Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: Scientific reports


A recent mathematical model has suggested that staying at home did not play a dominant role in reducing COVID-19 transmission. The second wave of cases in Europe, in regions that were considered as COVID-19 controlled, may raise some concerns. Our objective was to assess the association between staying at home (%) and the reduction/increase in the number of deaths due to COVID-19 in several regions in the world. In this ecological study, data from , and were combined. Countries with > 100 deaths and with a Healthcare Access and Quality Index of ≥ 67 were included. Data were preprocessed and analyzed using the difference between number of deaths/million between 2 regions and the difference between the percentage of staying at home. The analysis was performed using linear regression with special attention to residual analysis. After preprocessing the data, 87 regions around the world were included, yielding 3741 pairwise comparisons for linear regression analysis. Only 63 (1.6%) comparisons were significant. With our results, we were not able to explain if COVID-19 mortality is reduced by staying at home in ~ 98% of the comparisons after epidemiological weeks 9 to 34.


This paper focuses on an overview of radioactive cesium 137 (quasi-Cs137 included Cs134) contamination of freshwater fish in Fukushima and eastern Japan based on the data published by the Fisheries Agency of the Japanese Government in 2011. In the area north and west of the Fukushima Nuclear plant, freshwater fish have been highly contaminated. For example, the mean of active cesium (quasi-Cs137) contamination of Ayu (Plecoglossus altivelis) is 2,657 Bq/kg at Mano River, 20-40 km north-west from the plant. Bioaccumulation is observed in the Agano river basin in Aizu sub-region, 70-150 km west from the plant. The active cesium (quasi-Cs137) contamination of carnivorous Salmondae is around 2 times higher than herbivorous Ayu. The extent of active cesium (quasi-Cs137) contamination of Ayu is observed in the entire eastern Japan. The some level of the contamination is recognized even in Shizuoka prefecture, 400 km south-west from the plant.

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Japan, Freshwater fish, Prefectures of Japan, Government of Japan, Honshū, Shizuoka Prefecture, Ayu


Defining priority areas and risk evaluation is of utmost relevance for endangered species` conservation. For the blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus), we aim to assess environmental habitat selection drivers, priority areas for conservation and overlap with vessel traffic off northern Chilean Patagonia (NCP). For this, we implemented a single-step continuous-time correlated-random-walk model which accommodates observational error and movement parameters variation in relation to oceanographic variables. Spatially explicit predictions of whales' behavioral responses were combined with density predictions from previous species distribution models (SDM) and vessel tracking data to estimate the relative probability of vessels encountering whales and identifying areas where interaction is likely to occur. These estimations were conducted independently for the aquaculture, transport, artisanal fishery, and industrial fishery fleets operating in NCP. Blue whale movement patterns strongly agreed with SDM results, reinforcing our knowledge regarding oceanographic habitat selection drivers. By combining movement and density modeling approaches we provide a stronger support for purported priority areas for blue whale conservation and how they overlap with the main vessel traffic corridor in the NCP. The aquaculture fleet was one order of magnitude larger than any other fleet, indicating it could play a decisive role in modulating potential negative vessel-whale interactions within NCP.


Ocean plastic can persist in sea surface waters, eventually accumulating in remote areas of the world’s oceans. Here we characterise and quantify a major ocean plastic accumulation zone formed in subtropical waters between California and Hawaii: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP). Our model, calibrated with data from multi-vessel and aircraft surveys, predicted at least 79 (45-129) thousand tonnes of ocean plastic are floating inside an area of 1.6 million km2; a figure four to sixteen times higher than previously reported. We explain this difference through the use of more robust methods to quantify larger debris. Over three-quarters of the GPGP mass was carried by debris larger than 5 cm and at least 46% was comprised of fishing nets. Microplastics accounted for 8% of the total mass but 94% of the estimated 1.8 (1.1-3.6) trillion pieces floating in the area. Plastic collected during our study has specific characteristics such as small surface-to-volume ratio, indicating that only certain types of debris have the capacity to persist and accumulate at the surface of the GPGP. Finally, our results suggest that ocean plastic pollution within the GPGP is increasing exponentially and at a faster rate than in surrounding waters.

Concepts: Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Pacific Ocean, Ocean, Marine pollution, North Pacific Gyre, Project Kaisei


Spending time in natural environments can benefit health and well-being, but exposure-response relationships are under-researched. We examined associations between recreational nature contact in the last seven days and self-reported health and well-being. Participants (n = 19,806) were drawn from the Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment Survey (2014/15-2015/16); weighted to be nationally representative. Weekly contact was categorised using 60 min blocks. Analyses controlled for residential greenspace and other neighbourhood and individual factors. Compared to no nature contact last week, the likelihood of reporting good health or high well-being became significantly greater with contact ≥120 mins (e.g. 120-179 mins: ORs [95%CIs]: Health = 1.59 [1.31-1.92]; Well-being = 1.23 [1.08-1.40]). Positive associations peaked between 200-300 mins per week with no further gain. The pattern was consistent across key groups including older adults and those with long-term health issues. It did not matter how 120 mins of contact a week was achieved (e.g. one long vs. several shorter visits/week). Prospective longitudinal and intervention studies are a critical next step in developing possible weekly nature exposure guidelines comparable to those for physical activity.


Confocal laser endomicroscopy (pCLE) provides real-time histologic imaging of human tissues at a depth of 60-70 μm during endoscopy. pCLE of the extrahepatic bile duct after fluorescein injection demonstrated a reticular pattern within fluorescein-filled sinuses that had no known anatomical correlate. Freezing biopsy tissue before fixation preserved the anatomy of this structure, demonstrating that it is part of the submucosa and a previously unappreciated fluid-filled interstitial space, draining to lymph nodes and supported by a complex network of thick collagen bundles. These bundles are intermittently lined on one side by fibroblast-like cells that stain with endothelial markers and vimentin, although there is a highly unusual and extensive unlined interface between the matrix proteins of the bundles and the surrounding fluid. We observed similar structures in numerous tissues that are subject to intermittent or rhythmic compression, including the submucosae of the entire gastrointestinal tract and urinary bladder, the dermis, the peri-bronchial and peri-arterial soft tissues, and fascia. These anatomic structures may be important in cancer metastasis, edema, fibrosis, and mechanical functioning of many or all tissues and organs. In sum, we describe the anatomy and histology of a previously unrecognized, though widespread, macroscopic, fluid-filled space within and between tissues, a novel expansion and specification of the concept of the human interstitium.

Concepts: Cancer, Biology, Lymph node, Liver, Histology, Lymphatic system, Anatomy, Human anatomy


Mechanistic hypotheses about airborne infectious disease transmission have traditionally emphasized the role of coughing and sneezing, which are dramatic expiratory events that yield both easily visible droplets and large quantities of particles too small to see by eye. Nonetheless, it has long been known that normal speech also yields large quantities of particles that are too small to see by eye, but are large enough to carry a variety of communicable respiratory pathogens. Here we show that the rate of particle emission during normal human speech is positively correlated with the loudness (amplitude) of vocalization, ranging from approximately 1 to 50 particles per second (0.06 to 3 particles per cm3) for low to high amplitudes, regardless of the language spoken (English, Spanish, Mandarin, or Arabic). Furthermore, a small fraction of individuals behaves as “speech superemitters,” consistently releasing an order of magnitude more particles than their peers. Our data demonstrate that the phenomenon of speech superemission cannot be fully explained either by the phonic structures or the amplitude of the speech. These results suggest that other unknown physiological factors, varying dramatically among individuals, could affect the probability of respiratory infectious disease transmission, and also help explain the existence of superspreaders who are disproportionately responsible for outbreaks of airborne infectious disease.


Evolutionary reduction of adult body size (miniaturization) has profound consequences for organismal biology and is an important subject of evolutionary research. Based on two individuals we describe a new, extremely miniaturized chameleon, which may be the world’s smallest reptile species. The male holotype of Brookesia nana sp. nov. has a snout-vent length of 13.5 mm (total length 21.6 mm) and has large, apparently fully developed hemipenes, making it apparently the smallest mature male amniote ever recorded. The female paratype measures 19.2 mm snout-vent length (total length 28.9 mm) and a micro-CT scan revealed developing eggs in the body cavity, likewise indicating sexual maturity. The new chameleon is only known from a degraded montane rainforest in northern Madagascar and might be threatened by extinction. Molecular phylogenetic analyses place it as sister to B. karchei, the largest species in the clade of miniaturized Brookesia species, for which we resurrect Evoluticauda Angel, 1942 as subgenus name. The genetic divergence of B. nana sp. nov. is rather strong (9.9‒14.9% to all other Evoluticauda species in the 16S rRNA gene). A comparative study of genital length in Malagasy chameleons revealed a tendency for the smallest chameleons to have the relatively largest hemipenes, which might be a consequence of a reversed sexual size dimorphism with males substantially smaller than females in the smallest species. The miniaturized males may need larger hemipenes to enable a better mechanical fit with female genitals during copulation. Comprehensive studies of female genitalia are needed to test this hypothesis and to better understand the evolution of genitalia in reptiles.


The collapse of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant caused a massive release of radioactive materials to the environment. A prompt and reliable system for evaluating the biological impacts of this accident on animals has not been available. Here we show that the accident caused physiological and genetic damage to the pale grass blue Zizeeria maha, a common lycaenid butterfly in Japan. We collected the first-voltine adults in the Fukushima area in May 2011, some of which showed relatively mild abnormalities. The F₁ offspring from the first-voltine females showed more severe abnormalities, which were inherited by the F₂ generation. Adult butterflies collected in September 2011 showed more severe abnormalities than those collected in May. Similar abnormalities were experimentally reproduced in individuals from a non-contaminated area by external and internal low-dose exposures. We conclude that artificial radionuclides from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant caused physiological and genetic damage to this species.

Concepts: Biology, Chernobyl disaster, Uranium, Nuclear fission, Radioactive contamination, Lists of nuclear disasters and radioactive incidents, Nuclear safety, Lycaenidae


Psilocybin with psychological support is showing promise as a treatment model in psychiatry but its therapeutic mechanisms are poorly understood. Here, cerebral blood flow (CBF) and blood oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) were measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) before and after treatment with psilocybin (serotonin agonist) for treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Quality pre and post treatment fMRI data were collected from 16 of 19 patients. Decreased depressive symptoms were observed in all 19 patients at 1-week post-treatment and 47% met criteria for response at 5 weeks. Whole-brain analyses revealed post-treatment decreases in CBF in the temporal cortex, including the amygdala. Decreased amygdala CBF correlated with reduced depressive symptoms. Focusing on a priori selected circuitry for RSFC analyses, increased RSFC was observed within the default-mode network (DMN) post-treatment. Increased ventromedial prefrontal cortex-bilateral inferior lateral parietal cortex RSFC was predictive of treatment response at 5-weeks, as was decreased parahippocampal-prefrontal cortex RSFC. These data fill an important knowledge gap regarding the post-treatment brain effects of psilocybin, and are the first in depressed patients. The post-treatment brain changes are different to previously observed acute effects of psilocybin and other ‘psychedelics’ yet were related to clinical outcomes. A ‘reset’ therapeutic mechanism is proposed.

Concepts: Brain, Magnetic resonance imaging, Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Serotonin, Schizophrenia, Major depressive disorder