Almost three years since the pandemic began, it’s still not entirely certain where SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19, came from. Most scientists favour a natural spillover from animals to humans at the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan. But a recent preprint (a study yet to be peer reviewed) claims to have identified unusual sequence patterns in the SARS-CoV-2 genome, which possibly indicate the virus was genetically modified in a lab.

As Francois Balloux from UCL writes, the origin of the coronavirus is a heated topic, and unsurprisingly, the preprint has not been altogether well received. Balloux breaks down some very complex science and explains the experiments the researchers did to reach their controversial conclusion. He argues the evidence presented in the preprint is neither conclusive nor final, but does warrant careful consideration.

In the current economic climate, schools in England are struggling to balance their budgets, and headteachers are warning things will only get worse. Here’s how the government could respond. Also today, an expert explains why thousands of dead and dying crustaceans were found washed up along a 50km stretch of England’s north-east coast last autumn.

And as today is All-Hallow’s Eve, we’re thrilled to present an array of weird and spooky Halloween-themed, including this fabulous read on Dracula, which celebrated its 125th anniversary this year.

Phoebe Roth

Commissioning Editor, Health + Medicine

Kateryna Kon/Shutterstock

Coronavirus origins: the debate flares up, but the evidence remains weak

Francois Balloux, UCL

A recent preprint suggesting SARS-CoV-2 came from a lab has reignited the fierce debate over the origins of the virus.

Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Schools in England are facing bankruptcy – here’s what the government could do to help

Chris Rolph, Nottingham Trent University

School leaders fear they are facing bankruptcy.

Thousands of dead and dying crustaceans were found along Teesside’s coastlines last year. FlorianKunde/Shutterstock

Dead crustaceans washing up on England’s north-east coast may be victims of the green industrial revolution

Gary Caldwell, Newcastle University

A mass die-off of crustaceans occurred on England’s north-east coast last autumn – the government’s explanation of the cause is unlikely to be true.

Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy

Dracula at 125: how Bram Stoker’s vampire is a monstrous creation of terrifying sleep disorders

Alice Vernon, Aberystwyth University

Dracula’s power is not in his fangs, but in the way he disturbs the sleep of his victims.

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