how-some-of-2021’s-major-science-stories-evolved-over-time

A story doesn’t necessarily end once it goes online. Here, Science News offers status updates on some evolving stories we reported on earlier this year.

Tulsa massacre answers

This year marked the 100th anniversary of a race massacre in Tulsa, Okla., in which a mob of white people invaded the prosperous Black neighborhood of Greenwood. The death toll is estimated to be in the hundreds, though the exact number is unknown, as is the exact location where victims were buried. In May, Helen Thompson reported on a collaboration between scientists, historians and community leaders to investigate an area in Oaklawn Cemetery that may hold a mass grave of victims (SN: 5/27/21).

Update: In June, archaeologists announced they had found 34 coffins at Oaklawn and were analyzing remains from 19 of them. Preliminary findings suggest the remains belonged to children and adults, forensic anthropology lead Phoebe Stubblefield said June 25 at a news conference. Based on skull facial features, “ancestry so far when we can detect it has been primarily of African descent,” she said. One man had a bullet embedded in his shoulder, along with trauma consistent with expectations for the massacre’s victims, the project’s archaeology lead, Kary Stackelbeck, told Science News in November. The full analysis, expected to be released in early 2022, aims to determine the race, sex, age and any trauma patterns of all the recovered individuals. Those results will help determine the project’s next steps.

“This process has been a very sobering, very powerful experience,” Kavin Ross, chairman of the public oversight committee, said at the news conference. “We are so hopeful for more findings.”

Sign Up For the Latest from Science News

Headlines and summaries of the latest Science News articles, delivered to your inbox

Thank you for signing up!

There was a problem signing you up.

Finally, a malaria vaccine

In June, Erin Garcia de Jesús reported that two malaria vaccine candidates showed promise in small clinical trials (SN: 6/30/21). One jab — tested in children in Burkina Faso — had 77 percent efficacy against malaria symptoms. The other, tested in adults from the United States, had around 87 percent efficacy against infection when paired with infection-fighting drugs. The results sparked hope that the world’s first approved malaria vaccine would soon become a reality.

UPDATE: Well, it happened, but for a different vaccine. In October, the World Health Organization gave a thumbs up to a vaccine that was further along in testing, approving it for children who live in sub-Saharan Africa and other places with the deadliest species of the malaria-causing parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. Of the estimated 409,000 people who died from malaria in 2019, two-thirds were under age 5. Although groundbreaking, the vaccine — called RTS,S or Mosquirix — is not a magic bullet. The four-dose regimen prevents only about 4 in 10 malaria cases and 3 in 10 severe cases. Still, RTS,S plus existing tools could “save tens of thousands of young lives each year,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in an October 6 statement.      

microscope image of Plasmodium falciparum parasites

Update: GM males that hatched from eggs succeed in wooing Floridian females, test watchers report. After two temporary stops for big storms, managers restarted periodic releases and kept tests running into November. In August, Oxitec asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to allow two more years of testing in the Keys. The company also asked to start testing in to “up to 84,600 total acres” in California, which identified its first Ae. aegypti mosquito in 2013. Today, the pest is scattered throughout the state. In California, travelers account for all of the state’s dengue and Zika cases. But Ae. aegypti might someday spread these diseases within the state.

Aedes aegypti

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here