Podcast: Coronavirus conspiracies deadlier than the disease? Next pandemic worse? Spit test spots more COVID-19

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A dearth of coronavirus tests has exacerbated the COVID-19 pandemic in the US and elsewhere, but a newly FDA-approved test may ease the shortage and help public health officials better mitigate the crisis. Conspiracies about the virus may be more harmful than the virus itself; and the next pandemic could very well be worse than the present outbreak. Let’s be ready for it. While popular dietary wisdom warns that white bread is nutritionally vacuous and even harmful, a new study says it’s more healthful than it’s been in two centuries.

On this episode of the Science Facts and Fallacies podcast, geneticist Kevin Folta and GLP editor Cameron English break down the latest news to keep you informed about the COVID-19 pandemic and ahead of the misinformation storm always circulating on social media.

Join Folta and English as they break down these latest stories from the GLP:

Currently available coronavirus tests are cumbersome, invasive and in short supply. Additionally, administering a test requires health professionals to wear gloves and masks, medical supplies that are woefully undersupplied at the moment. A new saliva-based spit test, granted emergency approval by the FDA, is poised to ease the shortage, helping public health officials identify more cases and retest recovered patients so they can hopefully return to normal life.

Commentators have asked if our dramatic response to the novel coronavirus has been more harmful than the virus itself. The same question could be asked about the wave of conspiracies that have emerged in recent weeks to explain the pandemic. Skeptics who doubt the ‘official’ story suggest that everything from pesticides to GMOs and 5G technology is really to blame for COVID-19. Why do people accept these outlandish ideas, and how do such conspiracies impact public health and trust in science?

Related article:  Viewpoint: New York Times' mixed record on science literacy—botched reporting on GMOs and chemicals while challenging anti-vaxxers

COVID-19 has killed thousands in less than three months and forced most of the world into lock down, jeopardizing the global economy and threatening the livelihoods of untold millions of people.

But it could have been far worse.

There are roughly 7,000 virus families we know of that could cause another pandemic—and many more such deadly microbes remained undiscovered. Though tragic, this current outbreak should serve as a wake up call to a world that remains ill-prepared for the next assault from a serious viral threat. 

For close to a decade, health magazines, fad diet gurus and weight loss books have warned about the dangers of consuming white bread. It’s devoid of nutrients, promotes weight gain and even fuels symptoms of depression they say, and thus should be avoided. A new study surveying the nutrient content of white flour going back 200 years challenges these popularly held beliefs. It turns out we can enjoy a slice or two of Wonder Bread without risking our health.

Kevin M. Folta is a professor in the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida. Follow Professor Folta on Twitter @kevinfolta

Cameron J. English is the GLP’s senior agricultural genetics and special projects editor. BIO. Follow him on Twitter @camjenglish

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