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Tears may hold key to fighting anthrax

Scientists have suggested that an antibacterial enzyme found in human tears and other body fluids could be applied to certain foods for protection against intentional contamination with anthrax.

“Data from this study could be used in developing safer foods for human consumption,” said Saeed A Khan.

“The data from our study shows that lysozyme application has the potential to eliminate anthrax producing bacteria in processed foods.”

Khan and colleagues knew from almost a century of lysozyme research that the enzyme kills certain bacteria. It does so by destroying bacteria cell walls, the rigid outer shell that provides a protective coating.

Found in many body fluids, lysozyme sometimes is called “the body’s own antibiotic.”
Khan and colleagues, who are with the National Centre for Toxicological Research in Jefferson, the USA, used a surrogate bacterial strain that is considered as a stand-in for anthrax in their research because it behaves in more or less similar fashion as the actual anthrax strain, except that it does not cause the disease.

They studied the spore’s survival in hens’ egg white, and found that the lysozyme in egg white was very effective in killing anthrax spores.

Fertilisers harm reproductive functions of water organisms

North Carolina State University toxicologists have found that Fertiliser chemicals pose danger to creatures that live in water.

The NC researchers show that water fleas take up nitrates and nitrites and convert those chemicals into nitric oxide, which in turn causes developmental and reproductive problems — even at low concentrations.

“There’s only limited evidence to suggest that animals could convert nitrates and nitrites to nitric oxide, although plants can,” said Dr Gerald LeBlanc.

“Since animals and plants don’t have the same cellular machinery for this conversion, it appears animals use different machinery for this conversion to occur,” he added.

The team saw that water flea babies were born on schedule but were underdeveloped; some lacked appendages important for swimming, for instance.

LeBlanc now plans to identify the mechanism behind nitric oxide’s toxic effects; evaluate the relationship between nitrite and nitrate concentrations in the environment and developmental toxicity; and consider possible risks to humans.

400-year-old letter reveals ‘lost’ Peruvian language

A 400 year-old letter found in the ruins of an ancient Spanish colonial church in 2008 has revealed a previously unknown Peruvian native language.

The letter was found during excavations of the Magdalena de Cao Viejo church at the  El Brujo Archaeological Complex in northern Peru. It showed that an early 17th-century Spanish author had translated Spanish and Arabic numbers to an unknown language on the flip side of the letter.

“Even though the letter doesn’t tell us a whole lot, it does tell us about a language that is very different from anything we’ve ever known — and it suggests that there may be a lot more out there,” said Jeffrey Quilter, an archaeologist at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.

It’s clearly a unique tongue, and likely one of two known only by the mention of their names in contemporary texts: Quingnam and Pescadora — ‘language of the fishers’.

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