20 Genes That Can Predict Severity of Dengue Identified

The genes could serve as a basis for a targeted therapy for dengue, Einav said - but that's far on the horizon

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Researchers, including one of an Indian-origin, have identified 20 genes that can predict an individual’s likelihood of developing a severe form of dengue fever with about 80 per cent accuracy.

The team from Standford University in the US, identified a gene-expression pattern that predicts which people infected with dengue — a mosquito-borne virus that can cause fever and joint pain, among other symptoms — are at highest risk for developing a severe form of the illness.

Every year, between 200 million and 400 million people in tropical and subtropical regions of the world contract dengue fever, and about 500,000 of those cases are fatal.

For the most part, people with the disease recover after receiving some fluids and a few days’ rest, said Purvesh Khatri, Associate Professor at the varsity.

“But there’s a smaller subset of patients who get severe dengue, and right now we don’t know how to tell the difference,” Khatri said.

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Dengue is transmitted by the bite of the Aedes mosquito that typically attacks during day time. Pixabay

Anywhere from 5 to 20 per cent of dengue cases will advance to severe.

Currently, to diagnose severe dengue the doctors wait to observe specific symptoms and results of laboratory tests that typically emerge in the late stages of the disease.

“These practices are not nearly sensitive or accurate enough, and some patients end up admitted to the hospital unnecessarily, while others are discharged prematurely,” said Shirit Einav, Associate Professor.

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The new set of genes, reported in the Cell Reports journal, can help identify predictive biomarkers that can help doctors reliably gauge the likelihood of severe dengue in patients who are newly symptomatic and use that information to provide more accurate care to help guide therapeutic clinical studies and, in the future, to guide treatment decisions.

The genes could serve as a basis for a targeted therapy for dengue, Einav said – but that’s far on the horizon. (IANS)

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Here’s Why Autism Spectrum Disorder More Common in Boys

Autism is more commons in boys due to difference in neurons

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Neuron offers clues to why autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is more common in boys than in girls, say researchers Pixabay

Neuron offers clues to why autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is more common in boys than in girls, say researchers. They found that a single amino acid change in the “NLGN4” gene, which has been linked to autism symptoms, may drive this difference in some cases.

Researchers led by Katherine Roche from National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US, compared two NLGN4 genes, (one on the X chromosome and one on the Y chromosome), which are important for establishing and maintaining synapses, the communication points between neurons.

Every cell in our body contains two sex chromosomes. Females have two X chromosomes; males have one X and one Y chromosome.

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Until now, it was assumed that the NLGN4X and NLGN4Y genes, which encode proteins that are 97 per cent identical, functioned equally well in neurons.

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A single amino acid change in the “NLGN4” gene, which has been linked to autism symptoms, may drive this difference in some cases. Pixabay

But using a variety of advanced technology including biochemistry, molecular biology, and imaging tools, the study, published in the journal Neuron, discovered that the proteins encoded by these genes display different functions.

The NLGN4Y protein is less able to move to the cell surface in brain cells and is therefore unable to assemble and maintain synapses, making it difficult for neurons to send signals to one another. When the researchers fixed the error in cells in a dish, they restored much of its correct function.

“We really need to look at NLGN4X and NLGN4Y more carefully. Mutations in NLGN4X can lead to widespread and potentially very severe effects in brain function, and the role of NLGNY is still unclear,” said study first author Thien A Nguyen.

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The research team found that the problems with NLGN4Y were due to a single amino acid. They also discovered that the region surrounding that amino acid in NLGN4X is sensitive to mutations in the human population.

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In females, when one of the NLGN4X genes has a mutation, the other one can often compensate. However, in males, diseases can occur when there is a mutation in NLGN4X because there is no compensation from NLGN4Y, the researcher said.

“The knowledge about these proteins will help doctors treating patients with mutations in NLGN4X better understand their symptoms,” said Dr Roche. (IANS)

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Study Finds that COVID-19 is Not Transmittable from Pregnant Mothers to Newsborns

A new good news has emerged that COVID-19 does not spread from pregnant mothers to newborns

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Some good news has emerged about the COVID-19. Chinese researchers have revealed that viral infection is not transmittable from pregnant mothers to newborns at birth. Pixabay

Amid the novel coronavirus scare around the globe, some good news has emerged about the COVID-19. Chinese researchers have revealed that viral infection is not transmittable from pregnant mothers to newborns at birth. This is a health news.

The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Pediatrics, is the second out of China within the last month to confirm that mothers infected with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) during pregnancy did not infect their babies.

All four mothers in the current study, which focused on the health of the newborns, gave birth at Wuhan’s Union Hospital in China while infected. Wuhan in Hubei Province is believed to be the epicenter of the current outbreak.

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The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Pediatrics, is the second out of China within the last month to confirm that mothers infected with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) during pregnancy did not infect their babies. Pixabay

According to the researcher at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, none of the infants developed any serious symptoms associated with COVID-19 such as fever or cough, though all were initially isolated in neonatal intensive care units and fed formula.

Three of the four tested negative for the respiratory infection following a throat swab, while the fourth child’s mother declined permission for the test, the researchers said.

One newborn did experience a minor breathing issue for three days that was treated by non-invasive mechanical ventilation. Two babies, including the one with a respiratory problem, did have body rashes that eventually disappeared on their own.

“It’s impossible to conclude whether there’s a connection between these other medical issues and COVID-19. “We are not sure the rash was due to the mother’s COVID-19 infection,” said study co-author Dr. Yalan Liu from Huazhong University of Science and Technology.

In the previous retrospective study on nine pregnant mothers infected with COVID-19, researchers also found no evidence that the viral infection can pass to the child.

All nine births were done by cesarean section. Three of the four pregnancies in the current study were also brought to term by C-section.

“To avoid infections caused by perinatal and postnatal transmission, our obstetricians think that C-section may be safer,” Liu said.

“Only one pregnant mother adopted vaginal delivery because of the onset of the labor process. The baby was normal. Maybe vaginal delivery is OK. It needs further study,” Liu added.

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According to the researcher at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, none of the infants developed any serious symptoms associated with COVID-19 such as fever or cough, though all were initially isolated in neonatal intensive care units and fed formula. Pixabay

In previous coronavirus outbreaks, scientists found no evidence of viral transmission from mother to child, but SARS and MERS were both associated with “critical maternal illness, spontaneous abortion, or even maternal death,” according to Liu.

The authors said further investigations into other aspects of potential COVID-19 infection in newborns and children are needed.

For example, the sensitivity of the current diagnostic test for detecting the virus is about 71 per cent, so they suggest evaluating its reliability in children.

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Toward that end, the researchers are collecting additional samples from the newborns, including placenta, amniotic fluid, neonatal blood and gastric fluid, among others, to detect possible receptors for the virus. (IANS)

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Skin Cream Used To Treat Warts, Skin Cancer May Help in Fighting Against Dengue, Zika Viruses

By boosting the immune system and not targeting a specific virus, this strategy has the potential to be a 'silver bullet' for a wide range of distinct mosquito-borne viral diseases

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A study shows that a clinically approved, widely used skin cream has the potential to be repurposed as a valuable protector against insect-borne diseases. Pixabay

A skin cream used to treat warts and skin cancer could help protect people against viral diseases such as Zika and dengue, according to new study.

The cream, called imiquimod or Aldara, is commonly used to treat genital warts and some forms of skin cancer.

“This study shows that a clinically approved, widely used skin cream has the potential to be repurposed as a valuable protector against insect-borne diseases,” said study lead author Clive McKimmie, from the University of Leeds in UK.

For the findings, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers studied four types of virus transmitted by mosquitos and found that applying a cream within an hour of a mosquito bite dramatically reduced infection rates in their models.

They used two different models to understand the effect of the skin cream – human skin samples and mice. In both cases, applying the skin cream acted like a warning signal which caused a rapid activation of the skin’s immune response that fights any potential viral threats. This prevented the virus from spreading around the body and causing disease.

“What is especially encouraging about our results is that the cream was effective against a number of distinct viruses, without needing to be targeted to one particular virus,” McKimmie said. “If this strategy can be developed into a treatment option then we might be able to use it to tackle a wide range of new emerging diseases that we have not yet encountered,” McKimmie added.

There are hundreds of viruses spread by biting mosquitoes which can infect humans. These include the dengue virus, West Nile virus, Zika virus and chikungunya virus, which have all had large outbreaks in recent years. At present, there are no anti-viral medicines and few vaccines to help combat these infections.

According to the researchers, when a mosquito bites the skin, the body reacts in a very specific way to try and mitigate the physical trauma of the skin being punctured. The bite causes a wound healing repair mechanism to begin, however, the skin does not prepare itself to respond to viral attack. This means mosquito-borne viruses that enter the skin through a bite are able to replicate quickly with little anti-viral response in the skin and then spread throughout the body, the study said.

Cream, Lotion, Hands, Sunscreen, Spa, Skin, Wellness
A skin cream used to treat warts and skin cancer could help protect people against viral diseases such as Zika and dengue, according to new study. Pixabay

By applying skin cream after a bite, researchers found that they could pre-emptively activate the immune system’s inflammatory response before the virus becomes a problem. The cream encouraged a type of immune cell in the skin, called a macrophage, to suddenly spring into action to fight off the virus before it could spread around the body.

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“By boosting the immune system and not targeting a specific virus, this strategy has the potential to be a ‘silver bullet’ for a wide range of distinct mosquito-borne viral diseases,” said study co-author Steven Bryden. (IANS)