News of Note—Medicating mosquitoes to stop malaria; Targeting an HIV-enabling protein

Malaria Mosquito
Dosing mosquitoes with a compound from a widely used malaria treatment could stop the spread of the disease, Harvard researchers discovered. (Pixabay)

Fighting malaria by drugging mosquitoes

Harvard scientists have discovered that mosquitoes can absorb atovaquone, an active ingredient in a common malaria drug, through their legs. That prevents the pests from developing and spreading malaria. The discovery has sparked an idea: Coating nets with the compound or something similar to it might be an effective way to slash the spread of malaria without having to rely on insecticides, which are often easily resisted by mosquitoes. To test the idea, the researchers coated glass with atovaquone, covered it with a cup, then introduced female mosquitoes into the cup. They found that they could completely block malaria by exposing the insects to low doses of the drug for just 6 minutes. The findings were published in the journal Nature. (Release)

New insight into HIV’s defense mechanisms could inspire treatments

A protein called Nef has been implicated before in HIV infection, but its exact role has not been well understood. Now scientists at Ohio State University have shown how Nef enables HIV, allowing it to survive even when the immune system attacks it. They found that Nef inhibits another protein, T cell immunoglobulin and mucin domain, removing a layer of protection in human cells, and in turn allowing HIV to thrive. They believe the finding could lead to improved treatments that prevent HIV from becoming AIDS. (Release)

Four newly discovered gene variants raise the risk of Alzheimer’s

A study led by the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine has uncovered four previously unknown genetic variants that raise the risk of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. They made the discovery, reported in the journal Nature Genetics, by analyzing genetic data from 95,000 people in the U.S. and Europe who have been diagnosed with the disease. They believe the four gene variants work with 20 previously discovered variants and with ApoE4—a gene known to significantly raise the risk of Alzheimer’s. They anticipate that the finding will help researchers solve the puzzle of what exactly causes the disease. (Article)

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