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Vectors, parasites and unlimited science newsflashes: pause for reflection?

Recent changes in the editorial procedures of the Memorias have restricted the number of manuscripts accepted for publication. As of January 2016, we have been publishing only ten papers per month. This limitation notwithstanding, we are sometimes positively surprised by the random clustering of subject matter in the manuscripts that have been accepted for publication. This is the case of our October 2016 - 111(10) issue: five manuscripts reporting research results on vectors of infectious microorganisms. Three articles deal with different aspects of triatomines, the hematophagous insect that transmit Trypanosoma cruzi, the causative agent of Chagas disease, to humans. Two other papers report the detection of flaviviruses in mosquitoes from Brazil and Colombia. These manuscripts bring new information about the biology, genetics and behavior of these vectors. For example, in the paper by Duran et al. (“On triatomines, cockroaches and haemolymphagy under laboratory conditions: new discoveries”) two species of triatomines - Eratyrus mucronatus and Triatoma boliviana - are shown to be able to feed from the haemolymph of other insects: cockroaches might be used as a source of food by hungry triatomines. But this strategy does not appear to be as efficient as the typical blood meal, as it compromises the triatomine development cycle. The two papers about mosquitoes convey scientific information of direct concern to prospective strategies in public health. One of these papers shows that mosquitoes from Colombia can be found infected with Flaviviruses and Alphaviruses, such as, Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus, dengue virus, West Nile virus, St. Louis encephalitis virus, yellow fever virus, and Culex flavivirus (Hoyos-López et al. “Molecular detection of flaviviruses and alphaviruses in mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae) from coastal ecosystems in the Colombian Caribbean“). In the other paper, Ferreira-de-Brito et al. report a finding that supports the occurrence of vertical and/or venereal transmission of ZIKV in Aedes aegypti in nature (“First detection of natural infection of Aedes aegypti with Zika virus in Brazil and throughout South America”). Should public health surveillance workers and decision makers be promptly called upon to consider these messages? Pause for reflection!
The results by Duran et al. about triatomine feeding raise another question: are these results just a curiosity from the closed and controlled environment of a scientific laboratory or are they a reflection of a true fact of nature (for their survival, organisms may circumvent supposed biological/behavioral barriers)? To be sure about the validity and relevance of answers to this question, scientists follow a very narrow pathway: strictly checking and tracking the record of experiments supported by independent replication of the findings through time. Assuming that scientific truth is based on the facts that stand the rigor of scrutiny by peers, not only the traditional journal peer-review but also reproducible results, we may want to know whether in today's research output there is really new information that might challenge the conventional wisdom on parasitism. From the perspective of an editor, the answer depends on the ingenuity of experiments, breadth of the results and adherence to good scientific practices; otherwise, there is no interest in publishing any research report. From the readers viewpoint, perhaps the answer is 'yes' as the readers attention is constantly being challenged by the huge amount of scientific information available everyday. Just a reminder: the social network for short messages, twitter, is updated with approximately 7,000 messages (tweets) every second ( For those plugged into one of the several scientific channels in this social network, hundreds of alerts for new discoveries pop up continuously in a single day. No editors' effort in selecting the best manuscripts can overcome the instantaneous invitation from these social media. Thus, for the connected reader the truth is not always the one surviving the scrutiny of their peers. Rather, it is the one that multiplies itself through the thousands of followers and likes, and that continuously pops up fresh science facts from around the world. This instantaneous science is not meant to prevail over the traditional pathway of discovery, which has been built to stand the proof of time. We expect it to complement the rigorous balance of check and countercheck in the scientific search of the true facts of nature.
Despite all the changes and innovations, we hope the science praxis remains as we know it today, e. g., an essential human endeavor, but there comes the artificial intelligence and its robots...!!! Pause for reflection?


Adeilton Alves Brandão | Editor


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