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SYDNEY —Researchers in Australia have shown a bacteria can sterilize and eradicate a disease-carrying mosquito that is responsible for spreading dengue, yellow fever and Zika.
Three million male Aedes aegypti, or yellow fever mosquitoes, were released in the trial at three sites in Northern Queensland state. They were reared at James Cook University in Cairns and sterilized with a naturally-occurring bacteria called Wolbachia.
Researchers say the bacteria appears to have changed part of the male insects' reproductive biology, so that female mosquitoes that mate with them lay eggs that do not hatch.
The flying insects were released over a 20-week period in 2018. Mosquito numbers subsequently fell by more than 80%. When scientists returned the following year, they found one of the trial areas had almost no mosquitoes.
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Nigel Beebe is an associate professor at the University of Queensland and research scientist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, or CSIRO. He hopes the sterilization method will eventually be used in developing countries.
"We wanted to show in a developed country that the technology was robust, we could mass rear mosquitoes. It is not very expensive to mass rear mosquitoes and it is really the separation of the males from the females," he said.
The Australian team plans to use a similar technique to suppress the virus-spreading Asian Tiger mosquito that has become established in the Torres Strait in northern Australia.
Researchers elsewhere are looking at ways to use sterile male mosquitos to curb the spread of malaria, but associate professor Beebe has said it was a "complicated" challenge. Image source: wikimedia commons
"At the moment we have to use relatively sophisticated technology to do that. But we are now trying to build something that is much more robust and can be used in tropical countries and will be relatively cheap to actually be able separate the males from the females. The mass rearing of the mosquitoes is actually pretty cheap to do. So, I think, absolutely we will have application in developing countries," saId Beebe.
Also read: Decoded: Why Mosquitoes Bite You
Researchers elsewhere are looking at ways to use sterile male mosquitos to curb the spread of malaria, but associate professor Beebe has said it was a "complicated" challenge.
More than 40% of people worldwide suffer from mosquito-borne diseases. The Australian team hopes its "environmentally-friendly mosquito control" method will help tackle current and future outbreaks of dengue and other debilitating diseases. (VOA/RN)
(This article is originally written by Phil Mercer)
Keywords: Dengue, Australia, Research, Virus, Mosquitoes
GENEVA - A new study finds the number of people with hypertension has doubled over the last 30 years to 1.28 billion, mostly in developing countries.
The study led by Imperial College London and the World Health Organization is the first comprehensive global analysis of trends in hypertension prevalence, detection, treatment and control.
Data from more than 100 million people aged 30 to 79 in 184 countries showed that more than 700 million people with hypertension, a life-threatening illness, go untreated. Most do so because they are undiagnosed and do not know they have this condition.
Bente Mikkelsen, director of WHO's department of noncommunicable diseases, said lack of knowledge can have deadly consequences.
"First of all," Mikkelsen said, "we know that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of deaths. In the last global health estimates, we know that 17.1 million people are dying from cardiovascular diseases every year. And we know that hypertension is the main reason among those."
Hypertension significantly increases the risk of heart, brain and kidney diseases and is a leading cause of death worldwide. Major risk factors include unhealthy diets, lack of physical activity, consumption of tobacco and alcohol, and obesity, regarded by some as the tsunami of risk factors.
Besides advocating healthy lifestyles, authors of the report say hypertension can be easily detected by measuring blood pressure and often can be effectively treated with low-cost medications.
Over the past three decades, the study found, the burden of hypertension has shifted from wealthy nations to low-and-middle-income countries. Majid Ezzati, professor of global environmental health at Imperial College London, said that while hypertension has decreased in wealthy nations, it has increased in many of the poorer countries.
"So many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, parts of South Asia, some of the Pacific Island nations, they are still not actually getting the treatment that is needed," Ezzati said. "So, in an era that we are focusing a lot on equity in treatment — and again, this is something that we have been hearing every day for the past year and a half, inequity in diagnosis, inequity in treatment — this is again something that as a global health community we need to be aware of."
The study found treatment rates in these regions were below 25 percent for women and 20 percent for men. In comparison, it reported that more than 70 percent of men and women with hypertension in Canada, Iceland and South Korea were likely to receive medication to effectively treat and control this serious medical condition. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Hypertension, Health risk, Rich and poor nations
The judge overseeing Purdue Pharma's bankruptcy said Monday that some members of the Sackler family who own the OxyContin maker face a "substantial risk" of liability and could be on the hook for "huge amounts of money" over claims the company fueled the opioid epidemic.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain in White Plains, New York, made the remark during closing arguments in a trial over Purdue's proposed reorganization plan.
Drain said he believes some Sacklers face liability, but that "the question is where you draw the line."
Under the deal, which Purdue said is worth more than $10 billion, the Sacklers would contribute approximately $4.5 billion and would receive legal protections against future opioid-related litigation.
Drain did not explicitly state how he would rule but suggested he finds the deal sufficient.
The judge is expected to issue a formal ruling on the deal later this week.
The money would go toward various entities and private individuals with opioid claims, as well as state and local opioid abatement programs.
Critics of the settlement argue that the liability releases are too broad.
An attorney representing the states of Washington and Oregon, which oppose the plan, told Drain on Monday that approving the deal would be a "historic mistake."
The judge also stated that appeals courts generally support the types of releases the Sacklers would receive if they meet certain standards.
At the outset of Monday's hearing, a lawyer for the Sacklers said they had agreed to narrow the litigation releases to exclude protections for the family against non-opioid-related claims.
But the crux of the releases, shielding the Sacklers against opioid-related litigation, remains intact.
During testimony last week, members of the Sackler family said they would not contribute if they do not receive the releases. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Pharma, Purdue, Sackler family, Bankruptcy