Monday September 23, 2019
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A new blood test developed to predict TB

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Image source- sites.bu.edu

Seattle: An international team of researchers has identified biological markers in the blood that can help doctors predict who is at high risk of developing active tuberculosis (TB).

One-third of the world’s population is thought to be infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the bacterium that causes tuberculosis, but just a small fraction ever develops symptomatic illness.

If validated through additional clinical trials, a test based on these blood biomarkers that the researchers have now identified would allow doctors to target therapies to at-risk people, thus preventing them from getting sick.

The decade-long research effort was led by investigators from the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative at the University of Cape Town, and the Center for Infectious Disease Research, Seattle, US.

The findings were published in the journal The Lancet.

The biomarkers were identified in two stages. First, researchers collected blood samples for two years from more than 6,000 Mtb-infected but otherwise healthy adolescent volunteers in South Africa.

Analysis of the samples revealed patterns of gene expression that differed between volunteers who eventually developed TB and those who remained healthy.

This risk “signature,” confined to a set of 16 genes, could be detected in a blood sample as early as 18 months before the infected person developed active TB.

Next, the team confirmed the genetic risk signature’s predictive ability in a study of more than 4,500 volunteers in South Africa and The Gambia.

The second study group was more varied in age, health status, ethnicity and exposure to locally common strains of Mtb than volunteers in the first study.

Despite the differences, the same risk signature found in the first study was detected in the people who eventually developed active TB during the second trial. (IANS)

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A New Method To Track Rats, Researchers Suggest

Researchers have found that rats can be baited to or repelled from locations using pheromones found in the scents of other rats

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A rat caught in a rat trap. Wikimedia Commons

Researchers have found that rats can be baited to or repelled from locations using pheromones found in the scents of other rats.

Rats cost the world’s economy more than $300 billion a year. In addition to causing fines and business closures, rats spread disease, start fires and disable motor vehicles.

For the study published in The Journal of Urban Ecology, over a one year period researchers trapped and implanted microchips in city rats in a waste recycling centre in Brooklyn, New York.

“If we can pinpoint the scents and contexts that are most useful, then we increase our chances of creating novel control tools, but further research is needed under a broad range of conditions,” said study researchers from Fordham University, Columbia University and Arrow Exterminators Inc.

To overcome issues in using GPS to track movement in dense urban environments, they utilised radio-frequency identification sensors.

Rats, Tracking, Research, Disease
Rats cost the world’s economy more than $300 billion a year. In addition to causing fines and business closures, rats spread disease, start fires and disable motor vehicles. Wikimedia Commons

Male and female scents were then placed on, or near, these sensors and replaced every two weeks.

To determine whether risk impacted the findings, the research team positioned these devices in sheltered, safe areas that rats were familiar with and also in more risky, open environments where rats were vulnerable to predation.

According to the study, rats reacted differently to male and female scents.

In general, when rats responded to sensors with male scents, risk was unimportant. Rats briefly visited male scents equally in exposed and sheltered areas, and then stayed away.

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Female scents, however, were visited significantly more often than male scents (0.2 visits/day compared to 5.02 visits/day).

This implies that attractants may be more useful near sheltered areas while deterrent scents may be more useful in exposed areas where animals are vulnerable to predators.

These findings address a knowledge gap about rat scent preference that could assist in urban wildlife management tools, such as the deployment of baits or immuno-contraceptives. (IANS)