Posts tagged with "Health"

Latest buzz: Mosquitoes don’t carry coronavirus

May 29, 2020

Mosquito season is upon us and—considering that these bloodsuckers are known to transmit diseases—people are concerned: Even with the lockdowns lifting, is it safe to go outside? Do mosquitoes carry the novel coronavirus? And if so, can they transmit it to humans and infect a person with COVID-19?

The short answer, according to a report by Health: It’s unlikely. Official guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that there is no information or evidence to suggest that the new coronavirus could be transmitted through mosquito bites. 

For starters, the coronavirus is a respiratory virus, and the main mode of transmission is by viral droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. For a mosquito to become infected with a virus, it must be present in the blood the mosquito feeds on.

“SARS-CoV2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is a respiratory virus that is almost exclusively contained within the lungs and respiratory tract of infected people, and rarely gets into the blood,” Emily Gallichotte, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Microbiology,Iimmunology, and Pathology at Colorado State University, told Health during a recent interview.

Plus, for a virus to pass to a person through a mosquito or other kind of insect bite—such as a tick bite—the virus must be able to replicate inside the mosquito or tick. Neither the new coronavirus nor any other type of coronavirus has been shown to do that.

“It’s quite a complex process,” former US Navy entomologist Joseph M. Conlon, who has extensive worldwide experience in mosquito control and is technical advisor to the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA), said during an interview with the news outlet“First of all, the mosquito would have to pick up the requisite amount of virus during its bite. The virus must then not only survive the digestive process, but replicate within the mosquito and pass through the gut wall to the coelom (main body cavity) of the mosquito. From there it must make its way to the salivary glands and be expressed by the mosquito as part of its salivary secretions.”

Furthermore, mosquitoes are very genetically different from humans. “This makes it challenging for viruses to have the ability to infect both of us,” says Gallichotte. “We have different receptors on the surface of cells and different replication machinery inside our cells.”

Relatively few human viruses have the ability to infect both humans and mosquitoes. “The vast majority of human viruses (such as influenza, HIV, and herpes) have been infecting humans for a very very long time, and even though many of these end up in our blood, they are still unable to infect mosquitoes,” says Gallichotte. “Conversely, there are many mosquito viruses that are unable to infect humans, or any mammals. There are no known coronaviruses that can infect mosquitoes.”

Viruses that can be spread to humans by mosquitoes include West Nile virus, the virus that causes dengue fever, and chikungunya virus, all of which circulate in the blood of infected people. “West Nile virus is able to infect a mosquito to the point where the virus load is abundant in the salivary glands,” Melissa Doyle, scientific program manager at the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District (SGVMVCD), tells Health. “When the mosquito bites a person, the virus is able to travel from the salivary glands into the human body.”

So it’s pretty clear that COVID-19 is the last thing you should be worrying about if a mosquito has been feasting on your leg. Keep swatting them away, though. “Due to the heavy focus on COVID-19, many people may forget that disease threats may already be buzzing right outside their window.” SGVMVCD Public Information Officer Levy Sun told Health.

Conlon points out that mosquitoes can factor into the severity of COVID-19, meaning it’s crucial to maintain robust measures to reduce their numbers. “Studies have shown that factors contributing to potentially serious or fatal outcomes attendant to COVID-19 infection involve underlying medical issues, such as neurologic conditions that weaken the ability to cough or an already stressed immune system due to concurrent infection by mosquito-borne viruses,” he says.

Mosquitoes or no mosquitoes, it’s still crucial to keep following healthy coronavirus protocol to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Clean your hands frequently, practice social distancing, stay home if you’re sick, and avoid close contact with anyone who is coughing and sneezing.

Research contact: @health

Coming clean: Your showerhead is spritzing bacteria on your naked body

November 7, 2018

Do you want to know “the real dirt” on showers? A study conducted at the University of Colorado-Boulder has found that showerheads are covered with bacteria-filled slime that could make us sick.

The researchers used high-tech instruments and lab methods to analyze roughly 50 showerheads from nine cities—among them, New York City, Chicago, and Denver—in seven states nationwide.

They concluded that—while we believe we are getting invigorating relief and a good daily cleansing, about 30% of the showerheads we use instead are covering our naked bodies with significant levels of Mycobacterium avium. That’s a pathogen linked to pulmonary disease that most often infects people with compromised immune systems; but which occasionally can infect healthy people, said CU-Boulder Distinguished Professor Norman Pace, lead study author.

 “If you are getting a face full of water when you first turn your shower on, that means you are probably getting a particularly high load of Mycobacterium avium, which may not be too healthy,” he said.

Showering may cleanse our bodies of sweat and dirt, but over time, our showerheads develop scum—also known as biofilm—due to the warm, wet conditions in the stall or tub.

Many of the bacteria in the scum are not harmful, but the team did find traces of nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) in showerheads across the United States. NTM is particularly prevalent in parts of Southern California, Florida, and New York — all areas with higher reported incidences of NTM lung disease, the study authors note. They believe showerheads may transmit the disease.

Symptoms of the infection include coughing up blood, shortness of breath, persistent coughing, fatigue and fever, according to the American Lung Association. Not everyone develops the condition after exposure to NTM, and doctors aren’t sure why only some people get sick. However, those who already have lung problems,  as well as older adults and people with weak immune systems are at greater risk. The infection is treated with antibiotics, according to WebMD.

The team also found that NTM is more common in metal showerheads, as well as U.S. households that use municipal water over well water. Mycobacteria are resistant to the chlorine found in municipal water, so they have more room to grow after other the chlorine kills off other bacteria.

According to study co-author Noah Fierer, more research should be done to determine whether our water treatments could put us at risk.

“There is a fascinating microbial world thriving in your showerhead and you can be exposed every time you shower,” Fierer said in a statement. “Most of those microbes are harmless, but a few are not, and this kind of research is helping us understand how our own actions—from the kinds of water treatment systems we use to the materials in our plumbing—can change the makeup of those microbial communities.”

What does all this mean for you? You definitely shouldn’t stop showering, but you might want to think about cleaning your showerhead every now and then. Using vinegar, which has been shown to kill many types of mycobacteria, is a good bet.

Research contact: matthew.gebert@colorado.edu

You ‘just may be toast’ if you drink to someone’s health

August 30, 2018

If you drink the wine or spirits that you are using to propose a toast, you” just may be toast,” based on findings of study published in The Lancet  on August 23 and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

As the Daily Beast reported this week, researchers at the University of Washington-Seattle, along with global collaborators, have established that the only safe amount of alcohol is no alcohol—which might be confusing since you’ve probably heard about the antioxidants in wine, or how beer is supposedly good for your gut.

The researchers did a meta-analysis of 694 data sets collected between 1990 and 2016 on alcohol consumption; as well as 592 studies on the health risks of alcohol use.

The study posted on The Lancet found that consuming 10 grams of alcohol (about half a shot) per day was the leading risk for death and disease for both men and women between the ages of 15 and 49.

In fact, they concluded that alcohol is the source of one in 10 deaths around the world, killing an estimated 2.8 million people globally in the 25+-year time period.

“The most surprising finding was that even small amounts of alcohol use contribute to health loss globally,” senior study author Emmanuela Gakidou, a professor at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluationtold CNN on August 24. “We’re used to hearing that a drink or two a day is fine. But the evidence is the evidence.”

This certainly isn’t the first time that alcohol has been associated with health problems. But it’s not necessarily the final word for those trying to figure out if a glass of rosé at dinner every night is a good or bad idea.

The analysis finds that alcohol is a contributor to various conditions and diseases that can lead to death. For one thing, alcohol use has been associated with a weaker immune system, which can affect the body’s ability to fight cancer. In other words, the study doesn’t claim that drinking alcohol in moderation will kill you; it’s simply associated with death and disease.

And that’s key because alcohol consumption—when controlled—has been shown in some other reputable studies to potentially be helpful, particularly when it comes to wine. Moderate drinking has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks,

As David Spiegelhalter, the Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk at the University of Cambridge, told CNN for the same story: “Given the pleasure presumably associated with moderate drinking, claiming there is no ‘safe’ level does not seem an argument for abstention. There is no safe level of driving, but governments do not recommend that people avoid driving. Come to think of it, there is no safe level of living, but nobody would recommend abstention.”

Gakidou told CNN that she was aware of the studies that showed better health with moderate drinking, but believed strongly that alcohol was almost universally a problematic health issue.

“We, to,o found some protective effects for Type 2 diabetes and ischemic heart disease at low levels of alcohol consumption,” she told CNN. “But those benefits are outweighed by the overall adverse health impact of alcohol, even at moderate levels.”

Since current research hasn’t settled the matter, one course of action is to follow the guidelines set by the U.S. government. That’s one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men with no binge-drinking. And if you don’t drink? Keep up the good work.

Research contact: gakidou@uw.edu

Keeping the flame alive: Sex after 65

May 29, 2018

Many American seniors feel young at heart—and in other meaningful ways—based on findings of a National Poll on Healthy Aging released in early May. Specifically, the researchers say, 40% of U.S. adults between the ages of 65 and 80 are sexually active; and 73% are satisfied with their sex lives.

The nationally representative pol of 1,002 seniors was conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, and sponsored by AARP and Michigan Medicine, U-M’s academic medical center.

Among the respondents, nearly three-quarters said that they currently are in a romantic relationship—and 54% of elderly couples reported that they still are sexually active.

But, whether or not they have an active sex life at the moment, about two-thirds of older adults say that they still are interested in sex, and more than half say that sex is important to their quality of life.

Among those who still are—or who want to be—sexually active, some need a little advice or help to get the job done. In all, 18% of older men and 3% of older women say they have taken medications or supplements to improve sexual function within the past two years.

However, just 17% of seniors said they had talked with a healthcare provider about their sexual health during the past two years. Most who had engaged in such discussions said they brought the topic up—suggesting, the researchers said, the need for more proactive conversations by clinicians with their older patients.

“Sexual health among older adults doesn’t get much attention but is linked closely to quality of life, health and well-being,” says U-M’s Erica Solway, Ph.D., co-associate director of the poll. “It’s important for older adults and the clinicians who care for them to talk about these issues and about how age-related changes in physical health, relationships, lifestyles and responsibilities (such as caregiving) affect them.”

Factors: Gender, age and health 

Relationships aside, there are a few other factors—gender, age, and health—that may affect a senior’s sex drive.

For instance, compared with the 45% of respondents with excellent, very good, or good health who reported that they were sexually active, only 22% of those who said they are in fair or poor health could say the same. Indeed, just 28% of seniors who are in fair or poor health said they were extremely or very satisfied with their sex lives.

Those respondents between the ages of 65 and 70 were nearly twice as likely as those in their late 70s to be sexually active. One-third of those in their late 60s said they were extremely or very interested in sex, compared with 19% of those in their late 70s.

What’s more, as they age, men and women look at sex differently. Women are a little less likely than men to be sexually active—31% overall, vs. 51% of men—but were more likely to be extremely or very satisfied with their sex lives.

While 84% of older men said sex was an important part of a romantic relationship, fewer older women (69%) said the same. But that still means that over two-thirds of women remain passionately in love, whatever their age or the length of their relationship.l

Research contact:  healthyaging@umich.edu