Research Digest

Lab notes: In the middle of an ethics debate, scientists create dengue-resistant mosquitos

A round up of the latest in medical research.

About 40% of the world’s population is exposed to the risk of dengue and a large number of those people live in India, which has several virulent outbreaks of the disease especially in its monsoon months. Scientists have been tinkering with mosquito genes to find ways to control mosquito-borne disease like malaria and dengue and may have now created a genetically modified mosquito that can resist infection by the dengue virus and therefore cease to spread it.

Dengue is spread through the Aedes aegyptii mosquitos. Mosquitos that feed on the blood of an infected person pass the disease on when they subsequently bite a healthy person. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have shown that the Aedes aegyptii’s natural ability to fight the dengue virus can be boosted to reject infection in the mosquito in the first place.

In research published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases they describe manipulating a component of the Aedes aegyptii immune system called the JAK-STAT pathway, that regulates production of antiviral factors. The genetic modification resulted in fewer mosquitoes becoming infected. Most of the mosquitos that did get infected had very low levels of dengue virus in their salivary glands. However, the genetic modification did not make the mosquitos resistant to two other diseases that their also are capbale of carrying – Zika and chikungunya.

The team also found that the dengue-resistant mosquitoes live as long as the wild mosquitoes but produce fewer eggs, making it likely that the same mechanism that triggers the immune system plays a role in egg production.

Genetic modification of mosquitos for disease elimination is based on the theorro of “gene drives” that involve replacing the natural population of mosquitos with GM mosquitos that cannot spread the disease. A laboratory at Jalna in Maharashtra has been performing similar genetic experiments for dengue control. However, some scientists and ethicists hold the view that there can be unintended and unforseeable consequences of such large scale manipulations, some that maybe dangerous or even devastating.

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Advice from an ex-robber on how to keep your home safe

Tips on a more hands-on approach of keeping your house secure.

Home, a space that is entirely ours, holds together our entire world. Where our children grow-up, parents grow old and we collect a lifetime of memories, home is a feeling as much as it’s a place. So, what do you do when your home is eyed by miscreants who prowl the neighbourhood night and day, plotting to break in? Here are a few pre-emptive measures you can take to make your home safe from burglars:

1. Get inside the mind of a burglar

Before I break the lock of a home, first I bolt the doors of the neighbouring homes. So that, even if someone hears some noise, they can’t come to help.

— Som Pashar, committed nearly 100 robberies.

Burglars study the neighbourhood to keep a check on the ins and outs of residents and target homes that can be easily accessed. Understanding how the mind of a burglar works might give insights that can be used to ward off such danger. For instance, burglars judge a house by its front doors. A house with a sturdy door, secured by an alarm system or an intimidating lock, doesn’t end up on the burglar’s target list. Upgrade the locks on your doors to the latest technology to leave a strong impression.

Here are the videos of 3 reformed robbers talking about their modus operandi and what discouraged them from robbing a house, to give you some ideas on reinforcing your home.

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2. Survey your house from inside out to scout out weaknesses

Whether it’s a dodgy back door, a misaligned window in your parent’s room or the easily accessible balcony of your kid’s room, identify signs of weakness in your home and fix them. Any sign of neglect can give burglars the idea that the house can be easily robbed because of lax internal security.

3. Think like Kevin McCallister from Home Alone

You don’t need to plant intricate booby traps like the ones in the Home Alone movies, but try to stay one step ahead of thieves. Keep your car keys on your bed-stand in the night so that you can activate the car alarm in case of unwanted visitors. When out on a vacation, convince the burglars that the house is not empty by using smart light bulbs that can be remotely controlled and switched on at night. Make sure that your newspapers don’t pile up in front of the main-door (a clear indication that the house is empty).

4. Protect your home from the outside

Collaborate with your neighbours to increase the lighting around your house and on the street – a well-lit neighbourhood makes it difficult for burglars to get-away, deterring them from targeting the area. Make sure that the police verification of your hired help is done and that he/she is trustworthy.

While many of us take home security for granted, it’s important to be proactive to eliminate even the slight chance of a robbery. As the above videos show, robbers come up with ingenious ways to break in to homes. So, take their advice and invest in a good set of locks to protect your doors. Godrej Locks offer a range of innovative locks that are un-pickable and un-duplicable. To secure your house, see here.

The article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Godrej Locks and not by the Scroll editorial team.