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April 6, 2008, 8:26 PM CT

Alligator blood for antibiotic-resistant infections

Alligator blood for antibiotic-resistant infections
Alligator blood could provide a powerful new source of antibiotics for fighting deadly "superbugs" and other infections, researchers say.

Credit: Photo credit: Courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Despite their reputation for deadly attacks on humans and pets, alligators are wiggling their way toward a new role as potential lifesavers in medicine, biochemists in Louisiana reported today at the 235th national meeting of the American Chemical Society. They described how proteins in gator blood may provide a source of powerful new antibiotics to help fight infections linked to diabetic ulcers, severe burns, and superbugs that are resistant to conventional medication.

Their study, described as the first to explore the antimicrobial activity of alligator blood in detail, found a range of other promising uses for the gators antibiotic proteins. Among them: combating Candida albicans yeast infections, which are a serious problem in AIDS patients and transplant recipients, who have weakened immune systems, the researchers say.

Were very excited about the potential of these alligator blood proteins as both antibacterial and antifungal agents, says co-author of study Mark Merchant, Ph.D., a biochemist at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, La. Theres a real possibility that you could be treated with an alligator blood product one day.

Prior studies by Merchant showed that alligators have an uncommonly strong immune system that is very different from that of humans. Unlike people, alligators can fight microorganisms such as fungi, viruses, and bacteria without having previous exposure to them. Researchers think that this is an evolutionary adaptation to promote quick wound healing, as alligators are often injured during fierce territorial battles.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


March 24, 2008, 7:50 PM CT

Dramatic Rise in Hepatitis C-Related Deaths in the United States

Dramatic Rise in Hepatitis C-Related Deaths in the United States
Hepatitis C-related deaths in the United States increased by 123 percent from 1995 through 2004, the most recent year for which data are available. Mortality rates peaked in 2002, then declined slightly overall, while continuing to rise among people 55 to 64 years old. These findings are reported in the recent issue of Hepatology, a journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD). The article is also available online at Wiley Interscience (www.interscience.wiley.com).

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the most common blood-borne infection in the United States, affecting about 1.3 percent of the population. Up to one-in-five sufferers develop liver cirrhosis, and up to one-in-20 develop liver cancer. HCV is the top reason for liver transplantation, and the 16th leading cause of premature death in the country. Recent evidence has suggested that disease burden and mortality from chronic HCV infection may increase in the coming years, as the number of persons with longstanding infections continues to rise.

To update estimates of trends and demographics of hepatitis C-related mortality in the U.S., a team of scientists led by Matthew Wise of UCLA and including scientists from the CDC and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health analyzed mortality rates derived from U.S. Census and multiple-cause-of-death data from 1995-2004. They included 56,409 HCV related deaths, including those for which the disease was the underlying cause; those for which chronic liver disease was the underlying cause and hepatitis C was a contributing cause; and those for which HIV was the underlying cause and chronic liver disease and hepatitis C were contributing causes.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


March 13, 2008, 8:44 PM CT

How diabetes drives atherosclerosis

How diabetes drives atherosclerosis
Scientists have discovered how diabetes, by driving inflammation and slowing blood flow, dramatically accelerates atherosclerosis, as per research would be reported in the March 14 edition of the journal Circulation Research.

Experts once believed that atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, developed when too much cholesterol clogged arteries with fatty deposits called plaques. When blood vessels became completely blocked, heart attacks and strokes occurred. Today most agree that the reaction of the body's immune system to fatty build-up, more than the build-up itself, creates heart attack risk. Immune cells traveling with the blood mistake fatty deposits for intruders, akin to bacteria, home in on them, and attack. This causes inflammation that makes plaques more likely to swell, rupture and cut off blood flow.

Making matters worse, nearly 21 million Americans have diabetes, a disease where patients cells cannot efficiently take in dietary sugar, causing it to build up in the blood. In part because diabetes increases atherosclerosis-related inflammation, diabetic patients are twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke.

Past work has shown that high blood sugar has two effects on cells lining blood vessels as part of atheroslerosis. First, it increases the production of free radicals, highly reactive molecules that tear about sensitive cell components like DNA, causing premature cell death (apoptosis). This process also reduces the availability of nitric oxide (NO), which would otherwise enable blood vessels to relax and blood flow to increase. In contrast to diabetes, exercise and good diet bring about faster blood flow through blood vessels. The force created by fast, steady blood flow as it drags along blood vessel walls has been shown by recent studies to protect arteries from atherosclerosis. Physical force has emerged recently as a key player in bodily function, capable of kicking off biochemical processes (e.g. weightlifting thickens bone).........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


March 9, 2008, 5:02 PM CT

New bacteria contaminate hairspray

New bacteria contaminate hairspray
Researchers in Japan have discovered a new species of bacteria that can live in hairspray, as per the results of a study reported in the recent issue of the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology.

Contamination of cosmetic products is rare but some products may be unable to suppress the growth of certain bacteria, says Dr Bakir from the Japan Collection of Microorganisms, Saitama, Japan. We discovered a new species of bacteria called Microbacterium hatanonis, which we found contaminates hairspray.

We also found a related species, Microbacterium oxydans in hairspray which was originally isolated from hospital material. Microbacterium species have been identified in milk, cheese, beef, eggs and even in the blood of patients with leukaemia, on catheters and in bone marrow.

The researchers looked at the appearance and diet of the bacterium, then analysed its genome to show that it is an entirely new species. It has been named in honour of Dr Kazunori Hatano, for his contribution to the understanding of the genus Microbacterium, says Dr Bakir. Microbacterium hatanonis is rod-shaped and grows best at 30C and pH neutral.

Researchers now need to determine the clinical importance of the new species, as similar bacteria have been found to infect humans. Further testing will establish whether the species is a threat to human health, says Dr Bakir. We hope our study will benefit the formulation of hairspray to prevent contamination in the future.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


March 5, 2008, 8:23 PM CT

Knock-out Punch For Antibiotic Resistance

Knock-out Punch For Antibiotic Resistance
MIT graduate student and synthetic biologist Timothy Lu has won the $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for inventing processes to combat bacterial infections by enhancing the effectiveness of antibiotics. Photo courtesy / Lemelson-MIT Program
MIT graduate student and synthetic biologist Timothy Lu is passionate about tackling problems that pose threats to human health. His current mission: to destroy antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Today, the 27-year-old M.D. candidate and Ph.D. in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology received the prestigious $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for inventing processes that promise to combat bacterial infections by enhancing the effectiveness of antibiotics at killing bacteria and helping to eradicate biofilm - bacterial layers that resist antimicrobial therapy and breed on surfaces, such as those of medical, industrial and food processing equipment.

Bacterial infections can lead to severe health issues. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the antibiotic-resistant bacterium MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, causes approximately 94,000 infections and contributes to 19,000 deaths annually in the United States, through contact that can occur in a variety of locations, including schools, hospitals and homes. Bacteria can also infect food, including spinach and beef, and damage industrial equipment.

Lu explained that fewer pharmaceutical companies are inventing new antibiotics due to long development times, high failure rates and large costs. As per the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, the cost to develop a new drug is $930 million (based on the value of the dollar in 2006). These factors, coupled with a decline in the number of prescriptions authorized for antibiotics, constrain profits. "Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are also becoming more prevalent," Lu noted. "My inventions enable the rapid design and production of inexpensive antibacterial agents that can break through the defenses of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and bacterial biofilms".........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


March 4, 2008, 5:35 PM CT

Study uncovers cause of flu epidemics

Study uncovers cause of flu epidemics
The exchange of genetic material between two closely related strains of the influenza A virus may have caused the 1947 and 1951 human flu epidemics, as per biologists. The findings could help explain why some strains cause major pandemics and others lead to seasonal epidemics.

Until now, it was believed that while reassortment when human influenza viruses swap genes with influenza viruses that infect birds causes severe pandemics, such as the Spanish flu of 1918, the Asian flu of 1957, and the Hong Kong flu of 1968, while viral mutation leads to regular influenza epidemics. But it has been a mystery why there are sometimes very severe epidemics like the ones in 1947 and 1951 that look and act like pandemics, even though no human-bird viral reassortment event occurred.

There was a total vaccine failure in 1947. Scientists initially thought there was a problem in manufacturing the vaccine, but they later realized that the virus had undergone a tremendous evolutionary change, said Martha Nelson, lead author and a graduate student in Penn States Department of Biology. We now believe that the 1947 virus did not just mutate a lot, but that this unusual virus was made through a reassortment event involving two human viruses.

So we have observed that the bipolar way of looking at influenza evolution is incorrect, and that reassortment can be an important driver of epidemic influenza as well as pandemic influenza, said Nelson, whose teams findings are reported in the current issue of PLoS Pathogens. We have discovered that you can also have reassortment between viruses that are much more similar, that human viruses can reassort with each other and not just with bird viruses.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


March 4, 2008, 4:54 PM CT

PANTHER sensor quickly detects pathogens

PANTHER sensor quickly detects pathogens
This prototype of the PANTHER device is about one cubic foot and weighs 37 pounds. Photo courtesy / MIT Lincoln Laboratory
Scientists at MIT Lincoln Laboratory have developed a powerful sensor that can detect airborne pathogens such as anthrax and smallpox in less than three minutes.

The new device, called PANTHER (for PAthogen Notification for THreatening Environmental Releases), represents a "significant advance" over any other sensor, said James Harper of Lincoln Lab's Biosensor and Molecular Technologies Group. Current sensors take at least 20 minutes to detect harmful bacteria or viruses in the air, but the PANTHER sensors can do detection and identification in less than 3 minutes.

The technology has been licensed to Innovative Biosensors, Inc. (IBI) of Rockville, Md. In January, IBI began selling a product, BioFlash, that uses the PANTHER technology.

"There is a real need to detect a pathogen in less than three minutes, so you have time to take action before it is too late," said Harper, the lead scientist developing the sensor.

The PANTHER sensor uses a cell-based sensor technology known as CANARY (after the birds sent into mines to detect dangerous gases), and can pick up a positive reading with only a few dozen particles per liter of air.

The device could be used in buildings, subways and other public areas, and can currently detect 24 pathogens, including anthrax, plague, smallpox, tularemia and E. coli.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


February 26, 2008, 10:24 PM CT

Bacterial 'battle for survival' leads to new antibiotic

Bacterial 'battle for survival' leads to new antibiotic
Biologists have provoked soil-dwelling bacteria into producing a new type of antibiotic by pitting them against another strain of bacteria in a battle for survival.

The antibiotic holds promise for therapy of Helicobacter pylori, which causes stomach ulcers in humans. Also, figuring out the still murky explanation for how the new antibiotic was produced could help researchers develop strategies for finding other new antibiotics.

The work is published in the recent issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

A combination of luck, patience and good detective work contributed to the discovery of the new antibiotic, as per Philip Lessard, research scientist in Professor Anthony Sinskey's laboratory at MIT.

Sinskey's lab has been studying Rhodococcus, a type of soil-dwelling bacteria, for a number of years. While sequencing the genome of one Rhodococcus species, the scientists noticed that a large number of genes seemed to code for secondary metabolic products, which are compounds such as antibiotics, toxins and pigments.

However, Rhodococcus does not normally produce antibiotics. A number of bacteria have genes for antibiotics that are only activated when the bacteria are threatened in some way, so the scientists suspected that might be true of Rhodococcus.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


February 26, 2008, 4:55 PM CT

Tropics Are Next Emerging Disease Hotspot

Tropics Are Next Emerging Disease Hotspot
This is the first time researchers are able to provide a scientific prediction of where the next major disease like HIV or SARS could emerge. During the last three decades, researchers have spent billions of research dollars to deal with the seemingly random emergency of dozens of pandemics.

Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation
Researchers from four well-known institutions say the next major disease like HIV/AIDS or SARS could occur in any of many developing countries concentrated along the equator. They encourage increased surveillance to prevent the spread of a potential outbreak.

Using global databases and sophisticated computer models to analyze patterns of emerging diseases, the scientists -- from the Consortium for Conservation Medicine (CCM) at Wildlife Trust, N.Y., the Institute of Zoology, London, U.K., Columbia University, N.Y., and the University of Georgia, Athens, Ga. -- are able for the first time to plot, map and predict where the next pandemic might occur.

Funded through a Human and Social Dynamics Exploratory Research award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Arlington, Va., the research represents a major breakthrough in understanding where and why pandemic diseases emerge and provides a key tool for preventing them in the future.

"This is an important area of research," said Rita Teutonico, advisor for integrative activities in NSF's Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences. "After years of debate, the scientific community is now able to offer a convincing, predictive tool to help policy professionals and resource managers better allocate global resources in the fight against emerging diseases".........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


February 25, 2008, 8:54 PM CT

Women With HIV Want To Become Pregnant

Women With HIV Want To Become Pregnant
Julianne Serovich
About one in four women who have tested positive for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) expect pregnancy and motherhood to be a part of their future, recent research suggests.

A woman's age at the time she learns of her HIV status appears to influence this decision. Women in an Ohio State University study who learned of their HIV infection when they were under age 30 were almost four times more likely to say they wanted to become pregnant than were women who were over 30 when they learned they had HIV.

Scientists say the findings point to a need for clinicians to be aware that women with HIV might be struggling with decisions about motherhood - a relatively new phenomenon accompanying the increase in HIV-positive women of childbearing age and the longer survival rates among patients who receive therapy.

"We shouldn't assume that women aren't going to become pregnant or don't want to become pregnant now that they have HIV. That's an erroneous assumption," said co-author of study Julianne Serovich, professor and chair of human development and family science at Ohio State. "Clinicians should be routinely discussing pregnancy with HIV-positive women of childbearing age".

In 2005, 29.5 percent of all new reported HIV infections and 27 percent of new AIDS cases in the United States were among women, as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty years earlier, only 5 percent of new AIDS cases were reported in women. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
Scientists at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston have found a genetic marker that may identify individuals at greater risk for life-threatening infection from the West Nile virus. Results of the study are reported in the Nov. 15 print edition of Journal of Infectious Diseases.

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