It looks like Omicron causes milder illness (endemic status?) + Reproducing robots?

C C Offline
It looks like Omicron causes milder illness – is this how COVID becomes endemic?

EXCERPTS: These are very early days in terms of our understanding the Omicron variant. What is known is that it has a large number of mutations, particularly in the spike protein and it appears to be rapidly spreading in specific parts of the world.

Very early indications from Africa suggest it does not cause particularly severe disease (though the World Health Organization has urged caution given the limited data available).

At this point, it isn’t clear whether it has any greater capacity to evade vaccines than other SARS-CoV-2 strains such as Delta.

It is very common for viruses to become less virulent (that is, cause less severe disease) once they become established in a population. The classic example is myxomatosis, which killed 99% of rabbits when first introduced into Australia, but which now causes much lower mortality.

Some experts have predicted COVID will also become less severe as it transitions to an endemic level of disease – settling into a predictable pattern of infections in a given location. It’s possible the Omicron variant may be the first step in this process.

[...] What happens next is yet to be determined. Experts will look for more information on the transmissibility of Omicron, the level of viraemia it generates and the extent to which it is capable of evading either the existing vaccines or immune responses resulting from previous infection.

Omicron may well behave quite differently in a highly vaccinated population – such as we now have in Australia – compared with a population with very low levels of vaccination as is the case in most of sub-Saharan Africa. Nevertheless, the emergence of this new variant emphasises an effective vaccination effort worldwide is necessary to overcome the COVID pandemic... (MORE - missing details)

Interesting research, but no, we don’t have living, reproducing robots

INTRO: Scientists on Monday announced that they'd optimized a way of getting mobile clusters of cells to organize other cells into smaller clusters that, under the right conditions, could be mobile themselves. The researchers call this process "kinematic self-replication," although that's not entirely right—the copies need help from humans to start moving on their own, are smaller than the originals, and the copying process grinds to a halt after just a couple of cycles.

So, of course, CNN headlined its coverage "World's first living robots can now reproduce."

This is a case when something genuinely interesting is going on, but both the scientists and some of the coverage of the developments are promoting it as far more than it actually is. So, let's take a look at what has really been done.

The whole process starts by isolating the embryonic cells from a frog's egg. Among the cells' many interesting properties, two are relevant for this work. The first is that these cells stick to each other. If you leave a cluster of them in a culture dish, they'll pull together into a ball. You can even dissociate them entirely and leave a collection of them in culture, and they'll stick together and form a ball of cells that way.

The cells' second relevant feature is that they will self-organize... (MORE - details)
Syne Offline
April 13, 2020:
(Apr 14, 2020 02:47 AM)Syne Wrote: The flu vaccine relies on them picking the right vaccine for the strain of the flu that ends up being prevalent that year. They don't always pick the right one to produce and distribute. So some years it's almost as if there is no vaccine at all. And it will likely be the same story with any Covid vaccine. It will mutate into different strains, if it hasn't already (considering its replication rate), and we'll be back to trying to pick the right vaccine to mass produce. It's all a false sense of safety...that is currently destroying the world economy, which itself will inevitably cause deaths.

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