Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

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

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

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

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

   

%d bloggers like this: