Monday October 23, 2017

Dengue mosquitoes breed more on water near flowers

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New York: New research has found that the eggs of mosquitoes who are known to transfer diseases such as dengue, malaria, yellow fever and chikungunya are mostly found in water resources near flowers.

The researchers studied the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus).

“This study provides evidence of the attractiveness of flowering butterfly bushes to ovipositing (i.e., egg-laying) Aedes albopictus,” said one of the study authors Timothy Davis from the University of Florida in the US.

Asian tiger mosquitoes prefer to lay eggs in containers, so the first thing the scientists decided to test was whether the size of the containers made any difference.

They were also curious about whether or not the presence of flowers might affect the egg-laying behaviour, due to the fact that mosquitoes drink nectar from flowers.

The researchers studied female mosquitoes that had been fed bloodmeals and released in large cages with water containers flowering butterfly bushes.

They found significantly more eggs in the largest containers, and they found more eggs in containers next to flowering bushes than in containers without flowers.

These findings could lead to new methods of controlling the mosquito.

“One of the potential outcomes of this study might be that someone could look at the flower fragrances as a way to lure egg-laying female mosquitoes to some sort of trap,” Phil Kaufman from University of Florida pointed out.

The researchers suggest that female mosquitoes lay eggs near flowers for a variety of possible reasons.

Nectar is an important energy source, so pregnant females are obviously attracted to the flowers in order to feed themselves.

But it could also have something to do with providing food for the next generation in the form of nectar.

The study was published in the Journal of Medical Entomology.(IANS)

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You May Soon Be Able to Prevent Chikungunya With Vaccines! IIT-Roorkee Researchers Discover Drug to Fight the Disease

At present, there are no immunizations or anti-viral medications available to cure Chikungunya, and the treatment is focused on mitigating the side effects related with the disease

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Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans via infected mosquitoes. Pixabay

Roorkee, October 9, 2017 : Dengue and Chikungunya are known to strike fear in the country every year, so much so that the health graph of the city registers a steep rise in these cases. Both of the water-borne diseases, characterized by high fever and pain in the joints, take a toll on our lives. So far, there is no vaccine to immunize people against the spread of the Dengue and Chikungunya virus. However, researchers at IIT-Roorkee have now discovered that a commonly-utilized de-worming drug can be efficiently used for treatments against Chikungunya.

According to a report by PTI, Shailly Tomar, lead researcher and a professor at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee in Uttarakhand was quoted as saying, “Our research has shown that piperazine, a drug existing in the market, is successful in curbing the spread and replication of the Chikungunya virus in a lab setting.”

The drug, Piperazine, is usually used in de-worming treatments against round-words and pinworms. Using their expertise in virology and structure biology, experts have now discovered the anti-viral capabilities of the drug that can potentially prompt new therapies against the fatal, mosquito borne disease.

The researchers are currently testing the molecule on animals, and will consequently take it to clinical trials.

ALSO READ What preventive steps have the city Government taken to control Dengue and Chikungunya, asks the Delhi High Court

The molecular details uncovered in the study, which has been published in the journal Antiviral Research, will be additionally used to plan piperazine-derivative medications that are more compelling to fight against the Chikungunya virus.

Using X-ray crystallographic technique, in combination with computational science and fluorescence strategies, the researchers discovered that piperazine binds itself with the hydrophobic (water-hating) pocket of capsid protein present in the Chikungunya virus, which can reduce the spread of the virus.

“This pocket is key to the replication of the virus and its spread inside a host. Inhibiting the pocket prevents budding and spread of the virus and can help in treating the virus effectively using existing drugs,” Tomar said.

Chikungunya has become a major public health concern, with an increasing number of people being plagued by the disease every year.

 At present, there are no immunizations or anti-viral medications available to cure Chikungunya, and the treatment is focused on mitigating the side effects related with the disease. 

Developing a new anti-viral drug molecule can take up to 10 years. To tend to the disease on an immediate basis, Professor Tomar added, “We are looking at repositioning existing, approved drugs and testing these to see if they might inhibit or kill pathogenic viruses.”

 

 

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Central government hospitals in India to reserve beds for Dengue, Chikungunya

At least 14 people have died in the national capital since the outbreak of the vector-borne disease in last a few days

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Mosquito. Wikimedia

NEW DELHI, Sept 16, 2016: The central government has agreed to reserve 10 percent of the beds in its hospitals for treatment of dengue and chikungunya patients, according to Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain.

Jain’s remarks came after meeting Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda at his office here on Friday.

“We had requested Mr Nadda to reserve at least 10 percent beds (1,000 beds) in the central government-run hospitals, like All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Safdarjung Hospital, Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, etc., for treatment of dengue and chikungunya cases, to which he (Nadda) agreed,” Jain told reporters after the meeting.

Earlier, Jain had sought an appointment with Nadda and also written him a letter requesting the Union Minister to convene a meeting of the health ministers of neighbouring states.

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AIIMS. Wikimedia
AIIMS. Wikimedia

He urged Nadda to ask health ministers of neighbouring states like Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to set up fever clinics in order to reduce excessive patient inflow in the hospitals of Delhi.

“The government should also advertise about these fever clinics, so that people could know about it,” he added.

Asked whether Delhi will take patients from other states, Jain said, “We are not denying treatment to anybody coming to Delhi For treatment.”

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He also said that in Delhi government hospitals more than 1,500 beds are available, and there is no need for panic. “We are working day and night,” he added.

At least 14 people have died in the national capital since the outbreak of the vector-borne disease in last a few days. (IANS)

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Company combating Zika virus attracts praise

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Mexico city: Oxitec, British biotechnology company which breeds genetically modified(GM) insects to combat the spread of diseases such as dengue and the Zika virus, is in attention from all across the world.

Oxitec releases GM male mosquitoes with a self-limiting gene, essentially rendering them sterile and causing any offspring to die before they reach adulthood, Xinhua reported.

In trials around the world, including the Brazilian city of Piracicaba, Oxitec claims to have wiped out over 90 percent of the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

Given that this pesky critter is the main carrier and transmitter of Zika, chikungunya and dengue, this has led to a spike in interest in Oxitec’s methods.

Hadyn Parry, CEO of Oxitec, said “Our mosquitoes do not impact the disease; we just reduce the number of mosquitoes. You get Zika, dengue or chikungunya by being bitten by a mosquito carrying that disease. No mosquito means no disease, less mosquitoes means less disease,” he said.

Both the US and Brazil confirmed that the Zika virus had been propagated by sexual transmission and blood transfusion.

According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the Zika virus only remains in the bloodstream for a few weeks, meaning that eradicating mosquito populations would remove the threat of other types of transmission.

Despite this seemingly positive impact, the rollout of Oxitec’s GM mosquitoes in Latin America to date has been limited. The city of Piracicaba, in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo, which saw a trial release of Oxitec’s mosquitoes in 2015, is expanding the project to cover about 60,000 people.

According to statistics provided by Oxitec, the city saw 133 cases of dengue in 2014 and the beginning of 2015. This was cut down to just one for the rest of 2015 after the Oxitec trial began.

However, the release of further Oxitec GM mosquitoes across the country faces a major obstacle. While Brazil’s regulator for GM organisms has stated Oxitec’s product poses no risk, final approval is needed by the Health Ministry before commercialisation can begin.

“But to market and sell our product, we need an authorisation from the Ministry of Health. We think we are very close to getting that authorisation,” said Parry.

That decision would not just impact Oxitec’s operations in Brazil but would determine if and when its GM mosquitoes could be released in other countries.

“Once Brazil approves us, I do not think we will see a similar time frame in other Latin American countries,” the executive said.

“This mosquito is the same species all around the world, our product is exactly the same, and a lot of Latin American cities are very similar.”

However, should a country decide that certain differentiating factors warrant extra processes, Oxitec said it will be happy to carry out extra studies.

Parry said many countries and private companies are collaborating to develop a vaccine but such a solution may be slow.

A final hurdle for Oxitec has been the controversies that have grown around their methods. A cursory search on the internet turns up a number of articles, questioning or outright blaming Oxitec and its GM mosquitoes.

While thorough questioning of scientific practices is welcome, especially for as important a topic as GM organisms, Parry said some of the circulating accusations are false and can affect lives.

“The WHO and Brazilian regulators have examined our technology and found no significant risk,” he said. “However, if anyone has real evidence, or even a hypothesis to test out, they should come forward as that will be good for the debate.”(IANS)