69 episodes

The BBC brings you all the week's science news.

Science in Action BBC

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The BBC brings you all the week's science news.

    Why Covid -19 vaccines may not stop transmission

    Why Covid -19 vaccines may not stop transmission

    While vaccines against Covid -19 are being developed at unprecedented speed, none of them have been tested to see if they can actually stop transmission of the virus. They are designed to stop those who are vaccinated from developing Covid -19 disease, but not becoming infected.

    This says Virologist Malik Peiris from Hong Kong University means while vaccinated people themselves may be protected they might also spread the virus.

    Cells produced in the bone marrow may be responsible for an extreme immune response to Covid 19 in some people. Immunologist Lizzie Mann from Manchester University says this finding may help predict who will develop serious disease symptoms, and also provide a target for future treatments.

    Extreme ice melt in the Arctic this summer may have a long term impact on the region says glaciologist Julienne Stroeve. She spent the winter in the Arctic and tells us about the environment she encountered.

    And climate change is also impacting the tropics, research in Gabon from Ecologists Emma Bush and Robin Whytock shows a reduction of the amount of fruit available which is now impacting the health of forest elephants.





    (Image Credit: Getty Images)

    Presenter: Roland Pease
    Producer: Julian Siddle

    • 41 min
    Malaria resistance breakthrough

    Malaria resistance breakthrough

    Some East Africans have a genetic mutation which gives them resistance to Malaria. Investigations into how it works have produced a surprising finding. As researcher Silvia Kariuki explains it’s all to do with the surface tension of the red blood cells.

    SARS-CoV- 2 can pass from people in the very early stages of Covid -19, before they show symptoms. New research shows identifying cases at this early stage is crucial to controlling the pandemic. And yet most testing regimes require symptoms to show before testing. Luca Ferretti did this latest analysis.

    And how about getting up close with virus? That’s what Camille Ehre has done, using an electron microscope to produce remarkable pictures of the virus as it attacks lung tissue.

    Carl Wunsch tells us of a technique he developed in the 1970s to measure changes in global ocean temperatures using sound waves. Revisiting this method may give us insight into the impact of climate change on the deep ocean.


    (Image: Getty Images)

    Presenter: Roland Pease
    Producer: Julian Siddle

    • 30 min
    Monitoring Covid-19, harvests and space junk

    Monitoring Covid-19, harvests and space junk

    Roland Pease reports from the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in Seattle. At the UK Research and Innovation’s stand in the exhibition hall, he’s joined by three scientists to discuss monitoring the Coronavirus outbreak, the locusts devastating crops in East Africa and the ever increasing amount of space junk orbiting the Earth.

    Professor Jeffrey Shaman of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University talks about how he is modelling the movement of Covid-19 around China and beyond.

    Dr Catherine Nakalembe, of the University of Maryland and East Africa Lead for NASA Harvest explains how she uses data collected by satellites to find out where crops are thriving and where they are not. She also talks about how this technology can alert countries to approaching locust swarms.

    And Professor Moriba Jah of University of Texas at Austin, tells Roland why he’s concerned about the amount of space junk that’s orbiting the earth and why so little is being done about controlling satellite launch and disposal.


    (Image: Artist response to NASA Harvest discussion at AAAS Credit: Lorenzo Palloni)


    Presenter: Roland Pease
    Editor: Deborah Cohen

    • 26 min
    Covid -19 science versus politics

    Covid -19 science versus politics

    With the announcement in the UK of investment in rapid testing for people who may not have Covid -19 we ask why is this only happening now? For months on this programme we’ve featured scientific research suggesting such a strategy would be the quickest way to end the pandemic.

    We speak with Connie Cepko and Brian Rabe who have developed a rapid test and Manu Prakash who is currently rolling it out to countries in the global south.

    Could a huge motorcycle rally really have been the source of over a quarter of a million Covid -19 infections? That’s the finding of a study by economist Andrew Friedson he tells us how mobile phone data helped to determine that figure.

    And the politics of vaccines, Many health officials in the US have spoken out against president Trumps claim that a vaccine may be ready before the November presidential election. Helen Branswell from Stat news tells us why there is so much concern over political attempts to manipulate science.


    (Image:Getty Images)

    Presenter: Roland Pease
    Producer: Julian Siddle

    • 38 min
    Nyiragongo - is Goma under threat?

    Nyiragongo - is Goma under threat?

    A new survey of the volcano's activity suggests there may be an eruption in the next 4 to 7 years. It's a particular concern for the populations of Goma and Gisenyi, two cites between the volcano and lake Kivu. As we hear from the director of the Goma Volcano Observatory Katcho Karume, the city of Goma in particular has expanded so much that many people now live right next to fissures in the flank of the volcano through which any eruption would likely occur.

    Hurricane Laura made landfall in Louisiana's main area of swamp land, missing big urban areas to either side. It was a lucky escape for many, but as hurricane historian Jill Trepanier tells us such extreme weather events do seem to be more frequent and potentially more destructive.

    And wildfires ravaging California and other Western US states may have been intensified by changes to global weather systems . Climate scientist Bill Lau says those weather systems in turn have been modified by man-made climate change.

    In November 2018 a Chinese scientist announced he had edited the genes of twin girls. The announcement was greeted with horror by many researchers in the field. Now a way to regulate gene editing internationally has been proposed by some of the world's leading scientific institutions. Kay Davies co-author of their report explains the plan.

    Presenter: Roland Pease
    Producer: Julian Siddle

    (Main Image: Sunset, Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Shamim Shorif Susom / EyeEm / Getty Images)

    • 31 min
    Covid-19 therapy controversy

    Covid-19 therapy controversy

    This week Science in Action examines the evidence around the Trump Administration’s emergency use authorisation of convalescent plasma therapy for the treatment of Covid-19. Donald Trump described its US-wide roll-out as ‘historic’ but the majority of scientists and doctors disagree, questioning the scientific basis for the government’s decision. Roland Pease talks to Mayo Clinic’s Michael Joyner, the leader of the convalescent plasma therapy study on which the action was based. The Mayo Clinic trial involved a large number of patients but none of them were compared to Covid-19 patients who were not treated with convalescent plasma. Trials that incorporate that comparison are the only way to properly assess the therapy’s effectiveness. Roland talks to Martin Landray of the University of Oxford who is testing convalescent plasma therapy in the UK’s Recovery randomised control trial, and to medical ethicist Alison Bateman-House of the New York University Grossman School of Medicine.

    We also talk to nanotechnologist Marc Miskin about the million-strong army of microscopic robots he’s creating in his lab at the University of Pennsylvania.

    Presenter: Roland Pease
    Producer: Andrew Luck Baker

    (Main image: New York lab tests serum from recovered covid-19 patients for possible therapy. Credit: Misha Friedman / Getty Images)

    • 38 min

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