Breastfeeding is tough: new research shows how to make it more manageable

Jacob Lund/Shutterstock The benefits of breastfeeding are wide-ranging and life-changing. Breast milk contains antibodies that reduce the risk of asthma, allergies, diarrhoea and ear infections. Breastfed infants are hospitalised less frequently than infants who are not. In later life, breastfed children and less likely to be overweight and have higher…

Relaxing restrictions hasn’t made COVID cases spike – but this doesn’t mean herd immunity has arrived

Varavin88/Shutterstock Back in the summer of 2021, the UK government’s pandemic modellers predicted that there would be a significant COVID outbreak in the autumn. Yet so far, this hasn’t happened. Other countries with good COVID vaccine coverage have also seen their cases fall and then stabilise. So is herd immunity…

North Korea’s costly COVID response is pushing Kim Jong-un to play political games

In April 2020, I wrote about North Korea’s efforts to protect itself from COVID-19. The regime was genuinely afraid about the spread of the disease because it knew the country’s healthcare system wouldn’t cope if the virus took hold. Initially there was acceptance that, for the most part, North Korea…

COVID vaccines: how to speed up rollout in poorer countries

COVID-19 vaccine production has scaled up significantly. Global output is now estimated to be over 1.5 billion doses a month, rapidly propelling the world towards the 11.3 billion doses needed to vaccinate 80% of teenagers and adults and potentially bring the pandemic to an end. Total output may reach that…

Smokers were never really protected from COVID, despite what early studies claimed

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, researchers stumbled on an unexpected finding: smokers seemed to be protected from COVID’s worst effects. Initially discovered on a review of hospitalised patients in China, this “smoker’s paradox” was later reported in studies from Italy and France. But it turns out that this wasn’t true,…

COVID vaccines for teenagers: what UK parents need to know amid a new wave of misinformation

Roman Chazov/Shutterstock The UK has approved giving one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to all children aged 12-15, with vaccines largely being given within the education system. Schools are helping coordinate the rollout, including the consent process. Under-16s need parental consent to have the vaccine. Unfortunately, schools, parents and…

What the world can learn from Bhutan’s rapid COVID vaccine rollout

NiarKrad/Shutterstock Nearly half the world’s population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. But figures vary widely between countries. Many low and middle-income countries have barely started their vaccination campaigns. But the tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan isn’t one of them. By the end of July, it…

COVID smell loss can have profound effects on your life, from weight change to intimacy barriers

Flotsam/Shuttestock It took a while to be officially recognised, but smell loss eventually became known to be one of the defining features of COVID-19. It’s now widely acknowledged that COVID-19 has a unique effect on smell receptors, and about 10% of those who lose their smell are still reporting problems…

A new oral antiviral drug for COVID is being tested in humans – can it make a difference?

Despite the effectiveness of vaccines, we still need drugs to treat COVID. Even people who have been double vaccinated stand a small chance of getting COVID and ending up moderately or even severely ill. There are drugs to treat COVID, but they have to be given in hospital. One promising…

Your immune system is as unique as your fingerprint – new study

Christoph Burgstedt/Shutterstock Every person appears to have a unique immune system. My colleagues and I discovered this immune diversity after charting antibodies in the blood from healthy and sick people. The discovery could help explain why, for example, COVID vaccines appear to be less effective for some people. At the…

Long COVID: double vaccination halves risk of developing long-lasting symptoms

Studio Romantic/Shutterstock In unvaccinated people, around one in 20 who get symptomatic COVID-19 experience symptoms for at least eight weeks. Around one in 50 have symptoms that drag out for three months or more. We wanted to know whether COVID-19 vaccines might protect against developing long-lasting symptoms. To find out,…

COVID crisis: what kind of inquiry do we need to learn the right lessons?

I solemnly swear … Amer Ghazzal/Alamy Live News Boris Johnson recently announced that a UK inquiry into the government’s handling of COVID-19 will start in 2022 (with a parallel one planned in Scotland), and many more will emerge all over the world. But how should such inquiries be designed and…

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