Supermarket chickens have a "superbug" problem

If you enjoyed British supermarkets' bleach-dipped rotten turkeys, perhaps you like to try their antibiotic-resistant superbug-infested chickens.

The FSA has also noted that the proportion of campylobacter-infected chickens which showed resistance to key antibiotics, in this case ciprofloxacin, “has increased significantly” compared with a previous survey of chickens sold at retail 10 years ago. More than 4,000 samples were tested, then samples of smaller numbers exhibiting campylobacter infections retested to detect whether they carried bacteria resistant to the key antibiotics. Ciprofloxacin resistance was identified in more than half of the samples of one form of campylobacter tested, 237 out of 437 tests on Campylobacter jejuni, and in nearly half (52 out of 108) of another strain, Campylobacter coli.

The results were taken by experts to show that the use of antibiotics to treat farm animals is giving rise to the spread of resistant bacteria, which can have major effects on human health because one of the main methods of transmission to many strains of resistant bacteria is through contact with livestock in the food chain. While proper hygiene practices and thorough cooking can kill the bugs, any lapses can result in serious infection.

The paper: "A Microbiological survey of campylobacter contamination in fresh whole UK produced chilled chickens at retail sale".

Post-Trump/Brexit omni-deregulation shall be a splendid affair.

Photo: Bertie Charman Read the rest

Drones to airdrop hundreds of thousands of mosquitos to fight disease

One approach to fight mosquito-borne diseases is to introduce huge numbers of sterilized male mosquitos to beat out the wild males in competition for female mosquitos. The challenge is that it's expensive to airdrop the mosquitos from airplanes and often difficult to traverse developing nations by ground. Now, WeRobotics has prototyped a drone that carries hundreds of thousands of mosquitos and releases them at just the right moment. The first experiments in South or Central America will take place in the next few months. From IEEE Spectrum:

The goal is to pack as many mosquitoes as possible into the drone. However, clumping is a problem because the insects form “a big collection of legs and wings,” he says. The trick, according to Klaptocz, is to keep them inside a precooled container: “Between 4 °C and 8 °C, they’ll fall asleep, and you can pack them up fairly densely.”

It’s also important to control the release of the mosquitoes, rather than dumping them out all at once. “We tried different systems to get the mosquitoes out of the holding canister, including vibrations and a treadmill,” he says. “Right now, we’re using a rotating element with holes through which individual mosquitoes can fall.” Once the mosquitoes fall out of the canister, they spend a few seconds in a secondary chamber warming up to the outside air temperature before exiting the drone, to make sure they’re awake and ready to fly.

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All about the Black Death flea that killed 100 million people

Oriental Rat Flea

(Xenopsylla cheopis)

SIZE: Up to 1/6 in (4 mm)

FAMILY: Pulicidae

HABITAT: Near rats, their primary food source

DISTRIBUTION: Worldwide, particularly tropical and subtropical climates, but some temperate zones as well

MEET THE RELATIVES: The cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis, is a relative, as is the dog flea C. can is—but in the United States, it is primarily the cat flea that preys on both cats and dogs. They are known to transmit tapeworms.

Excerpted from Wicked Bugs (Young Readers Edition): The Meanest, Deadliest, Grossest Bugs on Earth by Amy Stewart, illustrated by Briony Morrow-Cribbs. © 2017 by Amy Stewart. Reprinted by permission of Algonquin Young Readers. All rights reserved. Available from Amazon.

On an autumn day in 1907, two brothers in San Francisco found a dead rat in the cellar. Inspired by their father, an undertaker, they decided to find a coffin for the rat to give it a proper funeral.

When they ran home for dinner that night, the boys brought along a souvenir of their adventures—bloodthirsty fleas, starved for a meal after their rat host had died. Along with the fleas came a deadly disease—the plague.

The rat flea would prefer to leave humans, cats, dogs, and chickens alone, but when rat populations experience a massive die off—as they do during epidemics of the plague—the fleas turn to other warm-blooded creatures for their food. This is exactly what happened to those two unfortunate boys. Within a month, the plague had killed their parents but spared the boys, leaving them orphans. Read the rest

Remember ebola? Media-inflamed health scares, quantified

Just how overblown was the media panic over ebola? This interactive chart compares media coverage of a dozen health scares, from mad cow disease to zika. Read the rest

Star-shaped polymer kills superbug strains without antibiotics

Shu Lam, a 25-year-old PhD student at the University of Melbourne's School of Engineering, has developed a polymer that rips apart the cell walls of superbug strain bacteria.

From Science Alert:

The polymers - which they call SNAPPs, or structurally nanoengineered antimicrobial peptide polymers - work by directly attacking, penetrating, and then destabilising the cell membrane of bacteria.

Unlike antibiotics, which 'poison' bacteria, and can also affect healthy cells in the area, the SNAPPs that Lam has designed are so large that they don't seem to affect healthy cells at all.

"With this polymerised peptide we are talking the difference in scale between a mouse and an elephant," Lam's supervisor, Greg Qiao, told Marcus Strom from the Sydney Morning Herald. "The large peptide molecules can't enter the [healthy] cells."

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Siberian heat wave unleashes deadly 'zombie anthrax' outbreak

At least 90 people have been hospitalized from an anthrax outbreak in Russia, including 50 children. Eight are confirmed as infected with anthrax. Doctors believe at least 6 patients have the more virulent intestinal form of the disease, which killed one boy, age 12. Authorities say it's the first fatal anthrax outbreak in Russia in more than 75 years.

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Zika hits the US military: 33 service members now have virus, says Pentagon

Pentagon officials told reporters today that at least 33 active-duty American service members, one of whom is a pregnant woman, have Zika.

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Gonorrhea may soon be unbeatable

Approximately 350,000 people in the US are diagnosed with gonorrhea each year. According to the CDC, it may soon be untreatable. Currently, the sexually-transmitted disease, not-so-fondly known as The Clap or The Drip, is treated with two antibiotics, azithromycin and ceftriaxone. Data is currently showing a rise in gonorrhea samples that are resistant to those drugs.

Companies are developing new antibiotics but could be "years away," says CDC medical epidemiologist Robert D. Kirkcaldy.

"We think … it’s a matter of when and not if with resistance,” he says. “This bug is so smart and can mutate so rapidly.”

(Scientific American) Read the rest

First case of female-to-male sexually-transmitted Zika reported, in NYC

The Centers for Disease Control and Infection reported the first confirmed case of Zika transmitted from a woman to a man during sex. Previously, they thought that the disease was only likely to be sexually-transmitted from a male to female or male to male. The CDC will soon update their advisory "for sexually active people in which the couple is not pregnant or concerned about pregnancy and for people who want to reduce personal risk of Zika infection through sex." From CNN:

A non-pregnant woman in her 20s had unprotected vaginal sex with a male partner on the day she returned from travel to a country where Zika is circulating. The next day, she came down with Zika-like symptoms, including fever, rash, fatigue and muscle pain, along with numbness and tingling in her fingers and toes. On day three, she visited her primary care doctor, who took blood and urine samples, and sent them off to the NYC health department. Both tested positive for the virus.

On day seven after intercourse, her male partner, also in his 20s, began to show the same typical signs of Zika, such as fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes, despite the fact that he had not traveled outside the United States for more than a year...

While this is the first documented case of female to male sexual transmission, it's not the first clue that the Zika virus might be hiding in the female genital tract. A case report published this week in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal tells the story of a 27-year old Guadeloupean woman who came down with Zika in May.

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San Diego woman contracts Zika through sex, first such case in region

A woman in San Diego, CA is reported to have contracted the Zika virus through sexual transmission.

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This graph shows causes of death by age

People between the ages of 15-30 are more likely to die from external causes than any other reason. The 60s, 70s, and 80s are cancer years. If you've made it that far, your failing heart is most likely to kill you. Nathan Yau created this stacked area graph that "shows how cause of death varies across sex and race, based on mortality data from 2005 through 2014. Select a group to see the changes. Select causes to see them individually." Read the rest

This video will show you how to live so long, you'll be the oldest person alive on the planet.

It's complicated.

The best person who ever lived is an unknown Ukrainian man

Out of everyone who ever existed, who has done the most good for humanity? It's a difficult question.

California woman killed by brain-eating amoeba

A 21-year-old California woman died from an amoeba that settles in the brain and destroys its tissue. The disease she contracted is called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). It is rare, with only zero to eight cases reported a year, says Inyo Public Health officer Dr. Richard Johnson. But it is almost 100 percent fatal.

Humans are infected by the amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, when swimming or diving in fresh, warm water. The amoeba then migrates through the nose and skull, where it reaches the brain and begins to destroy brain tissue.

"I advise people to be cautious when using untreated hot springs in the Sierras," Dr. Johnson said, "The best way to do that is to keep your head above water."

Image: "Focal hemorrhage and necrosis in frontal cortex due to Naegleria fowleri." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Read the rest

Infectious disease squeeze-balls, full of buboes

The coolest gross-out toy under our tree this year is the $5 infectious disease ball, a squeeze-ball wrapped in mesh that erupts into disquieting, vividly colored buboes when you squeeze it. Read the rest

Deforestation leads to Ebola

Over the past few months, West Africa has been experiencing the biggest and most deadly Ebola outbreak on record and deforestation is a key part of why. Read the rest

As many as 75 federal scientists may have been exposed to anthrax

Anthrax bacteria. (Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Up to 75 scientists who work at a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention biosecurity lab in Atlanta may have been exposed to anthrax, because researchers there did not follow procedures for inactivating the deadly and highly contagious bacteria. Read the rest

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