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Roslin scientists join efforts to tackle COVID-19
The novel disease is named COVID-19 and the virus is SARS-CoV-2.

Insights could lead to new strategies to control virus spread

Scientists at the Roslin Institute are participating in the global effort to better understand and develop treatments for the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

Using publicly-available genetic information, researchers are investigating the similarities between the novel virus (formally named SARS-CoV-2), severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS- CoV) and related bat viruses.

The team says the comparisons are already helping them to identify genetic regions of the virus that may be changing in response to human infections, and could lead to new control strategies.

A global effort

Many organisations in countries affected by COVID-19 have performed rapid whole-genome sequencing of the virus and shared their results via scientific databases. This allows researchers, no matter where they based, to study the information immediately.

Scientists are trying to ascertain when and how COVID-19 first passed from an animal to a human. With this information, they can then explore what factors enabled the virus to spread. 

‘Currently, the genetic details of novel coronavirus samples from humans are very similar to each other,’ the scientists said. ‘They differ by only a few variations in the genetic code across the whole sequence of about 30,000 letters of DNA.

'This indicates that there has been a relatively short time since the disease originally emerged in humans for changes in the genetic code to accumulate. The approximate time of emergence can be estimated using the sequence data. This is done by looking at how and where the virus spreads, as well as how it evolves.’

Steroids ‘provide little benefit’

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh have concluded that, based on evidence from previous outbreaks, such as SARS, treating coronavirus patients with steroids ‘provides little benefit and could do more harm than good’.

‘Steroids impair the immune system’s ability to fight viruses and other infections that often develop in patients with a life-threatening illness,' the researchers said.

‘Patients with MERS or SARS who were treated with steroids seemed to take longer to clear the infection from their bodies, but the evidence is not clear and clinical trials will be needed to be sure.’

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Avian flu outbreak at RSPB Minsmere

News Story 1
 RSPB Minsmere nature reserve in Suffolk has confirmed an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza on its site. The coastal nature reserve has seen an increase in dead birds recently, and has said that it is 'extremely concerned' about the potential impacts on bird populations, with 2021 and 2022 seeing the largest ever outbreak in the UK.

In a statement, RSPB said: "We appreciate that it is distressing, for both visitors and staff, to see dead or dying birds at our site but we ask that if visitors see any dead or unwell birds, they do not touch or go near them and that they report it to us at our Visitor Centre during its opening hours, or by emailing us on outside of these times."  

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Moredun Foundation Award opens for applications

The 2022-2023 Moredun Foundation Award (MFA) is now open for members, with up to £2,000 available for successful applicants.

The MFA honours the contribution that education, teamwork, life experience, and travel have made to the understanding of cattle health and welfare. Through its charitable endeavours, Moredun offers its members the opportunity to pursue projects that support personal development.

The prize is open to a wide range of project applications, including those that include producing educational tools, conducting a small research project, or studying farming methods in other nations. For more information and to apply, visit