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Bites Attract More Bites

New research has unfortunately revealed bad news about mosquitoes and their habits. A new study done by mBio and reported by Voice Of America News claimed, “A new study finds that the parasite that causes the disease produces an odor which attracts mosquitoes, inviting more bites and infections.” The problem which comes to mind right away is the idea of getting bitten by a mosquito which does not carry Malaria, but it attracts other potential mosquitoes which could potentially carry the deadly virus.mosquito6a

The reason other mosquitoes are attracted to other bites is because of a certain scent which is released (terpenes). When humans are bitten, the odor is released when they sweat or go into motion. This is when the mosquitoes will pick up the scents and are able to find their next potential victim.

Although this could hurt humans by infecting more people, it can also help with research. Researchers are currently undergoing studies to find a way in which they can detect the odor and treat bite victims accordingly before they are attacked by other mosquitoes. Being able to recognize who is affected and who is not affected is a vital key in curbing the spread of the deadly virus.

After identifying these people who have been bit, inhibiting a medicine which is essentially a fly trap which will destroy the mosquito before it can go and infect another member of society. These tactics are still in the research stages, but the researchers are hopeful that they can implement this tactic in the very near future.

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Cerebral Malaria Treatment Discovered?

Recent studies could have came to discover a cure to Cerebral Malaria according to the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. The school explained, “They discovered a novel link between food intake during the early stages of infection and the outcome of the disease, identifying two molecular pathways that could serve as new targets for treatment.”

Cerebral Malaria is considered one of the deadliest forms of Malaria which causes seizures, strokes, and death. This form of Malaria affects children generally and attacks their non-fully developed immune systems. The vaccine with use of “leptin—a hormone secreted from fat tissue with roles in suppressing appetite, but also in activating adaptive immune and inflammatory responses—is increased upon infection in a mouse model of cerebral malaria, and turns out to be a major bad actor in promoting neurological symptoms and death.” The researchers explained that using forms of leptin with a decrease in food intake can slow and potentially rid the Cerebral Malaria virus.

The biggest upside for this potential treatment is that is could be tested on humans since rapamycin is approved by the FDA currently according to article, “The researchers also found that leptin acted primarily on cytotoxic T cells by turning on the well-studied mTOR protein, for which pharmacologic inhibitors are readily available. In their animal model, treating mice with the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin protected them against the neurological complications of cerebral malaria. Protection was due in part to a preservation of the blood brain barrier, which prevented the entry of blood cells carrying the parasites into the brain. As rapamycin is already FDA-approved for use in humans, trials in humans for cerebral malaria treatment with this drug may be possible, according to the researchers.”

While this treatment is not expected to be seen on the market any time in the near future, researchers and doctors alike are hoping this could be the break through that begins to fight the Cerebral Malaria virus.

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3D Mosquito Flight Tracking

Recent technology and medical tactics are joining forces in hopes to wipe out the Malaria disease completely. With hundreds of millions going into the fight against the deadly disease, it only makes sense that now technology is playing a major role in the fight. Traps which can detect and track mosquitos flight pattern can help detect which mosquitos are carrying the deadly disease and which are not. Not only do they detect the movements of the mosquitos, they capture them in 3D, which helps determine their height, rapid movement and flight path.

These mosquitos can be detected as hungry or not based on their flight pattern when entering a funnel which detects if the mosquito is flying erratically in search of food, or flying normally. These traps which are set up to analyze the flight direction of the mosquitos use human odor and heat to inspect the bugs pattern.

When these tests are being conducted, in certain scenarios, the mosquito would have wind against it in the trap in order to see the persistence of the deadly mosquito and the lengths it would go in order to get its food. When the mosquito was faced with no wind, no human odor or heat, it seemed to go on its route normally on an upward angle while in flight. Although, when human odor was added, the difference between between the having no odor in the trap and a trap with odor was outstanding. The odor trap had the mosquito going haywire. It flew in an eccentric manner and flew directly towards the odor area of the trap. 

Likewise, when the trap was enclosed with human odor as well as heat, it was obvious the results came out the way they did. The mosquito went bizerk and even with the wind, they trekked their way to the source of the odor and heat. In the diagram on the right, you can see the path of the mosquitos and how they change due to frequency in odor, heat and wind placed in the funnels.

In 2013 alone, mosquitos with the deadly strain have killed over 500,000 humans, generally located in the subsaharien region of Africa. Even though Malaria related deaths are down 47% since 2000, they are still killing half a million people who are not able to get treated. This technology and medicine has donors hopeful that with the help of the world, we can eliminate Malaria for good.

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Genetically Altered Mosquitoes. To Wipe Out Malaria?

In 2002 alone, Malaria is the cause for about 627,000 deaths. A majority of these deaths were African children who did not have adequate medicine and access to medicine. The biggest problem with Malaria in Africa is that mosquitos are reproducing with the same genetic gene which carries the deadly disease.

George Church, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School has a new ‘cutting-edge’ mosquito research that could eradicate the Malaria carrying mosquito population completely within a few generations. Church has come with the idea to genetically alter the genes of male mosquitos since they are ones who do not feed on human blood, they feed on plant nectar, which in turn means they do not spread or transmit Malaria.

This process would work based on genetically altering only males with these genetically engineered traits, which are engineered to carry a gene which gives their offspring a better chance of being male. Soon after, these altered male mosquitos breed with female mosquitos to pass their genetically engineered trait along to the offspring. The best case scenario of this alterations is to produce mosquito offspring which are male, killing off the female mosquito, Malaria carrying mosquitos. This could take a few generations and according to the journal Nature Communications this could work,Male mosquitoes feed on plant nectar, not human blood, and thus don’t transmit malaria. These mosquitos were shown to be able to interbreed with wild mosquitos (in cages), passing on their genetically engineered traits. Because they produce so few female offspring, whole mosquito populations could simply die off within a few generations.”

Although, this seems like a viable option to wipe out Malaria, it also posses a danger to the environment. The offspring of these genetically male mosquitos will pollinate for food which is also consumed by various other species in the ecosystem. It could harm these other species indirectly. Also, animals use mosquitoes as a food source, and like the animals which pollinate, it would affect them.

Another downfall to genetically altering gene technology is how easily it would be able to access. Getting this into the hands of everyone could pose a threat to any species which are not liked by anyone based on their own personal reasons.

For more information on the topic, please visit: MotherJones on their take on the subject.

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