The world may be rapidly heading for a post anti-microbial era. An article published in the June edition of Anti-Microbial Agents and Chemotherapy has alerted the world to a mutated bacterium that can resist even the most powerful anti-biotics in our arsenal.
Before the widespread use of penicillin, the leading cause of death for humanity was infection. That has dropped precipitously since 1928. Now, in the USA, life threatening infections sweep through care facilities and kill about 23 000 Americans each year.
Times are about to change again. Medical practitioners have been warning the world for the past few decades that we are rapidly running through our available anti-microbials. Penicillin is no longer effective in stopping many infections than it did in the 1940s. More modern anti-microbials are losing their effectiveness and now, even the last, best defense has been attacked.
The anti-biotic Colistin has been the last, best hope for seriously ill people. Researchers at Sir Walter Reed Hospital have isolated an E. coli bacterium from a person with a urinary tract infection. The bacterium carried a gene that helped it resist dying when exposed to Colistin.
Bacteria have the ability to incorporate foreign genes into their own make-up and can be found to harbour many anti-biotic genes. The big three in this department are E. coli, Clostridium difficile and Staphlococcus aureus but they are not alone. Resistant TB is becoming a spreading problem for world health providers.
This new nightmare gene dubbed mcr-1 was first isolated in China last year from a pig that had an E. coli infection. The person with the urinary tract infection that presented the same gene had not travelled outside of the US within the past five months so the actual prevalence of mcr-1 is not known.
While people are urged to refrain from antibiotic use unless they are absolutely necessary, the agricultural industry is in fact the largest user. During the Green Revolution it was discovered that routinely feeding some animals an anti-microbial supplement made the animals grow bigger and faster. With the advent of factory farming of animals with many animals crammed into dirty and crowded conditions, the drugs became necessary to keep the animals alive until slaughtered.
Currently in the US and Canada it is estimated that 70 to 80% of antibiotics developed for human health are being used in agriculture. Tighter regulations are gradually being implemented in N. America, but many countries neither track nor control the dissemination of anti-biotics.
Medical News Today
Journal of Anti-Microbial Agents and Chemotherapy
The Italian grand tour ended today with Vincenzo Nibali, Astana Pro, taking top podium spot. Nibali made a huge effort on the stage 20 which encompasses killer climbs. He held enough time to easily take victory in today’s stage which was classified as a flat stage.
It wouldn’t be the Giro without controversy. The final sprint finish saw Giacomo Nizzolo, Trek, cross the line first but he was relegated because he swerved, cutting off another sprinter. Nikias Arndt, Giant, was awarded the win.
The team from Kazakhstan can count this year’s Giro as a victory with both the overall winner and top team points. This was Nibali’s second time to stand in top spot at the Giro.
Crashes part way through today’s stage separated the peloton and made it impossible for some sprinters caught out behind the melee. Then the race organizers announced an end to the GC competition.
Superstar Alberto Contador, Tinkoff, was absent from the Giro this year as he is preparing for the Tour de France and the road race at the Rio Olympics in August. He will be competing against Nibali for top honours.
The Olympic men’s course will be a challenging 256.5 km route that has four category one climbs in it.
Giro 2016 Finish (3469 km)
There’s an old saying that “Cheaters never prosper”, but in modern athletics it seems laughable. The World Anti Doping Agency(WADA) has announced that 23 more tests for performing enhancing substances have proved positive. Samples are kept for ten years, so as methods improve, retesting may show that medal winners cheated.
One of the named cheaters is Russian athlete Anna Chicherova. She won bronze in the Beijing Olympics and went on to garner gold in the 2012 London meet. While she may be forced to return her medals, she will have elbowed out of the spotlight the true, clean athletes who competed against her.
High profile Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova has been suspended from the International Tennis Federation for doping. A drug available in eastern Europe, meldonium, has been banned. It increases blood flow and was developed for short term use in people with circulation problems. She has admitted using the substance for years, including after it was banned.
It’s ok though. This very successful professional tennis star may be banned from the professional competitions, but she has already been named to the Russian Olympic tennis team. WADA does not have the authority to immediately ban athletes. The International Olympic Committee could ban athletes immediately but does not appear to be planning to do so.
A former employee of the Russian drug testing facility has testified about state sponsored cheating. Kenya has been named as non-compliant in ensuring clean athletes. They have been given six months to comply. Of course the summer Olympics will be over for another four years and those clean athletes will have been cheated by the dopers.
There used to be speculation about some of the eastern bloc women competing internationally but little actual drug testing was done before the early ‘60s. Since then, the IOC has stripped 67 medals from competitors. Some like superstar Marion Jones held three gold medals and two bronze from the 1992 Olympics. She competed for the USA.
Note: An "Open letter to World Health Organisation re Olympics and Zika virus" has been dismissed.
Saturday BBC News reports - Zika crisis: WHO rejects 'move Rio Olympics' call.
The USD 6.7 billion deal between Brussels and Ankara is falling off the rails. As one country after another slammed the gates shut on the million or so people fleeing the civil war in Syria, governments in Europe came under increasing pressure to ‘do something’ about the millions of people seeking safety from warfare.
The solution was criticised from the beginning. Some said that it violated human rights while others pointed out that Turkey was not safe for refugees. Turkey was already host to about a million safety seekers but agreed to take back people who had left Turkey and become stuck in Greece.
To achieve Turkey’s cooperation, the government in Brussels agreed to pay Turkey nearly seven billion dollars and to accept one Turk for every Syrian accepted back from Greece. This became known as the 1:1 plan. The plan is not working.
Refugees who agreed to return to Turkey have had a cruel and possibly deadly joke played on them. The German news outlet, Der Spiegel, recently reported the plight of a young, pregnant, married woman who agreed to go back to Turkey as she was blocked from joining her husband in London. This woman taught French before the civil war. When her boat landed in Turkey, she was immediately incarcerated in a squalid detention camp on the Syrian border.
The prison camp prohibits entry to journalists, aid organizations and attorneys. The young woman has been denied medical attention and access to attorney help. This violates the agreement. Others who have fled fighting have been deported to Syria and Afghanistan. These two countries are definitely not safe.
President Erdogan has recently tightened his grip on power. He has indicated that he will make the rules about who will be put forward to leave the prison camps for European countries. And it is becoming evident that there is a preponderance of serious medical cases and those will very poor education being allowed to leave. Some refugees already approved for exit have had their papers cancelled when authorities discovered that they were professionals.
Today the policy was made clear. This is a violation of the agreement.
Turkey has now officially informed the UNHCR that Syrian academics and their families are no longer permitted to leave the country by way of the 1:1 mechanism. Der Spiegel
I don’t have the answers to this humanitarian crisis. I suggest one way to help finance the costs to decently house people fleeing warfare could be to tax at 100% arms and munitions being sold to foreign countries. Simply put, if France arms dealers sell a billion dollars’ worth of weaponry to Libya, they would have to contribute an equal amount of money to refugee support.
Yellow Fever(YF) has broken out in Angola. The disease is centered in the capital city Luanda with over 24 000 cases as of May 19. There have been 298 deaths due to the disease. While the current outbreak is greatest in Angola, cases have also been confirmed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
It is difficult to gauge how many cases of the disease have occurred, with some experts stating that there may be as many as 250 times as many cases as those which are brought to medical personnel.
Any urban outbreak is cause for real concern. WHO convened a special conference to deal with the mounting cases. They have dubbed it a “serious public health event”.
The disease is caused by a virus that is spread when an infected mosquito bites. The two types of mosquitoes that currently spread the disease are found throughout Africa, Americas and much of Asia. In the wild, primates are the reservoir for the virus. When a mosquito bites an infected monkey and goes on to bite a human, the virus is spread. In an urban centre, the virus can spread through mosquito bites to other humans.
YF has been known in New Orleans and Gibralter in the early 1900s but a combination of vaccinations and aggressive mosquito control has kept it at bay. It is firmly established in Venezuela and Brazil.
WHO is particularly concerned about this outbreak because of the potential to cause a serious outbreak in China, home to two billion people. China and Angola have close economic ties based on the oil industry. Some airlines offer direct flights from Luanda to Beijing. As of April 11, the public health authority in the PRC has identified 11 cases of YF in their citizens who have travelled/worked in Angola.
The world maintains a stockpile of vaccine which is effective in preventing YF. Approximately 40 million doses are on hand. In order to stop the human to human transmission of the virus many more doses are needed and the process of manufacturing it takes time.
Travellers to and from Angola may be required to show proof of vaccination in order to prevent the spread of the disease.
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