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1. Malaria parasites secrete substance to attract mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are naturally drawn to those infected with malaria due to a substance that is secreted by malaria parasites, eliciting a smell that is only noticeable to mosquitoes, according to researchers at Stockholm University, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

The substance, known as HMBPP stimulates human red blood cells to release a concoction of carbon dioxide and volatile compounds, giving off an aroma that is irresistible to mosquitoes. It also causes the mosquitoes to eat more blood.

This causes these mosquitoes to acquire a more severe malaria infection as higher numbers of parasites are consumed and consequently more are reproduced.

"HMBPP is a way for the malaria parasite to hail a cab, a mosquitoe, and successfully transfer to the next host," Noushin Emami from Stockholm University said.

It might be possible to create synthetic versions of HMBPP to develop mosquito-attracting fragrance to lure and wipe out the insects.

2. Compound in Brazilian peppertree berries can fight against superbugs

Scientists at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia have found that compounds in Brazilian peppertree berries can battle against deadly superbugs. Usually used to treat skin conditions, the plant was found to be able to fight off potentially lethal infections such as MRSA.

The team found that the peppertree compounds worked by "disarming" the bugs instead of killing them. The flavone compounds repressed the gene that allows the bacteria from communicating with one another, therefore stopping the infection.

The approach is known as quorum quenching, which potentially offers doctors a far better method for fighting infections such as pneumonia as flavone does not affect friendly bacteria, narrowing the opportunity for pathogens to develop resistance.

“It essentially disarms the MRSA bacteria, preventing it from excreting the toxins it uses as weapons to damage tissues,” said Cassandra Quave, assistant professor of biology at Emory.

“The body’s normal immune system then stands a better chance of healing a wound."

3. Japanese researchers develop goggles to detect glaucoma

A medical device shaped like a pair of goggles that can diagnose glaucoma has been developed by a team of researchers from Kansai University and Osaka Medical College.

The device comprises sensors that measure eyeball movement, which can accurately detect if there is partial vision loss and which part of the vision has been lost. The checks are done about 60 times, taking five minutes for each eye.

According to tests done on 10 glaucoma patients and 10 healthy people, the team said that the data were as accurate as those from checks conducted in darkrooms.

The team will be developing a new model in co-operation with Syowa, a machine parts company and begin testing the new device in medical care institutions in the beginning of April, with the aim of commercialising them in autumn 2018.

4. Exchanging bacteria to fight body odour

Chris Callewaert from the University of California, San Diego has developed a method to get rid of body odour. After meeting a pair of identical twins - one of whom had bad body odour - Callewaert suspected that the microbiome of the twins' armpits might be responsible for their personal scents. 

Callewaert asked the twin with body odour to wash his armpits with antibacterial soap every day for four days and asked the twin without body odour to refrain from washing for four days. He then collected the dead skin from the twin without body odour and swabbed it on the armpits of the twin with body odour and the problem disappeared.

"The effects have persisted for over a year now," says Callewaert. "We're very happy with that." 

Callewaert and his colleagues have since repeated the procedure with 17 other pairs - not necessarily twins. 16 pairs saw improvements in body odour within a month, with half of the group having long-term improvements that lasted three months or more.

5. Copper-infused sheets and copper-covered surfaces reduces superbug infection in hospitals

As part of a 2016 Sentara Healthcare study, Sentara CarePlex Hospital in Hampton, US have changed white sheets on inpatient beds for copper oxide-infused fleece ones. The study, the largest of its kind, aimed to determine if these sheets and covering all hard-surface items with copper would fight off bacteria, reducing hospital-acquired infections.

It included other Sentara hospitals such as Sentara Leigh Hospital in Norfolk. After changing the sheets, the Hampton hospital saw a reduced rate of 83% in bacteria and 78% overall reduction in a host of multi-drug resistant organisms.

With its success, Sentara is looking into implementing the experiment in its Williamsburg location by March.

Cupron Medical Textiles, a Richmond-based company, produced the copper-infused bed linens, thermal blankets, patient gowns, towels, wash cloths and bath blankets. The hard surfaces were developed and manufactured by Norfolk-based EOS Surfaces. A 70s-era wing of the hospital served as a control wing. MIMS

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