Weekly News Bites: Wasp genitals, mushroom medicine, and sunshine for short-sightedness

Asia Research News monitors the latest research news in Asia. Some highlights that caught our attention this week are how a wasp uses its genitals to defend itself, a compound commonly found in mushrooms that could delay cognitive decline, and sunshine as a cure for myopia.

A type of wasp uses its genitals as a defense mechanism, found a researcher at Kobe University who got “pseudo stung”. These male wasps pretend to have the venomous stinger only present on the females of the species so they will be left alone by predators. The sharp spikes on their genitals painfully jab their enemy which could make them back off to avoid the venom that usually follows a sting. 

A worrying number of mosquitoes resistant to insecticides have been found in numerous Asian countries by scientists from the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Tokyo. These mosquitoes carry genetic mutations that make them resistant to a commonly used insecticide. 78 percent of the mosquitoes tested from Vietnam and Cambodia had one of these mutations, which could hinder efforts to control the spread of disease. 

Omicron is a highly-infectious strain of the coronavirus and it evolves rapidly to evade drugs and escape our immune systems. Scientists from Peking University studied the genetic mutations of these strings and found that different branches can actually converge at certain mutation “hotspots”. These hotspots are favorable for the virus's survival and identifying them can help develop future drugs and vaccines.

Researchers from the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and Memory, Ageing and Cognition Centre have restarted a clinical trial to see if Ergothioneine, a compound commonly found in mushrooms, could help delay cognitive decline. In a previous study, the team followed 470 senior participants over five years and observed that people with the lowest blood levels of ergothioneine had a faster cognitive decline than those with higher levels of the compound.

Playing around outside in the sunshine for a couple of hours a day could reduce the risk of short-sightedness (myopia) in children, say experts from institutes such as All India Institute Of Medical Sciences and Narayana Nethralaya. Sunlight releases dopamine which could help control eyeball growth. With the rise in time spent in front of screens, myopia is becoming a big problem, as five out of ten children in urban India could be short-sighted by 2050 (according to research by LV Prasad Eye Institute).