Tartu University News

Significant decrease in infections and increase in antibody protection

14 hours 35 minutes ago
20.04.2021

The study on the prevalence of coronavirus reveals that the number of infectious adults is several times smaller and the number of adults with antibodies against coronavirus has increased by a half compared to a month ago. Slightly more than half of the people with anti-virus antibodies have achieved protection through vaccination.

In the course of the study stage that took place 8–19 April, 2,624 randomly selected adults were tested for coronavirus. 2,531 of them also gave a blood test to determine the level of antibodies. The analysis showed that 54 people (2.3%) tested positive for the coronavirus, 14 of them were infectious and the remaining 40 had recovered from the disease. Consequently, the percentage of potentially infectious adults in the population is 0.6%, which means that the coronavirus infection may be transferred by one adult person in 180, and the average number of infectious adults in Estonia is 5,900, which is more than four times fewer than last month. The head of the study, Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Tartu Ruth Kalda expressed her satisfaction that the number of infected persons has fallen in all age groups.

The antibody study showed that one adult in three has developed the antibodies (36%), and more than half of them (55%) have acquired the antibodies through vaccination. “The percentage of people with antibodies is particularly high among people aged over 65 (58%), but it is rapidly growing in the 40–65 age group as well. This allows to hope that also the workload of hospitals will soon be reduced,” Kalda explained.

The behavioural study showed in parallel with the decreased number of the infected, also a decline in the number of close contacts. The recently ended stage of the study revealed that one adult in 17 has had a contact or close contact with a coronavirus carrier (in the study stage in March, one grown-up person in ten had had a contact). Compared to March, the number of people who try to avoid physical contact and stay home has decreased. At the same time, there are more people who would like to be vaccinated if possible.

“Although our message after this study stage is encouraging, we still have to admit that we are just halfway towards reaching a safe immunisation level in the society. The spread of the virus is slowing down but to ensure that the decline continues and we could meet the summer with lower infection rates, like last year, we still have to limit our contacts for some time, keeping safe distance with others and avoiding large indoor gatherings,” said Kalda.

The monitoring study on the prevalence of coronavirus is conducted by a broad-based research team of the University of Tartu in cooperation with Synlab Estonia, Medicum and Kantar Emor.

For more information about the study, see the University of Tartu web page.

Further information: Ruth Kalda, Head of Institute of Family Medicine and Public Health, Professor of Family Medicine, University of Tartu, +372 5698 5599, ruth.kalda [ät] ut.ee

Category: ResearchPress release
Piret Ehrenpreis (piretehr)

Researchers aim to uncover the secrets of microbial biodiversity in Tartu

22 hours 51 minutes ago
20.04.2021

People have been living with microbes for millions of years. But it is only in recent years that we have begun to discover the secrets of microbial biodiversity, as these species invisible to the naked eye can be successfully identified in nature only by latest molecular methods.

Microorganisms play an important role in supporting humans’ mental and physical health, including strengthening the immune system. If there is a shortage of microorganisms inside and around us, the risk of allergies and autoimmune diseases increases. Many people live in cities and their exposure to biodiverse nature may be limited. However, researchers do not yet fully know the state of soil microbes in urban areas and how urban development helps to maintain and increase favourable conditions for microorganisms.

To be able to make decisions that support both biodiversity and the health of the urban population when planning the urban environment, researchers of the University of Tartu, led by Professor of Botany Meelis Pärtel from the Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, have undertaken an extensive analysis of microbes in the soil of the city of Tartu.

“We are mapping the biodiversity in Tartu’s soil. If we find out the conditions in which the number of good microbes is the largest, it can be taken into account in the future in urban planning and supporting the health of the urban population,” explained Meelis Pärtel. “We would also like to know whether Rohemeeter, which was created last year to assess the biodiversity of landscapes, can also measure the biodiversity of microbes,“ added Pärtel.

In the study, researchers are closely cooperating with paediatricians of Tartu University Hospital, who, led by Professor of Paediatrics Vallo Tillmann, have studied the impact of the environment on the development of childhood allergies, type 1 diabetes and other immune-mediated diseases for a long time. “We know that early exposure to a species-rich environment affects the development of the child’s immune system and can reduce the risk of asthma. With this survey, we would like to find out where the number of good microbes is the highest in Tartu, what is the biodiversity situation in the yards of kindergartens and schools and whether there is a link to people’s health indicators,” said Tillmann.

The results of the study “Tartu – City of Good Microbes” are also eagerly awaited by the city of Tartu, which stands for the health and well-being of its residents. “The city of Tartu highly values the contribution of the University of Tartu to biodiversity research. The expected results will provide insight into the health of our population and additional information for making urban planning decisions in the future. In Tartu as a smart city, this kind of cooperation that supports each other is essential and extremely important,” said Gea Kangilaski, Deputy Mayor of Tartu.

The team of researchers and students plans to collect samples from parks, private and public gardens, yards of schools and kindergartens, sports grounds and indoor flower pots, among other places. All collected samples will be entered into the eBiodiversity portal on Estonian biodiversity by using the smart application Legulus developed by the University of Tartu Natural History Museum.

The project is part of the activities of the centre of excellence EcolChance, led by Professor Ülo Niinemets from the Estonian University of Life Sciences. The team of the University of Tartu is led by Professor of Plant Ecology Martin Zobel.

Further information: Meelis Pärtel, Professor of Botany of the University of Tartu Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, 511 5058, meelis.partel [ät] ut.ee

Sandra Sommer Press Adviser +372 737 5681
+372 5307 7820 sandra.sommer [ät] ut.ee
www.ut.ee

 

Category: ResearchPress release
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

University of Tartu researchers proved that disposable medical face masks can be reused after heat treatment

1 day 16 hours ago
19.04.2021

Disposable face masks are a major cause of the large environmental footprint in the corona crisis. A study by University of Tartu researchers showed that these masks can, in fact, be repeatedly heat-treated before their efficiency starts to significantly decrease.

For the study, researchers of the University of Tartu Institute of Physics conducted experiments with medical face masks of five manufacturers, trying to destroy the virus using three methods: machine washing the mask at 60 degrees, keeping the mask in boiling water for five minutes and keeping the mask in hot water for five minutes. Each method was applied ten times, and the masks were allowed to dry for 24 hours between each heat treatment. After ten times, the masks’ filtration efficiency and breathability were measured.

According to Professor Heikki Junninen, Head of the Laboratory of Environmental Physics of the University of Tartu Institute of Physics, the results of the study show that there is no reason to fear that the quality of masks would be significantly decreased by heat treatment.

There are roughly three types of face masks: personal protective equipment (subject to the strictest requirements), medical (“blue”) masks and community masks (all others, including homemade masks).

After applying a virus-destroying re-use method, the size of particles that pass through the mask was examined. This was done by experiments with particles of three sizes: 100 nm particles that are the smallest, about the size of viruses; 300 nm particles that pass through the mask best, and 3000 nm particles that represent very small droplets (the filtration size required for certified community masks). The purpose of the experiment was to determine whether the filtration efficiency of medical masks had changed after heat treatment.

The percentages in the figure show how much the mask filters a certain particle size after its tenfold re-use treatment. Visual by Sandra Saar

The results showed that the quality of disposable masks changes little after heat treatment. The medical mask may be worn again after keeping it in hot water for five minutes and the hot water procedure may be repeated at least ten times. The breathability of the masks did not change significantly.

Even after a tenfold treatment, the quality of the masks remained better than that of several reusable cloth masks that do not have a filter layer. The properties of reusable masks containing a separate filtering layer are similar to those of the disposable medical masks now tested.

Junninen said that based on the results of this study, it is possible to reduce mask waste, but admitted that medical masks do not decompose in nature, which is their main downside. “Other than that, the quality-price ratio of medical masks is by far the best: they are very efficient in filtering particles of all sizes, they have very good breathability and they are cheap,” he said.

Further information: Heikki Junninen, Professor in Environmental Physics, Head of Laboratory, 737 4774, heikki.junninen [ät] ut.ee

Sandra Sommer Press Adviser +372 737 5681
+372 5307 7820 sandra.sommer [ät] ut.ee
www.ut.ee

 

Category: ResearchPress release
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

Coronavirus level in wastewater is decreasing very slowly

4 days 11 hours ago
16.04.2021

This week’s results of the wastewater analysis led by the University of Tartu confirm a persistent yet very slow decline in the coronavirus levels. There is still a large amount of virus in wastewater samples all over Estonia and achieving a moderate level can still take weeks.

Based on the wastewater index describing the average situation in Estonia, the current spread of the virus is comparable to that of the beginning of February when the more rapid spread began. According to the lead researcher, Professor of Technology of Antimicrobial Compounds of the University of Tartu Tanel Tenson, the decline in the amount of virus in wastewater started in the second half of March and is now noticeable in all Estonian regions. “However, the decrease rate is very modest and the amount of virus in wastewater continues to be uniformly high across Estonia. Thus, it is still weeks before we can expect a significant change and reach the moderate level,” Tenson explained.

How and where are the samples collected?

Wastewater samples are collected at the beginning of every week in all county centres, cities with more than 10,000 inhabitants and, if necessary, in smaller settlements. Samples taken from larger cities reflect the situation of wastewater passing through the treatment plant over 24 hours, giving a reliable overview of the infection level in the city. In smaller places, spot samples are taken, showing the virus level in wastewater at the moment of sampling. Spot samples are more easily affected by various factors and should therefore be used over several weeks to estimate the trend, rather than get a definitive picture of the current situation.

The study is a tool helping the Health Board monitor changes in the outbreak dynamics and discover hidden outbreaks. It gives early information for estimating the spread of the virus before clinical cases are detected. The Health Board is regularly informed of the results.

In collecting the samples, the University of Tartu cooperates with the Estonian Environmental Research Centre and water companies operating the waste water treatment plants of Estonian cities. The samples are analysed at the laboratories of the University of Tartu Institute of Technology.

For more information and the interactive map with the previous results of the study, see the home page of the study “Detecting coronavirus in waste water”.

Further information: Tanel Tenson, Professor of Technology of Antimicrobial Compounds, University of Tartu, 5344 5202, tanel.tenson [ät] ut.ee

Category: ResearchPress release
Piret Ehrenpreis (piretehr)

May is orienteering month at the university

4 days 18 hours ago
16.04.2021

Throughout May, the university invites all employees, students, alumni and their families to orienteering in the city of Tartu. The spring orienteering course, compiled by the university museum, focuses on places related to sports and recreation. Did you know that according to architect Krause’s initial floor plans there was supposed to be a fencing hall on the ground floor of the main building? If not, come orienteering and find out other exciting sports-related facts about the university.

Ken Ird, Curator of the UT Museum, designed the orienteering course based on both historical and modern sites where students and university staff have done exercise and sports since the early 19th century. “I hope that some points come as a surprise to the participants and show the city from a new and interesting angle. And it is always nice to introduce the exciting history of our alma mater to the university family,” said Ird.

The orienteering course with 20 points is feasible for everyone – points can be visited in order of your convenience and no time will be taken. Completing the entire course at a leisurely pace should take about an hour and a half. If you cannot complete the entire course at once, you can go looking for unexplored checkpoints at the appropriate time during the entire month. You will need a smartphone, a map and a good mood to complete the course.

In the last week of April, we will publish the map of the orienteering course and share more detailed information about how the orienteering will take place this time. Keep an eye on the event information on the intranet.

Further information: Sirli Urbas, Univesity of Tartu Staff Training Specialist, 737 5194, sirli.urbas [ät] ut.ee

Category: Culture and sports
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

Students writing their theses allowed to the library from Monday

1 week 3 days ago
10.04.2021

Starting from Monday, 12 April, a limited number of people will be allowed to study in the Univerity of Tarty (UT) Library reading rooms. This opportunity is primarily meant for students who are writing their theses and need materials that can be used only in the library. People who have rented a private work room can also come to the library from Monday.

“Students who are writing their theses and need books and other materials available only in the library have contacted us about their problem,” said Director of the UT Library Krista Aru. “Therefore, we decided to help them as much as possible in this difficult situation. However, we ask you to come to the library only when it is absolutely necessary and in other cases, to use our contact-free services.” The materials that can be used only in the library have to be requested via the online catalogue ESTER in advance.

From next week, up to 100 persons are allowed to use the five reading rooms on two floors of the library. The real-time number of visitors in the building can be seen on the library’s website.

From next Monday, also group work rooms can be booked online, but you should take into account that, no matter how large the room is, only two people can use it at the same time.

Books can still be borrowed contact-free. Books requested via ESTER will be available for picking up in the Smart Lockers in the library lobby on the next workday. It is also possible to find the necessary books in the open stacks and use the self-service machine to borrow them.

Printing and scanning service and the authorised work station are still available in the lobby. 

Until the end of restrictions, there is no access to the computer room, dining room and sports and recreation area. 

The reading rooms of the library are open on workdays from 12-19. All people who come to the library must wear a mask, keep a safe distance with others and sanitise their hands when entering the building. 

If you have questions, call 737 5772 on workdays from 9–17 or send an email to laenutus [ät] ut.ee, paring [ät] ut.ee ja library [ät] ut.ee.

Further information: Olga Einasto, Head of the University of Tartu Library Service Department, 737 5774, olga.einasto [ät] ut.ee
 

Category: Studies
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

Coronavirus level in wastewater remains high but shows signs of decline

1 week 4 days ago
09.04.2021

This week’s results of the wastewater analysis led by the University of Tartu reveal that the concentration of coronavirus in samples taken from larger cities of Estonia has started to decline. However, the virus is widely spread all over Estonia and still abundant in the wastewater, so the situation does not seem to be easing just yet.

According to the principal investigator, Professor of Technology of Antimicrobial Compounds of the University of Tartu Tanel Tenson, virus concentration in wastewater has risen to such a high level that the readings will probably remain high for some time even if the currently noticeable slight decline continues. “The concentration of coronavirus started to grow rapidly in mid-November last year. This was followed by a surge in the number of infections. If we compare the current infection figures and wastewater analysis results with those of November, we still have a long way to go to get back to the same level. The number of the infected continues to be high throughout Estonia and it is therefore necessary to be careful everywhere to avoid infection,” Tenson explained.

Wastewater samples are collected at the beginning of every week in all county centres, cities with more than 10,000 inhabitants and, if necessary, in smaller settlements. Samples taken from larger cities reflect the situation of wastewater passing through the treatment plant over 24 hours, giving a reliable overview of the infection level in the city. In smaller places, spot samples are taken, showing the virus level in wastewater at the moment of sampling. Spot samples are more easily affected by various factors and should therefore be used over several weeks to estimate the trend, rather than get a definitive picture of the current situation.

The study is a tool helping the Health Board monitor changes in the outbreak dynamics and discover hidden outbreaks. It gives early information for estimating the spread of the virus before clinical cases are detected. The Health Board is regularly informed of the results.

In collecting the samples, the University of Tartu cooperates with the Estonian Environmental Research Centre and water companies operating the waste water treatment plants of Estonian cities. The samples are analysed at the laboratories of the University of Tartu Institute of Technology.

For more information and the interactive map with the previous results of the study, see the home page of the study “Detecting coronavirus in waste water”.
 

Further information: Tanel Tenson, Professor of Technology of Antimicrobial Compounds, University of Tartu, 5344 5202, tanel.tenson [ät] ut.ee

Category: ResearchPress release
Piret Ehrenpreis (piretehr)

European academy networks call for a solution to sharing health data for research

1 week 4 days ago
09.04.2021

Current regulations do not support the sharing of health data with medical researchers outside the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA). Researchers of the University of Tartu have helped the European academy networks to seek solutions to facilitate the transfer and mediation of health data in both regions.

A working group of the academy networks made an appeal to policy-makers to eliminate impediments to the sharing of data to ensure efficient collaboration with public-sector research institutions. The working group included three members from the University of Tartu: Vice Dean of the Faculty of Medicine Külli Kingo, Head of Clinical Research Centre Katrin Kaarna, and Professor of Bioinformatics, member of the Academy of Sciences, Jaak Vilo.

In the report International Sharing of Personal Health Data for Research that was published yesterday, the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities (ALLEA), the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) and the Federation of European Academies of Medicine (FEAM) call EU politicians for cooperation to overcome the barriers in sharing pseudonymised health data with researchers outside the EU and the EEA, under article 46 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Members of the working group underline that collecting and combining of health data is fundamental for the advancement of medical research, and improving diagnosis and treatment of diseases. To promote research, it is often essential that pseudonymised personal data are urgently and immediately shared between research groups, while ensuring the protection of personal data. Exchange of health data directly benefits all European citizens as it enables to make better use of the existing resources.

Külli Kingo and Katrin Kaarna said that research done elsewhere in the world is also relevant for European patients. The challenges in data transfer arise from the statutory conflict between the EU and other countries’ legislation. As it is not possible to sign contracts governed by the GDPR outside the EU, there is currently no workable legal mechanism for sharing data for public-sector research.

According to Jaak Vilo, Professor of Bioinformatics at the University of Tartu, one the vital problems of health and genetic data analysis is the reproducibility of data for different countries, nationalities and healthcare systems. “The only way to receive adequate knowledge is to create opportunities for international collaboration in pooling and combining of data analyses,” Vilo explained. “Health data can involve privacy risks but, for example, data describing the virus and its mutations and, more generally, scientific data collected with the support of public funding should be internationally accessible to many researchers. To protect health data, it is possible to use cryptographic techniques or standardised cohort networks, which are used for distributed data analysis without aggregating the underlying data across countries,” said Vilo.

“It is necessary to advance and facilitate the free movement of data to enhance the benefit to individuals and society, thanks to participants in the research,” Kingo and Kaarna explained. A solution is urgently needed both for ongoing collaborations as well as for new research.

The report of the three networks of European academies of sciences focuses on how global sharing of data promotes research, describes the challenges caused by data protection regulations, and offers possible solutions to adapt and develop existing laws and regulations.

Key points in the report

• Health research is crucial for all: for the benefit of patients, population health, for the development of healthcare systems, and for social cohesion and stability.
• Sharing pseudonymised personal health data for public-sector research is essential to make effective use of limited resources.
• Data must be shared safely and efficiently, taking into account patient privacy concerns.
• Bottlenecks in the legislation hinder data sharing with researchers outside the EU and EEA, and remote access to data from other locations.
• European Commission must commit to finding a solution to overcome the barriers in sharing data. The preferred option is to find a simple, comprehensive and workable solution under article 46 of the GDPR, giving priority to the protection of the data of EU and EEA citizens.

The report was prepared by consultation with experts of different fields nominated by the member academies of ALLEA, EASAC and FEAM.

European academy networks

ALLEA
European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities (ALLEA) represents more than 50 academies from over 40 EU and non-EU countries.

EASAC
European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) is formed by the national science academies of the EU Member States, Norway, Switzerland and UK, to collaborate in giving advice to European policy-makers. 

FEAM
European Federation of National Academies of Medicine and Medical Sections of Academies of Sciences (FEAM) is an umbrella organisation joining 23 national academies representing thousands of scientists in Europe.

Lisateave:

Külli Kingo, Vice Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Tartu, 731 9706, kylli.kingo [ät] ut.ee

Katrin Kaarna, Head of the Clinical Research Centre, Unifersity of Tartu, 737 4119, katrin.kaarna [ät] ut.ee

Jaak Vilo, Professor of Bioinformatics, University of Tartu, 737 5483, jaak.vilo [ät] ut.ee

Category: ResearchUniversity
Piret Ehrenpreis (piretehr)

PhD thesis shows, that ID card issues reoccur, because they are not learned from

1 week 4 days ago
09.04.2021

Estonia has used the ID card system as a means to identify its citizens for almost 20 years. During those years, several security issues have emerged. A new PhD dissertation from the University of Tartu has shed light on those issues and pointed out possible lessons for the future.

“The Estonian ID card is a very interesting research object, as it is a nationwide electronic identity scheme that is actually used in practice,” said Arnis Paršovs. In his PhD thesis, he provided a comprehensive overview of all kinds of security problems and other incidents the ID card ecosystem has experienced throughout its 18 years of use. For that, he collected bits and pieces of information from hundreds of news articles, and additional information from the involved parties. He also performed experiments with actual ID cards.

Read further in Estonian at Novaator and in English at the UT Institute of Computer Science blog.

Category: University
Henry Narits (henryn)

Continuing education courses of the University of Tartu attracted much interest in 2020

1 week 5 days ago
08.04.2021

In 2020, the number of continuing education learners of the University of Tartu increased by almost 11% compared to the year before. There were nearly three continuing education learners per student. According to the 2019 data of the Ministry of Education and Research, the University of Tartu is the largest continuing education provider in Estonia.

In 2020, 40,493 continuing education learners took part in 1,216 courses at the University of Tartu: 39,721 of them in continuing education programmes and 772 in degree study courses. Nearly three quarters of participants in continuing education programmes took entirely or partially web-based courses and almost a third gained knowledge in 21 massive open online courses (MOOCs). Also 161 internal training sessions were organised, involving 2,624 university staff members. Statistics show that the duration of most courses was 27 to 80 hours and courses of this volume also attracted the largest number of learners.

Vice Rector for Academic Affairs of the University of Tartu Aune Valk was content that despite an exceptional year when a large part of continuing education had to be quickly reorganised and courses transferred online, the number of students increased. “This was made possible by good cooperation within and outside the university and the great contribution of both academic and support units,” said Valk. She pointed out that the share of courses serving society and open to all has increased – these include both free courses offered at the request of the state and MOOCs opened on the initiative of the university. “It is a pleasure to see that there is great interest in learning and the university is trusted as a training provider,” said Valk.

The university also draws up continuing education programmes according to the wishes and needs of contracting entity, and in 2020, the university continued its cooperation with both public sector institutions and private companies. Among others, the courses were commissioned by the Financial Supervision Authority, the Government Office, the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund, the National Institute for Health Development, the Agency of Medicines, the Environmental Board and the Supreme Court, several other state authorities, companies, health care institutions and numerous educational institutions.

In 2020, for the first time, universities had the opportunity to offer free continuing education courses within the framework of state-commissioned continuing education. Supported by the project “Promoting adult education and broadening learning opportunities”, eight free courses for employees of small and medium-sized enterprises were organised during the year.

Further information: Tiia Ristolainen, Head of the University of Tartu Lifelong Learning Centre, 501 5584, tiia.ristolainen [ät] ut.ee

Sandra Sommer Press Adviser +372 737 5681
+372 5307 7820 sandra.sommer [ät] ut.ee
www.ut.ee

 

Category: Continuing educationPress release
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

University of Tartu Centre for Arts to close doors

1 week 6 days ago
07.04.2021

The Centre for Arts of the University of Tartu Viljandi Culture Academy will cease its activities from 31 August 2021. The professorship of liberal arts and the courses of the master’s curriculum of Teacher of Arts and Technology taught at the centre will continue.

The development of creative activities remains important for the University of Tartu. Thus the professorship of liberal arts will continue under the Institute of Cultural Research from 1 September. The courses of the master’s curriculum of Teacher of Arts and Technology that have taken place at the Centre for Arts remain to be managed by Viljandi Culture Academy. Students will have the opportunity to complete the courses of this spring semester at the Centre for Arts. From autumn, optional arts and culture courses can be taken from Viljandi Culture Academy and other institutes of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. Activities for which students used to get credit points via the Centre for Arts continue at Üliõpilasmaja.

Director of Viljandi Culture Academy Juko-Mart Kõlar said the decision to close the Centre for Arts was a difficult one, as the long-time employees of the centre have performed their work very well and with commitment. The main reason for closing the centre lies in the long-lasting underfunding of higher education. In this situation, the university must continuously assess which activities it can keep up and which it cannot.

“My main task as the director of the academy is to ensure the sustainable development of Viljandi Culture Academy, but unfortunately, our financial situation did not allow that. Several central curricula have been underfunded and in the conditions of the increasing salary pressure, it was more and more difficult to negotiate with teaching staff working under authorisation agreements, who make up the majority of our teaching staff,“ said Kõlar.

Juko-Mart Kõlar thanked all employees of the Centre for Arts for their dedicated work and assured the students that all compulsory courses of the master’s curriculum will take place as planned this spring.

The Centre for Arts located in the Old Anatomical Theatre in Tartu was created in September 2017 to coordinate art studies at the University of Tartu and support students in acquiring and applying their main specialisation.

Further information: Juko-Mart Kõlar, Director of the University of Tartu Viljandi Culture Academy, juko-mart.kolar [ät] ut.ee

Category: University
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

Literary walk in the Baltic German student town Tartu

1 week 6 days ago
07.04.2021

As part of the cultural festival German Spring, the literary walk in the Baltic-German student town, created by the University of Tartu Department of German Studies in cooperation with Tartu City Museum, is presented on Thursday, 8 April. Audio guides and traditional maps will offer interesting background information in Estonian and German to those participating in the walk.

In the 19th century, the University of Tartu was the only university in the Baltic provinces and Tartu – also called the Athens of the river Emajõgi – was known as the city of higher education and youth. In Baltic German memoir literature, Tartu is primarily referred to as a university town, forming a backdrop to the vivid university life and student life. A small selection of it is offered during the literary walk in Estonian and German.

Accompanied by 26 texts in Estonian and German from 14 authors, it is possible to take the virtual or real-life tour of the important nodes of the Baltic German student town and read or listen to the observations of Tartu by, for example, the rector and mayor Georg von Oettingen, the bibliothecary Emil Andrers, the scientist Karl Ernst von Baer, the local government figure Oswald Hartge, one of the organisers of Estonian song festivals Roman von Antropoff, art historian Georg Dehio, landowner and literatus Otto von Grünewaldt, Dr  Bertram, the Baltic German Estophile and humourist, who proposed the idea of the Estonian epic Kalevipoeg, and many others. The female perspective is voiced by Margarethe von Rauch and Else Hueck-Dehio.

The walking tour starts at Herr Moss’ tavern and the kringle-loving lions in Uueturu street and ends at the river Emajõgi, where students once teased the pedells or supported orphans from Pskov. Historical photos have been included in the Navicup app for comparison with the current views, and participants can test and improve their knowledge by answering questions and solving problems. Soon a museum programme will be added for schools and others interested.

The Estonian texts of the audio guide were recorded by former and current students of the University of Tartu: Rector Toomas Asser, Mayor of Tartu Urmas Klaas, Professor Tiit Rosenberg, Pastor of St Peter’s church and the Provost of Tartu Ants Tooming, Editor of Akadeemia Mart Orav, publisher Indrek Ilomets, historians Kaarel Vanamölder and Ken Ird, German studies student Mikk Viilukas, etc.

The German texts were recorded by Anne Kathrin Kirsch, the Cultural Attaché of the Embassy of Germany, Baltic German historians Manfred von Boetticher and Hans-Dieter Handrack; Eike Eckert, Manager of Baltic German Museum in Lüneburg, and Renate Weichart and Alexander Hartge – daughter and grandson of one of the authors, Oswald Hartge.

The literary walk and the audio guide are presented on 8 April at 17:00 in Zoom (Meeting ID: 863 0699 3379, Passcode: 392406). Link to the Navicup walk will be added to the German Spring website and to the virtual map on Tartu City Museum’s website on 8 April after the presentation. When museums are reopened, it is possible to get a printed map with the route of the walk.

The literary walking tour of the Baltic German student town was compiled by Associate Professor of German Language and Culture Reet Bender, doctoral student of history, Kadi Kähar-Peterson, Junior Lecturer in German Language Hella Liira, and Junior Research Fellow in Germanic and Romance Languages and Literatures and Junior Lecturer in German Language Marika Peekmann, all from the University of Tartu. The design is by Uku Peterson.

Also, the Tartu City Museum, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Estonia have contributed to the completion of the walk.

Further information:
Reet Bender, Associate Professor of German Language and Culture, University of Tartu, 503 6268, reet.bender [ät] ut.ee
Kadi Kähär-Peterson, doctoral student of history, University of Tartu, 5558 1113, kadi.kahar-peterson [ät] ut.ee

The literary walk in the Baltic-German student town in NaviCup

Category: Culture and sportsPress release
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

Tartu International Law Conversations discuss the Nuremberg trials and the Soviet Union

2 weeks ago
06.04.2021

The University of Tartu School of Law continues its Tartu International Law Conversations. The fifth event of the series entitled “The Nuremberg Trials and the Soviet Union” will take place online on 22 April 2021 at 17–18 (EET, GMT+3).

The aim of this series is to invite academics and practitioners from Estonia and abroad to talk about various aspects of international law. Depending on the circumstances, the events take place in person or online.

The next speaker in the series is Francine Hirsch, Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She will talk about the Nuremberg trials and the Soviet Union. The event is moderated by Lauri Mälksoo, Professor of International Law at the University of Tartu School of Law.

If you wish to participate in the event, please register using this link: https://forms.gle/yGk84D2rP7KHLSfL9

Before the event, registered participants receive the link to access the online seminar room. 

The events are in English. Everyone is welcome to join!

Further information: Lauri Mälksoo, Professor of International Law, School of Law, University of Tartu, lauri.malksoo [ät] ut.ee

Category: University
Mari Liiver (liiver)

More than 20,000 years of life lost to smoking in Estonia every year

2 weeks ago
06.04.2021

A master’s thesis defended at the University of Tartu revealed that in 2018 in Estonia, the burden of disease associated with smoking totalled to 23,634 years of life, that is 38.9 years per 1,000 inhabitants. Men lost more than four times more years of life than women due to smoking, and most years of life were lost outside Tallinn and Tartu.

World Health Organization has estimated that tobacco use is currently responsible for the death of about six million people across the world each year, with many of these deaths occurring prematurely. In her master’s thesis defended at the University of Tartu Institute of Family Medicine and Public Health, Säsil Rammo found that in 2018, the Estonian population lost 416,510 years of life in total, of which the loss of 74,829 years was caused by four medical conditions – lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cerebral infarction and ischaemic heart disease. 35.1% of this burden of disease could be associated with smoking.

Men lost more than four times more years (71.4) than women (15.4) due to smoking-related diseases per 1,000 inhabitants in 2018. “According to various studies, smoking among men has decreased over time, but the health damage caused by smoking is known to occur dozens of years later,” said Säsil Rammo, the author of the thesis, adding that the difference may also be attributed to the higher number of years of life lost due to mortality among men: “The burden of disease is linked to the number of years left to live at the time of death. The younger people die, the greater the burden of disease.”

Burden of disease by county

Rammo’s master’s thesis is known to be the first in Estonia where smoking-attributable burden of disease is presented by counties and age groups. According to Rammo, local experts and policymakers can use the county-based results to support the municipality and organisations in smoking prevention and to draw constant attention to the harm associated with smoking.

The analysis showed that the burden of disease among men was the highest in Valga and Ida-Viru County, followed by Hiiu and Põlva County. In Ida-Viru, Pärnu, Rapla and Saare counties, the figure was the lowest among 50–54-year-olds. “In Ida-Viru, Jõgeva and Saare counties, men lost most years of life per 1,000 inhabitants due to ischaemic heart disease associated with smoking. In other counties, lung cancer accounted for the largest part of smoking-attributable burden of disease,” said Rammo.

Among women, the highest smoking-attributable burden of disease per 1,000 inhabitants was among women aged 65–69 in Jõgeva County, followed by women in Lääne-Viru and Rapla counties. “In Lääne County, women lost most years of life per 1,000 inhabitants due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease associated with smoking; in Ida-Viru, Valga and Võru counties due to ischaemic heart disease; in Põlva County equally to ischaemic heart disease and lung cancer, and to lung cancer in the rest of counties,” Rammo described.

According to age groups, smoking-attributable burden of disease per 1,000 inhabitants was the highest in the younger retirement age, among those aged 65–69.

Need for regular studies

Based on the results of her master’s thesis, Rammo recommends taking regional disparities into account when implementing programmes aimed at reducing smoking and facilitating the availability of such programmes in counties with increased burden of disease. “It is also very important to conduct regular studies on smoking-attributable health impacts to assess the trends in smoking prevalence and the resulting harm,” Rammo added.

Säsil Rammo’s master’s thesis “Smoking attributable burden of disease in Estonia in 2018” was defended at the University of Tartu Institute of Family Medicine and Public Health under the supervision of Jane Idavain, Head of the Department of Health Statistics of the National Institute for Health Development.

Further information:
Säsil Rammo
Author of the master’s thesis defended in the curriculum of Public Health of the University of Tartu
+372 513 8006
sasil.rammo [ät] gmail.com Category: Research
Virge Ratasepp (a73579)

Mentors give a new boost to Starter Tartu teams

2 weeks 1 day ago
05.04.2021

This semester, the Mentor Feedback Carousel of the Starter idea development programme was held online and lasted for a whole week. The Mentor Feedback Carousel is a stage in the programme ran by the Startup Lab and gives student teams a great chance to get honest feedback and recommendations on their business idea.

From 18 to 26 March, twelve student teams seeking innovative solutions to everyday problems, for example, strawberry picking, taking care of your dog, growing plants, time management, food, environment etc., got feedback from 19 mentors from different fields. Each team had the opportunity to talk to three mentors about developing their idea. In total, there were nearly 40 meet-ups, where also new useful contacts were exchanged.

Mentors in the Starter programme are well-known people in the Estonian startup community who have a lot of experience from different projects. As before, there were some mentors who are also Startup Lab alumni and have once been in the same situation. Regarding legal questions, the teams can get help from the IT law master’s students working under the name of Legal Clinic.

One of the mentors, the Proekspert business developer Katre Purga said that being a mentor to Starter teams is a great alternative to everyday work. “It gives me the chance to see new interesting perspectives and offer support to the teams. Meanwhile, students get to try out their team dynamics in agile business development. Every mentor relationship accelerates the development of the idea. Thanks to the mentors, the teams may avoid certain mistakes,” said Purga.

According to the Manager of Startup Lab, Maret Ahonen, the mentor week is one of the key points in the Starter Tartu programme, helping teams to find a narrower focus and gain support and positive criticism. “I am very grateful to mentors for their willingness to dedicate their time and attention to Starter teams, because one mentor relationship can change the whole life,” said Ahonen.

Student team PocketTour, who plans to create a virtual travel guide, underlined three key points they learnt at the Mentor Feedback Carousel:

  • Find potential partners,
  • Learn to know your field of operation in depth,
  • Know your customer and market your product accordingly.

The mentors who participated at the event were: Andres Vaher, Anneli Ohvril, Ants-Oskar Mäesalu, Evgenia Trofimova, Juta Kuhlberg, Kaisa Hansen, Kaisa Kopliste, Kalev Külaase, Kaspar Kuus, Katre Purga, Laur Lõhmus, Marelle Ellen, Markus Lember, Merit Valdsalu, Rimante Valancauskaite, Sven Parkel, Taavi Tamm, Triin Kask and Vaido Mikheim. The Starter Tartu team is grateful to all of them.

Startup Lab is a subunit of the University of Tartu School of Economics and Business Administration. It provides hands-on entrepreneurship education and pre-incubation services. Teams who have joined the Starter Tartu business development programme participate in workshops supervised by mentors, who are start-up founders and entrepreneurs from different business sectors.

Starter Tartu programme is financed by the European Social Fund.

Further information: Martti Saarme, Marketing and Communications Specialist, Startup Lab, University of Tartu, +372 5909 4726, martti.saarme [ät] ut.ee

Category: Entrepreneurship
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

Coronavirus concentration in wastewater has increased again

2 weeks 5 days ago
01.04.2021

This week the results of the wastewater study led by the University of Tartu show again an increase in the spread of the coronavirus. The amounts of virus have increased most of all in samples collected from southern and western Estonia.

While last week’s analysis results gave some hope that the virus quantities were declining, this week there were even more samples with high concentration of coronavirus than two weeks ago. Lead researcher, Professor of Technology of Antimicrobial Compounds at the University of Tartu Tanel Tenson admitted that last week’s hope for an improvement in the situation was premature. “Virus quantities have grown everywhere in Estonia, and thus it is definitely reasonable to continue with current restrictions,” said Tenson.

Now also smaller places on the map of wastewater surveillance results

From this week, the map representing the results of the wastewater study also includes results of samples taken from smaller settlements. Differently from larger cities where the analyses reflect the average situation of wastewater that passes the treatment plant over 24 hours, in smaller places grab samples are taken, showing the amount of virus in wastewater at the moment of sampling.

“Grab samples are highly influenced by whether infected people have used the toilet around the time of sampling. Thus, it is necessary to monitor and compare the results from smaller communities over several weeks to assess whether the number of infections is growing or the outbreak is subsiding,” Tenson said. “In grab sampling, results confirming the presence of virus are probably reliable. However, a single grab sample with no virus may not always mean that there are no infections in the community,” he explained.

Wastewater samples are collected every week in all Estonian county centres, cities with more than 10,000 inhabitants and, if necessary, in smaller settlements. The study is a tool supporting the Health Board by providing early information to assess the spread of the virus before clinical cases are detected. The monitoring helps to find hidden outbreaks and monitor changes in the dynamics of outbreaks. The Health Board is regularly informed of the results.

When collecting the samples, the University of Tartu cooperates with the Estonian Environmental Research Centre and water companies operating the water treatment plants of Estonian cities. Wastewater samples are analysed at the laboratories of the University of Tartu Institute of Technology.

For more information and the interactive map with the previous results of the study, see the home page of the study “Detecting coronavirus in waste water”.

Further information: Tanel Tenson, Professor of Technology of Antimicrobial Compounds, University of Tartu, 5344 5202, tanel.tenson [ät] ut.ee

Category: ResearchPress release
Piret Ehrenpreis (piretehr)

Large study by Estonian researchers identified new genetic link to male infertility

2 weeks 6 days ago
31.03.2021

Researchers from the University of Tartu and the Wellcome Sanger Institute (UK) carried out the largest and most exhaustive genetic study to date looking at Y-chromosome-linked infertility in men. Analysing the DNA of patients with spermatogenic impairment at the Andrology Centre of Tartu University Hospital, researchers found a previously undescribed subtype of the Y chromosome, which, in a substantial number of men of European ancestry, increases the risk of fertility issues nearly nine times. The discovery improves the diagnostics of infertility in men who carry this gene variant as well as their early clinical management and counselling.

The findings published in eLife show that men with this unstable subtype of the Y chromosome have a significantly increased risk of genomic rearrangements. These rearrangements affect the sperm production process (spermatogenesis) and consequently, these men can be up to nine times more likely to have fertility issues. Molecular diagnostics of this genetic variant could help identify those at higher risk in their early adulthood, giving them the chance to make decisions about future family planning early on. Currently, the exact cause of infertility remains unknown in more than half of men with spermatogenic impairment.

In the large-scale study led by geneticist Pille Hallast and conducted in cooperation between the Human Genetics Research Group of the University of Tartu Institute of Biomedicine and Translational Medicine, the Andrology Centre of Tartu University Hospital and the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the Y chromosomes of more than 2,300 Estonian men were analysed. The men were involved in the study at the Andrology Centre of Tartu University Hospital by the team of Professor Margus Punab.

The Y-chromosomal region studied in this paper has been associated with male infertility before, but this is the first time the genetic variation of such a large clinical sample has been investigated. According to Hallast, this is the most sophisticated in-depth analysis of the genetic variation of Y chromosome in patients with spermatogenic impairment.

One of the senior co-authors of the study, Professor of Human Genetics of the University of Tartu Maris Laan said that the previously undescribed subtype of Y chromosome discovered in cooperation with colleagues from the UK causes a high risk of severe spermatogenic impairment. “At one point during evolution, the ‘ancestor’ of these Y chromosomes experienced the inversion of a long DNA segment, causing instability in this Y chromosome and predisposing to the deletion of surrounding DNA segments,” explained Laan.

This inverted Y chromosome variant is relatively common and does not always lead to partial deletion of DNA or fertility issues. Therefore, it can be passed down in families and remain unnoticed until an offspring has infertility issues. According to estimates, in this Y lineage, the deletion of genetic material that harms spermatogenesis occurs in about one man in ten or even less often. This subtype is carried by a significant number of men of European descent, but it is not found as widely in other continents. In Estonia, it can be found in 5–6% of men, but in Poland and Czechia, the figure is nearly 20%.

The world’s leading population geneticist Dr. Chris Tyler-Smith, collaborator working at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, underlined the need for more synergetic research between teams in population and reproductive genetics to map unfavourable Y-chromosomal variants linked to impaired spermatogenesis and understand how these have evolved and survived demographically.

Professor Maris Laan emphasised the potential practical value of molecular diagnostics of this research, as early identification of the genetic reason of male spermatogenic impairment could allow a more focused clinical management of infertile couples. “While the deletions in the studied Y chromosome region were previously known to interfere with sperm production, we now know that the deletion of DNA sequences leads to the genetic predisposition to infertility depending on the Y-chromosomal lineage,” she added.

The research “A common 1.6 Mb Y-chromosomal inversion predisposes to subsequent deletions and severe spermatogenic failure in humans” published in eLife on 30 March was funded by the Estonian Research Council (PUT1036 and IUT34-12) and the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

Further information:
Maris Laan
Professor of Human Genetics of the University of Tartu
+372 5349 5258
maris.laan [ät] ut.ee

Pille Hallast
Senior Staff Scientist of the Wellcome Sanger Institute
pille.hallast [ät] ut.ee

Category: Research
Virge Ratasepp (a73579)

Invitation to participate in photo contest “University of Tartu in pictures”

3 weeks ago
30.03.2021

The University of Tartu invites everyone to participate in a photo contest to get photos by talented amateur and professional photographers depicting the University of Tartu buildings, students, events, studies, and everything else related to the University of Tartu. The contest takes place from 29 March to 30 September and all participants enter a draw to win prizes.

All photos submitted to the contest will be included in the University of Tartu photo bank and used on the website and in the marketing materials of the University of Tartu. Photos may be submitted by members of the university as well as non-university people. Any equipment or technical solutions – drones, hybrid cameras, film cameras, phones, etc. – may be used to take the photos. Photos from different years or different seasons of the year are welcome.

Photos depicting the following may be submitted:

  • buildings, rooms and campus of the University of Tartu; colleges and university buildings in other cities outside Tartu, students and events;
  • members of the university, their emotions and stories;
  • exciting experiments in labs, interesting research studies and seminars; university researchers, lab interns; conferences and other events and speakers at these events;
  • student life and studies; lectures, seminars, practicals, field observation, group work in the cafe; studying in the library, students’ hobby activities, events on Toome hill;
  • personal and creative approach to the University of Tartu, captured from a new or interesting angle.


Participants are welcome to send any other photos related to the theme of the University of Tartu.

Terms and conditions of the contest are available on the website of the photo contest. Participants must send the photos with the digitally signed consent form and, if necessary, permission form to veeb [ät] ut.ee, with “Photo contest” in the subject line.

The total prize pool of the contest is 500 euros, which will be issued in the form of photography supplies or services, newspapers or periodicals subscriptions and gift cards. In addition, gifts of the University of Tartu and gift cards from partners are drawn as intermediate prizes.

All enterprises and partners are welcome to sponsor the contest and offer special prizes.

Further information: Elina Klesman, University of Tartu Web Editor, elina.klesman [ät] ut.ee

Sandra Sommer pressinõunik 737 5681
5307 7820 sandra.sommer [ät] ut.ee
www.ut.ee

 

Category: University
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

Mental health vitamin plan continues on the topic of movement

3 weeks 1 day ago
29.03.2021

From 1 March to 4 April, the website peaasi.ee invites the university staff to undergo a mental health vitamin plan. Each week, the focus is on one of the components that ensure mental health. University staff can assess their emotional well-being and get recommendations on how to improve their mental health.

The five mental health vitamins are

  • good relationships (1-7 March)
  • balanced nutrition (8-14 March)
  • rest and good sleep (15-21 March)
  • experience of positive emotions (22-28 March)
  • physical activity (29 March-4 April)

Peaasi.ee offers university staff an opportunity to take a test to assess their emotional well-being from 8 to 21 March. After 21 March, the summary of the responses will also be sent to the university. The test is anonymous, so the feedback will also be anonymous.

The topic of this week (29 March to 4 April) is movement.

Exercise is good for both mental and physical health. Regular moderate physical activity (at least 150 minutes a week, which is only about 20 minutes a day on average!) helps to maintain a feeling of well-being, a friendlier self-image, improves the mood, reduces anxiety and increases concentration. This is believed to be due to changes in the brain’s blood circulation and changes in the hormonal balance triggered by physical activity. Physical activity opens a door to finding new experiences. But how to find time for physical activity? Read more from the article “How to support yourself through movement?”.

Peaasi.ee shares easy tips each of us can try.

Fourth week’s (22–28 March) topic was experiencing pleasant emotions.

Emotions are an inseparable part of our daily lives and it would be difficult to imagine living without any emotions at all. One could say that it is largely emotions that give each day its unique and memorable flavour. It is undoubtedly best for our mental health to allow ourselves to feel and experience different emotions. But sometimes, to keep your mental health in balance, it is good to try and knowingly focus on experiencing pleasant emotions. Read more from the article “How to support yourself with pleasant emotions?”.

Peaasi.ee shares easy tips each of us can try.

Third week’s (15-21 March) topic was sleep and rest.

When we sleep, our essential body functions recover, therefore sleep is as crucial for us as breathing, drinking water and eating. That is why we feel unwell when our sleep has been distracted. Small breaks for resting during the day are just as important. So how to take time for sleep and find opportunities for resting? Read more from the article “How to support yourself with sleep and rest?”.

Peaasi.ee shares easy tips every one of us can try.

Also, this week, at the initiative of psychologists working at the University of Tartu, the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre and Tallinn University of Applied Sciences, higher education institutions are celebrating the sleep wellness week to draw attention to sleep as an important building block of health.

Second week’s (8-14 March) topic was balanced nutrition.

Regular and varied meals are best for mental health. Be aware of what you eat, and, if possible, choose food that is good for your body and mind. Read more from the article “How to support yourself through a balanced nutrition?”.

Peaasi.ee shares easy tips every one of us can try.

First week’s (1-7 March) topic was good relationships and how to maintain them.

Communication is a daily part of our lives at school, at home, on the streets, in the shop, at the park or on the hiking trail. Face to face, on the phone, in text messages, on the computer. With words, smiles, expressions, body language. Healthy relationships are a basic necessity for humans. That’s why we feel so bad when we are lonely and have no one to share our thoughts with. But how to achieve good relationships? Read more from the article “How to support yourself through good relationships?”.

Peaasi.ee shares easy tips to create and maintain good relationships.

Further information: Sandra Liiv, Project Manager of the Mental Health Vitamin Plan, 554 3794, sandra [ät] peaasi.ee

 

Category: University
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

University of Tartu researchers helped to turn Estonian medical mineral water into a nasal and throat spray

3 weeks 1 day ago
29.03.2021

Researchers of the University of Tartu studied the strong medical mineral water of Värska resort for one year and confirmed that it can effectively support the treatment of upper respiratory diseases.

Associate Professor of Bioorganic Chemistry Uno Mäeorg, Associate Professor in Geology Enn Karro and Head of the Institute of Pharmacy, Professor in Pharmacognosy Ain Raal studied the mineral water of the bore well no. 6 in Värska, coming from 595 metres deep, to find out whether it could be used in the fight against upper respiratory diseases.

According to Raal, the results of chemical and microbiological analyses of the mineral water were very good. “The results confirmed that the water from that well is suitable for use in hygiene procedures and moisturising mucous membranes, but also relieves mild mucosal inflammations in the mouth, throat, nose and paranasal sinuses,” Raal said.

Having compared the water from Värska to the ocean and seawater, researchers found that their salinity is quite equal, but the well water has one advantage – it is sterile and does not need additional purification. Mineral water coming from the depths of the earth has not been affected by human activity and contains all the valuable minerals and micronutrients that have been beneath the ground for millennia.

Researchers also compared the Värska medical mineral water with the nasal sprays sold in Estonia. Professor Raal confirmed that the salinity and other properties of the mineral water are suitable for use as a spray and no additives or preservatives are needed. Since it is completely natural, it cannot have harmful side effects and is also suitable for extended use. However, additives could improve the therapeutic effect of the spray.

The brand name of the Estonian nasal and throat spray is Tsilk. It relieves nasal congestion, throat irritation and dry throat, clears the nasal cavity of excess mucus and protects it from infection.

Further information:
Ain Raal
Head of the University of Tartu Institute of Pharmacy
+372 502 7574
ain.raal [ät] ut.ee Category: Research
Virge Ratasepp (a73579)
Checked
21.04.2021 - 03:26
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