhaps you’ll look away, or close your eyes. The moment arrives, and… you’re handed a piece of hard candy. What? Well, right now that might not be the schema that fits in your head, but soon it might be. The Croyle Laboratory has developed a dissolvable film that encases and preserves vaccines. It’s the new eco-friendly, storage-free method to immunize our population — and it’s coming soon to a clinic near you.

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Contributor Claire Millard

Throughout my years as a science student I could not tell you the number of times “the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell” has been repeated to me. However, researchers have recently found that the mitochondria may not actually be as necessary for animal life, as once believed. Although there have been some single-celled parasites that have lost their energy-producing function as they evolve, until now, there has never been an animal that lacked this function. Myxozoans are typically obligate parasites and their lifecycle requires two hosts, usually one being a fish and one a worm. The Henneguya salminicola is one of many myxozoa species, but what stands out about it is their lack of a mitochondrial genome. So, the genes are gone, but then why is there still a structure that resembles the folded architecture of a mitochondria, if not to produce ATP? Perhaps, the genes and aerobic energy producing function of the organelle were lost after the species essential residence in two hosts occurred, leaving remnants of the structure. However, today the residual function of the remnant mitochondria remains unknown to us. In nature, there are outstanding phenomena; the role of mitochondria, and now the possibility of life without one, is no exception.

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Contributor Simi Juriasingani

Globally, the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is undoubtedly the most significant medical concern today. This virus has infected over 82,000 people worldwide and killed more than 2,800 patients. While many ongoing clinical trials are looking at the efficacy of different antiviral agents against COVID-19, it’s unlikely that drugs developed for non-related viruses will work against this virulent strain. One promising candidate is Remdesivir. This drug was developed to inhibit an enzyme specific to RNA viruses, a class of viruses including coronaviruses, that is required for their replication. Remdesivir has been shown to work against SARS, MERS and related coronaviruses. It was given to a patient in the U.S. on a compassionate-use basis and since, he has made a good recovery. However, a larger sample size is needed to establish the drug’s efficacy. While there is research being done to develop new antiviral therapies, the demand may not be enough to make them commercially feasible, therefore production could take too long. If an established compound like Remdesivir is found to be effective on a larger scale, it may be possible to scale up its production and distribution. While it may not be possible to meet the demand immediately, having a specific and efficacious treatment option would take us one step closer to eradicating COVID-19.

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Contributor Ramtin Hakimjavadi

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” - Kelly Clarkson, 2011. This week, the Economist published an article in their Business section with a valuable perspective on the coronavirus outbreak  - one that some sources have begun calling a pandemic. Readers will find an optimistic take on the outbreak, simply because it is looking ahead, to brighter days, when the world has finally controlled the spread of the virus. Today, not only has the coronavirus raised fears about public health, but it has also had a historic effect on the global economy. This past Monday, stock markets were shut down as panic selling settled in - the TSX had its worst day in decades. But through all these trials and tribulations, once order is restored, this article argues that the lessons we have been forced to learn will have lasting, positive effects. There is already evidence on the public health front - Japan has reported less deaths from the flu this year compared to the last, supposedly due to the stricter sanitation and cleanliness in the country. Moreover, in some of the biggest firms in the world, fears of the virus spreading in the workplace have caused changes in company culture. Executives and upper management are making changes that they would ordinarily be unwilling to experiment with. COVID-19 is forcing their hands, making them tweak human resource management to effectively prepare for the outbreak. These experiments, though performed under unideal circumstances, may reveal practices with desirable outcomes. This coronavirus episode has not yet passed, and leaders around the globe are still battling with the virus, but on the other side awaits a society that has learned some valuable lessons.

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