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Many Ticks Found in Chicagoland

In Uncategorized on February 27, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Research results confirm need for protection against ticks that carry Lyme disease

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The life cycle of the Ixodes scapularis commonly known as the deer tick or the black-legged tick. Lyme disease is caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferiwhich is transmitted by…

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Research on the population of black-legged ticks, which can transmit Lyme disease from host animals to humans, reinforces that it is important to take preventative measures when spending time outdoors.

University of Illinois graduate student Jennifer Rydzewski conducted a four-year survey of black-legged ticks (also known as deer ticks), their host animals, and their habitat preferences in Cook, Lake, DuPage, and Piatt Counties. The survey confirmed the presence of ticks in all four counties and ticks carrying Lyme disease in Piatt County. Higher numbers of ticks were found along the Des Plaines River corridor.

“Their small size makes ticks really difficult to see. They’re about the size of a poppy seed,” Rydzewski said.

“Ticks in the nymph stage of their life cycle are responsible for the most human cases of Lyme disease because their peak seasonal activity coincides with increased human activity outdoors during the warmer summer months, so it’s important for people to take extra precautions.”

In humans, early symptoms of Lyme disease are often nondescript, flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, and fatigue, making it difficult to diagnose from symptoms alone. In about 70 percent of the cases, people will develop the typical bullseye-shaped rash associated with Lyme disease. If it’s caught in the early stages it can be treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics; however, if it’s not treated early, the result can be long-term severe joint pain, arthritis and neurological damage. The disease is named after the town of Lyme, Connecticut, where a number of cases were identified in 1975.

Rydzewski used a disease triangle to illustrate how Lyme disease is spread. One point of the triangle is the host – in this case, it could be a mouse, deer, or other bird or small mammal. A second point on the triangle is the pathogen Borrelia burgdoferi. Bacteria, in the case of Lyme disease, are spread by a vector, the tick. The third point of the triangle is the environment. “If you remove one of these components, the system fails and the disease can no longer be maintained.

“The natural landscapes of Illinois are continually being fragmented and evolving as urban development and agriculture increase,” Rydzewski said.

“It’s important to understand these host/vector/pathogen interactions in a dynamic landscape. Studying this multi-host pathogen can help us to discover ways to manage either the landscape or the host in order to control the vector and the pathogen.”

The white-footed mouse is a particularly competent host at maintaining the bacteria in the environment. White-tailed deer and migratory birds are important dispersal agents for ticks as they’re capable of traveling long distances and depositing ticks in new areas. Rydzewski believes that deer following the river may account for the increased number of ticks found along the Des Plaines River corridor.

In the Piatt County portion of the survey, from June through October of 2005 to 2009, on approximately 24 nights per year, 200 small mammal traps within four different habitat areas were set, baited with sunflower seeds at night and retrieved the next morning. Once the traps were collected, mammals were identified, sexed and ear-tagged, ticks were removed and an ear punch was taken, which is a 2-millimeter circle biopsy of ear tissue. The ticks and ear punches were tested for presence of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease infection.

A different technique was used for the survey within forest preserves in Cook, Lake and DuPage counties. At 36 sites in the tri-county area in the spring and summer months of 2008 and 2009, tick drag cloths were used. The cloths are made from 1-square-meter corduroy attached to a wooden dowel which is dragged along the trail’s edges. Every 30 seconds, the cloth was checked and ticks were removed and placed in sealed vials to be tested. Using this technique, 296 deer ticks were collected in 2008 and 306 in 2009.

Lake Cook County near Lake Michigan had the highest number of deer ticks found.

There are some fairly easy preventative measures that individuals can take in order to prevent coming into contact with ticks:

  1. Wear light-colored clothing so it’s easy to see the ticks.
  2. Wear long sleeves and pants; tuck pants into socks or tape pants to boots.
  3. Use insect repellent containing DEET.
  4. Stay in the center of maintained trails.
  5. Perform frequent tick checks when you’re outside.
  6. Do a tick check at the end of the day and again the following morning.
  7. Put your clothes in the dryer when you come home to dry out and kill the ticks.

By way of background, in 2007 deer ticks were found within the Chicago region with 32 to 37 percent of the ticks testing positive for the disease.

“This data confirmed an increased chance of contracting Lyme disease in the metropolitan region of Chicago and sparked an interest in conducting further studies,” Rydzewski said.

From the Illinois Department of Public Health, 108 human cases of Lyme disease were reported in Illinois in 2008, compared to only 35 cases in 2000. “Increased surveillance and awareness of Lyme disease may account for a portion of those cases, but there is truly a rise in emergence. And it is possible that the number of Lyme disease cases in Illinois is underreported,” Rydzewski said.



“Takes 10 yrs & approx $30 million to bring to market a new repellent”

In DEET, Dengue Fever, Malaria, Uncategorized, West Nile Virus on February 27, 2011 at 3:22 pm
UC Davis water tower

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News Briefs from University of California Davis

Monday, February 21, 2011

Researchers from the University of California, Davis, will present these findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 17-21, 2011

Presentation: Olfactory Molecular Targets for Reverse Chemical Ecology
Presenter: Walter Leal, UC Davis Department of Entomology
Date and time: Monday, Feb. 21, 9:45 a.m.
Location: 145B Washington Convention Center
Symposium: Chemically Speaking: How Organisms Talk to Each Other

With current technologies, it takes about 10 years and approximately $30 million to bring to market a new repellent for mosquitoes, which transmit devastating diseases such as malaria, dengue and West Nile virus. Hoping to decrease the time and money needed to develop new mosquito repellents, the Walter Leal lab has looked beyond the rich genome of the mosquito to the fruit fly genome. An abundance of information is already available about fruit fly olfactory receptor neurons, which play an important role in the sense of smell and are key to developing insect repellents. The research by Leal and colleagues has yielded a wealth of information about fruit fly receptivity to a variety of repellents, including DEET, and has led to new techniques that should prove valuable in screening candidate mosquito repellent compounds in the early stages of research and development.

Contact: Walter Leal, Entomology,–anb021411.php


Lexington, VA Lyme Disease Support Group Joins National Capital Lyme Association

In Lyme Disease on February 26, 2011 at 6:08 pm
Erythematous rash in the pattern of a “bull’s-...

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Rockbridge Resident Ellen Douty Appointed To NatCapLyme Board
National Capital Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Association is pleased to announce that the Lexington Lyme Disease Support Group will be joining our organization and becoming the Lexington Chapter of the Association.

NatCapLyme welcomes this dedicated group into its family of support and advocacy chapters. The Lexington Lyme Disease Support Group meets the second Saturday of each month at 10:00 a.m. at the The Old Courthouse meeting room, 2 South Main Street, Lexington, VA. The meeting room entrance is at rear of building with handicap accessibility.

The support group is led by Rockbridge residents Ellen Douty and Adrienne Hall-Bodie. Ellen Douty has also been elected as a board member of NatCapLyme. Her background in teaching, marketing and promotion, and as a business owner will serve her well for leading and supporting Lyme patients and caregivers. Having had Lyme for over 15 years, she is passionate about Lyme support. She can be contacted at

Adrienne Hall-Bodie is a former teacher and retired after 20 years as administrative assistant at Washington and Lee University. She is an avid hiker and horseback rider, who recently discovered she has had Lyme for several years. Adrienne can be contacted at Webpage is

Lyme disease has become endemic in Virginia with Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell forming a task force on the problem.

Members of the Lexington Lyme Disease Support Group and NatCapLyme will be traveling to Harrisonburg on March 15 to attend the first Public Patient Forum on Lyme Disease at JMU from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. to speak on obstacles patients encounter when trying to get treatment. A Public Patient Forum will also be held in Roanoke that evening.

Information on the Virginia Lyme Task Force can be found at this

Innovative, Cell Phone Bednet Distribution Plan in Nigeria

In Malaria on February 23, 2011 at 10:19 am
Nigerian naira

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The human and economic cost of malaria in Nigeria is staggering. There are currently 110 million clinically diagnosed cases in a population of 151 million.  Malaria kills 250,000 children under five years old in Nigeria every year, and is the cause of 11% of maternal deaths. 60% of out-patient visits and 30% of hospitalizations in the country are malaria-related.

In addition to the enormous toll malaria takes on public health, it is also expensive. 132 billion Naira (USD $870 million) is lost every year in the form of malaria prevention and treatment costs and from the loss of overall economic productivity.

 And yet in spite of the risk malaria poses to the Nigerian people, health surveys from 2006 to 2008 indicated that only 8% of households in the country owned at least one insecticide-treated net (So-called ITNs).

Needless to say, there is an urgent need for ramped-up malaria prevention efforts in Nigeria. 

The Nigerian government has been collaborating with a variety of international organizations, including the World Bank, World Health Organization, UNDP and UNICEF on a campaign to “Roll Back Malaria.”  This effort has led to the creation of the National Malaria Control Program (NMCP) that seeks to unify all of the disparate pieces of the Nigerian malaria control strategy at the national, regional and local levels.

A quasi-instantaneous data collection system allows for more rapid response and more immediate distribution of food and other aid. The availability of timely and accurate information dramatically increases UNICEF’s ability to identify and resolve problems as they arise and translates into a more efficient and rational allocation of resources.

 RapidSMS is more than just a data collection tool, however. Erica Kochi, a communications specialist on the UNICEF Innovation team, says it’s a “two-way system.”  RapidSMS allows for an end user (most likely a field monitor) to report data. But there is also a “pull aspect,” Kochi explains, so a field worker can quickly access important information from a central, web-hosted database.

UNICEF first deployed RapidSMS in Nigeria in mid-2009 to track and collect data from the Immunization Plus days, a polio eradication initiative of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency. In order for RapidSMS to be used in the first phase of the bednet distribution program, new features had to be created, says Akinbo, UNICEF’s local software developer.  Because it was designed with flexibility and scalability in mind, RapidSMS is relatively easy to customize for specific projects with technical expertise.

‘Vicious’ dengue takes hold in far north Queensland, Australia

In Dengue Fever on February 21, 2011 at 6:27 am

By Kristy Sexton-McGrath

Updated Wed Feb 16, 2011 8:40am AEDT

Dr Jeffrey Hanna says about half of those diagnosed with the dengue fever outbreak have been hospitalised.

Dr Jeffrey Hanna says about half of those diagnosed with the dengue fever outbreak have been hospitalised. (ABC – file image: Meg Purtell)

Authorities are very concerned about the spread of a “vicious” strain of dengue fever in far north Queensland.

Twenty people have now been diagnosed with type two dengue at east Innisfail, south of Cairns.

Another five have tested positive for type four dengue.

Dr Jeffrey Hanna from Queensland Health says about half of those diagnosed have been hospitalised.

“The dengue two is certainly a vicious strain of the virus,” he said.

“It’s still active and another emerging concern for us is in among these pending cases.

“There’s a suggestion it may have moved out of east Innisfail into other local suburbs at Innisfail.”

Dr Hanna says residents need to take care.

“The general community should take heed,” he said.

“Minimise the chances of mosquitos breeding in and around your home and if people do develop high fevers, are feeling dreadful, headache, pain around the eyes than that could well be dengue.”

Dr Hanna says the type-two strain may have been brought in from Papua New Guinea.

“It seems to be quite a vicious strain of dengue.

“It’s put around half of the people affected in hospital with sheer exhaustion, feeling totally done in by the viral infection and some have needed intravenous fluids because of dehydration.”

Tags: disasters-and-accidentscyclonesemergency-planninghealthdiseases-and-disordersqldcairns-4870,innisfail-4860townsville-4810


Wasps Can Smell Bedbugs!

In Bed Bugs on February 21, 2011 at 6:23 am

A Swarm of Wasps, if Not Investors

Ezra Millstein for The New York Times

Glen Rains, left, and Joe Lewis with wasps that can be taught to sniff out most anything, including bedbugs. The men aim to turn the science into a business.

Published: February 19, 2011
THE white paper by the Georgia scientists Glen C. Rains and W. Joe Lewis has a technical-sounding title that masks the exciting news within. “A Project to Bring Innovative New Technology Into the Market Place for Detecting Agents of Harm in Agriculture, Security, and Human Health/Safety Arenas,” it says blandly.
Ezra Millstein for The New York Times

In their natural state, left, the wasps move randomly.

Ezra Millstein for The New York Times

But they cluster to the center when a specific odor is present.

Luckily, Prototype is here to translate: Move over, bloodhounds, there’s a new odor detector in town.

The Wasp Hound, designed by the two scientists, is a hand-held device containing five parasitic wasps. These flying, stinger-less insects have outperformed dogs in tests that measure scent detection of cadavers, but research shows that they can be taught to sniff out anything: explosives, drugs and even that newly resurgent scourge: bedbugs.

Yes, wasps can be taught to react to the whiff of bedbugs’ pheromones. All that Mr. Rains and Mr. Lewis say they need to get their company, SmartHound Technologies, on the road to addressing the nation’s outbreak of bloodsucking pests — among many other problems — is $200,000. But so far, raising capital for research and development has been a challenge.

“If you suddenly discover a new chemical, there’s all kinds of chemical companies,” Mr. Lewis says. “All you have to do is plug it in to an existing infrastructure.” But when it comes to training bugs to swarm, no infrastructure exists. “So we’ve got this new tool with this big gap that we need to cross,” he adds. “At this point, that’s where we’re at: How can we get across that divide and take it to the marketplace?”

The Wasp Hound provides a window into the difficult process of turning scientific research — especially groundbreaking research — into a marketable product. Mr. Rains, 45, an associate professor at the University of Georgia, and Mr. Lewis, 68, a retired research entomologist who worked for nearly 40 years for the Agricultural Research Service of theUnited States Department of Agriculture, have jointly patented the Wasp Hound with their respective institutions. They have teamed with the Georgia Centers of Innovation, a state economic development program, to begin attracting investors. But they know they face an uphill battle.

“The term ‘wasp’ elicits a certain fear, though ours don’t sting people and are friendly,” Mr. Lewis says. Then there’s this problem: “We don’t know how to work with people who are venture capitalists. That’s not our thing; we’re scientists. I guess you’d say we’ve floundered a little bit.”

The genesis of the Wasp Hound goes back to 1988, when Mr. Lewis and a colleague, J. H. Tumlinson, published a paper in the scientific journal Nature that demonstrated how the associative learning process used by insects rivals that of higher organisms. These findings, which spawned more published papers — and which Mr. Lewis says were so radical that “had we suggested them 25 years earlier, we would have been laughed out of our profession” — led to the idea that wasps, like dogs, could potentially be used to detect targets.

First, Mr. Lewis and his colleagues had to answer an important question. While their research showed that wasps were undeniably learning and responding to chemicals and stimuli within their natural context, it was less clear whether they could learn to track things not found in their habitats: incendiary devices, say, or the chemicals typically used in arson. The answer: “We found they could detect almost anything.”

Then it became an engineering problem: how to design a tool that harnessed this insect’s skills in a way that people could easily use? That’s where Mr. Rains came in. “We devised a way of detecting the change in behavior of the wasps that would tell us when they detected an odor,” he says. “Pavlov’s dog, when you rang the bell, would always salivate. Well, wasps don’t salivate, but we found some specific behaviors they did do.”

When wasps have been trained to associate a particular odor with a reward — a good, long drink of sugar water — they get excited when they smell it. “They really move around,” Mr. Lewis says. “Like pigs to a trough.” But unlike pigs, these adult wasps live only about three weeks.

Building the Wasp Hound was a process of trial and error. The first device designed by Mr. Rains required the wasps to head toward the odor source by crawling through an opening equipped with an infrared signal that, when interrupted, would alert researchers that the odor was present. But the system didn’t provide immediate results necessary to track an odor to its exact location. “You could tell well before the wasps actually went in the hole that they’d discovered the odor,” Mr. Rains says.

That prototype was scrapped, and another was designed. This one was equipped with a fan that pulls air into it. If being used in a hotel room, say, it would be aimed at the headboard of the bed, a common spot for bedbugs. A cartridge that contains five wasps is popped into the device. A camera tracks the wasps’ movements, and those images are fed into a software program that measures food-searching behavior — what nonscientists would call swarming. “It tells us, usually within about 20 seconds, if they’ve detected the odor,” Mr. Rains said.

MR. LEWIS says he believes the Wasp Hound could be the first of a series of products that put to use what “nature invented first.” With Mr. Tumlinson and another colleague, T. C .J. Turlings, he published an article in the journal Science in 1990, for example, that showed that when a plant is stressed — a corn seedling, say, being eaten by beet army worms — it actually sends distress signals, emitting odors that attract the natural enemies of the pests. He says he can envision using certain plants as “sentinels” for particular chemicals.

“There’s all kinds of ways that harvesting natural systems could create tools,” he says “We’re just at the tip of the iceberg of potential. An association of industries could develop around it once we make this happen.”

But first, they need the Wasp Hound to pave the way by showing there’s a market. While they hope to eventually use the product for all kinds of detection — from forensics to food safety — they are counting on the furor surrounding bedbugs to encourage people to give their wasps a chance. A market price for the product has not yet been determined.

The short life span of the wasps may be a drawback, but the insects can be produced “in large numbers at pennies per thousand,” Mr. Lewis said. In other words, dogs may be man’s best friend, but wasps are cheaper.



Michael Gerson, Washington Post columnist, is live blogging his trip to Senegal with Malaria No More.

In Malaria on February 21, 2011 at 6:20 am

Michael Gerson, Washington Post columnist and former speechwriter for George W. Bush, is live blogging his trip to Senegal with Malaria No More.

Arrived early this morning in Dakar, Senegal on a short trip with the good folks at Malaria No More. I’ve only been to Senegal once before, in 2005, but it is obvious how much as changed.

Our first briefing was with the USAID experts who implement the President’s Malaria Initiative, announced by the Bush administration in the run up to the 2005 Gleneagles G8. The PMI team reported that Senegal has seen a 30 percent decline in infant mortality from all causes between 2005 and 2008 –- and that one major reason has been progress against malaria.

Senegal is conducting this fight aggressively. With strong support from PMI and the Global Fund, Senegal was the first African country to introduce routine rapid tests, which make the diagnosis of malaria quicker (now taking about 10 minutes) and more accurate. It was the first African country to move toward the goal of universal bed net coverage, which it hopes to reach by the end of this year.

Defeating malaria –- one of the main killers of children in Africa -– is not a mystery. It requires the broad distribution and consistent use of insecticide treated bed nets, along with indoor residual spraying and treatment with effective combination drugs. It is a matter of will and resources.

Can’t wait to get out into the field over the next few days to see how PMI is being implemented.

BBC – Earth News – Mosquito-eating spider likes smelly socks

In Malaria on February 20, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Lyme fighters on Cape gain political advantage –

In Lyme Disease on February 19, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Our Plan to Change the World @141Repellent

In Dengue Fever, Malaria on February 15, 2011 at 4:52 pm

We are working on developing a new approach to malaria disease control with our all natural, non-toxic repellent. Our product has potentially lower costs and is much safer for the people protected and the environment. Initial tests demonstrate a strong spatial repellent action without being toxic. We believe we can use our molecule in fabric and other materials for long lasting protection

The quote below is from an internationally known malaria disease control expert commenting about our efforts:

All I can say is that a product for use in malaria control programs could potentially have a huge market…  It could have huge impact saving lives.  It could have utility not only for use in malaria programs but could have huge impact in the control of other diseasesDengue is one such disease.  In humid tropical regions it causes millions of cases and large debilitating epidemics each year.

If you can get the funding, we can begin doing the critical tests.  If tests give a favorable outcome, then we can move the chemicals into field testing and open negotiations with WHOPES. .. A non toxic compound would be an absolute first in this business of disease control.  Actually, lets be honest, there really is no such thing as a non toxic chemical.  However, there is potential that your chemicals are much safer than chemicals in present use.  The reason I say this is that each of the chemicals in use today are in use precisely because they are toxic–your chemicals will be the exception.

If we develop a data base showing your chemicals are spatial repellents, are truly effective in preventing malaria, and are non toxic–then WHOPES would have no choice but to approve the chemicals for use in malaria control programs.

Keep up the good work.  Hope this can move forward.”



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