Once a week.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
Which COVID-19 personality are you?
New research identifies 16 different COVID-19 personality types and the lessons we can learn from this global pandemic.
- New research by Mimi E. Lam at the University of Bergen explores the different "personality types" that have emerged in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- According to Lam, recognizing various COVID-19 identities can refine forecasts of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and impact.
- Global Solutions Initiative, Population Matters, and AME explore how the world (and society) has changed due to COVID-19.
Are you a complier or non-complier personality type?
New research by Mimi E. Lam at the University of Bergen (Human and Social Sciences Communications) explores the different "personality types" that have emerged in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lam explains to Eurekalert: "...the COVID-19 pandemic reminds us that we are not immune to each other. To unite in our fight against the pandemic, it is important to recognize the basic dignity of all and value the human diversity currently dividing us."
According to Lam, "Only then, can we foster societal resilience and an ethical COVID-19 agenda. This would pave the way for other global commons challenges whose impacts are less immediate, but no less dire for humanity."
There are 16 different COVID-19 personality types, and they include the following:
- Deniers — Individuals who downplay the viral threat and promote a kind of "business as usual" lifestyle.
- Spreaders — Individuals who believe spreading the virus could actually be positive. These are individuals who believe in "herd immunity" and that passing the virus around will eventually allow things to return to normal.
- Harmers — Individuals who intentionally attempt to harm others by spreading the virus (via coughing or spitting, not wearing masks, licking various public surfaces, etc.).
- Realists — Individuals who recognize the reality (and potential harm) of spreading the virus and attempt to adjust their behaviors to not spread the virus.
- Worriers — Individuals who stay informed and safe to manage their uncertainty and fear. These are also individuals who will have a lot of anxiety over the current state of the virus at all times.
- Contemplators — Individuals who have taken "quarantine times" to isolate and reflect on their own lives. These are individuals who may attempt to better themselves (focusing on new hobbies or skills) during times of isolation.
- Hoarders — Individuals who panic-buy and hoard products (such as toilet paper) in an attempt to quell their panic and worry over the spreading of the virus.
- Invincibles — Individuals who believe themselves to be immune to the virus. These are also individuals who claim a kind of "if I get sick, I get sick" kind of attitude, not taking time to reflect on the idea that they could be carriers of the virus, spreading it to others.
- Rebels — Individuals who defiantly ignore social distancing measures and various other rules put into place to protect the general public.
- Blamers — Those who fault others for their fears and frustrations.
- Exploiters — Those who attempt to exploit the current situation (taking advantage of vulnerable people/situations) for power, profit, or brutality.
- Innovators — Individuals who attempt to design or repurposes resources in an attempt to fight the pandemic and contribute to society.
- Supporters — Individuals who show support and solidarity to others around them in regards to fending off the virus or supporting loved ones.
- Altruists — Individuals who help the vulnerable, elderly, and isolated.
- Warriors — Individuals (such as front-line support workers and health care workers) who combat COVID-19 on the front lines, facing the harsh and grim realities of a global pandemic on a larger scale.
- Veterans — Individuals who have experienced a previous pandemic (such as SARS or MERS) and willingly comply with restrictions.
According to Lam and her research, recognizing various COVID-19 identities can refine forecasts of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and impact. These viral identities can reflect values, social identities, situational contexts, and risk tolerances. Lam suggests that to forecast viral transmission within populations (accounting for different responses), these identified viral behaviors can be clustered by their "compliance" efforts.
- Non-compilers are individuals who fall into the following categories: Deniers, Harmers, Invincibles, and Rebels.
- Partial compliers would be individuals who fall into the categories of: Spreaders, Blamers, and Exploiters.
- Compliers would be individuals who are in the categories of Realists, Worriers, Contemplators, Hoarders, Innovators, Supporters, Altruists, Warriors, and Veterans.
Lam suggests that liberal democracies need an ethical policy agenda with three priorities:
- Recognize the diversity of individuals
- Deliberate and negotiate value trade-offs
- Promote public buy-in, trust, and compliance
By projecting different impacts in COVID-19 transmission and deaths and then correlating those with variable behavioral responses such as the ones listed above, we can reveal the benefits of not only flattening the viral curve but shifting our behavioral curve in a joint human effort to induce more adaptive responses to the pandemic. More research needs to be conducted in this area.
What has COVID-19 taught us as a society?
Image by Corona Borealis on Adobe Stock
The Global Solutions Initiative outlines a few questions and concerns that humankind has been faced with since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020:
- We have been confronted with the true uncertainty and vulnerability of human life and our very existence.
- We have been made to face existential questions - what are we here for, what do we want to accomplish? Who are the people that matter most to us?
Population Matters outlines a few more daunting questions about humankind's relationship with nature:
- What is the link between population growth, environmental destruction, and pandemics?
- How has our society's exponential rise in consumption, trade, and population pressure driven a rapid increase in the risk of pandemics?
AME outlines some essential things this pandemic has taught us about humanity and life:
- The meat industry has played a large hand in transmitting this virus. According to a recent study, SARS-CoV-2 originated in bats and has likely been transmitted to human through a scaled mammal called a pangolin (which are highly traded in China despite being deemed illegal).
- Nature can recover from our destructive efforts. Since the pandemic, the world has seen coyotes on the streets, wild boar roaming around in Barcelona, more bees, and rare wildflowers in the UK.
- Many in-office employees can work from home. This pandemic has altered the way many businesses run and will continue to run in the future. This could cause less pollution and have positive impacts on the environment.
The research conducted by Lam and subsequent research on how COVID-19 is impacting society can help us grow and adapt and perhaps become better equipped to deal with global pandemics in the future.
- How to outsmart your COVID-19 fears and boost your mood in 2021 ›
- What is COVID-19's R number – and why does it matter? | World ... ›
- Signs of Covid-19 may be hidden in speech signals | MIT News ... ›
Certain water beetles can escape from frogs after being consumed.
- A Japanese scientist shows that some beetles can wiggle out of frog's butts after being eaten whole.
- The research suggests the beetle can get out in as little as 7 minutes.
- Most of the beetles swallowed in the experiment survived with no complications after being excreted.
In what is perhaps one of the weirdest experiments ever that comes from the category of "why did anyone need to know this?" scientists have proven that the Regimbartia attenuata beetle can climb out of a frog's butt after being eaten.
The research was carried out by Kobe University ecologist Shinji Sugiura. His team found that the majority of beetles swallowed by black-spotted pond frogs (Pelophylax nigromaculatus) used in their experiment managed to escape about 6 hours after and were perfectly fine.
"Here, I report active escape of the aquatic beetle R. attenuata from the vents of five frog species via the digestive tract," writes Sugiura in a new paper, adding "although adult beetles were easily eaten by frogs, 90 percent of swallowed beetles were excreted within six hours after being eaten and, surprisingly, were still alive."
One bug even got out in as little as 7 minutes.
Sugiura also tried putting wax on the legs of some of the beetles, preventing them from moving. These ones were not able to make it out alive, taking from 38 to 150 hours to be digested.
Naturally, as anyone would upon encountering such a story, you're wondering where's the video. Thankfully, the scientists recorded the proceedings:
The Regimbartia attenuata beetle can be found in the tropics, especially as pests in fish hatcheries. It's not the only kind of creature that can survive being swallowed. A recent study showed that snake eels are able to burrow out of the stomachs of fish using their sharp tails, only to become stuck, die, and be mummified in the gut cavity. Scientists are calling the beetle's ability the first documented "active prey escape." Usually, such travelers through the digestive tract have particular adaptations that make it possible for them to withstand extreme pH and lack of oxygen. The researchers think the beetle's trick is in inducing the frog to open a so-called "vent" controlled by the sphincter muscle.
"Individuals were always excreted head first from the frog vent, suggesting that R. attenuata stimulates the hind gut, urging the frog to defecate," explains Sugiura.
For more information, check out the study published in Current Biology.
Are "humanized" pigs the future of medical research?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires all new medicines to be tested in animals before use in people. Pigs make better medical research subjects than mice, because they are closer to humans in size, physiology and genetic makeup.
In recent years, our team at Iowa State University has found a way to make pigs an even closer stand-in for humans. We have successfully transferred components of the human immune system into pigs that lack a functional immune system. This breakthrough has the potential to accelerate medical research in many areas, including virus and vaccine research, as well as cancer and stem cell therapeutics.
Existing biomedical models
Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, or SCID, is a genetic condition that causes impaired development of the immune system. People can develop SCID, as dramatized in the 1976 movie “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble." Other animals can develop SCID, too, including mice.
Researchers in the 1980s recognized that SCID mice could be implanted with human immune cells for further study. Such mice are called “humanized" mice and have been optimized over the past 30 years to study many questions relevant to human health.
Mice are the most commonly used animal in biomedical research, but results from mice often do not translate well to human responses, thanks to differences in metabolism, size and divergent cell functions compared with people.
Nonhuman primates are also used for medical research and are certainly closer stand-ins for humans. But using them for this purpose raises numerous ethical considerations. With these concerns in mind, the National Institutes of Health retired most of its chimpanzees from biomedical research in 2013.
Alternative animal models are in demand.
Swine are a viable option for medical research because of their similarities to humans. And with their widespread commercial use, pigs are met with fewer ethical dilemmas than primates. Upwards of 100 million hogs are slaughtered each year for food in the U.S.
In 2012, groups at Iowa State University and Kansas State University, including Jack Dekkers, an expert in animal breeding and genetics, and Raymond Rowland, a specialist in animal diseases, serendipitously discovered a naturally occurring genetic mutation in pigs that caused SCID. We wondered if we could develop these pigs to create a new biomedical model.
Our group has worked for nearly a decade developing and optimizing SCID pigs for applications in biomedical research. In 2018, we achieved a twofold milestone when working with animal physiologist Jason Ross and his lab. Together we developed a more immunocompromised pig than the original SCID pig – and successfully humanized it, by transferring cultured human immune stem cells into the livers of developing piglets.
During early fetal development, immune cells develop within the liver, providing an opportunity to introduce human cells. We inject human immune stem cells into fetal pig livers using ultrasound imaging as a guide. As the pig fetus develops, the injected human immune stem cells begin to differentiate – or change into other kinds of cells – and spread through the pig's body. Once SCID piglets are born, we can detect human immune cells in their blood, liver, spleen and thymus gland. This humanization is what makes them so valuable for testing new medical treatments.
We have found that human ovarian tumors survive and grow in SCID pigs, giving us an opportunity to study ovarian cancer in a new way. Similarly, because human skin survives on SCID pigs, scientists may be able to develop new treatments for skin burns. Other research possibilities are numerous.
The ultraclean SCID pig biocontainment facility in Ames, Iowa. Adeline Boettcher, CC BY-SA
Pigs in a bubble
Since our pigs lack essential components of their immune system, they are extremely susceptible to infection and require special housing to help reduce exposure to pathogens.
SCID pigs are raised in bubble biocontainment facilities. Positive pressure rooms, which maintain a higher air pressure than the surrounding environment to keep pathogens out, are coupled with highly filtered air and water. All personnel are required to wear full personal protective equipment. We typically have anywhere from two to 15 SCID pigs and breeding animals at a given time. (Our breeding animals do not have SCID, but they are genetic carriers of the mutation, so their offspring may have SCID.)
As with any animal research, ethical considerations are always front and center. All our protocols are approved by Iowa State University's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee and are in accordance with The National Institutes of Health's Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.
Every day, twice a day, our pigs are checked by expert caretakers who monitor their health status and provide engagement. We have veterinarians on call. If any pigs fall ill, and drug or antibiotic intervention does not improve their condition, the animals are humanely euthanized.
Our goal is to continue optimizing our humanized SCID pigs so they can be more readily available for stem cell therapy testing, as well as research in other areas, including cancer. We hope the development of the SCID pig model will pave the way for advancements in therapeutic testing, with the long-term goal of improving human patient outcomes.
Adeline Boettcher earned her research-based Ph.D. working on the SCID project in 2019.
Satellite imagery can help better predict volcanic eruptions by monitoring changes in surface temperature near volcanoes.
- A recent study used data collected by NASA satellites to conduct a statistical analysis of surface temperatures near volcanoes that erupted from 2002 to 2019.
- The results showed that surface temperatures near volcanoes gradually increased in the months and years prior to eruptions.
- The method was able to detect potential eruptions that were not anticipated by other volcano monitoring methods, such as eruptions in Japan in 2014 and Chile in 2015.
How can modern technology help warn us of impending volcanic eruptions?
One promising answer may lie in satellite imagery. In a recent study published in Nature Geoscience, researchers used infrared data collected by NASA satellites to study the conditions near volcanoes in the months and years before they erupted.
The results revealed a pattern: Prior to eruptions, an unusually large amount of heat had been escaping through soil near volcanoes. This diffusion of subterranean heat — which is a byproduct of "large-scale thermal unrest" — could potentially represent a warning sign of future eruptions.
Conceptual model of large-scale thermal unrestCredit: Girona et al.
For the study, the researchers conducted a statistical analysis of changes in surface temperature near volcanoes, using data collected over 16.5 years by NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites. The results showed that eruptions tended to occur around the time when surface temperatures near the volcanoes peaked.
Eruptions were preceded by "subtle but significant long-term (years), large-scale (tens of square kilometres) increases in their radiant heat flux (up to ~1 °C in median radiant temperature)," the researchers wrote. After eruptions, surface temperatures reliably decreased, though the cool-down period took longer for bigger eruptions.
"Volcanoes can experience thermal unrest for several years before eruption," the researchers wrote. "This thermal unrest is dominated by a large-scale phenomenon operating over extensive areas of volcanic edifices, can be an early indicator of volcanic reactivation, can increase prior to different types of eruption and can be tracked through a statistical analysis of little-processed (that is, radiance or radiant temperature) satellite-based remote sensing data with high temporal resolution."
Temporal variations of target volcanoesCredit: Girona et al.
Although using satellites to monitor thermal unrest wouldn't enable scientists to make hyper-specific eruption predictions (like predicting the exact day), it could significantly improve prediction efforts. Seismologists and volcanologists currently use a range of techniques to forecast eruptions, including monitoring for gas emissions, ground deformation, and changes to nearby water channels, to name a few.
Still, none of these techniques have proven completely reliable, both because of the science and the practical barriers (e.g. funding) standing in the way of large-scale monitoring. In 2014, for example, Japan's Mount Ontake suddenly erupted, killing 63 people. It was the nation's deadliest eruption in nearly a century.
In the study, the researchers found that surface temperatures near Mount Ontake had been increasing in the two years prior to the eruption. To date, no other monitoring method has detected "well-defined" warning signs for the 2014 disaster, the researchers noted.
The researchers hope satellite-based infrared monitoring techniques, combined with existing methods, can improve prediction efforts for volcanic eruptions. Volcanic eruptions have killed about 2,000 people since 2000.
"Our findings can open new horizons to better constrain magma–hydrothermal interaction processes, especially when integrated with other datasets, allowing us to explore the thermal budget of volcanoes and anticipate eruptions that are very difficult to forecast through other geophysical/geochemical methods."