Livin' on the MDedge

Malaria vaccine gets special delivery by tiny health personnel


 

Don’t like needles? Have we got a vaccine for you

Here’s a quick question: How do you turn the most annoying thing ever into something positive?

No, we’re not talking about politicians this time. No, not Elon Musk, either. Infomercials? Guess again. Humidity? Nope, even more annoying than that.

Give up? The most annoying thing ever is mosquitoes. This time, however, NPR reports that mosquitoes have been used to deliver a vaccine for the very disease they’ve been transmitting to their human food sources all these years.

A mosquito Courtesy Jim Gathany/CDC

In a recent proof-of-concept trial, investigators used CRISPR technology to genetically modify malaria-causing Plasmodium falciparum sporozoites, which just happen to live in the salivary glands of Anopheles mosquitoes. And since the Plasmodium parasites are already in the mosquitoes, it made sense to use the buzzy little critters as the delivery device for the vaccine.

More sense than a syringe, you ask? Have you ever tried to poke a syringe into the salivary gland of a mosquito? No, we thought not. Well, we can tell you from experience that it’s really, really hard. Never mind how we know. We just do.

The 14 study volunteers – who were paid $4,100 for their participation – were first exposed to hundreds of mosquitoes carrying the altered Plasmodium parasites. Then, to test the vaccine, they were exposed to mosquitoes that had actual, malaria-carrying Plasmodium. Half of the subjects got malaria, so the vaccine was only 50% effective, meaning there’s still work to do.

Meanwhile, the scientists here at LOTMEco are all over this mosquito-delivery business, working on a vaccine to prevent Elon Musk. Plan B involves some sort of really big swatter.

Climate change: Sleeping your life away

It’s no secret that climate change is raising the temperature on everything. You may think you’re getting relief when the sun goes down, but in some places it’s still hot. A new survey conducted in central Japan shows how bad it can be and how higher nighttime temperatures can have a serious impact on people’s health.

Illustration of a man sleeping Public Domain Vectors

That online survey, the Sleep Quality Index for Daily Sleep, enabled the investigators to correlate sleep quality with daily temperature for 1,284 adults in 2011 and 2012 who completed the survey over 10 days.

Not only was there a significant difference in sleep disturbance among younger men (higher) versus older men, but the prevalence of sleep disturbance went up when the daytime temperature was above 24.8° C. They also found that disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs), which measure time lost through premature death and time lived in certain conditions that put one’s health at risk, were 81.8 years for the city of Nagoya (population, 2.2 million) in 2012.

The damage to health from sleep disorders caused by daily temperatures higher than 25° C “is comparable to that of heatstroke and must be addressed,” lead author Tomohiko Ihara of the University of Tokyo said in a written statement.

The researchers hope that this information will help sway legislators to consider the impact of higher nighttime temperatures and that it can be used to provide guidance for better sleep. The solution for now? Sleep with the air conditioner on. Your energy bill might increase, but just think about those DALYs. If using the AC lowers DALYs and increases time lived, then we say it’s worth it.

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