What's the buzz

What's the buzz

Laser technology to help track E coli

Scientists have turned to a simple, automated method of tracking E coli, which could reduce the incidence of waterborne disease outbreaks.

The technique uses a laser to detect and monitor the microbe in potentially contaminated bodies of water or waterways.

Bin Chen of Purdue University Calumet, and colleagues there and at the University of Minnesota, St Paul, have turned to a laser technique for potential use in microbial source tracking.

Their technique uses laser imaging of bacterial colonies and high-resolution optical scattering image analysis to identify the host species of E coli in a sample.“The water quality of lakes, rivers and streams in many areas has long been monitored in the government and other agencies,” said the team.

“However, many of them still do not meet the goal of ‘fishable and swimmable’ because identifying the source of bacterial contamination is difficult,” they said.The new technology, demonstrated by Chen and colleagues, could address that shortfall allowing water contamination to be re-meditated.

Over-the-counter weight reducing products harmful
A new study has warned that ‘natural’ slimming therapies can have an adverse effect on users and may even kill.

The study of medical records in Hong Kong revealed 66 cases where people were apparently poisoned by a ‘natural’ slimming therapy.

In eight cases the people became severely ill, and in one case the person died.
The researchers looked at the ingredients in the 81 slimming products that these people had taken. They found 12 different agents that fell into five categories: undeclared weight-loss drugs; drug analogues (unlicensed chemical derivatives of licensed drugs); banned drugs; drugs used for an inappropriate indication; and thyroid hormones.
“People like the idea of using a natural remedy because they think that if it is natural, it will be safe. There are two problems here.”

“Firstly not all natural agents are harmless, and secondly the remedies also contain potentially harmful manufactured drugs,” said Magdalene Tang of the Princess Margaret Hospital in Hong Kong.She believes that fewer people would use these products if they were more aware of the potential risks involved.

New method to fight bacterial infections
Scientists have found a new method to fight bacterial infections associated with contact lenses. The method, discovered by researchers at National Jewish Health and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre, may also have applications for bacterial infections associated with severe burns and cystic fibrosis.

The eye normally fights infections through a variety of defence mechanisms including blinking of the eyes, which helps remove bacterial organisms from the surface of the eye. Contact lenses, however, inhibit the effectiveness of blinking eyelids.

The researchers confirmed earlier findings that cellular debris from immune cells fighting the infection actually provide the raw materials for the biofilm — DNA, actin and histones. So, they used the enzyme DNAase together with negatively charged poly aspartic acid to break down the chemical bonds of these elements that support the biofilm.

This treatment reduced biofilms on the contact lenses by 79.2 per cent. The same treatment reduced infection of the cornea in an animal model by 41 per cent. There was no evidence of any harm caused by the treatments.

New study paves way for more anti-malaria treatments
Scientists have discovered genes that are capable of making some malaria-carrying mosquitoes resistant to insecticide. Scottish researchers have found a gene that enables the parasite that causes the infection to resist treatment with the plant-based remedy artemisinin.

They hope the breakthrough could boost efforts to prevent the disease.
In many countries where the parasite has developed resistance to previously effective common treatments such as chloroquine, artemisinin remains the only effective treatment against the infection.

However, malarial resistance to artemisinin appears to be developing, potentially creating problems in controlling malaria.

The study, by scientists from the University of Edinburgh and the New University of Lisbon, used emerging technology to scan the genetic fingerprint of drug resistant parasites that infect rodents.

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