Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[News story] Commonly used pain relievers have added benefit of fighting bacterial infection — ScienceDaily

Commonly used pain relievers have added benefit of fighting bacterial infection — ScienceDaily.

Summary:
Some commonly used drugs that combat aches and pains, fever, and inflammation are also thought to have the ability to kill bacteria. New research reveals that these drugs, better known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, act on bacteria in a way that is fundamentally different from current antibiotics. The discovery could open up new strategies for fighting drug-resistant infections and ‘superbugs.’

“We discovered that some anti-inflammatory drugs used in human and veterinary medicine have weak antibiotic activity and that they exert this secondary activity by preventing bacteria from copying their DNA, which they need to do in order to multiply,” explains senior author Dr. Aaron Oakley of the University of Wollongong, in Australia. The researchers analyzed three NSAIDs: bromofenac, carprofen, and vedaprofen. The more commonly known NSAIDs, which include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, were not tested.

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March 28, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

BBC – Future – Body bacteria: Can your gut bugs make you smarter?

BBC – Future – Body bacteria: Can your gut bugs make you smarter?.

Excerpts from the 21 February 2014 article

The bacteria in our guts can influence the working of the mind, says Frank Swain. So could they be upgraded to enhance brainpower?

I have some startling news: you are not human. At least, by some counts. While you are indeed made up of billions of human cells working in remarkable concert, these are easily outnumbered by the bacterial cells that live on and in you – your microbiome. There are ten of them for every one of your own cells, and they add an extra two kilograms (4.4lbs) to your body.

Far from being freeloading passengers, many of these microbes actively help digest food and prevent infection. And now evidence is emerging that these tiny organisms may also have a profound impact on the brain too. They are a living augmentation of your body – and like any enhancement, this means they could, in principle, be upgraded. So, could you hack your microbiome to make yourself healthier, happier, and smarter too?

..

“Diet is perhaps the biggest factor in shaping the composition of the microbiome,” he says. A study by University College Cork researcherspublished in Nature in 2012 followed 200 elderly people over the course of two years, as they transitioned into different environments such as nursing homes. The researchers found that their subjects’ health – frailty, cognition, and immune system – all correlated with their microbiome. From bacterial population alone, researchers could tell if a patient was a long-stay patient in a nursing home, or short-stay, or living in the general community. These changes were a direct reflection of their diet in these different environments. “A diverse diet gives you a diverse microbiome that gives you a better health outcome,” says Cryan.

Beyond a healthy and varied diet, though, it still remains to be discovered whether certain food combinations could alter the microbiome to produce a cognitive boost. In fact, Cryan recommends that claims from probiotic supplements of brain-boosting ought to be taken with a pinch of salt for now. “Unless the studies have been done, one can assume they’re not going to have any effect on mental health,” he says. Still, he’s optimistic about the future. “The field right now is evolving very strongly and quickly. There’s a lot of important research to be done. It’s still early days.”

 

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March 13, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Nutrition, Psychology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scientists Show How Antibiotics Enable Pathogenic Gut Infections

Screen Shot 2013-09-03 at 11.14.15 AM

 

From the 1 September 2013 Science Daily article

A new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine could help pinpoint ways to counter the effects of the antibiotics-driven depletion of friendly, gut-dwelling bacteria.

“Antibiotics open the door for these pathogens to take hold. But how, exactly, that occurs hasn’t been well understood,” Sonnenburg said.

In the first 24 hours after administration of oral antibiotics, a spike in carbohydrate availability takes place in the gut, the study says. This transient nutrient surplus, combined with the reduction of friendly gut-dwelling bacteria due to antibiotics, permits at least two potentially deadly pathogens to get a toehold in that otherwise more forbidding environment.

In the past decade or so, much has been learned about the complex microbial ecosystem that resides in every healthy mammal’s large intestine, including ours. The thousands of distinct bacterial strains that normally inhabit this challenging but nutrient-rich niche have adapted to it so well that we have difficulty living without them. They manufacture vitamins, provide critical training to our immune systems and even guide the development of our own tissues. Antibiotics decimate this gut-microbe ecosystem, which begins bouncing back within a few days but may take a month or more to regain its former numbers. And the ecosystem appears to suffer the permanent loss of some of its constituent bacterial strains.

It is thought that our commensal, or friendly, bacteria serve as a kind of lawn that, in commandeering the rich fertilizer that courses through our gut, outcompetes the less-well-behaved pathogenic “weeds.” It has also been suggested that our commensal bugs secrete pathogen-killing factors. Another theory holds that the disruption of our inner microbial ecosystem somehow impairs our immune responsiveness.

 Read the entire article here

 

 

September 3, 2013 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

Bacteria That Cause Disease In Humans Have ‘Reversible Switching Mechanism’ Allowing Them To Adapt To Environments Lacking Oxygen

 

From the 13 September article at Medical News Today

Bacteria that cause disease in humans have a ‘reversible switching mechanism’ that allows them to adapt to environments lacking oxygen, scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have found.

Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, the findings provide a new insight into how bacteria sense and adapt to oxygenated atmospheres, and uncover a new ‘antioxidant’ pathway by which certain types of damaged proteins can be repaired. …

 

September 13, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , | Leave a comment

Beneficial Bacteria May Help Ward Off Infection

 

English: Template for Template:Food safety

English: Template for Template:Food safety (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 19 July 2012 article at Science News Daily

 

While many bacteria exist as aggressive pathogens, causing diseases ranging from tuberculosis and cholera, to plague, diphtheria and toxic shock syndrome, others play a less malevolent role and some are critical for human health.

In a new study, Cheryl Nickerson and her group at ASU’s Biodesign Institute, in collaboration with an international team including Tom Van de Wiele and lead author Rosemarie De Weirdt at Ghent University, Belgium, explore the role of Lactobaccilus reuteri — a natural resident of the human gut — to protect against foodborne infection.

Their results demonstrate that this beneficial or probiotic organism, which produces an antimicrobial substance known as reuterin, may protect intestinal epithelial cells from infection by the foodborne bacterial pathogen Salmonella….

Bacterial Blizzard

A swarm of some hundred trillion bacteria occupies the human body, outnumbering human cells by about 10 to 1. Among these are members of the genus Lactobacilli, some of which have been associated with therapeutic, probiotic properties, including anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer activity.

The current study zeros in on Lactobacillus reuteri – one of the more than 180 species of Lactobacilli. The group investigated the potential of this bacterium to inhibit the early stages ofSalmonella infection, seeking to identify plausible mechanisms for such inhibitory effects.

Intestinal infections by non-typhoidal Salmonella strains induce diarrhea and gastroenteritis, and remain a leading source of foodborne illness worldwide. Such infections are acutely unpleasant but self-limiting in healthy individuals. For those with compromised immunity however, they can be deadly and the alarming incidence of multi-drug resistant Salmonellastrains has underlined the necessity of more effective therapeutics.

The use of benign microorganisms offers a promising new approach to treating infection from pathogens like Salmonellaand indeed, L. reuteri has been shown to help protect against gastrointestinal infection and reduce diarrhea in children.

Safeguarding cells

The origin of L. reuteri’s protective role still remains unclear, and the present study investigated whether reuterin, a metabolite produced by L. reuteri during the process of reducing glycerol in the gut, could be one of the keys to protection. While it has been speculated that reuterin acts by regulating immune responses or competing with Salmonella for key binding sites, the current study represents the first in vitro examination of host-pathogen interactions using human intestinal epithelium in the presence of reuterin-producing L. reuteri.

 

 

July 23, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fighting Malaria By Modifying Friendly Bacteria In Mosquito Gut

Malaria is preventable and curable

Malaria is preventable and curable (Photo credit: Novartis AG)

This method of malarial control is not without controversy***, especially among folks who are against genetic engineering of any kind.

Back in 1980-81 I came down with malaria four times in Liberia where I served as a Peace Corps volunteer. Each time I came down with it on a Tuesday after forgetting to take my weekly preventative (Chloroquine) on Sunday. Thankfully each time it was similar to a mild flu bug and I was back at work the next day.

Since then, Chloroquine is ineffective in Liberia. The malarial strains are much more virulent. Back in the early 80′s the virulent malarial strains in Africa were mostly in East Africa.

From the 17 July 2012 article at Medical News today

By genetically modifying gut bacteria in the malaria mosquito, US researchers have found a potentially powerful way to fight malaria. The modified “friendly” bacteria, which live in the midgut of the mosquito alongside the malaria parasite, produce toxins that are deadly to the parasite but do not harm humans or mosquitoes…

..”In the past, we worked to genetically modify the mosquito to resist malaria, but genetic modification of bacteria is a simpler approach.”..

…The battle against malaria has to be fought on a number of fronts: insect repellent and bed nets can help prevent transmission from mosquitoes to humans, but work like that of Jacobs-Lorena and colleagues helps to find ways to control malaria one step earlier by eliminating infection within the mosquito itself.

In May 2011, another team from Johns Hopkins University reported identifying a class of naturally occurring bacteria that can strongly inhibit malaria parasites in mosquitoes. They found the presence of Enterobacter reduced various developmental stages of P. falciparum, including the stage that is transmitted to humans through a mosquito bite, were reduced by 98 to 99%….

Related Resources

***

  • the Organic Review: GM Exterminators Inserted into Intestines to Stop Malaria
    “Those mosquitos that contained genetically modified gut bacteria, alternative to the actual GM mosquitos, have been proven to conquer Plasmodium bacterium in both human and rodent populations by nearly 100%. The question that remains is if such genetic modifications can cause other negative affects to healthy functioning parts or other bacteria in the mosquitos or is spread to other animals or humans. Results after further studying could possibly lead to new circumstances.” 

July 18, 2012 Posted by | environmental health | , , | Leave a comment

Harmful Bacteria Live In Healthy Bodies Without Causing Disease

Depiction of the human body and bacteria that ...

Depiction of the human body and bacteria that predominate     Larger Image at http://www.genome.gov/Images/press_photos/highres/20169-300.jpg(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Somehow I always felt this to be true…

Many scientists now regard human bodies as “supra-organisms”, collections of communities made up of human and microbial cells coexisting in a whole that is more than the sum of its parts.

From the 14 June 2012 Medical News Today article

Scientists working on a huge project that has mapped all the different microbes that live in and on a healthy human body have made a number of remarkable discoveries, including the fact that harmful bacteria can live in healthy bodies and co-exist with their host and other microbes without causing disease.

This week sees the publication of several papers from the Human Microbiome Project (HMP), including two in Nature and two inPLoS ONE.

The Microbiome

The microbiome is the sum of all the microbes that colonize the body: it comprises trillions of microorganisms that outnumber human cells by 10 to 1. The microbes inhabit every nook and cranny of the body, and most of     the time the relationship is a friendly one, because they help digest food, strengthen the immune system and fight off dangerous pathogens.

Colorado University (CU)-Boulder Associate Professor Rob Knight of the BioFrontiers Institute is co-author on the two Nature papers. He told the press that the microbiome may only make up 1 to 3% of human body mass, but it plays a key role in human health.

One of the fascinating features of the microbiome is that different body sites have different communites of microorganisms that are as different from each other as the differences between microbial communities in oceans and deserts.

Knight said:

“By better understanding this microbial variation we can begin searching for genetic biomarkers for disease.”

Another of the curious features the HMP has discovered is that even healthy people carry low levels of harmful bacteria, but as long as the body remains healthy, they don’t cause disease, they just coexist alongside beneficial microbes. …

The HMP researchers established that more than 10,000 microbial species inhabit the human “ecosystem”. Knight said they believe they have now found between 81 and 99% of all genera of microorganisms in healthy adult Americans.

One of the key findings was the stark differences in microbial communities across the human body. For instance, the microbial communities that live on the teeth are different from those in saliva. …

…Another interesting discovery is that of the genes that influence human metabolism, most of them are in the microbiome and not in the human genome

…gut bacteria do more than break down food and its constituents like proteins, fats and carbohydrates, they also produce beneficial compounds like vitamins and anti-inflammatories.

June 14, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News, Nutrition | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Dirtiest Places In The Office

From the 24 May 2012 Medical News Today article

If you think the restroom is the place you are most likely to pick up germs at the office, perhaps you should think again, because new findings from the US suggest the dirtiest places in the office are in break rooms and kitchens, with sink and microwave door handles topping the list of germ “hot spots”…

..
An ATP **count of 300 or more means the surface has a high level of contamination and there is a high risk of illness transmission. When they analyzed the samples, the researchers found ATP counts of 300 and higher on:

  • 75% of break room sink faucet (tap) handles,
  • 48% of microwave door handles,
  • 27% of keyboards,
  • 26% of refrigerator door handles,
  • 23% of water fountain buttons, and
  • 21% of vending machine buttons.

**ATP  (adenosine triphosphate) is the universal energy molecule found in all animal, plant, bacteria, yeast and mold cells. Large amounts are present in food and organic residues, which when left on a surface can harbor and grow bacteria.

May 25, 2012 Posted by | Workplace Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Disarming Disease-Causing Bacteria

From the 5 April 2012 Science Daily article

New treatments that combat the growing problem of antibiotic resistance by disarming rather than killing bacteria may be on the horizon, according to a new study.

Published in Nature Structure and Molecular Biology, research led by Monash Universityshowed a protein complex called the Translocation and Assembly Module (TAM), formed a type of molecular pump in bacteria. The TAM allows bacteria to shuttle key disease-causing molecules from inside the bacterial cell where they are made, to the outside surface, priming the bacteria for infection.
Lead author and PhD student Joel Selkrig of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Monash said the work paves the way for future studies to design new drugs that inhibit this process.
“The TAM was discovered in many disease-causing bacteria, from micro-organisms that cause whooping cough and meningitis, to hospital-acquired bacteria that are developing resistance to current antibiotics,” Mr Selkrig said.
“It is a good antibacterial target because a drug designed to inhibit TAM function would unlikely kill bacteria, but simply deprive them of their molecular weaponry, and in doing so, disable the disease process.”
“By allowing bacteria to stay alive after antibiotic treatment, we believe we can also prevent the emergence of antibiotic resistance, which is fast becoming a major problem worldwide.”…

April 6, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

Food Poisoning: Understanding How Bacteria Come Back from the ‘Dead’

 

English: Salmonella

Image via Wikipedia

From the 3 February 2012 Science Daily article

almonella remains a serious cause of food poisoning in the UK and throughout the EU, in part due to its ability to thrive and quickly adapt to the different environments in which it can grow. New research involving a team of IFR scientists, funded by BBSRC, has taken the first detailed look at what Salmonella does when it enters a new environment, which could provide clues to finding new ways of reducing transmission through the food chain and preventing human illness.

Bacteria can multiply rapidly, potentially doubling every 20 minutes in ideal conditions. However, this exponential growth phase is preceded by a period known as lag phase, where no increase in cell number is seen. Lag phase was first described in the 19th Century, and was assumed to be needed by bacteria to prepare to exploit new environmental conditions. Beyond this, surprisingly little was known about lag phase, other than bacteria are metabolically active in this period. But exactly what are bacteria doing physiologically during this period?

To fill in this knowledge gap researchers at IFR, along with colleagues at Campden BRI, a membership-based organisation carrying out research and development for the food and drinks industry, have developed a simple and robust system for studying the biology ofSalmonella during lag phase. In this system, lag phase lasts about two hours, but the cells sense their new environment remarkably quickly, and within four minutes switch on a specific set of genes, including some that control the uptake of specific nutrients….

February 8, 2012 Posted by | Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

Microbial communities on skin affect humans’ attractiveness to mosquitoes – could be basis for antimalarial research

العربية: الأنوفيلة الغامبية، نوع من البعوض الن...

Image via Wikipedia

[Author's note - I came down with malaria at least 3 timeswhile a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia, West Africa (1980-81). Fortunately malaria was less virulent in West Africa than East Africa at the time. So, each bout was similar to a one day flu bug. Each time I came down with malaria, it was because I forgot to take the weekly preventive and came down with malaria two days later]

From the 29 December 2011 Eureka News Alert

The microbes on your skin determine how attractive you are to mosquitoes, which may have important implications for malaria transmission and prevention, according to a study published Dec. 28 in the online journal PLoS ONE.

Without bacteria, human sweat is odorless to the human nose, so the microbial communities on the skin play a key role in producing each individual’s specific body odor. The researchers, led by Niels Verhulst of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, conducted their experiments with the Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto mosquito, which plays an important role in malaria transmission. They found that individuals with a higher abundance but lower diversity of bacteria on their skin were more attractive to this particular mosquito. They speculate individuals with more diverse skin microbiota may host a selective group of bacteria that emits compounds to interfere with the normal attraction of mosquitoes to their human hosts, making these individuals less attractive, and therefore lower risk to contracting malaria. This finding may lead to the development of personalized methods for malaria prevention.

###

Citation: Verhulst NO, Qiu YT, Beijleveld H, Maliepaard C, Knights D, et al. (2011) Composition of Human Skin Microbiota Affects Attractiveness to Malaria Mosquitoes. PLoS ONE 6(12): e28991. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0028991

Read the entire news release

December 30, 2011 Posted by | environmental health | , , , | Leave a comment

How Bacteria Fight Fluoride in Toothpaste and in Nature

Yale researchers have uncovered the molecular tricks used by bacteria to fight the effects of fluoride, which is commonly used in toothpaste and mouthwash to combat tooth decay. (Credit: © mathom / Fotolia)

From the 22 December 2011 Science News Daily article

Yale researchers have uncovered the molecular tricks used by bacteria to fight the effects of fluoride, which is commonly used in toothpaste and mouthwash to combat tooth decay.

In the Dec. 22 online issue of the journal Science Express, the researchers report that sections of RNA messages called riboswitches — which control the expression of genes — detect the build-up of fluoride and activate the defenses of bacteria, including those that contribute to tooth decay.

“These riboswitches are detectors made specifically to see fluoride,” said Ronald Breaker, the Henry Ford II Professor and chair of the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and senior author of the study.

Fluoride in over-the-counter and prescription toothpastes is widely credited with the large reduction in dental cavities seen since these products were made available beginning in the 1950s. This effect is largely caused by fluoride bonding to the enamel of our teeth, which hardens them against the acids produced by bacteria in our mouths. However, it has been known for many decades that fluoride at high concentrations also is toxic to bacteria, causing some researchers to propose that this antibacterial activity also may help prevent cavities.

The riboswitches work to counteract fluoride’s effect on bacteria. “If fluoride builds up to toxic levels in the cell, a fluoride riboswitch grabs the fluoride and then turns on genes that can overcome its effects,” said Breaker…

Read the entire news article

December 23, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

Beating superbugs with a high-tech cleanser

Beating superbugs with a high-tech cleanser

From the 9 December Science News Daily article

According to the World Health Organization, antibiotic-resistant bacteria are one of the top three threats to human health. Patients in hospitals are especially at risk, with almost 100,000 deaths due to infection every year in the U.S. alone.

Now Dr. Udi Qimron of the Department of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine has developed an efficient and cost-effective liquid solution that can help fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria and keep more patients safe from life-threatening infections. The solution is based on specially designed bacteriophages — viruses that infect bacteria — that can alter the genetic make-up of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. “We have genetically engineered the bacteriophages so that once they infect the bacteria, they transfer a dominant gene that confers renewed sensitivity to certain antibiotics,” explains Dr. Qimron.

The solution, recently detailed in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, could be added to common antibacterial cleansers used on hospital surfaces, turning resistant bacteria into sensitive bacteria. It’s easy to prepare, easy to apply, and non-toxic, Dr. Qimron notes. He estimates that one liter of the growth medium — the liquid in which the bacteriophages are grown — will cost just a few dollars.

 …

Two steps to disarming bacteria

Added to cleansers, Tellurite represents the second step in a two-part process. A Tellurite compound, which is toxic to bacteria, would also be spread on all surfaces to wipe out the bacteria that had not been rendered sensitive, and thus the entire population of the surface bacteria would be sensitized. The combination is designed to first disarm, and then kill dangerous bacteria.

Next, the solution will be tested in pre-clinical animal trials to ensure its safety before being made available for wider use at hospitals…

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December 10, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bacteria Present In Abundance In Public Restrooms

 

Figure 4. Results of SourceTracker analysis showing the average contributions of different sources to the surface-associated bacterial communities in twelve public restrooms.

The “unknown” source is not shown but would bring the total of each sample up to 100%.

From the 27 November 2011 Medical News Today article

Everyone wonders what bugs might be lurking in public bathrooms. Now researchers are using novel genetic sequencing methods to answer this question, revealing a plethora of bacteria all around, from the doors and the floors to the faucet handles and toilet seats, with potential public health implications, as reported in the online journal PLoS ONE.

Led by Gilberto Flores and Noah Fierer of the University of Colorado, Boulder, the researchers investigated 12 public restrooms, 6 male and 6 female, in Colorado. Using a high-throughput genetic sequencing technique, they identified various bacteria on all the surfaces they tested. The floor had the most diverse bacterial community, and human skin was the primary source of bacteria on all surfaces. Interestingly, there were a few differences between the bacteria found in the male versus female bathrooms.

November 28, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News, Public Health | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bacteria Museum

Bacteria Museum

 

This virtual museum  brings together many links on bacteria, bacteriology, and related topics available on the web. It also provides crystal-clear information about many aspects of bacteria.

The Bacterial Species Tab has information on 40 different kinds of bacteria. Links include photographs, consumer guides, fact sheets, lectures, scientific papers, and scientific links.

The Main Exhibits tab has links providing basic information about bacteria as well as specific topics including pathogenic bateria, evolution, and food and water safety, and how good bacteria in food benefits us.

 

June 15, 2011 Posted by | Educational Resources (High School/Early College( | , | Leave a comment

That Anxiety May Be In Your Gut, Not In Your Head

From a 17 May 2011 Medical News Today article

For the first time, researchers at McMaster University have conclusive evidence that bacteria residing in the gut influence brain chemistry and behaviour.

The findings are important because several common types of gastrointestinal disease, including irritable bowel syndrome, are frequently associated withanxiety or depression. In addition there has been speculation that some psychiatric disorders, such as late onset autism, may be associated with an abnormal bacterial content in the gut.

“The exciting results provide stimulus for further investigating a microbial component to the causation of behavioural illnesses,” said Stephen Collins, professor of medicine and associate dean research, Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. Collins and Premysl Bercik, assistant professor of medicine, undertook the research in the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute.

The research appears in the online edition of the journal Gastroenterology. ….

May 17, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hygiene Habit Review Time & How to be Safe Around Animals

two girls holding puppies

With the weather getting warmer (at least here in America’s Midwest), more people will be spending more time outside.
This might be a good time to review good hygiene habits.

Here are some great places to start.

    • Nail hygiene is important for gardeners and anyone planning to get down and dirty with Mother Nature.
      The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has some nail hygiene advice including
      • Avoid cutting cuticles, as they act as barriers to prevent infection.
      • Never rip or bite a hangnail. Instead, clip it with a clean, sanitized nail trimmer.
    • Going swimming in a neighborhood or other area pool? Take steps to prevent the spread of germs and illnesses
      • Don’t swim when you have diarrhea. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.
      • Don’t swallow the pool water. Avoid getting water in your mouth.
      • Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Germs on your body end up in the water.
    • Keep your body as clean as possible. The CDC has a great interactive human body diagram with links to preventative advice.
      Click here for additional tips on facial cleanliness.
    • Planning on being around animals at the zoo, at a farm, or at someone’s house or campsite?
      Check out Proper Hygiene Around Animals with parenting tips (many useful for adults also!) that discourage these activities around animals
      • Eating or drinking
      • The use of strollers, toys, pacifiers, baby bottles, or spill-proof cups
      • Hand-to-mouth behaviors, such as thumb-sucking and nail-biting
      • Sitting or playing on the ground
      • Feeding the animals, unless the contact is controlled with barriers
      • Any contact with animals if an individual has open wounds
      • Contact with any animal waste

Related Resources

The figure is a poster to be exhibited at animal petting zoos that provides basic instructions to visitors for avoiding illnesses while coming in contact with animals.

Compendium of Measures to Prevent Disease Associated with Animals in Public Settings, 2011 (National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians, Inc. (NASPHV))

While not aimed to the general public, it does include some good tips, as

Animal Areas

  • Do not allow food and beverages in animal areas.
  • Do not allow toys, pacifiers, spill-proof cups, baby bottles, strollers or similar items in animal areas.
  • Prohibit smoking and other tobacco product use in animal areas.
  • Supervise children closely to discourage hand-to-mouth activities (e.g., nail-biting and thumb-sucking), contact with manure, and contact with soiled bedding. Children should not be allowed to sit or play on the ground in animal areas. If hands become soiled, supervise hand washing immediately.
  • Ensure that regular animal feed and water are not accessible to the public.
  • Allow the public to feed animals only if contact with animals is controlled (e.g., with barriers).
  • Do not provide animal feed in containers that can be eaten by humans (e.g., ice cream cones) to decrease the risk for children eating food that has come into contact with animals.

Natural Unseen Hazards Blog - news about natural unseen hazards that may place outdoor enthusiasts at risk

May 1, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Humans Shown To Have Intestinal Bacteria Groups As Well As Blood Groups

From the 27 April 2011 Medical News Today article

It would appear that in terms of composition, the intestinal bacteria of every individual can be divided into three main groups known as enterotypes. The intestinal bacteria in each enterotype organise themselves into distinct, stable clusters displaying common features. ..

..Three enterotypes

The three enterotypes show various categories of bacteria with a different impact of the gut. Enterotype 1 is dominated by the Bacteroides intestinal bacteria, which together with a few other species of bacteria, forms a distinctive cluster of gut flora. The dominant bacteria in enterotype 2 is Prevotella. And in enterotype 3, Ruminococcus is the main bacteria, along with other species such as Staphylococcus, Gordonibacter and a species discovered in Wageningen previously, Akkermansia. Enterotype 3 is the most common.

Furthermore, every cluster of bacteria has its own way of supplying energy. Enterotype 3, for example, specialises in breaking down mucin, a carbohydrate that enters the gut via our food. This allows the gut to absorb these fragments asnutrition for the body. All three enterotypes also produce vitamins, albeit in varying amounts. Enterotype 1 produces the most vitamin B7 (biotin), B2 (riboflavin) and C (ascorbic acid), and enterotype 2 produces mainly vitamin B1 (thiamin) and folic acid. Every enterotype, with its distinctive clusters of bacteria and functional differences, reflects a distinctive way of generating energy that is closely compatible with its host. It is also possible that the enterotypes may interact with their host on various levels, having an impact on the individual’s health.

In March of last year, the MetaHIT consortium published the first catalogue of genes of human intestinal bacteria (also known as the second genome). These bacteria populations encode 150 times more genes than our own genome. It was shown that from a range of more than a thousand species of bacteria that live in the human gut, every individual is host to several hundred types of bacteria.

The discovery of the enterotypes will influence the fields of biology, medicine and nutrition, making it much easier to analyse an individual’s needs. The research team sees future opportunities for personal and preventive dietary and medicinal advice.

April 27, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News, Nutrition | , , , | 1 Comment

Learning to tolerate our microbial self: Bacteria co-opt human immune cells for mutual benefit

The image depicts symbiotic microbes in the process of colonizing the mucosal surface of the mouse colon. Yellow cells are Escherichia coli; red cells are Bacteroides fragilis. Intestinal tissues are labeled in green with blue nuclei.

(Credit: S. Melanie Lee/Caltech)

From the 21 April 2011 Science Daily article

ScienceDaily (Apr. 22, 2011) — The human gut is filled with 100 trillion symbiotic bacteria — ten times more microbial cells than our own cells — representing close to one thousand different species. “And yet, if you were to eat a piece of chicken with just a few Salmonella, your immune system would mount a potent inflammatory response,” says Sarkis K. Mazmanian, assistant professor of biology at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

Salmonella and its pathogenic bacterial kin don’t look that much different from the legion of bacteria in our gut that we blissfully ignore, which raises the question: What decides whether we react or don’t? Researchers have pondered this paradox for decades.

In the case of a common “friendly” gut bacterium, Bacteroides fragilis, Mazmanian and his colleagues have figured out the surprising answer: “The decision is not made by us,” he says. “It’s made by the bacteria. Since we are their home, they hold the key to our immune system.”

What’s more, the bacteria enforce their “decision” by hijacking cells of the immune system, say Mazmanian and his colleagues, who have figured out the mechanism by which the bacteria accomplish this feat — and revealed an explanation for how the immune system distinguishes between beneficial and pathogenic organisms….

…bacteria actually live in a unique ecological niche, deep within the crypts of the colon, “and thus in intimate contact with the gut mucosal immune system,” he says.

“The closeness of this association highlights that an active communication is occurring between the bacteria and their host,” says Caltech postdoctoral scholar June L. Round.

From that vantage point, the bacteria are able to orchestrate control over the immune system — and, specifically, over the behavior of immune cells known as regulatory T cells, or Treg cells. …

…”Our immune system arose in the face of commensal colonization and thus likely evolved specialized molecules to recognize good bacteria,” says Round. Mazmanian suspects that genetic mutations in these pathways could be responsible for certain types of immune disorders, including inflammatory bowel disease: “The question is, do patients get sick because they are rejecting bacteria they shouldn’t reject?”

On a more philosophical level, Mazmanian says, the findings suggest that our concept of “self” should be broadened to include our many trillions of microbial residents. “These bacteria live inside us for our entire lives, and they’ve evolved to look and act like us, as part of us,” he says. “As far as our immune system is concerned, the molecules made by gut bacteria should be tolerated similarly to our own molecules. Except in this case, the bacteria ‘teaches’ us to tolerate them, for both our benefit and theirs.”…

Journal Reference:

  1. June L. Round, S. Melanie Lee, Jennifer Li, Gloria Tran, Bana Jabri, Talal A. Chatila, and Sarkis K. Mazmanian.The Toll-Like Receptor 2 Pathway Establishes Colonization by a Commensal of the Human MicrobiotaScience, 21 April 2011 DOI:10.1126/science.1206095

[Abstract only, for suggestions on how to get this article for free or at low cost, click here]

  • Do bacteria control your brain? (boingboing.net)
  • Gut Bacteria Mapping Finds Three Global Varieties (wired.com)
  • Friendly Bacteria Fight the Flu (scientificamerican.com)
  • What’s your gut type? (eurekalert.org)
  • People Fall Into Three Categories Of Gut Microbiota : Implications for Nutrient and Medicine Uptake (jflahiff.wordpress.com)
  • Humans Shown To Have Intestinal Bacteria Groups As Well As Blood Groups

    “The three enterotypes show various categories of bacteria with a different impact of the gut. Enterotype 1 is dominated by the Bacteroides intestinal bacteria, which together with a few other species of bacteria, forms a distinctive cluster of gut flora. The dominant bacteria in enterotype 2 is Prevotella. And in enterotype 3, Ruminococcus is the main bacteria, along with other species such as Staphylococcus, Gordonibacter and a species discovered in Wageningen previously, Akkermansia. Enterotype 3 is the most common.

    Furthermore, every cluster of bacteria has its own way of supplying energy. Enterotype 3, for example, specialises in breaking down mucin, a carbohydrate that enters the gut via our food. This allows the gut to absorb these fragments asnutrition for the body. All three enterotypes also produce vitamins, albeit in varying amounts. Enterotype 1 produces the most vitamin B7 (biotin), B2 (riboflavin) and C (ascorbic acid), and enterotype 2 produces mainly vitamin B1 (thiamin) and folic acid. Every enterotype, with its distinctive clusters of bacteria and functional differences, reflects a distinctive way of generating energy that is closely compatible with its host. It is also possible that the enterotypes may interact with their host on various levels, having an impact on the individual’s health.

    In March of last year, the MetaHIT consortium published the first catalogue of genes of human intestinal bacteria (also known as the second genome). These bacteria populations encode 150 times more genes than our own genome. It was shown that from a range of more than a thousand species of bacteria that live in the human gut, every individual is host to several hundred types of bacteria.

    The discovery of the enterotypes will influence the fields of biology, medicine and nutrition, making it much easier to analyse an individual’s needs. The research team sees future opportunities for personal and preventive dietary and medicinal advice.”

  • Learning to tolerate our microbial self: Bacteria co-opt human immune cells for mutual benefit (jflahiff.wordpress.com)
  • Deepak Chopra: Weekly Health Tip: You Are Home to Millions of Microbes! (huffingtonpost.com)
  • Friendly bacteria fight the flu (nature.com)

April 22, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

Next-generation Disease Fighters: ‘Bacterial Dirigibles’

Next-generation Disease Fighters: ‘Bacterial Dirigibles’

From a March 30, 2011 Health News item

Scientists have reported development of bacteria that serve as mobile pharmaceutical factories, both producing disease-fighting substances and delivering the potentially life-saving cargo to diseased areas of the body. They reported on this new candidate for treating diseases ranging from food poisoning to cancer – termed “bacterial dirigibles” – at the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, being held here. “We’re building a platform that could allow bacterial dirigibles to be the next-generation disease fighters,” said study leader William E. Bentley, Ph.D…

April 7, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , | Leave a comment

Hands Free Faucets Less Hygienic Than Manually Operated Ones

Hands Free Faucets Less Hygienic Than Manually Operated Ones

From the Marchg 31 2011 Medical news today item

You would have thought that an electronic faucet that you do not need to touch would be cleaner than a traditional one, apparently, the automatic ones are more likely to have a high build-up of bacteria, including Legionella spp, scientists from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine revealed at the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) annual meeting. Hospitals, clinics and other health care centers have been increasingly utilizing electronic-eye, non-touch faucets, with the aim of reducing contamination of the hands of doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff…

…The authors believe that the sophisticated valves that make up the electronic faucet encourage higher contamination levels. They eventually discovered, during the course of collecting water samples, that every automatic faucet grew Legionella spp.

Sydnor does not believe the general public should be concerned about electronic faucet use:

“The levels of bacterial growth in the electronic faucets, particularly the Legionella spp., were of concern because they were beyond the tolerable thresholds determined by the hospital. Exposure to Legionella spp. is dangerous for chronically ill or immune compromised patients because it may cause pneumonia in these vulnerable patients. The levels we found of both Legionella spp. and bacterial burden on HPC were still within the level that is well tolerated by healthy individuals.”

April 2, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Economics and evolution help scientists identify new strategy to control antibiotic resistance

A schematic representation of how antibiotic r...

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Economics and evolution help scientists identify new strategy to control antibiotic resistance

From the March 18 2011 Science Daily news article

ScienceDaily (Mar. 20, 2011) — A team of scientists from the University of Oxford, U.K. have taken lessons from Adam Smith and Charles Darwin to devise a new strategy that could one day slow, possibly even prevent, the spread of drug-resistant bacteria. In a new research report published in the March 2011 issue of Genetics, [Abstract***]the scientists show that bacterial gene mutations that lead to drug resistance come at a biological cost not borne by nonresistant strains. They speculate that by altering the bacterial environment in such a way to make these costs too great to bear, drug-resistant strains would eventually be unable to compete with their nonresistant neighbors and die off.

“Bacteria have evolved resistance to every major class of antibiotics, and new antibiotics are being developed very slowly; prolonging the effectiveness of existing drugs is therefore crucial for our ability to treat infections,” said Alex Hall, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford. “Our study shows that concepts and tools from evolutionary biology and genetics can give us a boost in this area by identifying novel ways to control the spread of resistance.”

The research team measured the growth rates of resistant and susceptible Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria in a wide range of laboratory conditions. They found that the cost of antibiotic resistance has a cost to bacteria, and can be eliminated by adding chemical inhibitors of the enzyme responsible for resistance to the drug. Leveling the playing field increased the ability of resistant bacteria to compete effectively against sensitive strains in the absence of antibiotics. Given that the cost of drug resistance plays an important role in preventing the spread of resistant bacteria, manipulating the cost of resistance may make it possible to prevent resistant bacteria from persisting after the conclusion of antibiotic treatment. For instance, new additives or treatments could render antibiotic resistance more costly for bacteria, making it less likely that the resistant strains will persist at the end of treatment.

“If we’ve learned one thing about microscopic organisms over the past century, it’s that they evolve quickly, and that we can’t stop the process,” said Mark Johnston, Editor-in-Chief of the journal GENETICS. “This research turns this fact against the bacteria. This is an entirely new strategy for extending the useful life of antibiotics, and possibly for improving the potency of old ones.”

March 22, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News, Public Health | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Used woodwind and brass musical instruments harbor harmful bacteria and fungi, study suggests

Used woodwind and brass musical instruments harbor harmful bacteria and fungi, study suggests

General Dentistry - March/April 2011

From the March 14 2011 Science Daily news item

ScienceDaily (Mar. 14, 2011) — Research has shown that playing a musical instrument can help nourish, cultivate, and increase intelligence in children, but playing a used instrument also can pose a potentially dangerous health risk.

Used woodwind and brass instruments were found to be heavily contaminated with a variety of bacteria and fungi, many of which are associated with minor to serious infectious and allergic diseases, according to a study published in the March/April 2011 issue of General Dentistry, the peer-reviewed clinical journal of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD)…

Researchers found that many of the bacteria can cause illness in humans and are highly resistant to the antibiotics normally prescribed by general practitioners. This finding makes sterilization of instruments extremely important.

“Instruments should be cleaned after each use to reduce the number of organisms,” said Dr. Sherwood. “And cleaning should not be confined to the mouthpiece, since the bacteria invade the entire instrument.”

To avoid transmission of bacteria from instrument to player, parents and students should frequently wipe the surface of the instrument that comes into contact with the skin and mouth. The instrument should be taken apart for thorough cleanings on a regular basis. Dr. Glass suggests using cleaning cloths and solutions made specifically for instruments. Most importantly, students are advised not to share their instruments with others. Students should consult with their band instructor for additional ways to disinfect their instruments.

 

March 15, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Gut bacteria can control organ functions

Gut bacteria can control organ functions

From the Feburary 28 2011 Eureka news alert

Bacteria in the human gut may not just be helping digest food but also could be exerting some level of control over the metabolic functions of other organs, like the liver, according to research published this week in the online journal mBio®. These findings offer new understanding of the symbiotic relationship between humans and their gut microbes and how changes to the microbiota can impact overall health.

“The gut microbiota enhances the host’s metabolic capacity for processing nutrients and drugs and modulates the activities of multiple pathways in a variety of organ systems,” says Sandrine Claus of the Imperial College of London, a researcher on the study.

Claus and her colleagues exposed germ-free mice to bedding that had previously been used by conventional mice with normal microbiota and followed their metabolic profiles for 20 days to observe changes as they became colonized with gut bacteria.

Over the first 5 days after exposure, the mice exhibited a rapid increase in weight (4%). Colonization also triggered a number of processes in the liver in which sugars (glucose) are converted to starch (glycogen) and fat (triglycerides) for short-term and long-term energy storage. Statistical modeling between liver metabolic functions and microbial populations determined that the levels of glucose, glycogen and triglycerides in the liver were strongly associated with a single family of bacteria called Coriobacteriaceae.

“Here we describe the first evidence of an in vivo association between a family of bacteria and hepatic lipid metabolism. These results provide new insights into the fundamental mechanisms that regulate host-gut microbiota interactions and are of wide interest to microbiological, nutrition, metabolic, systems biology and pharmaceutical research communities,” says Claus.

Another important finding in the paper, according to Claus, is that gut colonization strongly stimulated the expression and activity of the cytochrome P450 3A11, an essential enzyme in drug-detoxification pathways.

Although she warns about being careful to extrapolate the specific findings from mice to humans, Claus notes the results of this research will provide a basis to further develop new strategies to beneficially modulate host metabolism by altering microbial communities in the gut.

 

###

mBio® is a new open access online journal published by the American Society for Microbiology to make microbiology research broadly accessible. The focus of the journal is on rapid publication of cutting-edge research spanning the entire spectrum of microbiology and related fields. It can be found online at http://mbio.asm.org.

March 1, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

The genius of bacteria

The genius of bacteria

Tel Aviv University develops an IQ test to assess and outsmart bacteria’s ‘social intelligence’

This is a “smart community ” of Paenibacillus vortex bacteria.

 

From the January 24, 2011 Eureka news release

Q scores are used to assess the intelligence of human beings. Now Tel Aviv University has developed a “Social-IQ score” for bacteria ― and it may lead to new antibiotics and powerful bacteria-based “green” pesticides for the agricultural industry.

An international team led by Prof. Eshel Ben-Jacob of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and his research student Alexandra Sirota-Madi says that their results deepen science’s knowledge of the social capabilities of bacteria, one of the most prolific and important organisms on earth. “Bacteria are our worst enemies but they can also be our best friends. To better exploit their capabilities and to outsmart pathogenic bacteria, we must realize their social intelligence,” says Prof. Ben-Jacob.

The international team was first to sequence the genome of pattern-forming bacteria, the Paenibacillus vortex (Vortex) discovered two decades ago by Prof. Ben-Jacob and his collaborators. While sequencing the genome, the team developed the first “Bacteria Social-IQ Score” and found that Vortex and two other Paenibacillus strains have the world’s highest Social-IQ scores among all 500 sequenced bacteria. The research was recently published in the journal BMC Genomics.

Highly evolved communities

The impact of the team’s research is three-fold. First, it shows just how “smart” bacteria can really be –– a new paradigm that has just begun to be recognised by the science community today. Second, it demonstrates bacteria’s high level of social intelligence –– how bacteria work together to communicate and grow. And finally, the work points out some potentially significant applications in medicine and agriculture.

The researchers looked at genes which allow the bacteria to communicate and process information about their environment, making decisions and synthesizing agents for defensive and offensive purposes. This research shows that bacteria are not simple solitary organisms, or “low level” entities, as earlier believed ― they are highly social and evolved creatures. They consistently foil the medical community as they constantly develop strategies against the latest antibiotics. In the West, bacteria are one of the top three killers in hospitals today.

The recent study shows that everyday pathogenic bacteria are not so smart: their S-IQ score is just at the average level. But the social intelligence of the Vortex bacteria is at the “genius range”: if compared to human IQ scores it is about 60 points higher than the average IQ at 100. Armed with this kind of information on the social intelligence of bacteria, researchers will be better able to outsmart them, says Prof. Ben-Jacob.

This information can also be directly applied in “green” agriculture or biological control, where bacteria’s advanced offense strategies and toxic agents can be used to fight harmful bacteria, fungi and even higher organisms.

Tiny biotechnology factories

Bacteria are often found in soil, and live in symbiotic harmony with a plant’s roots. They help the roots access nutrients, and in exchange the bacteria eat sugar from the roots.

For that reason, bacteria are now applied in agriculture to increase the productivity of plants and make them stronger against pests and disease. They can be used instead of fertilizer, and also against insects and fungi themselves. Knowing the Social-IQ score could help developers determine which bacteria are the most efficient.

“Thanks to the special capabilities of our bacteria strain, it can be used by researchers globally to further investigate the social intelligence of bacteria,” says co-author Sirota-Madi. “When we can determine how smart they really are, we can use them as biotechnology factories and apply them optimally in agriculture.”

 

 

 

January 25, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Defense mechanism against bacteria and fungi deciphered

Defense mechanism against bacteria and fungi deciphered
Mystery of ‘inactive’ defensin solved

 

Surprisingly, while almost all proteins are active only in their folded form, in the case of the small defensin the opposite is true. To activate the beta-defensin 1 the thioredoxin opens the three disulphide bridges that hold the molecule together. The molecule then opens up into the active state. Using this mechanism the body has the opportunity to selectively activate the defensin.

From the January 21, 2011 Eureka news alert

Under standard laboratory conditions, the human beta-defensin 1 (hBD-1), a human antibiotic naturally produced in the body, had always shown only little activity against microbes. Nevertheless the human body produces it in remarkable quantities. The solution to the puzzle was the investigation process itself, as the research group led by Dr. Jan Wehkamp at the Dr. Margarete Fischer-Bosch Institute for Clinical Pharmacology of the Stuttgart-based Robert Bosch Hospital found out.

Before the research group took a new approach to this research, defensins were usually tested in the presence of oxygen, although little oxygen is present, for example, in the human intestine. Starting out from the discovery that a special antibiotic-activating protein of the human body is diminished in patients with inflammatory bowel diseases, Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, the working group investigated how defensins act under low-oxygen conditions. During their investigations the scientists found out that under these conditions hBD-1 unfolds a strong antibiotic activity against lactic acid bacteria and yeast.

Furthermore the researchers discovered that another human protein, thioredoxin, is able to activate beta-defensin 1 even in the presence of oxygen. Moritz Marcinowski and Professor Johannes Buchner from the Department of Chemistry at the Technical University of Munich, used circular dichroism spectroscopy to elucidate the differences between the folded inactive and the unfolded active form of the protein.

Surprisingly, while almost all proteins are active only in their folded form, in the case of the small defensin the opposite is true. To activate the beta-defensin 1 the thioredoxin opens the three disulphide bridges that hold the molecule together. The molecule then opens up into the active state. Using this mechanism the body has the opportunity to selectively activate the defensin.

So far the cause of inflammatory bowel disease is unclear. Genetic as well as environmental factors seem to play a role, finally leading to a weakening of the antimicrobial barrier, which is mainly mediated by defensins. Accordingly the identified mechanism might contribute to the development of new therapies to treat affected patients.

 

January 24, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

Bacteria eyed for possible role in atherosclerosis

Bacteria eyed for possible role in atherosclerosis
Enterobacter hormaechei — normally associated with pneumonia and sepsis — found in excised atherosclerotic plaque tissue

From a January 5, 2011 Eurkea news alert

Dr. Emil Kozarov and a team of researchers at the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine have identified specific bacteria that may have a key role in vascular pathogenesis, specifically atherosclerosis, or what is commonly referred to as “hardening of the arteries” – the number one cause of death in the United States.

Fully understanding the role of infections in cardiovascular diseases has been challenging because researchers have previously been unable to isolate live bacteria from atherosclerotic tissue. Using tissue specimens from the Department of Surgery and the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at Columbia University, Dr. Kozarov and his team, however, were able to isolate plaques from a 78-year-old male who had previously suffered a heart attack. Their findings are explained in the latest Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis.

In the paper, researchers describe processing the tissue using cell cultures and genomic analysis to look for the presence of culturable bacteria. In addition, they looked at five pairs of diseased and healthy arterial tissue. The use of cell cultures aided in the isolation of the bacillus Enterobacter hormaechei from the patient’s tissue. Implicated in bloodstream infections and other life-threatening conditions, the isolated bacteria were resistant to multiple antibiotics. Surprisingly, using quantitative methods, this microbe was further identified in very high numbers in diseased but not in healthy arterial tissues.

The data suggest that a chronic infection may underlie the process of atherosclerosis, an infection that can be initiated by the systemic dissemination of bacteria though different “gates” in the vascular wall – as in the case of a septic patient, through intestinal infection. The data support Dr. Kozarov’s previous studies, where his team identified periodontal bacteria in carotid artery, thus pointing to tissue-destructing periodontal infections as one possible gate to the circulation.

Bacteria can gain access to the circulation through different avenues, and then penetrate the vascular walls where they can create secondary infections that have been shown to lead to atherosclerotic plaque formation, the researchers continued. “In order to test the idea that bacteria are involved in vascular pathogenesis, we must be able not only to detect bacterial DNA, but first of all to isolate the bacterial strains from the vascular wall from the patient,” Dr. Kozarov said.

One specific avenue of infection the researchers studied involved bacteria getting access to the circulatory system via internalization in white blood cells (phagocytes) designed to ingest harmful foreign particles. The model that Dr. Kozarov’s team was able to demonstrate showed an intermediate step where Enterobacter hormaechei is internalized by the phagocytic cells, but a step wherein bacteria are able to avoid immediate death in phagocytes. Once in circulation, Dr. Kozarov said, bacteria using this “Trojan horse” approach can persist in the organism for extended periods of time while traveling to and colonizing distant sites. This can lead to multitude of problems for the patients and for the clinicians: failure of antibiotic treatment, vascular tissue colonization and initiation of an inflammatory process, or atherosclerosis, which ultimately can lead to heart attack or stroke.

“Our findings warrant further studies of bacterial infections as a contributing factor to cardiovascular disease, and of the concept that ‘bacterial persistence’ in phagocytic cells likely contributes to systemic dissemination,” said Dr. Kozarov, an associate professor of oral biology at the College of Dental Medicine. Dr. Jingyue Ju, co-author and director of the Columbia Center for Genome Technology & Bio-molecular Engineering, also contributed to this research, which was supported in part by a grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health and by the Columbia University Section of Oral and Diagnostic Sciences.

The article appeared in Volume 18 of the Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis.

January 7, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

Texas A&M research shows bacteria provide example of one of nature’s first immune systems

From the December 23, 2010 Eureka news release

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, Dec. 23, 2010—Studying how bacteria incorporate foreign DNA from invading viruses into their own regulatory processes, Thomas Wood, professor in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M University, is uncovering the secrets of one of nature’s most primitive immune systems.

His findings, which appear in “Nature Communications,” a multidisciplinary publication dedicated to research in all areas of the biological, physical and chemical sciences, shed light on how bacteria have throughout the course of millions of years developed resistance to antibiotics by co-opting the DNA of their natural enemies—viruses.

The battle between bacteria and bacteria-eating viruses, Wood explains, has been going on for millions of years, with viruses attempting to replicate themselves by – in one approach – invading bacteria cells and integrating themselves into the chromosomes of the bacteria. When this happens a bacterium makes a copy of its chromosome, which includes the virus particle. The virus then can choose at a later time to replicate itself, killing the bacterium—similar to a ticking time bomb, Wood says.

However, things can go radically wrong for the virus because of random but abundant mutations that occur within the chromosome of the bacterium. Having already integrated itself into the bacterium’s chromosome, the virus is subject to mutation as well, and some of these mutations, Wood explains, render the virus unable to replicate and kill the bacterium.

With this new diverse blend of genetic material, Wood says, a bacterium not only overcomes the virus’ lethal intentions but also flourishes at a greater rate than similar bacteria that have not incorporated viral DNA.

“Over millions of years, this virus becomes a normal part of the bacterium,” Wood says. “It brings in new tricks, new genes, new proteins, new enzymes, new things that it can do. The bacterium learns how to do things from this.

“What we have found is that with this new viral DNA that has been trapped over millions of years in the chromosome, the cell has created a new immune system,” Wood notes. “It has developed new proteins that have enabled it to resists antibiotics and other harmful things that attempt to oxidize cells, such as hydrogen peroxide. These cells that have the new viral set of tricks don’t die or don’t die as rapidly.”

Understanding the significance of viral DNA to bacteria required Wood’s research team to delete all of the viral DNA on the chromosome of a bacterium, in this case bacteria from a strain of E. coli. Wood’s team, led by postdoctoral researcher Xiaoxue Wang, used what in a sense could be described as “enzymatic scissors” to “cut out” the nine viral patches, which amounted to precisely removing 166,000 nucleotides. Once the viral patches were successfully removed, the team examined how the bacterium cell changed. What they found was a dramatically increased sensitivity to antibiotics by the bacterium.

While Wood studied this effect in E. coli bacteria, he says similar processes have taken place on a massive, widespread scale, noting that viral DNA can be found in nearly all bacteria, with some strains possessing as much as 20 percent viral DNA within their chromosome.

“To put this into perspective, for some bacteria, one-fifth of their chromosome came from their enemy, and until our study, people had largely neglected to study that 20 percent of the chromosome,” Wood says. “This viral DNA had been believed to be silent and unimportant, not having much impact on the cell.

“Our study is the first to show that we need to look at all bacteria and look at their old viral particles to see how they are affecting the bacteria’s current ability to withstand things like antibiotics. If we can figure out how the cells are more resistant to antibiotics because of this additional DNA, we can perhaps make new, effective antibiotics.”

 

January 3, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Preventing Bacterial Infections from Medical Devices – Research Study Results

Preventing Bacterial Infections from Medical Devices – Research Study Results

Microscope image of clumps of spherical bacteria.This scanning electron micrograph shows a clump of Staphylococcus epidermidis bacteria (green) in the extracellular matrix, which connects cells and tissue. Image courtesy of NIAID/Rocky Mountain Laboratories.

From the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Matters news release

New research has identified a protein that helps bacteria break away from medical devices like catheters and spread throughout the body. The finding gives insight into how bacterial communities called biofilms cause disease and provides a potential target for future treatments.

Biofilms are complex, multi-layered microbial communities. They can form on biological surfaces like teeth, or on medical devices that are placed inside a patient, like catheters. Bacteria in biofilms are resistant to antimicrobial agents and difficult to treat. Biofilms made up of Staphylococcus epidermidis bacteria are a major cause of infection in hospitals, and can lead to sepsis.

A research team led by Dr. Michael Otto of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) set out to determine how bacteria from biofilms detach and disperse. They looked at a protein released by S. epidermidis called phenol-soluble modulin beta, or PSMβ. They chose PSMβ because of its structure, which hinted that it might act like a type of molecule, called a surfactant, that can help bacteria spread.The scientists first confirmed that S. epidermidis in biofilms make PSMβ protein. Then, to test whether the protein promotes biofilm formation, they cultured mutant bacteria that can’t make their own PSMβ. They found that adding medium levels of PSMβ to the cultures led to more biofilm formation, but high levels led to less. This suggested that PSMβ may play a dual role, helping biofilms form while also helping bacteria detach from them.

To look at detachment more directly, the researchers genetically engineered bacteria to turn green upon making PSMβ. When examined under a microscope, the bacteria making PSMβ were seen mostly at the outer layers of the biofilm, or detached and floating in fluid. Moreover, a strong green signal usually appeared just before bacteria disappeared from that area. This suggested that bacteria made PSMβ immediately before leaving the biofilm.

To see if PSMβ could help bacteria spread in a living organism, the team put 2 catheters in mice. One catheter had normal S. epidermidis on it. The other had a mutant lacking PSMβ. Within a few days, the normal bacteria spread to the organs and body fluids, but the PSMβ-lacking bacteria barely migrated at all.

In an attempt to stop the bacteria from spreading, the team treated mice with antibodies against PSMβ. The antibodies prevented bacteria from spreading to all the organs except for the lymph nodes, where numbers were significantly reduced.

PSM proteins have also been found in other Staphylococcus species. Although this research is still in its early stages, it opens up new avenues for curbing biofilm-related infections. “This is very important particularly because it links this mechanism of biofilm detachment to spread of infection in vivo,” Otto says.

—by Allison Bierly, Ph.D.

 

December 29, 2010 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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