Friday, October 11th, 2013
The overuse–and, in the case of using it to treat the common cold, the improper use–of antibiotic drugs is a problem in most of the developed world. Health experts in the U.S. and overseas worry that over-prescription is resulting in a growing number of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacterial illnesses. To combat the problem and raise awareness, researchers in England are experimenting with having children share the message “Take care, not antibiotics” with each other. More from Reuters:
Starting in January, 13-year-olds at the eighth-grade level in England’s schools will be teaching peers and younger kids about microbes, proper hygiene and why antibiotic overuse is a bad thing. Researchers hope to implement a nation-wide program in September 2014.
“The idea is that the kids will go back home and tell their parents what they’ve learned,” said lead researcher Donna Lecky of Public Health England in the United Kingdom.
To counter a worrisome increase in antibiotic-resistant diseases, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in 2008 designated November 18 as European Antibiotic Awareness Day.
In 2010, 24 European Union states, plus Norway and Iceland, reported their most recent antibiotics use to the ECDC. Overall, numbers of antibiotic doses decreased or stabilized in 15 countries and increased in 11 since the last survey in 2009.
The same report stated that the most commonly prescribed antibiotics in community health clinics, not including hospitals, were drugs in the penicillin family, another category known as macrolides and tetracyclines.
Image: Child with a cold, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, October 9th, 2013
Nearly 300 people in 18 states have been sickened by a salmonella bacteria that has been traced back to contaminated chicken packaged by Foster Farms, according to an alert released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Salmonella poisoning is especially dangerous for people with compromised immune systems and young infants. More from The Boston Globe:
While some USDA employees have been furloughed due to the partial government shutdown, food safety inspectors at beef and poultry plants are still conducting routine inspections and investigating illness outbreaks.
Consumers can identify raw Foster Farm chicken products associated with the outbreak by looking for the following numbers on the package: P6137, P6137A, and P7632.
The products were mainly distributed to retail outlets in California, Oregon and Washington State, the USDA said, but no recall has been issued because the food safety service has been “unable to link the illnesses to a specific product and a specific production period.”
Instead, consumers should remember to handle all raw meat and poultry in a safe manner, cooking chicken thoroughly until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 °F. They should also avoid cross contamination of raw chicken juices with other foods like fresh produce that won’t be cooked before consuming; for example, they should use separate cutting boards for preparing these foods.
Another tip recommended by food safety scientists: Don’t wash raw poultry before preparing it since that can foster the spread of bacteria.
“If you wash it, you’re more likely to spray bacteria all over the kitchen and yourself,” said Drexel University food safety researcher Dr. Jennifer Quinlan in a new video campaign she launched to get people to stop rinsing raw chicken.
Image: Raw chicken, via Shutterstock
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Monday, May 6th, 2013
One hundred forty eight people across four states were sickened in January 2012 with camphylobacter bacteria that was traced back to raw, or unpasteurized milk sold by a Pennsylvania dairy farm. As MSNBC.com reports, the milk outbreak affected people from ages 2 to 74, and is particularly alarming because the dairy had all its proper permits, and had passed all inspections required for selling unpasteurized milk:
The [CDC] report, which details what happened during the outbreak, said the dairy that sold the milk had a permit for selling unpasteurized milk, and had passed all inspections. The farm was among the largest sellers of unpasteurized milk in the state.
The dairy also tested its own milk for E. coli bacteria more often than was required. The vast majority of the sick people drank the milk before its “best by” date.
The only deficiencies that investigators found were that a mechanical milk bottle capper was broken, so employees had capped the bottles by hand, and that the water used to clean equipment was cooler than recommended (110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, instead of 160 to 170 degrees F).
But these issues were “minimal,” and this campylobacter outbreak demonstrates “the ongoing hazards of unpasteurized dairy products,” according to the report authors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health departments. The findings were detailed online April 26 in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
“Raw milk is riskier than most foods,” said Douglas Powell, a professor of food safety at Kansas State University. While certainly a larger number of people get sick yearly from eating tainted tomatoes or lettuce, there are many more consumers of those foods than consumers of raw milk, he said.
Bacteria commonly found in the digestive tracts of farm animals, including campylobacter and E. coli O157, can easily find their way into milk as it is pumped and bottled on a farm, Powell said.
“Fecal matter just ends up in the milk — it’s not like you can see it,” he said. “No inspectors can see it — this isn’t CSI, where the bacteria just magically line up.”
Nearly a third of those sickened in the outbreak were children, the report said. Children, along with pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems, are at high risk of complications from campylobacter infections.
Powell said he advises that raw milk not be given to children. “As adults, you’re free to choose,” he said. “But don’t give it to your kids.”
Image: Milk via Shutterstock
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Monday, April 22nd, 2013
Circumcision may lower the risk of a boy becoming infected with HIV because of changes in bacteria that live around the circumcision site on the penis, a new study published in the journal mBio has found. The new finding builds on previous research that had associated circumcision with lower HIV, but had not identified a major cause for the association. More on the new study from CNN.com:
Relying on the latest technology that make sequencing the genes of organisms faster and more accessible, Lance Price of the Translational Genomics Research institute (TGen) and his colleagues conducted a detailed genetic analysis of the microbial inhabitants of the penis among a group of Ugandan men who provided samples before circumcision and again a year later.
While the men showed similar communities of microbes before the operation, 12 months later, the circumcised men harbored dramatically fewer bacteria that survive in low oxygen conditions. They also had 81% less bacteria overall compared to the uncircumcised men, and that could have a dramatic effect on the men’s ability to fight off infections like HIV, says Price.
Previous studies showed that circumcised men lowered their risk of transmitting HIV by as much as 50%, making the operation an important tool in preventing infection with the virus.
Why? A high burden of bacteria could disrupt the ability of specialized immune cells known as Langerhans cells to activate immune defenses.
Image: Newborn boy, via Shutterstock
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Friday, October 12th, 2012
A method of treating the bacteria that causes scarring acne–a major issue for teenagers–is getting more scientific attention even though it has been out of use for more than a half century. Scientists have reportedly identified 11 “good viruses” that could be deployed against the acne-causing bacteria in a treatment that went out of vogue with the advent of antibiotics during World War II. From Bloomberg.com:
The research re-energizes a century-old treatment method that was abandoned with the rise of antibiotics during World War II. As germs have built up a resistance to those drugs in recent years, scientists are seeking alternatives and the virus strategy “is in vogue again,” said Vincent Fischetti, a biologist at Rockefeller University in New York who is one of the pioneers of the revived approach.
The study of the acne-fighting viruses, called bacteriophages or simply phages, was published in the September- October edition of mBio, the journal of the American Society for Microbiology.
In it, scientists found phages that live side-by-side with the P. acnes bacteria on the faces of people who don’t get bad acne, theorizing that the viruses somehow helped to keep it under control, said Laura Marinelli, the lead author and a postdoctoral fellow at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. The single-celled P. acnes bacteria that resides in pores can grow out of control in an oily environment.
Once they identified the viruses, the scientists found the viruses had the ability to kill isolates of the bacteria in lab dishes, opening the possibility they may one day be the basis for effective treatments for the most common skin disorder in the U.S., with more than 40 million sufferers.
Image: Teenager with acne, via Shutterstock
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