BBC Inside Science

BBC Inside Science

BBC Radio 4

A weekly programme that illuminates the mysteries and challenges the controversies behind the science that's changing our world.

Categorias: Ciencia y medicina

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As virologists around the world race to investigate the latest SARS CoV2 variant of concern, the UN’s World AIDS Day this week reminds us of the other global pandemic raging for some 40 years. Much of the work achieved over the last two years on SARS CoV2 has been achieved because of the investment made into, and the understanding gained from, HIV research over the last two decades. But to what further extent do they overlap in the population? There is a theory that the omicron variant, displaying so very many mutations compared to previous variants, might well have been incubated in a person suffering from a compromised immune system, possibly due to HIV, in whom the covid virus was able to linger longer than in fitter individuals. Prof. Penny Moore, of South Africa’s National Centre for Infectious Disease and Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, is one of many virologists who transferred from HIV to coronavirus research, and hers, like hundreds of labs around the world, is racing to clone the parts of the omicron virus to enable research into its transmissibility and severity as soon as possible. She describes to Vic what we yet know and what we don’t about it, and also how it is high time to bring the same sense of urgency back to HIV research. Nottingham University’s Prof. Jonathan Ball is another virologist who suddenly transferred experience over to coronaviruses early on. He outlines something of what is really happening when viruses mutate, and how the arms race between host and invader can play out. Our regular Inside Science listener will be interested to know that this week Merlin Sheldrake was awarded the Royal Society’s Science Book Prize, sponsored by Insight Investment, and the hefty cheque that accompanies it, for his book Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures. Merlin is one of several high profile advisors to something called the Society for the Protection of Underground Networks - SPUN. They have received funding recently to begin an international mission to map the world’s subterranean fungal mycelial networks, including the infamous Wood Wide Web. SPUN Co-Founder Prof. Toby Kiers of VU University in Amsterdam tells Vic about the need to preserve, map and cherish this unseen yet essential part of the global ecosystem. And could rising sea levels paradoxically be used to help fight climate change? Researchers up in St Andrews took Vic for a squelch about the salt marshes reclaimed recently by the sea in an estuary near Grangemouth, where flora and fauna are thriving just a few years since the seas were allowed back in. Finally, you may have thought that wasps eat meat whereas bees eat honey and nectar. But this week we learned that some bees eat meat, preserving it in honeycombs to feed young and augment their own nutrition. Intrepid field entomologist Laura Figueroa of Cornell University describes to Vic her work in the jungle with Vulture Bees, social bees that over evolutionary time seem to have rescinded their vegetarian instincts and now are happy to enjoy a bit of “chicken on the side”. Laura found that they can digest their flesh because of big adjustments to their gut microbes, including acid-loving bacteria also found in other carnivorous animals. Presented by Victoria Gill Produced by Alex Mansfield Assistant Producer, Emily Bird Made in Association with The Open University

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