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The second-largest outbreak of Ebola ever is over

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Nature Briefing

Hello Nature readers,
Today we embrace the end of the second-largest outbreak of Ebola ever, learn that sled dogs could be the oldest dog breed and explore project-management software for scientists.

A health worker in protective gear and goggles prepares a syringe for a vaccination.
An Ebola vaccine was given to more than 300,000 people during the outbreak in northeastern DRC. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)

Deadly Ebola outbreak is over

An outbreak of the Ebola virus in the northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has officially ended. The virus had been raging in the region since 2018. It infected at least 3,470 people, and killed 66% of them. The epidemic occurred in a region of the DRC plagued by 25 years of war and political instability — but it was the first Ebola outbreak in which a vaccine for the virus was widely deployed. More than 80% of the more than 300,000 people who were vaccinated didn’t get the disease, and those who developed Ebola after vaccination had milder cases. The good news is tempered by the spread of a fresh Ebola outbreak in the country’s northwest.

Nature | 4 min read

Sled dogs have been mushing for nearly 10,000 years

Greenland sled dogs could be the oldest dog breed living today. Researchers sequenced an ancient sled dog, 10 modern sled dogs and a 33,000-year-old Siberian wolf. They found that modern sled dogs, which include huskies and malamutes, split from other types of dog at least 9,500 years ago. They also compared sled dogs with other dog breeds to pinpoint adaptations to the cold weather, physical exertion and fatty foods of Arctic life.

National Geographic | 7 min read
Reference: Science paper

COVID-19 coronavirus update

Illustration of a researcher holding a test tube sample of coronavirus
(sorbetto/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty)

The state of the pandemic, six months in

On 31 December 2019, Chinese authorities notified the World Health Organization of an outbreak of “pneumonia of unknown causes” in the city of Wuhan. Six months later, Nature Medicine offers a timeline of the medical and scientific COVID-19 research, and outlines the many questions that must still be answered.
Nature Medicine | 4 min read

Coronapod: Where do we go next?

In this week's COVID-19 podcast, the Nature news team discusses what lessons science can learn from the epidemic so far and the remaining knowledge gaps researchers are trying to fill. We also hear from three scientists who had to put their fieldwork on pause, and learn how they are adapting to the change.
Nature Coronapod | 32 min listen
Subscribe to the Nature Podcast on iTunes, Google Podcasts or Spotify.

Notable quotable

“To a physician scientist working on understanding the burden of respiratory infections, coronavirus is the ultimate professional challenge that might come by perhaps once in your career. However, I was not prepared for it becoming one of my biggest personal challenges too.”

Debby Bogaert, a specialist in paediatric infectious diseases, is facing long-term symptoms from an initially mild COVID-19 infection. She urges authorities to do more to support, study and test ‘long-haulers’ like her. (The Guardian | 6 min read)

Features & opinion

Project-management software for scientists

Project-management tools are more than just to-do lists — when used well, they can make teams more efficient and minimize frustrations, such as forgotten tasks and duplicated work. Nature looks at how leading research groups are using software such as Trello, Jira, Asana and GitHub project boards.

Nature | 7 min read

Moon craters honouring Nazis to be renamed

A task force has recommended that the International Astronomical Union rename two craters on the far side of the Moon that had been dedicated to fervent Nazis Philipp Lenard and Johannes Stark. The two Nobel laureates were “largely responsible for the absurd idea that there was an ‘Aryan physics’”, writes science writer Philip Ball, whose book on German physics under the Nazis was used to inform the decision. The dedications had been apparently done without knowledge of the physicists’ anti-Semitism, which targeted Jewish scientists and Albert Einstein in particular. “Far from making me troubled that I am colluding in expunging history,” writes Ball, the episode shows that “public monuments are more often a consequence of, rather than a protection against, historical amnesia”.

Prospect | 7 min read

News & views

Privacy, courtesy of quantum physics

Micius, China’s pioneering quantum-tech satellite, has broken new ground by sharing an unbreakable, eavesdropper-proof encryption key across more than 1,000 kilometers. The spacecraft accomplished the feat of cryptography by beaming entangled photons to two separate ground stations simultaneously — a technology called quantum key distribution (QKD). To be of practical use, future quantum satellites will need to fly higher and distribute encryption keys at a much faster rate than Micius can. But its recent feat is “the most advanced QKD demonstration so far”, writes quantum-computing researcher Eleni Diamanti.

Nature News & Views | 6 min read
Read more: China's quantum satellite clears major hurdle on way to ultrasecure communications (Nature, from 2017)
Reference: Nature paper
Figure 1
Pairs of entangled photons are produced on board the satellite Micius. The photons in each pair are then sent to 2 optical ground stations that are separated by a distance of 1,120 kilometres. This process enables parties at the two stations to share a string of bits called a key, which they can use to encrypt and decrypt secret messages with absolute security. ()

Quote of the day

“A bicycle trip is in some ways a good metaphor for a journey in science. You will run into hills and roadblocks and flat tires. Just don’t let it stop you.”

Evolutionary biologist Scott Edwards is taking advantage of the academic pause to fulfil a lifelong dream of cycling across the United States — while also raising awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement. (Audubon | 6 min read)

On Friday, we warmly recalled the time Leif Penguinson chipped in a flipper to help NASA scientists with the James Webb Space Telescope. Did you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing
With contributions by Smriti Mallapaty and Davide Castelvecchi

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