Mosquitoes Seeing Red

“Beating the bite of mosquitoes this spring and summer could hinge on your attire and your skin. New research led by scientists at the University of Washington indicates that a common mosquito species — after detecting a telltale gas that we exhale — flies toward specific colors, including red, orange, black and cyan. The mosquitoes ignore other colors, such as green, purple, blue and white. The researchers believe these findings help explain how mosquitoes find hosts, since human skin, regardless of overall pigmentation, emits a strong red-orange “signal” to their eyes.

‘Mosquitoes appear to use odors to help them distinguish what is nearby, like a host to bite,’ said Jeffrey Riffell, a UW professor of biology. ‘When they smell specific compounds, like CO2 from our breath, that scent stimulates the eyes to scan for specific colors and other visual patterns, which are associated with a potential host, and head to them.’

The results, published Feb. 4 in Nature Communications, reveal how the mosquito sense of smell — known as olfaction — influences how the mosquito responds to visual cues. Knowing which colors attract hungry mosquitoes, and which ones do not, can help design better repellants, traps and other methods to keep mosquitoes at bay.”

More on Mosquitoes are seeing red: Why new findings about their vision could help you hide from these disease vectors via UW.

Canada: Testing Wastewater for Polio

“After new reports of polio cases abroad, and virus samples in the wastewater of several other developed countries, Canada intends to start testing wastewater from a number of cities ‘as soon as possible,’ CBC News has learned.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) already works to monitor polio activity around the world, a spokesperson said in an email response to CBC News questions.

Currently, PHAC’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg does have the diagnostic tools available to test samples for poliovirus. Any suspected positive Canadian samples of poliovirus will be sent to that lab for further laboratory analysis and confirmation, with results shared with the respective local health authorities “so appropriate public health measures can be taken if necessary.”

According to the statement, PHAC has been communicating with national and international partners who are experts in this field to finalize a wastewater testing strategy. It will be testing wastewater samples that were collected earlier this year from ‘key high-risk municipalities’ to determine if polio was present prior to the reported international cases.

Read more on Wastewater tests will focus on ‘key high-risk municipalities,’ says Public Health Agency of Canada via CBC.

Sepsis Awareness Is Good

Sepsis Steps. Training tool for teaching the progression of sepsis stages via Wikipedia.

“Despite significant progress over the last 20 years in increasing awareness of sepsis (infection induced organ dysfunction) among healthcare providers (HCPs), the public, and patients/families, there remains much to be accomplished, with sepsis morbidity and mortality remaining unacceptably high. For HCPs, early identification of sepsis is paramount for initiating early appropriate therapy. For the lay person, recognizing when they or a family member are at significant risk for sepsis requiring prompt evaluation by a HCP may be life-saving. And for patients hospitalized with sepsis, patient and family understanding of the sepsis disease process is important not only for the provider patient/family relationship but also for the postdischarge period since repeat admission after discharge is common. The primary reason for hospital readmission after a sepsis diagnosis is infection, often resulting in poor outcomes. In this issue of Critical Care Medicine, Fiest et al. provide the reader with a scoping review of the literature to establish what is known as to the degree of sepsis awareness and education among the three aforementioned groups, as well as the vehicles that provide that awareness and education.”

More on Sepsis Awareness Is Good, Please Do Not Let It Be Misunderstood* via Critical Care Medicine.

Art Museum-Based Teaching

J. Bond Francisco, The Sick Child, 1893, oil on canvas, via Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum Purchase, 1991.9

The Association of American Medical Colleges recently launched an initiative to explore the role of the arts and humanities in physician development, a topic gaining recognition in health professions education. This Last Page focuses on the most established and studied of the art museum-based teaching methods: visual thinking strategies (VTS), an open-ended facilitated discussion centered around a preselected work of art, such as painting.

Learn more here Art Museum-Based Teaching: Visual Thinking Strategies via Academic Medicine.

Hybrid Brains & Ethics

Leonardo da Vinci depiction of the cavities of the brain.

“In a darkened room in a laboratory in London, a group of students and researchers watch a clump of human brain cells settle into their new home: a living mouse brain. On a computer monitor next to a microscope, the human cells light up in flashes of simultaneous activity. Over time, the cells sprout new connections a few centimetres long, and form networks with each other. It’s captivating viewing for his students, says Vincenzo De Paola, who runs the lab at Imperial College London. ‘It’s all they want to do. I can’t tear them away,’ he says.

They have front-row seats to an unusual show. De Paola’s group is one of just a handful of labs able to study human neural cells at work in a live, developing brain — a system that is otherwise largely off limits for both ethical and technical reasons. ‘We cannot study these processes as they unfold in a fetal human brain,’ he says. ‘Instead, we wanted to watch human cortical neurons mature and form active networks in a live animal.’”

More on Hybrid brains: the ethics of transplanting human neurons into animals via Nature.