Scientists find out about a serious sheep disease

A group of researchers from the University of Western Australia has succeeded in identifying a compound present in merino sheep wool that is attractive to Australian butterflies.

According to Phil Vercoe, one of the authors of the study, this result could help develop new therapies or medicines to combat flystrike, a disease that affects sheep and spreads through flies and gnats.

The sheep are sensitive to this disease because of their thick wool: if the latter is dirty or contaminated with fluids, the flies can more easily lay eggs inside the same wool.

The larvae, once they have developed, begin to feed on the flesh of the sheep causing the disease which, as main symptoms, sees strange behavior of the animal and matted wool.

As Vercoe explains, if the smell of wool that attracts flies is inherited, the compounds that scientists have just identified can lead to the development of more effective therapies to combat this disease in sheep: “It would be a great thing for the industry because would improve animal welfare and productivity.”

According to the scientist, the cost that this disease entails for breeders and for the whole industry connected to sheep is 280 million dollars a year.

Erosion of tooth enamel is also caused by flavored water and sweeteners

Sweeteners can cause exogenous erosion of dental enamel according to a new study that appeared in the International Journal of Environment and Health.

The study looked in particular at aromatized mineral waters that more and more people are drinking instead of sugary drinks. However, even flavored mineral waters contain sugary solutions and the fact that they give the sensation of bringing less damage can already intrinsically lead to greater consumption.

According to this study, switching to sugar substitutes may not be the solution to the problem of tooth enamel erosion. The study was conducted by Anna Lewandowska and Marzena Joanna Kuras of the Warsaw University of Medicine. The two researchers examined various flavored mineral waters sold in Poland, analyzing the pH, acidity and phosphorus concentration levels.

Using solutions of xylitol, erythritol, stevia and glucose-fructose, the two researchers have understood the effects that sweeteners in these drinks can have in the laboratory on tooth enamel.
Analyzing in particular the phosphorus released by the hydroxyapatite, the two researchers realized that both the aromatized mineral water and the sweeteners tested in the laboratory caused erosion of the tooth enamel and this erosion potential was similar to that of glucose syrup- fructose.

It follows, according to the two researchers, that “the replacement of glucose-fructose syrup with another sweetener has no beneficial effect on exogenous erosion.”

This is how mosquitoes track their victims

A group of researchers has seen fit to analyze the brain of female mosquitoes (only the latter feed on blood) when they choose their victim to suck the blood. Scientists at the University of Washington have discovered that mosquitoes use both the visual and olfactory systems to identify and track potential victims.

The mosquito chooses its victim by detecting some chemical signals and this had already been discovered previously. However, the ways in which these signals are processed in the brain and lead to the final decision were not known, at least until the study published today in Current Biology. First, the olfactory system detects the chemical signals of carbon dioxide coming from the potential victim and this causes changes in the brain of the mosquitoes. The intercepted carbon dioxide is essentially what we breathe out, an emission that mosquitoes can intercept even from a distance of more than 30 meters to locate the victim’s position and approach it.

After this first phase, the mosquitoes change their behavior and begin to use the visual system. With the latter they scrutinize the surroundings to delineate the forms of the guest and to decide to fly towards them. The researchers measured how carbon dioxide triggers these processes in the brain and modifies the flight behavior of mosquitoes.

With special equipment including an optical sensor to collect data related to the flapping of insect wings, the researchers have in fact tested the behavioral modalities of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes when they have to choose the victim. They discovered that even a small puff of air containing 5% of carbon dioxide could push a mosquito to turn towards the victim to visually locate it.