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Brazil tests GM mosquitoes to fight Dengue : Nature News & Comment


Brazil tests GM mosquitoes to fight Dengue Males with offspring-killing genes are replacing wild insects, say researchers. Helen Mendes 11 April 2012 RIO DE JANEIRO An article from SciDev.Net Scientists in Brazil say an experiment to reduce populations of the dengue-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito, by releasing millions of genetically modified (GM) insects into the wild, is working. More than ten million modified male mosquitoes were released in the city of Juazeiro, a city of 288,000 people, over a period of time starting a year ago.

Engineered males might mean fewer female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to spread Dengue fever. JAMES GATHANY/CDC

The results were released at a workshop in Rio last week (28–29 March), where the project's co-ordinator, Aldo Malavasi, said they were "very positive". "From samples collected in the field, 85 per cent of the eggs were transgenic, which means that the males released are overriding the wild population. This [should result] in the decrease of Aedes mosquitoes, and in the decrease of dengue transmission," he told SciDev.Net. Malavasi is also the president of Moscamed — the Brazilian firm that produced the mosquitoes. The mosquitoes, which carry a gene which causes their offspring to die before reaching adulthood, were originally developed by the British firm Oxitec. They have already been tested in Malaysia and the Cayman Islands, but this is believed to be the largest experiment in the wild to date.

Related stories Brazilian researchers

"We developed technology to efficiently create the transgenic insects here [in

protest budget cuts

Brazil], so we won't need to buy them from England in the future, reducing

Innovation is 'imperative,'

costs," Malavasi said.

says Brazil science minister Modified mosquitoes set to

The method has been approved by the Brazilian National Biosafety Technical

quash dengue fever

Committee, and will be used in other Brazilian cities. Ultimately, it is hoped the GM mosquitoes will lead to the eradication of dengue in areas where

More related stories

insect translocation is low, and substantially reduced elsewhere. Before releasing the mosquitoes, Malavasi said his team visited homes, schools and churches in Juazeiro to seek the permission of residents, and said nearly 90 per cent were in favour. Margareth Capurro, a biologist from the University of São Paulo, confirmed residents support of the experiment.



Brazil tests GM mosquitoes to fight Dengue : Nature News & Comment

"They were worried when they saw so many mosquitoes [being released], but we worked closely with them to explain the experiment," she told SciDev.Net. Mark Benedict, from the University of Perugia, Italy, said the results were promising. "The data indicates that the system is working as expected. We've seen no major issues with the way they are doing things, so I think it's very promising," he told SciDev.Net. Environmental advocates, including GeneWatch UK, have expressed concern over the potential of GM mosquitoes to survive and breed in the wild with unpredictable results.

Read more at SciDev.Net

Malavasi said he was confident the modified mosquitoes would be unable to produce viable offspring.

"But that doesn't mean that we are not careful. We are always running control tests," he said. Malavasi said it would take time for lower Aedes populations to be reflected in lower dengue transmission rates, and said the researchers have yet to survey local communities to assess dengue incidence. Nature


This article was originally published by on 10 April 2012.

Related stories and links From Brazilian researchers protest budget cuts 07 March 2012 Innovation is 'imperative,' says Brazil science minister 25 January 2012 Modified mosquitoes set to quash dengue fever 10 January 2012 Bacterium offers way to control dengue fever 24 August 2011

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2012-04-17 10:21 AM Aakash Pandey said: i dont think that genetics has been developed to the stage in modifying a whole



Research metrics penalise part-time women researchers - SciDev.Net

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Research metrics penalise part-time women researchers Helen Mendes 23 July 2012 | EN | ES

[CURITIBA, BRAZIL] The shortage of women in science stems in part from track record assessments that fail adequately to account for part-time status, career interruptions and teaching commitments, according to a study. Australian researchers used an ecological model to explore the mechanisms that drive women out of research careers. They argue that just as there is a minimum birth rate needed to sustain a population, so there is a minimum publication rate needed for building an effective research career. But the time spent on research does not strictly correlate with productivity and publication rates, the paper published in the July issue of Oikos says. Universities must be more aware that simply equating time spent on research to projected output for part-time and full-time academics is not realistic, it says.

Women scientists w ho w ork part-time may need better incentives to stay in research Flickr/USAID Images

For example, to build a successful research career, a part-time researcher working 50 per cent of the time might need more than simply twice as long as his or her full-time counterpart, due to the quality of time spent being diminished by intermittence and disruptions. Failure to appreciate this often means women, who take time out to start families, fall short of the critical publication threshold necessary for establishing research careers, the paper says. "There is this non-linear relationship in research which makes it difficult to become established, and drives women from research to teaching," thus limiting opportunities for academic promotion and job security, Kate O'Brien, a chemical engineer at the University of Queensland, Australia, and co-author of the study, told SciDev.Net. "Without direct action, this trend is set to continue," the paper warns. "Increasing assessment of university performance using research quality metrics developed for full-time uninterrupted employment is likely to reduce gender diversity within the research workforce, and so reduce the pool of talent from which researchers are drawn." The paper makes several recommendations to female researchers and universities, and suggests providing 'Return to Research' seed funding to women who take extended time off to care for their families before establishing their research careers. Miriam Díaz, a professor of ecology at the Universidad Francisco de Miranda in Coro, Venezuela, and member of the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD), suggests that to‌/research-metrics-penalise-part-time-women-researchers.html?utm_source=link&u‌



Research metrics penalise part-time women researchers - SciDev.Net

improve productivity levels, women should "have more training in writing papers and proposals". Mayra de la Torre Martínez, a Mexican biochemical engineer and vice-president of OWSD's Latin American branch, told SciDev.Net: "Women scientists here [in Mexico] have the same problems as women around the world: we do the work, but we are not recognized — to get a better position, we must have better projects than men. However, we are working to change this". Link to full paper

REFERENCES Oikos doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0706.2012.20601.x (2012) Printed on: Monday, August 6, 2012 13:20 © 2012 SciDev.Net…/research-metrics-penalise-part-time-women-researchers.html?utm_source=link&u…



Study notes strategies to lower HIV risk for sex workers - SciDev.Net

Science and De elopmen Ne


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Home > Heal h > HIV/AIDS > Ne


S d no e

a egie

o lo e HIV i k fo


o ke

Helen Mendes 4 April 2012 | EN

Female sex workers in low- and middle-income countries are nearly 14 times more likely to become infected with HIV than other women in these countries, according to a literature review by US scientists. The review was carried out by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and published in The Lance Infec io Di ea e journal (15 March). The authors analysed 102 previous studies representing almost 100,000 female sex workers in 50 developing countries. They found that in Asia, sex workers were 29 per cent more likely to be infected than other women in the region. In Africa and Latin America, sex workers were 12 times more likely to be infected than other women and India, the female sex worker community was at a massive 50-fold higher risk of HIV infection than the rest of the country's female population.

The study found countries w hich tackle the stigma of the disease have low er infection rates Flickr/Camera Rw anda

India, along with Kenya and Brazil have, however, made some inroads into reducing infection levels among sex workers. "We believe that these examples represent countries adopting necessary approaches," said Stefan Baral, the study's lead author. Brazil's National STD/AIDS P og amme works closely with sex workers to prevent new HIV infections. As well as running campaigns to promote prevention, Brazil offers free antiretroviral treatment. "Because of their vulnerability, sex workers are a priority group, and we have projects specifically for them," Juny Kraiczyk of the Brazilian Ministry of Health told SciDe .Ne . "We act to strengthen sex workers' networks" and this involves "programmes of peer education and prevention in prostitution areas," he said, adding that such strategies had also helped reduce the stigma associated with the disease that would otherwise discourage women from coming forward for testing and treatment. This need to destigmatise HIV infection led to Brazil turning down a US$40-million grant from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2005 because it included a clause condemning prostitution. "We work under the principle of not criminalising prostitution. We see these people as vulnerable, and not



Study notes strategies to lower HIV risk for sex workers - SciDev.Net

to be blamed for their increased risk. There are [other] factors, such as discrimination and poverty, which result in higher vulnerability for them," explained Kraiczyk. The Lance Infec io Di ea e study found that in India, the country's Avahan and Sonagachi programmes have successfully tackled a range of structural challenges, through community empowerment, campaigns to address stigma, and the targeting of high-risk sexual practices with prevention messages. "The disproportionate burden of HIV among sex workers ‌ emphasises the need to increase coverage by increasing scale of prevention programmes and decreasing barriers to access," the study stated. India is making the Avahan programme, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a national initiative. "Avahan has shared its approaches, tools, methods and strategies with the government, and many aspects have been incorporated into the national programme," Shelley Thakral, communications officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in India, told SciDe .Ne . Link to abstract Printed on: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 16:02 Š 2012 SciDev.Net


Google tool tracks dengue fever - SciDev.Net

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NEWS Google tool tracks dengue fever Helen Mendes and Kafil Yamin 8 June 2011 | EN | ES

An online tool that tracks local Internet searches could help health officials in developing countries respond more quickly to dengue fever outbreaks, according to a study. Researchers looked at web-based search data on dengue in Bolivia, Brazil, India, Indonesia and Singapore between 2003 and 2010 and found that search queries correlate well with actual dengue cases. The tool, Google Dengue Trends, was inspired by Google Flu Trends, a similar service developed in 2008 to detect flu outbreaks, according to Emily Chan, researcher at the US-based Children's Hospital Boston and the lead author of the article, published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases last week (31 May). The intention is to complement, rather than replace, traditional dengue surveillance, said Chan, adding that "it could serve as a stepping stone for prompting further investigation when there are unexpected increases in dengue-related searches".

Google Dengue Trends map showing minimal dengue intensity in India and Indonesia at the time of posting Google Dengue Trends

Chan said most traditional dengue surveillance systems depend on the recording of hospitalisations, which may be slowed down by bureaucracy and lack of resources. "In contrast, web search query data is available for analysis within a day," she said. Google Dengue Trends is freely accessible online so anyone interested in the dengue status of the five countries can access the data. It maps the search data on a scale from minimal to intense, picking up on people searching for more information about the disease, its symptoms or treatments. But since it depends on sufficient web search volume, its use may be limited in rural areas and developing nations that tend to have limited or no Internet access, the study says. Mario Navarro, an entomologist at the Federal University of Parana, Brazil, welcomed the tool. But he said that authorities in dengue-prone areas should always be prepared for outbreaks, and not become complacent if the tool shows few online searches. "Local governments might feel less pressured [when searches are low] and ease vector control. When people start to look for information, the problem is already there," he said. Last year, Indonesia had 150,000 cases of dengue fever and more than 1,300 deaths, according to the country's health ministry. Heri Yandi, a doctor at the Salak Public Hospital in Indonesia, said the tool could help health professionals make basic preparations to respond quickly to an outbreak. Individuals could also use the application to look up a location they were planning to travel to and "reschedule or arm themselves against the disease. So it could stave off casualties." Susi Indraswati, a medical worker at the in North Sumatra, stressed the need for early warning of dengue outbreaks, given that health agencies in rural areas can update case numbers as infrequently as once a month or year. "There are places where data are rarely updated and unreliable, one of them is Indonesia," Susi said, adding that the tool should pose a motivation for Indonesia's health institutions to keep their data reliable and up to date.

7/4/2011 9:11 PM


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