Sunday August 19, 2018

Antibiotic Resistance Spreads From Animals To Humans At Faster Pace

Even Colistin is losing its potency against so-called "superbugs".

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Antibiotic Resistance Spreads From Animals To Humans At Faster Pace
Antibiotic Resistance Spreads From Animals To Humans At Faster Pace, Pixabay
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Scientists have expressed shock at the speed at which resistance to powerful antibiotics spreads from animals to humans, as new research has shown how genetic mutations in pathogens likely spread from a pig farm in China to affect human and animal species across the world in the space of just a few years.

The antibiotic Colistin is known as a medicine of “last resort,” used to save people’s lives when all other drugs have failed. Lead researcher Professor Francois Balloux, director of the Genetics Institute at University College London says it has become an important last line of defense as other antibiotics have become less effective.

“It was used a bit in the clinic. And then there were some worries about toxicity and side-effects. And it was mostly used in agriculture then, in pigs and a bit in chickens. But recently, as we are running out of drugs, people actually have become a bit more interested in using it, and it has been used quite extensively recently over the last five to 10 years in the clinic,” says Balloux.

Now even Colistin is losing its potency against so-called “superbugs”.

Fast mutation

Deadly pathogens like E. Coli or salmonella can mutate and develop resistance to antibiotics. Balloux’s research identifies the speed at which the mutant gene that gives resistance to Colistin emerged in the mid-2000s.

“It was a single mergence, it happened only once. And it jumped very, very likely from pigs, probably in China, and it spread extremely rapidly throughout the world. And it also spread in all sorts of different species, and affects humans. So now we find it in in many of the most important pathogens we face in hospitals. And it is absolutely everywhere,” Balloux told VOA.

The resistance has even been found in pathogens in the seawater on Brazilian beaches. Balloux notes his study focused on just one resistant gene, but many pathogens are developing other forms of resistance.

 

Britain’s chief medical officer warned recently that anti-microbial resistance could lead to the “end of modern medicine.”

“Think about common operations, caesarean sections, replacement hips. Those would become much more risky if we did not have effective antibiotics. Superbugs kill and they’re on the rise,” Professor Sally Davies told delegates at an October conference on anti-microbial resistance in Germany.

Scientists are working on “boosting” existing drugs like Colistin to give them added power against resistant pathogens.

Also Read: Antibiotics in puget sound mussels

Longer-term, researchers say more investment is needed in developing new drugs, along with a rethink of the way antibiotics are used in agriculture and in the clinic. (VOA)

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Scientists Take Step Toward Creating Artificial Embryos

Experts said the results suggested human embryos could be created in a similar way in future — a step that would allow scientists to use artificial embryos rather than real ones to research the very earliest stages of human development

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FILE - An embryologist demonstrates fertilization techniques at a clinic in New York, Oct. 3, 2013. In work published Monday, scientists moved closer to creating artificial embryos. (VOA)

An international team of scientists has moved closer to creating artificial embryos after using mouse stem cells to make structures capable of taking a crucial step in the development of life.

Experts said the results suggested human embryos could be created in a similar way in future — a step that would allow scientists to use artificial embryos rather than real ones to research the very earliest stages of human development.

The team, led by Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, a professor at Britain’s Cambridge University, had previously created a simpler structure resembling a mouse embryo in a lab dish. That work involved two types of stem cells and a three-dimensional scaffold on which they could grow.

But in new work published Monday in the journal Nature Cell Biology, the scientists developed the structures further — using three types of stem cells — enabling a process called gastrulation, an essential step in which embryonic cells begin self-organizing into a correct structure for an embryo to form.

“Our artificial embryos underwent the most important event in life in the culture dish,” Zernicka-Goetz said in a statement about the work. “They are now extremely close to real embryos.”

embryo-cells
The early stages of embryo development are when a large proportion of pregnancies are lost and yet it is a stage that scientists know very little about.

She said the team should now be better able to understand how the three stem cell types interact to enable embryo development. And by experimentally altering biological pathways in one cell type, they should be able to see how this affects the behavior of the other cell types.

“The early stages of embryo development are when a large proportion of pregnancies are lost and yet it is a stage that we know very little about,” said Zernicka-Goetz.

“Now we have a way of simulating embryonic development in the culture dish, so it should be possible to understand exactly what is going on during this remarkable period in an embryo’s life, and why sometimes this process fails.”

Also Read: Scientists in US Successfully Edit Genes of Human Embryos in the First Attempt

Christophe Galichet, a senior research scientist at Britain’s Francis Crick Institute who was not directly involved in this work, agreed that the results held promise.

“While [this study] did not use human stem cells, it is not too far-fetched to think the technique could one day be applied to studying early human embryos,” he said in an emailed comment. “These self-assembled human embryos would be an invaluable tool to understand early human development.” (VOA)