Around 150 birds of prey species face “persecution” and possible extinction – dpa international

DUBLIN — Some of the world’s most majestic eagles and swiftest hawks could soon be no more, according to research published by the National Academy of Sciences in the US. Up to thirty per cent of the planet’s 557 species of raptors “are at risk of extinction,” say researchers from the National Autonomous University in Mexico, a country home to over 90 different kinds of raptor, the fourth-highest number after Indonesia, Colombia and Ecuador. According to the team, the past three decades have seen “many species” experience “severe population declines” due to “habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution, human–wildlife conflicts, and global climate alterations.” While raptors such as falcons have been kept for hunting and underpinned family prestige by appearing on heraldry, others have been “persecuted,” the authors said, due to “predation of game species and livestock.”

Plastic rubbish causing land and freshwater migratory animals to suffer – dpa international

Sunset over the Mekong River running past Luang Prabang in Laos (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Asia’s land and freshwater species are “among the most vulnerable” to plastic contamination, according to a new report that the United Nations said is the first to look into how migratory animals are affected by the pollution. The UN’s Secretariat for the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) looked at the plight of animals living around the Mekong and Ganges river basins, from where around 200,000 tons of plastic rubbish flow into the Indian and Pacific Oceans each year. The CMS found that freshwater mammals such as river dolphins and dugongs are “particularly at risk” from drowning after getting tangled in rubbish such as discarded fishing gear or after swallowing plastic. Birds and smaller mammals along the two rivers have been found tangled in kite strings and fishing nets.

Mayo Clinic research suggests Trump’s antibody ‘cure’ curbs Covid-19 – dpa international

DUBLIN — A blend of antibody drugs has proven effective among vulnerable patients showing symptoms of Covid-19, according to the Mayo Clinic. Published by The Lancet, a British medical journal, the findings show a combination of casirivimab and imdevimab drugs help ensure “high-risk patients” do not need hospitalisation if hit with “mild to moderate Covid-19.” The clinic gave the drugs, described as “monoclonal antibody treatments under Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency use authorization,” to almost 700 patients out of 1,400 enrolled in the study. 1.6 per cent of recipients were in hospital 28 days later along with 4.8 per cent of non-recipients, the medics reported.”Once again, this real-world study suggests that when patients who are at high risk due to a range of co-morbidities contract a mild or moderate case of Covid-19, this combination of monoclonal injections gives them a chance of a non-hospitalized recovery,” said Raymund Razonable, an infectious diseases specialist with the clinic.

OECD says most big economies yet to shake off virus effects despite recent growth – dpa international

In Dublin, the capital of Ireland, where the government has been slow to lift coronavirus restrictions compared to neighbours (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Most of the world’s big economies are running below pre-pandemic levels despite “accelerating” growth in the second quarter of this year, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Overall gross domestic product (GDP) across the OECD remains 0.7 per cent below that reported at the end of 2019, shortly before the coronavirus pandemic was declared, the Paris-based OECD said on Monday. That’s despite GDP expanding 1.6 per cent across the Group of 7 (G7) economies in the second quarter, up from 0.4 per cent in the first three months of the year. There were “strong variations” among what the OECD calls the “Major Seven” economies, which does not include China, which does not inclide the world’s second biggest GDP after the the US. Britain grew growing the fastest of the 7, at almost 5 per cent from April to June, after a near 2-per-cent contraction during the previous three months, when, like in many Western countries, economically-debilitating pandemic restrictions were in place.

Birth rates in wealthy nations down since start of pandemic – dpa international

DUBLIN — Birth rates have fallen by almost 10 per cent in some wealthy countries since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to research published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the US. Using monthly live birth numbers from 2016 to March this year, the researchers reported “preliminary evidence” showing the pandemic has “decreased fertility” in all but 4 of 22 “high income countries” studied. The authors, from the University of Oxford, Cornell University and Universita Commerciale Luigi Bocconi in Milan, factored in seasonality and long term trends, but nonetheless estimated a 9.4 per cent fall in Italy and more than 8 per cent in Hungary and Spain. “Belgium, Austria, and Singapore also showed a significant decline in crude birth rates,” they said.

Not all in the genes: some scientists say age is a bigger factor in illness – dpa international

DUBLIN — The interplay of age and vulnerability to illness has been under unprecedented spotlight due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed mostly older people affected by pre-existing conditions or ‘co-morbidities.’ with huge death tolls in nursing homes in many countries. But while the conventional wisdom – that people are more likely to get sick as they get older – still holds, according to the University of Oxford, their health in general, for good or bad, is less likely to be affected by genes as Father Time catches up.

Over 100 million Americans caught coronavirus last year, according to Columbia University – dpa international

Outside a hospital in Ireland, where the government has been reluctant to publish estimates of infections beyond the official count or give details on related matters such as natural immunity (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Almost one-third of Americans could have been infected by the coronavirus in 2020, according to Columbia University estimates. Published in the journal Nature, the research by the Ivy League university’s Mailman School of Public Health suggests 103 million people, or 31 per cent of the population, caught the virus last year, far more than the official year-end tally of just over 20 million, of which 351,998 had died by December 31. “The vast majority of infectious were not accounted for by the number of confirmed cases,” said Jeffrey Shaman, professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia. Official numbers were accounting for only 10 per cent total estimated infections at the outset of the pandemic in March, when testing was not widely accessible, but rose to 25 per cent by December, according to the researchers.

Almost 270,000 infants may have died in 2020 due to virus curbs, according to World Bank estimates – dpa international

Construction work at Dublin's Mater Hospital in July 2021 (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Economic restrictions aimed at slowing the coronavirus pandemic could have caused an extra 267,000 infant deaths in low and middle income countries last year, according to World Bank estimates published on Monday in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). While the virus has so far had a “small direct impact on infant mortality,” it likely caused an indirect rise through “effects on the economy and health system performance,” according to the Bank’s development research team. The estimated increase across 128 countries would account for a near-7-per-cent jump in infant mortality, they said.

Scientists say nature conservation can prevent pandemics – dpa international

Pandemic-related 'social distancing' message, outdoors, in Dublin's Glasnevin Cemetery (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — More work is needed to stop potential “spillover” of pathogens from animals to humans, according to scientists investigating pandemic prevention. In a report published on Wednesday by Harvard University, scientists from several continents argued governments should “integrate” public health and nature conservation measures to help prevent animal-human disease spread. The team believes that “reducing deforestation and regulating the wildlife trade” could come in at “as little” as 22 billion dollars a year, roughly around 2 per cent of “the economic and mortality costs of responding to Covid-19.”

Survey shows some medical research undermined by funder demands – dpa international

The coronavirus pandemic has led to pressure on medics and scientists over issues such as initial shortages of protective gloves, such as these seen discarded on a Dublin street, to demands about virus-related research ISimon Roughneen)

DUBLIN –Around one-fifth of scientists working on health-related research have faced pressure from funders over “unfavourable” findings, according to survey results published on Wednesday. Eighteen per cent of those questioned said they were “asked to suppress certain findings as they were viewed as being unfavourable,” according to a summary published in science journal PLOS by Australia-based academics, including from the University of Newcastle and Swinburne University of Technology. Some of the scientists and medics who were surveyed said they faced “subtle pressure” from their research paymasters, such as conveying hopes for “positive findings,” or blunter constraints such as government funding agreements that “require researchers to obtain funder approval to publish reports.” The survey covered researchers involved in over 200 trials related to nutrition, physical activity, sexual health, smoking, and substance use. Two-thirds of those polled were based in Europe or North America, with a fifth of them listed as in Oceania.