Health and Fitness

Bacteria-Killing Proteins Cover Blood Type Blind Spot

A set of proteins found in our intestines can recognize and kill bacteria that have human blood type molecules on their surfaces, scientists at Emory University School of Medicine have discovered. The results were published online Feb. 14 and are scheduled to appear in the journal Nature Medicine. Many immune cells have receptors that respond to molecules on the surfaces of bacteria, but these proteins are different because they recognize structures found on our own cells, says senior author Richard D. Cummings, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Biochemistry. "It's like having a platoon in an army whose sole purpose is to track down enemy soldiers that are wearing the home country's uniforms." Blood type comes from differences in sugar molecules attached to proteins on red blood cells. If incompatible blood types are mixed, the antibodies from one person will make red blood cells from the other person clump together, with devastating results in an emergency. But someone's immune system usually doesn't make antibodies to the sugar molecules on his or her own red blood cells.

Rapid Flu Tests Work Better In Kids Than In Adults

A rapid influenza diagnostic test (RIDT) can provide a diagnosis of flu within 30 minutes -speeding the delivery of antiviral medication if needed - but studies have shown these tests often give false negative results. A new study, "Sensitivity of Rapid Influenza Diagnostic Testing for Swine-Origin 2009 A ( H1N1 ) Influenza Virus in Children, " published in the March issue of Pediatrics (appearing online February 15), examined RIDTs in a large pediatric cohort and found the tests may be more effective at diagnosing influenza in children than in adults. A total of 820 children with influenza-like illness were tested for respiratory viruses over two flu seasons - 2007-2008 and 2008-2009. Study authors found RIDTs were more sensitive in children ages 5 and younger and in patients who were tested within 2 days of symptom onset. The authors suggest that RIDTs may have a role in diagnosing 2009 H1N1 influenza in this population, who are more likely to develop influenza-related complications, more likely to transmit influenza, and more likely to benefit from antiviral therapy.

Safer Hip, Knee And Dental Implants With Smart Coating

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a "smart coating" that helps surgical implants bond more closely with bone and ward off infection. When patients have hip, knee or dental replacement surgery, they run the risk of having their bodies reject the implant. But the smart coating developed at NC State mitigates that risk by fostering bone growth into the implant. The coating creates a crystalline layer next to the implant, and a mostly amorphous outer layer that touches the surrounding bone. The amorphous layer dissolves over time, releasing calcium and phosphate, which encourages bone growth. "The bone grows into the coating as the amorphous layer dissolves, resulting in improved bonding, or osseointegration, " says Dr. Afsaneh Rabiei, an NC State associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, associate faculty member of biomedical engineering and co-author of a paper describing the research. This bonding also makes the implant more functional, because the bonding helps ensure that the bone and the implant do a better job of sharing the load.

Swine Flu Pandemic Weekly Report Thursday 11 February 2010, Wales

Key points: - The clinical consultation rate for influenza - not necessarily swine flu - in Wales during the week ending 7 February increased to 5.8 cases of flu-like illness diagnosed by GPs out of every 100, 000 people in Wales. It was 3.5 per 100, 000 in the previous week. Current levels of flu in Wales are below the usual level for this time of year. - According to the latest data available from the Public Health Wales daily GP surveillance scheme, as at 9 February, the influenza consultation rate in Wales as a whole was 9.4 cases of flu-like illness diagnosed by GPs in the previous seven days out of every 100, 000 people in Wales. This is the equivalent of 282 people contacting their GPs in the last seven days with flu-like symptoms. - As at noon on 10 February, 660 laboratory confirmed cases of swine flu have been reported by Public Health Wales Health Protection Teams in Wales since the start of the outbreak. Two new cases have been reported in the past week. - A total of 447 people with laboratory confirmed swine flu in Wales have been admitted to hospital since the start of the outbreak.

Plant Buffers May Limit Spread Of Antibiotics In Animal Waste

Research by scientists at the University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry suggests that buffer strips of grasses and other plants can trap and break down veterinary antibiotics in manure fertilizers. Buffer strips have already demonstrated that they can be effective in protecting water quality, controlling erosion and supporting wildlife around crop fields. "That's the beauty of it, " said Keith Goyne, assistant professor of environmental soil chemistry in the MU School of Natural Resources. "Vegetative buffers already are a recommended practice for reducing sediment, nutrients and herbicides in surface runoff. Our research is showing another benefit." The finding comes amid emerging concerns about the use of veterinary antibiotics in livestock farming. Thirty to 80 percent of any given dose of antibiotic may end up excreted as waste rather than absorbed by the animal, Goyne said. When manure is used to fertilize croplands, antibiotics in the manure-enriched soil may leave the farm via surface runoff and eventually end up in streams, lakes or rivers.

Also In Global Health News: Food Needs In Sudan; Malaria Vaccine; Agriculture In India; Generic Drugs

Drought, Conflict More Than Triple Food Needs In S. Sudan "The number of people in Southern Sudan needing food aid has quadrupled to about 4.3 million this year from a year ago because of violence and drought, the United Nations World Food Programme said " Tuesday, Bloomberg reports (Maier, 2/2). The agency, which is facing a funding shortfall of $485.4 million, estimates more than 11 million people in the country will need food assistance this year (2/2). GlobalPost Examines Ongoing Malaria Vaccine Trials In Africa The GlobalPost examines the ongoing clinical trial of the malaria vaccine, RTS, S - or Mosquirix - in seven African countries. The trial expects to enroll 16, 000 children to test the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine and should last between three and five years. "The vaccine would be an important weapon in the fight against deadly malaria but would be just one part of an arsenal that includes insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor spraying, effective treatment once malaria takes hold and preventative anti-malarials for pregnant women.

Antibiotics As Active Mutagens In The Emergence Of Multidrug Resistance

Multidrug resistant bacteria such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus ( MRSA ) pose a major problem for patients, doctors, and the pharmaceutical industry. To combat such bacteria, it is critical to understand how resistance is developed in the first place. It is commonly thought that an incomplete course of antibiotics would lead to resistance to that particular antibiotic by allowing the bacteria to make adaptive changes under less stringent conditions. However, new research from Mike Kohanski, Mark DePristo, and Jim Collins at Boston University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute shows that low doses of antibiotics can produce mutant strains that are sensitive to the applied antibiotic but have cross-resistance to other antibiotics. Their findings shed light on one of multiple mechanisms that may contribute to the emergence of multidrug resistant bacterial strains or so called "superbugs". The study, published in the February 12th issue of Molecular Cell, a Cell Press journal, builds on earlier observations from this group that antibiotics produce reactive oxygen species (ROS) in bacteria.

The Genetic Secrets To Jumping The Species Barrier

Scientists have pinpointed specific mutations that allow a common plant virus to infect new species, according to research published in the March issue of the Journal of General Virology. Understanding the genetics of the key interactions between viruses and hosts could provide insight to how some viruses manage to jump the species barrier and even give us a better idea of how animal diseases are generated. Researchers from Saga University, Japan studied the genetic changes that took place when turnip mosaic virus (TuMV) - a plant mosaic disease spread by aphids - adapted to infect a new species. Genetic analysis showed TuMV had acquired an average of 140 significant mutations, on its evolutionary pathway from Brassica rapa (turnip), a host to which it is well adapted, to a new host Raphanus sativus (radish). Interestingly, many of the mutations were found clustered in genes that code for two key viral proteins, P3 and CI. These two proteins are already known to interact with genes that help plants resist TuMV infection.

What Is Norovirus Infection? What Causes Norovirus Infection?

Noroviruses, also known as Norwalk-like viruses, SRSV (small round structured viruses, are part of a group of viruses from the family Caliciviridae that are the most common cause of stomach upset ( gastroenteritis ) in the USA, Great Britain and Western Europe; about 90% of epidemic non-bacterial outbreaks of gastroenteritis around the world. Sometimes referred to as winter vomiting disease, norovirus infection often affects people during the winter months. However, people may be affected at any time of year. After a person has a norovirus infection, immunity is only temporary - about 14 weeks - and usually incomplete. Individuals with blood type O are more susceptible to infection, while those with types B and AB are partially protected. Given the genetic variability of noroviruses, individuals are likely to be repeatedly infected throughout their lifetimes. However, experts say that having recurring infections does eventually provide some protection from future infection.

Low Levels Of Antibiotics Cause Multidrug Resistance In 'Superbugs'

For years, doctors have warned patients to finish their antibiotic prescriptions or risk a renewed infection by a "superbug" that can mount a more powerful defense against the same drug. But a new study by Boston University biomedical engineers indicates that treating bacteria with levels of antibiotics insufficient to kill them produces germs that are cross-resistant to a wide range of antibiotics. In the Feb. 12 issue of Molecular Cell, research led by Boston University Professor James J. Collins details for the first time the biomolecular process that produces superbugs. When administered in lethal levels, antibiotics trigger a fatal chain reaction within the bacteria that shreds the cell's DNA. But, when the level of antibiotic is less than lethal the same reaction causes DNA mutations that are not only survivable, but actually protect the bacteria from numerous antibiotics beyond the one it was exposed to. "In effect, what doesn't kill them makes them stronger, " said Collins, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.

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