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A view of a bombed and damaged hospital in Volnovakha, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine.

A bombed hospital in Volnovakha in Ukraine’s Donetsk region on 12 March.Credit: Anadolu Agency via Getty

Adding to the brutal effects of Russia’s invasion, the Ukrainian people are facing an onslaught of infectious diseases. Some threats — such as the spread of COVID-19 — are immediate, as people huddle in basements, subway stations and temporary shelters to protect themselves from bombardments. Without adequate water and sanitation, cases of diarrhoeal diseases are certain to rise. The risk of polio and measles outbreaks is high. And as health facilities and roads are reduced to rubble, access to diagnostic services and treatments for tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS is being interrupted. The country had been making progress, but “this war can put us ten years back again”, says Valeriia Rachynska, at the All Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS.

Nature | 6 min read

Planetary scientists in China are revelling in the opportunity to study Moon rocks for the first time. The samples, collected by the Chang’e-5 spacecraft, are the first brought back to Earth since NASA’s Apollo and the Soviet Union’s Luna missions more than 40 years ago. They are yielding exciting insights into the Moon’s evolution. Among them: the Moon was still volcanically active almost a billion years after its volcanic peak, which left its mark in the rocks collected by Apollo. Chinese researchers next anticipate a sample-return mission to the Moon’s south pole and another to Mars. “Twenty to thirty years ago, this was just a dream. Now it has come true,” says geochronologist Li Xian-Hua.

Nature | 5 min read

The United Kingdom’s lauded REACT study is among the “gold standard” infection-surveillance projects that are to lose funding within weeks. REACT (real-time assessment of community transmission) randomly tests about 150,000 people across England each month to see how many are infected with SARS-CoV-2. Studies that monitor infections in health workers and care homes will also be scrapped. REACT — together with the Office for National Statistics’s UK-wide COVID-19 Infection Survey, which will continue — “provided the UK with a level of awareness of the pandemic that was really exceptionally good”, says epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch, a director at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He visited the United Kingdom last month with a view to setting up a similar system in the United States. “[It] is a gold standard for how to understand the pandemic.”

The Guardian | 5 min read

Features & opinion

Seventy per cent of the DNA sequenced for the Human Genome Project’s first draft genome came from just one man. Genome maps have improved, but huge swathes are still missing. A group of high-profile scientists, mostly in the United States, wants to sequence around 350 carefully selected people to remedy the problem. They aim to capture almost all human genetic variability — the dizzying number of genetic remixes in the human species, including additions, deletions and other types of mutation. But the researchers must grapple with the field’s long history of ethical transgressions.

Nature | 13 min read

Nutrition researchers Jaouad Bouayed and Torsten Bohn know first-hand how long hours in the laboratory can undermine our best-laid plans to eat healthily. But good food feeds our brains and leads to better research, so they offer advice for working scientists on how to achieve a healthy, balanced diet. Take time to eat, they say: relax and enjoy your meal. Cut sugar and salt, drink loads of water and try to eat home-cooked food. “A Tupperware lunch made with leftovers from even the most indulgent dinner could often make a healthier lunch than a standard pre-packaged sandwich,” they say.

Nature | 7 min read

News & views

Figure 1

Figure 1 | Predicting missing text in an ancient Greek inscription. a, Scholars previously transcribed this fragmented inscription, noting gaps where letters are missing (highlighted dashes). b, Assael et al. report the development of an artificial-intelligence tool called Ithaca, which is trained to suggest text that might fill these sorts of gaps. The text proposed by Ithaca matches the suggestions previously made by scholars (text highlighted in blue), with a few exceptions (text highlighted in red). The high level of accuracy achieved by Ithaca indicates how it can enhance and enrich the work of scholars. (Figure based on Extended Data Fig. 4 of ref. 1.)

For Nature subscribers

An artificial intelligence (AI) called Ithaca is able to predict missing text in ancient Greek inscriptions. Scholars who transcribed a fragmented inscription would note gaps with missing letters — shown by the highlighted dashes in panel a above. Ithaca is trained to suggest text to fill the gaps. As shown in panel b, the text proposed by Ithaca matches the suggestions previously made by academics (text highlighted in blue), with a few exceptions highlighted in red.

Nature News & Views | 6 min read

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Reference: Nature paper

Image of the week

This new-to-science Rose-Veiled Fairy Wrasse is the first Maldivian fish to ever be described by a local researcher.

© Yi-Kai Tea

The stunning rose-veiled fairy wrasse (Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa) is the first fish found off the coast of the Maldives to be scientifically described by a Maldivian researcher. Its name is derived from the local Dhivehi language: ‘finifenmaa’, meaning ‘rose’, is a nod to both its pink hues and the nation’s national flower. “It has always been foreign scientists who have described species found in the Maldives without much involvement from local scientists, even those that are endemic to the Maldives,” says marine biologist Ahmed Najeeb. “This time it is different and getting to be part of something for the first time has been really exciting.” (CNN | 5 min read)

Reference: ZooKeys paper

See other great science images, selected by Nature’s photo team.


Engineer Anoosheh Ashoori describes how he banded together with fellow academics to study and “find ways to remain sane” in Iran’s hellish Evin jail. Ashoori and fellow British–Iranian detainee Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe today returned to the United Kingdom. Conservationist Morad Tahbaz was also released from jail but remains in Iran. (The Guardian | 7 min read)

Read more: Eight environmental researchers charged with spying in Iran (Nature | 5 min read, from 2019)

Today I’m pondering Dug, who was within a gnat’s whisker of being crowned the world’s largest potato when DNA testing determined that he was “not a potato and is in fact the tuber of a type of gourd”. Mysteries remain (what type of gourd?!), but what’s really important is that Dug is safe and loved, in the freezer of the New Zealand couple who found him. “I say ‘gidday’ to him every time I pull out some sausages,” says Dug-digger-upper Colin Craig-Brown. “Whenever the grandchildren come round, they say, ‘Can we see Dug?’”

Thanks for reading,

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

With contributions by Smriti Mallapaty

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