WASHINGTON, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- A U.S. study suggests that farm women who have contact with some commonly known pesticides have a greater risk than others of allergic asthma.
Researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences assessed pesticide and other occupational exposures as risk factors for adult-onset asthma in more than 25,000 farm women in North Carolina and Iowa. They found an average increase of 50 percent in the prevalence of allergic asthma in all farm women who applied or mixed pesticides.
Some rarely used compounds such as parathion were associated with almost a three-fold increase in allergic asthma. But even some commonly used pesticides, such as Malathion, were associated with a marked increase in allergic asthma prevalence, the American Thoracic Society said Friday in a release.
Permethrin, used in consumer items such as insect-resistant clothing and anti-malaria bed-nets, was associated with both allergic and non-allergic asthma, the report said.
The study was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
Germs Can Travel the World by "Hitchhiking" on Dust Sara B. McPherson for National Geographic News December 20, 2007
A satellite photo shows a dust storm swirling over Africa's western coast.
A new study of dust collected from the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean by Charles Darwin shows that the particles had originated in the western Sahara and contained "hitchhiking" microbes.
Photograph courtesy Jason Dunion, NOAA
Microbes can traverse oceans and continents by hitching rides on minute dust particles, scientists report.
By analyzing dust samples originally collected by naturalist Charles Darwin, researchers have determined that bacteria and tiny fungi originating in the western Sahara desert are also found as far away as North America and the Caribbean.
Swirling windstorms in northern Chad sweep up sands from the Sahara, carrying the smallest particles into the troposphere, 1 to 6 miles (2 to 10 kilometers) above Earth's surface.
The fine grains are then blown across the Atlantic Ocean, settling nearly 6,200 miles (10,000 kilometers) away.
Anna Gorbushina and William Broughton at Switzerland's University of Geneva had long been interested in what the dust carried on its intercontinental travels.
"We've known about this phenomenon for centuries," Broughton said.
But not enough of the dust was available for study until a colleague suggested testing Darwin's samples, he explained.
Their team's findings appear in the current issue of Environmental Microbiology.
In the early 1800s, Darwin and others collected some of this aerial dust from Barbados and while at sea in the Atlantic Ocean.
Using only the most abundant samples, the authors employed geochemical analyses to confirm that Darwin's collections contained dust originating in West Africa.
In addition the team also found that the dust particles were carrying microbial hitchhikers.
"We found several species of bacteria and fungi … on the small particles," Broughton said.
The team was even able to cultivate and grow several of the microbes, proving that these microorganisms can remain viable for centuries.
Citing the harsh elements the microbes must endure, including severe weather and ultraviolet radiation, Broughton said he believes that only certain microbes can survive the trip.
"It's likely that only those bacteria and fungi that have protective structures, like spores, can survive the travels," he explained.
Microbes that dwell on arid rock and soil are better able to withstand the dryness and radiation that accompany intercontinental travel, he added. As a result, deserts are the only terrestrial environments where these traveling microbes can be found in abundance. A Pathway for Disease?
The newly studied phenomenon begs the question: If bacteria and fungi can be carried on the wind from country to country, could disease travel the same path?
"Most normal human pathogens are not resistant enough [to survive the trip]," Broughton said.
"Unless there's some great change in the western Sahara, disease [traveling in this manner] doesn't pose a health threat."
While the spread of disease may not be an issue, scientists believe that the study confirms an important theory with global implications.
"We know very little about the longevity of microbes and their ability to tolerate long periods of stress," said Kenneth Timmis, head of the Environmental Microbiology Laboratory at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research.
The new study not only aids in scientists' understanding of how microbes survive, it also provides important evidence of how major atmospheric pathways influence the spread of microbial life on the planet, he said.
"This is a timely reminder that almost all parts of the biosphere connect," Timmis observed.
Broughton agreed: "This study means that the world is not an isolated place. In a microbiological sense, we are all part of one planet."
'Golden Bullet' Shows Promise For Killing Common Parasite
ScienceDaily (Dec. 30, 2007) — Researchers in Australia report development of a new type of gold nanoparticle that destroys the parasite responsible for toxoplasmosis, a potentially serious disease acquired by handling the feces of infected cats or eating undercooked meat. Their so-called "golden bullet" could provide a safer, more effective alternative for treating the disease than conventional drug therapy, they say.
Toxoplasma gondii, the parasite that causes the disease, infects more than 60 million people in the United States alone. Although most infected people have no symptoms, it can cause serious health problems in pregnant women and individuals such as AIDS patients or organ transplant recipients who have weakened immune systems.
In the new study, Michael Cortie and colleagues attached antibodies to the parasite onto gold nanorods that are activated by laser-light. A group of Toxoplasma-infected animal cells were isolated in cell culture dishes and subsequently exposed to these "golden bullets."
The cells were then exposed to laser-light, which heated up the "bullets" and destroyed the parasites. The treatment killed about 83 percent of the parasites containing the gold particles, the researchers say. They hope to develop a similar technique for killing the parasite in patients.
The article "A Golden Bullet" Selective Targeting of Toxoplasma gondii Tachyzoites Using Antibody-Functionalized Gold Nanorods" was published in the December issue of ACS' Nano Letters.
COALINGA, Calif., Dec. 30 (UPI) -- A deadly fungal infection has killed 33 inmates and sickened 900 others in the past three years at a California state prison.
The infection, which has been dubbed valley fever after the Pleasant Valley State Prison, begins in the lungs and can lead to serious complications like meningitis and permanent disability, The New York Times reported Sunday.
About 80 corrections officers have also contracted the disease, the newspaper said.
The disease is becoming a growing threat across the western United States, the Times said. More than 5,000 cases were reported in Arizona in 2006.
The disease finds its home in the region because spores live in the soil there. When the soil is disturbed, it releases the spores, which then find their way into the lungs of unsuspecting passersby.
Some experts investigating the abnormally high rate of the illness at the Pleasant Valley prison think the fungus may be especially prevalent in the soil, while others think the cramped conditions hasten its spread.
Cell-death Receptor Links Cancer Susceptibility And Inflammation
ScienceDaily (Dec. 31, 2007) — For over 10 years, Wafik S. El-Deiry, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine, Genetics, and Pharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, has been pursuing a cancer-targeting molecule called TRAIL and its molecular partners. TRAIL is normally produced by immune cells and curtails tumor spread by binding to a specialized receptor on a tumor's surface.
"However, in cancer patients who often have suppressed immunity, and for reasons we still don't understand, there isn't enough TRAIL being produced, so tumors are not suppressed," explains El-Deiry, who is also Co-Program Leader of the Radiation Biology Program for the Abramson Cancer Center at Penn.
Most recently, El-Deiry and colleagues demonstrated for the first time a link between TRAIL's receptor and cancer susceptibility. Unexpectedly, they also found a connection -- via Trail -- between inflammation and cancer susceptibility.
Mice engineered without the TRAIL receptor on their cells versus healthy controls developed larger and more tumors in their livers and other organs after being challenged with a chemical carcinogen or radiation. The team also bred TRAIL receptor knock-out mice with mice genetically engineered to get B-cell lymphomas that metastasize to the liver. Their offspring displayed more liver tumors compared to controls. "This is the first direct in vivo evidence that loss of the tumor death-inducing TRAIL receptor confers cancer susceptibility," says El-Deiry.
When intact, TRAIL and its receptor decrease the influx of inflammatory cells and molecules that can lead to cancer. New models of cancer have suggested a link between inflammation and cancer in the last five years, and El-Deiry is in the early stages of trying to understand this connection with respect to the TRAIL pathway.
For example, in this study, the mice without the TRAIL receptor that were irradiated developed chronic pneumonia, an inflammatory response, as well tumors, evidence pointing to the connection between cancer and inflammation via TRAIL. "One benefit of this work is that it provides a new and unanticipated model implicating a TRAIL pathway deficiency in the chronic toxicity of radiation therapy," he notes. Inflammation is a common late and serious side-effect of radiation treatment in people.
El-Deiry and his team are now looking within tumor tissue for inflammatory molecules as clues to how cancer and inflammation are coupled. "Our work with TRAIL and its receptor in mouse models represents a new way to look at cancer susceptibility and its potential therapy in humans as well as new ways to decrease debilitating radiation side-effects experienced by cancer patients," says El-Deiry.
This research was reported online December 13, 2007 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation in advance of the January 2008 print issue. Co-authors in addition to El-Deiry are Niklas Finnberg from Penn and Andres J.P. Klein-Szanto from Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia. This research was funded in part by the National Cancer Institute.
A disturbed night's sleep may increase the risk of developing diabetes, US research has suggested.
The US team discovered that volunteers who were roused whenever they were about to fall into the deepest sleep developed insulin resistance.
This inability of the body to recognise normal insulin signals leads to high blood sugar levels, weight gain and, eventually, even type 2 diabetes.
The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Strategies to improve sleep duration and quality should be considered as a potential intervention to prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes Dr Esra Tasali
Previous studies have shown an association with diabetes and a lack of sleep.
It is also already known that the deepest sleep, known as slow-wave sleep, is associated with changes that affect metabolism.
To test the impact of sleep quality on blood glucose control, nine healthy men and women were first monitored for two consecutive nights to see what their normal sleep patterns were.
Then on the following three nights, the research team woke them with a loud noise when they drifted into deep sleep - characterised by long slow-moving delta waves in the brain.
The amount of overall sleep they had was unchanged.
After injecting the volunteers with glucose and measuring their daytime blood sugar levels and insulin response, the researchers found that eight of them had become less sensitive to insulin.
Lead researcher Dr Ersa Tasali, of the University of Chicago, said there was an alarming rise in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes associated with an ageing population and increased obesity and it was important to understand the factors that promote its development.
"We had shown previously that restricting sleep duration in healthy young adults results in decreased glucose tolerance.
"The current data further indicate that not only reduced sleep duration but also reduced sleep quality may play a role in diabetes risk.
"The current evidence suggests that strategies to improve sleep duration and quality should be considered as a potential intervention to prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes in at-risk populations."
Dr Tasali added that chronic shallow sleep and diabetes are typical factors associated with ageing and more research was needed to find out if age-related changes in sleep quality contribute to such metabolic changes.
Hello Jeff - She was diagnosed in India with MDR TB but flew home on an international flight anyway. She deserves a fine of thousands of dollars and if ANYONE on the flights take ill, she should be liable. Airline passengers are a GRAVE risk now, more than ever. They DESERVE to be given every safety precaution. I am very, very concerned about TB. We may have to force airlines to do something. If someone is diagnosed oversees, their passport should be held and the embassy should become involved until a safe travel mode can be arranged. Something must be done. I wonder if she was traveling "HOME" to India to visit relatives.
Look at the story of the New York man who went to Pakistan and was exposed to the fatal bird flu which killed two of his brothers. He was allegedly treated with Tamiflu there but then jumped on a plane and flew right back to New York. We KNOW Tamiflu can produce false negatives in H5N1 testing. When the next world pandemic hits, it will be spread by the airlines...count on it.
We are fortunate this TB-infected woman was too sick to venture out for Christmas Shopping. The fact that she is acutely ill suggests she is she is somewhere midway in the disease process and not newly-infected. That is bad news for the other passengers. It doesn't say that she was coughing in the plane but, if she was too sick to go shopping, you can bet she was doing some coughing. However, the New Delhi airport folks just let her pass walk right on the flight.
CA Woman Traveler Diagnosed With MDR TB - Held In Hospital Isolation NewsLocale.org 12-29-7
A 30-year-old woman from California has been diagnosed with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis and kept in an isolation unit at the Stanford Hospital since December 19. According to reports, the woman, whose name has not been revealed, was diagnosed suffering from the disease during her recent visit to India and flew back home in a commercial passenger. According to the authorities, they are at their wits end how the woman was allowed to travel by an international airlines with such a deadly disease that is highly contagious.
Amazingly, though the woman took the American Airlines Flight 293 from New Delhi to Chicago's O'Hare airport on December 13, she did not report for further treatment until December 19 when she approached the Stanford emergency center for medical help.
While this is contrary to the rules that state that tuberculosis is a reportable disease in the US, the authorities now stress that all the passengers traveling with her in the same row of the aircraft need to be examined. Health officials in the US have already identified 44 passengers from 16 states who sat within two rows of the woman in the American Airlines Flight 293 and now the Centers for Disease Control is trying to contact all passengers who might have been exposed to the TB.
Meanwhile, authorities said that it is fortunate that the woman could not venture out for Christmas shopping owing to her acute illness. Had she been out, many others would have been affected by the deadly form of tuberculosis, they said. The health authorities have said that though the woman has been kept in isolation her condition was stable. They said that they have adopted all the precautions to protect the woman as well as the general public from the disease.
It may be mentioned here that cases of tuberculosis is rare in the US and multi-drug resistant TB even rarer. People affected by the disease require a minimum of two weeks' hospitalization and may have to undergo treatment for a period between nine months to two years.
The latest case of XDR-TB follows a May case about Andrew Speaker who developed the condition, but was ultimately found to be infected with a milder strain.
Basically Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis that spread from person to person through the air. The organs most affected are the lungs although kidneys, bones and the stomach are also affected. Extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR TB) is resistant to the most powerful first-line and second-line drugs used for treating tuberculosis, according to the CDC.
Below are some questions and answers on the latest TB scare as well as measures advised by the CDC with respect to the infection.
How does XDR TB spread?
Extensively drug resistant tuberculosis spreads from person to person through air. The mode of transmission is usually through vapor droplets. The CDC says that when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings, he can pass on the germs that cause tuberculosis. People who breathe in this germ-filled air are at a high risk of getting infected.
What are the symptoms of XDR TB?
Infected patients experience sickness or weakness, weight loss, fever, and night sweats.
What preventive measures can be taken to avoid getting infected with XDR TB?
According to the CDC fact sheet, it is best to avoid close contact or spend a long time with a TB patient. Additional preventive measures can include staying healthy because if you are prone to infections, you can easily catch the TB germs.
How prevalent is XDR TB in the United States?
Between 1993 to 2006 some 49 cases of documented XDR TB infections have been identified in the United States, according to the CDC's Division of Tuberculosis Elimination.
Overall the powerful TB drugs like rifampicin and isoniazid have drastically reduced the number of TB cases in the country. Last year 13,767 cases of all TB were documented in the US.
What is the situation on a global basis?
Around 1.6 million people succumb to tuberculosis annually. The situation is particularly worse in Africa where drug resistance is at an all time high.
How is XDR TB treated?
The treatment usually consists of four to five drugs and sometimes patients require extensive surgery as well. "Successful outcomes depend greatly on the extent of the drug resistance, the severity of the disease, and whether the patient's immune system is weakened," according to the CDC.
How much time does it take to diagnose if I have XDR TB?
Final diagnosis for TB, and especially for XDR TB, may take from 6 to 16 weeks although tuberculosis can be confirmed much earlier. This is because the sputum must be cultured in a lab to determine if the case is of a drug resistant TB.
How is the World Health Organization addressing this issue?
According to information available on the WHO website, a program called DOTS-Plus was initiated in 1998.
In 1999, WHO established the Working Group on DOTS-Plus for MDR-TB. The aims of the working group are to approve, conduct, and oversee pilot projects based on the Guidelines for Establishing DOTS-Plus Pilot Projects for the Management of MDR-TB prepared by the Scientific Panel of the Working Group.
CDC begins tracking down passengers near TB-infected woman Thursday, December 27, 2007; Posted: 10:16 PM
SAN JOSE, Calif, Dec 27, 2007 (San Jose Mercury News - McClatchy-Tribune News Service via COMTEX) -- When American Airlines Flight 293 took off from New Delhi for a 16-hour flight to Chicago early Dec. 13, there was no way for other passengers to know that the 30-year old Sunnyvale, Calif., woman coughing in their midst was a danger to those nearby.
There was no international law to prohibit the Nepal native from boarding a commercial flight, even though she had been diagnosed with a dangerous case of drug-resistant tuberculosis in India.
Even though World Health Organization guidelines say no one with an infectious case of multi-drug-resistant TB should ever board a commercial airliner because of the risk of infecting others, there is no system or international database to notify airlines beforehand, or public health authorities afterward, about the journey. Such a system would be extremely difficult to create, industry and health officials say.
Thursday _ two weeks after the woman boarded her plane _ the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified public health authorities in 16 states, from California to Vermont, about the drug-resistant TB case on Flight 293, as they began tracking down 44 U.S. nationals and people traveling on non-U.S. passports who sat within two rows of the woman on the Boeing 777.
The woman is being treated in isolation at Stanford Hospital. "We don't know what her prognosis is," said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, Santa Clara County's public health officer. "TB takes a good amount of time before you know whether they respond to their medication."
The Dec. 13 journey from to O'Hare International Airport and on to San Francisco International Airport by the Sunnyvale woman is a troubling tale, U.S. and international health authorities said Thursday. But it is hardly unique.
"It happens a few times a year with us," Dr. William Clapp, Chicago's chief TB control officer, said of cases in which Chicago authorities must track down those who came into contact with TB-infected people arriving from abroad.
Drug-resistant TB is a growing global health problem, and because those strains of TB can be extremely expensive and difficult to treat _ in some cases nearly impossible _ U.S. health authorities are worried that the potentially fatal communicable disease could gain a larger foothold here as global travel and immigration mushrooms.
"We're all biting our knuckles, biting our fingernails about this. We're kind of ripe for an upsurge, and this time with MDR and XDR it's very difficult to treat," Clapp said, referring to the acronyms for multi-drug-resistant and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis. The latter is essentially untreatable with currently available drugs.
The threat of people flying with drug-resistant tuberculosis made recent headlines in the case of Andrew Speaker, an Atlanta man thought to have XDR TB when he flew to Europe.
He was subsequently found to have a less-drug-resistant case of TB; no one who flew with him has been found to be infected.
The problem is considered less serious on domestic flights, because people diagnosed with infectious TB in the United States are monitored by public health authorities and ordered not to fly.
International health authorities say that as travel and trade increase with countries in South Asia and other parts of the developing world where MDR and XDR TB are more prevalent, situations like the California woman's will become more common.
But because of the huge political, legal and technical challenge of amassing medical information from multiple nations and then connecting that in real time to the global transportation system, setting up a drug-resistant TB screening system is probably impossible, said Dr. Mario Raviglione, director of the World Health Organization's Stop TB Department for in Geneva, Switzerland.
"In the majority of situations, you discover the case afterward, unfortunately," Raviglione said Thursday.
Consider the case of a Chechen who traveled with his wife and two children from Beirut to Paris on a five-hour commercial flight in October 2006. The man died 10 days later, from a strain of XDR tuberculosis resistant to nine anti-TB drugs.
The French Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization searched for 11 passengers sitting near the man, who was coughing and considered extremely contagious.
But with passengers dispersing to the United States, Panama, Morocco and other countries, health officials found only seven of them.
"Information required to locate and contact the passengers is not always available," French researchers concluded in Eurosurveillance, a journal that tracks infectious disease.
The International Air Transport Association opposes a TB no-fly list, in part because airlines do not want to be in the public health business, spokesman Steve Lott said.
"If they have been diagnosed with a very severe and possibly deadly communicable disease," he said, "it's the passenger's responsibility to know not to get on the plane."
By Richard Holt Last Updated: 1:39pm GMT 31/12/2007
New York City is suffering from an unprecedented epidemic of blood sucking bed bugs, it has emerged. The number of infestations has increased more than tenfold in the last three years and no neighbourhood, no matter how upmarket, is immune.
Bed bug: New York City has been hit by an infestation of the blood-sucking insects. The insects can leave nasty welts on the skin.
The nocturnal insects once associated with doss-houses and slums are now causing havoc in some of New York's most exclusive districts.
Multi-million dollar Central Park apartments and a Broadway theatre are among the buildings affected.
"In the last six months, I've treated maternity wards, five-star hotels, movie theatres, taxi garages, investment banks, private schools [and] white-shoe law firms," Jeff Eisenberg, owner of Pest Away Exterminating told the New York Daily News.
In 2004, New Yorkers made 537 calls to the housing department to complain about bed bugs, and 82 landlords were given court summonses. advertisement
That number soared to 6,889 complaints and 2,008 summonses in the year to June.
Bed bugs emerge from woodwork at night to feed on the blood of mammals.
When they bite people they leave large, itchy welts on the skin that can cause considerable discomfort. They can be brought into houses on clothing or luggage.
The increase of infestation in areas like New York City has been put down to a number of factors, with the increasingly popularity of international travel one of the probable causes.
The pesticide DDT virtually wiped out bed bugs in the USA in the 1940s and 1950s, but after it was banned infestations increased again.
Pest control services now use low toxicity gel-based pesticides ordinarily used for controlling cockroaches.
Energy-saving light bulbs could trigger migraines, say campaigners.
The Migraine Action Association says members have told them how fluorescent bulbs have led to attacks.
The government is set to prevent the sale of conventional light bulbs within the next four years in a bid to cut carbon dioxide emissions.
Concerns have already been raised by epilepsy charities about an increased risk of seizures from energy-saving bulbs.
We would ask the government to avoid banning them completely, and still leave some opportunity for conventional bulbs to be purchased Karen Manning Migraine Action Association
Some bulbs use similar technology to fluorescent strip lights, and some users have complained that there can be a "flickering" effect.
They use approximately a quarter of the energy of conventional bulbs, and in September, Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said that a voluntary agreement with retailers would remove all conventional bulbs from the shops by December 2011.
However, Karen Manning, from the Migraine Action Association, said this could be damaging to some sufferers.
She said that up to six million people in the UK suffer from some sort of migraine attack.
"These bulbs do trigger migraines for some of our members - it's either the flickering, or the low intensity of the light, causing eye strain.
"We would ask the government to avoid banning them completely, and still leave some opportunity for conventional bulbs to be purchased."
However, the Lighting Association, which represents bulb manufacturers, said that the latest energy-saving bulbs did not produce a flicker.
A spokesman said: "A small number of cases have been reported by people who suffer from reactions to certain types of linear fluorescent lamps.
"These were almost certainly triggered by old technology."
Last year the charity Epilepsy Action reported that a small number of people with the illness could have seizures triggered by low-energy bulbs.
A mysterious case of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) has raised fears more people than thought could be at risk.
New Scientist magazine reports the genetic make-up of a 40-year-old woman who may have died from variant CJD was different to all other patients so far.
But the University College London study's lead researcher said it was too early to say for sure.
And a government advisor on CJD said many cases needed to emerge to confirm a new wave and people should not panic.
There's certainly no need to panic Professor Chris Higgins Chair, SEAC
CJD is a fatal brain condition, with dozens of cases every year.
However, the BSE crisis in cattle in the 1980s and 1990s saw the emergence of a new form of the disease.
A small number of people who ate infected material from cattle at that time went on to develop variant CJD, a similar and equally lethal illness, which often did not emerge until years after the infected meat was eaten.
After a slaughtering programme removed infected cattle from the food chain, deaths from variant CJD were thought to have peaked in the first half of this decade, falling steadily since 2003.
However, the latest find opens a small possibility that the "incubation period" for some people may be longer, and that there could be a second upsurge in deaths to come.
Every person who has died from variant CJD before this point has one thing in common - they carry a gene variant called MM.
About four in 10 people has this variant, and some experts believed it was possible that in humans, only these people may ever have been vulnerable to variant CJD.
The latest death is the first recorded involving a different variant - VV - found in approximately one in 10 Britons.
Lead researcher Dr Simon Mead, from the Prion Unit at University College London, whose work was originally published in the journal Archives of Neurology, said that at the moment it was too early to say whether this signalled the beginning of a rise in cases among other VV carriers exposed to BSE-infected meat.
He said: "We can't say for sure whether this is actually variant CJD, or simply a case of "sporadic" CJD in a younger-than-expected patient - it does not have all the features of either.
"It could be a new type of variant CJD affecting VV people, but we would need to see a lot more cases than at present to confirm this.
"What we are doing at the moment is asking people to stay alert and look out for other cases."
Professor Chris Higgins, the Chair of the government's Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC), which advises on variant CJD, played down fears that cases could rise again.
He said: "There's certainly no need to panic. This could simply be a case of sporadic CJD, in which case the genetic makeup is irrelevant, as this is found in MM and VV people.
"At the moment there isn't enough evidence to conclude one way or the other.
"We know that it is possible to infect VV mice with variant CJD, but it is actually much harder than infecting MM mice, so even if there were to be a rise, it would not a big rise."
To date there have been 114 deaths from variant CJD in the UK, with another 47 deaths thought likely to be due to the disease.
New Link Between Stress And Disease Susceptibility Found
ScienceDaily (Jan. 3, 2008) — Shedding light on the link between stress and disease, scientists at the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) have uncovered for the first time signs of stress in proteins and other compounds found in blood that can help predict disease susceptibility.
In a study in cattle, the researchers found that psychological and physical stressors cause detectable changes in these blood compounds. These “biomarkers” can then be used to predict disease outcomes.
“Our results could someday enable doctors or veterinarians to predict whether a disease will develop and how severe it might be from a body fluid sample such as blood,” said principal investigator Palok Aich. “These findings will help improve treatment plans for possible disease outcomes.”
It’s well known that exposure to viruses or bacteria causes disease in some individuals but not in others. This study helps clarify how the stress level of an individual affects the infection process and disease severity.
The team worked with a stress-linked cattle disease—bovine respiratory disease (BRD), which causes more than half of feedlot deaths. In blood samples, the researchers found a link between stress biomarkers and disease severity.
BRD involves interaction of viral and bacterial infections, making it a perfect model to study the link between stress and disease.
“In BRD and certain human diseases such as influenza, the combination of a bacterial infection after an initial viral infection can be deadly,” said Philip Griebel, a VIDO senior scientist and co-investigator. “The better we can recognize the signs suggesting a poor disease outcome, the better we can manage or even prevent an illness.”
In the long term, changes in certain biomarkers could also help identify disease-susceptible animals in feedlots or ranches for early intervention and treatment, and help determine handling methods that minimize stress.
Aich says more research is needed to link biomarkers to a specific stressor and to understand which stressors contribute the most to enhanced disease susceptibility.
The team also includes VIDO/InterVac director Andrew Potter, former VIDO director Lorne Babiuk, Gabrielle Schatte of the U of S’s Saskatchewan Structural Sciences Centre, and Andrew Ross of the National Research Council of Canada‘s Plant Biotechnology Institute.
Funding was provided by the Saskatchewan government through its Agriculture Development Fund, the Ontario Cattlemen’s Association, Genome Prairie, Genome British Columbia, and Inimex Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
The research is published December 19 in Omics: A Journal of Integrative Biology.
Smelly Sounds: One Person Out Of Every 1,000 Has Synesthesia
It is common for a synesthete to see colors when listening to music. For some, music may evoke flavors. (Credit: Ashley Pickering/iStockphoto)
ScienceDaily (Jan. 2, 2008) — Surprising as it may seem, there are people who can smell sounds, see smells or hear colours. One person out of every thousand has synesthesia, a psychological phenomenon in which an individual can smell a sound or hear a color. Most of these people are not aware they are synesthetes: they think the way they experience the world is normal.
Actually, all of us, at some point in our lives, have had this skill (some authors affirm that it is common in newborns). This phenomenon, called “synaesthesia” – from the Greek “syn” (with) and “aisthesis” (sensation) – consists of the pairing of two bodily senses by which the perception of a determined stimulus activates a different subjective perception with no external stimulus (in science, the evoker stimulus is called inducer and the additional experience concurrent).
In the department of Experimental Psychology and Physiology at the University of Granada, a research group is carrying out pioneering work in Spain on the systematic study of synaesthesia and its relation with perception and emotions. Professor Juan Lupiáñez Castillo and Alicia Callejas Sevilla have devoted many years to the study of this unknown but interesting phenomenon.
Callejas’ doctoral thesis covers the various forms of synaesthesia focussing on the most common one: the grapheme-colour type (for people with this form of synaesthesia, letters, words and numbers evoke colours in an automatic and involuntary way).
One of the distinctive characteristics of this form of synaesthesia is the fact that people are certain about their perceptions: they feel that their way of experiencing the world is correct, and they become disappointed when they realize there is something that is not quite right. ‘Therefore, when a person with grapheme-colour synaesthesia indicates that the word table is blue, it is quite probable that if he or she ever sees the same word written in a colour other than blue, this word will appear to him or her as wrong and consider it a mistake. The synaesthete might even point out that the word is ugly or that he or she does not like it because it is not correct,’ affirms Callejas.
Consequently, finding the word table written in red might be unpleasant whereas seeing it in blue might be agreeable. This emotional reaction associated with how synaesthetes perceive consistent or inconsistent stimuli is an extremely interesting subject and has been studied for the first time in this doctoral thesis.
Some of Callejas’ conclusions show that these emotional reactions occur automatically and can not be ignored. Moreover, they can affect the synaesthete to the point of slanting his or her preferences when faced with certain stimuli which correspond to his or her inner experiences. Even more important is the fact that these emotions can transform how they perceive events associated with these experiences. These events may have no emotional meaning initially but they can become more or less pleasant if they take place at the same time the synaesthete finds a word in the correct or incorrect colour.
‘Then, there are people for whom time units evoke colours – explains the researcher. It is also common for a synaesthete to see colours when listening to words, sounds in general or music notes (people who can see music, for instance). There are also cases, although fewer, where people can see colours in flavours, others perceive flavours or experience touch sensations when listening to different sounds, some link flavours to touch sensations, etc.’
Researchers have noted that synaesthetes always experience the same vision, synaesthesia is permanent (a given stimulus always evokes the same colour for one person) and idiosyncratic (it is different for each person). Therefore, if for a synaesthete the word dog is red, every time he or she sees it, it will be perceived as red.
Even though synaesthesia has been known for a long time, its scientific study is relatively recent. Writings such as the Castel one, in which reference is made to previous studies about a synaesthesia case in a blind person, are found in the 18th century. The evolution of the study of this phenomenon has been spectacular – the number of researchers working on this topic is constantly increasing, as will be evident in the Conference which will take place in Granada – and, as the phase of proving that this phenomenon exists has been overcome, explains Alicia Callejas, ‘we are starting to approach questions of major theoretical importance, and to develop adequate study strategies.’ The results of her research have been published in Cortex, Experimental Brain Research and Consciousness and Cognition.
Nowadays, the research field goes from grapheme-colour synaesthesia to other forms never studied before: flavours evoked by music or words (lexical-gustatory synaesthesia), space structures linked to time units, colours and music, etc.
People struck down by a stomach bug sweeping the UK have been urged not to go back to work.
Doctors estimate more than 100,000 people a week are catching norovirus, which causes diarrhoea and vomiting.
Workers need to remain at home for 48 hours after the symptoms have gone and stay away from surgeries and hospitals, the Royal College of GPs warned.
At least 56 hospital wards across England and Wales have been closed to new patients, the BBC has learned.
The Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust says it is cancelling all non-urgent operations until 9 January because of what it calls the "unrelenting pressure" caused by the virus.
The Royal Oldham Hospital has 11 wards closed which is more than a quarter of its total and Birmingham Heartlands Hospital says six areas of the hospital are affected.
Some hospitals, including two in Bristol and one in Bedford, have told people not to visit if they have been sick or if their visit is not essential.
The Health Protection Agency confirmed the number of cases this year is the highest since 2002.
Norovirus - also known as winter vomiting disease - is the most common cause of infectious gastroenteritis in the UK.
Wash your hands regularly so you don't infect anyone else and stay at home two days after the symptoms have gone Professor Steve Field
Illness can occur at any age because immunity to it is not long-lasting.
It is not normally dangerous but the very young and very old are most at risk of complications from dehydration.
The bug can be spread by contact with an infected person, through contaminated food or water or by contact with contaminated surfaces or objects.
Outbreaks are common in hospitals, nursing homes, schools and cruise ships.
Closing hospital wards contains the virus and prevents it spreading to new patients.
Professor Steve Field, chair of the Royal College of GPs said its surveillance unit in Birmingham had confirmed the number of cases was the highest in five years.
He said the number of new cases each week may even top 200,000 across the UK.
"Surgeries and hospitals have been swamped with people wanting advice."
He advised those affected to stay at home, drink lots of fluids and take paracetamol.
NOROVIRUS Sudden vomiting and diarrhoea Some people also suffer fever and aches and pains Experts advise drinking plenty of fluids and to take paracetamol Stay at home for 48 hours after symptoms have gone away to avoid further spread
"Wash your hands regularly so you don't infect anyone else and stay at home two days after the symptoms have gone."
Dr Darren Simpson, a GP in Bradford said they had seen a large number of people with norovirus in recent weeks.
"Very few people follow the advice of staying away from work however due to unsympathetic and often nagging bosses.
"It's the worst time of year to catch it as a lot of places are understaffed due to leave and bank holidays so there is increased pressure to attend work if you can."
In December, the Health Protection Agency warned the norovirus season had started particularly early.
They estimate that in epidemic seasons, noroviruses may cost the NHS in excess of £100m per year because of ward closures.
In 2007, the number of cases reported to the HPA in England and Wales from early September to early December were double those seen in 2006 - 1,325 compared with 685.
The actual number of cases is much higher as most are not reported - perhaps as much as 1,500-fold.
NHS Direct said calls about vomiting and abdominal pain had been the number two reason for people calling over the Christmas period - in keeping with reports of increased rates of norovirus.
A total of 1,122,874 people contacted the NHS helpline over the 11-day Christmas and New Year period - a 61% increase on last year.
Dr Mike Sadler, NHS Direct chief operating officer, said: "Call patterns have been markedly different from our previous experience."