Scientists discover how Giardia makes people ill

One of my favorite pastimes is to go camping with the family and enjoy nature….in a cabin. I’m getting too old to tent and contend with the mosquitoes and bears. One thing is for sure, I avoid drinking water that hasn’t been treated due to the potential risk of parasites, in particular, Giardia.

BBC News reports

Now scientists say they have discovered how the parasites that cause giardiasis – one of the world’s most common gastric diseases – make people ill.
Giardia parasites mimic human cell functions to break apart cells in the gut and feed inside, researchers found.
This also allows bacteria already present in the body to join in and feed from the same nutrients, they said.
‘Ready meals’
Some 500,000 cases of giardiasis are diagnosed each year, with people typically picking up the disease by drinking infected water or contaminated food.
Symptoms include severe diarrhoea, stomach pains, bloating, flatulence and fatigue and can last weeks or months without treatment.
Although it is found throughout the world, it is most prevalent in developing countries and is one of the most common gastric diseases caught by backpackers.
But although scientists have known of giardia’s existence for hundreds of years, until now it remained unclear how it makes people sick.
Giardia parasites are picked up in infected water or contaminated food, usually in developing countries. 
Researchers found the giardia parasite produces two types of protein that enable it to cut through layers of protective mucus in the gut – breaking the links that knit cells together – in order to easily access the nutrients within them.
One of the proteins does this by mimicking a group of human proteins called tenascins, which regulate cell adhesion and break apart when necessary, such as during wound healing.
But the giardia tenascins are used instead to upset the body’s balance by preventing healing of the junctions between cells that hold them together.
One of the study’s authors, Dr Kevin Tyler, from UEA’s Norwich medical school, said: “Because the giardia have broken down the cell barriers and made all these nutrients available, other, opportunistic bacteria can move in to take advantage of these ‘ready meals’ which can make giardiasis even more severe for some.”
‘Bad bacteria’
Those suffering from giardiasis are usually able to recover from the illness with or without antibiotics.
However, about half of those who get the parasite experience no symptoms of the illness.
Dr Tyler said the difference in the severity of disease might be explained by the proportion of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the gut.
Those who become more ill may have a higher proportion of “bad bacteria” feeding off nutrients released by the giardia parasite, Dr Tyler said.
Dr Tyler told the BBC: “Some people have a gut that is predominantly full of quite good bacteria that doesn’t cause inflammation and illness and indeed may protect from it.
“What we think is that in people who have the bad bacteria, the pro-inflammatory bacteria, those start to use the nutrients that have been unleashed by the giardia.
“The giardia does the damage, allowing the nutrients to flow into the gut, and then if you have the wrong kind of bacteria you get this cycle of inflammation.”
This is why probiotic drinks and supplements – which populate the gut with good bacteria – are helpful in treating giardiasis, he said.
The study was published in the journal GigaScience.
How to avoid giardiasis
When abroad make sure to drink filtered or bottled water
Practice good hygiene
Avoid eating food that may be contaminated
Avoid water (drinking or recreational) that may be contaminated
Clean up after ill people and pets

 

Questions: Why do your eardrums move when your eyes move?

I figured I was just getting old.

My hearing has been getting worse, bad enough that I finally went to the doctor on Tuesday.

She, along with a nurse, managed to extract two quarter-sized pieces of what looked like fungal felt, one from each ear. She prescribed some antibiotics to see if the swelling would go down.

My hearing and balance improved immediately.

Which prompted a question that Ed Yong of The Atlantic has ventured to answer: Why do eardrums move when your eyeballs move?

As your eyes flitted right, both eardrums bulged to the left, one inward and one outward. They then bounced back and forth a few times, before coming to a halt. When you looked left, they bulged to the right, and oscillated again.

These wobbles happen every time you move your eyes, whether or not there’s external noise. The bigger the movement, the bigger the wobble. But no one knows why they happen. And until Jennifer Groh, from Duke University, discovered them, no one even knew that they happened at all.

Groh has long been interested in how the brain connects information from our eyes and ears. In a loud party, for example, we automatically read the lips of our conversational partners to interpret any unintelligible sounds. For that to work, the brain has to align visual and auditory information in space, so it knows that those sounds are coming from those lips. And that’s easier said than done, because our ears are obviously fixed on our heads but our eyes are constantly moving. They flit all over the space in front of us, roughly three times a second. Every such movement changes the spatial relationships between what we see and what we hear. So how does the brain unite those streams of information? And where?

“Historically, people have thought that information enters the ear and the eye separately, and that eventually it’s combined,” says Nina Kraus from Northwestern University. But Groh’s experiment, she says, suggests that this act of combination happens much earlier. The eardrum, after all, is responsible for converting vibrations in the air around us into vibrations in the liquid within our heads. It’s where hearing effectively begins. And if it wobbles as our eyes shift, then this suggests that vision might affect hearing “at the earliest possible point,” says Kraus.

Kurtis Gruters and David Murphy, two members of Groh’s team, detected the wobbling eardrums in the simplest possible way. They stuck microphones in the ears of several volunteers, and asked them to look at different targets. As their eyes moved, so did their eardrums. Like actual tiny drums, these vibrating membranes created small sounds, which the microphones could detect. That’s how the team showed that the eardrum oscillations match the direction and strength of the eyes’ movements.

They also found that the eardrums start to wobble about 10 milliseconds before the eyes. This suggest that the ears aren’t reacting to what’s happening in the eyes. Instead, Groh says, “the brain is saying: I am about to move the eyes; ears, get ready.”

Barbara Shinn-Cunningham, from Boston University, also studies the neuroscience of hearing, and she is more circumspect. “It is a very interesting and previously unknown phenomenon, which may turn out to be incredibly important,” she says, “But so far, there is no evidence it is. We just don’t yet know why it happens or what it means.”

Deepak Chopra says bacteria listen to our thoughts

Whenever Amy goes on about some health thing she learned from Dr. Google or a parent – and Amy is far more discerning than the other parents – I stay, stick to French literature.

quantum.deepakDeepak Chopra, author, public speaker and alternative medicine advocate who shot to fame on The Oprah Winfrey Show in the 1990s, was the first guest at this week’s “Fat Summit” online conference. Hosted by Mark Hyman, celebrity doctor, long time Clinton family advisor and author of upcoming book, Eat Fat, Get Thin, the Fat Summit’s tagline– “Separating Fat From Fiction”– is clever fluff.

Boasting interviews with thirty “top scientists, doctors and health experts,” Hyman’s summit purports to explain to viewers of the online conference, available at no cost for a limited time (after which there is a fee for download), why eating more fat is the key to getting healthy and fit. Featuring the who’s who of food quackery, from David Asprey of the unscientific butter-in-your-coffee school of thought, to Vani “The Food Babe” Hari, known for her fearmongering antics, the summit is less about fat and more about demonizing modern technologies like genetic engineering and ingredients like artificial preservatives.  

“I feel like a slacker, I only have nine New York Times bestsellers,” Hyman laughed as he blowed introduced Deepak Chopra, who has more than 20 bestsellers under his belt. The summit’s first guest, he touted the benefits of Indian-style clarified butter known as “ghee,” as well as the advantages of keeping a gratitude journal, which he claims can reduce “leaky gut,” in turn decreasing incidence of heart disease and diabetes.

While “leaky gut syndrome” is poorly understood and is not a diagnosis taught in medical school, Chopra blames stress and an “inflamed microbiome” for causing the condition, which he implicates in a raft of health problems.

Wizard-of-Oz-Caps-the-wizard-of-oz-2028565-720-536Chopra’s misinformation-laden messaging is a far cry from evidence-based.

According to Chopra, that pesky inflamed microbiome is sentient. The genome, microbiome and epigenome, which the author collectively calls the “super gene,” are referenced throughout the interview. His book, Super Genes: The Key to Health and Well-Being, was published last year.

What we know about the microbiome, epigenome and genome is dwarfed by what we have yet to learn, and Deepak Chopra exploits this, taking brazen liberties to fill in the gaps.

Chopra has described the AIDS virus as emitting “a sound that lures the DNA to its destruction.” The condition can be treated, according to Chopra, with “Ayurveda’s primordial sound”

Chad Orzel has written that “to a physicist, Chopra’s babble about ‘energy fields’ and ‘congealing quantum soup’ presents as utter gibberish”, but that Chopra makes enough references to technical terminology to convince non-scientists that he understands physics.

Once again, thank you Oprah for promoting quackery.

Jimmy Fallon tests Will Forte’s beard for bacteria & poop

Will Forte, the star of “Last Man Standing” had his big beard tested with the results announced by “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon.

will.forte.beardForte told Fallon that his friends had been sending him articles about facial hair being infested with bacteria and “poop.”

“A lot of these beards are riddled with fecal matter,” he told Fallon.

You can’t sleep at night because you have poop in your beard?”

Forte’s beard was swabbed by a post-doctoral research scholar from UCLA. The samples were then sent to a lab where they underwent germ analysis.

The actor was flanked on either side by Emmy-award winner Jon Hamm and Rachel Dratch as Fallon read the test results live on the air.

Forte tested positive for several strains of bacteria.

Here’s what was found in Forte’s facial hair: pseudomonas, a bacteria most commonly found in soil and dirty sneakers, serratia marcescens, a bacteria found in dirty showers, staphylococcus, most commonly found in trash cans, and yeast.

But it all came down to the one final test.

“Did you have poop in your beard?” Fallon said.

The test results came out negative for poop. 

“I was so scared,” Forte shouted, running into the audience to celebrate.  

It’s dry in here: Bugs on bathroom surfaces largely dormant

Human-associated bacteria dominate the built environment (BE)


Following decontamination of floors, toilet seats, and soap dispensers in four public restrooms, in situ bacterial communities were characterized hourly, daily, and weekly to determine their successional ecology. The viability of cultivable bacteria, following the removal of dispersal agents (humans), was also assessed hourly.

toilet_graffiti_620A late-successional community developed within 5 to 8 h on restroom floors and showed remarkable stability over weeks to months. Despite late-successional dominance by skin- and outdoor-associated bacteria, the most ubiquitous organisms were predominantly gut-associated taxa, which persisted following exclusion of humans. Staphylococcus represented the majority of the cultivable community, even after several hours of human exclusion. Methicillin-resistant  Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)-associated virulence genes were found on floors but were not present in assembled Staphylococcus pan-genomes.

Viral abundances, which were predominantly enterophages, human papilloma virus, and herpes viruses, were significantly correlated with bacterial abundances and showed an unexpectedly low virus-to-bacterium ratio in surface-associated samples, suggesting that bacterial hosts are mostly dormant on BE surfaces.

Ecological succession and viability of human-associated microbiota on restroom surfaces

Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Volume 81, Issue 2, January 2015, Pages 765-773

S. Gibbons, T. Schwartz, J. Fouquier, M. Mitchell, N. Sangwan, J. Gilbert, and S. Kelley

http://aem.asm.org/content/81/2/765.abstract?etoc

Kissing transfers 80 million bacteria, scientists say

French kiss, tongue swapping, tonsil hockey: whatever it’s called, people like to kiss.

imagesAnd while a 10-second “intimate kiss” can transfer 80 million bacteria from one mouth to another, according to a new report in the journal Microbiome, that’s nothing compared to the trillions of bacteria we all carry.

A team of Dutch researchers recruited 21 couples who happened to be visiting the Artis Royal Zoo in Amsterdam on a summer day. All 42 volunteers (whose ages ranged from 17 to 45) allowed the researchers to wipe their tongues with a cotton swab several times. They also agreed to spit into sterile tubes and answer questions about their kissing habits.

The researchers found that the particular community of bacteria living on a volunteer’s tongue was more similar to the bacteria on his or her kissing partner’s tongue than to a stranger’s tongue. They quantified this using a measure called the Morisita-Horn index, where 0 indicates complete overlap and 1 means no overlap at all. The MH index value for kissing couples was 0.37, significantly lower than the 0.55 for strangers.

231127Then the volunteers engaged in some public displays of affection (a 10-second kiss “involving full tongue contact and saliva exchange”) and had their tongues swabbed again. According to the bacterial analysis, a fresh kiss barely budged the similarity index value. That suggests that the overlap in tongue bacteria is probably “a long-term effect of couples living together” – sharing meals, toothpaste and other items from daily life.

In a further test, some of the volunteers were given a probiotic yogurt drink spiked with a marker bacteria. Researchers swabbed their tongues and asked them to kiss their partners. Then the partners had their tongues swabbed. Comparing the contents of the yogurt-drinkers’ swabs and their partners’ swabs, the researchers calculated that a single kiss can deposit 80,000,000 bacteria from one tongue to another.

Shaping the oral microbiota through intimate kissing

Microbiome 2014; 2:41

Remco Kort, Martien Caspers, Astrid van de Graaf, Wim van Egmond, Bart Keijser and Guus Roeselers

http://www.microbiomejournal.com/content/2/1/41

Abstract

Background

The variation of microbial communities associated with the human body can be the cause of many factors, including the human genetic makeup, diet, age, surroundings, and sexual behavior. In this study, we investigated the effects of intimate kissing on the oral microbiota of 21 couples by self-administered questionnaires about their past kissing behavior and by the evaluation of tongue and salivary microbiota samples in a controlled kissing experiment. In addition, we quantified the number of bacteria exchanged during intimate kissing by the use of marker bacteria introduced through the intake of a probiotic yoghurt drink by one of the partners prior to a second intimate kiss.

Results

Similarity indices of microbial communities show that average partners have a more similar oral microbiota composition compared to unrelated individuals, with by far most pronounced similarity for communities associated with the tongue surface. An intimate kiss did not lead to a significant additional increase of the average similarity of the oral microbiota between partners. However, clear correlations were observed between the similarity indices of the salivary microbiota of couples and self-reported kiss frequencies, and the reported time passed after the latest kiss. In control experiments for bacterial transfer, we identified the probiotic Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium marker bacteria in most kiss receivers, corresponding to an average total bacterial transfer of 80 million bacteria per intimate kiss of 10 s.

Conclusions

This study indicates that a shared salivary microbiota requires a frequent and recent bacterial exchange and is therefore most pronounced in couples with relatively high intimate kiss frequencies. The microbiota on the dorsal surface of the tongue is more similar among partners than unrelated individuals, but its similarity does not clearly correlate to kissing behavior, suggesting an important role for specific selection mechanisms resulting from a shared lifestyle, environment, or genetic factors from the host. Furthermore, our findings imply that some of the collective bacteria among partners are only transiently present, while others have found a true niche on the tongue’s surface allowing long-term colonization. 

Fist bumps are less germy than handshakes

I went to the Apple store in Brisbane to fix my iPhone and got a lot of handshakes.

Then I watched staff shake a lot of other hands.

Wonder_Twins-fist-bumpI was a dumbass.

So says science.

“A short, sweet fist bump will transmit the least bacteria,” and even a high-five is better than a traditional shake, says David Whitworth, a senior lecturer in biochemistry at Aberystwyth University-Ceredigion in the United Kingdom.

Whitworth and a colleague systematically tested the three greetings for a study published Monday in the American Journal of Infection Control.

For the experiment, one of them repeatedly dipped a gloved hand into a container loaded with a not-too-dangerous strain of E. coli bacteria. The dirty-gloved scientist let the film dry, then shook, fist-bumped or high-fived the other person’s clean, gloved hand. Finally, the receiving gloves were tested for bacteria.

Result: The shakes transmitted about 10 times more bacteria than the fist bumps and about two times more than the high fives. The longest, firmest shakes transmitted the most.

In a separate round in which the gloves were dipped in paint rather than bacteria, the researchers found one rather obvious explanation: Bigger areas of the hands touched during the shakes. Handshakes also tended to last longer, but the researchers found more clinging germs even when they compared shakes to fist bumps and high-fives of the same duration.

Whitworth’s findings “are not surprising,” says Mary Lou Manning, an associate professor in the school of nursing at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and president-elect of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.

She is not enthusiastic about replacing handshakes with fist bumps in hospitals. The better, more hygienic idea, she says, is to promote rigorous hand-washing and ban hand-to-hand greetings altogether. “That’s already starting to happen” in a lot of places, she says.

Is bottled water safer? ‘Heavy levels of bacteria’ in one Canadian product

The province’s chief medical officer of health is warning Ontarians not to consume bottled water manufactured by a Caledon-based company due to bacterial contamination.

Dr. Arlene King is also warning businesses not to serve the products.

Tests of water samples taken from Blue Glass Water Co. Ltd.’s products revealed heavy Caledon Clear Waterlevels of bacteria, according to the Ministry of Health.

King says there is a potential health threat posed by the products manufactured by the company also known as Caledon Clear Water Corporation.

According to the ministry, Blue Glass Water Co. Ltd. was ordered to stop its operations related to bottling, processing and distributing water on July 25.

However, public health units have identified the products in food establishments in Hamilton, Niagara and in Toronto.

The ministry is advising consumers and businesses to check labels on bottles for: “Bottled at source by Blue Glass Water Co. Ltd.“ or “Bottled at source by Caledon Clear Water Corp.”

No illnesses have been reported to date.

Holy water may be harmful to your health

Despite its purported cleansing properties, holy water could actually be more harmful than healing, according to a new Austrian study on “holy” springs.

Researchers at the Institute of Hygiene and Applied Immunology at the Medical University of Vienna tested water from 21 springs in holywater-617x416Austria and 18 fonts in Vienna and found samples contained up to 62 million bacteria per milliliter of water, none of it safe to drink.

ABC News reports tests indicated 86 percent of the holy water, commonly used in baptism ceremonies and to wet congregants’ lips, was infected with common bacteria found in fecal matter such as E. coli, enterococci and Campylobacter, which can lead to diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever.

“We need to warn people against drinking from these sources,” said Dr Alexander Kirschner, study researcher and microbiologist at the Medical University of Vienna.

The study, published in the Journal of Water and Health, also found that all church and hospital chapel fonts contained bacteria — the busier the church, the higher the bacterial count.

“This may represent a problem that has hitherto been underestimated, especially in hospitals, since there a lot of people with weakened immune systems there,” Kirschner said.

Roller derby players swap bacteria on the track

My grandfather used to call my sister Skinny Minnie Miller, because she was skinny, and in praise of his favorite roller derby star.

kansas.city.bomberThat was the early 1970s.

Roller derby has gone through some sort of nostalgic renaissance of late, or Australia is, as I suspect, stuck in the 1970s, and the wife of one of Amy’s colleagues plays for a touring team out of Brisbane.

Katherine Hobson of NPR reports that Jessica Green, also known as “Thumper Biscuit” for the Emerald City Roller Girls, is also the director of the Biology and the Built Environment Center at the University of Oregon. She and her colleagues just published a study in the journal PeerJ looking at the bacteria that live on the skin of roller derby team members and how they’re swapped around during competition.

According to the official rules of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, players are allowed to make contact at the arms, chest, hips and thighs when jockeying for track position.

Researchers swabbed the exposed upper arms of roller derby players on three teams from different cities before and after “bouts” at a tournament in Emerald City’s home base of Eugene, Ore. They found that before a bout, the different teams had distinct populations of skin microbes.

“We could have picked out one player at random, and just by looking at the bacteria on her upper arm, we could have told you what team she played for,” says James Meadow, a postdoctoral researcher at the BioBE Center who led the study.

It’s not entirely clear why the teams had such distinct bacterial communities. It might be because their hometowns of Eugene, San Jose, Calif. and Washington, D.C. have different climates, urban settings and plants and animals, the researchers said. Or the players might have picked them up from some other common environment, like a team van.

But after a bout, the microbes on the players’ arms had more overlap. “We could still tell which team she played for, but with a lot less accuracy,” says Meadow. The results point to person-to-person transmission, though Green says it’s also possible that the bacteria were transmitted by contact with the ground or even through the air. It’s not clear how long the changes seen after a bout would persist, though; that would require looking at players’ skin bacteria over days or weeks.

Noah Fierer, an associate professor at the University of Colorado who studies microbial communities, says the results are in line with other studies showing that bacteria are swapped between people who make other kinds of contact, like shaking hands. (He reviewed the study for PeerJ, a new peer-reviewed, open-access journal at which Green is an academic editor.)