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    “Stanford Scientists Pinpoint COVID-19 Virus’s Entry and Exit Ports Inside Our Noses,” by Bruce Goldman

    Stanford University School of Medicine  
    The Robert G. Fenley Writing Awards: News Releases  

    A study by Stanford Medicine virologist Peter Jackson, published in Cell on Jan. 5, 2023, described the identification of the arcane mechanisms that the COVID-19 virus uses to gain admission into the epithelial cells that line our nose and throat, kicking off a full-blast COVID-19 infection. Jackson and his colleagues found that the virus co-opts two types of cellular projections: cilia, spaghetti-like appendages sprouting from the outward-facing surfaces of various cells, such as those lining our nasal and throat cavities; and microvilli, smaller spikes extending from cells’ surfaces like little fingers.  
    This revelation of viral stealth was a scientific tour de force and clearly called for a news release, despite the unfortunate timing of the study’s publication and preceding embargo period: the winter holiday break, during which Stanford University would be shut down and reporters’ ranks would be decimated. 
    What is one thing you learned from your entry/experience? 
    Goldman says, “I learned that if there’s one thing more slippery than SARS-CoV-2, it’s SARS-CoV-2 when it’s slithering through a phalanx of swishing cilia surrounded by a sea of mucus. That really stuck with me.” 
    What challenge did you overcome? 

    While the study’s findings were scientifically exciting, they were quite technical. And the projected timing of the study’s publication was unfortunate — few reporters would be inclined to rouse themselves from their holiday torpor and crawl to their keyboards to read, respond to, and write about the release. It was, therefore, necessary to tell this story in such a compelling way that, despite the study’s technical nature, it would be both easily comprehensible to readers and preternaturally stimulating to journalists.  
    Contact: Bruce Goldman