Monday, 19 April 2010

pew pew layzorz

i was talking to a friend over the weekend, who happened to think that i am currently studying statistics / mathematics. although this is very favourable (at least to me), it is sadly not the case. to reiterate what i am (unfortunately) really doing, here is more infectious disease hoo-hah to lighten everyones' days.

malaria is the big killer of our time (well, not really, but it's right up there). and most of you will know that malaria is a mosquito-borne disease, transmitted by the species anopheles (as opposed to dengue which is transmitted by aedes mosquitoes, and various other things via culex). anyway, the latter two stuff are for another day - back to malaria.

it's just something horrible, you really don't want to catch it. undulating fevers and high temperatures alternating with chills and shivers. muscle aches. vomiting and nausea. disorientation. all that jazz. oh yeah, there's death there somewhere, too.

unfortunately, for the most part of impoverished countries in the sub-saharan region, as well in south america and south-east asia, malaria is still a prevalent disease. as such, many grants and supplements are offered for the research into a way of preventing malaria. as the old adage goes, prevention is better than cure, and this is undoubtedly the case for malaria, as the consensus is, if we could prevent malaria, we'd abolish all the disease-associated costs. makes sense.

and so, we come to how are we going to stop malaria? intuitively, you'd want to target the culprit, a single-celled organism known as plasmodium (falciparum). but, this isn't really that easy as this protist is a pro when it comes to disguising itself - it lives in your liver and red blood cells, and when it's outside the cells, it covers itself in ninja-like molecules so your body can't detect it. it's pretty much invisible and flies under your immune system's radar, so drugs which enhance the immune system, or at the very least, supplement it (which is usually the case) won't work in this situation.

so what next? let's get the mosquitoes, you say? brilliant idea! kill two birds with one stone - the plasmodiums and the annoying flying needles. and to this end, there's been a lot of research - from the crude use of pesticides to the genetic engineering of mutant mosquitoes and the introduction of eunuch mosquitoes in religiously-zealous countries (poor things) to prevent them from breeeding. but that's all old jazz, this is the 21st century - say hello to the progeny of the 'star wars' project:

lasers to zap mosquitoes from space?! more likely than you think. currently, we're just using localised lasers to shoot down these flying menaces, but who knows where the future will bring us. what's super awesome about this is that the recognition systems (which also use lasers, and to an extent sonar equipment) are able to tell the difference between mosquitoes and other insects. not just that, they can tell between male and female mosquitoes - sexist machines in the making. though this may only be of academic value, just think of the potential for all this technology. maybe our great great grandchildren will only be asking their parents of ticks and mice and flies and lice, which they only hear in storybooks and see in museums. not necessarily the most ecologically conscious thing to come about, but who knows?


njahmat said...

For my trip to Kruger National Park, I was prescribed Mefaquin, apparently the most effective anti-malaria with the strongest side effect (which included night terrors and nausea). Two guys took the drug on the same night and had very similar nightmares. Isn't that freaky?

etc said...

haha oh yeah that's some strong stuff. all the quinine derivatives have pretty strong side-effects, but i think mefloquine tops them all. i wonder if you guys remember what dreams you had.

incidentally, the US military stopped using mefloquine, and use doxycycline instead because it has the same efficacy but a lot less side effects, which makes me wonder why you guys weren't prescribed doxy.