Ghana has become the first country in Africa to start protecting children against two of the continent’s deadliest infant diseases with simultaneous vaccinations.
Rotavirus, which causes diarrhoea, and pneumococcal disease kill more than 2.7 million children worldwide each year.
The project is backed by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation.
At the launch health minister Alban Bagbin said the programme marked a “major fight-back”.
“Our children have been dying from these vaccine-preventable diseases for too long,” he said.
When combined with existing programmes against polio, measles and tuberculosis, Mr Bagbin said Ghana is on track to meet its target to cut childhood mortality by two-thirds by 2015.
‘Tackling largest killers’
The chief executive of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi), Dr Seth Berkley, told the BBC the combined treatment has become possible thanks to adequate health facilities in Ghana, combined with sufficient stocks of vaccine, and robust international funding.
“[The programme] gets these vaccines together out to people who need them, and you can do one large social mobilisation to try to get the population to understand that we’re tackling these two largest killers,” Dr Berkley said.
Last year Gavi the secured supplies of the vaccines from major pharmaceutical companies at a large discount.
The organisation brings together the World Health Organisation, the UN’s children’s charity Unicef, the World Bank, vaccine companies and the charity set up by the Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
The start of the Ghana programme comes during what the WHO has described as World Immunisation Week.
Leafcutter ants (Acromyrmex and Atta) are known commonly as the labouring population of the insect world, often seen carrying green leaves through the tropical forests of the world. Though this is the common view of the majority of the worldwide population, they are hiding a secret that can be harnessed for the good of the overall world sustainability plans.
Leafcutter ants are talented farmers, cultivating fungi, and as such, bacteria to feed their colonies. The bacteria they grow in their fungal gardens naturally decomposes the leaves in the forest, converting dead litter into important nutrients that not only sustain the fungi but in turn the ants.
The emerging research, published in the ISME Journal and conducted by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, could be a useful aid in the production of biofuel.
Kristin Burnum, a bioanalytical chemist at the institution, says ”This research provides some of the first tangible details about the fascinating symbiotic relationship between leafcutter ants, fungi and bacteria.
“Understanding how bacteria turn plant matter into a source of energy in ant fungal gardens could also help improve biofuel production.”
These gardens, sowed by the ants, feature the Leucoagaricus gonglyophorus fungus, traditionally though of as the ants’ food, but the late 1990s revealed the various bacteria colonies growing in the gardens.
Frank Aylward of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Burnum and their co-authors travelled to a Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute near Gamboa to gather samples of fungal gardens tended by ant species Atta colombica and Atta cephalotes, which included samples of bits of leaves, ants, fungi and bacteria intermixed to provide a more accurate representation of the diversity of the gardens. This also allowed the researchers to better examine the entire community of bacteria living in the gardens, so they did not miss any bacterial species.
Proteins found involved a number of different metabolic pathways, including:
- Breaking down complex sugars that make plants tough and durable, but difficult to digest.
- Transporting sugars, allowing broken-down sugars to be used for energy.
- Making amino acids, the buildings blocks of proteins.
- Making vitamin B5, which is needed to both break down proteins, carbohydrates and fats and to make energy from nutrients.
“Our results show that calling these ‘fungal gardens’ is pretty misleading; ‘fungus-bacterial communities’ would be far more accurate,” Burnum says.
“Bacteria are not only integral residents of these communities, but they perform essential tasks that keep the communities - and the ants that help cultivate them - living.”
Next, the team plans to analyze the fungi, lipids and various metabolic products found in the gardens.
This study’s findings and future results could advance the work of scientists who are looking at fungal enzymes to make biofuel out of plants. The enzymes, or biological catalysts, of fungi are exceptionally talented at breaking down cellulose in plants, making them a good model for large-scale biofuel production.
Read more at Laboratory Equipment
Paul Ewald asks, Can we domesticate germs?
“We could get evolution working in the direction we want it to go, rather than always having to battle evolution as a problem.”
Dr Paul Ewald discuses directed evolution of Virus’s and Bacteria to create benificial bacteria as well as to reduce the the pathological potentcy of others.
Tracking the genetic pathway of a disease offers a powerful, new approach to drug discovery, according to scientists at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine who used the approach to uncover a potential treatment for prostate cancer, using a drug currently marketed for congestive heart failure. Their findings are published in the current online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“The science of genomics – the study of all of the genes in a person and how these genes interact with each other and the environment – has revealed many fundamental aspects of biology, including the mechanisms of diseases like cancer. But it has not yet been truly exploited to find new medicines to treat those diseases,” said Xiang-Dong Fu, PhD, professor of cellular and molecular medicine and senior author of the PNAS paper.
Fu, with colleagues at UC San Diego and elsewhere, describe a unique screening strategy that compares genes associated with specific disease phenotypes (traits) with small molecules capable of intervening with disease-linked gene-expression events. The high-throughput process, capable of analyzing large numbers of genes and drugs simultaneously, emphasizes investigation of the entire genetic pathway of the disease against a large set of internal controls, rather than its limited phenotype or any particular molecular or cellular target.
Historically, drug discovery has been driven by phenotype- or target-based methodologies.
“For 50 years, the standard phenotype approach emphasized the final outcome without worrying about the mechanism,” said Fu. “The process has produced some very good drugs, but researchers often didn’t know exactly how or why the drug worked. Aspirin is an example. It’s been around for more than a century, but we still don’t understand the mechanism in great detail.”
More recently, many drug designers have focused upon targeting particular components of a disease, such as a vital molecule or receptor involved in the pathogenic process. The approach has a stronger, more rational scientific basis, said Fu, but remains beset by two fundamental difficulties: “You can create a drug that disrupts a specific disease target, but you also run the risk of causing unforeseen, adverse side effects that might be worse than the disease. Second, there are many places inside of a cell that are essentially ‘undruggable.’ They are difficult, if not impossible, to intervene with.”
Egyptian scientists to make diabetes drug from bitter fruit
[CAIRO] Bitter gourd, a plant long held to have anti-diabetic properties, is to be turned into tablets that Egyptian scientists hope will provide an alternative to insulin injections.
A national pharmaceutical company and the National Research Centre (NRC) signed a contract last month for the manufacture of a drug based on an extract from the fruit, which is also known as balsam pear (Momordica charantia).
The deal follows research done by the Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Department of the NRC.
Souad El Gengaihi, professor of medicinal and aromatic plants at the NRC, and lead researcher on the new treatment, told SciDev.Net that balsam pear, which grows in Asia and parts of Latin America in hot, sandy locations, is traditionally used in Asian medicine.
“Its most basic use is to help with gastrointestinal issues, but many studies done in different countries have shown that it can help people who are coping with diabetes,” she said.
Traditionally known as desert melons. Bitter Gourd, or حنضل, grows all over south Sinai and is used medicinally by the Bedouin to treat arthritis, as well as other ailments.
[FIJI] Indo-Pacific nations stand to make millions of dollars from medical applications of resources from marine invertebrates such as sponges and soft corals, researchers say.
But they warn that better regulation of such resources is needed to ensure they are used sustainably.
Substances generated by some marine invertebrates have the potential to be used in drugs to treat diseases like cancer, and exploration for these resources is expected to rise in response to escalating demands for such drugs, said Miguel Costa Leal, biologist at the University of Aveiro in Portugal and lead author of a study in PLoS One (20 January).
NASA shows off new algae farming technique for making biofuel
Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae (OMEGA) is an innovative method to grow algae, clean wastewater, capture carbon dioxide and ultimately produce biofuel. Using treated sewage as a growth medium, OMEGA would not compete with agriculture for water, fertilizer or land. NASA’s OMEGA system consists of large flexible plastic tubes, called photobioreactors. Floating in seawater, the photobioreactors contain freshwater algae growing in wastewater. These algae are among the fastest growing plants on Earth.
(Phys.org) — NASA is clearly looking far into the future for a way to handle both human waste and a need for fuel on either long space flights or when attempting to colonize another planet. To that end, they’ve assigned life support engineer Jonathan Trent the task of coming up with a way to use algae to solve both problems at once. His solution is to use plastic bags floating in seawater as small bioreactors, containing wastewater, sunlight and carbon dioxide to grow algae that can be used as a means to create biofuel.
From the time Columbus discovered the new world in 1492, the connection of the new world and the old world and the transfer of biological material between these worlds profoundly changed, the scale, nature and political significance of exchanges and also the course of human development (Wynberg and laird 2009).
The Atlas Miller map
Wynberg, R. Laird, S. (2009) Bioprospecting, access and benefit sharing: revisiting the grand Bargin
Bioprospecting is only one part of the overall biodiversity conservation picture, and possibly quite a small part. Biodiversity is to be valued for many reasons, some of which relate to its uses and some of which do not (see Figure 1). As exciting as the prospect of new drug discovery may be, for both the potential health benefits and the potential financial returns, biodiversity conservation cannot be predicated upon this possibility alone.