The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls upon an endemic in at least 100 countries in Asia, the Pacific, the Americas, Africa, and the Carribean. According to them, there are about 50 to 100 million Dengue cases every year with about 22,000 deaths.
Epidemics of these mosquito-borne diseases, such as Dengue, Malaria, and Zika, have been prevalent in the Western Hemisphere for more than 200 years and there have been increasing trends of dengue cases in the past 30 years.
Although this disease is more common in tropical countries like the Philippines, cases in the United States are also increasing due to modern transportation which makes traveling to different countries, especially to those areas where Dengue is endemic, relatively more straightforward and more accessible. With the increasing number of travelers in and out of these endemic countries, disease transmission rates are also escalating in other countries.
Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are the principal mosquito vector of dengue virus as well as Zika virus. In its normal life cycle, only the female mosquitoes feed on humans for blood while the males feed on nectar and other sources of sugar. To put it simply, females need protein from human blood in order to lay eggs. Therefore, measures to prevent and control transmission is usually directed at female mosquitoes since they have the ability to transmit the virus to a healthy person after feeding on an infected one.
Researchers in the United States discovered in a study that these female mosquitoes are attracted to certain sensory factors usually found in humans such as heat, body odor, moisture, visual cues, and carbon dioxide. These stimuli can help them locate and identify human hosts to bite and feed on.
Carbon dioxide was found out to be the best signal for a warm-blooded animal and this gas can be sensed from 30 feet away.
However, greater emphasis is given to body odor which is a complex of substances because this could distinguish humans from other vertebrate hosts. These substances include the following: lactic acid, ammonia, amine, carboxylic acid, ketones, sulfide, and 1-octen-3-ol which could be detected by the mosquitoes’ receptors.
In an attempt to discover possible ways to protect humans from mosquito bites and therefore reduce the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases, researchers from Florida International University in Miami have conducted a study which led them to identify a specific olfactory co-receptor called IR8a found in the female mosquitoes’ antenna and undetectable in other tissues. It was found out that this gene is responsible for the detection of lactic acid and acidic components in human odor.
By disrupting this IR8a gene through the use of CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing system, their findings showed that the mosquitoes with mutant IR8a gene have decreased attraction to humans specifically due to their decreased detection of lactic acid which is a behaviorally active component of human sweat. In addition, these mutant mosquitoes were unable to detect other acidic components of human odor, therefore making them less likely to bite humans and transmit mosquito-borne diseases. However, reduced responses to heat and carbon dioxide were not observed in these mutant mosquitoes.
Dr. Matthew DeGennaro, who is a mosquito neurobiology researcher and the senior author of the study, said that removing the function of the IR8a removes approximately 50% of the host-seeking activity of these mosquitoes.
Furthermore, he added that odors which mask the IR8a pathway could be discovered that could enhance the efficacy of current repellents like N,N-Diethyl-m-toluamide (DEET) or picaridin. According to them, this is a potential avenue to create new solutions. They plan on doing the chemical screens soon using their knowledge from the newly discovered gene and its pathway to create potentially more effective mosquito attractants and repellants.
Since findings from their study showed that there were no reductions in mosquito response with the presence of heat and carbon dioxide, they stated that there are other receptors that researchers need to focus onto to completely eradicate humans as hosts of these mosquitoes.
Through the past decades, many government efforts in different countries have been directed towards vector control and transmission. However, the morbidity and mortality rates of these mosquito-borne diseases remain high prompting us to take a more efficient approach in dealing with these diseases. This research has revealed valuable information which could be used as baseline data for further research taking us several steps closer to having total control over these diseases.
Sexually Transmitted Disease ‘Syphilis’ Highest In Alberta Since 1948
Syphilis cases in Alberta jump at 1,546 cases in 2018, a sharp increase from 2014’s 161 cases, making it a provincial outbreak.
A total of 1,546 cases of infectious syphilis has been reported in 2018, according to a report published by the Alberta government, making it the highest number recorded since 1948. The numbers have prompted the province’s chief medical officer of health to declare a provincial outbreak.
Furthermore, the medical team from Alberta reported that the 2018 statistics is a sharp increase since there were only 161 cases back in 2014.
“This is not just a small fluctuation; this is a significant change in a single year. And it’s getting worse. We’re expecting even higher rates in 2019,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer, said at a news conference Tuesday to address the outbreak.
In the Central Zone, there were 88 cases of syphilis in 2018, an increase of 266.7 percent compared to 2017.
Meanwhile, in the Edmonton area, there were a staggering 977 reported cases of infectious syphilis in 2018, an increase of 305 percent compared to 2017, which officers also deem as the center of the outbreak comprising over half of the total reported cases in the province, according to Alberta Health.
“It is vitally important that everyone who is sexually active in Alberta take responsibility for having safer sex and get tested, especially if you have new or multiple partners,” said Dr. Laura McDougall, senior medical officer of health at Alberta Health Services.
Planned Parenthood defines syphilis as a prevalent sexually transmitted disease. Moreover, it can spread through vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Syphilis causes sores on your genitals called chancres, in which is the disease’s way of transmission to an uninfected individual. The lesions are usually painless, but they can quickly spread the infection to other people.
Mainly, syphilis is a disease that is easily treated. In specific, primary and secondary syphilis are easy to manage with a penicillin injection. Penicillin is one of the most widely used antibiotics and is usually effective in treating syphilis. For people who are allergic to penicillin, a different medicine such as doxycycline can be administered. However, infectious syphilis that is remained untreated can lead to serious long-term health complications.
Another risk factor that people should watch out for is congenital syphilis. This can occur when a child is born to a mother with syphilis, which can result in severe, disabling, and life-threatening disease for the child.
While congenital syphilis cases were rare before the outbreak, there were 22 congenital syphilis cases between 2014 and 2018, one of which was stillborn. Of those, 13 were reported in the Edmonton area, eight in 2018 alone.
“We need to emphasize for all Albertans: sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a risk to anyone [who is] sexually active, particularly people who have new sex partners and are not using protection,” said Hinshaw.
For syphilis, there are not always symptoms in the early stages; it can present as a painless ulcer, progress to general symptoms like a fever, and even lead to eye problems or dementia in late stages. That is why, if there is the slightest doubt that a person is infected, it is always wise to visit a doctor and get a test.
“Sexual health is an important part of overall health,” said Dr. Laura McDougall, said. “We are working with community partners to remove the stigma and increase awareness about STI testing services throughout Alberta. If you are sexually active, make regular STI testing part of your health routine.”
In general, young people between the ages of 15 to 29 are most at risk, but all ages are represented in rates of reported cases, said Hinshaw. Common challenges such as homelessness could also be risk factors, but the stigma following a positive test result for STI is also another problem that Alberta Health has noted.
As of the moment, a provincial outbreak coordination committee composed of Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services (AHS) and other rural health officials has been activated. The province says that over the next three months, the committee will develop a coordinated strategy and determine concrete actions to increase STI testing, promote public awareness and reduce the overall number of syphilis cases in Alberta.
“This is a trend that [we see] across Canada and the world. The question of exactly why – there’s not one single factor. When an infection gets into a network of people, it can spread quite quickly. It’s hard to understand why it is higher at the moment in Edmonton and the north than in Calgary,” said Hinshaw.
Health officials say correct and consistent condom use is essential in protecting against STIs. Health experts recommend sexually active people, regardless of gender, age, or sexual orientation, get tested every three to six months if they:
- Have a sexual partner with a known STI
- Have a new sexual partner or multiple or anonymous sexual partners
- Have the previous history of an STI diagnosis
- Have been sexually assaulted
Drugs Flushed Down The Toilet Affect Wildlife — And Humans Too
Improper disposal of drugs and other medicinal paraphernalia down the toilet affect wildlife but, ultimately, humans too.
Police officers from Tennessee are urging residents to put an end to flushing down their drugs in their toilets, as it may easily affect nearby wildlife once the sewer system meets animal habitats.
The warning came via a Loretto Police Department Facebook post after a suspected person was found trying to flush meth and several items of paraphernalia
The Loretto Police Department discovered the incident upon entering the suspect’s home on Saturday. The suspect reportedly tried to improperly dispose of 12 grams of meth and several items of drug paraphernalia via his lavatory.
The suspect was charged with drug possession with intent for resale, possession of drug paraphernalia, and tampering with evidence.
In light of the situation, police warn that if drugs make it far enough, it will end up being consumed by gators in Shoal Creek. “They’ve had enough methed up animals the past few weeks without our help,” police wrote in the post. They even jokingly added that “meth-gators” could be created in Tennessee and Alabama if the meth made it far enough downriver.
According to the post, the Tenessee government are doing their part in ensuring that they are processing the sewer system properly with great consideration to the nearby wildlife that greatly impacts from both the treatment pods and farther down the streamline.
“Now our sewer guys take great pride in releasing water that is cleaner than what is in the creek, but they are not really prepared for meth,” according to a Loretto Police Department post. “Ducks, Geese, and other fowl frequent our treatment ponds and we shudder to think what one all hyped up on meth would do.”
Particularly, the Loretto Police are not only raising awareness specifically on illegal drug disposal but in all drugs in general as they all contain potentially harmful ingredients that could disturb the natural habitats.
“When you send something down the sewer pipe it ends up in our retention ponds for processing before it is sent downstream,” police said. Instead, the Loretto Police urge residents to bring in any drugs, including prescription medication, into their offices for proper disposal instead of flushing.
Furthermore, the issue goes on to a much broader issue regarding improper drug disposal such as flushing them down the toilet. For example, a recent report last June said that the world’s rivers are found to have unsafe levels of antibiotics. For some, rivers exceed 300 times than the recommended level.
As a repercussion, Prof William Gaze, a microbial ecologist at the University of Exeter who studies antimicrobial resistance said that “a lot of the resistance genes we see in human pathogens originated from environmental bacteria.” He also said that even faint traces of antibiotics could have big effects on the development of resistance.
In other words, wildlife exposed to improper doses of antibiotics can easily develop resistance from various infections which they can easily transfer to the human population. This is a grave threat since antibiotics provide a safety blanket against most, if not all, infections that could easily cause life-threatening circumstances if untreated.
As of 2014, around 80% of aquatic pharmaceutical pollution comes from domestic medicines—those taken at home rather than the hospital. A large contributor of which is due to human excretion but it cannot be denied that deliberately flushing down these drugs also make a significant impact especially because they’re in larger doses as compared to those already processed by the human body.
Other than antibiotics and its risk of resistance in the wildlife, antidepressants in sewage are also known to disrupt the reproduction of molluscs and crustaceans. Meanwhile, anti-inflammatory painkillers such as diclofenac have contributed to the deaths of millions of vultures. In 2013, the EU added diclofenac and the hormones 17α-ethinylestradiol and 17β-estradiol to an environmental pollutant “watch list,” meaning that their levels in surface water are now being monitored – though not yet controlled, The Guardian reported.
In other cases, medicinal waste products flushed down the toilet also contribute to the rapidly growing pollution. Furthermore, these products can also affect their physiology in different ways as an example is from the contraceptive pills that skew sex ratios in fish.
In the end, people are not completely getting rid of their waste by simply flushing them down the toilet since they still find a way back to bite human society back.
Ketamine Drug To Lower UK Suicide Rate
This drug called ketamine could reduce the UK’s suicide rate.
Suicide remains to be a leading cause of death for younger people in the United Kingdom and has grown to be an issue that needs immediate attention. Suicide is often linked to mental illnesses such as depression, which is one of the most significant causes. Researchers are looking at a drug named ketamine to try and minimize people committing suicide.
In the UK, rigid and thorough supervision and access to healthcare have allowed its suicide statistics to see an annual decrease from the past three years. However, a total of 5,821 suicides were registered in 2017 alone, the UK Office of National Statistics posted.
The statistic was an age-standardized rate of 10.1 deaths per 100,000 population or one death by suicide every two hours and many more who attempted within the same period. Furthermore, it showed to be more prevalent in younger generations aged 20-34 years old.
From the same report, the UK’s Mental Health Organization noted that suicide is considerably higher in men, with around three times as many men dying as a result of suicide compared to women. In fact, it is the leading cause of death for men under 50 in the UK. Those at highest risk are men aged between 40 and 44 years old.
Significantly, suicide has long been linked to depression. Depression is a common mental disorder that causes people to experience a depressed mood, whereas it can include a loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, low energy, and poor concentration. In worse cases, people suffering from severe depression tend to isolate themselves from others such as friends, family, and even people who can help alleviate the illness–ultimately making the situation even worse.
Fortunately, a drug called ketamine is looking to be a favorable solution in addressing suicide by providing a more immediate remedy to the negative effects of depression.
Basically, ketamine is the popularly known drug that is raved at parties and other drinking scenes because of its hallucination and other psychedelic effects but, formerly, the drug was used as an anesthetic in battlefields and operating rooms, especially during the Vietnam War.
Researchers found that ketamine can be a new and effective way of addressing depression since it targets brain functions through brain pathways that other drugs don’t usually use. Furthermore, it is lauded as a fast-acting drug that could take effect within hours after taking a dose, as compared to conventional anti-depressants that need up to 8 weeks of continued intakes.
Also, ketamine is consumed via a nasal spray that is supposedly meant to reach the brain faster; add that to the part where the drug only needs to be consumed in lesser doses compared to others, which significantly affects the experiences for people going through a severe depression.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, one likely target for ketamine is the NMDA receptors in the brain. The drug binds to these receptors and appears to increase the amount of a neurotransmitter called glutamate in the spaces between neurons. Glutamate then activates connections in another receptor, called the AMPA receptor. Together, the initial blockade of NMDA receptors and activation of AMPA receptors lead to the release of other molecules that help neurons communicate with each other along new pathways. Known as synaptogenesis, this process likely affects mood, thought patterns, and cognition.
At the moment, critics are still arguing over the other side-effects of the drug that could potentially affect other brain functions such as it to cause hallucinations. Others are also saying that it could become a gateway drug to stronger medications such as opioids. But what medical providers are looking to implement with the drug is strict supervision at least two hours after intake before patient release.
As soon as November, ketamine could be available for sale in the UK through private clinics. The drug recently gained attention after selling fast in the US, which Johnson & Johnson sells in under the brand name Spravato.
The Harvard Medical School’s publishing also noted that “if a person responds to ketamine, it can rapidly reduce suicidality (life-threatening thoughts and acts) and relieve other serious symptoms of depression. Ketamine also can be effective for treating depression combined with anxiety.”
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