The communication gap between the scientific and the non-scientific community.

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Dina El Ahdab, PhD Candidate

‘Magic’ is a word for the things you don’t understand. ‘Science’ is a word for the process of understanding things.
However, they’re actually closer than most people might think. Among the similarities:

> Both are disciplines that seek to understand how the world works.

> Both are motivated by our desire, to at least some extent, to impose our will on the world.

> Both involve experimentation, at least to some extent.

> Both involve the search for general principles that can apply to specific situations.

> In both cases, those general principles can appear arcane to the uninitiated.

"More than ever, people need some understanding of science, whether they are involved in decision-making at a national or local level, in managing industrial companies, in skilled or semi-skilled employment, in voting as private citizens or in making a wide range of personal decisions." - The Public Understanding of Science





Science is indeed facing several major problems including financial crunch in academia, poor study design in published papers, lack of replication studies, problems with peer review, and problems with research accessibility.


One should admit that the public support for the scientific research is often low. Researchers can be blamed here, since a wide communication gap exists between the scientific and the non-scientific communities. This has resulted in miscommunication of science, divided opinions about scientific matters, and lack of informed decision-making among the public. Researchers are partly responsible for this because they lack time or sometimes they prefer an inclination to engage with the public about their research work. Therefore, the public is largely dependent on the media, which is often blamed for misconstruing scientific facts.


In order to close the communication gap, scientists should become more social, but are we a science literate society?

The audience that scientists are targeting need to have some preparedness to receive scientific information and be able to apply it in their everyday decisions. Thus, while scientists will definitely have to explain their research in simple language, the communication will not be effective unless the audience has a certain degree of understanding of scientific research, how it works, and what it implies.

Just a few decades ago, mobile phones and the internet were relatively new. Although today, even people in remote villages know how to use smartphones, and elderly people are avid users of Whatsapp and Facebook although nobody really taught them how to.


We need events that can bring the scientific and non-scientific communities closer together. Lay audiences need to be immersed in science in the way they are surrounded by gadgets today: everyday life should be more science focused. Right from primary school education to popular media such as television, films, the internet and social media, science should be omnipresent in people’s lives in an interactive way. This will facilitate a better understanding of science and help bridge the gap between scientists and the non-scientific community. This in turn, will improve the quality of rational decisions and the use of science products, and hopefully, increase the public’s trust in science and scientists.


[COVID19] Evaluation du vrai danger contagieux, les “fake news” !

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Dina El Ahdab, Rédactrice en chef

Depuis le début de la pandémie du coronavirus, SARS-COV-2, de nombreuses fausses informations et rumeurs circulent et ne font que répandre la peur et l’hystérie collective. 

Remèdes miracles, théories conspirationnistes et récupérations politiques explosent sur la Toile depuis que la population est confinée. Avec, parfois, des conséquences graves.
Alors que la population, enfermée, doit affronter seule ses angoisses, la fréquentation des réseaux sociaux explose, en même temps que la diffusion de fausses informations, de scoops fumeux et de théories du complot, auxquels des personnalités servent parfois de caisse de résonance.
La raison humaine a toujours besoin d’imaginer une certaine histoire pour expliquer l’inconnu. Ne sachant pas à quoi s’attendre, de nombreuses personnes ont diffusé, au cas où, et perdu leurs réflexes face aux “fake news”.

La situation est inédite, et tout le monde cherche des conseils, remèdes et informations pour faire face à la situation de la part d’un membre de sa famille ou de ses amis, commençant par « c’est la meilleure amie de ma mère » ou encore « c’est le papa d’un ami qui a un ami au ministère »…
Mais ce n’est pas une raison pour se laisser happer par les rumeurs. Nous vous en décryptons quelques-unes.


Coronavirus, 2020. Illustration par David S. Goodsell,
RCSB Protein Data Bank doi: 10.2210/rcsb_pdb/goodsell-gallery-019

Le coronavirus est bien d’origine naturelle.
« Les caractéristiques du coronavirus excluent la manipulation en laboratoire comme une origine potentielle pour le SRAS-CoV-2 », insiste Kristian Andersen, professeur en immunologie et en microbiologie, dans un communiqué de l’institut de recherche Scripps.
De quoi mettre fin à toute spéculation de manipulation de génie génétique délibéré.
Ref :

Ainsi, le Covid-19 n’est pas une combinaison du SARS et du sida et il n’est pas non plus une arme biologique militaire.

Quant à la recherche de traitements contre le virus, en l’état des connaissances actuelles, le développement d’un vaccin contre le SARS-CoV-2 pourrait prendre au moins un an, voire deux. Mais la recherche explore également une autre piste : celle du développement de médicaments qui ciblent plus largement le coronavirus. Cette hypothèse permettrait de répondre à l’épidémie actuelle, mais aussi de faire barrage à d’autres virus de la même famille. Parmi les pistes de traitement, on entend beaucoup parler de la chloroquine, ou plutôt de l’hydroxychloroquine, mais il reste à élargir les tests là-dessus.

La recherche de traitements anti-covid spécifiques n’en est qu’à son début…
Une chose est sûre: ce n’est pas la première fois que l'humanité entre en guerre avec une épidémie/pandémie. Nous en sommes toujours sortis gagnants.


Quelques conseils pour ne pas répandre les “fake news”

Identifier la source de l'information. Provient-elle d’un journal connu, ou d'un expert reconnu ?
Vérifier la date et l’heure d’une information sur les réseaux sociaux.
Garder en tête qu’un message trop partagé n’est pas forcément vrai.
Réfléchir avant de diffuser une information! Si vous avez un doute, ne le faites surtout pas.


An Insight into CoronaVirus and Food

Elissa Naim

Dr. Elissa Naim


The novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. Coronaviruses can survive on surfaces for several days, depending on the type of material, temperature and humidity. The viruses can be destroyed by heat (e.g. cooking), common detergents and sanitisers. Here comes the real concern about Food supply chains, Deliveries, Food preps ….

How safe is it to order delivery, takeout, to shop at the grocery or even to prepare food at home as the virus spreads?

To begin, unlike foodborne gastrointestinal viruses like norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food, experiences from previous outbreaks of related coronaviruses (SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV) show that transmission through food consumption did not occur. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) echoed that it's not aware of any reports suggesting Covid-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging. Even if you did eat food with the virus, there are not many receptors in the digestive track for the virus to cling to, so swallowing the virus would not likely lead to contracting the illness.
Starting from the agricultural production to food processing, distribution, retail and food service, all have critical infrastructure workers and need to follow food safety protocols of personal hygiene.


Supermarkets can provide an "ideal setting" for virus transfer. Many people are touching and replacing items, checkout belts, cash cards, car park ticket machine buttons, ATM payment buttons, paper receipts etc. in addition of being in the proximity of other people. Thus, bring your face mask, gloves, disinfecting wipes or hand sanitizer with you, along with those planet-friendly reusable grocery bags. It’s preferable to do your shopping alone, in the afterrnoon not in peak times. Once at home, try to get rid of the packaging. For other types of packaging, such as pasta, try to put the food in other closed boxes. For the packaging of products which cannot be unpacked and which go to the refrigerator (milk, yoghurts, etc.), it is advisable to clean with desinfecting wipes before putting them away. For boxes and other preserves you can either store them for 72 hours before using them or wipe them. Wash your hands well before and after unpacking your packages.
For vegetables, wash and rub them with water or soak them with white vinegar or salt.

Food Processing and Deliveries Any real risk of contamination, would come indirectly from the workers handing out the food if they coughed or sneezed directly on the food or packaging, rather than if they just touched it. Yet, likely the food business is following employee health policies and local health department recommendations. As for the employee of delivery who is paying and getting money back is in question, so such as customers asking for food to be left on a porch or at a doorstep, and using touch-free and cashless transactions is advisable. Afterwards, the risk of packaging contamination can be minimised by emptying the contents into a clean dish, disposing of the packaging into a refuse bag and washing your hands thoroughly before you eat. It might be better in the current circumstances to order hot, freshly cooked food, rather than cold or raw items. With a pizza for example, you could even pop it into the microwave for a couple of minutes.

At Home Before preparing or eating food, it's important to wash your hands with clean water and soap for a minimum of 20 seconds. You should also wash your hands after being out in public, touching your face, coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose, or using the bathroom. Hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is also a second option. Other practices, as regular cleaning and sanitising of frequently touched surfaces such as door handles, light switches, work benches, equipment etc. also serve as protection. Furthermore, promptly refrigerating foods, keeping raw and cooked foods separate, and heating food to the appropriate internal temperature.

Food and Lifestyle To boost your immune system many steps should be followed. Try to reduce stress by cooking, dancing, playing music, home crafting, doing your workout wether a walk next to the house or youtube gym workout (but not extreme ones not to stress your body). Sleep at least 7 hours in a row. Try to be exposed to sun through your open window or balcony thus getting a good amount of vit D. Follow a balanced diet rich in fiber, green leafy vegetables (spinach, mache..), citrus fruits (kiwi, orange…) for your vit C intake and food high in zinc such shellfish and eggs, nuts, whole grains and legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans). Garlic, onions and spices such as ginger and tumeric are rich in antioxidants, which scavenge on free radicals that can weaken the immune system. Include Omega-3 which can be found in seafood and raw nuts. Sugar, processed meat, smoking and alcohol should be reduced since they tend to be inflammatory so they busy the immune system, leaving other problems in your body unaddressed. Moreover, moderate consumption of herbs like Eryngium creticum, thym and Hyssopus officinalis are useful for acute or chronic respiratory problems.

At this point there is no evidence really pointing us towards food/food service as ways that are driving the epidemic. Keep in mind, though, the immune system cannot be boosted overnight. It is about long-term lifestyle changes. Thus, we have to stick on healthy lifestyle to see the difference after months. Let us keep being optimistic.


  • References: CDC’s Interim US Guidance for Risk Assessment and Public Health European Food Safety Authority

COVID-19 Vaccine: when we will have one ?


Rami Bechara

At least 35 groups, 7 pharmaceutical and biotech companies, Pasteur Institute and 7 different Universities including Oxford, Imperial, and Pittsburgh are working on COVID-19 vaccines, at a pandemic speed … 3 trials begun.

Across the world, countries continue to combat the deadly coronavirus. We witnessed different approaches including social distancing, massive testing, quarantine and isolation, and even contact tracing. However, according to a study by Ferguson et al, it is likely that transmission will quickly rebound if interventions are relaxed in the near future (Fig.1). Thus, there is a major unmet need for an effective strategy to eradicate SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Therefore, the development of COVID-19 vaccines is a priority for ending this pandemic. Indeed, over the past century, some of the most important medical breakthroughs were linked to the development of vaccines to protect humans against viruses such as polio and smallpox. More recently, an H1N1 influenza vaccine was developed relatively rapidly to respond urgently to epidemics of H1N1 influenza. Here, I will describe the state of art of COVID-19 vaccines with some encouraging news in trying times.


Fig.1 Principles of vaccination & social distancing applied theoretically for COVID-19

Vaccination - a quick refresher
Vaccination is an approach designed to artificially help the body to defend itself by generating, usually, an expanded army of pathogen-specific memory lymphocytes. In principle, a vaccine against infection is a modified form of a natural pathogen, which may be either the whole pathogen or one of its components. Following exposure of the immune system to an antigen, pathogen-specific lymphocytes are “primed” and often continue to circulate in the blood (and also reside in the bone marrow) for many years. When the natural pathogen attacks, these memory cells respond very rapidly by producing antibodies to reestablish protection. This is what we call “active immunity”.

  • Antigen
    • Substance capable of inducing an immune response

    • Protein produced by B lymphocytes to help eliminate an antigen

    Active Immunity
    • Protection produced by the person’s own immune system
    • Often lifetime

COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker: Over than 40 candidates
Different worldwide organizations, pharmaceutical companies and universities have called for targeted efforts to develop therapies against COVID-19. Consequently, at least 40 COVID19 candidates were described so far and, by the time I was writing this article, three of them have entered “Phase I” of clinical trials, the first of three stages of human testing before drug approval. More precisely, during Phase I testing, researchers test the safety of the candidate vaccine but we won't know if it's effective – if humans will develop enough virus-neutralizing antibodies – until Phase II is studied. This is clearly the result of scientists with different expertise working together and being able to respond quickly.

We should keep in mind that vaccine development, similarly to other medications, is a very lengthy and expensive process. However, during this pandemic many steps of vaccine design are executed in parallel before confirming a successful outcome of another step, hence resulting in shortening manufacturing-time while at the same time increasing financial risk. For instance, mRNA-1273 candidate vaccine was rushed to human trials before it was even tested in animals based on previous data related to other coronaviruses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Additionally, the company is hopeful that their vaccine may be available by fall 2020 mainly for vulnerable groups.

Ad5-nCov is another promising candidate by CanSino, China. Phase I testing is underway in China. It is worthy to mention that CanSino has already produced a nearly identical vaccine to protect against Ebola. ChAdOx1 is also a top front-runner vaccine for COVID19. Interestingly, the vaccine will be simultaneously tested for both safety (Phase I) and efficacy (Phase II).

    • Candidate: mRNA-1273
      Company: Moderna biotech-USA
      Ingredient :Genetic materials (mRNA) that codes for the spike protein of the virus
    • Candidate: Ad5-nCoV
      Company: CanSino - BiologicsChina
      Ingredient: Recombinant engineered coronavirus
    • Candidate: ChAdOx1
      Company: Oxford Vaccine Group – University of Oxford
      Ingredient: Inactivated (non-infectious) virus

Old but gold

Different epidemiological studies have pointed to a correlation between the rates of COVID-19 morbidity and anti-tuberculosis vaccination (BCG). Researchers in different countries, including Pasteur Institute-France, are investigating whether BCG could reduce the intensity of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Indeed, previous studies showed a non-specific protective effect of BCG against infections, particularly respiratory infections.

PittCoVacc is a “highly-scalable” potential vaccine developed by the University of Pittsburgh. It is essentially made using lab-made pieces of viral protein integrated into the original scratch method used to deliver the smallpox vaccine to the skin. When tested in mice, PittCoVacc generated enough antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. However, we still don’t know the potential duration of the acquired immunity.



Despite all the efforts described above, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), predicts a vaccine “is going to take a year, a year and a half, at least.” Indeed, there are many challenges to take into consideration during vaccine development. Determining the dose to administer, the side effects and manufacturing problems can all cause delays. Additionally, the potential duration of immunity against COVID19 is relatively unknown. Thus, whether a single-dose vaccine will confer immunity is still elusive.

Taking into consideration all the above mentioned points, I can’t tell you exactly when the vaccine is coming…Nevertheless, the beginning of trials is just one bright light in some devastating news across the world.

Ferguson NM, Laydon D, Nedjati-Gilani G et al. Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID-19 mortality and healthcare demand.