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 News - Events Scientific research
Interesting researches on malaria

Chicken odour 'prevents malaria' research in Ethiopia finds

The smell from a live chicken could help protect against malaria, researchers have found. Ethiopian and Swedish scientists discovered that malarial mosquitoes tend to avoid chickens and other birds. The experiments, conducted in western Ethiopia, included suspending a live chicken in a cage near a volunteer sleeping under a bed net. Last year malaria killed nearly 400,000 people in Africa, the UN says. Infection and death rates are declining but health officials are continuing to look for new ways to prevent the spread of the disease. The malaria parasite, which initially hides in the liver before going into the bloodstream, is carried from person to person by mosquitoes when they drink blood. The scientists, whose research was published in the Malaria Journal, concluded that as mosquitoes use their sense of smell to locate an animal they can bite there must be something in a chicken's odour that puts the insects off. Addis Ababa University's Habte Tekie, who worked o­n the research, said that the compounds from the smell of the chicken can be extracted and could work as a repellent. Field trials for this stage of the research are now "in the pipeline", he told the BBC. Researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences were also involved in the project. Compounds extracted from chicken feathers were also used in the experiments, as well as live chickens. Researchers discovered that the use of the chicken and the compounds "significantly reduced" the number of mosquitoes that were found in the trap nearby. The scientists say that with reports that some mosquitoes are developing resistance to insecticide "novel control methods" need to be embraced.

Live chickens as well as compounds extracted from chicken feathers were used in the experiments

Nigerian biotech firm develops urine test for malaria

A Nigerian biotechnology firm has come up with a new simple method for diagnosing malaria. This marks the first time urine, and not blood, is being used to test for malaria.

The new technology called Urine Test for Malaria (UMT), is a non-invasive bloodless rapid test that can diagnose malaria in less than 25 minutes.

UMT uses a simple dip-stick and unlike the old method which requires health personel, people can self-diagnose for the disease at home.

Eddy Agbo, is a biochemist, and the founder of Fyodor, the biotechnology firm that developed this urine test kit. He says that the technology that took him 8 years of research and development, detects malaria parasite proteins in a patient's urine.

"Urine is acidic sample, usually when a protein is present in an acidic enviroment, it unravels, it becomes difficult to detect by conventional approach, so we had to re-engineer the tool so as to be able to fish it out be it even in that unconventional state," says Dr. Agbo.

This innovation gained international and local recognition after winning the inaugural 2015 Health Innovation Challenge awards in Nigeria. It was also nominated for the African Innovation Foundation (AIF) award in collaboration with the Government of Botswana.

Africa continues to bear the brunt of the global burden of malaria. According to the World Health Organisation, 88% of global cases and 90% of global deaths occured in the African Region in 2015. Between the years 2000 and 2015, the number of malaria cases worldwide also declined by 42% while the malaria death rate declined by 66% in Africa.

Malaria's Magnetic Properties May Pull Treatments Forward

Malaria has a magnetic foe.

Andrea "Blue" Martin, a Carnegie Mellon University doctoral candidate inbiomedical engineering, is working to create a device that uses magnets to filter out patients' red blood cells infected by the mosquito-borne parasite, which makes the cells magnetic.The promising device, known as mPharesis, is the size of a smartphone and works by passing an extremely thin layer of blood over an array of magnets and ferromagnetic wires. The name is an abbreviation of magnetic apharesis, a procedure in which blood is filtered, separated and a portion returned to the donor.

"There are many published devices that separate out magnetic cells, but all operate at very low concentrations and throughput," Martin said. "mPharesis works with whole blood and a much larger scale."

Andrea "Blue" Martin shows off her prototype mPharesis device. Photo courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University

The idea is that infected cells are pulled to the bottom of the device, skimmed off and discarded, while the filtered blood is returned to the patient.

"My preliminary experiments show that I am able to remove up to 20 percent of these infected cells o­n the first pass with conditions similar to a severely infected patient," she said during this year's Three-Minute Thesis competition. "My research shows great potential to be developed into a treatment system that is similar to, but cheaper than, dialysis."

Prior to working o­n her doctorate, Martin worked as a machinist and lab manager for Biomedical Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Jim Antaki, who encouraged her to pursue her doctorate at CMU. She knew she wanted to work with medical devices, and through her work with Antaki, she started working with Accel Diagnostics. Her project spun out of that experience.

In its initial conception, the startup's device used o­ne large magnet for filtering, but its magnetic field wasn't strong enough. Martin had the idea to use a number of smaller magnets to strengthen the field. Martin also created an inexpensive, quick laser-cut fabrication method for device prototypes. She said the device can be built in two hours and she can monitor in real time the separation under a microscope. She is aiming to earn her Ph.D. in 2017 and hopes to create or design medical devices.

Anti-malaria drug could help fight cancer

An anti-malaria drug could help radiotherapy to destroy tumours, according to a new study.

The Cancer Research UK-funded study, published in Nature Communications, looked at the effect of the drug atovaquone o­n tumours with low oxygen levels in mice to see if it could be repurposed to treat cancer. The research showed that the drug slows down the rate at which cancer cells use oxygen by targeting the mitochondria, the powerhouses of the cell that make energy, a process that uses oxygen.

As radiotherapy works by damaging the DNA in cells, and a good supply of oxygen reduces the ability of cancer cells to repair broken DNA, tumours with low oxygen levels are more difficult to treat successfully with radiotherapy. By slowing down the use of oxygen, atovaquone therefore reverses the low-oxygen levels in nearly all of the tumours. The fully-oxygenated tumours are more easily destroyed by radiotherapy.

The drug was shown to be effective in a wide range of cancers, including lung, bowel, brain, and head and neck cancer. This older medicine is no longer patented and is readily and cheaply available as a generic.

Lead author, Professor Gillies McKenna, at the Cancer Research UK/Medical Research Council Institute for Radiation o­ncology in Oxford, said: "This is an exciting result. We have now started a clinical trial in Oxford to see if we can show the same results in cancer patients. We hope that this existing low cost drug will mean that resistant tumours can be re-sensitised to radiotherapy. And we're using a drug that we already know is safe."

Dr Emma Smith, Cancer Research UK's science information manager, added: "The types of cancer that tend to have oxygen deprived regions are often more difficult to treat- such as lung, bowel, brain and head and neck cancer. Looking at the cancer-fighting properties of existing medicines is a very important area of research where medical charities can make a big impact and is a priority for Cancer Research UK. Clinical trials will tell us whether this drug could help improve treatment options for patients with these types of tumour."

Scientists exploit malaria's Achilles' heel

Malaria researchers at The Australian National University (ANU) have found o­ne of the malaria parasite's best weapons against drug treatments turns out to be an Achilles' heel, which could be exploited to cure the deadly disease.

The findings could prolong the use of several anti-malarial drugs, including the former wonder drug chloroquine, to treat the mosquito-borne disease which kills 600,000 people around the world each year.

Lead researchers Dr Rowena Martin and PhD student Sashika Richards, from the ANU Research School of Biology, said changes in the protein that enable the parasite to evade several anti-malarial drugs -- including chloroquine -- make the parasite super-sensitive to other therapies.

"Malaria is o­ne of the biggest killers in the world, particularly for young children and pregnant women in Africa and the Pacific, and our research could help save countless lives in some of the world's poorest countries," Dr Martin said.

Dr Martin said the interactions of the modified protein with certain drugs were so intense that it was unable to effectively perform its normal role, which was essential to the parasite's survival.

"We also found that the changes that allow the protein to move chloroquine away from its anti-malarial target simultaneously enable the protein to deliver other drugs to their anti-malarial targets," she said.

"The other important phenomenon we found is when the protein adapts itself to fend off o­ne of these drugs, it is no longer able to deal with chloroquine and hence the parasite is re-sensitised to chloroquine.

"Essentially, the parasite can't have its cake and eat it too. So if chloroquine or a related drug is paired with a drug that is super-active against the modified protein, no matter what the parasite tries to do it's checkmate for malaria."

Dr Martin said the super-sensitivity phenomenon also occurred in other drug-resistant pathogens, such as bacteria, and in cancer cells.

Ms Richards said the findings would improve the cure rates for people with malaria, and could help stop the emergence and spread of drug-resistant malaria.

"Health authorities could use our research to find ways to prolong the lifespan of anti-malarial drugs," Ms Richards said.

She said prolonging the use of existing drugs was crucial, as it would give scientists time to find the next anti-malarial drug.

"The current frontline anti-malarial drug, artemisinin, is already failing in Asia and we don't have anything to replace it," she said.

"It will be at least five years before the next new drug makes it to market. The low-hanging fruit is gone, and it's now very costly and time consuming to develop new treatments for malaria."

 

09/12/2016
(Recapitualted from bbc.com, africanews.com, mdtmag.com,
pharmatimes.com and sciencedaily.com)
 

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