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People participating in a clinical trial in a hospital

Research shows that many scientists fail to disclose conflicts of interest in clinical-trial manuscripts.Credit: Javier Larrea/agefotostock/Alamy

One in four Australian medical researchers did not declare financial conflicts of interest when submitting journal manuscripts. A study of 120 drug trials in 2020 compared declarations by Australian authors with the country’s database of company-made payments. The results echo those from similar US studies, which “suggests that the fundamental problem of conflict-of-interest non-disclosure is a persistent one” in clinical research — evident across journals, across countries and over time, says neuroscientist James Baraldi.

Nature | 4 min read

Reference: Journal of General Internal Medicine paper & BMJ Open paper

Scientists who tested more than 1,000 deceased people at a city morgue in Lusaka, Zambia, found that a third were infected with SARS-CoV-2. During waves of peak transmission, that number increased to 90%. The findings, which have not yet been peer-reviewed, suggest that the true extent of COVID-19 in the region could be larger than thought. There have been fewer than 4,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths in Zambia, a country of around 19 million people. Separate findings suggest that Zambia’s ‘excess’ deaths — those above what would usually be expected — from 1 January 2020 to the end of 2021 exceeded 80,000.

Nature | 5 min read

Reference: medRxiv preprint

Spinosaurus and its kin had dense bone walls, like a penguin, suggesting that it spent lots of time in the water and hunted in it. Researchers compared spinosaurids’ bones with those from an array of living and extinct marine mammals, aquatic reptiles and water-loving birds. They found that Spinosaurus (and its cousin Baryonyx) could swim underwater. “Spinosaurus might also have been a wading animal sometimes, but its ecology is characterized by full immersion in water,” says palaeontologist and study author Matteo Fabbri. Debate rages over how the unusual sail-backed dinosaurs swam and pursued their fishy food, with another study suggesting they hunted more like a scary stork.

National Geographic | 10 min read

Reference: Nature paper

Features & opinion

Cement and steel, the ubiquitous building blocks of the modern world, are among the dirtiest industries on the planet. Together, they release 13.5% of global CO2 emissions. Four sustainability researchers outline how steel could become close to carbon neutral and how cement could turn into a carbon sink. The first step: just use less of them.

Nature | 11 min read

Sleep seems to be as old as animals themselves: even those with the simplest nervous systems, such as jellyfish and hydra, do it. But, as my children ask me every evening, why do we have to go to sleep? Because, darlings, if you don’t, you will die. Experiments on sleep-deprived fruit flies suggest that basic by-products of aerobic life, called reactive oxygen species, build up in the gut and cut their lifespans in half. “I think of it as like the rusting of a pipe … that’s oxidation,” neurobiologist Dragana Rogulja tells Quanta Magazine’s The Joy of Why podcast. “That’s what oxidative stress is …. We saw it in flies, and we saw it with every method of sleep loss that we could think of.” When the flies are genetically modified to express antioxidant enzymes in the gut, they can survive without sleep. Now go to bed.

The Joy of Why podcast | 43 min read

Reference: Cell paper

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