Foodborne illness might be on the rise, report says

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that foodborne illness might be on the rise. Approximately 48 million people get sick from one of 31 pathogens each year, sending about 128,000 people to the hospital and causing 3,000 deaths.

Catherine Donnelly, a professor of food science at the University of Vermont, believes that the increase might at least partly be due to improvements in the tools that detect food contamination as well as outbreak reporting, surveillance, and investigation.

“Surveillance has drastically improved, and state public health labs are linked to databases at CDC, allowing quick identification of patterns of illness and links to food products,” she said. “As a result, we see more reports of foodborne illness.”

“People are tending to eat more produce and eat it in different forms, and those are good things, because we want people to eat more fresh produce, but when that happens, you’re likely to increase the risk,” said FDA deputy commissioner Mike Taylor.

And this risk is likely due to the fact that fresh produce is “sold and prepared without any kill step” to remove illness-causing germs.

“Foods travel longer distances to get from farms to consumers, and pathogens can be introduced along the way,” Donnelly said. “There is wider geographic distribution of centrally produced foods, so when something goes wrong during production, the impacts are widespread.

“Many outbreaks linked to poultry, eggs and meat can be traced back to farms where intensive production practices can lead to [the] spread of highly virulent pathogens,” she said, and some reflect “poor food handling practices.”

Regardless, Taylor doesn’t think there’s cause for a huge alarm.

“People should know that there’s a lot of high tech, high-powered science going into figuring out how to do better at preventing foodborne illness,” Taylor said. “People should know that the system — government and industry — they’re not just sitting back.”


British woman expose to nerve agent died: reports

A British woman has died Sunday night after being exposed to Novichok, which was used in the poisoning of a former Russian spy Sergie Skripal and his daughter Yulia, in March

Dawn Sturgess, 44, was exposed to the deadly nerve agent alongside her boyfriend Charlie Rowley, and are being treated for poisoning from Novichok, a military-grade chemical weapon, according to British authorities.

Prime Minister May announced in a tweet later Sunday that Sturgess’ death is being investigated as a murder.

It is not clear how the couple came in contact with the nerve agent or if it came from the same batch that poisoned a former Russian spy in March. Friends of the couple who spoke to the British press said that Rowley would often search dumpsters, making some investigators to ascertain that Sturgess and Rowley accidentally touched items contaminated with the nerve agent probably thrown away by the assailants.

Authorities said Sturgess absorbed the nerve agent through her hands.

Ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were both attacked with the nerve agent four months ago. They fell into comas but were revived and released. British authorities have accused Russia of being behind a deliberate attack, and expelled 23 Russian diplomats as a result.

According to British authorities, around 100 detectives are working to identify the source of the Novichok.


Police search continues for novichok contaminated item

Police have continued search for the item contaminated with the nerve agent that poisoned the couple. On Friday, investigators in protective clothing entered a John Baker House in Salisbury, where one of the victims, Dawn Sturgess, 44, lives.

Police believe Charlie Rowley, 45, and Ms Sturgess were exposed to Novichok after handling the unknown object.

The pair remains in a critical condition in hospital.

A government scientist who spoke with BBC News said the item was unlikely to have been left in the open before they touched it.

BBC home affairs correspondent Daniel Sandford also said the search for the item could take “weeks or months” and that no objects have yet been collected for testing.

Over time, rainwater and sunlight can weaken the effectiveness of Novichok , meaning the couple came in contact with the contaminated item in a contained space, the government scientist said.

However, other experts have said the nerve agent was designed to be persistent and not break down.

“Novichok is so toxic that it can pass through the skin and need not to be ingested” says the government scientist who spoke to BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner.

The source added that Mr. Rowley and Ms Sturgess’s symptoms were the exact shown by former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

They were both poisoned with the deadly nerve agent in nearby Salisbury in March.


HEALTH HND_Cancer HND_Disease Research SCI

Anti-cancer drugs put cancer to sleep forever

For the first time ever, Melbourne scientists have discovered an anti-cancer drug that puts cancers into a state of permanent sleep. Not only that, it does so without the standard harmful side-effects caused by traditional cancer therapies.

The unique new class of drugs could give cancer patients an alternative treatment, and thus far it has show promise for stopping the progression of cancer in models of liver and blood cancers. Not only that, it has been shown effective in delaying cancer relapse.

Tim Thomas, who led the research, claims that the new drug class is the first to target KAT6A and KAT6B proteins, which are known to play a big role in driving cancer.

“Early on, we discovered that genetically depleting KAT6A quadrupled the life expectancy in animal models of blood cancers called lymphoma,” Thomas said. “Armed with the knowledge that KAT6A is an important driver of cancer, we began to look for ways of inhibiting the protein to treat cancer.”

“This new class of anti-cancer drugs was effective in preventing cancer progression in our preclinical cancer models,” he added. “We are extremely excited about the potential that they hold as an entirely new weapon for fighting cancer.

Apparently, the compound was tolerated well in preclinical models and proved itself to be potent against tumor cells without negatively impacting healthy cells.

“This has been a very tough nut to crack,” said Ian Street, chief scientist at Cancer Therapeutics CRC. “There is no doubt that the KAT6 inhibitors have played an important role in elucidating the potential of this new and exciting strategy to treat cancers.”

The findings were published in Nature.

HND_Disease NWT_Animals Research SCI

Scientists to genetically engineer mice to stop Lyme disease

Scientists want to take the radical evolutionary step of genetically engineering white-footed mice of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard to rid the islands of Lyme disease. The vile bacterial infection causes fatigue, fevers and rashes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, Lyme disease can spread to the joints, nervous system and heart if left undetected. The people living on these bucolic summer retreats are eager to eradicate the scourge given the fact that as many as 40 percent of the population on just Nantucket have Lyme disease.“Here in the Northeast, our natural disaster is Lyme disease,” said Kevin Esvelt, who specializes in evolutionary and ecological engineering at MIT Media Lab.

Almost everyone associates deer with this illness, but transmission starts when an adolescent tick bites a white-footed mouse carrying the Lyme bacteria. If they can eliminate the bacteria from mice then it might solve the problem.

Esvelt’s goal is to do that by tinkering with their genetic code. He and his team want to heritably immunize the local white-footed mice.

Some mice develop immunity to Lyme naturally. However, they do not pass along that immunity to offspring without some assistance from science.

That is where Harvard immunologist Duane Wesemann enters the picture. Once he isolates the genetic code for Lyme immunity, he will be able to edit it into the genome of many more mice.



An egg a day will keep cardiovascular disease away

Eating one egg a day may lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a report by CNN. The new suggestion comes from a study done in China by more than 400,000 people.
Those individuals that ate an egg a day had an 18 percent lower risk of dying from the disease, according to the study. The study compared those that ate eggs to those that did not. The study was published in the Journal Heart.

Cardiovascular disease can produce heart attacks and strokes as well as heart failure, arrhythmias, and heart valve issues. It is also known to raise blood pressure, which can be exasperated by too much weight or obesity, and high blood sugar levels. The disease is often triggered by an unhealthy diet, inactivity, smoking, and excessive alcohol use.
For the study, information from half a million adults living in 10 regions in China was considered. This was narrowed down to 416,213 adults that had never had cancer, cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

The study tracked these adults for a total of nine years. They looked for major coronary events that included heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure. During the study follow up 9985 people died of cardiovascular disease while 5103 major coronary events occurred. A total of 84,000 participants were diagnosed with heart disease.

Researchers found those that ate an egg a day have lower risks of heart disease than those that did not eat eggs.


Scientists say antibiotic resistance spreads through air

Fog in the San Francisco Bay Area may represent a huge highway for genes that create perilous super bugs. The increase of super-bacteria through overuse of antibiotics may be emerging out of the air we breathe.

The frightening spread of infections proves how bad this super- bacteria problem has become. According to the World Health Organization, 500,000 people across 22 countries had this type of infection that is almost impossible to treat.

These are extremely dangerous because they carry ARGs, (antibiotic resistance genes), that protect them from most drugs. ARGs usually spread when a lucky superbug survives after an antibiotic dosage kills most of its comrades.

This allows the superbug to multiply, creating its own colony of dependents. These dependents share its superior genetic material. However, the team behind the new study discovered that in these ARGs it could spread differently. “ARGs could travel through air to remote regions or other places, where antibiotics on the other hand are less used,” said study author Maosheng Yao Ph.D. of Peking University’s College of Environmental Sciences.

Yao says ARGs represent bacteria’s second, more difficult-to-manage method of accumulating genes. Bacteria can inject each other with genetic material and the effects are permanent because they encode in the DNA of the recipient bacteria.

This process is horizontal transfer. Air currents that swirl in urban environments circulate around millions of people daily and increase the odds of a typical resistant bacteria meeting an antibiotic-resistant one.


Cannabis-like drug could help Alzheimer’s patients, study says

A new study suggests that a cannabis-like drug called nabilone might treat agitation in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The synthetic drug is typically used to control nausea in cancer patients.

Agitation is one of the most disturbing Alzheimer’s symptoms and it can be very tough to manage. In order to control the symptom, many doctors go against medical advice and prescribe antipsychotic drugs and sometimes even physically restrain patients.

“Agitation, aggression, sleep disturbances — all have a significant impact on both their quality of life and their carers’ quality of life,” said Heather Snyder, senior director of medical operations for the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Currently prescribed treatments for agitation in Alzheimer’s do not work in everybody, and when they do work the effect is small and they increase risk of harmful side effects, including increased risk of death,” said Krista Lanctôt of the University of Toronto, who led the research. “As a result, there is an urgent need for safer medication options.”

Lanctôt are her team tested nabilone for six weeks by giving the pill to 39 dementia patients. Afterwards, they gave them a placebo for an additional six weeks.

“Agitation improved significantly in those taking nabilone, compared to placebo,” the Alzheimer’s Association said in a summary of the research, which is being presented at its annual Chicago meeting.

The non-profit association also said that “nabilone also significantly improved overall behavioral symptoms, compared to placebo, as measured by the Neuropsychiatric Inventory” questionnaire.

The findings were published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.


New Ebola outbreak detected in the Democratic Republic in the Congo

Officials have confirmed four new cases of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

This recent report comes from the DRC’s health ministry, who recently celebrated the defeat of an outbreak in the Équateur province.

The new cases — which sit in the North Kivu province — are 1,500 miles from the last site and the government says there is no indication they are linked with the past outbreak.

There have been 10 Ebola outbreaks in the DRC since 1976. While the latest is cause for concern — especially so soon after the recent spread — it shows that the country is ready to fight the disease. It also reveals that outbreaks may be easier to spot than before.

“Although we did not expect to face a 10th epidemic so early, the detection of the virus is an indicator of the proper functioning of the surveillance system,” said a DRC Ministry of Health communique, according to Science Magazine.

The current outbreak is in Mangina, a village in the northern part of the country. Officials noted 26 cases of hemorrhagic fever and 20 deaths in the region, while the National Institute of Biomedical Research in Kinshasa confirmed samples from four hospitalized patients tested positive for Ebola.

There are four Ebolavirus species that affect humans. To combat that during the last outbreak, researchers employed an experimental vaccine. Though scientists are not sure how well the injection worked, nobody who received it contracted Ebola.  

As a result, it could be effective moving forward.

The vaccine is made from the Zaire species of virus, which is what is currently moving around Mangina. Officials are not sure if they want to use the injection, but it is likely the best option available.

Other Ebola therapies exist, but they are largely experimental at this point and not ready for clinical trials.

“It would appear that the risk, as we can surmise for DRC, is high,” said WHO’s emergency response chief Peter Salama, according to Reuters. “For the region it’s high given the proximity to borders, particularly Uganda. We’re talking about a few health areas mostly in one health zone. So we are talking about tens of kilometers but I stress that this is very preliminary information at this stage.”


Omega-3 supplements do not prevent heart disease

Omega 3 supplements do not lower a person’s risk for heart disease, stroke, or death, according to a new study in the Cochrane systematic review.

Omega 3 fatty acids are a type of fat that, in small doses, are essential for proper health. They exist in many common foods through substances like alphalinolenic acid (ALA)  eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

While humans eat the acids naturally, people around the world promote the increased consumption of omega 3 fatty acids because of the common belief that they protect people from heart disease.

However, researchers from Cochrane found that is not true.

The team reached that conclusion by analyzing the results of 79 randomized trials involving 112,059 people that assessed how much consuming extra omega 3 fats affected both heart disease and circulation.

All of the studies analyzed men and women — some healthy and some not — from North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. During the trial, the subjects were randomly assigned omega 3 fats to maintain their usual intake for at least a year.

That revealed increasing long-chain omega 3 intake provides little or no health benefits. The team also found that the death risk in people who increased their omega 3 intake was 8.8 percent, barely lower than the 9 percent death risk for people in the control group.

In addition, taking long-chain omega 3 fat supplements did not change the risk for stroke, heart irregularities, cardiovascular events, coronary heart deaths, or coronary heart disease events.

That is a strong link that shows the supplements are not as helpful as many believe.

“We can be confident in the findings of this review which go against the popular belief that long-chain omega-3 supplements protect the heart,” said study co-author Lee Hooper, a researcher from the University of East Anglia, according to Science Daily.“This large systematic review included information from many thousands of people over long periods. Despite all this information, we don’t see protective effects.”

The team hopes that the new findings will make people think twice before taking supplements. While certain ones can be beneficial, the team states that healthy foods are a much better option for those looking to increase their heart health.

“Such supplements come with a significant cost, so my advice to anyone buying them in the hope that they reduce the risk of heart disease, I’d advise them to spend their money on vegetables instead,” said Tim Chico, a cardiologist from Sheffield University who was not involved in the study, according to BBC News.