Wednesday November 20, 2019

$18 Million Donation to Target Mosquito-borne Diseases like Zika in Colombia and Brazil

The bacteria Wolbachia works by stopping the virus from growing inside the mosquito and thus spreading

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A technician releases Aedes aegypti mosquitoes with the dengue-blocking Wolbachia bacteria at the Tubiacanga neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, Sept. 24, 2014. VOA

An international coalition of governments and philanthropic organisations has donated $18 million to fight Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses. The money will target the illnesses in Colombia and Brazil with a unique mosquito-control program.

The funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the British government, as well as Britain’s Welcome Trust and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will be used to scale up the innovative, widely praised program being developed in Australia.

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Use bacteria to fight virus

Over the years, the nonprofit Eliminate Dengue Program, in collaboration with Melbourne’s Monash University, has demonstrated a way to transfer a naturally occurring bacterium in the lab, called Wolbachia, into mosquitoes that carry the dengue virus.

Wolbachia is carried by 60 percent of all insect species worldwide, experts say, but not by Aedes aegypti, the type of mosquito that spreads dengue and can also transmit Zika virus, yellow fever and chikungunya.

Once infected with Wolbachia, the altered Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are unable to transmit dengue. When released into the wild, they mate with local mosquitoes, passing the bacteria to their offspring. Within a few months, the wild mosquitoes are unable to spread dengue to humans.

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Wolbachia works by stopping the virus from growing inside the mosquito and thus spreading.

FILE - Technicians carry containers filled with Aedes aegypti mosquitoes with the dengue-blocking Wolbachia bacteria before they are released at the Tubiacanga neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, Sept. 24, 2014. Similar work has been done in Australia, Vietnam and Indonesia.
FILE – Technicians carry containers filled with Aedes aegypti mosquitoes with the dengue-blocking Wolbachia bacteria before they are released at the Tubiacanga neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, Sept. 24, 2014. Similar work has been done in Australia, Vietnam and Indonesia. VOA

Researchers say the method of mosquito control is self-sustaining, having the potential to fight the life-threatening disease.

Trials to expand

Since 2011, the program has conducted field trials in Australia, Indonesia and Vietnam. The results show that when a high proportion of mosquitoes are infected, transmission of the virus stops. Small-scale field trials began in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2014, and last year in Bello, Colombia.

According to the World Health Organization, dengue infects almost 400 million people a year, mainly in tropical and subtropical countries.

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Severe dengue can cause death, especially in children.

The newly announced donations will rapidly scale up Wolbachia deployments in Latin America, beginning in 2017, to see how well the intervention works on a broader scale and in urban settings, hopefully leading to a significant reduction in Zika, dengue and chikungunya. (VOA)

Next Story

Soups Can Help You Fight Malaria: Study

Consuming home-made soups can save you from malaria, suggests a new study

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Soups fight malaria
Consuming soups can save you from malaria. Pixabay

“Malaria kills more than 400,000 people per year and infects more than 200 million, yet resistance to our frontline drugs continues to emerge,” said study lead researcher Jake Baum, Professor at Imperial College London, in UK.

“We may have to look beyond the chemistry shelf for new drugs, and natural remedies shouldn’t be off our watch list,” Baum added.

For the study, published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, researchers from Imperial College London with school children test their family soup broths for activity against the malaria parasite.

Several of the soup broths, collected from traditional family recipes that originated around the world, showed activity against the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, either by curbing its growth or preventing it from maturing.

The soup recipes had been passed down through the generations for the treatment of fever.

Five of the broths were able to curb growth of the parasite in its disease-causing stage by more than 50 percent.

In two of these, the inhibitory activity was comparable with that of a leading anti-malarial drug, dihydroartemisinin.

Four other broths were more than 50 percent effective at blocking the ability of the parasites to mature to a form that infects mosquitoes, potentially blocking the process of transmission.

Malaria
Prevent malaria with healthy soups. Pixabay

Dihydroarteminisin contains artemisinin, which was isolated from a traditional Chinese herbal medicine.

According to the researchers, the study was carried out by students at Eden Primary School in North London.

The pupils brought in samples of homemade clear soup broths from family recipes from across Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.

Filtered extracts of the broths were then tested against two stages of the parasite: when it can infect mosquitoes, and when it can cause the disease in humans.

The recipes for each of the broths varied.

They were vegetarian, chicken, or beef based, with no particular ingredient common to those with the strongest anti-malarial activity.

The active ingredients in the broths studied are yet to be identified and tested, the study said.

To move forwards, the active ingredients would need to be isolated, before tests of toxicology and effectiveness, first in human cells and later preclinical trials.

Also Read- Here’s Why Too Much Ultra-Processed Food Can Deteriorate your Heart Health

The researchers behind the study hope that they may discover new anti-malarial compounds in a similar way from the work looking at soup.

“It’s really interesting to find potential routes for future drug development in something like your grandmother’s soup,” Baum added. (IANS)