Double blow for dengue

Nicaraguan children provided data for the study

Nicaraguan children provided data for the study

The reason dengue fever can be more severe a second time round is due to the genetic make-up of the virus, researchers at Berkeley have found. The results may help predict outbreaks of dengue and allow future treatments to be better targeted. Continue reading

This Week in NTDs

What are the thirty ways to live longer? Well, the Telegraph publishes an article this week answering this question. Most of the suggestions are closely linked to the spread of NTD infection. Most critically, at 21, “say no to sandflies” discusses the prevalence of Leishmaniasis and the dangers it proposes.

EndtheNeglect reports on the reemergence of Schistosomiasis in China. They reflect on the reasons for the disease’s return and key issues that need to be considered before action can be taken this time around.

An ex-malaria eradication worker discusses how to combat dengue. This interesting article looks at dengue fever’s spread and how this is key to organising eradication campaigns. Apparently  measures must be taken quickly before outbreaks result in “non-availability of agricultural and industrial labour, crippling the country and ruining its economy”.

Reports from a symposium at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (which started on Monday 14th October) have suggested that a dengue vaccine under development at the moment should be ready in six years time.

Dengue in Indonesia, from the perspective of a Western sufferer

Dom Rowland emerged from the Indonesian jungle in mid-September this year. The expedition he was with, BRINCC, charted the course of the Barito river on the island of Borneo. They spent six months removed from civilization, recording the flora and fauna of the forests – they even discovered a new species of butterfly. But at the end of the expedition, about three days after leaving the jungle, one of the team, Andrea, fell ill.Barito river, Borneo by GothPhil/Flickr Continue reading

GM mosquitoes to fight dengue

They transmit disease to more than 700 million people and account for least 2 million deaths annually. The control of mosquitoes just got personal.

Mosquitoes have been responsible for more deaths worldwide than any other animal. They are the sole carriers of malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, elephantiasis (lymphatic filiriasis) and chikungunya. There is no vaccine for any of these diseases.

For any disease, prevention is preferable to treatment. Vaccines for dengue and malaria are being developed but could be many years away. Effective mosquito control would decrease the burden of disease significantly and scientists have made huge advances in recent years.

Studies from Oxitec Ltd., a biotech company from Oxfordshire, have focussed on controlling the mosquito populations by genetically modifying the insects. Tactics to protect people in endemic areas include stopping mosquito bites using insecticides, net and repellents, developing preventative drugs and eradicating insects.

Diagram of how GM mosquitoes work

Breaking the cycle: how the process of releasing GM mosquitoes works

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GM mosquitos and other NTD links of the week

In the first of a regular feature, here’s a round up of NTD news from around the world.

News just in: researchers have genetically modified male mosquitos so that their offspring die at the larval stage. The BBC website article explains that this method has been tried before, but fails if the male GM mosquitos can’t compete with the wild ones. The new strain aren’t quite alpha male material, but they hope it will be close enough.

The Daily Mail report on the case of a woman whose uncontrollable libido turned out to be a symptom of rabies. Ignoring the picture in the article, this is a tragic case. Rabies can be prevented if a vaccine is given after infection, but before symptoms occur. Once symptoms appear, it is too late – only six people are thought to have survived a rabies infection, and these numbers are open to dispute.

Chagas disease (trypanosomiasis) may be more common in Texas than previously thought. The disease is a parasite, carried by “kissing bugs“. It is widespread in many parts of South and Central America, but seems to be creeping its way over the Mexican border.

And finally, a few weeks ago the Guardian published this lovely interview with Jimmy Carter. The Carter Center, set up by the former US President and his wife after he was booted out of office after a single term, was instrumental in pioneering a campaign to eradicate guinea worm which means that last year, there were just 1800 infections worldwide. The campaign was based on education about sanitation, rather than expensive drugs, and means that guinea worm may be eradicated within a few years.