Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[News article] Designer viruses could be the new antibiotics | Ars Technica

Designer viruses could be the new antibiotics | Ars Technica.by Luc Henry Oct 16 2014, 11:30am EDT

From the news article

Bacterial infections remain a major threat to human and animal health. Worse still, the catalog of useful antibiotics is shrinking as pathogens build up resistance to these drugs. There are few promising new drugs in the pipeline, but they may not prove to be enough. Multi-resistant organisms—also called “superbugs”—are on the rise, and many predict a gloomy future if nothing is done to fight back.

The answer, some believe, may lie in using engineered bacteriophages, a type of virus that infects bacteria. Two recent studies, both published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, show a promising alternative to small-molecule drugs that are the mainstay of antibacterial treatments today.

From basic to synthetic biology

Nearly every living organism seems to have evolved simple mechanisms to protect itself from harmful pathogens. These innate immune systems can be a passive barrier, blocking anything above a certain size, or an active response that recognizes and destroys foreign molecules such as proteins and DNA.

An important component of the bacterial immune system is composed of a family of proteins that are tasked specifically with breaking down foreign DNA. Each bug produces a set of these proteins that chew the genetic material of viruses and other micro-organism into pieces while leaving the bacterial genome intact.

In vertebrates, a more advanced system—called the adaptive immune system—creates a molecular memory of previous attacks and prepares the organism for the next wave of infection. This is the principle on which vaccines are built. Upon introduction of harmless pathogen fragments, the adaptive immunity will train specialist killer cells that later allow a faster and more specific response if the virulent agent is encountered again.

Crisp news

Until recently, people thought bacteria were too simple to possess any sort of adaptive immunity. But in 2007, a group of scientists from the dairy industry showed that bacteria commonly used for the production of cheese and yogurts could be “vaccinated” by exposure to a virus. Two years earlier, others noticed similarities between repetitive sections in bacterial genomes and the DNA of viruses. These repetitive sequences—called CRISPR for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”—had been known for 20 years, but no one could ever explain their function.

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October 21, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Gloves and Gowns Don’t Stop Spread of All Infections in Hospitals

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus Ba...

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus Bacteria (Photo credit: NIAID)

 

From the 5 October 2013 post at Time- Health & Family

 

Bacterial infections can imperil the fragile patients at hospitals‘ intensive care units. And a new study reveals an unlikely spreader: the health care workers who treat them. The standard sterile hospital garb typically thought to prevent infections isn’t helping.

 

Physical barriers are the most effective way to block invisible intruders like the bacteria responsible for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) infections, which are among the most common hospital-acquired pathogens. Such strains, which are resistant to most antibiotic treatments, contribute to more than $4 billion in health care costs for treating the skin lesions, respiratory symptoms and sepsis that the bacteria cause.

It’s hardly been clear that requiring all health care workers to put on gowns and gloves before visiting each patient, then discarding and re-robing before visiting the next patient, would help to reduce the spread of such infections in ICUs. The Centers for Disease Control currently recommends that workers suit up with gowns and gloves before caring for patients with known MRSA or VRE infections, but researchers led by Dr. Anthony Harris at the University of Maryland School of Medicine wanted to see how effective universal gowning and gloving would be in lowering the number of new cases of disease in ICUs.

Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2013/10/05/gloves-and-gowns-dont-stop-spread-of-all-infections-in-hospitals/#ixzz2hgctzzKb

 

October 14, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, health care | , , , , , | 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

Fighting Bacteria’s Strength in Numbers

Example of signaling between bacteria. Salmone...

Example of signaling between bacteria. Salmonella enteritidis uses acyl-homoserine lactone for Quorum sensing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 18 May 2012 article at Science Daily

Scientists at The University of Nottingham have opened the way for more accurate research into new ways to fight dangerous bacterial infections by proving a long-held theory about how bacteria communicate with each other.

Researchers in the University’s School of Molecular Medical Sciences have shown for the first time that the effectiveness of the bacteria’s communication method, a process called ‘quorum sensing’, directly depends on the density of the bacterial population. This work will help inform wider research into how to stop bacteria talking to each other with the aim of switching off their toxin production.

As some pathogenic organisms are increasingly resistant to traditional antibiotics, medical researchers around the world, including scientists at The University of Nottingham, are trying to find other ways of fighting infection. This new work involves using ‘quorum quenching’ compounds which interfere with bacterial signalling and disrupt their social lives.

Quorum sensing (QS) is the process by which bacteria communicate and co-operate using signal molecules which control, among other things, the production of toxins. QS is therefore an important factor in a number of bacterial species that cause serious infection in humans includingPseudomonas aeruginosa, a leading cause of death among cystic fibrosis sufferers, and MRSA which is a huge clinical problem in hospitals….

May 18, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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