Facts, not Fantasy

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Scientific American: New Clues for Improving Antibiotics for Tolerant Bacteria

Bacteria evolve.  We know this. Of course, this can cause some problems for those of us who have to deal with them.  No, not like in Doonesbury, but real life:

New Clues for Improving Antibiotics for Tolerant Bacteria

Some of the ways bacteria protect themselves from antibiotics might be used against them to strengthen existing drugs
The superbug MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) has provoked fear in doctors and patients alike because it is endowed with genetic characteristics that make it impervious to many antibiotics, and it can be deadly to boot. Less well known, however, is another class of bacteria that also resist antibiotics, but for reasons that have puzzled scientists. These bugs cause stubborn infections in ears and urinary tracts and post-surgical wounds, even though, from their genetic profiles, they should be perfectly good targets for antibiotics.

Researchers are now starting to figure out how these bacteria withstand antibiotic treatment: by exploiting the same traits that have helped them endure environmental stressors. Two new research papers, published Friday in Science, show how bacteria use their ability to withstand prolonged periods without food or exposure to reactive oxygen to also fight off antibiotics. Knowing what these defenses are could lead to new ways of making existing therapies more effective.

Friday, December 09, 2011

What use is half a wing?

An oft repeated creationist canard is "What use is half a wing?" or something equally inane.  The University of Montana and the BBC shed some light on this that even a creationtard could possibly understand (assuming they got their fingers out of their ears long enough to listen).

Flap-running in birds is key to flight evolution

The ungainly sight of a bird furiously flapping its wings as its spindly legs propel it forward could be a peek at evolutionary history. 

"Flap-running", researchers say, may have been a key step in the evolution of flight.

Experiments with pigeons have shown that it helps birds ascend slopes and suggests the earliest flightless birds might have used the same technique.

The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Brandon Jackson, from the University of Montana, US, who led the study, explained that he and his colleagues wanted to know why birds would flap-run when they were capable of flight.

His co-researcher, Ken Dial, noticed this behaviour when filming a type of partridge known as a chuckar.
As the rotund birds negotiated obstacles, they would run up the objects flapping their wings. When Dr Dial discussed this behaviour with local ranchers and hunters, some reported that adult chukars would flap to run up cliffs, rather than fly.
Diagram of pigeon flap-running up a slope (Image: Journal of Experimental Biology) 
The birds used far less energy when flap-running than when flying
Dr Jackson and his team decided to find out if the birds might be using the technique to save energy by measuring the amount of power generated by the flight muscles when birds flew and when they were flap-running.

They surgically implanted electrodes into the flight muscles of pigeons - closely related birds that often flap and run even though they are very good fliers.

The electrodes measured muscle activity in the birds as they flapped and ran up ramps of varying inclines, and as they flew parallel to those same ramps.

The team was most surprised by what they saw when they compared the birds' muscle activity on a ramp with a 65 degree incline.

Running up that ramp, explained Dr Jackson, "required about 10% as much power from the flight muscles" as flying.

"The signal was imperceptible at first, and we actually thought we had a problem with the recording equipment. But when we zoomed in, there it was, about a tenth the magnitude that it was during flight," he said.

"The birds seemed to be using hardly any power to flap their wings as they ran up the slopes."

The method, the researchers say, is also an essential learning step for fledging chicks.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Scientific American: Autism in Another Ape

Every time I hear anyone proclaim how unique humans are, I want to correct them.  We are animals just like any other animal.  And we have some very close cousins out there that demonstrate this all the time.  It's just that most of us are in our own little worlds that we don't ever notice.

Autism in Another Ape

Rambunctious one-year-old Teco, a third-generation captive-born bonobo at the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa, has an ape’s usual fondness for games and grapes. But perhaps because of trauma from a difficult birth (his mother was in labor for 60 hours) or a genetic predisposition, Teco is different from his bonobo peers in ways that resemble autism in young children. He could not cling to his mother or nurse the way healthy young apes do instinctively, mimicking the aversion to physical contact seen in children with autism. Teco also tends to fixate on shiny objects and avoids eye contact, and he has trouble coordinating his four limbs. A genetic analysis of bonobos, already under way, may shed light on Teco’s condition and offer new perspectives on autism’s genetic roots in humans.

Monday, December 05, 2011

AIDS Vaccine?

I'd like to present two papers without too much comment.  These speak to trials and tests on the progress of an HIV vaccine.

MVA-B phase I

MVA-B phase I JVirol

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Opting Out of Vaccinations...

Again, Todd W. has the pulse on this issue.

As he also notes
The only quibble I really have is that the quote from Jennifer Margulis went unaddressed:,
Many of the vaccines are unnecessary and public health officials don't honestly know what the effect of giving so many vaccines to such small children really are...

Most, if not all, of the vaccines are necessary for public health and prevention of disease. And the effects of the vaccine schedule can be seen from the long history of safe use.

Technical Difficulties

If you follow this blog and have been expecting updates, my apologies.  I had a busy month lined up for November as far as my personal life, so I queued up a bunch of posts and then let them go on autopilot.  Sadly, instead of setting them up to publish automatically, they saved as drafts and never made it to published status.  I am about to rectify that situation, so bear with me as a bunch of posts pop up rather suddenly.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Whooping Cough in New York

Many people assume that people dying from preventable diseases only happens in third world countries, and places where public health is in the dark ages.  Well, I suppose if the anti-vax pro-disease nutters have their way, the US may become that type of place.

NY whooping cough cases highest since 1999


New York - Early this year, 13 diagnosed cases of whooping cough were in Smithtown, New York. As the year progressed, that number would increase drastically to 216 cases throughout the entire Suffolk County.
This is the highest number of whooping cough cases reported in the area since 1999. Also called pertussis, whooping cough is highly contagious and can cause serious illness in infants who are too young to be vaccinated with the five required shots. Families with newborns should have teenagers and adults vaccinated.
For Infants and Children: In the US, the recommended pertussis vaccine for children is called DTaP. This is a safe and effective combination vaccine that protects children against three diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. For maximum protection against pertussis, children need five DTaP shots. The first three shots are given at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. The fourth shot is given between 15 and 18 months of age, and a fifth shot is given when a child enters school, at 4–6 years of age. If a 7-10 year old is not up-to-date with DTaP vaccines, a dose of Tdap should be given before the 11-12 year old check up.(CDC)
Whooping cough is caused by bacteria called Bordetella pertussis, and is one of the most common of all vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States. If not properly vaccinated with the DTaP vaccinations, over half of infants under one year of age will end up in the hospital with lung infection; one out of 100 will develop convulsions from the disease; and another one out of 100 will die.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/315319#ixzz1fUlbG0nh


A Photon in the Darkness: “Latex causes autism”

Well, I hope that this is actually a sign that the anti-vax pro-disease loonies are finally running out of steam, and are grasping at straws like a drowning man grabs at anything in their death throes...  A Photon in the Darkness has this to say about this crazy idea:
Let the Nonsense begin!:

Before May of this year, I was in blissfiul ignorance of the “hypothesis” that latex - specifically, latex in vaccines (of course) - was the cause (or a cause) of regressive autism. But then Orac (of the Respectful Insolence ‘blog) posted a short notice (here) of a press release for the book Vaccine Delivery and Autism (The Latex Connection), by Dochiak and Dunn. It was a small post, with only a minimum of “respectful insolence” added, since the premise of the book seemed laughable enough.  The press release described the authors thusly:
“Michael J. Dochniak and Denise H. Dunn are leading experts in the etiology of allergy-induced regressive autism and have previously authored a book for Nova Science, entitled ‘Allergies and Autism.’ Dochniak is a scientific researcher in the field of Hevea brasiliensis natural-latex induced autism. Dunn is an early childhood educator who works closely with autistic children and adults, and has been teaching for more than 15 years.”
Fortunately, it wasn’t too hard to check on Mr. Dochniak’s credentials as a “scientific researcher in the field of Hevea brasiliensis natural-latex-induced autism”. In reality, he has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and psychology (both awarded in 1985) and has published - apart from the two books - one article in Medical Hypotheses.  That article - needless to say - had no data. In fact, Mr. Dochniak’s only “research” into autism has been in the library and on the Internet, although he has written a few articles on latex for adhesive and sealant trade newsletters and is on a number of patents and patent applications, including one for a “Method to affect the development of autism spectrum disorders” (#20070034214).

 A day after the post, the lead author, Mr. Michael Dochniak, appeared in the comment thread and - as they say - hilarity ensued.