Tag Archives: sexually transmitted disease

A female decorated cricket, with spermatophore attached, dismounts male. Photo: tomhouslay.com

This sexually transmitted virus castrates crickets, but encourages sexual activity

A female decorated cricket, with spermatophore attached, dismounts male. Photo:  tomhouslay.com

A female decorated cricket, with spermatophore attached, dismounts male. Photo: tomhouslay.com

Meet one of slickest and twisted virus nature has to offer. Called  IIV-6/CrIV , researchers at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia  discovered the virus effectively castrates crickets, while promoting sexual activity at the same time like an aphrodisiac so it can spread. It’s an incredibly effective strategy for the virus, but can we learn anything from it?

Like with most insects, crickets’ mating ritual seems oddball to say the least for us humans who are used to more familiar forms of intercourse. The male and female first initialize courtship by brushing each others antennae – no tongue! Then the female mounts the male and brushes his abdomen, which secrets sperm. The sperm is pumped into the female  for a good half an hour, which will go on to fertilize her hundred or so eggs.

A viral aphrodisiac

For the bugs infected with IIV-6/CrIV everything goes according to plan, seemingly. The infected male or female go on with their business per usual, only there won’t be any offspring  left in the process, since the virus essentially sterilizes the crickets, while promoting mating at the same time. Soon enough, following mating, the female will become swollen and blue, unable to lay eggs.

Biologist Shelley Adamo closely inspected the phenomenon by dissecting  a few infected crickets in the lab. She found the insects’ fat bodies became bloated and blue. The fat body is the perfect headquarters for interfering with communication between the immune system and the nervous system, and for altering its host’s behavior and physiology. Here, the organs were full of microscopic  hexagonal viral particles that had packed themselves into a crystalline shape, giving the blue color.

The virus castrates its hosts, but otherwise makes them look healthy. The biologists found that the male could still produce sperm, but the cells were immobile, while females only had a few eggs or none, instead of a hundred or so typically found in uninfected samples. Despite this, the males still wanted to mate – they were actually more sexually active than otherwise. Typically, uninfected males wait for 10 minutes or so before serenading their mates. The males infected by the IIV-6/CrIV virus went to business in under 3 minutes. Meanwhile, the females, whether they had the virus or not, all mounted the males without discrimination.

Sick animals usually don’t end up transmitting their genes either because they’re unable to perform sexually due to weakness or can’t find a mate since they look unattractive. The virus is a slick one. Infected crickets not only have a sped up courtship, their immune system is actually boosted to make them more attractive. It’s a brilliant strategy on behalf of the virus, one that helps it spread its wings along with the cricket.

A winning strategy

Other parasites and virus do it, too. Rabies makes its host more aggressive so it can infect other organisms. Hairworms turn their grasshopper hosts into suicide jumpers so they can get to water. Some wasps force spiders to build weird webs to support their cocoons.

Some may wonder, could we engineer a virus like IIV-6/CrIV to destroy pests? The short answer is yes. For instance, scientists bred mosquitoes with a gene that is lethal to the insect, but only activates in the second generation. So the mosquitoes mate as per usual, but their offspring die in larva form. The strategy seems to be effective for warding off diseases like malaria which infects 500 million people each year and kills around two million. You wouldn’t want to do something like with anything, though. The ecoystem is in an fine balance – wipe out a parasitic species and there’s no telling what might happen next. Ecological niches are in place for a reason and they rarely go unserved. There will always be organisms waiting to fill the gap left, so you could end up doing more harm than good.

The findings on the  IIV-6/CrIV  were detailed in a paper published in The Journal of Experimental Biology.

Teens create condom that changes color if you have an STD

A group of UK teenagers have invented a condom that changes colors and glows if you or your partner hav an STD. Aptly named the S.T. EYE, the condom has a built-in chemical detector that detects infections such as chlamydia and syphilis, and lets you (and your partner) know.

Image via Kmoj FM.

The future is here – we have color-changing condoms that help prevent the spread of STDs; just imagine, in the heat of the moment, the last thing on your mind is thinking about infections, and yet over 1,400,000 chlamydial infections are reported every year in the US alone. Three pupils, Daanyaal Ali, 14, Muaz Nawaz, 13 and Chirag Shah, 14 – from at Isaac Newton Academy in Ilford, Essex wanted to figure out a way to solve that.

The three highly creative teenagers created a concept for a smart condom that would alter its luminescent hue when exposed to common STDs. The condom would be covered in antibodies that react in a very specific way when they encounter bacteria, causing the condom to change color.

“We knew that STIs were a huge problem in the U.K.,” Daanyaal told the press. “We saw a gap in the market and we wanted to help people feel safer.”

The three participated (and won) the TeenTech awards in London, taking out the best health innovation title. They, and the contest judges believe that this invention could help millions of people in the future.

“We wanted to make something that makes detecting harmful STIs safer than ever before, so that people can take immediate action in the privacy of their own homes without the invasive procedures at the doctors,” she said. “We’ve made sure we’re able to give peace of mind to users and make sure people can be even more responsible than ever before.”

The group received about $2041 (£1000) and a trip to Buckingham Palace, but it’s not clear if they’ll present their condom project to the queen.

Tinder usage caused STD spike, officials say

It’s taking the world by storm, and allowing millions of people world wide to meet friends… and hook up. But for all the joy that is bringing to the world, Tinder also has its downsides – a new study reports the app has actually led to an increase of STD incidence.

Image via Huff Post.

 

Truth be told, the channel never has all the blame. If people want to meet up and have unsafe sex, they will definitely do so – Tinder just makes it easier. But as far as making it easier goes, Tinder makes all the difference. The fact that an app can lead to more people getting STDs seems to be one of those issues health officials might not be equipped to deal with yet.

After decades of public health programs, awareness campaigns and social programs, the rate of STD transmission has continuously dropped – until now. From 2013 to 2014, the number of infections syphilis cases increased by a whopping 79 percent in Rhode Island. Newly-identified HIV cases increased by nearly 33 percent, and authorities estimate many other cases go unreported.

“These data send a clear signal that despite the progress we have made in reducing STDs and HIV over the years, there is more work to do,” said Nicole Alexander-Scott, Director Designee at the health department. “We are fortunate in Rhode Island to have great partnerships among state agencies, community-based organizations, and healthcare providers to continue to educate, test, and treat for sexually transmitted diseases. This trend reminds us that we cannot become complacent.”

STDs are spread through anal, oral, or vaginal sex, and by skin-to-skin contact, and it’s recommended that every casual sexual contact be “safe”. Prevention and routine testing are top priorities, and it’s estimated that other cases are undergoing similar situations to Rhode Island.

Gonorrhea under a microscope. Image: courtesy of CDC/Susan Lindsley

Antibiotic resistant gonorrhea arrives in North America too. STD might become “incurable”

Gonorrhea under a microscope. Image: courtesy of CDC/Susan Lindsley

Gonorrhea is one of the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world. It’s been a real pest for centuries, however for decades now effective and simple orally administrated antibiotics have quickly turned this dreaded social stigma and healthcare hazard into nothing more than a common trifle, easily dealt with. The bacterium doesn’t give up that easily though, and along countless generations it has developed immunity to the various antibiotics physicians have thrown at it.

In the past few years, cases of gonorrhea that didn’t respond to treatment were reported through the world. A recent survey found that “incurable” gonorrhea has also reach North America, after researchers at a Toronto clinic found that 6.7 percent of 133 patients that came for treatment still remained gonorrhea-positive after re-testing.

The current antibiotic of choice for treating gonorrhea is a class called cephalosporins. Previously other classes were used, but they steadily lost the battle as the bacterium developed immunity. Thus, sulfonamides lost potency in the 1940s, penicillins and tetracyclines lost effectiveness in the 1970s and ’80s, while fluoroquinolones were permanently retired in 2007.

Previously, individual cases of untreatable gonorrhea were reported in the United Kingdom, Austria, France, Norway, and Japan. This latest survey, led by Vanessa Allen of Public Health Ontario, proves for the first time cephalosporin-resistant gonorrhea has been found in humans in North America.

“These are the clinical cases we’ve been waiting for,” Allen says. “This is the translation of the lab information into what the clinical consequence is.”

Gonorrhea is winning

Gonorrhea is estimated to infect close to 700,000 Americans each year. Left untreated, it can cause very unpleasant complications like painful urination, abdominal pain, genital discharge, itching and more severely severe pregnancy complications and female infertility. The STD also heightens the risk of acquiring HIV, and babies born to women with untreated gonorrhea are at risk of blindness.

“Our results aren’t generalizable to the overall concentration because they all came from one clinic,” Allen says. “But basically, the problem appears worse than we originally thought.”

Does this mean that gonorrhea will become incurable in the future? Not necessarily. All the nine patients that didn’t respond to the typical oral antibiotics were eventually cured with the injectable antibiotic known as ceftriaxone, which unfortunately has also seen a parallel development of resistance according to Allen. While the antibiotic pipeline is obviously running dry, hopefully alternative forms of treatment may be developed, however it’s unlikely they are as “comfortable” and non-intrusive than cephalosporins.

Considering these recent worldwide cases of drug resistance, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently recommended clinicians no longer prescribe a single antibiotic treatment. Robert Kirkcaldy, of the Division of STD Prevention at the CDC, stated:

“[…] all patients treated for gonorrhea should be given risk reduction counseling, offered condoms and retested for gonorrhea three months after treatment,” they noted in their essay.

“Clinicians must remain vigilant for cephalosporin treatment failures and report suspected cases to the local or state health department,” Kirkcaldy and his colleagues wrote. “Patients with persistent or recurrent symptoms shortly after treatment should be retested for gonorrhea by culture.”

The findings were reported in theJournal of the American Medical Association

A solitary cow, peacefully grazing away. A dazzling sight for any "animal lover".

Sex with animals might give you penile cancer. Beware!

A solitary cow, peacefully grazing away. A dazzling sight for any "animal lover".

A solitary cow, peacefully grazing away. A dazzling sight for any "animal lover".

There’s nothing not to love about animals. Since the dawn of mankind, animals have offered humans food, clothing and company. However, some have ventured this relationship farther from its platonic grounds, and expressed their love for animals in a more… intimate manner. A recent study conducted by Brazilian researchers has found that more than 35 percent of study participants had at least one sexual experience with an animal during their lifetime, and that there’s an undeniable link between sex with animals and penile cancer.

The researchers surveyed 492 men from rural Brazil between 18 and 80, including penile cancer patients and healthy individuals, and found that 35 percent reportedly engaged in sexual relations with an animal. Of the 118 penile cancer patients, 45 percent reported having sex with animals, compared with 32 percent of healthy men. The results were part of a wider study which analyzed the various risks of penile cancer for visiting individuals in  16 urology and oncology centers in 12 Brazilian cities.

Interestingly enough, it seems once you “go animal”, you can’t get back that easily. Fifty-nine percent of the men involved in the study who had sex with animals did so for one to five years, while 21 percent continued the behavior.

A relation between penile cancer and the number of animals with which individuals came into sexual contact couldn’t be made, however group sex with animals was found to be a major factor for sexually transmitted diseases. More than 30 percent of subjects practiced group sex with animals (anything from mares, pigs, cows and even chickens), and this likely accounts for the high number of STDs among practicants.

Sex with animals comes at a heavy cost

The study is the first to link male genital cancer with SWA, the later which has been poorly studied. It is documented that up to 10 percent of cancers in men in Asia, Africa and South America are penile, while in western countries like the US it quite rare. This begs for a direct correlation between education, hygine or social discrepancies and penile cancer, as well as to, if you will, sex with animals.

How does this kind of unorthodox practice related to penile cancer, though? Well, the top risk hazard known to cause penile cancer are micro-injuries to the penis, which occur when physical trauma is inflicted – this type of injury is quite common  post-intercourse between a human and caballus.

“We think that the intense and long-term SWA practice could produce micro-traumas in the human penile tissue,”  lead author Stênio de Cássio Zequi, a urologist in São Paulo, said. “The genital mucus membranes of animals could have different characteristics from human genitalia, and the animals’ secretions are probably different from human fluids. Perhaps animal tissues are less soft than ours, and non-human secretions would be toxic for us,” he explained.

Tobias Köhler, a urologist at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine who was not involved in the research, acknowledged the study was rigourous enough to be credible and offered more insights relating to penis micro-injury, as a results of bestiality.

“The vagina in humans has moisturizing properties, which prevent penile injury. With animals, you’re at higher risk for micro-trauma, like cuts and scratches. And then whatever pathogens are there, like bacteria and viruses, are more likely to cause a problem.”

If you’re planing on having sex with an animal, at least wear a condom

Then there’s also the case of various viruses and bacteria present in the vaginal tissue of animals, which Köhler believes to play a role in the development of penile cancer. Also, one can also related penile cancer to the lifestyles of the men who practice this kind of sexual deviance. A typical zoophile is uneducated, has poor hygiene, doesn’t use condoms and is basically willing to stick it into anything that has a hole and moves.  Still, Zequi is firm convinced that SWA remains as a significant risk factor for penile cancer in the analysis, independent of lifestyle choices.

However, animal sex isn’t exclusively reserved for the rural and illeterate. Surprisingly enough, the opposite is true in a inverssily proportional manner in developing countries like the US, where sex with animals is predominant among the educated populace.

“SWA is not a sexual behavior limited only for poor rural populations,” Zequi said. “It is actually a growing health concern today. Just give a few clicks on the search sites on the Internet and you’ll come across numerous ‘zoo’ sites or virtual communities focused on bestiality, many of which are pornographic and sometimes with degrading images.”

Zequi believes his study is evidence enough that the link between penile cancer and sex with animals is there, as such urges clinicians to spread the word to at-risk populations. While the practice is difficult to discourage, measures can be taken to dampen the risks of developing cancer.

The study was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

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