15 May 2013 | Geneva - The world has made dramatic progress in improving health in the poorest countries and narrowing the gaps between countries with the best and worst health status in the past two decades, according to the World Health Statistics 2013.
The WHO annual statistics report highlights how efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have reduced health gaps between the most-advantaged and least-advantaged countries.
(From World Health Organization)
People smell yummy to mosquitoes.
So yummy, in fact, that our scent is a big way the pesky insects track us down.
But just how much mosquitoes like Eau de Human may not be entirely up to the bugs.
Mosquitoes are more attracted to human odors when they’re infected with the malaria parasite, scientists reported Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE.
Entomologists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine gave malaria-transmitting mosquitoes two places to land: a clean, nylon stocking and one worn for 20 hours on the foot of young Dutch volunteer.
All the mosquitoes gravitated more toward the dirty sock than the fresh one. But the bugs infected with malaria landed on the smelly nylon more frequently. And while they were there, the parasite-possessed bugs were more likely to try and bite the stocking than the malaria-free insects.
It’s almost like mind control. The parasite changes the behavior of the insects for its own benefit. The more biting the bugs do, the more they spread the protists.
Malaria isn’t the only parasite known for such manipulation.
Photo of a beheaded Anopheles gambaie mosquito, showing its odor-detecting antennae, by the Zwiebel lab/Vanderbilt University.
Tackling ‘the big three’
We discuss malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS, three infectious diseases that account for 10 percent of all deaths worldwide.
Scientists in India have unveiled a new low-cost vaccine against a deadly virus that kills about half a million children around the world each year.
Rotavirus causes dehydration and severe diarrhoea and spreads through contaminated hands and surfaces and is rampant in Asia and Africa.
India says clinical trials show the new vaccine, Rotavac, can save the lives of thousands of children annually.
An Indian manufacturer said the vaccine would cost 54 rupees ($1; £0.65).
International pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline and Merck produce similar vaccines but each dose costs around 1,000 rupees.
“This is an important scientific breakthrough against rotavirus infections, the most severe and lethal cause of childhood diarrhoea, responsible for approximately 100,000 deaths of small children in India each year,” India’s Department of Biotechnology official K Vijay Raghavan said.
“The clinical results indicate that the vaccine, if licensed, could save the lives of thousands of children each year in India,” he added.
Rotavac will be made by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech. The company said it could mass-produce tens of millions of doses after clearance is given, expected in eight or nine months.
END POLIO NOW
4-year-old Shahadad was infected with polio when he was only 2. The brutal fact is that it could have been prevented.
Lenny Kravitz wants you to know that we can end polio in our lifetime if we work together and immunize every child.
From American Cancer Society (ACS)
Around two-thirds of adult men smoke in Indonesia, one of the world’s largest and least regulated tobacco markets. The government in Jakarta has tried to introduce legislation to restrict advertising but the proposals have been watered down after industry lobbying.
(From The Financial Times)
Learning How to Cough Around Drug-Resistant TB
Medecins Sans Frontiers counselor, Rano Safarova, tries to teach a group of children near Vose, Tajikistan, how to stop the spread of tuberculosis in their homes. Several members of this extended family have active TB including the 66-year-old grandmother, who’s the matriarch of the clan. The youngest victim in the family is a 4-year-old boy, who’s been left partially paralyzed and unable to speak from TB meningitis.
The grandmother refuses to accept that TB spreads through the air. She insists that the 4-year-old got it from swimming in a cold river.
“I have several concerns with this family,” says MSF nurse Tina Martin during a visit to the family’s cluster of mud-walled houses in southern Tajikistan. “Mostly I’m concerned with the level of education, the lack of understanding of what TB is and how it’s transmitted. This is highly concerning. This is a very close family. They live together, eat together, sleep together. And as TB is airborne transmission the family is reinfecting each other over and over.”
MSF is working to try to improve TB treatment for children in the Central Asian nation, particularly children infected with drug-resistant strains of the bacteria.
Photos: Jason Beaubien, NPR
It’s a bit like probiotics for mosquitoes.
When scientists infect mosquitoes with a specific bacterium, the insects become resistant to the malaria parasite.
Sounds like an easy way to stamp out malaria, right? Just introduce the infected mosquitoes into an area and let the bugs take over the natural population.
But there’s been one big hitch: The bacterium — called Wolbachia — doesn’t stick around inside mosquitoes that carry malaria. So scientists would have to continually release flocks of treated mosquitoes to keep malaria down.
Now entomologists have overcome this obstacle, at least partially.
They’ve created a malaria-transmitting mosquito that maintains theWolbachia infection for its entire lifetime and even passes it onto its offspring.
“Groups have been trying to do this for more than 10 years,” microbiologist George Dimopoulos, from the Johns Hopkins Malaria Institute, tells Shots. “So it’s a landmark achievement.”
The findings, reported Thursday in the journal Science, raise the possibility of one day controlling malaria with the bacteria.
“You could just release large number of infected females and establishWolbachia in a mosquito population” Dimopoulos, who co-authored the study with a team at Michigan State University, says. “Gradually it would convert a malaria-spreading population to a non-spreading one.”
Image of Wolbachia bacteria, green, infecting the ovaries of the malaria-transmitting mosquito Anopheles stephensi. Courtesy of Zhiyong Xi/Michigan State University