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Alcohol: Number of Britons who gave up smoking more than DOUBLED after lockdown

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alcohol number of britons who gave up smoking more than doubled after lockdown

Twice as many people completely quit smoking after the COVID-19 lockdown began in March as did before the restrictions, a study has found. 

Researchers from University College London (UCL) analysed a series of surveys that are taken monthly to examine people’s smoking, drinking and quitting habits. 

They found that — while twice as many adults said they were trying to cut down on alcohol — nearly 40 per cent of Britons practiced risky drinking in lockdown

Twice as many people quit smoking — and tried to quit — after the the COVID-19 lockdown began in March as did before the restrictions, a study has found

Twice as many people quit smoking — and tried to quit — after the the COVID-19 lockdown began in March as did before the restrictions, a study has found

Twice as many people quit smoking — and tried to quit — after the the COVID-19 lockdown began in March as did before the restrictions, a study has found

‘The fact we saw rates of quit attempts and cessation increase after the start of lockdown is encouraging,’ said paper author and behavioural scientist Sarah Jackson of University College London.

‘It may be that the pandemic has made people more concerned about the effects of smoking on their respiratory health.’

The World Health Organisation has warned that smoking — which impairs lung function — may make people more susceptible to COVID-19.

However, a number of studies have suggested that incidence rates of SARS-CoV-2 may be lower among smokers than the rest of the population.

‘Stopping smoking brings immediate benefits to health, including for people with an existing smoking-related disease. Now is a fantastic opportunity to join the hundreds of thousands of other people quitting in England,’ Dr Jackson added.

‘Quitting may also have the added benefit of reducing demands on our NHS during these difficult times,’ she noted.

In their study, Dr Jackson and colleagues compared survey data collected as part of the  ‘Smoking and Alcohol Toolkit Studies’ taken from April 2019–February 2020 with similar collected during April 2020, at which point the UK had entered lockdown.

On average, around 1,717 people participated in the monthly surveys before lockdown — while there were 1,674 respondents in April 2020.

The team found that the number of attempts to quit smoking — defined as any serious attempt to give up in the preceding 12 months — increased from an average of around 29.1 per cent before lockdown to around 39.6 per cent in April 2020.

Successful efforts to stop smoking, meanwhile, more than doubled going into lockdown — rising from 4.1 per cent before to 8.8 per cent after.

The survey result also revealed an increased uptake in remote cessation support by smokers during lockdown — with such coming in the form of apps, websites and quitting support telephone lines.

While lockdown appears to have increased the desire to quit smoking, it did not have the same kind of effect on drinking, however — with the prevalence of binge drinking having increased from 25.1 to 38.3 per cent. 

Furthermore, use of evidence-based alcohol support was seen to decrease after the pandemic began — with no counteracting increase in the use of remote support.

The researchers also found that — while twice as many adults said they were trying to cut down on alcohol — nearly 40 per cent of Britons practiced risky drinking in lockdown

The researchers also found that — while twice as many adults said they were trying to cut down on alcohol — nearly 40 per cent of Britons practiced risky drinking in lockdown

The researchers also found that — while twice as many adults said they were trying to cut down on alcohol — nearly 40 per cent of Britons practiced risky drinking in lockdown

‘The observed increase in high-risk drinking is a serious cause for concern and requires a public health response,’ said paper author and behavioural scientist Jamie Brown, also of University College London.

‘The recent Commission on Alcohol Harm recommended investment in services and measures to reduce affordability,’ he added.

‘These findings also have a possible implication for the pandemic: excessive alcohol consumption may reduce vigilance around social distancing and adherence to other protective behaviours.’ 

With their initial study complete, the team are looking to expand their analysis to incorporate addition months after lockdown began.

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Addiction. The researchers are also recruiting smokers to take part in a larger study — more information on which can be found on their website.

SMOKING AND THE CORONAVIRUS

Many studies have shown a low prevalence of smokers in hospitals with COVID-19. 

When smokers do get diagnosed with the virus, however, they appear to be more likely to get so sick that they need ventilation, two studies in the review showed. 

If the findings are proven, scientists say it’s likely that it is not cigarettes – filled with thousands of harmful chemicals – that would offer a potential protection, but the nicotine that is beneficial. 

A theory touted by scientists is that nicotine reduces ACE-2 receptors, which are proteins in the body the virus binds to in order to infect cells.

The coronavirus enters cells inside the body via the structures, which coat the surface of some cells, including in the airways and lungs.   

If nicotine does lowers ACE-2 expression, it makes it harder for viral particles to gain entry into cells and therefore cause an infection.  

On the other hand, other studies show that nicotine enhances the action of the ACE-2 receptor, which in theory, puts smokers at a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus.  

Other scientists say low levels of ACE-2 expression as a result of nicotine may prevent worse damage from viral infection, and there is no evidence that says higher quantities of ACE-2 receptors increases the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection in the first place.

Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, from the University of West Attica, Greece, who queried whether nicotine could be a cure for COVID-19 in a paper published on May 9, said: ‘Up-regulation of ACE2, though seemingly paradoxical, may in fact protect patients from severe disease and lung injury.’ 

A 2008 study in mice found that getting rid of ACE-2 made the animals more likely to suffer severe breathing difficulties when infected with the SARS virus, which is almost identical to COVID-19.   

Other scientists have turned their head towards nicotine’s ability to prevent inflammation, where evidence is more robust.  

Nicotine has been shown inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as TNF, IL-1 and IL-6, which are involved in promoting an inflammatory response. 

A ‘cytokine storm’ is a phenomenon in which an abundance of cytokines are released in response to infection.   

Doctors have previously said that it’s often the body’s response to the virus, rather than the virus itself, that plays a major role in how sick a person gets. 

A cytokine storm can lead to respiratory failure and the attack of healthy tissues, causing multi-organ failure. 

Therefore, the cytokine storm is being looked at as a target for COVID-19 treatment.  

‘Nicotine has effects on the immune system that could be beneficial in reducing the intensity of the cytokine storm,’ Dr Farsalinos wrote in Internal and Emergency Medicine.

‘The potential benefits of nicotine…. could explain, at least in part, the increased severity or adverse outcome among smokers hospitalized for COVID-19 since these patients inevitably experience abrupt cessation of nicotine intake during hospitalization.

‘This may be feasible through repurposing already approved pharmaceutical nicotine products such as nicotine patches.’ 

Dr Nicola Gaibazzi, who recently published findings on MedRxiv of ‘very low’ numbers of smokers in Italian COVID-19 patients, speculates smoke exposure may bolster the immune system.

He said exposure to cigarette smoke reduces the body’s immune system over time, measured by lower inflammatory markers. 

Therefore, when smokers are infected with a virus like SARS-CoV-2, their immune system is more ‘tolerant’ and does not overreact. 

On the other hand, non-smokers may be more prone to having the sudden and deadly cytokine storm when they are infected with the virus.  

Scientists have stressed that the evidence supporting nicotine as a medicine does not mean everyone should take up smoking. 

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This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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False widow spiders’ fangs carry harmful bacteria resistant to antibiotic treatments

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false widow spiders fangs carry harmful bacteria resistant to antibiotic treatments

Many fear the bite of a false black widow spider, which can lead to painful swelling, stiffness and large abscesses.

In rare cases it’s been blamed for paralysis, amputations and even death, but a new study confirms it’s not the arachnid’s bite that’s dangerous—it’s the bacteria on its fangs. 

In a new study published in Scientific Reports, researchers found spiders carry bacteria on their fangs that can infect humans.

And the germs the false black widow carries can be resistant to common antibiotics.

‘Antimicrobial resistance is an urgent and growing problem worldwide,’ said co-author Aoife Boyd, a pathologist at NUI Galway’s School of Natural Sciences. ‘[An approach connecting] human, animal and environmental health is the only way to tackle the problem.’  

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Researchers in Ireland confirmed the false widow spider carries a dozen pathogens that are harmful to humans. Though its bite is fairly harmless, its fangs can transmit antibiotic-resistant bacteria into its human victims.

Researchers in Ireland confirmed the false widow spider carries a dozen pathogens that are harmful to humans. Though its bite is fairly harmless, its fangs can transmit antibiotic-resistant bacteria into its human victims.

Researchers in Ireland confirmed the false widow spider carries a dozen pathogens that are harmful to humans. Though the arachnid’s bite is fairly harmless, its fangs can transmit antibiotic-resistant bacteria into its human victims

Previously, rare ‘skin-eating’ infections following seemingly harmless spider bites were often blamed on victims scratching their bites with dirty fingernails. 

But Boyd and his colleagues theorized the bacteria was coming from the spiders themselves.  

They swabbed some noble false widows for bacteria, and did the same to some lace-weaver and giant house spiders, also both common in the UK.

All the arachnids were rife with germs: Out  22 bacterial species found on the false widows, 12 were potentially pathogenic to humans, according to Science Alert.

She went to the GP and was given antibiotics for the infection

She went to the GP and was given antibiotics for the infection

The false widow spider migrated to the UK in the 1870s but has been spreading globally in recent years 

A false widow spider bite can become infected with bacteria, leading to large pus-filled abscesses. Some strains the false widow carries are multi-drug resistant, 'making them particularly difficult to treat with regular medicine'

A false widow spider bite can become infected with bacteria, leading to large pus-filled abscesses. Some strains the false widow carries are multi-drug resistant, 'making them particularly difficult to treat with regular medicine'

A false widow spider bite can become infected with bacteria, leading to large pus-filled abscesses. Some strains the false widow carries are multi-drug resistant, ‘making them particularly difficult to treat with regular medicine’

‘Our study demonstrates that spiders are not just venomous but are also carriers of dangerous bacteria capable of producing severe infections,’ said Neyaz Khan, an NUI Galway microbiologist,.  

Less than a dozen species of European spiders have fangs strong enough to pierce human skin.

‘But only one of them, the recent invasive noble false widow spider, is considered of medical importance,’ said co-author John Dunbar, zoologist at the Ryan Institute’s Venom System Lab.

WHAT IS A FALSE WIDOW SPIDER? 

False widow spiders, also known as noble widows, are distinctive for their shiny, black flesh, bulbous bodies, thick legs and skull-like patterns.

It’s native to the Canary Islands but migrated to the UK and Europe in the late 1800s, purportedly aboard a shipment of bananas. 

Millions of false widows have been found across the UK and the population is believed to be growing. 

The spiders have also been reported in California and Chile. 

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The species has a brown bulbous abdomen with cream markings that look like a skull. They have long legs and can reach about a half-inch in size.

Also known as steatoda nobilis, the spider is frequently confused for the black widow, which has deadly venom.  

 

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False widow spiders, also known as noble false widows, are distinctive for their shiny, black flesh, bulbous bodies, thick legs and skull-like patterns. 

Typically a noble widow’s bite, which itself is fairly painless, results in just some redness and pain.

But if bacteria is passed along, an infection can occur—in rare cases, serious enough to require antibiotics or a hospital stay.

The biggest threat is some strains the false widow carries are multi-drug resistant, ‘making them particularly difficult to treat with regular medicine,’ said Kahn.

In 2016, a Hampshire woman was believed to have been bitten by a false widow and had to have part of her finger amputated.

The woman, 60, was eventually hospitalized and died of sepsis, the BBC reported.

The noble widow first arrived in the UK from the Canary Islands in the 1870s and has been a regular presence in southern England for more than 150 years.

Now it’s appearing in northern England, Ireland and even France. 

The spiders have also been reported in California and Chile. 

That massive population growth has led to a spike in serious cases, including those hard to treat with common antibiotics, according to the report.

Beyond the danger to humans, experts also worry that the false widow spreading its web across the globe poses a serious threat to wildlife.

Rainer Breitling, a biologist at the University of Manchester, fears they’ll attack ‘vulnerable native species’ in their new environments, in some cases prey much larger than the spider itself.

That, in turn, could disrupt the food chain and affect regional ecosystems.

Researchers in Germany used computer modelling to predict favorable habitats for false widow invasions, based on present patterns.

The model successfully predicted the species would migrate to Normandy.

Mediterranean islands, southern Australia, large parts of New Zealand and South Africa also seem to be likely targets for future expansion.

‘These are areas that are home to a wide range of vulnerable native species, so the potential introduction of Steatoda nobilis, which can overcome prey much larger than its own size, is quite worrying,’ said Breitling.

While the spider’s migration was originally blamed on a shipment of bananas, researchers now believe it hitches a ride on ornamental plants or tourists.

‘So more careful monitoring of plant imports could be useful to control the spread of this species and other invasive spiders,’ said Breitling.  

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Elon Musk’s Boring Company hosts a ‘tunnel rave’ insides its Las Vegas Loop

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elon musks boring company hosts a tunnel rave insides its las vegas loop

Elon Musk’s The Boring Company celebrated the near competition of its Las Vegas Convention Center Loop’s site by hosting a ‘tunnel rave’ inside the facility.

The firm shared a first look inside with three Tesla vehicles parked at the boarding area, along with flashing lights and dance music by the late musician Avici playing in the background.

The video, shared on Twitter,  was shot inside the Loop’s hub where passengers will be transported from one end of the convention center to the other in a Model 3 electric vehicle.

The Boring Company plans to begin operations of the system in January that it says cuts the 15 minute walk from one end of the campus to the other down to just one minute.

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The Boring Company shared a first look inside with three Tesla vehicles parked at the boarding area, along with flashing lights and dance music by the late musician Avici playing in the background

The Boring Company shared a first look inside with three Tesla vehicles parked at the boarding area, along with flashing lights and dance music by the late musician Avici playing in the background

The Boring Company shared a first look inside with three Tesla vehicles parked at the boarding area, along with flashing lights and dance music by the late musician Avici playing in the background

‘During typical peak hours, driving from the Las Vegas Convention Center to Mandalay Bay, for example, can take up to 30 minutes,’ reads the firm’s website.

‘The same trip on Vegas Loop will take approximately 3 minutes.’

The Boring Company claims the Tesla vehicles will reach top speeds of 155 miles per hour, making the trip more of a sprint than a sluggish shuttle ride.

In May, the company completed its excavation of one of two tunnels making up the convention center loop.

Musk shared renders (pictured) earlier this year of what the area will look like once it is complete. Above the tunnels is a display showing passengers when and where their vehicles will depart and, for color, a sprawling wall ad for Las Vegas tourism sporting the city's 'What happens in Vegas, only happens here' slogan

Musk shared renders (pictured) earlier this year of what the area will look like once it is complete. Above the tunnels is a display showing passengers when and where their vehicles will depart and, for color, a sprawling wall ad for Las Vegas tourism sporting the city's 'What happens in Vegas, only happens here' slogan

Musk shared renders (pictured) earlier this year of what the area will look like once it is complete. Above the tunnels is a display showing passengers when and where their vehicles will depart and, for color, a sprawling wall ad for Las Vegas tourism sporting the city’s ‘What happens in Vegas, only happens here’ slogan

The Vegas loop will first included the Las Vegas Convention Center, but the firm plans to expand it to run along the Strip, McCarran International Airport, Allegiant Stadium, downtown Las Vegas and eventually to Los Angeles.

The system was first announced in May 2019, but like most of Musk’s projects the loop hit a three-month delay.

However, the process appears to be moving along, as The Boring Company is currently receiving approval for a number of agreements and is putting the final touches on the 0.8-mile-long tunnels and passenger stations.

And in the spirit of things, the firm decided to through a part in the passenger loading area – complete with strobe lights and dance music.

Musk shared renders earlier this year of what the area will look like once it is complete.

The video, shared on Twitter , was shot inside the Loop’s hub where passengers will be transported from one end of the convention center to the other in a Model 3 electric vehicle

The video, shared on Twitter , was shot inside the Loop’s hub where passengers will be transported from one end of the convention center to the other in a Model 3 electric vehicle

The video, shared on Twitter , was shot inside the Loop’s hub where passengers will be transported from one end of the convention center to the other in a Model 3 electric vehicle

Above the tunnels is a display showing passengers when and where their vehicles will depart and, for color, a sprawling wall ad for Las Vegas tourism sporting the city’s ‘What happens in Vegas, only happens here’ slogan.

The cars will use onboard self-driving software to navigate the tunnels in addition to ‘tracking wheel’ which guide the vehicle along its specific lane.

The renders are, of course, only tentative his point and could change drastically between now and when the station is actually built.

They do, however, show the progression of Musk’s Las Vegas loop, which he said in a corresponding tweet is ‘coming soon.’

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Robocallers pose as Apple and Amazon support in new scam

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robocallers pose as apple and amazon support in new scam

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning consumers of a new robocall scheme where scammers are posing as Apple and Amazon support.

Robocallers are using recorded messages that tell the person that something is wrong with their account like a suspicious purchase, lost package or their iCloud was breached.

The message prompts them to press ‘one’ to speak with customer service in order to discuss the problem – and this is where the scamming begins.

A fake representative is then connected and will attempt to extract a consumer’s personal information, like their credit card number or account passwords.

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Robocallers are using recorded messages tell the person, along with using their name, that something is wrong with their account like a suspicious purchase, lost package or their iCloud was breached

Robocallers are using recorded messages tell the person, along with using their name, that something is wrong with their account like a suspicious purchase, lost package or their iCloud was breached

Robocallers are using recorded messages tell the person, along with using their name, that something is wrong with their account like a suspicious purchase, lost package or their iCloud was breached 

‘If you get an unexpected call or message about a problem with any of your accounts, hang up,’ the FTC said. ‘Do not press 1 to speak with customer support, do not call a phone number they gave you, do not give out your personal information.’

The FTC found two parts of this scam – a caller acting as an employee of Amazon or Apple.

For the Amazon scheme, unsuspecting victims will be told there’s something wrong with your account. It could be a suspicious purchase, a lost package, or an order they can’t fulfill.

‘An unauthorized purchase of an iPhone XR 64 GB for $749 is being ordered from your Amazon account,’ the recording states.

The message prompts the individual to press 'one' to speak with customer service in order to discuss the problem – and this is where the scamming begins. A robocaller is then connected and will attempt to extract a consumer's personal information, like their credit card number or account passwords

The message prompts the individual to press 'one' to speak with customer service in order to discuss the problem – and this is where the scamming begins. A robocaller is then connected and will attempt to extract a consumer's personal information, like their credit card number or account passwords

The message prompts the individual to press ‘one’ to speak with customer service in order to discuss the problem – and this is where the scamming begins. A robocaller is then connected and will attempt to extract a consumer’s personal information, like their credit card number or account passwords 

‘To cancel your order or to connect with one of our customer support representatives please press one or simply stay on the line.’

In the scam disguised as Apple, the robocaller says: ‘Suspicious activity in your iCloud account, your iCloud account has been breached.’

‘Before you use any Apple device, please contact Apple support adviser.’

And again, prompts the person to press on to connect to the scammer.

Robocalls have become a major issue in the US.

Some 58 billion scam calls were made in 2019, an increase over 11 billion from the previous year.

However, in 2020 the number of calls took a dramatic dive to 30 billion across the nation.

In 2019, Americans, on average were hit with 15 robocalls per person in April, but exactly one year later that number decreased to 8.7 calls per person.

The decrease may stem from anti-robocall measures put into place December 2019.

In addition to fining convicted spammers from $1,500 to up to $10,000, the bill, signed by President Donald Trump, gives authorities more enforcement powers and looks to accelerate measures the industry is already taking to identify robocalls.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said: ‘American families deserve control over their communications, and this legislation will update our laws and regulations to stiffen penalties, increase transparency, and enhance government collaboration to stop unwanted solicitation.’ 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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