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Scientific research strives to improve the world we live in day by day. From healthcare to energy and pollution, university researchers are tirelessly working to find solutions to the main problems of our time. IO grouped for you some of the most interesting research papers Dutch universities published this month.

Floods increase leptospirosis cases

A study conducted by John Ifejube and his colleagues at the Faculty of ITC, University of Twente, has shown a significant increase in leptospirosis cases following floods in Kerala, India. Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection humans can contract through exposure to contaminated water or urine. Symptoms can range from mild headaches and muscle pains to severe kidney failure. Ifejube’s research, part of his master’s thesis in Spatial Engineering, indicates that severe floods result in more leptospirosis cases compared to moderate floods.

The study compared leptospirosis cases in 2018 and 2019, years of heavy and moderate flooding, respectively, to 2017, which did not experience any floods. By examining high-resolution satellite images and using spatial regression, Ifejube found a clear correlation between flood duration and the number of infections. The findings emphasize the importance of monitoring flood extents to predict and manage public health risks associated with leptospirosis outbreaks.

Rethinking ADHD medication

Research by the University of Groningen Ph.D. Anne-Flore Matthijssen, in collaboration with Accare, suggests that some children with ADHD may not need to use Ritalin long-term. In her study involving 94 children, Matthijssen found that approximately 60% of children who stopped taking Ritalin after two years did not experience worsening symptoms. This challenges the current practice where the majority of children continue to use the medication for extended periods without a thorough assessment of its long-term effectiveness and side effects.

Matthijssen’s survey revealed that many general practitioners (GPs) and psychiatrists prescribe Ritalin due to pressure from parents and schools. Additionally, ADHD severity assessments are rarely conducted, impacting decisions regarding medication. Matthijssen advocates for a more significant focus on stopping medication in ADHD treatment protocols, highlighting the need for further research on the benefits and potential drawbacks of long-term Ritalin use.

Sticky solution to pest control

Researchers at Wageningen University & Research and Leiden University have developed a sticky pesticide to reduce reliance on toxic chemical pesticides. Inspired by the carnivorous sundew plant, the researchers created a sticky substance from vegetable rice oil that traps pests like thrips. The substance, which remains effective for three months, prevents pests from spreading fungi and can be washed off with water and dish soap, posing minimal risk to beneficial insects such as pollinators.

The innovative pesticide offers a sustainable alternative to traditional chemical pesticides. Its long-lasting effectiveness and harmlessness to non-target insects make it a promising solution for farmers. The researchers are assessing the environmental impact and planning to launch a spin-off company to develop and market the product further. This development could significantly reduce the environmental footprint of pest control practices in agriculture.

Pregnancy, menopause, and brain hemorrhages

A study led by Mariam Ali and Marieke Wermer at the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) has highlighted the influence of pregnancy and menopause on women’s risk of brain hemorrhages. Published in The Lancet Neurology, the research underscores that hormonal changes during these life stages can increase the likelihood of certain types of brain hemorrhages. The study calls for more research into how estrogen levels and other hormonal factors affect women’s brain health.

Women are currently underrepresented in clinical and experimental studies on brain hemorrhages, leading to gaps in knowledge and care. The researchers aim to raise awareness and improve health outcomes by shedding light on these gender-specific factors. Understanding the role of hormones in brain hemorrhages is crucial for developing preventive measures and tailored treatments for women.

Air pollution and voting behavior

Research by Nico Pestel from Maastricht University’s Research Centre for Education & Labour Market has uncovered a surprising link between air pollution and voting patterns. Published in PNAS, the study found that higher levels of air pollution increase the likelihood of people voting for opposition parties rather than ruling ones. Poor air quality negatively impacts cognitive functions and amplifies negative emotions, making voters more inclined to voice opposition.

The research highlights that on days with higher air pollution, voters feel angrier, unhappier, and more anxious, leading to increased support for opposition parties. This unconscious shift in voting behavior has significant political and social implications, emphasizing the need to address air quality issues not only for public health but also for its broader societal impacts.