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Texas A&M receives over $1 million in USDA grants to study SARS-CoV-2 in deer

Texas A&M University scientists and research partners have received two National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research…



Texas A&M University scientists and research partners have received two National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) grants to study the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in deer. These funds will help researchers understand the impact of the virus in Texas’ deer populations and its relationship to human and ecological health.

Credit: Sarah Hamer/Texas A&M University School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Texas A&M University scientists and research partners have received two National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) grants to study the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in deer. These funds will help researchers understand the impact of the virus in Texas’ deer populations and its relationship to human and ecological health.

For these projects, the research team will focus on captive deer, which are an agricultural species in Texas, including managed deer that live on large, rural properties enclosed by fences, as well as on the wild deer with which captive deer may interact and deer living in zoos and wildlife centers. 

Understanding The Ecology Of Disease

The first $800,000 USDA grant will fund a multifaceted three-year project designed to help scientists understand how the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads among deer and, for the first time, how the SARS-CoV-2 virus has impacted overall deer health.

What makes the study unique is its focus on understanding disease in the context of whole ecological systems, examining not only how captive deer interact with each other, but also how the diverse wild and captive animal community may interact with the deer. For example, the study will investigate patterns of infection among captive deer, the humans who work with the deer, other domestic livestock on the ranches, as well as wild mammals in the environment.

To do this, researchers at Texas A&M will collaborate with the Deer Research Program at the Texas A&M University-Kingsville’s (TAMUK) Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, which will help collect the large number of samples needed for the project.

“The first aim of the project is a screening study (testing the deer for SARS-CoV-2) of 30 ranches, farms, or other managed areas with deer across the state, such as safari-style parks and zoos,” said Dr. Sarah Hamer, professor of epidemiology at the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (VMBS) and lead researcher for Texas A&M on both projects. “This stage will allow us to see where there has been deer exposure to the virus in the past and where there are active infections.”

The second stage of the project will focus on locations where coronavirus infections are found in deer.

“If we find infected deer, we will then transition to a phase of the study where we can not only re-sample the deer over time to monitor changes in their infection and health, but also sample other farm animals and native wildlife on each property. We will also sample the people on each ranch who regularly interact with the deer,” Hamer explained. “These will most likely be the workers who are responsible for putting out the feed and water for the animals.”

This broader range of samples will help Hamer and the rest of the team learn more about the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus between animals and people that share an ecological relationship. Their approach to consider humans, animals, and the environment was proposed after Hamer’s teams spent more than two years studying the virus among people and their pet dogs and cats in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded research; that research showed that infections were not uncommon among domestic animals that live in houses with active human cases.

The laboratory analyses for the deer project will be overseen by Dr. Gabriel Hamer, professor in the Texas A&M Department of Entomology. 

“Once we detect positive samples for SARS-CoV-2, we will work with partners to sequence the viral genomes across all of the infected species and see how they compare,” he said. “We want to see if we can infer which direction the infection is spreading among deer, other animals, and humans.”

The final part of the three-year project will analyze how overall deer health has been impacted by the virus. 

“Of all four goals, this one is probably the most important for the deer producers,” said Dr. Walt Cook, a clinical associate professor in the VMBS’ Department of Veterinary Pathobiology and co-investigator on the project. “We want to know if SARS-CoV-2 might affect things like body condition, antler growth, and reproduction.” 

The robust captive cervid industry in Texas makes this an ideal state for better understanding how and when the virus infects deer. In comparison to tracking wild deer, the opportunity to study deer belonging to managed herds will allow researchers to answer many of the unknown questions about SARS-CoV-2 and deer health. 

“Most of the existing studies on wild deer rely on hunter-harvested samples,” Sarah Hamer said. “A deer may test positive for a SARS-CoV-2 infection, but at that point, the body has been processed and we can’t know its symptoms or if the virus impacted the deer’s health or fitness in any way.”

“We’re extremely appreciative that producers across the state are allowing us to study their herds so that we can better understand how SARS-CoV-2 is maintained in nature,” Cook said. “We have the opportunity to study the ecology of the disease in real settings across the state to learn about what these animals may be exposed to, while maintaining anonymity (with no information regarding specific test results, locations of properties, or premise ownership being released publicly or to any agency), to benefit us all in the future.”

Because of the project’s unique scope and complexity, the researchers hope to answer questions relating SARS-CoV-2 to many different aspects of human, animal, and environmental health.

“For the last three years, zoonotic disease has brought the world to a halt and impacted virtually every aspect of life on earth,” said Dr. Michael Cherry, a white-tailed deer expert at TAMUK and partner on the projects. “Understanding the ecology of these diseases and how they affect human health, food security, and important sectors of the economy will make us better prepared for future zoonotic outbreaks.”

“The diverse team is one of the unique aspects of this ambitious project,” Cherry said. “Dr. Hamer has pulled together a fantastic team, and I’m happy to be able to contribute.”

Protecting Against Future Outbreaks

The second project, funded by a $650,000 USDA grant and spearheaded by biotech company Ginkgo Bioworks, will include sequencing the RNA of SARS-CoV-2 found in white-tailed deer to better understand which strains are active in deer populations and to track possible mutations so that we can better protect ourselves from future outbreaks of the virus in the human population. 

“Zoonotic research like this is key to helping make informed decisions and avoid future outbreaks,” said Matt McKnight, general manager of biosecurity at Ginkgo Bioworks. “This data and research will provide governments, industry leaders, and academics the information they need to optimize behaviors and provide early warnings to prevent disease spillover.”

The first part of the project entails sampling and testing deer to see if they carry SARS-CoV-2. Once the researchers have the positive samples, they can begin sequencing genomes from the virus samples.

“Our group at Texas A&M will be responsible for working with collaborators to collect samples from deer,” Hamer said. “We’ll also be responsible for the initial screening for SARS-CoV-2. If we find positive samples, we ship them to Ginkgo and they’ll work to sequence the virus and analyze how the sequences compare to those found by others.”

In order to reach the sample size goals for the project, the researchers also are collaborating with the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) to gather samples from deer lymph nodes.

“TVMDL regularly gets samples from both wild and captive deer for chronic wasting disease (CWD) testing,” said Carlos Rodriguez, TVMDL epidemiologist. “The samples often come from hunter-harvested deer, and we are able to repurpose the remaining tissue to contribute to this COVID project.”

Because COVID-19 is resurgent in the human population, projects like this one are important given that scientists are still uncovering new ways that the disease continues to impact the world.

“The public health protective measures that are available for humans — like vaccines and masks — really aren’t options for deer,” Hamer said. “We’re interested to learn under what conditions deer become infected and how long they can maintain the infection in nature. Of course, we’re also interested to study potential onward transmission from deer to other deer, wildlife, or humans in order to learn how that may contribute to the overall ecology of this virus in nature.”

By Courtney Price, Texas A&M University School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences


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Delivering aid during war is tricky − here’s what to know about what Gaza relief operations may face

The politics of delivering aid in war zones are messy, the ethics fraught and the logistics daunting. But getting everything right is essential − and…




Palestinians on the outskirts of Gaza City walk by buildings destroyed by Israeli bombardment on Oct. 20, 2023. AP Photo/Ali Mahmoud

The 2.2 million people who live in Gaza are facing economic isolation and experiencing incessant bombardment. Their supplies of essential resources, including food and water, are quickly dwindling.

In response, U.S. President Joe Biden has pledged US$100 million in humanitarian assistance for the citizens of Gaza.

As a scholar of peace and conflict economics who served as a World Bank consultant during the 2014 war between Hamas and Israel, I believe that Biden’s promise raises fundamental questions regarding the delivery of humanitarian aid in a war zone. Political constraints, ethical quandaries and the need to protect the security of aid workers and local communities always make it a logistical nightmare.

In this specific predicament, U.S. officials have to choose a strategy to deliver the aid without the perception of benefiting Hamas, a group the U.S. and Israel both classify as a terrorist organization.


When aiding people in war zones, you can’t just send money, a development strategy called “cash transfers” that has become increasingly popular due to its efficiency. Sending money can boost the supply of locally produced goods and services and help people on the ground pay for what they need most. But injecting cash into an economy so completely cut off from the world would only stoke inflation.

So the aid must consist of goods that have to be brought into Gaza, and services provided by people working as part of an aid mission. Humanitarian aid can include food and water; health, sanitation and hygiene supplies and services; and tents and other materials for shelter and settlement.

Due to the closure of the border with Israel, aid can arrive in Gaza only via the Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border.

The U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, will likely turn to its longtime partner on the ground, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, to serve as supply depots and distribute goods. That agency, originally founded in 1949 as a temporary measure until a two-state solution could be found, serves in effect as a parallel yet unelected government for Palestinian refugees.

USAID will likely want to tap into UNRWA’s network of 284 schools – many of which are now transformed into humanitarian shelters housing two-thirds of the estimated 1 million people displaced by Israeli airstrikes – and 22 hospitals to expedite distribution.

Map of Gaza and its neighbors
Gaza is a self-governing Palestinian territory. The narrow piece of land is located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, bordered by Israel and Egypt. PeterHermesFurian/iStock via Getty Images Plus


Prior to the Trump administration, the U.S. was typically the largest single provider of aid to the West Bank and Gaza. USAID administers the lion’s share of it.

Since Biden took office, total yearly U.S. assistance for the Palestinian territories has totaled around $150 million, restored from just $8 million in 2020 under the Trump administration. During the Obama administration, however, the U.S. was providing more aid to the territories than it is now, with $1 billion disbursed in the 2013 fiscal year.

But the White House needs Congress to approve this assistance – a process that requires the House of Representatives to elect a new speaker and then for lawmakers to approve aid to Gaza once that happens.


The United Nations Relief and Works Agency is a U.N. organization. It’s not run by Hamas, unlike, for instance, the Gaza Ministry of Health. However, Hamas has frequently undermined UNRWA’s efforts and diverted international aid for military purposes.

Hamas has repeatedly used UNRWA schools as rocket depots. They have repeatedly tunneled beneath UNRWA schools. They have dismantled European Union-funded water pipes to use as rocket fuselages. And even since the most recent violence broke out, the UNRWA has accused Hamas of stealing fuel and food from its Gaza premises.

Humanitarian aid professionals regularly have to contend with these trade-offs when deciding to what extent they can work with governments and local authorities that commit violent acts. They need to do so in exchange for the access required to help civilians under their control.

Similarly, Biden has had to make concessions to Israel while brokering for the freedom to send humanitarian aid to Gaza. For example, he has assured Israel that if any of the aid is diverted by Hamas, the operation will cease.

This promise may have been politically necessary. But if Biden already believes Hamas to be uncaring about civilian welfare, he may not expect the group to refrain from taking what they can.

Security best practices

What can be done to protect the security of humanitarian aid operations that take place in the midst of dangerous conflicts?

Under International Humanitarian Law, local authorities have the primary responsibility for ensuring the delivery of aid – even when they aren’t carrying out that task. To increase the chances that the local authorities will not attack them, aid groups can give “humanitarian notification” and voluntarily alert the local government as to where they will be operating.

Hamas has repeatedly flouted international norms and laws. So the question of if and how the aid convoy will be protected looms large.

Under the current agreement between the U.S., Israel and Egypt, the convoy will raise the U.N. flag. International inspectors will make sure no weapons are on board the vehicles before crossing over from Arish, Egypt, to Rafah, a city located on the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt.

The aid convoy will likely cross without militarized security. This puts it at some danger of diversion once inside Gaza. But whether the aid convoy is attacked, seized or left alone, the Biden administration will have demonstrated its willingness to attempt a humanitarian relief operation. In this sense, a relatively small first convoy bearing water, medical supplies and food, among other items, serves as a test balloon for a sustained operation to follow soon after.

If the U.S. were to provide the humanitarian convoy a military escort, by contrast, Hamas could see its presence as a provocation. Washington’s support for Israel is so strong that the U.S. could potentially be judged as a party in the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

In that case, the presence of U.S. armed forces might provoke attacks on Gaza-bound aid convoys by Hamas and Islamic jihad fighters that otherwise would not have occurred. Combined with the mobilization of two U.S. Navy carrier groups in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, I’d be concerned that such a move might also stoke regional anger. It would undermine the Biden administration’s attempts to cool the situation.

On U.N.-approved missions, aid delivery may be secured by third-party peacekeepers – meaning, in this case, personnel who are neither Israeli nor Palestinian – with the U.N. Security Council’s blessing. In this case, tragically, it’s unlikely that such a resolution could conceivably pass such a vote, much less quickly enough to make a difference.

Topher L. McDougal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Diagnosis and management of postoperative wound infections in the head and neck region

“The majority of wound infections often manifest themselves immediately postoperatively, so close followup should take place […]” Credit: 2023 Barbarewicz…



“The majority of wound infections often manifest themselves immediately postoperatively, so close followup should take place […]”

Credit: 2023 Barbarewicz et al.

“The majority of wound infections often manifest themselves immediately postoperatively, so close followup should take place […]”

BUFFALO, NY- October 20, 2023 – A new research perspective was published in Oncoscience (Volume 10) on October 4, 2023, entitled, “Diagnosis and management of postoperative wound infections in the head and neck region.”

In everyday clinical practice at a department for oral and maxillofacial surgery, a large number of surgical procedures in the head and neck region take place under both outpatient and inpatient conditions. The basis of every surgical intervention is the patient’s consent to the respective procedure. Particular attention is drawn to the general and operation-specific risks. 

Particularly in the case of soft tissue procedures in the facial region, bleeding, secondary bleeding, scarring and infection of the surgical area are among the most common complications/risks, depending on the respective procedure. In their new perspective, researchers Filip Barbarewicz, Kai-Olaf Henkel and Florian Dudde from Army Hospital Hamburg in Germany discuss the diagnosis and management of postoperative infections in the head and neck region.

“In order to minimize the wound infections/surgical site infections, aseptic operating conditions with maximum sterility are required.”

Furthermore, depending on the extent of the surgical procedure and the patient‘s previous illnesses, peri- and/or postoperative antibiotics should be considered in order to avoid postoperative surgical site infection. Abscesses, cellulitis, phlegmone and (depending on the location of the procedure) empyema are among the most common postoperative infections in the respective surgical area. The main pathogens of these infections are staphylococci, although mixed (germ) patterns are also possible. 

“Risk factors for the development of a postoperative surgical site infection include, in particular, increased age, smoking, multiple comorbidities and/or systemic diseases (e.g., diabetes mellitus type II) as well as congenital and/ or acquired immune deficiency [10, 11].”


Continue reading the paper: DOI: 

Correspondence to: Florian Dudde


Keywords: surgical site infection, head and neck surgery


About Oncoscience

Oncoscience is a peer-reviewed, open-access, traditional journal covering the rapidly growing field of cancer research, especially emergent topics not currently covered by other journals. This journal has a special mission: Freeing oncology from publication cost. It is free for the readers and the authors.

To learn more about Oncoscience, visit and connect with us on social media:

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Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Plan Makes the Poor Pay for the Rich

A year after the Supreme Court struck down President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, he presented a new scheme to the Department of Education…



A year after the Supreme Court struck down President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, he presented a new scheme to the Department of Education on Tuesday. While it is less aggressive than the prior plan, this proposal would cost hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars, doing more harm than good. 

As the legendary economist Milton Friedman noted, “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.” 

Higher education in America is costly, and this “forgiveness” would make it worse. 

Signing up for potentially life-long student loans at a young age is too normalized. At the same time, not enough borrowers can secure jobs that offer adequate financial support to pay off these massive loans upon graduation or leaving college. These issues demand serious attention. But “erasing” student loans, as well-intentioned as it may be, is not the panacea Americans have been led to believe.

Upon closer examination, the President’s forgiveness plan creates winners and losers, ultimately benefiting higher-income earners the most. In reality, this plan amounts to wealth redistribution. To quote another top economist, Thomas Sowell described this clearly: “There are no solutions, only trade-offs.” 

Forgiving student loans is not the end of the road but the beginning of a trade-off for a rising federal fiscal crisis and soaring college tuition. 

When the federal government uses taxpayer funds to give student loans, it charges an interest rate to account for the cost of the loan. To say that all borrowers no longer have to pay would mean taxpayers lose along with those who pay for it and those who have been paying or have paid off their student loans.

According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, student debt forgiveness could cost at least $360 billion. 

Let’s consider that there will be 168 million tax returns filed this year. A simple calculation suggests that student loan forgiveness could add around $2,000 yearly in taxes per taxpayer, based on the CRFB’s central estimate. 

Clearly, nothing is free, and the burden of student loan forgiveness will be shifted to taxpayers.

One notable feature of this plan is that forgiveness is unavailable to individuals earning over $125,000 annually. In practice, this means that six-figure earners could have their debts partially paid off by lower-income tax filers who might not have even pursued higher education. This skewed allocation of resources is a sharp departure from progressive policy.

Data show that half of Americans are already frustrated with “Bidenomics.” 

Inflation remains high, affordable housing is a distant dream, and wages fail to keep up with soaring inflation. Introducing the potential of an additional $2,000 annual tax burden at least for those already struggling, mainly to subsidize high-income earners, adds insult to injury.

Furthermore, it’s vital to recognize that the burden of unpaid student loans should not fall on low-income earners or Americans who did not attend college. Incentives play a crucial role in influencing markets. 

By removing the incentive for student loan borrowers to repay their debts, we may encourage more individuals to pursue higher education and accumulate debt without the intention of paying it back. After all, why would they when it can be written off through higher taxes for everyone?

The ripple effect of this plan could be far-reaching. 

It may make college more accessible for some, opening the floodgates for students and the need for universities to expand and hire more staff, leading to even higher college tuition. This perverse incentive will set a precedent that will create a cycle of soaring tuition, which would counteract the original goal of making higher education more affordable.

While the intention behind President Biden’s student loan forgiveness may appear noble (in likelihood, it is a rent-seeking move), the results may prove detrimental to our nation’s economic stability and fairness. And if the debt is monetized, more inflation will result.

Forgiving student loans will exacerbate existing problems, with the brunt of the burden falling on lower-income Americans. Instead of improving the situation, it will likely create an intricate web of financial consequences, indirectly affecting the very people it aims to help. But that is the result of most government programs with good intentions.



Vance Ginn, Ph.D., is president of Ginn Economic Consulting, chief economist or senior fellow at multiple state thinks across the country, host of the Let People Prosper Show, and previously the associate director for economic policy of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, 2019-20. Follow him on @VanceGinn.


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