HEALTH

Mosquito gut bacteria may inhibit malaria parasite, researchers say

BY Michael Johnsen

BALTIMORE, Md. Bacteria in the gut of a mosquito may inhibit infection of Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria in humans, according to researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Scientists with the Bloomberg School’s Malaria Research Institute found that removing these bacteria, or microbial flora, with antibiotics made the mosquitoes more susceptible to Plasmodium infection because of a lack of immune stimulation. Their study is published in the May 8, edition of the journal PLoS Pathogens.

“Our study suggests that the microbial flora of mosquitoes is stimulating immune activity that protects the mosquito from Plasmodium infection,” stated George Dimopoulos, senior author of the study and associate professor with Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute. “The same immune factors that are needed to control the mosquito’s infection from the microbes are also defending against the malaria parasite Plasmodium. … The interplay between bacteria and the mosquito’s immune system may have significant implications for the transmission of malaria in the field where mosquitoes may be exposed to different types of bacteria in different regions. Theoretically, these bacteria could be introduced to the mosquitoes to boost their immunity to the malaria parasite and make them resistant and incapable of spreading the disease. Our current research aims at identifying those bacteria that trigger the strongest mosquito immune defense against the malaria parasite.”

Malaria kills more than one million people worldwide each year; the majority of deaths are among children living in Africa.

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FDA grants clearance of market, sale of new allergy-friendly latex condom

BY Michael Johnsen

WILMINGTON, Del. Vystar and Alatech Healthcare on Friday announced that the Food and Drug Administration granted 510(k) clearance to market and sell Alatech’s Envy condom manufactured with Vytex Natural Rubber Latex.

The Envy condom will be the first consumer medical product available in the U.S. made from Vystar’s patented Vytex NRL, which has less than 2 micrograms/dm2, virtually undetectable levels, of the antigenic proteins that can cause an allergic response, while retaining and improving upon all the desirable qualities of latex.

The Envy condom will carry labeling that will reflect the lowest antigenic protein content currently available in a natural rubber latex medical device in the U.S. Natural rubber latex contains more than 200 proteins, similar to other natural plant materials, of which 13 are known allergens. The Vytex NRL process was created to significantly reduce these known proteins. Vystar’s business model is to assist all manufacturers in marketing the Vytex component of their products.

Alatech will market and sell the Envy NRL condom to retailers and through other distribution channels, and expects the product to be available to consumers in the coming months.

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Food intake may contribute more to obesity than lack of exercise, study suggests

BY Alaric DeArment

AMSTERDAM Conventional wisdom has it that the American obesity epidemic results from lack of exercise, but a study presented in the Netherlands Friday suggests otherwise.

The study, led by researchers in Australia and presented at the 17th European Congress on Obesity in Amsterdam, indicates that while exercise remains important, the main cause of the obesity epidemic is that Americans eat too much.

“To return to the average weights of the 1970s, we would need to reverse the increased food intake of about 350 calories a day for children and 500 calories a day for adults,” lead study author Boyd Swinburn of Australia’s Deakin University said in a statement. That would mean eliminating a can of soda or small portion of French fries from a child’s diet or a large hamburger from an adult’s.

The researchers started by testing 1,399 adults and 963 children to find how many calories they burn on an average day. They combined those results with national food supply data on how much food Americans ate between the 1970s and early 2000s. They then calculated how much weight they would expect Americans to have gained in the 30-year period if food intake were the sole influence, using national survey data that recorded the weight of Americans during that period.

“For adults, we predicted that they would be 10.8 kg heavier, but in fact they were 8.6 kg heavier,” Swinburn said. “That suggests that excess food intake still explains the weight gain, but that they may have been increases in physical activity over the 30 years that have blunted what would otherwise have been a higher weight gain.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 30% of American adults are obese, which health experts define as having a body mass index of 30 or greater.

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