Scientists engineer mosquitoes that can’t transmit malaria; Plus, later bedtimes raise odds for diabetes, and more health news

Scientists engineer mosquitoes that can’t transmit malaria

The fight against malaria could hinge on genetically engineered mosquitoes that have something called “gene drive.”

Researchers from the Transmission: Zero team at Imperial College London report that they have engineered mosquitoes that slow the growth in their gut of the parasites that cause malaria. This delay would mean the mosquito would reach its natural life span before the parasite would reach the mosquitoes’ salivary glands. So a bite wouldn’t spread the disease.

In the lab, this dramatically reduced the spread of malaria.

Last year, malaria infected 241 million people, killing 627,000 of them, mostly children younger than age 5 in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Losing weight may help slow arthritis

Losing excess weight may not only help prevent knee arthritis, but also slow its progression in people who already have the condition, a recent study suggests.

Researchers found that among over 9,000 middle-aged and older adults, those who managed to shed some extra weight benefited their knees in two ways: They were less likely to develop knee arthritis over the next several years; and if they already had knee arthritis, the joint damage progressed more slowly.

It has long been known that excess pounds are a risk factor for developing knee arthritis. And when people with the condition are overweight or obese, they are encouraged to lose weight to help ease their pain.

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Reusing contact lenses raises odds for rare eye infection

Although wearing reusable contact lenses is generally safe, it can be associated with a greater risk of a rare eye infection, new British research shows.

In the study, people who wore reusable contact lenses were nearly four times more likely to develop the infection called Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK) than those who wore daily disposable lenses. Risks increased for those wearing them overnight or leaving them in while in the shower.

“In recent years, we have seen an increase of Acanthamoeba keratitis in the [United Kingdom] and Europe, and while the infection is still rare, it is preventable and warrants a public health response,” said lead author Dr. John Dart, of University College London’s (UCL) Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

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Traffic-related air pollution may impact women more

The impact of breathing diesel exhaust fumes may be more severe among women than men, according to a study presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress 2022, held from Sept. 4 to 6 in Barcelona, Spain.

Hemshekhar Mahadevappa, Ph.D., from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, and colleagues examined sex-related differences in plasma profile in response to low, real-world concentrations of diesel exhaust. Analysis included data from five male and five female healthy, never-smokers who were exposed to either filtered air or diesel exhaust (20, 50, 150 μg PM₂.₅/m³) for four hours, with a four-week washout period between each exposure.

The researchers found that the abundance of 52 proteins in men and 153 proteins in women were significantly altered in plasma following exhaust exposure versus filtered air.

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Late bedtimes could raise your odds for diabetes, heart trouble

If you’re constantly burning the midnight oil, you may be setting yourself up for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

When compared with folks who go to bed early and wake with the sun, night owls are more likely to be insulin-resistant, a new study finds. When the body doesn’t respond well to the hormone insulin, blood sugar can build up in your bloodstream, eventually leading to type 2 diabetes.

What’s more, “night owls” get less exercise and burn less fat than “early birds,” allowing fat to build up in the bloodstream, which can set the stage for heart disease.

The study demonstrates the importance of the timing of sleep in addition to duration and quality of sleep, said Dr. Seema Khosla.

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New drug eases severe eczema in young kids

Sonia Dhaliwal knows exactly how bad childhood eczema can get.

That’s because her young daughter, Ariah Nihal Khan, has struggled with a severe case of the skin condition ever since she was a baby.

Ariah’s symptoms were relentless and debilitating until the age of 3. They included rashes, skin discolorations all across her face, eyelids, hands and knees, and itching so bad that “she would literally wake up screaming and crying with blood spots from scratching,” Dhaliwal said.

Finally, Ariah found relief in a monoclonal antibody medication that a new study has found both effective and safe for children as young as 6 months.

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What draws mosquitoes to people’s skin?

Just as a person might be drawn to a particular scent, so, too, are mosquitoes.

The pesky insects may be attracted to a chemical cocktail of odors emanating from the skin, according to a new study.

The draw is a combination of carbon dioxide plus two chemicals, 2-ketoglutaric and lactic acid, researchers said. The chemical cocktail not only causes a mosquito to locate and land on its victim, but it encourages probing to find blood.

The mixture appears to specifically attract female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which can be vectors of Zika, chikungunya, dengue and yellow fever viruses.

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