Week in Review: June 27–July 1

Zika and dengue immunity; another point-of-care Zika diagnostic; toward a “maleness” gene drive in malaria mosquitos; evaluating interdisciplinary research proposals; risk-assessing plants

Jun 30, 2016
Tracy Vence

Zika and dengue immunity

Some dengue antibodies can protect against Zika infection and others enhance it, immunologists studying both flaviviruses are finding.

Another Zika test

The current gold standard Zika diagnostic assay involves RT-PCR, limiting access in regions without the necessary lab equipment. In May, researchers reported a paper-based point-of-care Zika diagnostic. This week, another group presented another point-of-care test, based on RT-loop mediated, isothermal amplification.

Malaria mosquito “maleness” gene

Identifying a gene that’s critical for making Anopheles gambiae male and lethal to  female mosquitos, researchers have paved the way toward a new target for the development of transgenic insects as a vector control measure.

“I hope in less than 10 years, we have genetic methods effectively controlling Anopheles mosquitoes,” said study coauthor Jaroslaw Krzywinski of the Pirbright Institute in the U.K.

Funding conundrum

Grant proposals involving interdisciplinary research may be less likely to receive funding, according to an analysis of Australian Research Council Discovery Programme data collected from 2010 to 2014.

“The concern that people who do interdisciplinary research have is that often, when they get reviewers’ comments back, it is pretty clear that the reviewers don’t understand what it is that they were reviewing,” said Gabriele Bammer of the Australian National University who was not involved in the work.

“Gambling” plants

Given a choice between soils in which nutrients were variable versus steadily available, pea plants “behaved even more clearly, with respect to risk, than we actually have found in animals,” Alex Kacelnik of the University of Oxford told The Scientist, explaining his team’s findings.

These results “should make us reconsider the types of very basic processes, whether neural or not, that can allow organisms to adjust their behavior according to risk,” said Sarah Heilbronner from the University of Rochester Medical Center who was not involved in the research.

More Zika updates

Improving Zika Virus Detection in Infants
Head circumference is not an accurate indicator of viral infection in newborns, researchers report.

Vaccines Protect Mice Against Zika Infection
Two different vaccines confer complete immunity for two months, researchers report.

Nonhuman Primate Model of Zika
Researchers infect rhesus macaques with the virus to better study its effects in humans.