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We can Fight Malaria by Changing the Flavor of Humans, say Scientists

About 440,000 people, most of them children, died of malaria, says WHO

FILE - Mosquitoes live inside a stock cage in a mosquito laboratory at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in London, May 30, 2013. Researchers at the school discovered that malaria-infected mosquitoes are more attracted to human odors. VOA

Have you ever noticed how some people seem to be bitten by mosquitoes more than anyone else?

Apparently, some people taste better to malaria mosquitoes than others, and scientists are trying to figure out why so they can turn that information into a repellent to protect us all from malaria.

Such a repellent might be able to prevent some of the 214 million cases of malaria the World Health Organization says occurred in 2015, mostly in Africa. About 440,000 people, most of them children, died of malaria, the WHO said.

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Researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have found evidence of what attracts malaria mosquitoes to humans for a blood meal, and the smell isn’t the only thing.

FILE - A worker of the Ministry of Public Health and Population fumigates in the street against mosquito breeding to prevent diseases such as malaria, dengue and Zika in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 15, 2016. VOA
FILE – A worker of the Ministry of Public Health and Population fumigates in the street against mosquito breeding to prevent diseases such as malaria, dengue and Zika in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 15, 2016. VOA

Christopher Potter, an assistant professor of neuroscience, is working on the sensing ability of mosquitoes. Unlike humans who have one nose, Potter says, mosquitoes have three pairs of noses.

These include two antennae and two maxillary palps, which are fuzzy appendages below the insect’s head and are parallel to the feeding needle, Potter said. At the end of that feeding needle or proboscis, are the labella, two small regions with neurons that recognize smells and tastes.

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“So this suggests that the mosquito brain might also have a region of the brain that’s dedicated to flavor, to combining smell and taste,” he said.

“And that is something they are very likely doing when they are actually landing on us and looking around for a place to bite,” he added. “They are actually smelling us and tasting us, and perhaps that means they are also flavoring us and that is part of what they are looking for when they’re trying to decide who they should bite from and where they are going to bite.”

Potter and his colleagues made this discovery about the malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae, by making certain neurons in the insect’s noses fluoresce, or glow green. They wanted to trace those green-glowing external sensory neurons to the brain.

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The green-glowing neurons lighted up in the brain when they were exposed to complex odors. These help the mosquito distinguish human blood from that of other warm-blooded animals.

It’s the first time scientists were able to pinpoint the exact location of the senses of smell and taste in mosquitoes.

By studying the smell- and taste-detecting neurons, the finding suggests that it’s possible mosquitoes like not only the smell of humans but our flavor as well.

“The long-term goal is to identify better repellents, things that will be better, safer, cheaper and more effective that we can manufacture on a larger scale and distribute it across the world.”

Currently, the insect repellent DEET is widely used in malaria-endemic regions, but it’s not 100 percent effective, and a fair amount of the chemical needs to be applied to the skin to repel mosquitoes. (VOA)

The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.

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Aadhaar Helpline Mystery: French Security Expert Tweets of doing a Full Disclosure Tomorrow about Code of the Google SetUP Wizard App

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Google comes up with a new feature

Google’s admission that it had in 2014 inadvertently coded the 112 distress number and the UIDAI helpline number into its setup wizard for Android devices triggered another controversy on Saturday as India’s telecom regulator had only recommended the use of 112 as an emergency number in April 2015.

After a large section of smartphone users in India saw a toll-free helpline number of UIDAI saved in their phone-books by default, Google issued a statement, saying its “internal review revealed that in 2014, the then UIDAI helpline number and the 112 distress helpline number were inadvertently coded into the SetUp wizard of the Android release given to OEMs for use in India and has remained there since”.

Aadhaar Helpline Number Mystery: French security expert tweets of doing a full disclosure tomorrow about Code of the Google SetUP Wizard App, Image: Wikimedia Commons.

However, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended only in April 2015 that the number 112 be adopted as the single emergency number for the country.

According to Google, “since the numbers get listed on a user’s contact list, these get  transferred accordingly to the contacts on any new device”.

Google was yet to comment on the new development.

Meanwhile, French security expert that goes by the name of Elliot Alderson and has been at the core of the entire Aadhaar controversy, tweeted on Saturday: “I just found something interesting. I will probably do full disclosure tomorrow”.

“I’m digging into the code of the @Google SetupWizard app and I found that”.

“As far as I can see this object is not used in the current code, so there is no implications. This is just a poor coding practice in term of security,” he further tweeted.

On Friday, both the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) as well as the telecom operators washed their hand of the issue.

While the telecom industry denied any role in the strange incident, the UIDAI said that he strange incident, the UIDAI said that some vested interests were trying to create “unwarranted confusion” in the public and clarified that it had not asked any manufacturer or telecom service provider to provide any such facility.

Twitter was abuzz with the new development after a huge uproar due to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman R.S. Sharma’s open Aadhaar challenge to critics and hackers.

Ethical hackers exposed at least 14 personal details of the TRAI Chairman, including mobile numbers, home address, date of birth, PAN number and voter ID among others. (IANS)

Also Read: Why India Is Still Nowhere Near Securing Its Citizens’ Data?