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General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

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

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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

Do Your Genes Tilt You Toward Thrill-Seeking?

Scientists have found a dozen mutations associated with the urge to do exciting things

THURSDAY, Oct. 7 (HealthDay News) — Do your genes predispose you to thrill-seeking?

Scientists looking into this question have found a dozen gene mutations associated with the urge to do exciting things.

This urge, called “sensation seeking” by researchers, has been linked to the neurotransmitter dopamine, a chemical that carries messages in the brain. In research that involved 635 people enrolled in a study on addiction, the scientists looked at 273 genetic mutations — involving a change in just one letter of the DNA — known to occur in eight genes with roles related to dopamine.

That number was eventually narrowed down to a dozen potentially important mutations. When those 12 gene variants were combined, they explained just under 4 percent of the difference between people who are sensation seekers and those who are not. This may not seem like much but it is “quite large for a genetic study,” according to study first author Jaime Derringer, a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota.

However, she added, it’s too early to start screening people for these mutations because not enough is known about how genes affect behavior.

While sensation seeking has been linked to a range of behavior disorders, such as drug addiction, it can be a positive trait.

“Not everyone who’s high on sensation-seeking becomes a drug addict. They may become an Army Ranger or an artist. It’s all in how you channel it,” Derringer said.

The study appears in the current issue of the journal Psychological Science.

 

October 11, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health News Items | , , , | Leave a comment

   

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