Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 27th 2016 Contents virus. Getting the fifth one could
control how dangerous the virus
is, he says.
Ladner and his team found the
virus inside a Culex mosquito
found in Guaico, Trinidad---hence
the name of the virus, Guaico
Culex. Culex mosquitoes are com-
mon across the US and spread
West Nile Virus. The study is part
of a larger project aimed at figuring
out what viruses, in addition to
Zika and yellow fever, could be
lurking inside mosquitoes and pos-
sibly waiting to spill over into peo-
ple. "Teams are going out all over
the world, collecting mosquitoes
and seeing what viruses are there,"
Ladner says. The goal is to learn
about these viruses before they
become a problem. (www.npr.org)
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, August 27, 2016
Human viruses are like a fine
chocolate truffle: It takes only one to
get the full experience.
At least, that s what scientists
thought until very recently. Now a new
study is making researchers rethink
how some viruses could infect animals.
A team at the US Army Medical
Research Institute of Infectious Diseases
has found a mosquito virus that s bro-
ken up into pieces. And the mosquito
needs to catch several of the pieces to
get an infection.
"It s the most bizarre thing," says
Edward Holmes, a virologist at the Uni-
versity of Sydney, who wasn t involved
in the study. It s like the virus is dis-
membered, he says.
"If you compare it to the human
body, it s like a person would have their
legs, trunk and arms all in different
places," Holmes says. "Then all the
pieces come together in some way to
work as one single virus. I don t think
anything else in nature moves this way."
Most viruses have simple architec-
ture. They have a few genes---say about
a half-dozen or so---that are packaged
up into a little ball, 1/500th the width
of a human hair.
"You can think of it like a teeny-
weeny tennis ball with spikes," Holmes
says. When the virus infects a cell, the
ball latches onto the cell s surface, opens
up and pops its genes into the cell.
Poof! The cell is infected. That s all
it takes. One ball, sticking to one cell.
But that s not the case for the Guaico
Culex virus. It has five genes. And each
one gets stuffed into a separate ball.
Imagine five tennis balls, each with a
different colour: a red tennis ball, a
blue one, a green one, a yellow one and
an orange one.
Then to get infected with the virus,
a mosquito needs to catch at least four
different coloured balls, researchers
write in the journal Cell Host &
Microbe. Otherwise the infection fails.
"The fifth ball seems to be optional,"
says Jason Ladner, a genomicist at
USAMRIID, who helped discover the
These are insect cells infected with the Guaico Culex virus. The different colours denote cells infected with
different pieces of the virus. Only the brown-coloured cells are infectious, because they contain the complete
virus. CELL PRESS
New virus breaks the rules of infection
"A gargle a day keeps gonorrhoea
away" is an unlikely slogan, but
researchers believe it could hold some
Recent studies have shown people
can carry the sexually transmitted infec-
tion in their throats for weeks or
months without symptoms.
And they could spread it to others
through unprotected oral sex.
So investigators are looking at
whether regular mouthwash might help
stop the silent spread and experts think
it is an idea that is worth exploring.
Gonorrhoea is a bacterium and it
can live in secretions in the throat as
well as the penis and vagina and is
spread by oral, anal and vaginal sex.
The disease---which was common in
the first half of the 1900s until the dis-
covery of an effective antibiotic treat-
ment---is seeing a resurgence.
Doctors are worried that the number
of new cases have been rocketing in
recent years. Latest figures from Public
Health England show that between
2012 and 2015 gonorrhoea infections
rose by 53 per cent, from 26,880 to
Medics are increasingly concerned
that the infection may eventually
become untreatable, following the
emergence of "super-gonorrhoea"---a
drug-resistant strain that can dodge
the usual antibiotic used to treat it.
Public Health England recently
detected an outbreak of azithromycin-
resistant gonorrhoea in northern Eng-
Fortunately, the strain can still be
treated with another antibiotic called
ceftriaxone, but PHE says there s no
room for complacency and it s mon-
itoring the situation carefully.
If azithromycin becomes ineffective
against gonorrhoea, there is no "second
lock" to prevent or delay the emergence
of ceftriaxone resistance and gonorrhoea
may become untreatable, they warn.
Condoms are the best way to stop
gonorrhoea spreading, but some experts
believe there may also be another
Gonorrhoea can persist in the throat
without symptoms and swap DNA with
other throat microbes that already know
how to dodge certain antibiotics.
Prof Christopher Fairley from
Monash University has been testing
the mouthwash theory in 58 male vol-
unteers. All of the men had detectable
levels of throat gonorrhoea at the start
of the trial.
He asked half of them to gargle and
swill for a minute with saltwater while
he gave the others a branded antiseptic
mouthwash, bought from a supermar-
ket, to use instead.
He retested them five minutes later
to see if the gargling had helped. It
appeared to, reducing the detectable
amount of bacteria significantly more
than the saltwater rinse.
Prof Fairley says more studies are
needed to check how long this effect
might last and what protection it might
Dr Gwenda Hughes, Head of the
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
Section at Public Health England (PHE),
said: "Gonorrhoea infection in the
throat usually has no symptoms but
both men and women can get it by
having unprotected oral sex."
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