Question: what is the world’s deadliest animal? You might guess sharks or bears. Maybe lions.
But you’d be wrong in each case. It turns out mosquitoes cause far more deaths to humans than any other creature – an estimated 750,000 worldwide!
Few positives can be attributed to these bloodsucking pests, but it turns out a drug used to treat one of the diseases associated with mosquitoes could help prevent hearing loss in Beaufort.
From Widely Despised Pest to Potential Savior?
Mosquitoes are more than mere backyard nuisances.
We might complain about (and try desperately not to scratch) their irritatingly itchy bites, but the real danger lies in the diseases they transmit – a list that includes West Nile and Zika Virus, dengue fever and malaria.
Nobody would shed a tear if every last mosquito on the planet was eradicated.
A team of researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, however, has a rare bit of good news concerning mosquitoes.
In a study published in a May 28 PNAS article,
artemisinin – a drug used to treat patients who have contracted malaria – was found to prevent a specific type of hereditary hearing loss in zebrafish.
Patients with Usher syndrome, a hereditary hearing disorder, experience mutations in a key gene that prevent proteins necessary for proper hearing from reaching the outer membranes of sensory hair cells in the inner ear.
Without this protein, called clarin1, the hearing process is incomplete.
Zebrafish in the study, chosen due to the similarity between their genes and those in humans, and because their transparent larvae makes it easy to look at inner ear cell shape and function, were given either normal versions of clarin1 protein or mutated versions identical to the type that cause hearing loss in patients with Usher syndrome.
These gene mutations were found to become trapped in the network of tubules, tiny anatomical structures in the cells, preventing them from traveling along the correct pathways.
Working under the assumption that freeing the mutant protein from the tubules would enable it to reach its intended destination, the group tested a pair of drugs on the zebrafish: thapsigargin, an anticancer drug, and the antimalarial drug artemisinin.
While both helped free the trapped proteins, enabling them to reach the membranes and restoring hearing function, artemisinin proved to be the most effective in accomplishing this.
Artemisinin’s apparent ability to restore defective inner ear sensory cell function in zebrafish is helping scientists learn more about the processes involved in human hearing loss.
While it is unknown whether the antimalarial drug would be equally effective in patients with Usher syndrome, the similarities between zebrafish and humans give researchers hope that the drug might one day help restore hearing in these individuals.
In the meantime, there are plenty of treatment options available for those with hearing loss in Beaufort. Contact an ENT specialist to schedule an appointment and learn more.
Related Hearing Loss Posts:
- Hearing Aids + Heat: A Not-so-Winning Combination
- Risk Factors for Hearing Loss That Might Surprise You
- Can Untreated Hearing Loss Lead to Dementia?
Other Beaufort Area Audiologists Office Locations
1231 Ribaut Rd
Beaufort, SC 29902
10 Arley Way, Suite 101
Bluffton, SC 29910
23 Main St
Hilton Head Island, SC 29926