World’s First Malaria Vaccine Gets Green Light From EU Drug Regulators (Source: Reuters)


LONDON, July 24 (Reuters) – The world’s first malaria vaccine got a green light on Friday from European drugs regulators who recommended it should be licensed for use in babies in Africa at risk of the mosquito-borne disease.

The shot, called RTS,S or Mosquirix and developed by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKlinein partnership with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, would be the first licensed human vaccine against a parasitic disease and could help prevent millions of cases of malaria in countries that use it.

Recommendations for a drug license made by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) are normally endorsed by the European Commission within a couple of months.

Mosquirix, also part-funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will also now be assessed by the World Health Organisation, which has promised to give its guidance on when and where it should be used before the end of this year.

Malaria killed an estimated 584,000 people in 2013, the vast majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 80 percent of malaria deaths are in children under the age of five.

Andrew Witty, GSK’s chief executive, said EMA’s positive recommendation was a further important step towards making the world’s first malaria vaccine available for young children.

“While RTS,S on its own is not the complete answer to malaria, its use alongside those interventions currently available such as bed nets and insecticides would provide a very meaningful contribution to controlling the impact of malaria on children in those African communities that need it the most,” he said in a statement.

Global health experts have long hoped scientists would be able to develop an effective malaria vaccine, and researchers at GSK have been working on RTS,S for 30 years.

Hopes that this shot would be the final answer to wiping out malaria were dampened when trial data released in 2011 and 2012 showed it only reduced episodes of malaria in babies aged 6-12 weeks by 27 percent, and by around 46 percent in children aged 5-17 months.

EMA’s recommendation is that the shot should nevertheless be licensed for use in babies in the full age range covered in the trials — from 6 weeks to 17 months.

Some malaria specialists have expressed concern that the complexities and potential costs of deploying this first vaccine when it only provides partial protection make it less attractive and more risky.

However Joe Cohen, a GSK scientist who has led the development of Mosquirix since 1987, said on Friday he has no doubt the vaccine could significantly reduce the toll of sickness and death caused by the malaria among African children.

“I have absolutely no reservations in terms of rolling this vaccine out,” he told Reuters. “Why? Because the efficacy, when translated into cases averted and deaths averted, is just tremendous. It will have an enormously significant public health impact.”

(Editing by Alison Williams)

This Is What Happens To Your Body When You Get A Mosquito Bite (Source: Huffington Post)


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It’s the height of summer, and naturally we’re going on hikes, camping trips and hanging out in our backyards. And the mosquitoes are loving it.

On warm weather days around dusk and dawn, mosquitoes come out to play and bite unsuspecting humans everywhere (some people are actually genetically predisposed to attract mosquitos, according to one study).

According to Jonathan F. Day, a professor of entomology at the University of Florida, mosquito bites happen when a female mosquito probes the skin with her mouth and finds a capillary bed — meaning a network of capillaries that supply blood flow to veins and arteries — close to the skin’s surface.

“As part of this probing process, the mosquito releases saliva under the host’s skin at the site of each probe,” Day explained. “The saliva contains proteins, which the host’s immune system sees as foreign substances.”

This causes an immediate immune response at the site of the bite and that’s how you end up with a hot, itchy raised welt.

Although most mosquito bites just lead to a bump and few itchy days, mosquitos can cause severe allergic reactions and even carry disease. And how do you know if your mosquito bite is something more? We’ve got you covered:

‘Tis the Season for… Ticks states that every year, 300,000+ new cases of Lyme disease are reported to the CDC.  In fact, Lyme disease is one of the fastest growing bacterial infections in the USA today.  There has been over a 100% increase in Lyme disease cases in the past 10 years alone according to Billy Finch in a recent article posted on  Lyme disease is on the increase along with other tick borne illnesses, like Rocky Mountain Fever, Heartland virus, and Babesia.

Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  And today that is still true.  Because it mimics so many different diseases, Lyme disease is often called the “Great Immitator.”  Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed as common diseases like the flu to less common and more frightening diseases like Parkinson’s Disease and Lupus.

As we start into the late summer season, we are about to enter “Tick Season.”  Most ticks, based on their natural life cycle, make a resurgence  in late August/early September so the time to begin prevention is now.

As we look forward to fall, football, and other cooler weather pursuits, here is a look at some myths and facts about ticks:

MYTH:  Once you’ve been bitten by a tick you’re infected.

FACT:  A tick must be attached to your body for 24 hours before it can infect you, your children, or your pets.  Not ALL ticks carry disease, but to be on the safe side it’s best to remove them ASAP with tweezers or needle-nose pliers and keep an eye out for early symptoms of tick borne illnesses.  It’s an old wives tale that you can remove a tick with perfume, alcohol, or Vaseline.

MYTH:  Ticks fall from trees.

FACT:  Ticks attach to the lower extremities of your body.  They have an innate urge to crawl UP your body, and not down.  If you find a tick on your head that means it has been there a while.  If you are an outdoorsy person, check yourself frequently for ticks.

MYTH:  Ticks die out in the winter so I only need to worry about the warmer months.

FACT:  Ticks remain active year round.  There is no “off season” for ticks.  However, because of their natural life cycle we see them start to make a strong come back in the late summer/early fall.

MYTH:  I can’t do anything to prevent ticks in my outdoor spaces so I just won’t worry about it.

FACT:  There are treatments we can provide to help you manage and eliminate your tick population.  At Mosquito Squad of Birmingham we offer mosquito barrier spray services which kills mosquitoes, mosquito eggs, adult fleas and adult ticks.  We also provide tick tubes as one of our services.  Our tick tubes are strategically placed biodegradable tubes designed eliminate ticks as soon as they hatch.

If you would like more information about our tick elimination services please call us at 205.380.7755.

AL.COM: Mosquitoes of Alabama: What makes them tick, makes you itch, and what you can do about it

Dennis Pillion | dpillion@al.comBy Dennis Pillion |
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on July 15, 2015 at 7:00 AM, updated July 15, 2015 at 7:32 AM

Each and every time you go outdoors in Alabama during the summer, you’re likely to be confronted by a ravenous animal, thirsty for your blood, that kills about 700,000 people every year worldwide.

That animal, if it’s female, would like nothing better than to suck up so much of your blood that her abdomen distends and swells more than twice its normal size, giving her enough nutrients to create around 200 eggs. After a day or two of digestion, she can deposit those eggs in any handy source of standing water, and in a little more than a week, both she and her children will be on the hunt, searching out another meal to keep the cycle going.

The animal is of course the mosquito, which can range from annoying pest to deadly disease carrier depending on your location. Alabama, with its richness of ecosystems and geography, is home to about 60 species of mosquito, according to Auburn University entomologist Derrick Mathias, but that’s just a drop in the worldwide bucket.

Mathias said the best estimate is that we share the planet with around 3500 distinct species of mosquito, and he’s spent much of his career studying them. Mathias studied mosquitoes in the Pacific Northwest and in Kenya before taking a job at Auburn last year. He even got a Masters degree in public health in addition to his PhD in entomology to better understand the disease-spreading capability of mosquitoes and ticks.

Though there are many species of mosquito, not all of them are after your blood, he said. Male mosquitoes do not feed on blood. That’s only necessary for females who are preparing to lay eggs.

Some species of mosquito need only plant nectar to complete their life cycles. Some are actually considered beneficial because they feast on other mosquito larvae early in their life cycle and then live on plant nectar as adults.

Mathias said many species rarely come into contact with humans because they live deep in woods or wetlands where people don’t often go. Some species that do require a “blood meal” prefer birds over mammals, though most are fairly opportunistic.

Some are vectors for diseases like malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, and West Nile virus. Some carry the diseases but haven’t been shown to transmit them to humans. Some are non-carriers.

An invasive pest

One of Alabama’s most annoying and blood-thirsty species wasn’t even found in this hemisphere 40 years ago. Mathias said the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), is an invasive, imported species that didn’t reach the southeast United States until the mid-1980s.

Recent research has traced the arrival of the Asian tiger mosquito to shipments of used tires that arrived in Houston from Japan and other Asian countries about 30 years ago. The mosquito larvae survived the journey in tiny pools of standing water among the tires.

“What makes (the Asian tiger) different is that they don’t need much water at all,” Mathias said. “They’re really well-adapted to small containers.”

The Asian tiger mosquito has out-competed and largely replaced the so-called “yellow fever mosquito” (Aedes aegypti), in Alabama, Mathias said. While it’s tempting to celebrate the absence of yellow fever mosquitoes in the state, the Asian variety can carry most of the same diseases as its African cousin (which was also an imported species in Alabama), and tends to live in close contact with humans.

Unlike some species of mosquitoes, which prefer deep woods, the Asian tiger mosquito feels right at home in suburban areas and prefers feeding on mammals, especially those who live in two-story ranch houses with clogged gutters, stagnant bird baths or flower pots that collect water laying around. It has distinctive (as mosquitoes go) black and white strips on its legs and body, with a white stripe down its back.

Controlling the beast

Despite a number of interesting high-tech research studies into flying pest control, the best recommended tactics for mosquito control are the simple ones we’ve heard for years.

  • Eliminate pools of standing water around your home that they use to lay their eggs.
  • Avoid outdoor exposure in the hours around dawn and dusk.
  • Wear repellents with DEET, long sleeves and pants, and bright-colored clothing if you do go out in mosquito country.
  • Patch window screens or other gaps that may allow mosquitoes into your home.

Mathias said that mosquito eggs can hatch in about a week, depending on the species, so he would turn empty any bird baths or pools of standing water twice a week. For ponds or containers you can’t empty, several larvicides are available, usually in pellet form, that can kill larvae or pupae before they reach adulthood.

What’s in your insecticide?

Several local governments throughout Alabama spray for mosquitoes during the peak season, summer. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the most common adulticide is called permethrin, which is sprayed from a truck or dropped from a plane. EPA says that 9 to 10 million acres of land annually are treated with permethrin each year. Permethrin is the most common of a class of similar insecticides called pyrethroids.

Pyrethroids are meant to be applied via ultra-low volume (ULV) aerosol sprays, to target and kill adult mosquitoes in the air, so it’s most effective during peak mosquito hours around dusk.

According to EPA, pyrethroids are not believed to pose “unreasonable” risks to human health or the environment, but are toxic to marine life and bees. One woman has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Birmingham, claiming its mosquito spraying program was killing beneficial pollinators like bees and butterflies.

Mathias said that “off-target” impacts should be considered in mosquito spraying programs, or for people who use private services or purchase their own insecticides.

“It’s really a balancing act,” Mathias said. “Is it worth spraying or not? If you want butterflies in your garden, maybe it’s not.”

Mathias said some mosquitoes in Alabama have developed resistance to insecticides. Insecticide resistant mosquitoes are a particular concern in tropical areas where malaria kills hundreds of thousands of people every year.

Natural solutions

For those who don’t want to wage chemical warfare in their backyards, there are a number of natural predators or deterrents to mosquitoes that may help keep the populations in check, though possibly not enough to host a 7 p.m. dinner party on your back deck without expecting a few extra guests.

One of the most frequently mentioned mosquito predators, the bat, has been shown in laboratory tests to eat huge numbers of mosquitoes in relatively short periods of time. It’s much less certain, however, that bats can eat enough mosquitoes fast enough to be a one-stop solution to a pest problem.

There are several commercially available bat houses homeowners can purchase to provide habitat for voracious insectivores. Several species of birds eat mosquitoes as well, so having them around couldn’t hurt either, and if you have a pond, certain species of fish feed readily on mosquito larvae.

There are also a number of aromatic plants which are thought to repel mosquitoes or mask the smell of nearby people, including citronella, basil, lemon balm, mint, rosemary, marigolds, and geraniums.

High-tech options

While the simplest mosquito control methods can be the most effective, there are some new emerging techniques, including genetically modified mosquitoes. Florida-based company Oxitec is developing genetically-modified mosquitoes to infiltrate natural populations with less desirable traits.

According to the Oxitec web site, the company engineered a “friendly” male Aedes aegypti mosquito that they release into the wild. The friendly mosquito mates with females of its species but produces offspring that do not survive to adulthood.

Florida officials are reportedly debating whether to try the GMO approach in the Florida Keys, where A. aegypti have begun developing resistance to pesticides and where diseases like dengue fever and chikungunya are more of a threat.

July 16, 2015: Mobile County Health Department Confirms 1 case of West Nile Virus

Source: Mobile County Department of Health
Source: Mobile County Health Department
MOBILE, Alabama – A case of human West Nile virus (WNV), which is a form of mosquito-borne encephalitis, has been confirmed by laboratory results, according to Dr. Bernard Eichold, Health Officer for the Mobile County Health Department.
The case is from the 36610 ZIP code area and involves a female patient in her 70s. The patient is being treated at a local hospital. This is the first human case reported in Mobile County this year, health officials said. Because of patient confidentiality laws, no other information is available about the case.
Humans with WNV and other mosquito-borne diseases often have symptoms of high fever, severe headache, nausea, stiff neck, confusion, muscle weakness, paralysis, disorientation, and seizures that are severe enough to require medical attention, Eichold said. In rare cases, WNV can cause coma or death. The seriousness of an illness may depend on a person’s health and age. WNV affects the elderly most severely, health data shows.
“The public should assume that there are mosquitoes carrying the disease throughout Mobile, not just in the ZIP code of the patient,” Eichold said. “Don’t let your guard down.”