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Category: Design

A protein in mosquito spit can keep Dengue virus in check

A protein in mosquito spit can keep Dengue virus in check

Working on ways to reduce DENV transmission, Michael Conway, from Central Michigan University College of Medicine in Mt. Pleasant, USA, and colleagues, explore the targeting of mosquito saliva or midgut proteins to block transmission of DENV. This strategy has advantages compared with vaccines based on viral proteins because it does not need to take into account the different circulating DENV strains or adapt to rapidly evolving viruses.

The researchers had previously isolated proteins from the salivary glands of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that transmits the Dengue, Zika, and Chikungunya viruses, and tested batches of proteins to see if they could either enhance or block DENV transmission to human cells. In this study, they focused on proteins that could inhibit DENV.

Analyzing batches of proteins with inhibitory function, the researchers found high levels of so-called D7 proteins. Members of the D7 family are known to be present in mosquito saliva and thought to assist the blood feeding process. Comparing uninfected Aedes mosquitoes with DENV-infected ones, the researchers found that the latter had increased levels of D7 proteins in the salivary glands compared with uninfected controls.

They then produced one of the D7 proteins in insect cells and used it in further functional analyses. Treating cells that are susceptible to DENV infection with the D7 protein either before or during exposure to the virus significantly reduced DENV RNA levels in the cells, suggesting that D7 might both modulate the host cell as well as possibly act on the virus directly to inhibit infection or multiplication.

To determine whether D7 can inhibit DENV2 infection in vivo, the researchers exposed mice that are susceptible to DENV either to virus alone or to a combination of virus and D7. The presence of D7, they found, significantly reduced the levels of DENV RNA both at the exposure site and in neighboring lymph nodes (from where virus spreads to the rest of the body).

To understand how D7 protein mediates its antiviral effect, the researchers tested whether D7 can interact with DENV directly. They found that D7 can bind the DENV via the virus’s envelope protein (which covers the viral surface). These results, the researchers say, “support that D7 protein mediates its antiviral effect through direct protein-protein interaction […], although it is possible that modulation of the inflammatory response also occurs in vivo.”

D7 proteins can provoke strong immune responses, and individuals exposed to mosquitoes have high levels of anti-D7 antibodies. Because these antibodies likely inhibit D7 protein function, the researchers speculate that “although anti-D7 antibodies may prevent efficient blood feeding by a mosquito, they may also enhance disease transmission and disease severity.” “Characterizing the complex interplay of virus-vector-host interactions,” they conclude, “will lead to the development of better models of pathogenesis, strategies to limit disease transmission, and promote the development of therapeutics and transmission-blocking vaccines.”

Source: PLOS

Picky ants maintain color polymorphism of bugs they work with

Picky ants maintain color polymorphism of bugs they work with

Researchers at Hokkaido University in Japan and colleagues investigated whether this symbiotic relationship played a role in the genetic selection of the red and green aphids that feed on the mugwort plant — known as Macrosiphoniella yomgicola. The presence of two or more clearly different forms in a species is known as “polymorphism.” Previous research had shown that aphid colonies that were more polymorphic tended to survive longer. This could be due to the number of ants attending to these colonies.

The team first experimented by removing ants from aphid colonies and found that most colonies whose attending ants were removed did not survive. This demonstrated that ants were necessary for the survival of the mogwort aphids.

They then experimented with colonies that had varying proportions of red and green aphids and found that the number of attending ants was highest when green aphids comprised 65% of the colony.

“This result suggests that these polymorphic colonies are protected more efficiently from predators by the attending ants than less polymorphic colonies,” write the researchers in their study published in the journal Science Advances. “Thus, ant attendance may maintain the observed colour polymorphism in M. yomogicola,” they say.

This result is particularly significant because it does not fall under previously known predatory-dependent methods of genetic selection that result in a balance of polymorphisms.

There is much room for future research on this topic, the researchers say, because many questions remain unanswered. The team is now investigating why the ants prefer an intermediate colour ratio of aphid colonies.

 

Source : Hokkaido University

It’s a boy: Controlling pest populations with modified males

It’s a boy: Controlling pest populations with modified males

Withholding tetracycline in the larval diet essentially means “It’s a boy” when the genetically modified male flies successfully mate with females in the field, says Max Scott, an NC State entomologist who is the corresponding author of a paper describing the research.

“Genetic suppression of a pest population is more efficient if only males survive, so we manipulated screwworm genes to promote a female-lethal system that works when a common antibiotic is not provided at larval stages,” Scott said. “If we feed the larvae the antibiotic both male and female survive and are as fit as the wild type strain.”

The study shows that the genetically modified males both compete well for the attention of fertile females and mate successfully with fertile females. The genetically modified flies also do not mate with other very closely related fly species.

New World screwworm flies (Cochliomyia hominivorax) parasitize warm-blooded animals in the Western Hemisphere tropics and sub-tropics, causing massive financial and animal losses. The flies were eradicated from North and Central America years ago using the sterile insect technique, which has resulted in annual savings of more than $1 billion per year. However, the flies continue to wreak havoc across South America and some Caribbean islands.

Scott says that a sterile insect technique has been used to keep the South American flies at bay. This technique involves irradiating both male and female flies to make them sterile and then releasing them — in an area between the Panama Canal and Colombia — to mate with fertile flies in order to prevent screwworm re-introduction to Central and North America.

“This is a bit inefficient, as sterile males will mate with sterile females, which is totally unnecessary,” Scott says. “Releasing only males, would cut down on the costs of rearing sterile female flies and should significantly increase the efficiency of the suppression program. Plus, it would take fewer resources to begin screwworm eradication program in other afflicted areas, like the west coast of South America, for example.” In addition, the technology should be easily transferable to other flies that are pests of livestock such as the Old World screwworm.

Scott added that COPEG will now evaluate one of the genetically modified screwworm fly lines. That commission has worked to prevent the reintroduction of the pest into North and Central America and is responsible for the current sterile insect technique program. All of the genetically modified strains were developed within the COPEG biosecure facility in Panama, which will facilitate incorporation of the strains into the ongoing operational program.

The study was published online in the journal BMC Biology. Funding was provided by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and its National Institute of Food and Agriculture BRAG program, COPEG and NC State.

Source : North Carolina State University

Heat Waves Inspire Cockroaches to Fly

Heat Waves Inspire Cockroaches to Fly

Two joys of New York City summers apparently combine to create a third: heat and cockroaches lead to flying cockroaches.

An article in DNAInfo reveals one more reason why so many people flee the city in the sultry month of August. The outlet spoke to American Museum of Natural History’s resident bug expert, Louis Sorkin, who said that as heat indexes rise, American cockroaches “have more use of their muscles.” Namely, heat inspires the roaches to flex the muscles of their normally inactive little wings.

“The more activity, the more flight,” said Sorkin.

The American cockroach has long found a very comfortable home in the Big Apple, with its abundance of garbage and dark crevices. And while the city’s human population has been wilting under a nearly week-long heat wave, abandoning outdoor parks and sidewalks for the shelter of air-conditioned apartments, cockroaches have come to life.

Ken Schumann, an entomologist at Bell Environmental Services, told DNAInfo that “In hot steam tunnels, something with the temperature and the humidity encourages them to fly. When it’s warm and steamy that seems to be what they like.”

While the thought of flying cockroaches is certainly enough to send a shiver down your spine, take heart. Schumann clarified that the insects don’t exactly take flight with the same ease as, say a robin or a butterfly. The cockroach’s flight is more of a descent from a high point to a low point.

“It’s almost like they just glide down,” Schumann told DNAInfo.

While the revelation of flying cockroaches may mean big business for the city’s exterminators, there’s little chance the insects will ever truly be tamed.

Cockroaches have been around for 300 million years. Their ability to adapt even allowed them to survive the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs.

Source : www.seeker.com

First butterfly survey at Silent Valley National Park

First butterfly survey at Silent Valley National Park

Being one of the largest havens of butterflies and odonates in the nation, the Silent Valley National Park here will witness a first of its kind survey of its unique Lepidopteran fauna beginning Friday.

The four-day exercise is being done by the national park authorities with the involvement of the Travancore Natural History Society.

Apart from home to 400 species of moths and 96 species of butterflies, the Silent Valley is the end point of annual migration of butterflies from Coorg Hills and major points in the Western and Eastern Ghats. Every winter, thousands of butterflies of Alabatross species migrate to Silent Valley and return by the end of the season.

According to Wildlife Warden Shilpa V. Kumar, at least 18 species of butterflies in the Silent Valley are endemic and extremely rare. Among them, eight enjoy protected status under the Indian Wildlife Act. The survey will help gather more information apart from improving facilities for the butterflies and odonates in the national park, which is also home to the endangered lion-tailed macaques.

The first such time

“This is the first time a combined butterfly and odonate survey is being done at the national park. The invertebrates of this unique forest ecosystem are less studied and require more attention. This survey will be definitely adding to the database and fill in knowledge gaps on Indian butterflies,” said Ms. Shilpa in an interaction with The Hindu .

“Butterflies are essential part of any natural ecosystem. They are beneficial insects as they are pollinators and ecological indicators. The presence of odonates also can be taken as an indication of good ecosystem quality,” she said.

The survey will begin on August 12 with a formal meeting at Mukkali, where the invited participants, researchers, and experts will be briefed about the strategy and survey methodology. After the meeting, the delegates will be taken to seven base camps inside the park. These base camps are strategically located covering all the elevations and habitats of the region.

The formal fieldwork begins on August 13 and extends to August 14. The survey team will be lead by V.C. Balakrishnan, Kiran C.G., Balchandran, and other experts from Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Source :www.thehindu.com
Author :K.A. Shaji

BNHS workshop on insects in Raj Bhavan park

BNHS workshop on insects in Raj Bhavan park

Nagpur: For the first time, the Rajbhavan Biodiversity Park will now be open for students to explore and study about the insect world. The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) is starting special workshops on butterfly and insects called ‘Creepy-Crawly/Flyer’. During the workshop, interaction program will be held to explain life cycle of various species of common insects, butterflies, spiders and dragonflies, and their role in the ecosystem. Students will also be taken to field trips at the Biodiversity Park to record their observations.

BNHS officials said that the park, developed in 30 hectare area of Raj Bhavan, offers an excellent opportunity for nature education and conservation. “The insect world is the largest life group but also the least explored. In this workshop, students will get a chance to learn about their behavior,” they added.

The workshop will be held every Saturday starting from August 13. “In August and September, we will focus on insects and butterflies. Later, workshops will be held on herpetology and ornithology,” said BNHS official. The fees for 40-50 students along with two teachers will be Rs200. For more details, schools can contact — 9552033122.

Source :Times of India

Diversity of indoor insects, spiders adds to life’s luxuries in high-income neighborhoods

Diversity of indoor insects, spiders adds to life’s luxuries in high-income neighborhoods

Here’s something new for real estate agents to boast about in posh neighborhoods: houses with a bigger variety of insects and spiders.

Maybe that’s not the best selling point. But what’s called a “luxury effect” appeared among more than 10,000 arthropod samples collected from the insides of 50 houses in urban and suburban Raleigh, N.C. Depending on the house, arthropods from 24 to 128 distinct scientific families showed up, says entomologist Misha Leong of the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Houses on city blocks with higher average incomes tended toward greater diversity and houses on low-income blocks often had less, she and her colleagues report August 3 in Biology Letters. An average home had more than 100 arthropod species.

Other researchers have linked wealth with greater diversity of a home’s (outdoor) birds, lizards, bats and plants. As far as Leong knows, however, this is the first evidence of arthropod variety as a perk of wealth.

Researchers didn’t try to measure the abundance of arthropods but looked at the diversity. Many of the arthropod roommates found in the great indoors are so harmless that homeowners had never heard of them. Gall midge flies showed up in 100 percent of houses studied, and dark-winged fungus gnats lived in 96 percent. Both were more common than Blattidae cockroaches (in 74 percent of homes).

Source : www.sciencenews.org
Author : Susan Milius

Newly discovered big-headed ants use spines for support

Newly discovered big-headed ants use spines for support

The newest and thorniest members of a diverse ant family may have extra help holding their heads high.

Found in the rainforest of Papua New Guinea, Pheidole drogon and Pheidole viserion worker ants have spines protruding from their thoraxes. For many ant species, the spiky growths are a defense against birds and other predators. But Eli Sarnat and colleagues suggest the spines might instead be a muscular support for the ants’ oversized heads, which the insects use to crush seeds. The heads “are so big that it looks like it would be difficult to walk,” says Sarnat, an entomologist at the Okinawa Institute of Science & Technology Graduate University in Japan.

Micro‒CT scans of worker ants with larger heads revealed bundles of thoracic muscle fibers within spines just behind their heads. Worker ants with smaller heads did not have muscles in their spines, the researchers report online July 27 in PLOS One. More research is needed to establish the spines’ function and understand why they evolved, Sarnat says. While buff spines may support big heads, hollow spines probably keep predators at bay, the researchers suspect.

Researchers named the ants after two fearsome dragons, Drogon and Viserion, in the popular book and TV series Game of Thrones.

Source : www.sciencenews.org
Author : Cassie Martin

This monsoon, adopt natural ways to keep mosquitoes at bay

This monsoon, adopt natural ways to keep mosquitoes at bay

With the monsoon going on, the threat of dengue is looming large and people are adopting all types of measures to ward off mosquitoes. Experts from city have also suggested the use of some plants that help in keeping mosquitoes away.

A city-based naturopathy expert said lemongrass had a citrusy scent that is unbearable to insects. “Placing crushed lemongrass leaves in window sills will shoo away mosquitoes from entering your house,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sheenam, a nursery owner, said many people were buying marigold these days as they were also said to be helpful in warding off mosquitoes. “Usually used as ornamental plants, marigolds are also effective in avoiding mosquitoes from coming near your homes. This plant contains a compound called Pyrethrum that is commonly used as an ingredient in store-bought insect repellents. It’s best to place marigold at the entrances of your homes to avoid mosquitoes from coming in,” she added.

Awareness campaign

A community health centre at Sahnewal held a camp to create awareness regarding dengue. SMO Dr JP Singh said people should not let water stagnate around their houses as it acts as a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

He advocated people to observe dry day on every Friday by drying their coolers. Pamphlets were distributed among public to make them aware regarding the do’s and don’ts.

Symptoms :
The symptoms of dengue include high fever, severe headaches, joint and muscle pain, vomiting, skin rash and mild bleeding.

Precautions :
Mosquito repellents and creams should be used
Anti-mosquito sprays should be used daily, especially behind the curtains and below tables
Water from the pots kept in the drawing rooms should be changed every week
Don’t keep uncovered utensils, pots, tyres etc on the roof top or in open
Don’t allow fresh water to store near houses

Plants that will keep mosquitoes away :
Citronella
Lemongrass
Mint and Tulsi
Basil and Rosemary
Marigold

Source : www.tribuneindia.com
Author : Manav Mander

Genetic roots of insect’s waterproof coating could lead to innovative pest control

Genetic roots of insect’s waterproof coating could lead to innovative pest control

When we knocked out spidey in adult flies, the flies exhibited several striking features: their lifespan was shortened by about 50 percent, they lost almost all of their waxy coating and flies frequently got stuck to the sides of the plastic vials and were unable to free themselves,” said Yew, an assistant researcher based in the Pacific Biosciences Research Center of UH Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology.
“This last feature was reminiscent of the comic book character Spider-Man, which is why we named the gene spidey.”
Spidey is important for regulating levels of a steroid hormone, which maintains wax-producing cells. This hormone was already known to play a crucial role in the development and metamorphosis of fly larvae. The researchers did not expect that steroid hormones would play such a central role in maintaining adult tissues, such as the wax-producing cells.
“We did this work in vinegar flies, which is a major model organism,” said Yew. “From here, perhaps we can bridge to pest species.”Yew and her colleagues now plan to knock out spidey in pest species like Oriental, Mediterranean and melon fruit flies, which are a major threat to agriculture, and possibly mosquitoes, which can carry human diseases, to see if they lose their waterproofing ability like the vinegar flies. She says it would be at least four more years of more research, testing and government approvals before the discovery could be used as a pest control.

Source: www.sciencedaily.com


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