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Mon, 20 Feb 2017
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Bug

Drug resistance? Primary malaria treatment fails to cure 4 patients in the UK

© Jim Young/Reuters
A key malaria treatment has failed for the first time, prompting scientists to fear the disease could be becoming resistant to the primary drugs used to counter it. The failure occurred in four patients being treated in the UK for an African strain of the mosquito-borne condition.

A team of medics from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said it's still too early to say for sure that they had found a dangerous level of resistance, but called for further investigation. The results were reported in the Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy Journal after being carried out in late 2016.

"It's remarkable there's been four apparent failures of treatment, there's not been any other published account [in the UK]," Dr Colin Sutherland told the BBC on Tuesday. Although the evidence is not yet conclusive, there are signs the strain is learning to fight back.

"It does feel like something is changing, but we're not yet in a crisis. It is an early sign and we need to take it quite seriously as it may be snowballing into something with greater impact," he said.

Bacon n Eggs

Skipping breakfast and eating late in the day can raise risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity

Skipping breakfast or eating late in the day could raise the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity according to a new study. The study from a group of American researchers suggests that the time we eat our meal is equally as important as what we eat.

Writing in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, researchers from Columbia University said both meal timing and frequency are linked to risk factors for a variety of conditions including heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, blood glucose levels, obesity, and reduced insulin sensitivity.

The researchers reviewed other current scientific studies concerning breakfast and heart disease and found that those who eat breakfast daily are less likely to have high cholesterol and blood pressure, while those who skip breakfast and instead snack and graze throughout the day are more likely to be obese, have poor nutrition, or be diagnosed with diabetes.

They analysed other studies that found people who skip breakfast have a 27 per cent increased risk of suffering from a heart attack, and are 18 per cent more likely to have a stroke.

Toys

Adult swaddling gaining traction as new therapy for postnatal women in Tokyo

© CBS/Reuters
The age-old practice of swaddling babies is being turned into a therapy for adults in Tokyo to alleviate posture and stiffness, mostly after giving birth.

Called Otonamaki, literally "adult wrapping," the therapy is gaining traction, especially amongst post-natal women after taking the internet by storm.

At a recent session in Tokyo organized by a non-profit organization dedicated to new moms, about five women gathered at a local community center to try it out, some for the first time.

Each took turns to tie each other in a large cloth from head to toe and in a cross-legged position, with the guidance from the session's organizer Yayoi Katayama.

They also swayed slightly from side-to-side after being laid gently on their backs in the hope of helping loosen the muscles and bones.

Some were given the option to use a colored cloth to help simulate different environments as they lay completely covered in the white cloths.

Many of the participants described the feeling of a warm embrace once swaddled in cloth.

People 2

Our microbes could promote altruistic behavior even more than genetic factors

© Lewin-Epstein et al. Nature Communications
(Left) The payoff matrix and (right) an illustration of horizontal transmission probability of microbes between hosts. Using this model, researchers have found that microbes may induce their hosts to help other hosts, benefitting the microbes and the other hosts, but not always the original hosts.
Why do people commonly go out of their way to do something nice for another person, even when it comes at a cost to themselves—and how could such altruistic behavior have evolved? The answer may not just be in our genes, but also in our microbes.

In a new paper, researchers Ohad Lewin-Epstein, Ranit Aharonov, and Lilach Hadany at Tel-Aviv University in Israel have theoretically shown that microbes could influence their hosts to act altruistically. And this influence could be surprisingly effective, with simulations showing that microbes may promote the evolution of altruistic behavior in a population to an even greater extent than genetic factors do.

"I believe the most important aspect of the work is that it changes the way we think about altruism from centering on the animals (or humans) performing the altruistic acts to their microbes," Hadany told Phys.org.

It's already well-known that microbes can affect the behavior of their hosts, with a prime example being how the rabies virus increases aggressive behavior in infected individuals. Research has also shown that the microbiome—the community of microorganisms that inhabit our gut—can even manipulate the hosts' social behavior by infecting neurons and altering neurotransmitter and hormone activity.

Comment: See also:


Cardboard Box

Why you should never keep your potatoes in cold storage

We put often put vegetables in the fridge to help prevent spoiling and keep them fresh. But keeping potatoes at a chilly temperature will not only negatively affect their taste, but it makes the starch turn into sugar faster and leaving you with a tougher potato. Here's why.

Garages, storage cellars, the fridge and other places which drop to low temperatures may place some potatoes in harms way once they are cooked at a later date.

At low temperatures, an enzyme called invertase breaks down the sugar sucrose in potatoes to glucose and fructose, which can form acrylamide during cooking. Frozen food doesn't carry this particular risk, as sucrose doesn't get broken down at very low temperatures.

The Food Standards Agency explains that when baked or fried, these sugars combine with the amino acid asparagine present in the potatoes and produce the chemical acrylamide.

Acrylamide is made by something called the Maillard reaction, which browns cooked foods and gives them their pleasing flavour. As sugars and amino acids react together, they produce thousands of different chemicals. Particularly high levels of acrylamide are found in starchy foods, like potatoes and bread, when cooked at temperatures over 120 C. The chemical can also be present in breakfast cereals, biscuits and coffee.

Comment: Soaking Potatoes In Water Before Frying Reduces Acrylamide


Health

The importance of digestive and metabolic enzymes for health

© health101.net
As the name implies, digestive enzymes are important for optimal digestion and nutrient absorption. But their functions and benefits do not end there. Enzymes are actually necessary for most cellular functions and biological processes.

Enzymes — proteins composed of amino acids — are secreted by your body to catalyze functions that normally would not occur at body temperature, making them vital to good health and longevity.1,2

Science has identified more than 3,000 different enzymes, yet we've likely only scratched the surface. Some believe we may have anywhere from 50,000 to 70,000 enzymes in our bodies.3

Each organ has its own set of enzymes, and each enzyme has a different function. In essence, they act like specialized keys cut to fit specific locks. In this analogy, the locks are biochemical reactions.

Pills

Mysterious cluster of Massachusetts amnesia cases, possibly tied to opioids, alarms health officials

© APSTOCK
Public health officials on Thursday said they had detected a bizarre cluster of cases in which patients in Massachusetts developed amnesia over the past few years — a highly unusual syndrome that could be connected to opioid use.

The officials have identified only 14 cases so far. But officials said it's possible that clinicians have simply missed other cases.

The patients were all relatively young — they ranged in age from 19 to 52. Thirteen of the 14 patients identified had a substance use disorder, and the 14th patient tested positive for opioids and cocaine on a toxicology screen.

"What we're concerned about is maybe a contaminant or something else added to the drug might be triggering this," said Dr. Alfred DeMaria, the state epidemiologist at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and an author of the new report. "Traditionally there's no evidence that the drugs themselves can do this."

The pattern emerged when Dr. Jed Barash, a neurologist at Lahey Hospital and Medical Center in Burlington, Mass., reported four of the amnesia cases to the state's public health department. The department then sent out an alert to specialists, including neurologists and emergency physicians, asking about similar cases, ultimately identifying 10 more from 2012 to 2016 at hospitals in eastern Massachusetts. (The patients included one person who lived in New Hampshire and one person who was visiting Massachusetts from Washington state.)

The patients experienced various memory problems affecting both long- and short-term memory. Some of them arrived at hospitals following overdoses, but in other cases, family members brought in patients who became confused or stopped being able to recognize their relatives or recall basic facts. Some of the patients also struggled with disorientation, attention, and executive function.

In addition to showing the clinical symptoms of amnesia, brain imaging showed a significant reduction in blood flow to the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in memory, learning, and emotion.

There are only a few case reports in the medical literature of a similar combination of clinical and imaging results, which were a result of cocaine use, influenza, or carbon monoxide poisoning. There was only one case of blood being cut off to the hippocampus as a result of heroin use, from France in 2013.

Alarm Clock

Lack of sleep tied to a weakened immune system

© Jason Lee / Reuters
Sleep deprivation is something many of us can relate to. It's even used by some intelligence agencies as a form of torture. But how much can it really impact our health and well-being? Well for starters, people who get less sleep find it harder to fend off illnesses, a US study has concluded.

Scientists from the University of Washington Health Sciences and UW medicine took blood samples from 11 pairs of identical twins, with a different sleeping pattern for each twin. The study used twins in order to avoid the significant genetic differences in people's immune systems.

The researchers found that the twin who slept the least suffered from a weaker immune system as the flow of white blood cells, which help fight diseases, was interrupted.

"The results are consistent with studies that show when sleep deprived people are given a vaccine, there is a lower antibody response and if you expose sleep deprived people to a rhinovirus they are more likely to get the virus," said Dr. Nathaniel Watson, co-director of the UW Medicine Sleep Center at Harborview Medical Center. "This study provides further evidence of sleep to overall health and well-being particularly to immune health."

Comment: Lack of a good night's sleep also effects memory formation, concentration and mood.


Pirates

Ecocide and crimes against humanity: The British Government colludes with Monsanto


"The British Government has colluded with Monsanto and should be held accountable in the International Criminal Court in The Hague for crimes against humanity and ecocide." Dr. Rosemary Mason.


The British public and the environment are being poisoned with a deadly cocktail of 320 pesticides. Moreover, Wales has become a storage dump for Monsanto's most toxic chemicals. These are the messages conveyed by Dr. Rosemary Mason in her recent open letter to Councillor Rob Stewart, the leader of Swansea City and County Council.

Dr. Mason adds that Swansea has over the years been a testing ground for glyphosate with the outcome being a huge spike in illness and disease among the local population as well as ongoing environmental devastation. There has been a long-term reckless use of a glyphosate-based weedkiller in Swansea, regardless of EU recommendations.

Dr. Henk Tennekes, an independent toxicologist from the Netherlands, and Dr Pierre Mineau, an expert on ecotoxicology from Canada, both prophesied environmental catastrophe from the self-regulated and unsustainable use of pesticides by the agrochemical industry.

Brain

Protecting children from the "global, silent pandemic of neurodevelopmental toxicity"

Having a child is often considered to be one of the most joyous moments in a parent's life, but it can also be one of the most stressful. One common stressor is the risk of your little one coming into contact with harmful toxins. Many new parents, in fact, rate this as the biggest source of concern in the first few years of having a newborn.

Exposure to harmful toxins can happen in many ways. Some toys, even though they are specifically designed for babies, can contain toxins. Equally, a lot of processed foods can contain obscure chemicals and additives.

A recent Forbes article points to research that suggests chemicals in toys and food may be contributing to what scientists are calling the "global, silent pandemic of neurodevelopmental toxicity."

Limiting exposure to toxins is especially important for babies because they are still developing. As such, their immune systems are less able to fight potentially damaging toxins than a fully grown adult's. And while you may be able to limit your own exposure to toxins by being careful about the products you use, the fact that children put everything in their mouths means that everything they are close to needs to be safe!

Comment: Poisoning our children - beginning in the womb