Bacteria blocks mosquitoes from transmitting Zika: Brazilian study

2016-05-05 04:19:06

CHICAGO Infecting mosquitoes with a strain of bacteria known as Wolbachia significantly reduced their ability to transmit the Zika virus, Brazilian researchers said on Wednesday, raising hope for this biological method of blocking transmission of the deadly virus.The bacteria has been released in several countries including Australia, Brazil, Indonesia and Vietnam as part of strategies to control dengue, and the new finding shows the method also works with Zika, a close relative of dengue.Zika has been linked with the birth defect microcephaly that has been sweeping through South and Central America and the Caribbean and making its way north to the United States. In February the World Health Organization declared Zika a global health emergency. The connection between Zika and microcephaly came to light last fall in Brazil, which has now confirmed more than 1,100 cases of microcephaly that it considers to be related to Zika infections in the mothers.The new study, by researchers at Brazil's Oswaldo Cruz Foundation and published in Cell Host & Microbe, takes advantage of the naturally occurring strain of bacteria known as Wolbachia, which live in insect cells and are found in 60 percent of common insects. The method involves inserting the bacteria into mosquito eggs, which then pass the bacteria along to their offspring. "The idea has been to release Aedes mosquitoes with Wolbachia over a period of a few months, so they mate with Aedes mosquitoes ... and over time, replace the mosquito population," said senior author Luciano Moreira of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Rio de Janerio, which is preparing to host the Olympics this summer.Moreira is part of Eliminate Dengue, a non-profit that is testing the approach in 40 locations around the world. In the Zika study, the team infected field mosquitoes and Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes with two strains of Zika currently circulating in Brazil. After two weeks, mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia had fewer particles of the virus in their bodies and saliva - making them less able to infect humans with the virus."Wolbachia showed to be as effective on Zika as the most important dengue experiments we did," Moreira said. Dr. Jason Rasgon, an entomologist at Penn State University, said in some prior experiments Wolbachia has been shown to suppress transmission of one pathogen but enhance transmission of another. The new finding removes that concern.Moreira cautioned that the strategy is not 100 percent effective and will not eliminate the virus, saying it should be used as part of an integrated control strategy. (Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Leslie Adler)

BRIEF-Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America relocates head office to Houston, Texas

2016-05-04 00:49:05

May 3 Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd * Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America relocates head office to Houston, Texas Source text for Eikon: Further company coverage: (Bengaluru Newsroom: +1-646-223-8780)

North Korea capital gears up for congress; South fears nuclear test

2016-05-03 07:01:05

SEOUL North Korea has started welcoming delegates from around the country to its first ruling party congress in 36 years, state media reported on Tuesday, as rival South Korea expressed concern that Pyongyang could conduct a nuclear test before or during the event.The isolated North has conducted a series of weapons tests, including three failed launches of an intermediate-range missile, in the run-up to the Workers' Party congress starting in Pyongyang on Friday.North Korea's young leader Kim Jong Un has aggressively pursued nuclear weapons and could be looking to a successful test this week as a crowning achievement. South Korean Defence Minister Han Min-koo said Pyongyang's fifth nuclear test may come before or around the time of the opening of the congress."North Korea's goal is to be internationally recognized as a nuclear weapons state," Han told a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday. "We believe its nuclear capability is advancing."At the congress, which foreign media organizations have been invited to cover, Kim is expected to declare his country a nuclear weapons state and formally adopt his "byongjin" policy to push simultaneously for economic development and nuclear capability.It follows Kim's father's Songun, or "military first," policy and his grandfather's Juche, the North's home-grown founding ideology that combines Marxism and extreme nationalism. Pyongyang citizens "fervently welcomed participants of the congress who have given all their patriotic passion ... as a new generation of true warriors of Juche revolution under the leadership of dear comrade Kim Jong Un," North Korea's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said on Tuesday.Security has been stepped up ahead of the congress.The Daily NK, a website run by defectors with sources in North Korea, said that since mid-April, free movement in and out of the capital had been stopped and security personnel summoned from the provinces to step up domestic surveillance. The party congress is the first since 1980, before the 33-year-old Kim was born. His father and predecessor, Kim Jong Il, who died in December 2011, never held one.While some past party congresses featured representatives from countries the North has ties with, South Korean officials have said they were not aware of invitations sent to official foreign guests for the upcoming event.North Korea has become increasingly isolated over its pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and was hit with tightened U.N. Security Council sanctions in March that were backed by its chief ally, China, in response to a January nuclear test. Pyongyang has conducted a flurry of missile and other weapons tests in the run-up to the congress, although not all have been successful. It made three attempts last month of what was believed to be its intermediate-range Musudan missile, all of which failed, according to U.S. and South Korean officials.The congress is expected to last four or five days, South Korean government officials and experts said. Kim may decide to take on the post of party General Secretary, a position held by his late father, elevating himself from first secretary."It is now his era, and the elders have passed away, and the idea will be that if he remains first secretary, then he might think he won't get enough respect because of that," said An Chan-il, former North Korean military official who now heads a think tank in Seoul. (Reporting by Jack Kim and Ju-min Park; Editing by Tony Munroe and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Kerry aims to extend truce to Syria's Aleppo as ceasefire unravels

2016-05-02 23:11:05

AMMAN/GENEVA Washington and Moscow said on Monday they were working hard to extend a truce in Syria to Aleppo, the divided northern city where a sharp escalation of violence in recent weeks has left a ceasefire in tatters and torpedoed peace talks.U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in Geneva for meetings with other dignitaries to try to revive the two-month-old U.S. and Russia-sponsored cessation of hostilities, which quieted guns for the first time during the five-year Syrian war but which has unraveled in recent days.Syria announced temporary local truces in two areas last week. But those agreements have not been extended to Aleppo, where government air strikes and rebel shelling have killed hundreds of civilians in the past week, including more than 50 people in a hospital rebels say was deliberately targeted by the army.The Aleppo fighting threatens to wreck the first peace talks involving the warring parties, which are due to resume at an unspecified date after breaking up in April when the opposition delegation walked out citing government ceasefire violations."We're getting closer to a place of understanding, but we have some work to do, and that's why we're here," Kerry said at the start of a meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.Kerry said he hoped for more clarity in the next day or so on restoring the nationwide ceasefire. The United States and Russia had agreed to keep extra staff in Geneva to work on it."Both sides, the opposition and the regime, have contributed to this chaos, and we are working over the next hours intensely in order to try to restore the cessation of hostilities," Kerry said.He later spoke by telephone to Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The Russian Foreign Ministry said they both called on all sides to observe the ceasefire. A Russian military official, General Sergei Kuralenko, said talks were under way on extending the local truces to Aleppo.ALEPPO KEY TO PEACEThe United States and Russia have taken the leading roles in diplomacy since Moscow joined the war last year with an air campaign that tipped the balance of power in favor of President Bashar al-Assad, its ally.Washington is among Western and regional powers that say Assad must leave office. The White House said on Monday Assad's government needed to live up to its ceasefire commitments. The civil war in Syria has killed hundred of thousands of people, driven millions from their homes, created the world's worst refugee crisis and provided a base for Islamic State militants who have launched attacks elsewhere.All diplomatic efforts to resolve it have foundered over the fate of Assad, who refuses to accept opposition demands that he leave power.The local truces, known as a "regime of calm", were launched in the Eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus and the countryside of northern Latakia province from Saturday morning in a bid to revive the overall ceasefire. The Latakia truce was for three days and the Ghouta truce, initially for 24 hours, was also extended by another 48.Both cover areas where there has been heavy fighting. But without a similar truce in Aleppo, divided for years between government and rebel zones, there appears to be little hope of restoring the overall ceasefire so talks can resume.De Mistura, due to travel to Moscow for talks with Lavrov, said in a statement there could be no progress in political talks without the ceasefire and other steps to bring "tangible benefits on the ground for the Syrian people".Aleppo remains the biggest prize for Assad's forces hoping to take full control of the city, Syria's largest before the war. The nearby countryside includes the last strip of the Syria-Turkish border in the hands of Arab Sunni rebels. CIVILIANS KILLEDThe opposition accuses the government of deliberately targeting civilians in rebel held parts of Aleppo to drive them out. For its part, the government says rebels have been heavily shelling government-held areas, proving they are receiving sophisticated weapons from foreign sponsors.A British-based monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, has reported scores of civilians killed on both sides in recent days, although more in rebel-held territory.Syrian state television said on Monday that a missile had hit the surroundings of Aleppo University Medical Hospital, and several civilians were injured by rebel mortar attacks on the residential area of Jamiyat Hay al Zahra in western Aleppo.The rebel-held local council of Aleppo city announced a state of emergency in areas it runs due to the intense bombardment. About 350,000-400,000 people are believed to remain in rebel-held parts of what was once a city of 2 million.Mohammad Muaz Abu Saleh, a senior councillor in the rebel Aleppo governate council, said residents were nonetheless not abandoning opposition-held areas. "Those who wanted to leave Aleppo have fled," he said. Those who have stayed behind "have decided to stay under all circumstances of shelling and siege. Aleppo will remain populated with its people not leaving." Amar al-Absi, a resident of a rebel-held area, said: "There was heavy shelling throughout the night. In my neighborhood, Salah al-Deen, a missile hit a building that was empty and it was leveled but there were no casualties."In Hama, a western city, government troops surrounded a prison and fired teargas to put down a revolt by inmates, who seized several guards in protest against their planned transfer to a military prison, the Observatory reported.In countryside north of Aleppo, other rebel groups have battled Islamic State fighters who are not party to any ceasefire. Amaq, a news agency affiliated to Islamic State, said the militants had gained control of three villages near the border with Turkey, cutting supply routes of other rebels, despite Turkish shelling.The Observatory said the militants had staged a counterattack to regain ground lost from other rebels in to-and-fro fighting that has seen no major gains for any side.Two rockets hit the Turkish town of Kilis near Islamic State positions in Syria on Monday, killing one person and wounding others, a security source told Reuters. The source said the Turkish military returned fire hitting IS targets. Ankara said it had killed 34 militants on Sunday.Turkey, a NATO ally and backer of anti-Assad rebels, is part of a U.S.-led coalition launching air strikes against Islamic State but is also strongly opposed to the main Kurdish militia in Syria, Washington's closest ally on the ground.Another major supporter of the rebels is Saudi Arabia, whose Foreign Minister Jubeir blamed the latest escalation on the government and called for Assad to step down."He can leave through a political process, which we hope he will do, or he will be removed by force," Jubeir said alongside Kerry.(The online version of this story corrects the spelling of John Kerry in paragraph two.) (additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in GENEVA, John Davison in BEIRUT and Orhan Coskun in ANKARA, writing by Peter Graff; editing by Robin Pomeroy and Philippa Fletcher)

Six killed in Texas floods as severe weather lashes central U.S.

2016-05-01 15:38:06

AUSTIN, Texas A grandmother and four of her grandchildren were killed and another person also died in floods in Texas caused by storms that unleashed tornadoes, damaging hail and torrential rains on several central U.S. states, officials said on Saturday.The woman and her grandchildren died in Palestine, Texas, 100 miles (160 km) southeast of Dallas, after escaping a house where flood waters had reached the roof line. They were then swept away, Palestine police Captain James Muniz said."They were able to get out but they were washed away," he said, adding their bodies were recovered on Saturday. Those killed were identified as Jamonicka Johnson, 6, Von Johnson Jr., 7, Devonte Asberry, 8, Venetia Asberry, 9, and Lenda Asberry, 64, the city said. Palestine police took the bodies to Tyler, Texas, for autopsies, officials said. A Palestine man, Giovani Olivas, 30, was swept under flood waters around Anderson County Road 370. His body was found late Saturday afternoon, according to Anderson County Sheriff Greg Taylor.Seven homes were evacuated and temporary shelters were established, officials said. The city received 7.5 inches (19 cm) of rain in less than an hour, which caused the floods."I don't recall ever seeing this much water rise so fast and in such a short period of time," Palestine Mayor Bob Herrington said in a statement where he also offered condolences to the family of the five victims. The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch extending from east Texas into much of Mississippi and a severe thunderstorm watch for New Orleans and the southern Louisiana region."Strong to severe thunderstorms are expected today into this evening across the lower Mississippi Valley, Tennessee Valley, Ozarks and the Ohio Valley," it said. Strong winds in the Houston area downed trees and cut power lines, the service said. As of 10:30 a.m. local time, more than 4,200 customers in the region were without power, CenterPoint Energy reported.There were seven reported tornadoes from the storm system on Friday in Texas and Oklahoma, it said. A twister caused damage to several structures and ripped through mobile homes in Ninnekah, about 50 miles (80 km) southwest of Oklahoma City, local news reports said. (Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Andrew Roche, Susan Thomas, Marguerita Choy and Jacqueline Wong)

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