Foot-and-mouth disease is a highly contagious infection of cloven-hoofed animals that affects agricultural production and herd fertility. Global economic losses due to the disease have been estimated at between $6.5 billion and $22.5 billion each year, with the world’s poorest farmers hardest hit.
A team of scientists from the Leeds and the University of Ilorin, in Nigeria, has investigated the significance of the unusual way the virus’s genome – or genetic blueprint – codes for the manufacture of a protein called 3B. The protein is involved in the replication of the virus.
Researchers have known for some time that the virus’ genetic blueprint contains three separate codes or instructions for the manufacture of 3B. Each code produces a similar but not identical copy of 3B. Up to now, scientists have not been able to explain the significance of having three different forms of the protein.
In a paper, “Functional advantages of triplication of the 3B coding region of the FMDV genome”, published in The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal, the Leeds researchers reveal the results of a series of laboratory experiments which has demonstrated that having multiple forms of 3B gives the virus a competitive advantage, increasing its chances of survival.
Dr Oluwapelumi Adeyemi, formerly a researcher at Leeds and now with the University of Ilorin and one of the paper’s lead authors, said: “Our experiments have shown that having three forms of 3B gives the virus an advantage and that probably plays a role in why the virus is so successful in infecting its hosts.
“It is not as straightforward as saying because there are three forms of 3B – it is going to be three times as competitive. There is a more nuanced interplay going on which needs further investigation.”
The paper describes how the scientists manipulated the genetic code, creating viral fragments with one form of 3B, two different forms of 3B and all three forms of 3B. Each was then measured to see how well they replicated.
They found there was a competitive advantage – greater replication – in those samples that had more than one copy of 3B.
Dr Joe Ward, post-doctoral researcher at Leeds’ School of Molecular and Cellular Biology and the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology, and second co-lead author of the study, added: “The results of the data analysis were clear in that having multiple copies of the 3B protein gives the virus a competitive advantage. In terms of future research, the focus will be on why is that the case, and how the virus uses these multiple copies to its advantage.
“If we can begin to answer that question, then there is a real possibility we will identify interventions that could control this virus.” The study involved using harmless viral fragments and replicons, fragments of RNA molecules, the chemical that make up the virus’s genetic code.
Amy Sowder of The Packer reports that Shenandoah Growers of Harrisonburg, Va., has recalled about 15,000 units of organic basil in select packages, due to a possible health risk from cyclospora.
The recall is limited and voluntary, according to a Food and Drug Administration news release.
These items were packed under branded and private label fresh-cut, USDA-certified organic basil clamshells at its Jefferson, Ga., facility and Harrisonburg facilities with 19 lot codes, all with the country of origin of Colombia.
Recalled products were distributed to retail stores between Oct. 20-30 in states including Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C.
No other Shenandoah Growers products are subject to recall, and the company has no knowledge of any illness reported or related to this product, according to the release.
The Shenandoah Growers recall includes only those clamshells of certified-organic basil clearly marked with the affected lot codes. The lot code can be found printed on each clamshell.
This recall stems from a package pulled by the Florida Department of Agriculture on Nov. 2, from a retail store in Florida that indicated the potential presence of cyclospora.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, both the Canadian, in early October, and the American, today, the last Thursday in November.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has finally found a consistent voice and has recommendations to make #Thanksgiving safer. Bring your own food and drinks, stay at least 6 feet apart, and wash your hands often. Choose outdoor or well-ventilated spaces.
Most importantly, CDC and others strongly recommend to celebrate only with those you live with, and use virtual gatherings with others (I am exceedingly thankful for the electronic toys we have to help weather the pandemic; 1918 and the Spanish flu would have really sucked).
Of course, the current White House occupant is planning on hosting several parties throughout the holidays. Please ignore Trump et al. and listen to the science.
To that end, the N.Y. Times surveyed 635 epidemiologists and found that most are staying at home, and that those who are gathering with family or friends are taking precautions or rethinking their holiday rituals altogether.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving my American friends and colleagues, and be thankful that someone will live with you.
Australia has somewhat enviable statistics related to this pandemic and the lesson that America is only beginning to grasp is this: go fast, go hard and go smart to limit the spread of coronavirus or any illness.
The parasite, Cyclospora, continues to provide illness and intrigue.
Florida-based Southeastern Grocers has issued a voluntary recall for its “SE Grocers Naturally Better Organic Fresh Cut Basil” following the detection of Cyclospora.
The company says the product was delivered through all of its distribution centers and sold in all its stores, including Winn-Dixie, BI-LO, Fresco y Más and Harveys Supermarkets. The basil comes in a 0.5-ounce container with UPC code 6-07880-20230-4.
The latest recall follows a summer outbreak of Cyclospora in the U.S. linked to Fresh Express and private label brand salad products produced at its Streamwood, IL facility that contain iceberg lettuce, red cabbage, and/or carrots.
690 people with laboratory-confirmed Cyclospora infections and who reported eating bagged salad mix before getting sick weren reported from 13 states (Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Wisconsin).
Illnesses started on dates ranging from May 11, 2020 to July 20, 2020.
37 people were hospitalized. No deaths were reported.
As of November 4, 2020, 370 confirmed cases of Cyclospora illness were reported in the following provinces and territories: British Columbia (1), Ontario (255), Quebec (105), New Brunswick (1), Newfoundland and Labrador (6), and Nunavut (2). Individuals became sick between mid-May and late August 2020. Ten individuals were hospitalized. No deaths were reported.
This method was used in our current investigation and may be instrumental in our efforts to better understand the dispersion of the parasite in the environment, which could help prevent future outbreaks. The collective work by public health officials to get these new findings demonstrates a commitment to innovation and science in the service of public health and the importance of strong federal and state coordination on food safety work.
Even as our agencies continue to respond to the COVID-19 public health crisis, teams of experts from the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have continued to respond to a threat of a different kind – a nationwide outbreak of Cyclospora illnesses. Cyclospora cayetanensis is a parasite that is so small it can only be seen with a microscope. It causes an intestinal illness called cyclosporiasis from the consumption of contaminated food, mainly fresh produce, or contaminated water.
Epidemiology linked the illnesses to bagged salad produced by Fresh Express. The number of reported cases of Cyclospora typically rises during May through August. Although CDC conducts surveillance for cyclosporiasis year-round, during the spring and summer months CDC conducts enhanced surveillance for cases of domestically acquired illness. In this outbreak, CDC has reported 690 cases across 13 states, with 37 hospitalizations and no deaths. Onsets of illness range from May 11, 2020 to July 20, 2020. Salads made by Fresh Express and containing iceberg lettuce, red cabbage, and carrots were identified as the food vehicle responsible for the outbreaks.
Traceback of cases with the strongest sources of information (shopper card info, etc.) revealed that bagged salad codes most likely to have resulted in illness contained iceberg lettuce from California and red cabbage from Florida. The FDA evaluated and investigated each of the ingredients in the bagged salads, identifying red cabbage from Florida and iceberg lettuce from California as those most likely in the bagged salads consumed by people who became ill. Traceback investigations are time-consuming work but are critical. In this instance, in the wake of traceback and collaboration with the retailers to recall product, FDA identified a noticeable decline in illnesses that matched the time period in which cabbage sourcing shifted from Florida to another area, providing a possible clue in the investigation.
Environmental sampling detected the presence of Cyclospora in the surface water of a canal near a farm suspected of being a source of the red cabbage. Two samples collected to the north and south of where the farm accessed canal water for seepage irrigation were found to be positive for Cyclospora cayetanensis. The farm that supplied red cabbage was no longer in production at the conclusion of the growing season, so it was not possible to sample product. Additionally, the farms growing iceberg lettuce in California were investigated and all of the samples collected in California were negative for Cyclospora.
Given the emerging nature of genetic typing methodologies for this parasite, the FDA has been unable to determine if the Cyclospora detected in the canal is a genetic match to the clinical cases, therefore, there is currently not enough evidence to conclusively determine the cause of this outbreak.
The FDA has pioneered ways to detect the parasite that have been employed in this outbreak investigation, developing and validating new methods to test for Cyclospora in produce and agricultural water. The first of these new methods was used in 2018 to confirm the presence of the parasite in a salad mix product tied to an outbreak that sickened hundreds of people.
In July 2019, the FDA made its second major advance in Cyclospora detection, completing studies that resulted in a novel, validated method to test agricultural water for the presence of the parasite. These new methods were developed by the Foodborne Parasitology Research Program that the FDA established in 2014 in our Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, in part to break the cycle of recurring Cyclospora outbreaks.
Strong federal and state coordination on matters of public health are critical. In identifying clinical cases of Cyclospora, assisting in providing traceback records and completing investigations in processing facilities and growing fields, our state partners’ work has proven essential to this investigation. We continue to work to strengthen these vital public health partnerships and federal agencies continue to work together to advance additional tools needed to assist with these investigations. For example, CDC is piloting the use of a genotyping tool to help identify cases of parasitic illness that might be linked to a common source.
While we as public health agencies have gotten better at detecting foodborne illnesses due to Cyclospora, our ability to trace contaminated foods back to their source has lagged, and once again, our ability to trace has been a challenge in this investigation, due in part to the lack of modernized food traceability capabilities.
Moreover, the detection of the parasite in surface waters near where product was grown once again puts a spotlight on the importance of managing the quality of irrigation water used to grow ready to eat crops. We are working closely with our colleagues at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to investigate this issue further to prevent future occurrences.
These findings further emphasize the importance of industry’s role in ensuring that irrigation water is safe to be used on produce. Under the FDA’s recently released New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint, we’ll continue to remain laser focused on prevention. In the coming months, we will be issuing a proposed rule that will aid in achieving our goal of enhancing traceability to greatly reduce the time it takes to identify the origin of a contaminated food or ingredient tied to a recall and/or outbreak.
In addition, we intend to release a proposed rule in late 2020 to revise certain agricultural water requirements in the Produce Safety Rule and to address practical implementation challenges while protecting public health. We also plan to advance detection techniques that will help us pinpoint sources of Cyclospora outbreaks and to continue our research around water treatments for this parasite.
In closing, we believe the entire fresh produce supply chain from farm to fork can do better and we look forward to continuing our work with our public health partners, growers, processors, distributors and retailers in our shared efforts to protect consumers. Together, we’ll make progress on our overarching goal to give consumers the confidence they deserve to have in the safety of fresh produce.
In this very special pre-Thanksgiving episode, Don and Ben start with talking about Ben’s on-set experiences this week, which was like a food safety holiday. The guys then talk about the challenges connecting with entertainment producers and publishers around getting food safety messages into recipes and cooking shows. The conversation goes to pizza and COVID-19 (Australian and Jersey), Thanksgiving plans (or lack thereof) and eating just black licorice as nutrient source. The episode ends with a discussion about number and size of COVID-19 clusters of in various food settings.
Given that phages are able to destroy bacteria, they are of particular interest to science. Basic researchers from the Leibniz-Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP) in Berlin are especially interested in the tube used by phages to implant their DNA (or RNA – dp) into bacteria. In collaboration with colleagues from Forschungszentrum Jülich and Jena University Hospital, they have now revealed the 3D structure of this crucial phage component in atomic resolution. The key to success was combining two methods – solid-state NMR and cryo-electron microscopy. The study has just been published in the journal Nature Communications.
With growing antibiotic resistance, phages have increasingly become the focus of research. Phages are naturally occurring viruses with a very useful property: they implant their DNA into bacteria and proliferate there until the bacterial cell is ultimately destroyed. This is why they are also referred to as bacteriophages (bacteria eaters). This approach has already been shown to fight multidrug-resistant bacteria. Last year, the case of a girl from England hit the headlines, when she was cured from a serious antibiotic-resistant infection using engineered phages.
However, the widespread use of phage therapy is still a long way off. Many of the underlying principles that are key to advancing this therapy are not yet understood. For example, little was previously known about the appearance of the exact architecture of the tube used by phages to implant their DNA into bacteria. Now scientists from the Leibniz-Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP) in Berlin, together with colleagues from Forschungszentrum Jülich and Jena University Hospital, have managed to reveal the 3D structure of this crucial phage component in atomic resolution.
“The structure and flexibility of the DNA tube attached to the icosahedron-shaped capsid is somewhat reminiscent of a spinal column,” stated FMP’s Professor Adam Lange, describing one of the new findings. “It seems to be perfectly designed for transporting DNA.”
The researchers were able to gain insights into the structure and function of this sophisticated DNA transport pathway – in this case, from a variant of phage SPP1 – by combining solid-state NMR with cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM). Lange’s research group further developed nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) especially for this task under an ERC Grant; cryo-EM expert Professor Gunnar Schröder from Forschungszentrum Jülich performed the electron-microscopic investigations. In addition, new modeling algorithms were required for the computer-based combination of the two data sets for structure determination. These algorithms were developed by Professor Michael Habeck from Jena University Hospital. “The key to success was combining the two methods, representing a methodological milestone,” commented Professor Lange.
While solid-state NMR is ideal for visualizing flexible structures and tiny details, cryo-EM provides insight into the overall architecture. The resulting image shows that six gp17.1 proteins organize into stacked rings, forming a hollow tube. The rings are connected by flexible linkers, making the tube very bendable. “We are now able to understand how negatively charged DNA is repelled from the likewise negatively charged interior wall of the flexible tube, passing through it smoothly,” explained FMP’s Maximilian Zinke, lead author of the study now published in Nature Communications. “The bacteria are ultimately destroyed via this pathway.”
The European Union summary report on surveillance for the presence of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) in 2019, 17 November 2020, EFSA:
This report presents the results of surveillance on transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) in cattle, sheep, goats, cervids and other species, and genotyping in sheep, carried out in 2019 by 28 Member States (MS), and by Iceland, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia and Switzerland (non‐MS).
In total, 1,150,388 cattle were tested by MS, a 2.7% decrease from 2018 and 44,557 by the six non‐MS. Six cases of H‐BSE were reported by France (4) and Spain (2), and 1 L‐BSE by Poland. The number of H‐ BSE cases was the largest reported per year including the youngest ever case (5.5 years of age).
In total, 338,098 sheep and 143,529 goats were tested in the EU, an increase of 3.9% in both species compared with 2018. In sheep, 17 inconclusive cases by two MS and 997 cases of scrapie were reported: 911 classical (97 index cases (IC), one of ARR/ARR genotype and 98.7% with genotypes of susceptible groups) by seven MS, 86 atypical (AS) (80 IC) by 11 MS. Thirty‐one ovine scrapie cases were reported by Iceland and Norway. Random genotyping was only reported by eight MS: Cyprus excluded, 15.7% of genotyped sheep carried genotypes of susceptible groups. In goats, three inconclusive cases by two MS and 390 cases of scrapie were reported: 379 classical (24 IC) by six MS, 11 atypical (10 IC) by six MS.
The heterogeneous enforcement of a 3‐year surveillance programme for chronic wasting disease (CWD) in six MS (Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden) resulted in the testing of 7,980 cervids and confirmation of three CWD cases in wild moose in Sweden. Other seven MS tested 2,732 cervids with no positive results. Norway tested 30,147 cervids in 2019, with two new moose cases. In total, 122 animals from four other species reported by three MS TSE tested negative.
I didn’t blog for the last two months. I haven’t done that in 16 years. I haven’t done that ever. Throw in the news and I haven’t done it, ever, in 28 years.
Only once have I ever stopped daily writing over that time period – one week in 2004.
But, I keep falling and my head hurts, so I’m easing back in because it keeps my brain active.
I haven’t had a pay cheque in four years. There’s lots of work at home jobs out there now, which is ironic because I got fired by Kansas State for working at home.
Anyone got work for me?
I’m wonderin’ how this will go.
Got lotsa support from Amy and Sorenne and the rest of the fam.
Jim Robbins of the New York Times reports on the wonderin’ of researchers who ask, Are the wolves of Yellowstone National Park the first line of defense against a terrible disease that preys on herds of wildlife?
That’s the question for a research project underway in the park, and preliminary results suggest that the answer is yes. Researchers are studying what is known as the predator cleansing effect, which occurs when a predator sustains the health of a prey population by killing the sickest animals. If the idea holds, it could mean that wolves have a role to play in limiting the spread of chronic wasting disease, which is infecting deer and similar animals across the country and around the world. Experts fear that it could one day jump to humans.
“There is no management tool that is effective” for controlling the disease, said Ellen Brandell, a doctoral student in wildlife ecology at Penn State University who is leading the project in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service. “There is no vaccine. Can predators potentially be the solution?”
Many biologists and conservationists say that more research would strengthen the case that reintroducing more wolves in certain parts of the United States could help manage wildlife diseases, although the idea is sure to face pushback from hunters, ranchers and others concerned about competition from wolves.
Chronic wasting disease, a contagious neurological disease, is so unusual that some experts call it a “disease from outer space.” First discovered among wild deer in 1981, it leads to deterioration of brain tissue in cervids, mostly deer but also elk, moose and caribou, with symptoms such as listlessness, drooling, staggering, emaciation and death.
It is caused by an abnormal version of a cell protein called a prion, which functions very differently than bacteria or viruses. The disease has spread across wild cervid populations and is now found in 26 states and several Canadian provinces, as well as South Korea and Scandinavia.
The disease is part of a group called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, the most famous of which is bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease. Mad cow in humans causes a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and there was an outbreak among people in the 1990s in Britain from eating tainted meat.
Cooking does not kill the prions, and experts fear that chronic wasting disease could spread to humans who hunt and consume deer or other animals that are infected with it.
The disease has infected many deer herds in Wyoming, and it spread to Montana in 2017. Both states are adjacent to Yellowstone, so experts are concerned that the deadly disease could soon makes its way into the park’s vast herds of elk and deer.
Unless, perhaps, the park’s 10 packs of wolves, which altogether contain about 100 individuals, preyed on and consumed diseased animals that were easier to pick off because of their illness (The disease does not appear to infect wolves).
“Wolves have really been touted as the best type of animal to remove infected deer, because they are cursorial — they chase their prey and they look for the weak ones,” said Ms. Brandell. By this logic, diseased deer and other animals would be the most likely to be eliminated by wolves.
Preliminary results in Yellowstone have shown that wolves can delay outbreaks of chronic wasting disease in their prey species and can decrease outbreak size, Ms. Brandell said. There is little published research on “predator cleansing,” and this study aims to add support for the use of predators to manage disease.
(There is nothing simple about handwashing when almost all public restrooms contain blow-dryers instead of paper towels and have controlled water flow rates that would dislodge nothing. It is the friction that helps reduce microbial loads on hands, which is why hospitals are over-flowing with paper towel dispensers.)
Soap counts too.
There’s too much self-aggrandizing in the PR piece, below, but it has pretty pictures.
“With the threat of the second wave upon us, simple hygiene is something everyone can do to prevent the spread of the virus,” UNSW Science’s Professor Pall Thordarson said.
“Soap can destroy the virus on your skin.”
The simulation uses a cinematic approach and evocative animation to deliver a message that’s accessible to adults and children.
“One of the very few pieces of good news about this virus is that it’s actually very fragile — if you wash your hands with soap, the whole virus basically collapses like a house of cards,” Professor Thordarson said.
The simulation was created by UNSW’s 3D Visualisation Aesthetics Lab, which explores arts- and design-led visualisations of complex scientific and biomedical data. The Lab creates immersive platforms that play out scientific phenomena, such as drug interactions with cancerous cells or interactive personalised scans of strokes to help patients understand their treatment.
“3D visualisations make complex science comprehensible. The creative industries are in a unique position to be able to offer these kinds of innovative educational simulations,” said Associate Professor John McGhee who created the simulation with UNSW 3D Visualisation Aesthetics Lab post-doctoral researcher Dr Andrew Lilja.
While cleaning normally focuses on removing visible signs of mess through vacuuming, dusting and wiping things down, deep cleaning goes one step further.
Deep cleaning involves the use of disinfectant and other chemicals to remove any traces of germs and viruses, including coronavirus.
Part of deep cleaning also involves wiping down every surface in a venue, regardless of whether it has come into direct contact with an infected person or not.
A particular focus is high-frequency touch points, such as light switches, door handles, taps and areas like computer terminals or communal kitchens in office spaces. While high-grade disinfectants are used as part of deep cleaning, other chemicals can also help to remove traces of the virus.
Anthony Bailey, ACT Education Directorate senior director of school cleaning services, said a fine-mist spray was also used as part of deep cleaning efforts in Canberra schools.
“With the fine-mist spray, the chemical settles in areas you can’t normally reach,” Mr Bailey said.
“It’s unlikely people are touching those surfaces, but it’s all about elimination.
One of the ACT’s schools, Lyneham High School, required deep cleaning in March after a student attended the campus while potentially contagious with coronavirus.
Mr Bailey said swab tests of surfaces for traces of coronavirus were also carried out before students and staff members could re-enter the school.
One of the main ways coronavirus has been able to spread is through being picked up by humans after they come into contact with the virus on surfaces. Research is being carried out in a number of places on how long exactly the virus can linger on surfaces and lead to further infections.
Early findings have determined strains of COVID-19 can stay alive for several hours or even days, depending on the type of surface it lands on.
According to a recent study from the New England Journal of Medicine, the virus can last for four hours on copper surfaces, while it can stay on cardboard or paper for 24 hours and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel.
A similar study published in The Lancet had slightly different findings, with the virus lasting for three hours on tissue paper, while traces were still detected on cloth and wooden materials for two days.
Associate professor at the Australian National University medical school, Sanjaya Senanayake, said the Lancet study also found the virus could stay on surfaces such as surgical masks for up to one week after they were worn.
“The two studies were slightly different in the types of materials that were used, but clearly the virus can survive on surfaces for some time,” associate professor Senanayake said.
“Maybe after half an hour on a surface, there’s a lot more virus on it, and therefore people are more likely to be infected if they come into contact.
“By the seventh day, the virus might still be around on surfaces, but may not be enough to cause an infection.”
At its core, deep cleaning is about attacking the virus at every possible location it could be in a building.
However, for a virus that’s devastated nations around the world and locked down cities across Australia, associate professor Senanayake said COVID-19 was remarkably easy to kill.
“It’s an enveloped virus, meaning it’s got an outer covering and it’s very susceptible to things,” he said.
“Despite it being this terrible thing that’s caused a pandemic, it’s easy to kill with things like standard detergents as well as soap and water.”
Using things like detergents might be enough to kill off the virus, but associate professor Senanayake said using just disinfectant or chemicals on their own might not have the desired effect.
“If you put just disinfectant on those areas, some of the virus particles might be able to hide,” he said.
“Surfaces should be cleaned with detergent first and then disinfected after that with something like 70 per cent alcohol or bleach.”
It should also be noted that any cleaning of surfaces suspected of having traces of coronavirus should be done with personal protection, such as a mask.