From Bob Grant, The Scientist Magazine (April 1, 2020):
Prevention has been playing a growing role in other diseases, infectious and otherwise, long before this latest global pandemic. Cancer, the focus of this issue, is ubiquitous, and one would be hard pressed to find a person anywhere on Earth whose life wasn’t in some way touched by the complex and vexing malady.
This cancer-focused issue features a cover story in which we explore one facet of cancer prevention: exercise. In this feature story, Danish researcher Bente Klarlund Pedersen explains that studies have shown frequent exercise to be useful in avoiding cancer as well as in helping cancer patients lessen the side effects of their cancers and treatments. Her research and that of others is seeking to enumerate the molecular and cellular mechanisms that underlie the benefits exercise seems to offer cancer patients.
But when one considers the practical ripples that biology sends through societies—issues of public health and the shared goal of minimizing the impact of diseases on a global scale—human behavior and prevention become vitally important.
Scientists around the world are racing to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. But experts have said it could take a year to 18 months for one to hit the market. The process for testing and approving a vaccine is long and complicated.
That can be frustrating when the coronavirus is taking more and more lives every day. But cutting corners to push a vaccine through faster can lead to devastating consequences. We know that, because it’s happened before.
Scientists and doctors have observed for thousands of years that some diseases, like polio and influenza, rise and fall with the seasons. But why? Ongoing research in animals and humans suggests a variety of causes, including changes in the environment (like pH, temperature, and humidity) and even seasonal and daily changes to our own immune systems. Figuring out those answers could one day make all the difference in minimizing the impact of infectious disease outbreaks—such as COVID-19.
As coronavirus continues to spread around the world, face masks are in high demand as people look for ways to protect themselves. But do they really protect most people from contracting the virus? Dr Shunmay Yeung from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine explains.