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Test for malaria from a drop of blood

Researchers have developed a new, inexpensive and sensitive method that makes it possible to diagnose malaria from a single drop of blood or saliva. The method might eventually be used in low-resource areas without the need for specially trained personnel, expensive equipment, clean water or electricity.

With the development of this method, the researchers hope to go one step further in identifying and treating all patients suffering from malaria. Researchers at Aarhus University have developed the method based on measuring the activity of an enzyme called topoisomerase I from the Plasmodium parasite.

The technology called REEAD (Rolling Circle-Enhanced Enzyme Activity Detection) makes it possible to diagnose malaria from a single drop of blood or saliva, the University statement said.

This method is much more time-effective and cost-effective than current diagnostic methods and can be performed by personnel who have no specialised training. It can therefore be used in low-resource areas without the use of expensive equipment, clean water or electricity.

The new REEAD-based method distinguishes itself from other quick-test methods because it can measure whether a given Plasmodium infection is resistant to drugs. The newly developed technology is also the only quick-test method that makes it possible to diagnose the less common malaria parasites in addition to the most common Plasmodium parasites (P falciparum and P vivax).

The unique sensitivity, combined with its ability to detect infection in very small samples of blood or saliva, makes the method suitable for large-scale screening projects.

Dog virus to help develop super potent human vaccine

Researchers have discovered that a virus commonly found in dogs may serve as the foundation for developing a super potent human vaccine.

Although harmless in humans, parainfluenza virus 5, or PIV5, is thought to contribute to upper respiratory infections in dogs, and it is a common target for canine vaccines designed to prevent kennel cough. Researchers at the University of Georgia describe how this virus could be used in humans to protect against diseases that have eluded vaccine efforts for decades.

“We can use this virus as a vector for all kinds of pathogens that are difficult to vaccinate against,” said Biao He, the study’s principal investigator. “We have developed a very strong H5N1 flu vaccine with this technique, but we are also working on vaccines for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria,” Biao said.

PIV5 does not cause disease in humans, as our immune system is able to recognise and destroy it. By placing antigens from other viruses or parasites inside PIV5, it effectively becomes a delivery vehicle that exposes the human immune system to important pathogens and allows it to create the antibodies that will protect against future infection.

This approach not only ensures full exposure to the vaccine but also is much safer because it does not require the use of attenuated, or weakened, pathogens.

Men with belly fat at risk of bone loss

Men with deep belly fat are ripe candidates for osteoporosis which causes bone loss and decreased bone strength, a new study has found.

“It is important for men to be aware that excess belly fat is not only a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes, it is also a risk factor for bone loss,” said Miriam Bredella, radiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and associate professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

“Most studies on osteoporosis have focused on women. Men were thought to be relatively protected against bone loss, especially obese men,” Bredella said.Subcutaneous fat lies just below the skin, and visceral or intra-abdominal fat is located deep under the muscle tissue in the abdominal cavity.

Excess visceral fat is considered particularly dangerous, because in previous studies it has been associated with increased risk for heart disease.

An analysis showed that men with higher visceral and total abdominal fat had lower failure load and stiffness, two measures of bone strength, compared to those with less visceral and abdominal fat.

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