Saturday, December 15, 2007
As most people know, Thrifty's was recently sold to a larger company named Sobe's. About a year ago, in preparation for the sale, they brought in a policy called "Standard Operations and Procedures" (or SOPs for short). SOPs are guidelines on how to clean and sanitize everything, keep food in optimal conditions and what Johnson Diversey chemicals are needed for different situations. While I am all for improvements but it seems to me that, for the most part, when most companies bring in sanitation procedures their main goal is to achieve protection from lawsuit and a feeling of safety for customers. Examples of this can be seen with Thrifty Foods SOPs.
Bacteria is a vital part of life and species of bacteria exist almost everywhere, including in and on larger organisms such as pigs, cows, fish and humans. Bacteria also can exist in the food we eat and the liquids we drink. Digestion of certain types of bacteria can be beneficial or benign, even with small doses of pathogenic bacteria. Food sickness can occur if pathogenic bacteria align against the walls of the intestines and excrete harmful toxins. Most pathogenic bacteria optimal growth temperature is around room temperature, so by decreasing the foods temperature you decrease the growth rate of possible bacteria, which in turn lessens the risk of foodbourne illness.
There are positives to SOPs when it comes to reducing the risks of foodbourne illnesses, for example: regulation in how often temperature of cooling devices are checked and surfaces of tables, counters and tools are cleaned. Sometimes the paranoia of lawsuits can hinder the ability to protect people from pathogens. One example with Thrifty's is if someone asked for their meat to be wrapped with a bag of ice to keep it cold and away from optimal growth temperature, we can not do that for them, in fear of the customer using the ice in something causing cross contamination.
Another example paranoia in the world of food poisoning is the theory that we, first world citizens, are weakening our immune system by cutting off the everyday pathogens our bodies evolved with. The sanitation process may be great for cutting off severe cases but weak cases can make one stronger in defending against future attack. This is noticeable when people on vacation visit poorer countries that do not have the same sanitation systems put in place
and the vacationers get sick off of food that would not harm a local.
For the most part I believe that the regulations we put in place helps us but our standards can be hurt by the bureaucracy of our society. It's also pleasant to believe that these sanitation processes protect us from cases of upset stomachs to rarer and more extreme cases of fatality, but in the end there's always the possibility that we are weakening our defenses in the fight for the survival of the fittest.
As far back as my knowledge of AIDS can take me, acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a disease caused by an infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV is an RNA retrovirus that infects the CD4 T lymphocyte, a cell type essential for adaptive immunity. This infection can usually last for up to twenty years before the population of CD4 T cells diminish completely leading to a collapse in the immune system. HIV has a nucleoprotien core surrounded by a lipid envelope derived from the host cell. When HIV infects a cell, the RNA genome is first copied into a complementary DNA by reverse transcriptase, then integrated into the genome of the host cell to form a provirus. The provirus uses the transcriptional and translational machinery of the host cell to make viral proteins and RNA genomes, which are assembeled into new infection virions.
Now...this is what we are taught but I cant help but think how did this begin? It was not until I had a long interesting conversation with a guy I met in Thailand that I was told of the major conspiracy theories on how HIV came to be...so I started surfing the net to see what i could find. A rather shocking quote I found was spoken by Pentagon Spokesperson Dr. Donald MacArthur on June, 6 1969, he said "Within the next five to ten years, it would probably be possible to make a new infective microorganism which could differ in certain important aspects from any known disease-causing organism. Most important of these is that it might be refractory to the immunological and therapeutic processes upon which we depend to maintain our relative freedom from infectious disease. A research program to explore the feasibility of this could be completed in approximetly five years at a total cost of $10 million" (HB 15090 pg 129) Hmmm, HIV did appear approximetly 5 to 10 years later and is the first and only disease to fulfill such a definition. This epidemic, as most believe, did not start in Africa. Actually, the first AIDS cases were found in Manhattan in 1979. The epidemic in Africa did not begin until the fall of 1982. I ask myself how could a supposed black heterosexual African epidemic transform itself into an exclusively white young homosexual mens disease in Manhatten? As soon as the government sponsored gay hepatitis B experiment (1978-1981) ended in Manhatten in 1981 the epidemic became official. The first cases of AIDS in gay men appeared in Manhatten in 1979, soon after the gay experiment began in Manhatten NY. Dr. Theodore Strecker's research of the literature indicates that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in collaboration with the WHO made the AIDS virus in their laboratories at Fort Detrick (now NCI). They combined the deadly retroviruses, bovine leukemia virus and sheep visna virus, and injected them into human tissues cultures. The result was the AIDS virus, the first human retrovirus known to man and now believed to be 100 percent fatal to those infected. All these different conspiracies make me believe that we need to research and investigate into possible man made diseases to expose the responsible and make sure this kind of thing (if it happened this way) will not be done again.
First it was hamburger, then municipal water, apple cider, swimming in the lake, the day-care center, the petting zoo ...... and now, spinach. Humans have been contracting foodborne infectious diseases in many environments and products. For example, last year the toxin, known as Shiga toxin- producing Escherichia coli was found in bagged spinach that implicated the illnesses of mild intestinal disease to severe kidney complications to over one hundred people, mostly affecting children under the age of eighteen.
“If you survived the Shiga toxin and the after-effects of food poisoning you may have been the innocent victim of a battle for survival between predator and prey.”
The bacterial ciliated protozoan Tetrahymena (shown left in picture) is fifty times the size of its bacteriophage (bacteria that carry a virus) competitor; however, it is vulnerable to the toxin-encoding virus-Shiga (Stx) the bacteria carry in their DNA (shown right in picture).
The bacteria may carry around these viral hitchhikers because the Shiga toxin (Stx) gene might give the bacterial host an equalizer against bacterial predators, like Tetrahymena. To test this idea, reasearchers exposed an E. coli stain that did not carry the Shiga toxin to the eukaryote, Tetrahymena and as predicted, the bacteria were eaten. Whereas, when the bacteria containing the toxin-encoding virus- Shiga, some produced the toxin and killed the Tetrahymena; therefore, allowing the remaining bacteria to spread because there were fewer Tetrahymena eating them.
The Shiga toxin kills by binding to a receptor on the surface of a Tetrahymena and performs endocytosis to release the toxins, which cause irreversible damage to ribosomes and thereby promoting cell death. The bacteriophage induces the toxin release due to the presence of Tetrahymena by activating an S.O.S response. Scientists are working on identifying the danger signals involved in triggering the response, which can have implications for treating patients.
"When you give antibiotics to patients infected with the Shiga-toxin-producing bacteria, it may make them even sicker" he said. "That's because in the process of killing off the bacteria, the SOS response causes even more toxin to be released to do even more damage."
In recent studies, the Shiga-toxin was not effective at killing some Tetrahymena's, due to the development of resistance of the toxin by the Tetrahymena; therefore, there may be a treatment method that would give human cells the ability to become resistant to the toxin, too.
Researchers believe that the microbial war between the bacteriophage and their predators may play a role in the treatment of patients with this toxin.
"We have a very mammalian way of thinking about this and it's wrong. We are a very small part of the entire ecology of the planet and just because something can hurt us doesn't mean that's why it's there."
This is Monique. She was born with some very serious conditions that forced her to spend her first couple months in a specialized horse clinic. Since, she has recovered to the point were she can now support herself and stabilize her metabolism without her mothers milk. The major problems leading up to this point in time have left her immune system suppressed and therefore susceptible to many common bacteria that can be found around a wet climate barn yard. It was no surprise that the "cold" that circulated briefly around the several other young horses, would reach Monique. But when the symptoms of her "cold" progressed far worse than those of the other horses, she was put on Excenel to help her get over the infection that was developing in her lungs.
Excenel is an antibiotic common among large animals that falls under Cephalosporins. Cephalosporins of this generation are classified as bactericidal, acting to inhibit the mucopeptide synthesis of the bacterial cell wall and creating an osmotically sensitive cell. They are different generations of chephalosporins, each with their own specificities and developed resistancies. For example, 1st generation Cephalosporins are more effective towards gram-positive bacteria such as S.intermedius and S.aureas (to name only two), and are consistently resisted by Streptococci, Enterococci, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococci, and Pseudomonas. 3rd generation cephalosporins are much broader spectrum with few recognized or tested resistant bacteria, while some antibiotics of the 3rd generation have proved particularly effective against Pseudomonas. Excenel is a new generation cephalosporin antibiotic used particularly in horses for its abilities against S.equi and Streptococcus zooepidemicus involved in common respiratory infections. Sounds promising right?
Wrong! Monique was given Excenel intramuscularly for a month straight, twice as long as Excenel advertises, but still, her symptoms persisted. A broad spectrum bactericidal drug that triggers common pathogens to horses should have worked well with Monique's suppressed immune system! What went wrong?
When a sterile swab was taken of Monique's mucus, Pseudomonas as well as S.aureus were isolated. Other forms of gram-positive mannitol fermenting Staphylococci were also present (could it have been possibly S.equi) as well as some very interesting other bacteria that could not be analyzed. The evidence of both S.aureus and Pseudomonas indicates the inevitable resistance factor. Has the bacteria causing the problem become resistant? It could be!
With the mucus sample we were able to take a look at the raw evidence through making a simple slide. The slide showed lots of puss, a very effective way to prevent antibiotics from reaching target areas of infection. Puss protects the bacteria causing the infection by acting as a barrier between antibiotics and the site of infection. Could this explain why such a highly regarded drug has failed in Monique's case? Possibly.
Monique was in a specialized hospital for months. Within the sterile walls of any medical institution, bacteria are discouraged in as many ways as possible creating a selective pressure. Many hospitals today are facing the man made circumstance of MRSA, Methicillin resistant Staphylococci. Recall that for first generation cephalosporins MRSA are resistant. Could it be that Monique actually suffers from something more than a common respiratory bacterial infection? Could she have contracted MRSA somewhere in the hospital? The other horses she has come in contact with have recovered meaning that she has most likely not contracted MRSA.
Monique's case is very complicated and no serious conclusions can be drawn without further extensive testing, however, some theories from micro biology 202 can be applied. The antibiotic was unable to penetrate the infection causing bacteria due to resistance factors or the antibiotic was unable to localize the infection site due to prevention variables. The possibility of MRSA exists but is unlikely. Excenel did not work and continues to not work. The veterinarians are now looking into some other options such as a tracheal flush. The bacteria that is causing the problem has evidently proved its virulence and therefore the next step is for the veterinarians to culture the bacteria from the lower respiratory track and examine the real "enemy". Email for updates!
Dr.Margret Clarins (JDF vet)
Veterinarians hand book of drugs (trust me - this is not a hand book)
Linda Scotten (Instructor at Camosun College) (THANK YOU!!)
Back in 1994 a strange thing happened. A strange virus was discovered at a horse stable, where it had killed 13 horses, and one human. The source of the outbreak was hard to pinpoint because of the rapid emergence and retreat of the pathogen, but after some clever sleuthing the case unfolded. The virus was found to stem from contact with bats, and further testing found consistent ( albeit low) traces of the virus in local bats. The virus was named “Hendra”, for the small town in Australia it was first discovered in, and although it has never risen to the fame of ebola or the plague it shares many traits with these two known killers.
For one thing, it’s fast paced and lethal. There was nothing to be done for the infected horses, and of the two humans who showed symptoms, only one survived. Since this outbreak over a decade ago, Hendra, and its relative Nipah have repeatedly struck with deadly results, resulting in a swarm of research. Nipah has proved to be the more dangerous of the two, killing 105 humans, and resulting in the culling of over a million pigs in Malaysia in 1999.
The term “zoonosis” is another item connecting Hendra and Nipah, to the Plague, and Ebola. It refers to a pathogen which is harbored in animals, and then crosses over to affect humans. Approximately sixty percent of human infectious diseases start this way, ranging from common strains of influenza to West Nile Fever. Could zoonosis inspire our fear to the degree that zombies have? Maybe not, but it’s a more realistic enemy to be sure.
National Geographic, Octover 2007, pg82-85.
When reports first came out about the “deadly fungus” the newspapers were flooded with articles pertaining to Cryptococcus gatti. Nowadays, the newspapers only occasionally report on the “forgotten fungus”.
On June 6, 2002 the B.C. Centre for Disease Control issued a health advisory, including possible symptoms of the disease, as to the emergence of Cryptococcus on
Cryptococcal disease is caused by the inhalation of the air borne fungal spores that can be carried via wind many kilometers from the source. The disease cannot be transferred human to human or from animal to human and vice versa, it is not contagious. Once in the lungs, Cryptococcus gatti can cause pneumonia, meningitis, lung nodules, and can affect the central nervous system. The incubation period is anywhere from 2 to 9 months and initial symptoms can include headaches, night sweats, fever, prolonged cough, and weight loss in humans and runny noses, coughs, lumps under the skin, changes in personality, blindness, and seizures in animals. Cryptococcal disease can be diagnosed in humans and animals by using an antigen test and if detected early enough, can be treated with antifungal medication.
There is no vaccine for Cryptococcus and no recommended precautionary measures to avoid the disease. Nor are there any fungicides or chemicals to apply to the trees for protection. However, knowing the symptoms and alerting your doctor or veterinarian is helpful in early diagnosis and treatment. It is reported that even in central
Although Cryptococcus gatti is responsible for what has been considered the world’s largest outbreak of Cryptococcal disease ever identified, it has failed to capture the attention of the media. Even in central
We know that keeping oneself clean all the time always been a great way to prevent oneself from getting sick. Maybe, we didn't know back then when we were still young, spoiled kids who loved to go outside get dirty, but our mothers forced us to wash our hands before dinner. This simple process called, 'hand-washing' can provide protection against cold and flu. But would these protective measures such as hand-washing or wearing gloves good enough to stand against even SARS or influenza viruses?
Surprisingly, recent medical studies showed that just regular practice of physical barriers are more effective than drugs that can prevent SARS or influenza which are considered as potential pandemics at moment.
Developing new vaccines and drugs can take a lot of time and money. Even if these drugs became available, we have to consider the time that would take to mass produce them and delivery it to people in need. Also, the issue of money is another concern for us and government. If the drug was made little in quantity, or from expensive reagents, then of course the price of the drug would be huge. Then, poor people would be left with no option but wait for help of charity.
It's incredible to think that just simple hand-washing can be more effective in preventing from even pandemic diseases. If pandemic was to occur, then just educating people to wear safety masks, gloves and wash hands, can reduce number of sick people drastically. This means that less people getting sick, thus there are less need for drugs. Since we do not know how expensive and avaibilty of durgs are going to be, best thing to do is not get sick in a first place.
However, this does not mean we are compeletly safe from diseases. We still need drugs and vaccines to wipe out the diseases. Even these physical barriers have its limits. For example, it would be hard to educate all the people to remind the importance of hand-washing especially to those in third world countries. Also, in third world countires, I doubt that they have sufficient clean waters for their personal hygine.
H5N1. The most feared type of influenza A virus has always been our concern. The statics show that for last 4 years, total 203 deaths were confirmed. Also, according to report from WHO, the both human cases and deaths of H5N1 is gaining its momentum, and steadily increasing. What does this mean? Does this mean that we are looking at possible cause of next inevitable chaos? If so, how are we going to prepare for it?
On a bright side, several researchers have managed to produce new vaccine against avian flu that is ready for human trial. This new vaccine is developed from NDV, new castle disease virus that has same common gene as H5N1. So far, the experiment was successful to monkeys. When monkeys were injected with this vaccine, it was observed that there was significant increase in the anti-bodies. Now, researchers firmly believe that this new vaccine is possible candidate vaccine against H5N1.
However, I can't help but bring up issue of safety of vaccine. The report says the monkeys were well-tolerated the vaccine, but clearly, humans and monkeys are different. The genetics might say otherwise but there are undoubtedly much difference us and monkeys. We need to make sure this vaccines don't become just another problem for us to deal with. Also, even if the vaccine was proven to be safe for human usage, do we have enough facilities to mass-produce this vaccine to vaccinate the whole population of the earth? H5N1 avian flu is becoming more threat to us as we speak. It's critical to think about how fast we can deliver this vaccine to those in need right now. And, for some people, this vaccine might not work, for all individuals are not same. So, we have to take that into consideration and think of way to modify the vaccine. This process can take extra time and money.
Friday, December 14, 2007
A new vaccine that protects monkeys against the avian influenza virus strain has been developed by researchers at the National Institute of Health and the University of Maryland. It has worked on African monkeys and is now ready for clinical trial on humans. In the past decade or so, transmission rate of this highly pathogenic avian influenza virus from birds to humans has rapidly increased resulting in 278 human infections and 168 deaths. Fear of a possible pandemic outbreak emphasizes the need for an effective vaccine. Development of the vaccine has been hindered by factors like poor immunogenicity, biosafety concerns, and risk of genetic exchange with circulating influenza virus strains. The research involved the creation of a live vaccine which included the avian Newcastle Disease Virus which contains a common gene found in the avian influenza virus. Given both intranasally and through the respiratory tract in two doses with a 28-day interval, the vaccine response showed low amounts of virus shedding indicating protection. After the second dose, high levels of neutralizing antibodies were present in the immunized systems. A substantial response to either dosage was noted in the respiratory tract indicating a likely reduction in transmission in the event of an outbreak.
Influenza is a serious infection, sometimes deadly, where the enveloped Influenzavirus binds itself to the surface of the cell. Typically, influenza is transmitted from infected mammals through air by coughs or sneezes, creating aerosols containing the virus, and from infected birds through their droppings. It can also be transmitted by saliva, nasal secretions, feces and blood. Infections occur through contact with these bodily fluids or with contaminated surfaces. Flu viruses can remain infectious for about one week at human body temperature, over 30 days at 0 °C (32 °F), and indefinitely at very low temperatures (such as lakes in northeast Siberia). They can be inactivated easily by disinfectants and detergents.
The flu vaccine external structure mutates all the time resulting in changes to the flu strain. Each year the influenza virus changes and different strains become dominant. Due to the high mutability of the virus a particular vaccine formulation usually works for only about a year. This requires the vaccine strain to be changed each year. One method of making flu vaccines involves the incubation of the three strains (A, B, & C) that are most expected to spread in a given year into millions of chicken eggs to multiply. This method is labor-intensive, time consuming and takes too long to produce vaccine in the case of another worldwide pandemic.
A new procedure involves the spraying of viral genes directly through the skin in a technique that turns infinitesimal amounts of DNA into an effective vaccine. The infectious disease specialist takes out a few genes from the DNA of the influenza virus and shoots it at a very fast speed into the person’s skin using ‘a new needle-free device (CDC)’. The DNA enters the cell and produces a very strong immune response. If approved for use in humans, the new procedure could save many lives in case of a flu pandemic, by skipping the current, time-consuming production of vaccines in chicken eggs.
59 hormones, scores of allergens, fat, cholesterol, herbicides, pesticides, dioxins, 52 antibiotics, blood, pus, viruses and bacteria
Lately, the American advertising campaign is encouraging the consumption of milk by endorsing the slogan of “Got Milk?” by many celebrities, movie stars, musicians and sport stars. They say milk is mother natures “perfect food” that can enhance performance by building muscles, strengthening bones, maintaining healthy hair, promoting healthy teeth, and improving sleep. However, they do not say that milk can cause diabetes, obesity, allergies, cancer, osteoporosis and diseases caused by pathogens.
Scientists have discovered a bacterium known to cause disease in dairy cattle that may also cause Crohn's disease in humans. The disease that primarily occurs in dairy cattle is called Johne's disease, which is a contagious, chronic and usually fatal infection by the bacterium known as Mycobacterium paratuberculosis (MAP), that affects the small intestine of ruminants (hooved animals with a four-chamber stomach). MAP penetrates the intestinal mucosa and are phagocytized by macrophages and they continue to multiple inside the macrophages. The symptoms of the bacterial disease include diarrhea, and rapid weight loss due to the poor absorption of nutrients from the ilium (part of small intestine). Animals with Johne's disease “waste away” despite their continuing to eat well. In the U.S, 22% of dairy herds are infected and are usually not seen until they are adults because of the slow progressive nature of the disease. Crohn's disease in humans show clinical and pathological resemblance to Johne's disease as a chronic inflammatory bowel disease. Crohn's disease affects at least 500,000 Americans and is usually termed “a disease of the young” because it targets young people between the age of 15 and 25. Biologists are trying to determine whether the pathogen, MAP belongs as a zoonotic agent. That is, can MAP found in dairy cattle transmit the pathogen to humans and have the ability to cause disease. A standard for scientific proof of disease by microorganisms is called Koch's postulates. However, more research is needed before conclusions can be made regarding if MAP is zoonotic. There is evidence though, showing that patients with Crohn's disease have MAP: “Recent reports in the medical literature indicate that 25-75% of patients with Crohn's disease test positive for M. paratuberculosis.”
If MAP is a human pathogen, then the issue is transmission to humans. MAP is found in the milk from an infected cow; however, the process of pasteurization is to destroy all harmful microorganisms. But, it is found that these organisms survived pasteurization and that certain times of the year (January-March and September-November) there is a higher likely hood that MAP will be present in retail milk. Under the two main types of pasteurization, neither the High Temperature/Short Time (HTST: 71.7oC for 15-20 seconds) nor the Ultra-High Temperature (UHT: 138oC for a fraction of a second) completely eliminated MAP. The bacterial strains appeared to be heat resistant and survival was greater when samples were cooled rapidly following pasteurization causing clumping of bacterial cells. However, none of the strains remained when exposed to 70oC for 25 seconds, suggesting that increasing the holding time is more likely to inactivate MAP in milk.
More research is needed to build solid scientific conclusions on whether Mycobacterium paratuberculosis is a zoonotic agent and has the ability to cause Crohn's Disease in humans.
Humans are designed to drink our mother's milk for sustenance prior to our consumption of solid food. No other mammal continues to drink their mother's milk after this period, yet we do. Did you know that 75% of the population is lactose intolerant, meaning that they cannot metabolize the carbohydrate lactose found in milk. But this might be a “normal” condition, since are bodies are not designed to drink milk after childhood. To decrease your ability to get milk-borne diseases, like osteoporosis (the highest consumption of milk in the world, showed to have the highest rates of osteoporosis), or pathogens, then obtain your calcium from leafy greens, as cows do.
This picture, for example, is one of many found In the Eshel Ben-Jacob Galllery. These remarkable images are actually patterns. Not the kind we played with in lab, (the making of jackolanter faces with paper and UV radiation) but by manipulating the adaptive responses of colonies. “Laboratory-imposed stresses that mimic [natural] hostile environments” are used to shape the billions of microbes. While the patterns are all based on bacterial communication, the colour and shading are all artistic additions.
However, the laboratory tests aren’t all for the sake of art. They are actually used to test the coping capabilities of bacteria. The main result of which is a pattern of responses. The responses elicited by the bacteria show the cooperation and communication used by bacteria throughout a colony and between colonies. Responses which have in the past thwarted our best efforts and our best antibiotics. By watching these patterns carefully we are able to create great art and discover the mechanisms behind the intelligent design.
Yet, this is not the only method of creating art with our oldest and newest media on agar based medium. A Bulgarian artist, Houben Tcherkelov, is reaching out - away from the testing based art - and back into the more traditional forms of art such as classical etching. Tcherkelov explains that his goal is “ to create something which does not exist, a remarkable, manipulated bioproduct” and “I use bacteria to do the etching. I want to present a color image of our biologic coexistence.”
While Tcherkelov popularized the bacteria-art movement in 2001, Anna Dumitriu has continued it with her “The Normal Flora Project.” “The Normal Flora Project” is heavily inspired by medical science, cell biology, supplements (such as vitamin C) and their effects, as well as the concept of immortality; All of which, culminated into the culturing of bacteria and moulds in domestic environments. Dumitriu concentrates on the friendly and harmless bacteria for her exhibits. Some of her bacteria art is even available for phones. A series of cell-phone wallpapers are based on Dumitriu’s light micrographs of bacteria and mould spores at 1000x magnification (as seen below). Though she is best known for her phone wallpapers, her exhibits have also shown needle points and patterns carved into chairs based on the patterns taken from bacteria on the chair.
Much has happened in the scientific and art worlds in the last decade. But a word or warning to anyone looking to combine the two in the near future. You have to suffer for great art. Some of our scientific artists have gone through much in the last decade alone. Steven Kurtz can attest to that – and probably has testified it in court. Kurtz is one of the founding members of the Critical Art Ensemble which was supposed to demystify and “alleviate inappropriate fear[s] of transgenic science and redirect
concern toward the political implications of the research” by concentrating on benign bacteria. Though the artists followed all of the correct procedures and there were no health hazards, they were still subpoenaed for “possession of biological agents.” Escherichia coli can be hazardous to one’s health if handled improperly but all of the proper measures werein place. “The group's works… include websites and mock newspaper ads touting fictional biotech companies, and shows in which the audience has the chance to drink beer containing human DNA.” I can understand how this would put up some red flags, but this does not merit prosecution for the ''possession of biological agents.''
So just in case you too would like to begin a career in bacterial art, keep in mind the risks involved.
In recent years, carbon dioxide has become a favourite target when it comes to global warming. Focus on carbon emissions has become prevalent in the media. Factories are being criticized for the amount of carbon they release into the atmosphere through industrial processes, and there seems to be a general shift in the public consciousness about the amount of carbon we all produce on a daily basis. This type of thinking is a great move for dealing with the issue of climate change, but in my opinion, I feel there should be a bit more attention paid to another greenhouse gas that could potentially have a greater affect on global warming: Methane. While factories and cars get a bad reputation for CO2 emissions, processes like wastewater treatment, cattle farming and rice cultivation get much less recognition for the large amounts of methane they produce.
The US Environmental Protection Agency states that methane is “20 times more effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period.” The Earth has a huge number of natural sources of methane, and over time human activity has increased the amount of this gas present in the atmosphere. This is serious cause for concern over the future of our planet.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Recent discoveries and research are giving new hope to a serious problem. In recent years scientists have discovered potentially useful strain of archaea called ANME-1. Colonies of these anaerobic methanotrophs were originally found at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean surrounding mud volcanoes. Their main source of energy is actually the methane released from the undersea volcanoes that they border. ANME-1 has since been found in water around the world and it is now understood that these helpful microbes aid in the regulation of methane in the atmosphere. This is thought to be done through a process called reverse methanogenesis. They seem to consume a great deal of methane in the ocean before it has the chance to reach our atmosphere. Since so much methane is found in the ocean, these bacteria are vital to keeping our atmosphere from being overwhelmed with the gas.
The potential for these bacteria to be harnessed for our own use is great, but the question is, can it actually be done? So far scientists have been unable to find an effective way of utilizing the microbes. They are slow growing and difficult to isolate in a lab setting. But I feel that this is something that should be delved into more. Of course our efforts to reduce climate change should be channeled into other ventures as well, but reducing the amount of methane in our environment could be a triumph against climate change. Perhaps in the future these helpful microbes will be better understood and may be a useful bioremediation tool.
A couple months back in class we talked about the papilloma virus and as the main cause of cervical cancer in women. We also encountered the moral problems related with the vaccine against HPV, should the vaccine be applied to little girls 10 years old? Would this make girls become sexually active younger? and then class finished. Even though these moral and ethic issues are important, we did not talk about how HPV affects men. I did not know HPV could cause symptoms in men, as the whole controversy of the vaccine for women and what age should they be vaccinated overshadows the problem - HPV can also cause negative infections in males. As HPV is a sexually transmitted disease, it also affects men. The virus creates genital warts that growth on top of the penis. Warts are raised, flat, or cauliflower-shaped. They usually do not hurt. Also, warts may appear within weeks or months after sexual contact with an infected person. Consequently, HPV can also cause anal cancer a penile cancer.
Signs of anal cancer:
· Sometimes there are no signs or symptoms.
· Anal bleeding, pain, itching, or discharge.
· Swollen lymph nodes in the anal or groin area.
· Changes in bowel habits or the shape of your stool.
Signs of penile cancer:
· First signs: changes in color, skin thickening, or a build-up of tissue on the penis.
· Later signs: a growth or sore on the penis. It is usually painless, but in some cases, the sore may be painful and bleed.
· There may be no symptoms until the cancer is quite advanced.
Thus, HPV does have consequences to men. They do not seem as severe as those in women, but there is no vaccine for anal or penile cancer in men. Also, there is not an exam to determine warts or any cancer in men.
As we can see here, HPV is severe in men too. However, it is more severe and understood in women a so more effort to create a vaccine and control against the virus. Then, this raises the question if women have to be vaccinated at an early age. I think they should get vaccinated against HPV and that does not mean that girls would have premature sex. If they get vaccinated it would mean a way to protect themselves and people around them. It is a precaution method; moral issues have to be discussed by parents and schools which would have to educate their daughters/students into have save sexual relationships. Thus, parents should have to teach their daughters about the vaccine and teach them that being immune against a virus does not mean to be able/ready to have safe sexual relationships.
CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal; 8/08/2000, Vol. 163 Issue 3, p324, 1/3p
Clinical Infectious Diseases; 9/1/2005, Vol. 41 Issue 5, p612-620, 9p
Journal of American College Health; Mar/Apr2005, Vol. 53 Issue 5, p225-230, 6p, 5 charts
Deborah Baldwin. "Germ warfare: Anti-microbial towel newest weapon in household bacteria battle :[National Edition]. " National Post [Don Mills, Ont.] 12 Aug. 2005, A11. Canadian Newsstand Major Dailies. ProQuest. Camosun College Library, Victoria, B.C.. 14 Dec. 2007
Thursday, December 13, 2007
If you’ve ever been to New Zealand (or know someone who has), then I’m sure you’ve heard of Manuka honey. This type of honey is made by bees that take pollen from the Manuka bush, a plant that is native to New Zealand. A wide variety of Manuka honey products are manufactured and sold all over New Zealand. These include ointments, skin creams, lip balms, and honey capsules. Trust me, if you’re in New Zealand, you’ll see this stuff everywhere! But why is it so widely used? It’s a proven antimicrobial agent that’s been found to benefit anything from minor abrasions to MRSA!
For centuries people have used honey as a cure-all treatment, using it for things like sore throats and wound dressings. Only recently though have the full benefits of this sticky stuff been delved into. Why honey can be used as an antimicrobial agent is a little complex, but basically it’s a combination of its low pH, it’s osmotic effect, and the presence of hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide occurs as a result of glucose oxidase, an enzyme secreted by bees. This appears to be one of the main components of the antimicrobial effectiveness of honey.
The healing properties of Manuka honey have been investigated for over 10 years in the University of Waikato Honey Research Unit in Hamilton, New Zealand. They’ve found that while regular honey has antibacterial properties, Manuka honey may have healing characteristics that trump those of other varieties. The actual reason that Manuka honey is so beneficial is still unknown, but researchers have dubbed this quality a “Unique Manuka Factor”, or UMF.
The Honey Research Unit has tested the effectiveness of honey on antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria like VRE (Vancomycin-resistant enterococcus) and MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). It was shown that both regular honey and Manuka honey had about the same effectiveness on MRSA. Both types of honey were able to inhibit growth of MRSA, and both had similar MIC’s. When VRE was tested, again both types of honey were able to inhibit growth, however Manuka honey was much more effective than regular honey. Many other types of bacteria have been tested and the results can be found here: http://bio.waikato.ac.nz/pdfs/honeyresearch/activity.pdf
So with all of these tests telling us that Manuka honey is so effective, the big question that remains is will honey be an accepted form of treatment by the medical community and general population? Doctors may be hesitant about prescribing honey to patients suffering from infected wounds. Patients may not like the thought of using honey as a type of wound dressing. Causing this type of apprehensive thinking seems to be one of the only negatives that Manuka honey suffers from.
There is an abundant amount of research being conducted on the consequences that increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may have on microbial life in our oceans, and the implications that this imbalance may have. These include various issues, among them:
−an expansion of the oxygen minimum zones may trigger even greater emissions of nitrous oxide, further contributing to global warming
−aquatic food sources may be threatened by ocean acidity
−the effect on dimethyl sulphide (DMS) levels which may disrupt the food chain.
One of the greatest challenges to overcome as well, will be to provide the energy needs of the developing world and to relinquish the current dependence that most of the energy we utilize is sourced from non-renewable fossil fuels. Of course, there are many propositions of ways to accomplish this daunting task. Energy efficiency, energy conservation, reducing environmental impact, and renewable energy are rapidly becoming important factors in the global energy demand. Many efforts to make renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, biofuel, and hydrogen power more commercially viable are already underway as we hear about them on a regular basis.
We all understand the vastly important role that microorganisms play in our environment. But what if we could utilize our microbial counterparts to provide a clean, renewable energy source? According to Dr. James Chong at a Science Media Centre press briefing, "by using methane produced by bacteria as a fuel source, we can reduce the amount released into the atmosphere and use up some carbon dioxide in the process" (Science Daily). This relates back to our case study on waste water treatment. We had a discussion in our tutorial about the capability to harvest methane at the end of the anaerobic process, and from landfill sites. Not to mention the numerous other sources and methods for waste decomposition. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. Methanogens produce about one billion tonnes of methane every year, and can feed on waste from farms, food, and homes to make biogas, which is already being integrated in Europe (Science Daily).
This may sound idealistic, but the chance for humanity to solve the predicament of the energy challenge alongside enhanced processes for consumption and waste degradation is the ultimate solution. I also hope that the government of Canada will make some wise decisions for both the environment and for our future in the coming days.
Canadian Press (2007, November 30). Blast from the Past? Coldest Winter in 15 Years, Environment Canada Says. CBC News. Retrieved December 12, 2007, from
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Retrieved December 12, 2007, from <http://unfccc.int/2860.php>.
Marchildon, Sarah (2007, December 13). David Suzuki Foundation. Retrieved December 13, 2007, from <http://www.davidsuzuki.org/Bali_Blog/>.
Norwegian Nobel Committee (2007, October 12). The Nobel Foundation. Retrieved December 12, 2007, from <http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2007/>.
Panetta, Alexander (2007, December 13). Canadian Press. Retrieved December 13, 2007, from
Society for General Microbiology (2007, December 12). Nitrous Oxide From Ocean Microbes Could Be Adding To Global Warming. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 12, 2007, from
Society for General Microbiology (2007, December 12). Aquatic Food Sources May Be Threatened By Rising Carbon Dioxide. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 12, 2007, from
Society for General Microbiology (2007, December 12). Climate Gas Could Disrupt Food Chain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 12, 2007, from
Society for General Microbiology (2007, December 12). Methane From Microbes: A Fuel For The Future. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 12, 2007, from
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
It is estimated that the worlds oil supply was around three trillion barrels, and that so far we have diminished that supply by between one and two thirds. At the current rate the world is consuming oil, we all know that eventually the oil supply will run out, perhaps in near future (several decades). That is why the search for an alternate energy source is such a huge, huge industry today. Although, maybe not as well known, is the fact that currently, there are projects in progress that are attempting to use microbes to increase the yield of oil resevoirs around the world. If the microbes work to their maximum potential, the scientists behind the projects believe they could increase oil production by 10 percent.
This project is based on the discovery that a certain kind of bacteria is naturally breaking down crude oil in resevoirs. But naturally, this process is very slow. So the idea behind the project is very simple. The plan is, basically, to speed up the natural process by adding some fertilizer to the resevoirs, in order to increase the growth of the bacteria and the speed at which they produce methane. Another positive about this project is the fact that it also has the potential to produce energy from deposits of naturally degraded oil, bitumen sands.
Bituminous sands, more commonly known as oil sands( or 'tar sands') are deposits of heavy, high density oil that cannot be easily removed from resevoirs, unlike common, less dense crude oil. Here in Canada, most of our oil comes from oil sands, however, the techniques used currently to extract energy from oil sands are very expensive and involve large amounts of energy. If these techniques could be replaced by natural degradation with the bacteria, large amounts of money and energy would be saved.
Another positive about microbial extraction is the fact that it is much more environmentally friendly. Bitumen (product of current oil sand extraction processes)is a high carbon dioxide emitter, while methane (produced by the bacteria) is much lower. It seems that this project would be a perfect replacement for the older, much more expensive techniques being used to extract oil sands today. The only drawback of this proposed technique is that it only obtains 10 percent of the available energy, while the other processes can obtain 17 percent. Although this process will not solve the worlds oil crisis, it is a temporary way to get more energy from the oil that we have left.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The hunt for efficient, responsible fuel has yet to dent the demand for oil, but thanks to an army of microbes the days of hydrocarbons are growing short. Ethanol has yet to be considered as a real alternative, mostly due to the use of natural gas in its production, and the low efficiency of current systems. To date, the main fuel for the ethanol industry is corn, which has very low energy content, and is required for other facilities of society. Using corn would continue our cycle of self demise, as well as drive up costs of agriculture by raising the demand for corn.
So ethanol is useless? Negative! Ethanol from corn is inept, but ethanol is starting to be produced from other sources. Companies like Novozymes are cranking out breakthrough enzymes that can breakdown cellulose into ethanol, and they are finding these enzymes in microbes and fungi. The best thing about this new ability to break down cellulose is that it comes from so many sources, basically any plant matter. Apart from that, some companies have reported production efficiency equal to or better than natural gas production, around %80.
Cellulases are being discovered in a variety of forms. The fungus Trichoderma reesei, was found by investigating rapidly rotting tents in the South Pacific during WWII. Today it has some very adept cellulose bustin’ moves that make it an ideal ethanol middleman. Other powerful enzymes are being discovered in the guts of termites, where wild bacteria help the bugs digest wood.
Ethanol produced in Brazil from sugarcane has been rated as producing 56% less emissions as gasoline, and boasts an 8:1 output to input energy ratio. Brazil produces almost 4 billion gallons a year, providing 40% of their fuel for cars and light trucks. So why can’t we stack up, green-washed as our society likes to think it is? Most importantly, we’re investing in corn ethanol production, a throwback to the stone age. The capacity to produce ethanol from sources with better, cleaner yields is there, it just needs to be thrust upon North American manufacturers before its too late to shift production.
Wired Magazine, Oct. 2007 , pg.159-167
National Geographic, Oct. 2007, pg47-48