(TMU) — The blood of actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson will reportedly be used for the development of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. The couple was among the first high profile figures outside of China to test positive for the novel coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19.
According to a statement published by a spokesperson for the Hanks family, the couple caught the virus in Australia where Hanks was in the middle of filming for Baz Luhrmann’s untitled Elvis Presley biopic in which Hanks is playing Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker.
Hanks revealed the news about his role in the development of a vaccine during a recent interview on the NPR podcast “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!.”
Hanks said, ”We just found out that we do carry the antibodies. We have not only been approached; we have said, do you want our blood? Can we give plasma? And, in fact, we will be giving it now to the places that hope to work on what I would like to call the Hank-ccine.”
Hanks also said that his wife Rita had far more severe symptoms than he did.
“Rita went through a tougher time than I did. She had a much-higher fever and she had some other symptoms. She lost her sense of taste and smell. She got absolutely no joy from food for a better part of three weeks. She was so nauseous, she had to crawl on the floor from the bed to the facilities. It lasted a while,” Hanks said, according to Insider.
The idea of using someone’s blood for the development of a vaccine may sound strange, but it is part of a study that the couple volunteered for after recovering from SARS-CoV-2 and coming out of quarantine. He said that the study was intended to find antibodies that would be useful for scientists who are currently working to develop a vaccine. Since they both carry antibodies for the virus, they donated their blood to be used in any way that could help.
However, this approach is not necessarily guaranteed to work, because we still don’t know much about immunity to this new coronavirus. In fact, scientists have never been able to develop an effective vaccine for any other coronavirus before.
Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently issued a statement saying that there was no evidence that catching SARS-CoV-2 or having its antibodies will contribute to future immunity.
Rachel Roper, a professor of immunology at East Carolina University who took part in efforts to develop a SARS vaccine, says that the process is more difficult and complicated than most people realize.
“People think, ‘Oh, if you make antibodies to it, it’s going to be protective. That’s not necessarily true. We were able to induce an immune response, but it wasn’t good enough to really protect against the disease,” Roper said of the SARS vaccines that she helped work on.
Please continue to check TMU for important updates on the pandemic and follow along with the very latest news on Telegram.
Biden to Ban Menthol Cigarettes, Citing Health Impact on Youth and Black People
The Biden administration is reportedly planning to propose an immediate ban on menthol cigarettes, a product that has long been targeted by anti-smoking advocates and critics who claim that the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed to Black people in the U.S.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the administration could announce a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as soon as this week.
Roughly 85 percent of Black smokers use such menthol brands as Newport and Kool, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Research has also found that menthol cigarettes are easier to become addicted to and harder to quit than unflavored tobacco products, along with other small cigars popular with young people and African Americans.
Civil rights advocates claim that the decision should be greeted by Black communities and people of color who have been marketed to by what they describe as the predatory tobacco industry.
Black smokers generally smoke far less than white smokers, but suffer a disproportionate amount of deaths due to tobacco-linked diseases like heart attack, stroke, and other causes.
Anti-smoking advocates like Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, also greeted the move to cut out products that appeal to children and young adults.
“Menthol cigarettes are the No. 1 cause of youth smoking in the United States,” he said. “Eliminating menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars used by so many kids will do more in the long run to reduce tobacco-related disease than any action the federal government has ever taken.”
However, groups including the American Civil Liberties Group (ACLU) has opposed the move, citing the likelihood that such an action could lead to criminal penalties arising from the enforcement of a ban hitting communities of color hardest.
In a letter to administration officials, the ACLU and other groups including the Drug Policy Alliance said that while the ban is “no doubt well-intentioned” it would also have “serious racial justice implications.”
“Such a ban will trigger criminal penalties, which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction,” the letter explained. “A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.”
Pollution Is Making Human Penises Shrink and Causing a Collapse of Fertility, Scientists Say
With many still scoffing at the idea of rampant pollution posing a threat to humanity, a new study could drastically change the conversation: the chemicals across our environment could be the cause of shrinking human penises.
According to a new book by Dr. Shanna H. Swan, conditions in the modern world are quickly altering the reproductive development of humans and posing a threat to our future as a species.
The argument is laid out in her new book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race.
The book discusses how pollution is not only leading to skyrocketing erectile dysfunction rates and fertility decline, but also an expansion in the number of babies born with small penises.
While it may seem like good fodder for jokes, the research could portend a grim future for humanity’s ability to survive.
Swan co-authored a study in 2017 that found sperm counts had precipitously fallen in Western countries by 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. In her latest book, Swan blames chemicals for this crisis in the making.
“Chemicals in our environment and unhealthy lifestyle practices in our modern world are disrupting our hormonal balance, causing various degrees of reproductive havoc,” she wrote in the new book.
“In some parts of the world, the average twentysomething woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35,” she also wrote, noting that men could have only half the sperm count of their grandfathers.
Swan blames the disruption on phthalates, the chemicals used in plastic manufacturing that also have an impact on how the crucial hormone endocrine is produced
However, experts note that the proper implementation of pollution reduction measures could help humanity prevent the collapse of human fertility.
Visualizing The World’s Deadliest Pandemics By Population Impact
Humanity has been battling against disease for centuries.
And while most contagious outbreaks have never reached full-blown pandemic status, Visual Capitalist’s Carmen Ang notes that there have been several times throughout history when a disease has caused mass devastation.
Here’s a look at the world’s deadliest pandemics to date, viewed from the lens of the impact they had on the global population at the time.
Editor’s note: The above graphic was created in response to a popular request from users after viewing our popular history of pandemics infographic initially released a year ago.
Death Toll, by Percent of Population
In the mid-1300s, a plague known as the Black Death claimed the lives of roughly 200 million people – more than 50% of the global population at that time.
Here’s how the death toll by population stacks up for other significant pandemics, including COVID-19 so far.
The specific cause of the Black Death is still up for debate. Many experts claim the 14th-century pandemic was caused by a bubonic plague, meaning there was no human-to-human transmission, while others argue it was possibly pneumonic.
Interestingly, the plague still exists today – however, it’s significantly less deadly, thanks to modern antibiotics.
History Repeats, But at Least We Keep Learning
While we clearly haven’t eradicated infection diseases from our lives entirely, we’ve at least come a long way in our understanding of what causes illness in the first place.
In ancient times, people believed gods and spirits caused diseases and widespread destruction. But by the 19th century, a scientist named Louis Pasteur (based on findings by Robert Koch) discovered germ theory – the idea that small organisms caused disease.
What will we discover next, and how will it impact our response to disease in the future?
Like this? Check out the full-length article The History of Pandemics
Republished from ZH with permission.