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Infertility gene in mosquitoes to curb malaria

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London: For the first time, researchers led by the Imperial College London, have genetically modified malarial mosquitoes so that they carry a gene that disrupts egg production in female mosquitoes.

They used a technology called “gene drive” to ensure the gene for infertility is passed down at an accelerated rate to offspring, spreading the gene through a population over time and raising the possibility of reducing the spread of disease.

Within a few years, the spread could drastically reduce or eliminate local populations of the malaria, carrying mosquito species.

The mosquito species Anopheles gambiae is a major carrier of malaria parasites in sub-Saharan Africa, where 90 per cent of annual malaria deaths occur.

Malaria infects over 200 million people each year and causes more than 430,000 deaths.

“Scientists have been trying to tackle malaria for more than 100 years. If successful, this technology has the potential to substantially reduce the transmission of malaria,” said study co-author professor Andrea Crisanti.

Normally, each gene variant has 50 per cent chance of being passed down from parents to their offspring.

In the team’s experiments with Anopheles gambiae, the gene for infertility was transmitted to more than 90 per cent of both male and female mosquitoes’ offspring.

The technique uses recessive genes so that many mosquitoes will inherit only one copy of the gene.

Two copies are needed to cause infertility, meaning that mosquitoes with only one copy are carriers, and can spread the gene through a population.

This is the first time the technique has been demonstrated in Anopheles gambiae.

The team targeted three different fertility genes and tested each for their suitability for affecting a mosquito population through gene drive, demonstrating the strength and flexibility of the technique to be applied to a range of genes.

“As with any new technology, it will be at least 10 more years before gene drive malaria mosquitoes could be a working intervention,” added professor Austin Burt from Imperial’s department of life sciences.

There are roughly 3,400 different species of mosquitoes worldwide.

“While Anopheles gambiae is an important carrier of malaria, it is only one of around 800 species of mosquito in Africa, so suppressing it in certain areas should not significantly impact the local ecosystem,” noted lead author Dr Tony Nolan.

The team aims to improve the expression of their gene drive elements. Exploring target genes is also helping the researchers to learn more about basic mosquito biology.

The results were published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.(ians)

(picture credit:upload.wikimedia.org)

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Delhi records 3,829 cases of dengue, 502 of chikungunya till date

The year 2015 had reported the highest number of cases of dengue in the city, with the figure standing at 15,867 with 60 deaths.

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cases of dengue
Dengue and Chikungunya are viral diseases transmitted to humans via infected mosquitoes. Pixabay

New Delhi, November 7, 2017 :  Delhi has so far recorded 3,829 cases of dengue and 502 cases of chikungunya, according to civic agencies on Monday.

While the national capital has witnessed a total of four dengue-related deaths till now, no deaths have been reported due to chikungunya.

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

The year 2015 reported the highest number of cases of dengue in the city, with the figure standing at 15,867 with 60 deaths.

As for chikungunya, 2016 saw 7,117 cases — the highest in the last five years.

Civic agencies said that areas under the South Delhi Municipal Corporation reported the maximum cases of chikungunya and dengue this year.

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

Delhi has also reported a total of 552 malaria cases with no deaths so far. The figure is the second-highest after 2012 when the cases had soared to 822. (IANS)

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An international research team shows that carbohydrates may play a vital role in improving malaria vaccine

Malaria infects over 200 million people worldwide each year and kills around 650,000 people

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Malaria vaccine
Carbohydrates may improve malaria vaccine. Pixabay
  • Carbohydrates on the surface of malaria parasites play an important role in their ability to infect mosquito Andy human hosts
  • The new research is aimed at improving malaria vaccine design
  • It’s hoped that a version of RTS, S with added carbohydrates will perform better than the current vaccine

New Delhi, September 18, 2017: Offering vital clues to improving malaria vaccine, an international research team has shown that carbohydrates on the surface of malaria parasites play a critical role in their ability to infect mosquito and human hosts.

The discovery, published in the journal Nature Communications, also suggests steps that may improve the only malaria vaccine approved to protect people against Plasmodium falciparum malaria — the most deadly form of the disease.

The team had shown that the malaria parasite “tags” its proteins with carbohydrates in order to stabilise and transport them and that this process was crucial to completing the parasite’s life cycle.

“Interfering with the parasite’s ability to attach these carbohydrates to its proteins hinders liver infection and transmission to the mosquito and weakens the parasite to the point that it cannot survive in the host,” said Justin Boddey from Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Parkville, Victoria, Australia.

Malaria infects over 200 million people worldwide each year and kills around 650,000 people, predominantly pregnant women and children. Efforts to eradicate malaria require the development of new therapeutics, particularly an effective malaria vaccine.

Also readNearly 900,000 Nigerian Children Receive Anti-Malaria Vaccination: WHO Report

The first malaria vaccine approved for human use — RTS,S/AS01 — got the nod of the European regulators in July 2015 but has not been as successful as hoped with marginal efficacy that wanes over time.

The new research is aimed at improving malaria vaccine design.

“The protein used in the RTS, S vaccine mimics one of the proteins we’ve been studying on the surface of the malaria parasite that is readily recognised by the immune system,” Ethan Goddard-Borger from Walter and Eliza Hall Institute said.

“With this study, we’ve shown that the parasite protein is tagged with carbohydrates, making it slightly different to the vaccine, so the antibodies produced may not be optimal for recognising target parasites.”

“It may be that a version of RTS, S with added carbohydrates will perform better than the current vaccine,” he said, adding that there were many documented cases where attaching carbohydrates to a protein improved its efficacy as a vaccine. (IANS)

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Viral hepatitis Caused 1.34 mn Deaths Globally: Study

Viral hepatitis was found to be amongst the top ten leading global killers

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Viral hepatitis
World Health Organization poster for Hepatitis Campaign. VOA

London, Sep 16, 2017: Viral hepatitis with 1.34 million deaths globally has surpassed all chronic infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, according to a study by Global Burden of Disease.

The study reveals that in 2016, the total deaths caused by viral hepatitis, including liver cancer, acute cases, cirrhosis, hepatitis A, E, B, C and D account for 1.34 million globally, exceeding tuberculosis (1.2 million), HIV/AIDS (1 million) and malaria (719,000).

These staggering death rates occurred despite recent advances in hepatitis C medications that can cure most infections within three months and the availability of highly-effective vaccinations for hepatitis B.

“It’s outrageous, but not surprising, that the Global Burden of Disease Report found that deaths related to viral hepatitis have surpassed HIV, TB and malaria” said Charles Gore, President of the World Hepatitis Alliance — a not-for profit organisation based in London.

“This is largely due to a historic lack of political prioritisation coupled with an absent global funding mechanism,” Gore added, in the paper published in the journal the Lancet.

Further, viral hepatitis was found to be amongst the top ten leading global killers which include heart disease, road accidents, Alzheimer’s disease, amongst others.

Also Read: WHO Calls for stepped up action to Eliminate Hepatitis B and C by 2030 

If this trend has to be reversed, immediate action must be taken at both a regional and national level, said the report, while suggesting measures such as scaling up testing and diagnosis.

Viral hepatitis is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus and only 5 per cent of people living with the disease are aware of their conditions there are only few noticeable symptoms.

As a result, many people are either misdiagnosed or do not come forward for testing, increasing the chance of infecting others and missing the opportunity to access life-saving treatment.

Reducing hepatitis related deaths by 65 per cent by 2030 is a key component of the World Health Organization’s Global Hepatitis Strategy.

The strategy, which was adopted by 194 governments, sets out a list of key targets, which, if achieved, will eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030. (IANS)