Army Medicine, Flickr
Army Medicine, Flickr

Researchers Can Now Make Mosquitos Dengue Resistant

Army Medicine, Flickr
Army Medicine, Flickr

When an Aedes aegypti mosquito bites someone infected with the deadly dengue virus, the virus in turn infects the mosquito. After completing its life cycle in the insect's gut, the virus makes its way into its saliva, where it can spread infection the next time the mosquito bites. But new research from Johns Hopkins University points toward a way to stop dengue from ever making it to that stage by protecting the mosquito from being infected itself.

As they described in a study in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, the researchers genetically engineered Ae. aegypti to alter the production of two proteins that the mosquito naturally makes to fight off the infection. When the mosquitos were engineered to produce more of these proteins—known as Dome and Hop—in the mosquito’s version of the liver, they had fewer copies of the dengue virus in their guts once they were infected, and fewer copies in their salivary glands. They also produced fewer eggs than non-engineered mosquitos.

“If you can replace a natural population of dengue-transmitting mosquitoes with genetically modified ones that are resistant to virus, you can stop disease transmission,” lead author George Dimopoulos explains in a press release. To make the plan viable, though, the mosquitos would have to compete with their wild brethren to become the dominant mosquito type, converting the population to the disease-resistance kind of mosquito.

Unfortunately, the technique is only relevant to the transmission of dengue, so it can’t protect people from other deadly mosquito-born viruses like Zika. However, stopping dengue’s spread could prevent some 400 million deaths a year. The CDC lists dengue as a leading cause of death in tropical and subtropical regions.

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97 Percent of Us Are Washing Our Hands All Wrong
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iStock

Most of us know the importance of washing our hands, but we're still pretty clueless when it comes to washing them the right way. As CNN reports, we fall short of washing our hands effectively 97 percent of the time.

That number comes from a new study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that looked at 383 participants in a test-kitchen environment. When they were told to wash their hands, the vast majority of subjects walked away from the sink after less than 20 seconds—the minimum hand-washing time recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of them also failed to dry their hands with a clean towel.

The researchers had participants cooking and handling raw meats. Because they didn't wash their hands properly, volunteers were spreading potentially dangerous germs to spice jars 48 percent of the time, contaminating refrigerator handles 11 percent of the time, and doing the same to salads 5 percent of the time.

People who don't wash their hands the correct way risk spreading harmful microbes to everything they touch, making themselves and those they live with more susceptible to certain infections like gastrointestinal illness and respiratory infections. Luckily, the proper hand-washing protocol isn't that complicated: The biggest change most of us need to make is investing more time.

According to the CDC, you need to rub your hands with soapy water for at least 20 seconds to get rid of harmful bacteria. A helpful trick is to sing "Happy Birthday" twice as you wash—once you're finished, you should have passed the 20-second mark. And if your bathroom or kitchen doesn't have a clean towel to dry your hands with, let them air-dry. 

[h/t CNN]

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This Mysterious Condition Makes People Think Bugs Are Crawling Under Their Skin
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iStock

After seeing a spider or beetle scurry past you, it’s normal to get a creepy-crawly feeling, even if you know there’s nothing on you. For many people, though, the persistent sensation of phantom insects or parasites crawling underneath their skin—known as formication—is very real, Newsweek reports.

The condition is called delusional infestation, and although cases have been documented around the world, there hasn’t been enough research to determine if it’s a skin condition or psychological disorder. However, two new studies are attempting to shed light on the mysterious ailment that can cause symptoms such as itching, fatigue, joint pain, rashes or lesions, and difficulty concentrating. Some people have reported picking “fibers” out of their skin.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic and Denmark’s Aarhus University Hospital believe tens of thousands of Americans could have this condition, making it more common than previously thought. Their study, published in the journal JAMA Dermatology, found that people with the condition are often “resistant to medical evidence [showing that there is no infestation] and reluctant to pursue psychiatric evaluation.” Some patients, convinced that they have something crawling underneath their skin, self-harm with tweezers, bleach, or razor blades.

The researchers stopped short of calling it a psychological condition, but they did conclude that schizophrenia, dementia, other psychiatric conditions, and drug use can trigger delusional infestation in some cases, Science News reports.

Another new study, published in the journal Annals of the Academy of Medicine of Singapore [PDF], also seemed to favor a psychological explanation for the condition. The researchers noted that Chinese patients with the condition were treated with antipsychotics, and 10 of the 11 patients with isolated cases of delusional infestation (who had no other underlying disorders) improved with medication.

However, other researchers have drawn different conclusions, arguing that the condition is the skin's response to “tick-borne pathogens” typically associated with Lyme disease. The condition has gone by several names over the years, including Morgellons disease—a term coined in 2004 by a medical researcher and mother who says she found “fibers” on her young son’s skin after he kept scratching at the "bugs" he claimed were there. Regardless of the origin, what's clear is that the condition has very real consequences for those who suffer from it, and more research is needed to find suitable treatments.

[h/t Newsweek]

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