Zika Virus Used to Treat Aggressive Brain Cancer


A harmful virus that can cause devastating brain damage in babies could offer up a surprising new treatment for adult brain cancer, according to US scientists.

Until now, Zika has been seen only as a global health threat – not a remedy.
But latest research shows the virus can selectively infect and kill hard-to-treat cancerous cells in adult brains.

Zika injections shrank aggressive tumours in fully grown mice, yet left other brain cells unscathed.

Human trials are still a way off, but experts believe Zika virus could potentially be injected into the brain at the same time as surgery to remove life-threatening tumours, the Journal of Experimental Medicine reports.

The virus would need to be delivered directly to where it is needed in the brain
There are many different types of brain cancer. Glioblastomas are the most common in adults and one of the trickiest to treat.

They are fast growing and diffuse, meaning they spread through the brain, making it difficult to see where the tumour ends and the healthy tissue begins.

Radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery may not be enough to remove these invasive cancers.

But the latest research, in living mice and donated human brain tissue samples, shows Zika therapy can kill cells that tend to be resistant to current treatments.

It is thought that these glioblastoma stem cells continue to grow and divide, producing new tumour cells even after aggressive medical treatment.

Different, healthy stem cells are found in abundance in baby brains, which probably explains why regular Zika can be so damaging to infants, say the researchers.

Adult brains, however, have very few stem cells. This means Zika treatment should destroy only the cancer-causing brain stem cells without causing much collateral damage.

As an extra safety precaution, the team, from Washington University School of Medicine and the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, have already begun modifying the virus to make it more tame than regular Zika.

Researcher Dr Michael Diamond said: “Once we add a few more changes, I think it’s going to be impossible for the virus to overcome them and cause disease.

“It looks like there’s a silver lining to Zika. This virus that targets cells that are very important for brain growth in babies, we could use that now to target growing tumours.”
He hopes to begin human trials within 18 months.

Using viruses to fight cancer is not a new idea, but using Zika as the weapon of choice is.
UK scientists at the University of Cambridge are beginning similar trials with Zika.

Dr Catherine Pickworth, from Cancer Research UK, said: “This promising research shows that a modified version of the Zika virus can attack brain tumour cells in the lab.
“This could one day lead to new treatments for this particularly hard to treat type of cancer.”

Source: BBC News


It’s Mosquito Season. Here’s How to Prepare.


Buzzing mosquitoes, itchy bites, and spray-on repellents are all part of outdoor summer “fun,” and for some of us, they’re unavoidable. If you feel as if you have a huge mosquito target on your back — or arm, or leg — it’s not in your head. Here’s why, and what you can do about it.

Why Mosquitoes Prefer Some People Over Others

“The phenomenon does exist, and you can demonstrate that scientifically,” James Logan, head of the Department of Disease Control at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said of the insects’ apparent preference for some people. “You can also show that’s due to body odor.”

Mosquitoes hunt using all of their senses, but smell is a predominant factor. A higher metabolism, higher body temperature and more sweat make you more likely to be bitten. But a person’s scent is just one element. Mosquitoes are attracted to the lactic acid your body produces, the carbon dioxide you exhale and the natural bacteria that live on your skin.

“The good news is that these people smell normal, so they smell like a human being,” Professor Logan said. “The bad news is that they will probably always be that level of attractiveness.”

 Professor Logan and his team are studying the genetic reasons for this attraction, as well as natural repellents produced by people’s bodies.

“If we identify the genes that control the production of natural repellents and susceptibility to mosquitoes, we can develop a drug that would keep mosquitoes away rather than putting DEET on,” he said.

Keep Mosquitoes at Bay Before They Bite

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend using a repellent registered by the Environmental Protection Agency. The most popular and accessible form of E.P.A.-approved repellent is DEET, short for N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide.

You shouldn’t be fooled by higher DEET concentrations on repellent bottles, however. Unlike the SPF rating in sunscreens, higher concentrations of DEET don’t mean more protection. Instead, the higher the percentage of DEET in a repellent, the longer it will be effective before you have to reapply.

Janet McAllister, a research entomologist for the C.D.C.’s division of vector-borne diseases in Fort Collins, Colo., recommends visiting the E.P.A.’s repellent-finder website to choose the right one for your needs.

“If you’re going to be outdoors for eight hours, you might want to try a higher concentration repellent, but if you’re only outdoors gardening for maybe an hour or two, you could use a lower concentration,” Dr. McAllister said.

And those citronella candles — do they work?

“No,” Dr. McAllister said, “not unless you’re standing directly over the candle. It’s the smoke that repels them, not the citronella.”

“They’re very hard to fool,” she added. “Even if you’re standing next to a mosquito trap, they can still tell a live animal from not.”

Leigh Krietsch Boerner, science editor for The Wirecutter and The Sweethome, product review websites owned by The New York Times, recommends a “dry” insect repellent spray with 25 percent DEET.

“We don’t recommend using higher than 30 percent of DEET for anything,” Ms. Boerner said. She and The Sweethome team tested how different repellents dried, smelled and felt on the skin. They applied some to fabric to make sure it dried quickly, didn’t leave residue and didn’t stain clothing.

Dry versions typically spray on lightly and contain a small amount of cornstarch, which leaves your skin feeling dry after application and avoids that oily sensation that comes with other repellent sprays. The downside to dry sprays, however, is that cornstarch (or talc, in some sprays) can leave a white powder on clothing, but it can be easily brushed off, Ms. Boerner said.

Dr. Mark Fradin, a clinical associate professor of dermatology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has studied the efficacy of repellents. He recommends a three-pronged approach to prevention: avoid mosquitoes’ natural habitat, apply repellent to skin and apply repellent to clothing.

Similarly, when you’re applying repellent, don’t skimp. Many people treat it as if it has a “cloaking effect,” and that won’t protect you at all.

“A dot behind each ear or on each wrist will not set up a force field,” Dr. Fradin said. “If you skip a one-inch swath, they’ll find it.”

If you’re uncomfortable using DEET, Dr. Fradin recommends using two other repellents recommended by the C.D.C.: picaridin and lemon eucalyptus oil.

Treat Bites the Right Way

Even with preparation, you’re likely to get at least a few bites over the course of the summer, especially if you’re more prone to bites than others. When it comes to treatment, Dr. Fradin recommends ice, a low-potency hydrocortisone and simple patience.

“We try to dissuade people from using a topical Benadryl cream because of the risk of sensitivity or reaction,” he said. He also recommends staying away from caladryl and calamine lotions for the same reason. Many turn to them to alleviate itching, but these may be better options for skin irritation from something like poison ivy.

“I don’t think caladryl does much for insect bites,” Dr. Fradin said.

Should you have an intense reaction to a mosquito (or other insect) bite, prescription-strength steroids may be needed, and you should consult your doctor. You should try not to scratch, and instead gently tap the area around the bite to alleviate itching. After that, you just have to wait it out. Dr. Fradin offered one crumb of comfort.

“It will eventually stop itching,” he said.


Lyme Changes Things — Lyme Light

There is nothing more terrifying than feeling Lyme symptoms creep back up. It’s like being thrown into the back of a police car not knowing what I did wrong, or how long it will take me to escape prison this time. And escaping prison is exhausting! It has taken all my energy and focus, all […]

via Lyme Changes Things — Lyme Light

There’s an app for that?

Credit: Photo by Randy Wong LIVERMORE, Calif. — Add rapid, mobile testing for Zika and other viruses to the list of things that smartphone technology is making possible. Researchers at Sandia Nati..

via Testing for Zika virus: There’s an app for that — Scienmag: Latest Science and Health News