In the lab: six innovations scientists hope will end malaria

2016-06-08 11:21:30

ARUSHA, Tanzania (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - After being abandoned as too ambitious in 1969, global plans to eliminate malaria are back on the agenda, with financial backing from the world's richest couple, Bill and Melinda Gates, and U.S. President Barack Obama.The Gateses aim to eradicate malaria by 2040 by doubling funding over the next decade to support the roll out of new products to tackle rising drug resistance against the disease.Their goal of permanently ending transmission of the disease between humans and mosquitoes is more ambitious than the Sustainable Development Goal of ending epidemic levels of malaria by 2030.They are also supporting a push to create the world's first vaccine against a parasite.Six innovations scientists are working on are:* New insecticides: Mosquitoes are becoming resistant to insecticides used to spray inside homes and in bed nets."There is no current insecticide that doesn't show insect-resistance at the moment," said Jed Stone, a spokesman for the UK-based Innovative Vector Control Consortium (IVCC).Indoor spraying of walls with insecticide -- which was used to wipe out malaria in the United States in the 1940s -- has fallen by 40 percent since 2012 due to resistance to older products and the high cost of newer ones. The IVCC is developing three new insecticides for use in indoor sprays and bed nets that kill insecticide-resistant mosquitoes. "The insecticides are virtually ready but it will take about five years to finally develop them," Stone said, adding that this largely involves registration with regulators. * A single-dose cure: A pill that would wipe out all parasites in the body could be available by 2019, the Gates Foundation says.Human trials of one candidate are planned following successful tests on mice, published in 2015. Existing drugs have to be taken for three days with the risk that people do not finish their medication, contributing to the development of drug-resistant malaria. They also only kill parasites at the asexual-stage where they cause fever but not at the sexual-stage where they are picked up by mosquitoes in blood.* Insecticide-treated wall liners: Scientists hope insecticide-treated wall liners, which look like wallpaper, will be more effective than spraying people's homes with insecticide every three to eight months. The wall liners kill mosquitoes that rest on them and can last for three years. Tanzania's National Institute for Medical Research is testing wall liners in 6,000 homes to see if they protect people from malaria. Results will be published in 2017.* Insecticide-embedded clothing: American soldiers have been wearing combat uniforms treated with permethrin, a synthetic insecticide, since 2010 to protect them against insect-borne diseases.The U.S. government's Walter Reed Army Institute of Research will test the effectiveness of treated combat uniforms and repellent creams in July on Tanzanian soldiers who often catch malaria when working at night as peacekeepers.* A vaccine: This is a big one, given vaccines success in eliminating smallpox, polio and measles in many countries. More than 30 malaria vaccines are under development. The Mosquirix vaccine, discovered in 1987, is a decade ahead of other candidates but, to date, it only halves the number of bouts of malaria young children suffer.The World Health Organization is seeking funding for a pilot program to administer Mosquirix to 400,000 to 800,000 African children. The results will be used to make a decision on whether to use the vaccine more widely. * GM mosquitoes: Scientists have genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes by adding genes that block the development of the malaria parasite inside the insect and prevent it from being transmitted to people.Scientists have also genetically modified mosquitoes to make them infertile, so that they die out. But many are cautious about the unforeseen consequences of this."When people imagine a malaria end game scenario, GM mosquito technology would be incredibly powerful because it doesn't rely on a robust health system in order to go in and disrupt transmission of the parasite," said Martin Edlund, chief executive of Malaria No More, referring to war-torn countries like South Sudan.The International Center for Journalists and Malaria No More provided a travel grant for this report (Reporting by Katy Migiro; Editing by Katie Nguyen; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)

General Mills recalls flour over possible link to E.coli outbreak

2016-06-01 08:16:40

General Mills Inc (GIS.N) on Tuesday issued a voluntary recall of about 10 million pounds of flour, saying it was working with health officials to investigate an outbreak of E. coli that had sickened 38 people in 20 U.S. states.The bacteria strain behind the outbreak has not been found in any of General Mills' Gold Medal, Wondra and Signature Kitchens flour or their manufacturing plant, the company said. Consumers have not contacted it directly to report any illnesses, the Minneapolis-based company added."Out of an abundance of caution, a voluntary recall is being made," General Mills said.U.S. and state health authorities are probing an outbreak of E. coli O121 from Dec. 21 to May 3, General Mills said. The potentially deadly strain can cause bloody diarrhea and dehydration, mostly among the elderly, very young children and people with weak immune systems.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that about half of the 38 sickened people reported cooking with flour before becoming ill, General Mills said. About half of this group reported using a General Mills brand, a company spokesman said in a phone interview. Additional recall information can be found at www.generalmills.com/flour.Kashi Co, owned by General Mills' rival Kellogg Co (K.N), also announced a recall of one variety each of its granola and granola bars on Tuesday. Kashi said the bars contained ingredients made from sunflower seeds distributed by SunOpta (SOY.TO) that had the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.The bacteria can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. SunOpta this month recalled some of its sunflower kernel products produced at its Crookston, Minnesota facility between Feb. 1 and Feb. 19, citing the potential to be contaminated with listeria. (Reporting by Melissa Fares in New York and Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Chang and Maju Samuel)

Nigeria should act with caution in oil-producing Delta-state governor

2016-05-25 11:13:04

YENAGOA, Nigeria Nigeria's federal government should act with caution in the Niger Delta, where militants have been blowing up pipelines, as a military approach will not calm the situation, the governor of the Bayelsa state in the Delta said."The way forward is for all stakeholders to discuss the issues and the need for the federal government to tread with caution and not adopt military approach as a means to solve the problem," governor Henry Dickson said in a statement received on Wednesday after meeting executives from oil majors. (Reporting by Tife Owolabi; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Louise Heavens)

Review of S.C. police agency aimed at rebuilding trust after fatal shooting

2016-05-17 19:13:04

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. The U.S. Justice Department will immediately begin its review of the police department in the South Carolina city where distrust remains a year after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a white officer, federal officials said on Tuesday.The mayor and police chief in North Charleston requested the comprehensive assessment by the department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and said they welcomed the chance to improve the relationship between the police force and local community."It’s an opportunity for us to look at ourselves by having other people look at us," North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey told reporters at the formal announcement of the reform process.Racial tensions have endured in the city since patrolman Michael Slager killed motorist Walter Scott, 50, on April 4, 2015, firing eight times at Scott's back as he fled a traffic stop for a broken tail light. Slager was charged in state court with murder after cell phone video of the shooting taken by a bystander surfaced. But black residents have said they continued to be harassed and humiliated by law enforcement.The COPS Office will meet with local law enforcement and the community before issuing a public report in six to eight months with its findings of gaps or deficiencies in the department and specific recommendations to fix them, said Noble Wray, who leads the COPS Office's Policing Practices and Accountability Initiative.The office will issue subsequent reports to assess the North Charleston police department's progress in implementing the proposed reforms, Wray added. Federal officials emphasized the transparent nature of the process, which will take about two years. "Although this is a voluntary process, it is the eyes of the community that keeps this an accountable process," Wray said. North Charleston is the 11th U.S. city to take part in the program offered by the COPS Office, officials said. Other cities in the program include in Spokane, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, San Francisco and Fayetteville, North Carolina.The Justice Department last week announced a three-count indictment against Slager on federal charges, including a federal civil rights offense that accused him of excessive force in Scott's shooting. Slager has said he acted in self-defense. (Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Alan Crosby)

Hyperloop One raises funds, to test futuristic transport system this year

2016-05-11 04:52:05

LAS VEGAS Hyperloop One, a Los Angeles company working to develop the futuristic transportation technology, on Tuesday announced the closing of $80 million in financing and said it plans to conduct a full system test before the end of the year. A hyperloop would whisk passengers and cargo in pods through a low pressure tube at speeds of up to 750 miles per hour (1,207 km per hour).Maglev technology would levitate the pods to reduce friction in the city-to-city system, which would be fully autonomous and electric powered. Hyperloop One builds off a design by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who has suggested it would be cheaper, faster and more efficient than high speed rail projects, including the one currently being built in California. Speaking on the eve of the first demonstration test of the propulsion in the Las Vegas desert, Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd tried to dispel criticism that the technology is unproven and better suited for science fiction than practical use. "It's real, it's happening now, and we're going to demonstrate how this company is making it happen," he said at a press conference. He likened hyperloop technology to the emergence of the U.S. railroad system and the era of prosperity it ushered in. Lloyd also announced a competition to determine where the first Hyperloop One system should be built, with an announcement expected next year. Early applications could center around ports – possibly replacing the trucks and trains that carry cargo from ships to factories and stores. Executives in Hyperloop One, formerly known as Hyperloop Technologies, include Shervin Pishevar, a venture capitalist well known for his investments in innovative companies like Uber and Airbnb, and Brogan BamBrogan, a former SpaceX engineer. New investors include 137 Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Fast Digital, Western Technology Investment (WTI), SNCF, the French National Rail Company, a force behind high speed rail in Europe, and GE Ventures. BamBrogan said the company's engineering team is focused on finding efficiencies to reduce the cost of building a hyperloop."We want to deliver all the value that hyperloop can deliver - the safe, the efficient, the on demand, the fast. But, we want to deliver it at a cost basis that is absolutely transformative," he said. Hyperloop One has competition in the space, including Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, a crowdsourced company that last month signed an agreement with the Slovakian government to build a hyperloop connecting Slovenia with Austria and Hungary. (Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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