Astronomy: Star Betelgeuse shines again – knowledge

After a strange phase of darkness, the giant star Betelgeuse found its way back to normal brightness. Some had hoped for a stellar spectacle.

One of the achievements of modernity is that you can not only follow people on social networks, but also stars. A particularly prominent celestial body has the Twitter name @betelbot. Almost every day the star Betelgeuse tweeted there, which is called Beteigeuze in German due to a historical typing error. It is the left shoulder star of Orion seen from Earth and one of the most striking illuminated signs in the night sky. Now @betelbot has reported that it has regained 100 percent of its former brightness.

This is worth mentioning in that the giant star, a red supergiant with a 700-fold sun diameter, had lost considerable brightness in the past few months. At times his glow had dropped to a third of the normal values. The weakening had led astronomers to speculate: Was Betelgeuse on the verge of an explosion? Would he exhale his star existence as a supernova? It would be a violent spectacle that would be visible to the naked eye for weeks on earth.

Betelgeuse’s last rise would be as bright as the moon seen from Earth. Not only would the light be visible, elementary particles such as neutrinos would also hit the earth in tremendous masses, as would X-rays. This bombardment could largely stop the earth’s magnetic field and air envelope, but chemical changes in the stratosphere would be just as likely as damage to satellites and spacecraft.

But now the spectacle is probably canceled. Celestialists assume that the star, fluffed up to form a gigantic gas ball, wobbles like a cloud of smoke that is heated from the inside. Betelgeuse is almost a billion times the volume of the sun, but is only 20 times as heavy as it is. It is therefore almost a mixture of a star and a gas cloud. So it was presumably dust that floated like gas bubbles in a saucepan from the hot center of the star on its periphery. This also speaks for the fact that Betelgeuse hardly got cooler during its darkening, which can be seen from its light spectrum. If the star had started to inflate, possibly as a prelude to its self-destruction, the light spectra would have to reveal a considerable cooling.

It will take a few thousand years before Betelgeuse dies of natural star death. But then Orion’s shoulder will not burn inconspicuously, but will burst in a huge detonation. The rest of the matter will collapse without the radiation pressure from the hot inside of the star and condense so that a black hole remains. Until then, Betelgeuse is a teaching example in which astrophysicists study how a star of this size ends its existence. @Betelbot continues to tweet the latest developments. Behind it is the American Association of Observers of Variable Stars.


Corona virus: For the time being, the intensive care beds are enough – knowledge

Statisticians see the need for corona patients in the Federal Republic covered – but only as long as the number of infections does not increase dramatically.

The restrictions on limiting the corona pandemic are beginning to show signs of success. The number of new infections every day is decreasing, as is the reproductive rate – the amount of people infected by a single infected person. Epidemiologists and statisticians from Essen University Hospital are now showing in the German medical journalthat the capacity of the intensive care beds for Covid 19 patients in Germany should be sufficient for the time being.

For weeks it was the goal of local medicine and politics to avoid “conditions like in Italy”. There, doctors in particularly affected regions had to decide which patients received intensive care therapy and which did not. This selection, known as triage, resulted in several patients not being treated and dying.

According to the authors around Andreas Stang, this is not to be feared in Germany at the current stage, since there are enough free intensive care beds available, even assuming different pessimistic scenarios. “Our results do not give rise to a discussion about triage of Covid-19 patients in Germany,” the researchers write.

As of mid-April, the scientists had identified 30 005 intensive care beds in Germany. Almost 60 percent of these were documented, mostly by patients who did not have Covid-19. The researchers then calculated how demand could develop by the end of June.

The assumed increase in the number of cases ranged between 4133 and 12 233 cases – currently there are “only” about 2500 new infections per day. If six percent of those infected became intensive care patients and had to be treated for 14 to 20 days, between 3500 and 14 500 intensive care beds would be occupied by Covid 19 patients. This would give the capacities.

Fear and uncertainty in the population that the intensive care beds are not sufficient would therefore be unfounded according to the current status. However, the forecast only applies if the current easing does not result in an exponential increase in new infections. Then the calculation would no longer apply.

The need to assess the threat on a daily basis

The German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine (Divi) is skeptical about the projection. “We consider such statements to be dangerous and wrong in terms of content,” says Christian Karagiannidis, spokesman for the Divi intensive care register. “Based on our data and intensive medical experience, there can be scenarios in which a linear increase leads to overload, for example in the winter months.”

On the other hand, limited exponential growth could be borne by the healthcare system in summer.

The researchers had limited their analysis until the end of June. The need for intensive care beds strongly depends on how many patients not suffering from Covid-19 are treated there. It is still necessary to assess the threat on a daily basis and to take account of the document data from the intensive care register.

Are you required for a vaccination?:Readers’ discussion


Land-living insects are becoming fewer and fewer – knowledge

Beetles, butterflies, etc. do not only disappear in Germany. The only exception are insects in the water.

There are animals that are closer to us than insects. The many legs, the sometimes extraterrestrial appearance, their penchant for unpredictable flight maneuvers – arthropods are suspect to many people. Most of them paid little or no attention to the fate of the insects. But in 2017, public perception changed abruptly. Animals that had hardly had a lobby up to then – except for bees – made it into the daily news.

A study by Krefeld entomologists in nature reserves found a dramatic decline in the biomass of flying insects. Their number declined by more than 75 percent in 27 years. The publication was like a bang. Suddenly the entire republic spoke about insect death. But how big the effect was in other regions and how quickly the animals died remained unclear. There was no overall picture of insect death.

Now researchers from the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research in Leipzig have submitted a meta study that summarizes the phenomenon worldwide. Data from 166 long-term studies were included in the meta-analysis. The results of the international research team led by Roel van Klink in the current issue of the science journal Science published, are worrying. The number of insects living in the country falls by 0.92 percent per year. So every decade the number of insects is reduced by nine percent.

Even if the decline rate is lower than in other studies, it confirms the general trend: land-living insects – such as butterflies, grasshoppers or ants – are becoming fewer and fewer. It is a quiet death. Humans seem to be significantly strengthening the trend. The destruction of habitats, the use of pesticides, light pollution, lack of nature protection and the spread of invasive species – many factors contribute to this.

The meta-analysis is one of the most comprehensive studies on the topic. The period of the selected long-term studies ranged from 1925 to 2018. Investigations, which the researchers evaluated, referred to data from 41 different countries and almost 17,000 different locations. The authors used complex statistical procedures and models to make the many studies comparable.

In the end, the researchers found that the pace at which the insects disappeared varied greatly depending on the continent and habitat, sometimes even by region. Researchers observed large differences, particularly in countries from which long-term studies exist – such as Germany, Great Britain or the USA. In some places the number of insects fell sharply, in others it remained almost the same and in very rare cases it even increased.

Roel van Klink, first author of the meta study and researcher at iDiv, considers the type of land use to be a decisive factor. There were hardly any insects on intensively used agricultural land. “This has to do with plowing, pesticide use and harvesting. The more mowing or grazing, the fewer insects there are simply because they find less food,” says van Klink.

Another surprise – beyond the regional differences – was the results for freshwater insects for the researchers: The number increased by 1.08 percent per year. Jonathan Chase, also a scientist and co-author at iDiv, thinks it is a good sign that the negative trend could be reversed: “A lot has been done worldwide in the past 50 years to clean up polluted rivers and lakes again Populations of freshwater insects are recovering. “

For the biologist Axel Hochkirch from the University of Trier, this is no reason for reassurance: “It can be assumed that most of the studies were carried out on flowing water. The situation has probably developed less well with standing water.” This separation is not made in the meta-analysis. “He also criticizes the fact that the analysis parameters were also chosen too roughly at other points in the meta-study. Trends in the number of individuals and in the biomass were generally sought, but without distinguish whether they are common, endangered or invasive species.

The study therefore does not show whether the invasive cherry vinegar fly reproduces cheerfully while the domestic parasitic wasp is abdicating. Van Klink explains that this division into organism groups is not so easy: “Many of the studies we examined had not broken down their results down to the species level.” In addition, long-term studies spanning more than three years were difficult to find in many cases.

Nevertheless, the research team led by van Klink tried to make more specific statements. The meta-study showed that the number of insects living in trees has remained almost stable, while soil and air insects are disappearing, which is very likely due to humans.

Regarding the increase in freshwater insects, there are two influencing factors beyond water quality that explain the globally positive trend from the perspective of the research team: the rising temperatures due to climate change and a nutrient oversupply due to agricultural inputs. Both “negative anthropogenic influences”. Ecologist Josef Settele from the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research in Halle explains how this happens: “In general, the oversupply of nutrients contributes to the promotion of certain insects, while suppressing others.” This is not only evident in freshwater insects: A good nutrient supply is also beneficial for certain plants, such as the nettle, which in turn has an advantageous effect on butterflies such as the peacock butterfly, the caterpillars of which live on nettles.

In addition, an increase in insects can also mean an increase in insect pests or introduced species. So rising biomass is not yet evidence that things are going well. The increase in the bark beetle and the sponge moth does not indicate a particular ecological quality. “Finding more insects is not always a good thing,” says Van Klink. Biomass, species, number of individuals – everything has to be examined. Nevertheless, the study numbers would be needed as a building block. Of course, all researchers are now interested in what exactly happens to the individual species, but raw data is required for this.

This important meta-study shows how quickly the number of insects decreases. If this speed is maintained, there will be only half as many insects in the world in 75 years. If the health of ecosystems is not to deteriorate at an ever increasing rate, this trend must be stopped and the extinction of species slowed down. The danger of times like the corona pandemic is that the priorities shift and the protection of the insect habitats has a marginal effect. This study makes an important contribution and reminds that it is never too late to counteract.


Epidemiology – The Hidden Dead – Knowledge

In many regions, more people are dying than official corona statistics can explain. What could be the reason.

To date, more than 178,000 people worldwide have died from the new Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus, according to the American Johns Hopkins University. So far, however, it has not been clear whether the corona pandemic is driving general death statistics upwards. There are repeated allegations that the overall mortality rate is no higher than in other years. Critics say that many people would not die of the virus, but only die, even if that doesn’t explain the frightening conditions in overcrowded hospitals in China, Italy and the United States.

Preliminary data from several regions now show that many more people actually die during the pandemic than is usual at this time of year. In many countries, the death rate in the second half of March and the first half of April is far higher than the statistically expected values. In many regions, this so-called over-mortality is even greater than the confirmed deaths from Covid-19 suggest.

Mortality has increased particularly sharply in the northern Italian region of Lombardy. At the height of the epidemic in March, more than three times as many people died in some communities as usual. This emerges from a preliminary evaluation of the Istituto Nationale di Statistica. Mortality dropped in early April, but was still well above the 2015-2019 mean.

A significant increase in mortality has also been seen in England and Wales since the end of March. This is shown by datapublished by the United Kingdom’s Office of National Statistics.

No corresponding data are yet available from the USA. In New York, where the virus is particularly violent, the city’s health department has published initial figures. In addition to the 8,000 confirmed corona deaths, the agency has identified a further 4,000 cases as “likely” victims of Covid-19. This largely explains the current level of mortality in the metropolis.

For Germany, the Federal Statistical Office has so far only published the deaths until mid-March. They do not show any over-mortality – however, this would also be expected in the second half of March at the earliest. In the future, too, a publication can only be expected after a delay of about thirty days, the authority announced. Accordingly, it can only be seen at the end of April whether there has been an over-mortality in Germany – whether more people died in the wake of the pandemic than the long-term average. Also, several regional statistical offices were unable to provide current figures on request. Data from the local registry offices would still be missing, and there was also a great deal of “ambiguity about the quality of the raw data,” said the Bavarian State Office for Statistics. The Robert Koch Institute considers it likely that the number of Covid 19 deaths is underestimated in Germany as well. In most federal states, the deceased are rarely examined for the pathogen.

It is not uncommon for not all deaths to be identified with a specific cause and for the general statistics to be examined for abnormalities instead. “For a long time, over-mortality was mainly used to assess the impact of flu waves,” says Berit Lange, epidemiologist from the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research in Braunschweig. In recent years, the mortality rate has also been used to determine the dangers of heat in the summer months.

According to Lange, there are theoretically four explanations why the mortality rate can be significantly higher than the official Covid 19 statistics show. At first, a kind of unreported number of undetected corona victims can remain hidden. It can be very different from country to country because the deaths are counted differently. Sometimes only the dead are tested for the virus in hospitals. Many who died at home are included in the death statistics, but remain undetected as victims of the corona virus.

These overlooked Covid-19 deaths are likely to account for most of the unexplained mortality.

However, Covid-19 could also have contributed indirectly to the additional deaths by overloading the health system. In some regions of Italy there were reports of doctors who could no longer care for patients without Covid 19 disease as well as would have been necessary because the resources were tied up. “This has never happened in Germany,” says Lange. “In Lombardy, on the other hand, the difference between official Covid deaths and the measured mortality is relatively large. It is possible that there is an indirect burden of illness due to the overloading of regional health systems by Covid 19 patients.”

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In the third area, Lange lists indirect effects from the pandemic. The severe economic damage can also have harmful health consequences, which are reflected in the figures at some point. “But we probably don’t see these cases at the moment, it’s more of a long-term effect,” says Lange.

Finally, society’s response to the pandemic may also help more people die. Due to the contact restrictions, people with mental problems or depression can no longer be given adequate psychiatric care. Regular care by general practitioners is also declining. All of this could lead to higher mortality rates, says Lange. So far, however, this has not been investigated or shown by studies.

Coronavirus: Your opinion on the loosening:Readers’ discussion


Hope in the corona pandemic: science puzzles: child infects nobody despite infection – knowledge

The role of children in the spread of the virus is not really clear. Photo: dpa / Caroline Seidel

What role do children play in the spread of the coronavirus? The case of a French child puzzles researchers and gives hope at the same time. Despite numerous contacts, the infected child did not infect anyone.

Paris – The case of a nine-year-old French child who has not infected anyone despite a long-undetected coronavirus infection has been bothering science: According to a study recently published in the US journal “Clinical Infectious Diseases”, coronavirus tests fell in all 172 contacts of the Child’s negative. According to the researchers, the case could suggest that children do not play an important role in the spread of Sars-Cov-2.

The nine-year-old child had contracted the corona virus in the Haute-Savoie region of eastern France and had taken part in three ski courses without being aware of his infection. Health authorities later identified 172 people who had come into contact with the child during the incubation period. Corona virus tests in all of the contact persons were negative. The child had not infected even his own siblings.

However, seasonal diseases such as the flu were found in 64 percent of the contact persons, the study said. The case provides evidence that “children may not be a major source of transmission of this novel virus,” it said.

The nine-year-old child had only mild symptoms, the authors write. As the epidemiologist and co-study author Kostas Danis told AFP, the child also suffered from other respiratory diseases.

A large part of the known corona infections in children is mild. However, it is feared that infected children could infect older people or members of high-risk groups. Because of this fear, schools and daycare centers are closed in many countries.

Current news, interesting background information and useful tips – in our dossier we bundle all articles about Corona.


Blur spots persist in the portrait of the virus

Never has a new virus been the subject of as much research, studies, analyzes as SARS-CoV-2 in such a short time. But if information has accumulated since the end of 2019, essential questions remain to try to understand what the planet is facing. At first, we imagined that it was only a simple coronavirus, like the others: a little pathogenic, fairly contagious, but relatively manageable. Everything exploded. From an infectious pathology, clinicians have discovered that it is transformed and becomes an immune pathology, even later a cardiac one. And the Covid-19 surprises with its mysteries, with more than 80% of people infected without any real manifestation, 20% with more or less important symptoms, of which 5% will go to intensive care. These proportions, for several weeks, have hardly changed. But what about the rest? Of its transmission? New symptoms? Healthy carriers? These questions still do not have complete answers. “It’s like an iceberg, we only see and we can only understand the emerged part”, tells us a member of the Scientific Council. Overview, as France begins its fifth week of containment.

How is the virus transmitted?

Friday, April 3, Anthony Fauci, director of the United States Institute of Infectious Diseases and member of the White House task force, relayed by President Donald Trump, sowed a global stir. Can the Covid be transmitted “When people are just talking”, as this respected scientist claims? “Everything takes on incredible proportions when Trump opens his mouth”, quipped Professor Xavier Lescure, an infectious disease specialist at Bichat Hospital. “An American study certainly mentioned transmission by too close discussion but if this were the case, we would have a basic reproduction rate (RO) of the coronavirus close to that of measles, smiles Karine Lacombe, head of the infectious diseases department at Saint-Antoine hospital. Clearly, each infected person could contaminate 10. We are far from it. For experts, the RO rate of Covid-19, without confinement, is rather between 2 and 3. ” Professor Lacombe insists: “The contamination is mainly done by the droplets, the cough, the sneezing, the hand-held contacts.” If the Director General of Public Health, Jérôme Salomon, also mentions contact with inert surfaces, this point remains under debate. Karine Lacombe: “On inert surfaces, we remain questionable.” Xavier Lescure, careful: “Inert surfaces are a real hidden trap, probably the forgotten link in contact transmission.”

Contagious from when and for how long?

This is a crucial point to break the dynamics of the epidemic. When and for how long should patients be isolated to stop the spread of the virus? In this area, knowledge is becoming more precise. In a study published recently in Nature, German researchers have shown that if there were traces of the virus in the patient’s larynx seven days after the onset of symptoms, the pathogen did not replicate. “It means the person is no longer contagious, says Professor Lacombe. There is a consensus that an infected person can be contagious one to two days before symptoms appear, and for seven to ten days after. “

There remains the question of healthy carriers, about 30% of all infected. As they do not cough or sneeze, their contagiousness is estimated to be very low. But it is not necessarily zero to believe the first results of an Inserm survey of 300 patients, launched in January after the first cases in Contamines-Montjoie, in Haute-Savoie: the postillions and nasal excretions of the asymptomatic contain viral particles capable of infecting other people.

What are the symptoms ?

The range of Covid-19 symptoms has unfortunately grown significantly since its arrival in Europe. If a dry cough, with fever and fatigue are the most common signals, others, which had not been reported by the Chinese, have confused infectious diseases. “It’s a shock, we didn’t see it coming, says Professor Gilles Pialoux, infectious disease specialist at Tenon Hospital. The coronavirus is the cause of neurological disorders. In some cases, this results in loss of taste and smell. Above all, 88% of patients in intensive care have neurological manifestations, cognitive disorders: they are disturbed, confused. ” A geriatrician from the Pompidou hospital: “If in most cases these symptoms disappear spontaneously after seven to ten days, we still do not know the degree of recovery of the elderly, sometimes already fragile.”

Another surprise, “For six weeks, we have seen acrosyndromes, pseudo-frostbite at the extremities of the limbs”, reports Professor Lescure. This is cause for concern enough for the National Union of Dermatologists and Venerologists to launch an alert on April 8 for skin manifestations linked to Covid-19 infection – acrosyndromes, sudden onset of persistent, sometimes painful redness and temporary hives lesions.

Who is at risk?

Since the publication on February 24 of a large study by the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the profile of severely ill patients has been clarified. Professor Pialoux: “What strikes me is that patients admitted to intensive care are often diabetic, overweight or even obese.” A finding shared by all the hospitals that receive Covid-19 patients, French and European. And this is a real surprise because the first Chinese ascents only documented “classic” risk factors, such as age and the presence of comorbidities (high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, pulmonary insufficiency, severe diabetes, etc.)

For the past two weeks, research work has confirmed clinical observations. A study published in late March in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Italian researchers, involving 955 deceased patients, established that 35% were diabetic. “We thought that only severe diabetics were concerned. Not at all, small diabetics are too. We have even discovered diabetes during hospitalization ”, points to Professor Lescure.

1er April, a new Chinese study published in The Lancet confirmed the role of the body mass index: out of 383 coronavirus patients admitted to a hospital in Shenzhen, 42% were overweight or obese. Researchers conclude: overweight people have an 86% chance of developing a severe form of Covid-19. Those who suffer from obesity have “Showed a 2 to 42 times higher probability of developing severe pneumonia” than other patients. The danger is real even for young patients: “Obesity is often the only risk factor for patients under 50 years of age in intensive care in Bichat”, says Professor Lescure. What confirms Professor Lila Bouadma, resuscitator at Bichat Hospital : “We have patients, young people, who were in perfect health, with only one weight problem.” A phenomenon that has not yet been elucidated. “Maybe it’s due to the fat cells that let the virus pass more easily”, wonders Karine Lacombe. It is also possible that being overweight amplifies the inflammatory reactions induced by the presence of the coronavirus in the body.

Another characteristic of heavily affected patients, which was already reported in the first Chinese study, caught infectious disease specialists short: gender inequality. “The coronavirus infects men and women in the same proportions but 80% of our intensive care patients are men”, notes Professor Lescure. This difference in resistance between the two sexes is not elucidated. Assumptions flourish. Researchers are particularly interested in the role of an enzyme (ACE2 installed on the X chromosome), essential in the production of estrogen, known for its anti-inflammatory influence.

How is the infection going?

The pattern is often repeated identically. In one in five cases, Covid-19 infection requires hospitalization for respiratory distress. A majority of these severely affected patients then have severe pneumonia with bilateral involvement, according to the WHO. Respiratory support is not always enough to overcome the infection. About seven days after the first symptoms appear, some patients suddenly get worse, with an inflammatory over-reaction of the immune system, known as the “cytokine storm”. However, this runaway can be fatal: instead of defending the body against inflammation, cytokines destroy not only infected cells but also healthy tissue in the lungs, heart or kidneys. Assessment: 20% of severe forms of Covid-19 have heart damage linked to the immune reaction. Professor Lacombe: “Compared to the first few weeks, the change is spectacular. We are facing an immunological disease much more than viral as we might have thought. It’s new. ” Professor Pialoux completes: “Like the first Chinese death on French soil, 10% of intensive care patients die not from the coronavirus directly but from pulmonary complications and sometimes pulmonary embolism. Such vascular complications have never been seen with influenza or SARS. “

Professor Lescure summarizes: “Clinical observation has allowed us to identify three sides of the disease. The first is infectious, viral. But in a certain number of serious patients, the inflammatory aspect becomes preponderant after the runaway of the immune system. The last side is vascular: the disease causes microvascular damage, thrombosis, which is supposed to be linked to inflammation, without being certain. “

When are you immunized and for how long?

This is a key point, and of particular interest to the High Scientific Council, currently mobilized on possible scenarios of deconfinement. In this area, he must do with good news, very bad news and a lot of uncertainty.

The good news first. According to a study by German researchers on the replication of the virus in the upper respiratory tract published in Nature 1er April, patients begin to produce antibodies seven to fourteen days after the first symptoms appear, and their viral load slowly decreases. “We think these antibodies are neutralizing, and therefore protect against re-infection, says Professor Lescure. It is a clinical hypothesis, not scientific certainty. But apart from a few cases reported in China at the start of the epidemic, which may have been only false positives, no one has seen any cases of reinfection. “

Next is the big tile. According to the modellers of the High Council, the French are not more than 10 to 15% to have been in contact with the virus until now, including in areas with high incidence such as the Grand-Est or the Ile-de -France. And this projection is undoubtedly still optimistic: the test campaign launched in the cluster of Oise concluded with a collective immunity of hardly more than 7%… In any case, we are very far from the rate of 60% of protected persons, floor threshold to claim this “group immunity” which would ward off the risk of a second wave of Covid-19. “In terms of public health, this is very problematic, confirms Xavier Lescure. A brutal lifting of containment would inevitably revive the epidemic. “. But too late, the problem could get worse. Because if a healed individual is immune, it is not known for how long …

Eric Favereau


Nathalie Raulin


From calligrapher to shepherdess, a capital conversion

To change life. Who hasn’t dreamed of it. The act rarely follows the petted thought. Florence Robert became a calligrapher and became a shepherdess. And not anywhere: she dreamed from a very young age of living in these Corbières wedged between sea and plain. The meeting with a beekeeper near Lagrasse (Aude), Jean Poudou, convinced her of this place of election. The decision has become concrete to take a sharp turn, you have to relearn humility and start learning again. This is how the ex-calligrapher once checked the “Sheep-meat” box on the agricultural training registration form. Why this box? The images that we cultivate in ourselves sometimes push the act, and she wanted “Large expanses of solitude, a little harsh, but which confirm the gesture with animals and the wind”. She wanted to raise sheep in the Corbières to reopen the scrub scrub for the benefit of biodiversity.

We could have a slight moment of retreat. The recycling stories in perpendicular mode are like pleasant bluettes, built in a chronology without surprise. Their possible strength consists in tickling the empathy of the reader, who is inhabited by similar desires for retraining and moving happy ends. The shepherdess or shepherdess participates in addition to the iconic pastoral, the townspeople in reverse rural exodus from a militant and ecological return to the land. But there is no desire here to convince, nor self-aggrandizement. Beyond the progressive knowledge of the profession, a form of struggle against the elements, fatigue and discouragement, Florence Robert brings to her journey a reflection on space and time, on the poetry of these harsh landscapes and the exaltation of the senses (1).

Livestock. After eight weeks of training spread over eight months on the farm of Denis and Françoise Callamand, a few kilometers from Lagrasse, the time has come to take the plunge: that of finding a spot to anchor. It will be the small village of Albas, interested in a herd and his talent as a natural brushcutter. This terroir, renowned for its wines, olive oil and onions, had nearly a million sheep’s heads a hundred and fifty years ago. The animals disappeared in the 70s, in favor of the vine. They are a dozen breeders today in the dry Corbières, goats and sheep combined. It’s a “A little crazy adventure” than installing sheep “Where they disappeared forty years ago, in a viticultural landscape in the midst of a crisis, in one of the driest areas of France”. And there is no one left to ask questions about the secrets of the trade. Where to graze and when? How to promote the aphyllante, the small blue flower that promotes fattening of sheep?

We feel a little lonely, the apprentice shepherdess, in front of the magnitude of the task. Before the arrival of the woolly faces, it is necessary to consolidate the frame, find a source of water, bank guarantees, build an investment plan, recruit border collies dogs, then also patous … Fourteen months after having checked “Sheep -meat ”, on August 30, the bleating of lacaune, gregarious race accustomed to be kept every day, arrive at the Garrigues farm. “A hundred sheep to start with, it’s a small flock.” Small, but one should not lose a crumb in the wild and thorny nature, rich in lavender, thyme, rosemary, sarsaparilla, but also in poisonous essences (common ferrule, daphné garou, cameleon with red fruits). The herd is a wave to be channeled constantly, using dogs led by an inexperienced mistress whose attention is still not sharp enough to anticipate the speed of going to graze elsewhere.

Protrusion period. “Denis said to me once:” The most beautiful is the guard. It is for the guard that one is a shepherd. “” The maxims of the one who formed it punctuate his initiation like mantras. When the others are enjoying the holidays, you have to get up before dawn to move the herd at 6 am and not finish the day until 10 pm. Daily, imperatively, the sheep must eat and drink. The old needs, relaxation, leisure, consumption, then seem very secondary. It’s another mode, another way of looking at time, space, and another way of feeding those many inner chicks who keep crying out. The assignment is clear, deprivation goes without saying, what would we be burdened with? The shepherd is an elementary being. “ The question of time, again and again. That of the garrigue flows differently, without the tyranny of needles. In tune with animals and nature. “I learn to read the shape of the clouds, to read the time there. I learn that the hill is precise up to the blade of grass, and from far away I recognize the stone that serves as my seat, the frame where the hare was hiding the day before yesterday. “

The breeding cycle has its culminating events: the mating period in November (two rams are left five weeks with these ladies), the gestation of five months, births from the end of March. The first lambing (“What I do best”) will bring an additional 160 heads. “What is going on is neither sweet, beautiful, nor violent. It is inexpressible, it is beyond, quite close to the mystery without doubt. “ A kind of in-between, between life and death, between joy and urgency, patience and despair. Learn on the job to plaster a broken leg, to prick in the muscles of the neck, to leave the affective on the edge.

Ten years later, the voice has grown stronger. And she also took on a sober tone. The first faithful dogs are dead. He had to stop looking after his flock after three years and make up his mind to employ someone to do it, then switch to mountain pasture during the hot season. But isn’t that the best lesson of knowing how to welcome your own renunciations after having struggled? Shape her personality as a shepherdess. “By changing your life, you have to rebuild your head, and for months, the fatigue will have been that one, that of regularly reworking the arrangement of well-established beliefs, to cross out some of them, to weigh all the others to the yardstick of another inventory, of a new world, earthly, absolutely solid, horribly demanding. ”

(1) Also just published: He was a shepherdess by Yves Deloison and Stéphanie Maubé, ed. Rouergue, 256 pp., € 18.80 (ebook: € 13.99).

Frédérique Roussel

Florence Robert Shepherdess of the hills Corti “Biophilia”, 200 pp., € 18.


Science – Study: Coronavirus could also damage the nervous system – knowledge

Wuhan / San Francisco (dpa) – Infection with the coronavirus Sars-CoV-2 can not only manifest itself with fever, cough and breathing difficulties, but also cause neurological symptoms.

This is the result of a study by Chinese scientists with patients in Wuhan, the epicenter of the pandemic, from which the virus spread worldwide. As the doctors report in the journal “JAMA Neurology”, a good third of the 214 patients they examined showed signs that the virus had damaged the nervous system. The most common symptoms included dizziness and headache, as well as olfactory and taste disorders.

Reports of corona patients losing their sense of smell and taste, at least temporarily, had accumulated in the past few days. These symptoms indicated that the brain was involved, said infectiologist Bernd Salzberger from the Regensburg University Hospital. “So far, however, there have been very few examinations of the brain of corona patients. We are still in the dark.”

The current study from Wuhan is also based only on the evaluation of the corresponding patient files, laboratory findings and radiological examinations for the 214 study participants with a proven Covid-19 disease. As reported by the team led by neurologist Ling Mao from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, 78 (36.4 percent) of them showed neurological manifestations that were more serious the more serious the overall Covid 19 disease was.

The most common observers observed dizziness (36 patients, 16.8 percent) and headache (28 patients, 13.1 percent). In addition, there were taste disorders in twelve patients (5.6 percent) and olfactory disorders in eleven patients (5.1 percent). Six patients (2.8 percent) suffered a stroke.

In an independent editorial to the study, neurologists Samuel Pleasure, Ari Green and Andrew Josephson from the University of California split these manifestations into specific symptoms (loss of smell or taste, muscle weakness and strokes) and non-specific symptoms (headache, loss of consciousness, dizziness and seizures) ) on. In the case of non-specific symptoms in particular, it remains unclear whether these are an expression of the disease itself or are part of a systemic inflammatory reaction in patients who were already very ill. Future studies should examine this question.

“It is important that the authors found that the patients they examined with some of the most common specific symptoms, including odor or taste disorders and muscle disorders, tended to have these symptoms at the beginning of their clinical course,” said the three neurologists. This differs significantly from the neurological manifestations of Sars infections in 2002/2003, which were also triggered by a coronavirus.

In fact, Sars and Mers – also a coronavirus-related disease – are known to cause damage to the nervous system. For both infections it has been experimentally proven that the virus can enter the brain via the olfactory nerves in the nasal cavity.

In the case of Covid-19, it is now being discussed whether respiratory arrest could also be the result of neurological damage – for example, inflammation of the brain stem, where the control for the cardiovascular system and the respiratory tract is also located. From a neurological point of view, it is important to clarify how many of the serious illnesses are triggered by the involvement of the central nervous system, notes Peter Berlit, general secretary of the German Society for Neurology.

In view of the current Chinese study, the medical professionals Pleasure, Green and Josephson see neurologists in their future “at the forefront of the pandemic”. The authors of the study consider it particularly important that doctors consider a Covid-19 infection in patients with corresponding neurological symptoms “in order to avoid a delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis and to prevent further transmission”.


Coronavirus: Are Covid 19 sufferers immune afterwards? – Health

Will the victory last? More than half a million people already have the new corona virus in them, and a quarter of the world’s population is affected by isolation measures to slow the spread of the pandemic. Therefore, experts like those locked up ask themselves: Can the virus come back? Or are the people who have once been infected with Sars-CoV-2 and successfully fought it at least immune to it?

Nobody can answer this question at the moment. But there is hope that the victory over Sars-CoV-2 is an ongoing victory. When people have been through an infectious disease, they are mostly immune to the disease, often for the rest of their lives. This applies to measles, polio and rubella as well as to many colds.

“The virus has undergone very few mutations on its way around the world”

The problem that humanity has with some viruses is their great variability. Influenza viruses appear every winter in a dress that is beyond recognition, the AIDS virus HIV changes so quickly that ultimately every person carries their own virus. In comparison, the new Sars-CoV-2 seems to be a guarantor of stability – even if you can hardly imagine that given its massive impact. “The virus has only undergone very few mutations on its way around the world,” says virologist Georg Bornkamm, a former professor at the Helmholtz Center in Munich.

Bornkamm compared the genetic makeup of various Sars CoV-2 viruses. They come from patients from all over the world and were shared by scientists on the Gisaid platform. Accordingly, even after his long journey from China to the United States, Sars-CoV-2 has only changed about ten places in its genome, like molecular geneticist Peter Thielen from Johns Hopkins University at Washington Post said. “This is a relatively small number of mutations that the virus has passed through such a large number of people.”

That’s good news. The stability of the virus gives rise to hope that a vaccine against Sars-CoV-2, if developed, will be effective for generations. This has long been the case for vaccines against measles, whooping cough and rubella, while a new vaccine is needed every year for the influenza virus.

If Sars-CoV-2 is so stable, it means something good: The virus will in all likelihood not have a second chance of multiplication in the body of people who have had an encounter with it before. The immune system builds very stable, durable weapons with its antibodies against pathogens it fights. These antibodies and their specialized production facilities, the B cells, are already there if the virus tries to attack the same person a second time. They attack the virus before it can multiply significantly.

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Healthy people could work in jobs where there is a high risk of infection

A small study by Chinese scientists on rhesus monkeys suggests that this is not just gray theory. The researchers infected four animals with Sars-CoV-2 and re-infected them four weeks after their recovery. The animals were immune: they neither became sick nor found viruses in their blood. Since the immunology of rhesus monkey and humans is very similar, this could also apply to humans. It would have huge advantages: healthy people could go back to work, care for the sick and work in exposed jobs, because they themselves would not be contagious or at risk. However, every person’s immune defense is different, not all infected people produce equally strong immune responses with highly potent antibodies. It is possible that those who did not mind the infection and who survived without symptoms would not respond particularly well. All of this still needs to be clarified.

For this reason, a large-scale study, which is coordinated by the epidemiologist Gérard Krause from the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research in Braunschweig, is to find antibodies in blood samples from more than 100,000 Germans from April onwards mirror reported. The results should help to make it easier to estimate the number of immunes and those still at risk.

In view of all these findings, reports from China and Japan seem somewhat strange that some people may have been infected a second time. But Western scientists attribute this to faulty tests. In the meantime, the patients may not have been virus-free at all: The detection of the virus by means of PCR repeatedly incorrectly produces negative results, says corona expert Christian Drosten from the Berlin Charité. And Florian Krammer from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York points out that the test does not detect the virus itself, but only its genome. This means that he can again produce positive results for those who have recovered because the genome is sometimes still there when the virus has long been successfully combated.

In the United States, attempts are being made to cure the seriously ill with sera from survivors

However, it remains unclear how long the antibodies against the novel coronaviruses will remain. Could Sars-CoV-2 possibly frighten humanity again in a few years? “We still don’t know how long immunity will last,” says Isabella Eckerle, director of the Center for Viral Diseases at the University of Geneva. Only the experience with the closest relative of Sars-CoV-2 provides clues. Antibodies against the Sars-CoV-1 virus, which led to the Sars outbreak at the beginning of the millennium, are still found in the blood of once infected people after three to five years. “So the periods are rather years; it is not the case that you can become infected again with the exact same virus after a few weeks,” said Eckerle.

Thus, even if the laboratories are still, feverishly working on the development of vaccines against Covid-19, there may already be the first vaccines, namely in the blood of those who have recovered. Because with their antibodies other people could possibly be vaccinated. Such “passive immunization” is somewhat “old-fashioned”, as Florian Krammer emphasizes. It was used in the early days of immunology, for example in the Korean War, to protect US soldiers from the Hantaan virus. But it is an approach. In unknown situations, old strategies are sometimes amazingly helpful. In any case, last Tuesday the US drug agency FDA started such an old-fashioned experiment: the first seriously ill people received serums from survivors.


Covid-19 – This is how the coronavirus could have spread to humans

Since the new corona virus broke out in Asia at the beginning of January, there have been a number of rumors surrounding its creation. The theory that the pathogen was bred by experts in the laboratory is widespread. Now researchers have taken a closer look at the virus – and were able to rule out this possibility.

As Kristian Andersen and his colleagues from the Scripps Institute in La Jolla, California, report in the journal “Nature Medicine”, they have analyzed the genetic and molecular structure of the new corona virus (CoV-2) for their investigation. In addition to four other corona viruses, the two related viruses SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV served as a comparison.

Andersen and his team found that the new corona virus differs from its predecessors in two ways. On the one hand, the protein unit with which it connects to the host cells has a different structure than that of the other corona viruses. On the other hand, the virus envelope partly consists of different amino acids than in related pathogens.

Binding structures have errors

The mentioned features make it easier for the new corona virus to connect to human cells. At the same time, its binding structures have certain defects that would not be expected with a pathogen developed in the laboratory. According to the research team, this is a strong indication that CoV-2 is not the product of targeted manipulation.

In addition, the scientists point to the fact that the basic structure of the new corona virus resembles that of certain viruses that could previously only be detected in bats and pangolins. These two characteristics – the defective virus envelope and the different basic structure – speak against breeding in the laboratory.

Where does the new corona virus come from?

But how could the virus leave its animal host and spread to humans? According to the researchers, two scenarios are possible. However, the two are based on the assumption that CoV-2 developed in bats and could settle in humans via another animal – for example the pangolin known as pangolin.

It is controversial whether the virus got its current form from the intermediate host or only mutated in the human body after initial animal-to-human infections. In the case of the second model, the infections are likely to have remained undetected. It was only when the virus developed that people were able to infect each other – which led to the current pandemic.

Which model is correct – and whether these are the only possible means of distribution – can only be shown by a closer examination of the samples taken before December 2019 in Wuhan, China. Only this could reveal, according to the research team, whether there had been a hidden spread of the virus before the epidemic.