Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Genetically Altered Mosquitoes To Combat Dengue

WASHINGTON, Feb 24 – Dengue fever is among the world’s most pressing public health issues, and causes severe flulike symptoms. There are 50 million to 100 million cases per year, and nearly 40 per cent of the global population is at risk.

Recently, University California Irvine (UCI) researchers and colleagues from Oxitec Ltd and the University of Oxford created a new breed of flightless females are expected to die quickly in the wild, curtailing the number of mosquitoes and reducing – or even eliminating – dengue transmission.

Males of the strain can fly but do not bite or convey disease, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported citing the report.

Researcher Professor Anthony James of UCI said: “Current dengue control methods are not sufficiently effective, and new ones are urgently needed.”

“Controlling the mosquito that transmits this virus could significantly reduce human morbidity and mortality,” he said.

The dengue virus is spread by the bite of infected female mosquitoes and there is no vaccine or treatment.

He explained that when genetically altered male mosquitoes mate with wild females and pass on their genes, females of the next generation are unable to fly.

Scientists estimate that if released, the new breed could sustainably suppress the native mosquito population in six to nine months. The approach offers a safe, efficient alternative to harmful insecticides.

Study results appear in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for the week of Feb 22.

The research is receiving funding support from the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health through the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative, which was launched to support breakthrough advances for health challenges in the developing world.

Using concepts developed by Oxitec’s Luke Alphey, the study’s senior author, researchers made a genetic alteration in the mosquitoes that disrupts wing muscle development in female offspring, rendering them incapable of flight. Males’ ability to fly is unaffected, and they show no ill effects from carrying the gene.

“The technology is completely species-specific, as the released males will mate only with females of the same species,” Alphey said. “It’s far more targeted and environmentally friendly than approaches dependent upon the use of chemical spray insecticides, which leave toxic residue.”

James and Alphey have pioneered the creation of genetically altered mosquitoes to limit transmission of vector-borne illnesses.

While their current work is focused on the dengue fever vector, they noted that this approach could be adapted to other mosquito species that spread such diseases as malaria and West Nile fever. – Bernama

Lotus To Launch Evora In M'sia Next Month


HETHEL (England), Feb 24 – The Lotus Evora (pic), launched for the United Kingdom market, is to hit the Malaysian market by end of next month, says Proton Managing Director Datuk Syed Zainal Abidin Mohamed Tahir.

He said Proton was awaiting the next batch of the Evora before “we are ready for the launch.”

Saying that the company has not decided on the price, he did not deny that it would be higher than the 50,000 pounds current price in the United Kingdom.

“This is due to Malaysia’s higher tax structure than in the UK We’ve yet to finalise the price, we’re still working on it. We’ll try to make it as competitive as in the UK market.

“We’re still working with the government besides looking at the price structure,” he told a press conference at the Lotus headquarters here Tuesday.

The press conference was held in conjunction with the two-day visit to Lotus from Monday by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Lotus Evora, originally developed under a project called “Project Eagle”, was launched at the British Motor Show in July 2008.

The car is bigger than other Lotus models like Elise and Exige, with 160mph (260km/h) top speed and 0-60mph (0-100km/h) in less than five seconds.

Asked about the global strategic partner which he mentioned in his speech at a dinner on Monday night, Syed Zainal Abidin declined to elaborate, saying it was too early to make an announcement.

“The discussions not only involved Volkswagen but also Mitsubishi and Renault to look into collaborations in a few areas, namely engine and component parts.

“We are looking at a big scope of collaboration, that’s the level of discussions we are having today with the parties. I think in discussions like these, we don’t want to pre-empt our talks.

“We have some confidentiality that we’ve discussed and we have to respect that, but the discussions are quite intense,” he said.

Earlier, Syed Zainal Abidin said Proton has lined up a series of products for the next five years including electronics and engine power.

“We’re developing a Campo turbo which will be available by year-end or at the latest by early next year. That will be a feature in all of our cars,” he said.

After 25 years in operations, Syed Zainal Abidin said, Proton was venturing into the international arena, with the Geneva Motor Show being the first step forward and “we will build on from there.”

Dr Mahathir, also present at the press conference, said a lot of changes have been made since his last visit to Lotus about six years ago.

He said Lotus had achieved a great deal of progress, both in actual performance and in the ideas that have been put forth by the management.

“I’ve seen some of the technology advancement development they have accomplished, and as you know, the car I drove just now, Evora, was from Lotus technology because we are faced with the need to increase engine power.

“So it is either we change the engine or upgrade the engine, so Lotus has actually helped to upgrade the engine, it is now as good as 2,000cc,” he added. – Bernama

Monday, February 22, 2010

Pakatan Moves To Tighten Discipline

By Clara Chooi (Malaysian Insider)

PETALING JAYA, Feb 22 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim moved today to contain the fallout from squabbling among Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmakers by announcing the revival of plans to quickly set up a disciplinary panel for the opposition coalition.

His announcement comes in the wake of open criticisms against DAP by lawmakers in his PKR party.

The show of open dissent has open up the coalition to attacks from its rivals in Barisan Nasional (BN) who have criticised PR of being an unstable coalition incapable of leading any government.

Following a PR leadership council meeting today, Anwar said that the coalition’s secretariat was also willing to provide better avenues for members to voice their grievances against the leadership.

While maintaining that there were enough opportunities for disgruntled MPs or state assemblymen to voice their views, the PKR de facto leader said that if members felt otherwise, the PR leadership was willing to improve itself.

He noted however that rebel MPs like Kulim Bandar Baharu MP Zulkifli Noordin and Nibong Tebal MP Tan Tee Beng should have maintained more decorum when voicing their opinions against PR leaders.

“The impression created by some of the MPs that they cannot criticise for example the Chief Minister of Penang Lim Guan Eng or the Selangor Mentri Besar (Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim) is not true.

“There is a weekly committee for MPs to air their views where they can bring up any grievances against any leader whether from PAS, DAP or PKR. However, if they feel we need to expand that, then we can. I have no issues,” he told a press conference.

Anwar added that at present, the PR had at least seven ongoing committees involving MPs and non-MPs.

“Then each party has its respective leadership meetings. The MPs have a forum too and the PR secretariat itself has about five to six committees.

“The GST issue, for example, we sit and discuss and some agree and some disagree. However if they feel there is need for improvement, we are ready to do so,” he said.

On rebel MPs like Kulim Bandar Baharu MP Zulkifli Noordin and Nibong Tebal MP Tan Tee Beng, Anwar spoke of the need for decorum.

“We are not stopping them from voicing their opinions but they should be more patient. When you call a leader a ‘dictator’ for example... that is not good,” he said.

He was referring to Bayan Baru MP Datuk Seri Zahrain Hashim, who has since left PKR, and whose relentless criticisms against Lim had sparked off much controversy.

Zahrain left the party on Feb 12 to turn independent and claimed to have lost confidence in Lim and party leader Anwar himself.

Tan, who had joined Zahrain in his open criticism of Lim, is set to attend the PKR board disciplinary board proceedings tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Anwar said that the PR secretariat had decided on reviving its plan to set up the PR disciplinary committee, which would be chaired by PKR vice-president Sivarasa Rasiah.

“Sivarasa will represent all three parties in the PR and will report to the secretariat. The committee will be tasked to handle disciplinary matters especially those that concern the three parties,” said Anwar.

New Pricing For Petrol Come May 2010

Received an e-mail on the subject of the Government's new petrol price structure. I'm not sure how true the contents are, but for those intending to purchase new cars, please at least wait till May as taxes on new cars will come down too. According to the e-mail, prices of locally-manufactured cars might drop by as much as 40%, whereas import tax and excise duty might be revised to only 30% from the current 200%. The unedited e-mail is reproduced below.

PUTRAJAYA, Jan 8 – The mechanism for fuel pricing in Malaysia has finally been finalized and controlled under one mechanism, which also takes the high and lower income group people into consideration, according to Finance Trade Minister Tan Sri Anuar Ali.

“From May 1, the fuel will be pegged at RM 3.90 per litre for RON97, while RON95 will increase to RM 3.70 per litre. However, the prices of national-made vehicles will be lowered by at least 40 percent. For example, a full-spec family sedan Proton Persona 1.6 litre engine will cost around RM 23,000.00 excluding road tax and insurance. Import tax and excise duty will be revised to only 30 percent, from the current 200 percent. Imported vehicles such as the new Toyota Camry 2.4 litre engine will cost around RM 65,000.00.” he said.

The mechanics has been said to be undertaken by a team of experts from Australia and Canada who were earlier briefed on the issue of subsidy in this country, whereas after consideration by the transport minister, they have signed the constitution that the system will be made on May 1, the day it goes into effect.

Under the new system, there will be a major effect on the existing consumers who have already purchased a vehicle and to those who are in the midst of repaying the loan of their vehicle to their financial institutions.

Ahmad Tajuddin said the government might also re-introduce a cash return annually to Malaysians who own a 1,500 cc and below vehicle. The amount have yet to be decided but he assured that the amount will compensate the price of fuel by at least half to eligible Malaysians based on bumi quota.

– SkyNet News Asia