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Researchers Discover Dye That’s Safe and Effective for Treating Malaria

Fight Against Malaria

New research has shown the dye methylene blue kills malaria parasites at an unparalleled rate and is safe for human use. In the recent study, which was conducted in Mali by scientists at Radboud University Medical Center, the University of California (UCSF), and the Malaria Research and Training Center (MRTC), malaria patients were treated with a combination of the blue dye and artemisinin-based combination therapy (a fairly standard treatment). Within two days, the patients were cured of malaria and were also no longer able to transmit malaria parasites if they were bitten by a mosquito again.

The research, which will be published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases this week, marks a significant breakthrough in the treatment of malaria. Malaria parasites are growing increasingly resistant to existing drug treatments. When they are effective, current medications still do not prevent the spread of parasites — meaning that even if a patient’s symptoms are treated successfully, when they are bitten by another species of mosquito that spreads malaria, it could transmit the disease to someone else.

Malaria can still be transmitted from a person to a mosquito for at least a week using traditional treatment methods. Malarial parasites stay in an infected person’s blood for a long time, and while they’re there they split into gametocytes — male and female sex cells. When a new mosquito comes along and bites an infected person, they suck in those gametocytes in the person’s blood. In the new mosquito, they become fertilized, and when the mosquito bites someone else, the cycle continues, spreading the parasites.

With the addition of the blue dye, researchers saw that they could stop transmission of the parasite in just two days.

Teun Bousema (Radboudumc), who coordinated the study, explained in the team’s press release that its ability to prevent the spread of the disease so quickly is what makes methylene blue so promising. Bousema added that the treatment also seems to work well “in species that are resistant to certain medicines.”

The Only Drawback

The researchers have noted just one side effect of using the blue dye. “I have used it myself,” Bousema said “and it turns your urine bright blue. This is something that we need to solve because it could stop people from using it.”

While the side effect may be strange and could be alarming if patients weren’t aware that it could happen, it doesn’t appear to be harmful. As Bousema pointed out, if researchers aren’t able to suppress the dye’s effect on urine, providers who use the treatment will need to communicate the possible side effect, its cause, and explain that it isn’t a cause for concern in order to assure it doesn’t dissuade patients from starting or completing treatment.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), each year around the world 212 million people contract malaria and an estimated 429, 000 die. The group of people that most often die as a result of malaria infection are children, specifically those living in Africa. While preventative measures like insecticides and mosquito nets have helped reduce the number of annual deaths by nearly half in the last decade, the spread of malaria continues to take lives.

The new treatment shows promise, and although there are still a few small hurdles (such as the blue urine) that need to be worked out before the dye would become widely available for treatment purposes, having another treatment — especially one that helps prevent the spread of the parasite — could certainly contribute to our goal of eliminating malaria once and for all.

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Bizzare & Odd

I Visited a Local UFO Hotspot During the Annual Gathering of Tinfoil Hat Enthusiasts

UFO enthusiasts have been gathering in this Wisconsin town for 30 years to share their experiences and catch a glimpse of something strange in the sky.


UFOs photographed in the town of Dundee, WI

There are three small communities that claim to be the UFO capital of Wisconsin, but the most compelling is the unincorporated town of Dundee about 20 minutes from Cult of Weird headquarters.

10,000 years ago, the last glaciers tore through the area, leaving behind a devastated landscape that is now the picturesque Kettle Moraine State Forest. When the glaciers receded, they left behind a 250-foot pile of sediment called Dundee Mountain. It’s not an actual mountain, but it is the highest point in the area.

And locals will tell you there’s something suspicious going on there.

Strange lights and unidentified objects witnessed in the sky over Dundee Mountain and nearby Long Lake have left residents puzzled for decades. So much so, in fact, that in 1988 tavern owner Bill Benson and some friends decided to host a gathering for those who had experienced something in the area.

Bill’s bar, Benson’s Hide-a-Way, is the self proclaimed UFO headquarters of the area. It sits on the north shore of Long Lake, providing a clear view of Dundee Mountain’s peak to the south. The bar is a kitschy backwoods nightmare, and that’s why it’s amazing. The walls are covered in images of little green men. A model of a UFO hangs behind the counter. A small grey figure with large black eyes floats in a jar of cloudy liquid. It is said to be from Area 51.

30 years since the first gathering was held, the annual UFO Daze event seems more like an excuse to wear goofy aluminum foil hats and drink the spiked green alien punch, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something going on. Behind the bar Bill keeps a binder of photos documenting unexplained activity in the area, from blurry lights in the sky over Dundee Mountain to the bizarre 1995 occurrence when a large patch of reeds in the lake near Benson’s became flattened and interwoven so thickly that residents could walk on it without falling through into the water.

A crop circle in the lake.


Photos of UFO activity around Dundee Mountain and Long Lake

Last weekend Cult contributor J. Nathan Couch and I set out to uncover the secrets of Dundee’s UFO activity at the 30th annual UFO Daze. We didn’t succeed, exactly, but we did see a few aliens (inflatable ones tied to boats) and some pretty amazing tinfoil hats.

Read about it here: Searching for aliens at the 30th annual UFO Daze

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‘Slender Man’ movie will respect attack victim

Image Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0 LuxAmber

Slender Man was invented on an Internet forum almost a decade ago.

The movie will not play in two counties out of respect for a girl who was almost killed by two teenagers.

The chilling incident, which occurred in 2014, saw Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser, both 12, lure one of their classmates out to a woodland park in Wisconsin before attempting to take her life.

The senseless attack was reportedly ‘dedicated’ to Slender Man – a fictitious entity invented on an Internet forum who typically appears as a very tall, thin individual with a black suit and no face.

The character has been the subject of numerous creepypasta stories over the last few years.

Now with the release of a new movie based on the Slender Man phenomenon, it has been reported that the film will not screen in Milwaukee or Waukesha counties out of respect for the victim.

“Like many people across the United States, Marcus Theaters was deeply concerned and saddened when the Slender Man phenomenon touched Southeastern Wisconsin in such a profound way, changing the lives of many families forever,” the movie theater chain said in a statement.

“After careful consideration, and out of respect for those who were impacted, we have decided not to play the upcoming Slender Man movie in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties.”

“We will show the film at select other Marcus Theatres locations.”

Source: IGN.com

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Exoskeletons are About to Walk Ford’s Factory Floors

HALF MAN, HALF MACHINE. Full-blown automation may be the future of manufacturing, but we’re not there yet. While some machines have taken over the more painstaking tasks on the factory floor, humans still play a vital role in the production line. But often, it isn’t easy work. Tasks typically require being on one’s feet, and some even involve making repetitive arm motions up to 4,600 times a day or one million times a year. Ouch.

At Ford though, this might all be changing. Exoskeleton use on Ford’s factory floors could soon shift into overdrive, according to Engadget.

ENTER THE EXOSKELETONS. In November 2017, EksoVest Exoskeletons, built by Ekso Bionics, were given to workers in two Ford factories. Now ,up to 75 exoskeletons will be distributed to employees at 15 factories across the world. The exoskeletons don’t have motors, or even batteries, but provide “passive assistance” in the form of arm support from five to 15 pounds. By giving more arm support the higher a person reaches, the device takes strain off of the arm muscles. If you’re not convinced it would make a difference, hold your hand above your head for a few minutes.

WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY. This is only the beginning for exoskeletons at Ford. “Today, it’s only the passive upper-arm support skeleton that helps with overhead work,” Marty Smets, Ford’s technical expert of human systems and virtual manufacturing, told Engadget.

Taking one step at a time could lead Ford to other avenues of exoskeleton use within its factories. By establishing systems for the use now, Ford is well positioned to adapt new devices as they become available. “We wanted to focus on one exoskeleton initially, then expand from there as the space grows,” Smet said.

Time will tell, but perhaps man and machine can co-exist peacefully after all.

READ MORE: Ford thinks exoskeletons are ready for prime time in its factories [Engadget]

More about exoskeletons at Ford: Ford Pilots a New Exoskeleton to Lessen Worker Fatigue

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