Why could mink threaten a COVID-19 vaccine?

Why could mink threaten a COVID-19 vaccine?

Denmark is set to cull millions of mink, amid fears a new coronavirus strain in the species could jeopardise a COVID-19 vaccine. They are cute, furry and apparently carrying a mutant form of the coronavirus, which has already spread to humans. Now Denmark will cull 17 million mink to stop the spread of the mutant virus and help protect the effectiveness of a future COVID-19 vaccine.  According to reports, more than 200 mink farms in the country have seen infections of coronavirus, while mink-related versions of it were found in 214 humans since June. However, the most worrying strain of the mutant has so far been found in only 12 people and five mink farms.  What do we know about the mutant? There are multiple mutations of the coronavirus in mink and seven of them have mutations in the spike protein, which helps the virus enter the cells. One of these viruses has four mutations in the spike protein and during laboratory tests proved less...
Read More
The Quadruple Whammy For Christmas

The Quadruple Whammy For Christmas

The press are predicting a difficult winter period, the so called quadruple whammy of Covid-19, influenza, Brexit and climate change (flooding). We hope it will be much better than that. With good fortune and good behaviour the second spike of coronavirus can be avoided. Flu vaccines are already being shipped and in the Southern Hemisphere, now in winter, measures to prevent Covid-19 infection are reducing the number of flu infections.  The hit to the economy from Covid-19 is many fold greater than anything predicted for Brexit. In any event, the EU is in as much Covid-19 turmoil as we are. With international travel at its highest ever level pre-pandemic, this horrible virus spread around the world quickly and although we had some time to react, the ponderous response by Western Governments was fuelled by liberal economists and a series of experts (herd community?) relying on the precedents of other viruses. Always look outside the box my friends, always. The shutdown was late (but...
Read More
Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs

The hedgehog. Erinaceinae. These lovable spiny creatures which are a common site in our gardens and hedgerows, are Britain’s only spiny mammal. The UK is home to the West European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus). This species is just one of seventeen different species worldwide from Europe, Asia, Africa and New Zealand. They were named for their peculiar foraging methods. These mammals search through hedges and undergrowth in search of creatures that compose most of their diet such as worms, insects, centipedes, snails, mice and sometimes even snakes! As they look for their food they snort and grunt in the hedgerows - ‘hedgehog’. Their specialised coat can contain over 6,000 spines and hangs around their body in a loose ‘skirt’, concealing the grey fur on their undersides, long legs and short stubby tail. Their spines are hollow and naturally fall out when a baby hedgehog (called a hoglet) grows adult spines. This process is called ‘quilling’ just like when our baby teeth fallout and...
Read More
Can Nature Improve Our Mood During Lockdown

Can Nature Improve Our Mood During Lockdown

‘A walk-in nature, walks the soul back home’ - Mary Davis The environments that we are confined to can impact our body, mind and spirit profoundly. What we hear, touch, smell and see can not only affect our mood but our nervous, endocrine and immune systems as well. Say you are in a stressful environment, your heart rate goes up, elevating your blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension, suppressing your body’s systems. You would find that the opposite happens in a relaxed and more pleasant environment like a spa or a walk in the woods listening to bird song. Being in nature or even just viewing nature from a window can reduce feelings of anger, pain and stress. We are literally genetically programmed to find elements of nature engrossing as we humans were not made to sit inside all day. Nature can lower the production of stress hormones and researchers have even stated that it could reduce mortality. Even a single potted...
Read More
Tree Killing Beetles

Tree Killing Beetles

Did you know that elm trees were nearly wiped out by a fungal disease carried by beetles?Before elm was disseminated by beetles carrying a microfungi, it was the second most important broad leaf timber in Britain to oak. Like oak, it was of great landscape importance and formed an important component of our native woodland, supporting a wide range of fauna and flora.Elm hosts around 80 species of invertebrates such as the rare White-letter Hairstreak (Satyrium w-album) and in spring, its early pollen is sought after by many insects including honey bees. Elms are also a very important food source for songbirds, game birds and squirrels as their seeds develop long before many other seeds are available.Over the past century there have been two pandemics of Dutch Elm Disease (DEM) caused by two separate but related species of Asian microfungi, Ophiostoma ulmi and O. novo-ulmi. The non-native microfungi are dispersed by bark beetles of the genera Scolytus and Hylurgopinus. These beetles are no larger...
Read More
Britain’s Beavers

Britain’s Beavers

The Eurasian beaver (Castor fibre) is native to the UK and used to be widespread across England, Scotland and Wales. Beavers became extinct here in the 16th century, because of hunting for their pelt, meat and a secretion called castoreum which they use to mark their territory. The latter was once highly prized for use in perfumes, food and medicine. Over the past decade major efforts have been underway to reintroduce beavers into the British countryside. As a result, the Eurasian beaver has shown good recovery across much of its range. The National Trust recently announced that two pairs of beaver will be released in the south of England next spring, after their plans were approved by Natural England. These releases are part of the National Trust's wider plan to restore 25,000 hectares of "wildlife-rich" habitats by 2025. One pair is to be released into a fenced woodland in Holnicote near Exmoor in Somerset. The other pair is to be...
Read More