I, Science News-25 February 2020

This week in your weekly I, Science News RoundUp we continue coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak; the new antibiotic discovered by AI; and Jeff Bezos’ Earth Fund.

COVID-19 update

In the past week, experts have commented that the world may approaching a tipping point in the COVID-19 outbreak. This comes after Iran and Italy see major outbreaks of the disease and South Korea is put on red alert.

There are now almost 78,000 confirmed cases across the globe, and some of the most affected countries are struggling to keep it contained. Some infected clusters have also confused experts as they show no obvious link to China, making it difficult to track the virus’ spread.

A Wuhan woman also managed to infect her family despite testing negatively for the virus and displaying no symptoms, increasing fears that the virus may be more difficult to stop than initially imagined.

The power of AI in the fight against drug resistance

AI has sparked new hope against the global fears of drug resistant diseases, as it is used to discover a new antibiotic.

The drug, called halicin, has been shown to wipe out a range of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, including 2 of the top 3 high-priority pathogens identified by the WHO.

Researchers at MIT used machine learning to work through a database of 107m compounds, looking for compounds that look effective but unlike current antibiotics, leading them to halicin, which was originally researched as a potential drug to treat diabetes.

The WHO calls antibiotic resistance one of the biggest threats to global health security and development today, so this is a major breakthrough in the fight against it.

Jeff Bezos pledges $10bn to fight climate change

Amazon billionaire and the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, has pledged $10bn into an Earth Fund to help fight the climate crisis. With a net worth of ~$130bn, this represents around 8% of his fortune.

The Earth Fund will start distributing money this summer, with the money going to ‘fund scientists, activists, NGOs – any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world.’

This comes not long after Amazon threatened to fire employees who spoke out about the company’s role in the climate crisis.

This week’s news was written by Harry Jenkins, who is studying for an MSc in Science Communication at Imperial College London.

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