WORLD NEWS

DEPRESSION TOPS CAUSES OF ILL HEALTH

According to the latest estimates from the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18% between 2005 and 2015. Lack of support for people with mental disorders prevents many from accessing the treatment they need to live healthy lives. WHO says every US $1 invested in scaling up treatment for depression and anxiety leads to a return of US $4 in better health and ability to work. Depression increases the risk of substance use, risk of suicide and risk of diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

BRAZIL WORKS TO CONTROL YELLOW FEVER OUTBREAK

Brazil is carrying out mass vaccination campaigns for yellow fever in the states of Minas Gerais, Espirito Santo, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Bahia, while strengthening surveillance and case management throughout the country since an outbreak in January. More than 18.8 million doses of vaccine have been distributed, in addition to routine immunization efforts. Yellow fever in the four states is linked to transmission through the jungle mosquito species Haemagogus and Sabethes while cases with humans and monkeys in municipalities close to large urban areas indicate a potential risk of urbanization.

CRESSET AGREEMENT TO SPEED DRUG DESIGN

Cresset, provider of software and contract research services for small molecule discovery and design, signs three-way strategic agreement to speed up drug design. This agreement follows the transfer of 10 drug design software patents from Research Centre Drug Discovery to iPrecision last year. Commercial Director Dr. Bardsley states, “This British-Chinese three-way agreement brings together expertise and innovation in development of technologies for computational molecule design.”

DNA IN WATER DETERMINES ARRIVAL OF FISH

For the first time, scientists have recorded a spring fish migration simply by conducting DNA tests on water samples. Environmental DNA (eDNA) strained from samples drawn weekly from New York’s East and Hudson Rivers over six months last year, revealed the presence or absence of several key fish species passing through the water on each test day.

The Rockefeller University study, published April 12 in PLOS ONE, pioneers a way to monitor fish migrations that involves a fraction of the effort and cost of trawling, all without harming the fish. It is an easy way to estimate the abundance and distribution of diverse fish species and other forms of marine life in the dark waters of rivers, lakes, and seas.

As they swim, fish leave traces of their DNA in the water, sloughed off their slimy, gelatinous outer coating or in excretions, for example. Dr. Mark Stoeckle who is the senior Research Associate obtained the DNA of 42 fish species, including most (81%) of the species known to be locally abundant or common, and relatively few (23%) of the uncommon ones.

Jesse Ausubel, Co-founder of the Census of Marine Life, notes that the tests turned up the DNA from fish commonly eaten by New Yorkers but not known to inhabit the city’s waters such as the European sea bass and Nile tilapia. Therefore, the group conclude that the DNA of those species entered through the wastewater system and eDNA could help identify endangered species being sold as food in local stores and restaurants.

The research found that the number of “reads” of eDNA – how many copies of tiny DNA segments of a particular species turn up in a sample – roughly corresponds with data from net surveys.

Beyond low cost and wide applicability, advantages of eDNA surveying include the ability to collect samples without disturbing the fish. Also, nets often cannot reach bottom and are difficult to deploy in some environments.

“eDNA sampling can be done using standard biology laboratory equipment and techniques,” says co-author Zachary Charlop-Powers. After water is drawn, it is filtered to concentrate the DNA for extraction. The target segment of the DNA is amplified and then sent to a lab for “next-generation” sequencing, the result of which – a record of all the DNA sequences in the sample – is fed into computer software that counts the number of copies of each sequence and searches for matches in an online public reference library.

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