Monday December 18, 2017

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)

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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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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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cases of dengue
Dengue and Chikungunya are viral diseases 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)